At 72, I experienced election night with a 103-degree temperature, so it was literally a fever-dream for me. And in a certain sense, it’s remained so ever since. Now that a white supremacist has just been made the next president’s closest White House adviser, and the president-elect has called conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars to thank him and his followers for their part in his election victory, we have reasonable confirmation that we are indeed in a fever-dream America.
Hate incidents are on the rise. It’s easy enough to imagine the Bundy brothers being let loose in the West. A climate change denier is running the Trump environmental policy transition. The candidate himself will arrive in Washington with an enemies list already in formation (beating Dick Nixon to the punch by years). The mainstream media have tied themselves in apologetic knots for believing the pollsters on Hillary’s “victory” and not bothering to talk enough to the white working class voters who came out for Trump (and whom Clinton abandoned for white millionaires and billionaires). And the new president is being normalized by the old one, who previously excoriated him in the name of democracy, while mainstream pundits and journalists desperately look for signs that Donald Trump will be a pragmatic, recognizable American president once he takes the mantle of power.
Thanks to the Obama years (not to speak of the Bush ones), our new “pragmatic” president will enter the Oval Office fully weaponized. He will have expanded and expansive executive powers of death, destruction, and coercion directly at his disposal when it comes to acts like assassination by drone, surveillance, global kidnapping operations, the pursuit of leakers and whistleblowers, and the torture of potential terror suspects, among many other things. At his beck and call, he will have a private army of 70,000 elite troops ― the Special Operations forces ― already scattered across the planet, and a private air force of CIA-run drones at bases ringing, or actually in, the Greater Middle East. Put another way, Donald J. Trump is not going to be the president of the Philippines. He’s going to be the head of the single most powerful, most potentially destructive, most potentially intrusive force on the planet and on many of the powers he’ll inherit there are remarkably few restraints. That is, in fact, anything but normal.
In the meantime, the rest of us have ended up in the fun house. The mirrors that line the walls are weird. It’s truly hard to tell what world we’re looking at. We’re wandering in here lost and freaked out. Fears are rising.
Whatever Donald Trump ends up doing, however, he’s just a symptom. His already certifiably bizarre pre-presidency was born of a long, grim history, domestic and foreign. As Donald Trump leads an ever more extreme Republican Party (and the American people) into a darkening future, it’s probably necessary to add that, if there were such a thing as national psychiatrists, as a country we might now be diagnosed with some kind of personality disorder. Today, in “Life Under Trump: Night Terrors and Daytime Hopes,” Rebecca Gordon takes us on a journey deep into our already disordered and disorderly world (before the Trump presidency even starts), offering ― surprisingly enough ― a little hope along the way.