Point Austin: Dark Thoughts on a Dark Day
What will Trump do? Watch what he’s done.
When you can't sleep because it appears the reins of government have been handed over to a narcissistic egomaniac utterly lacking in impulse control, you have time to read a lot of post-election analyses. The most powerful my bleary eyes fell upon very early Wednesday morning was by Slate correspondent Jamelle Bouie, titled simply, "White Won." Bouie began by rejecting the shallower, defensive explanations of many of the professional chattering class: "Pundits and observers will attribute Trump's win to 'populism' or his 'anti-elite' message. This is nonsense. Trump ran for president as a nationalist fighter for white America. ... When faced with the fetid swamps of white reaction – of white supremacists and white nationalists and anti-Semites – he winked, and they cheered in response."
Perhaps that conclusion will seem obvious to many Chronicle readers, but we need to remind ourselves of the nakedness of Trump's appeals to explicit racism: the opening denunciation of Mexican immigrants as "rapists and murderers," his determination to deport every undocumented immigrant, his programmatic ban on any and all Muslim refugees (and commitment to police monitoring of all Muslim-Americans), his utter caricature of and contempt for African-American lives and culture. There were no "dog whistles": Trump was calling the dog of racism by name, and millions of white people – a majority of all white voters – either responded with enthusiasm, or shrugged with indifference.
Bouie notes that race has been an inevitable subtext of every previous U.S. political campaign, but this one was different: "Trump told white Americans that their fears and anger were justified. And that this fear and anger should drive their politics. Trump forged a politics of white tribalism, and white people embraced it." Bouie places that embrace in the context of a recurrent history of incremental racial progress followed by fierce white backlash. Here we are again: "Like clockwork, white Americans embraced a man who promised a kind of supremacy. ... We are still the country that produced George Wallace. We are still the country that killed Emmett Till."
So Much Winning
That wasn't the whole story of the Trump campaign – there is also the explicit adoption of reflexive misogyny, a contempt for women that is obviously a feature of Trump's personality, inherited wealth, and public career, while also a weapon to use against Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail and in person. That millions of people (including women) would vote for a garish bully who bragged about assaulting women and advocated "treating them like shit" seems at first incomprehensible, but appeals to racism and sexism are alike rooted in an authoritarian urge to dominate: or as Trump repeatedly expressed it, to become "winners," who by definition require "losers." They want their "country back," they want to make the U.S. "great again," they want to return to what they consider the natural hierarchy of white over black, men over women, power over weakness.
This is real "locker-room talk," that of juvenile bullies. Trump declares he will deliver – as the sole winner, who will now preside over the rest of us, losers all.
What Is to Be Done?
Since Trump's actual policy pronouncements were so arbitrary, contradictory, and without substance, there's been a flurry of wonder what the Trump regime will "actually look like." Those of us who live in Texas don't have to wonder; it's all around us. State leaders who have long been squandering millions on militarizing the border will be welcoming "The Wall" that in fact already exists wherever it's physically feasible, with only brutal effect on fleeing refugees and none on immigration.
That criminal waste of resources precludes spending on public education or health care, especially women's health care, which is treated like a dirty secret that shouldn't be publicly discussed. Many more women and families will suffer from the lack of reproductive health care, increasingly criminalized in Texas, and soon accompanied by the state-sanctioned humiliation and emotional torture of treating fetal tissue as "unborn children" to be granted ritual burials. Should any of this sanctimonious nonsense be challenged in court as unconstitutional, we can expect that a feckless Donald Trump – for whom all such matters are beneath alpha-male consideration – will appoint federal and Supreme Court judges who will do as they are told by "pro-life" demagogues.
Beyond these obvious consequences, who knows? Slashing health insurance for millions looks inevitable, and Texans who have watched the state constrict Medicaid, children's health insurance, and even care for the severely disabled – all in the name of "fiscal responsibility," of course – will recognize that structurally racist pattern as well.
As to foreign policy? Candidate Trump, who demonstrated colossal ignorance of even the middle-school basics of national boundaries or the apocalyptic threat of nuclear weapons, is unlikely to show much interest in the niceties of diplomacy, except as they might feed his self-aggrandizement. The messy business of actual governance he will undoubtedly delegate to the rest of his authoritarian entourage, now in charge of White House, and Capitol, and Judiciary.
Rage, mourn, or pray? Organize.