We know what we’re getting today
January 20, 2017 Leave a comment
Excellent David Remnick:
Since Election Night, as the arrow of electoral favor wandered from Hillary Clinton to Trump and stayed there, Americans have been counselled and admonished, by voices sincere and mocking, earnest and derisive, that despite losing the popular ballot by three million votes, despite every extenuating and unnerving circumstance, “Donald Trump is our President now.” “He must be given a chance.” “We are all Americans.” And so on. Under normal circumstances, there is truth in these civic homilies. In a divided country, no side is going to win every election.
But how can these circumstances count within the bounds of normal? Many of those same soothing voices allowed that, sure, Trump had been full of outrageous abandon as a campaigner, he’d say just about anything, you know the Donald; and yet, they argued, the gravity of office would soon occur to him, settle and focus him, make a serious, tolerant man of him. Trump would surround himself with competent, knowledgeable, steady, ethical, decent counsellors; he would plunge into his briefing books and acquire a keener sense of the issues and the world; he would recognize the incompatibility of his business entanglements and the ethical demands of the Presidency; he would concentrate, reach out, embrace, replace the limited language of Twitter with the fuller rhetoric of conciliation, complexity, and selflessness. He would become someone else.
As if wishing would make it so.
Where is the slightest evidence of this magical transformation? Where are all the sober counsellors, the newfound ethics? Where is the competence, the decency, and the humanity? The reality is that the Donald Trump of birtherism, of Mexican “rapists,” of Muslim registries, of “grab them by the pussy,” of bankruptcies and lawsuits and colossal conflicts of interest—this is the same Donald Trump who, with his hand on Lincoln’s Bible, is taking the oath of office, vowing to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The reason so many people are having fever dreams and waking up with a knot in the gut is not that they are political crybabies, not that a Republican defeated a Democrat. It’s not that an undifferentiated mass of “coastal élites” is incapable of recognizing that globalization, automation, and deindustrialization have left millions of people in reduced and uncertain circumstances. It is not that they “don’t get it.” It’s that they do.
Since Election Day, Trump has managed to squander good faith and guarded hope with flagrant displays of self-indulgent tweeting, chaotic administration, willful ignorance, and ethical sludge. Setting the tone for his Presidency, he refused, or was unable, to transcend the willful ugliness of his campaign. He goes on continuing to conceal his taxes, the summary of his professional life; he refuses to isolate himself from his businesses in a way that satisfies any known ethical standard; he rants on social media about every seeming offense that catches his eye; he sets off gratuitous diplomatic brushfires everywhere from Beijing to Berlin. (Everywhere, that is, except Moscow.) [emphasis mine]
His appointees, in the meantime, are too often amateurs in the fields they now pretend to lead or determined opponents of the realms they are intended to safeguard: civil rights, the global environment, public housing.
It is a virtual guarantee that Donald Trump will be a bad president by any meaningful metric. At this point, it’s just hoping he won’t be a disaster.