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The Ostrich, The Sand, and You: A Plea to My Republican Friends

11/22/2016

Sometimes you have hope because you have a certain faith in other people. Like Han Solo had in Lando Calrissian, or James Bond had in Alec Trevelyan in Goldeneye, or Sonny Corleone had in toll road attendants. When Donald J. Trump was elected  President of the United States of America, I had a certain faith in some Republicans I know. The ones I’m closest friends with are, perhaps not coincidentally, all true-blue NeverTrumpers, and so this little post is not directed to them whatsoever. You guys rock.

No, this post is directed to the Republicans who, in the aftermath of the election, appear to be trying as hard as emotion and logic will allow to papier-mâché a facade over Donald Trump’s words, actions, and hiring decisions. Having found themselves in complete control of the legislative and executive branches of government, these loyal partisans, almost all of whom were for Anyone But Trump in the primary, yearn for normalcy. Refusing to look a gift horse in the mouth, they strive to forge a new Republican unity, centered around small-government, socially conservative, own-bootstraps-pulling policies.

Unfortunately, the man who won the election is a yuuge-government, socially maladjusted, silver-spoon-sucking rent-seeker. Oh, and he stoked the base, tribal fears of poor and desperate people to do it. This, understandably, presents a Problem for these dutiful GOPers. It is an irreconcible tension, and so, exultant in the crispy orange glow of victory, these Republicans have engaged diligently in the sort of short-term historical revisionism that would make Stalin blush. Trump is Just Fine, these people say. Really, he’s just a normal garden-variety Republican: white picket fence, large calloused hands, etc. Everyone calm down please! Please?

The most easily pilloried version of this rationalization that I’ve found was published a few days ago in the newspaper of my most recent alma mater, the Virginia Law Weekly. That article, titled “Control Restored to Republicans: A Raging Red November”, can be found here. While I have never met the author personally (maybe once in passing?), I know that she was (is?) dating a friend of mine who I like a lot, so I won’t be as mean as I would like to be.

What a woefully vacuous piece of writing. The argument, such as it is, tortures itself through the following reasoning:

  • America is dissatisfied with President Obama, who has a 55% approval rating.
  • And man, liberals suck you guys. They have no interest in honest dialogue.
  • I know this because they described my candidate based on things he said and did.
  • Trump won because he represented the will of the silent majority, aka normal people.
  • Trump is also a normal person interested in honest dialogue. Like us.
  • I know this because he directly contradicted things he said for months in an interview this one time.
  • The things he wants are just Republican boilerplate, anyway.
  • Yes, even the ones that expand government and constrict the free market.
  • Anyway, your fear and outrage offends me – this is just a normal election cycle.
  • Oh, except for the abnormal scary fascist things. Well Republicans will stop that.
  • Why? Well because only SOME of us are hateful bigots.
  • [general platitudes on civic duty]

It’s like the GOP was given a really ugly sweater by their grandma for Christmas that they hate so much they want to die, but then the girl they liked complimented the sweater one day, so now they have to try and convince themselves that they really do like poorly stitched images of Jesus with a party hat and balloon, a t-shirt that says “Birthday Boy”, and an expression suggestive of both disappointment and rage.

I think the saddest thing about this article isn’t the rhetorical knots it ties itself into to try to normalize Trump – rather, it’s the painful obviousness of the bubble in which the author resides. For the author, this election must be rationalized to be “just like any other” because by and large their life, and their friends’ lives, and their families, will continue to live on almost exactly the same way for the next four years and they have for the last eight. Perhaps they might pay less taxes.

But when Medicare is privatized, it won’t be their grandparents’ health on the line. When DACA is rescinded, it won’t be their boyfriend who’s arrested, detained, and shipped out of the country he loves to one where he doesn’t even speak the language. When Muslim immigrants are required to register on a special database, it won’t be their father who’s treated like a second-class citizen.

When funding for the investigation of discrimination against LGBT persons is cut off, it won’t be their sister, a trans woman, whose EEOC claim languishes for years. When HUD funding is cut off, it won’t be their housing voucher (Republican idea!) or permanent supportive housing or substance abuse counseling or legal clinic or emergency shelter that has to shutter its doors. It will not be their children who are profiled, arrested, and sent to juvenile prisons. It will not be their sacred lands and drinking water that are poisoned by a leaking pipeline.

When the standard-bearer for the proto-Nazi Alt-Right is made Senior Counsel to the President, they won’t feel fear because they have no reason to – they belong to the Original Protected Class. Since Trump won the election I’ve thought about Vincent Chin every damn day. Why? Because the next big bad for Mr. Trump after 1) Muslims and 2) Mexicans is 3) China (Ghy-na). Specifically, the way China allegedly steals American jobs. For the unfamiliar, Vincent Chin was a 27-year-old Chinese American raised in Metro Detroit who was beaten to death with a baseball bat a week before his wedding, June 19, 1982, by two autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, who blamed the Japanese for the U.S. auto industry’s troubles.

So Republican friends, I beg of you – please don’t try and normalize Donald Trump. He campaigned on a platform of fear and hatred and misinformation. You know this is true. Not only did he say these things – his first steps as President-elect have been to appoint to his inner circle a white nationalist (Bannon), a virulent Islamophobe (Gen. Michael Flynn), and a guy who was denied a seat on a federal bench by a Republican Senate due to his racism (Sen. Jeff Sessions). This is real and it is happening now.

You are good and you are smart – you are better than this. Trump is not a useful conduit for your clumsily circumscribed political soapbox. He is a dangerous man surrounding himself with other dangerous men, a true strongman in the political, not literal, sense. There are many Republicans who, recognizing this danger, reject and resist Trump. If you value freedom, you will also reject and resist him. If not, you will have shown yourself to be nothing but a feckless partisan who lacked the principle and backbone to stand up when your country needed you to stand up.

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