How people liberate themselves to support atrocities

It seems to me that if you believe the following eight propositions, there’s no atrocity you won’t accept if it’s done in your name by a leader you trust:

  1. Anything you say or do is only the fault of who you say it about, or do it to. (Once you believe this, you can shift all your moral responsibility onto your victims. They forced you to behave that way.)
  2. Your ends are legitimate and must be achieved, and cruelty may be essential to achieving them. (This is critical: you’ve now transformed cruelty from a horror into your responsibility. You can even start perceiving yourself as noble for having the courage to meet it.)
  3. If cruelty doesn’t work, the solution is more cruelty. (Because nothing else could possibly work, and the threat is too great to risk trying.)
  4. Anyone who opposes you is by definition more dangerous than you could ever be. (Accordingly, there can be no limits on your actions.)
  5. Certain people deserve no rights at all: not even the rights traditionally accorded to non-citizens. (When you believe this, you have no obligation to them as fellow human beings.)
  6. Anyone on your side who doesn’t offer wholehearted support is a traitor to your cause. (So you can write them off and henceforth stop listening to them.)
  7. Anyone else who publicizes anything you don’t want to hear is lying or creating “fake news.” (Now, you needn’t do the hard work of evaluating what they’re telling you.)
  8. Anyone who objects on moral grounds is merely a “virtue signaling” hypocrite. (You’ve now ruled out the possibility that anyone could object to your actions on ethical grounds; since they are obviously motivated by something else, they, too, should be ignored.)

A lot of people seem to believe all 8 of those propositions these days. If you did believe them, what would stop you from supporting mass murder? Concentration camps? Holocausts? You’ve systematically eliminated all the internal and external constraints humans have crafted to deter themselves from committing atrocities.

Seriously: what would stop you? Your self-image as a decent human being? That didn’t stop people in other places and times, did it?

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Someone else’s graduation day

Today I was in Manhattan for meetings, and when they ended I walked outside into an unexpectedly beautiful spring day. With almost two hours to kill before dinner, I thought I’d wander a bit. Mom and I were in the city just last weekend, but I can’t get enough of it in the springtime. And I’ve been binging on the amazing Bowery Boys podcast, so when I’m there these days, I’m a bit more alive to the history and context of what I’m seeing.

I headed down to Washington Square Park (which I now know was once the city’s Potter’s Field and still has 20,000 early New Yorkers buried beneath it). I couldn’t find the elm tree that’s claimed to be New York City’s oldest living thing. (The Boys say it’s an urban myth that criminals were once hung from its branches.) I thought maybe it was gone, but it appears I just missed it. I seem to miss a lot these days.

But I did find hundreds of mostly young people decked out in purple NYU caps and gowns. A quarter of a million dollars later, today was their graduation day. I sat and watched.

You’ll rarely see so many happy and relieved human beings in one place: the graduates, their families, smiling, hopping around, taking pictures of each other, taking selfies, finding friends, saying bittersweet goodbyes in their last moments before moving on, separately.

I was instantly reminded of just how global a university NYU is: there were so many foreign languages in the air. Mine isn’t the most educated ear, and I obviously can’t tell who’s a foreign student and who isn’t just by looking at them. But I heard a lot of Chinese and I doubt I’m wrong to believe some of those voices belonged to foreign students from the People’s Republic.

If you’re not among the graduates, you can’t have memories of their shared experiences as the Class of 2019. But you can still reflect on just how much has happened in the four years since they came to this big city.

I wondered how many of those foreign students might have chosen (and been permitted) to build their lives in the United States, but won’t now. They’ll have different children, different grandchildren, because a relative handful of Americans they’ll never meet, from some neighborhoods they’ll never visit, couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a certain older woman they too had never met.

Some of those NYU graduates will have better lives for not staying here; some worse; but those lives will be radically different.

Charles Dickens helped the Victorians (and us) to understand the many ways we touch distant strangers and they touch us. More recently, mathematicians and meteorologists have called our attention to butterfly effects. For some, such notions are now truisms: six degrees of Kevin Bacon, and all that. Others have never felt a need to wonder or care about the strange and invisible links among us; our quantum entanglements, so to speak.

The Chinese emphatically did not invent that apocryphal curse: May you live in interesting times. But the days in which ordinary people can hope to live their lives without regard to the whims of distant strangers seem to be coming to an end.

Of course, the ability to safely ignore the vagaries of politicians and militias and invaders and voters and unvaccinated conspiracy theorists was a rare luxury even in the “best of times.” Kings were a thing; so too Genghis Khan; so too the traffickers in African slaves, and the Spanish owners of the Potosí mines.

But most folks we knew had that luxury,. And others could increasingly aspire to it, along with dreams of steak and a car with an internal combustion engine.

It’s sometimes said of the Balkans that they’re cursed with too much history per square inch. I fear others are unknowingly training to catch up with the Serbs. All this is to say: graduations feel even more elegiac to me than they used to.

Remembering what voting felt like

(Reflections on election day, cross-posted on Facebook)

I voted this morning. As I waited online, I had a fleeting feeling, an emotion, I almost didn’t recognize at first. It took me a moment to realize what it was: the feeling of participating in a sacred, profoundly important ritual. For me, voting was always the moment when we all came together to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. E pluribus unum: out of many, one.

I’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

Even when my candidates lost — and believe me, they often have — it mattered to participate in that ritual. As the old saying goes (and it’s 100% true): people died to give me that right. But they also died to give me the responsibility to use my vote as thoughtfully and as well as I could. Not to vote out of anger, or fear, or pure self-interest, but to vote to build something better. To build on what our ancestors gave us, and leave our children — everyone’s — something a little better than we found it.

Today, people say voting doesn’t matter. They don’t care, won’t bother. We’re being taught to hate and fear each other. We are deeply cynical, increasingly isolated from each other. We’re looking for ways to detest rather than understand each other. Even when we’re among those who share our values, we jump to interpret any disagreement or failure as betrayal. We expect perfection of others and very little of ourselves. We see the deep flaws in our history either as something to be ignored, or as proof we can never improve.

But even when you find the individual candidates unimpressive, your vote matters. One will win, another will lose, and the winner will do very different things than the loser would have. Those differences will affect your life, your future, your family, other families. You just have to look at Washington, DC to see that. It’s just a fact.

People say: my vote doesn’t matter because the whole system is rigged around big money.

True, it is. What are you doing about it? The same was true in the late 19th century, and Americans did something about it. They voted for politicians who reformed the system to give ordinary people a fair shot again.

Do you believe Americans in 1900 or 1910 or 1920 were better than we are? Perhaps they were, but if so, the problem isn’t the politicians: it’s us. We can vote for people who promise to take the money out of politics, and then hold them accountable for doing so. We can demand to know who’s paying for the slanderous ads we see on Facebook or cable news.

Citizenship is about voting, but it’s about much more. It’s about really understanding the issues, and trying to figure out the best way forward. It’s about working together in good faith with our fellow citizens. It’s about realizing things aren’t always as simple as people on TV or the Internet say they are. It’s about checking whether the people you believe are telling you the truth, or just what you want to hear.

It’s about carefully watching your politicians between elections and ads, and rewarding those who enter the system and actually behave well. There are some. (If you don’t think so, run for office yourself.)

As soon as you say “they’re all alike” you abandon your responsibility as a citizen. It’s just plain lazy. It also eliminates any incentive for any politician to behave well. Why would they? Someone else will reward them for corruption and demagoguery, and you won’t reward them for the hard work of actually trying to govern well. What do you expect to happen?

No society has ever thrived with the level of cynicism and isolation we’re creating. And very few individuals have ever been happy and fulfilled when they’re told not to trust anyone, and the only value is “looking out for #1.”

This is the world we’re choosing to build. It’s as if we don’t care about our kids, or anyone else’s.

That can’t be true, can it?

So, vote. But whoever you vote for — school board candidate, town council, state legislator, governor, someday president — make that just the beginning of a renewal of citizenship.

“Citizenship.” Sounds old-fashioned. It is: the word goes back to ancient Rome. But it’s the glue that holds countries and societies together, keeps them from collapsing in fear and violence.

Societies don’t hold together by themselves: that only happens if we each pull our weight. So: Do we care enough? Do I? Do you?

One thing some Trump voters know (that is actually true)

I’ve spent the last several months arguing that people need to be morally accountable for the way they act as citizens. If they vote for someone as fundamentally evil as Donald Trump (a word I try not to use carelessly) then they share direct personal responsibility for what he does.

(And if I vote for Barack Obama and someone tells me he’s been indiscriminately sending drones to attack civilians in Pakistan, I’m responsible for taking that claim seriously. I need to determine if it’s true, assess the choices he had — including the choice of not doing anything at all — and if I conclude he behaved immorally, I’m responsible for speaking out.)

So heaven knows there’s plenty about Trump voters that I simply can’t abide. But this post is different.

It’s about something I think some Trump voters understood that I did not understand. Something, for once, that’s actually true.

In my “paying work,” I spent yesterday writing about the emergence of the Chinese renminbi as an international currency for transacting business and for foreign exchange trading. Among other things, China is establishing global financial infrastructure that makes it easier for people to do business in renminbi instead of dollars if they wish. Just last month they authorized the first bank inside the US to help businesses do that.

So, in my research, I came across this organization called “The Working Group on U.S. RMB Trading and Clearing.” In your dreams you couldn’t think up an organization more obscure than that, right? Gotta be run by some bank types you never heard of, right?

So I go to their website and who are the co-chairs? Michael Bloomberg. And Mary Schapiro, who ran the SEC for Barack Obama and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for Bill Clinton. That’s who. They are, of course, thrilled by the renminbi’s progress.

Now you know damn few Trump voters have heard of the “The Working Group on U.S. RMB Trading and Clearing.” (I can think of one: Peter Navarro, the one U.S. economist engaged in a torrid mutual love affair with Donald Trump. When I heard Trump chose him as his economic advisor, I wasn’t a bit surprised: Navarro wrote this.)

But Trump stands up and says, quote: “For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.”

And he shows pictures of Jewish financiers… and me and the Anti-Defamation League and a whole lot of other people who know some 20th century history think to ourselves: That sounds just like what Hitler and Goebbels used to say. Donald Trump must’ve been surfing the Internet at 3 a.m. and came across the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the ur-text of modern anti-Semitism.

And every neo-Nazi in America says to himself, he gets it! Finally an American politician understands! It’s the Jews!

(And of course it isn’t the Jews. Co-chair Timothy Geithner (of course!)… his mother came over on the Mayflower.  Co-chair Henry Paulson (yeah, him too) was raised as a Christian Scientist. Co-chair Thomas Donohue, the guy that turned the U.S. Chamber of Commerce into one of the most powerful forces for right-wing politics in America, is as Irish as they come. I shouldn’t have to even tell you this — but, in America 2016, I do.)

I’m not even saying there shouldn’t be more renminbi trading. But when insanely busy people like Bloomberg and Schapiro prioritize this, it’s hard to believe they’re thinking much about American workers.

For the past 30 years there has been a global consensus in favor of open markets and free trade, and both parties have shared it. Republicans, because it raised profits and lowered worker incomes. “New” Democrats, exemplified by Bill Clinton, because they wanted to take America into the future. They were open to the world. They imagined they could spread liberal values: we’d build peaceful, market-oriented democracies that don’t fight each other.

Above all, they were confident that Americans were up to the challenge. Everyone would thrive.

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” Remember?

But it turned out we weren’t up to the challenge. The world is changing far faster and in more difficult ways that most Americans — probably most humans — can handle.

Fact is: the globalized, technology-driven free market no longer thinks many Americans are worth a living wage. It just doesn’t think they deserve enough money to raise their families.

Now, I actually believed (and to some extent still believe) the conventional economic notion that, overall, trade increases wealth. Globally, liberalization of markets has raised literally billions of people out of poverty. Capitalism has done for them what nothing else ever could. That’s a fact. (A new protectionism will hurt them badly. It’ll hurt a lot of people here, too, who now depend on exports. And at some point, it’ll probably hurt me: many of my clients are now global.)

But in America, globalization disadvantages millions of people in ways they just can’t overcome. It destroys — correction: has destroyed — their lives and communities. That’s a fact, too. Those wonderful little education and retraining programs Democrats squeezed through Congress were utterly helpless against the tsunami that was unleashed on those people.

About the only people who opposed it were the fading labor movement… and assorted cranks (Ross Perot) and America First paleo-bigots (Pat Buchanan). But, with the benefit of hindsight, once massive government-enforced downward redistribution of wealth was ruled out, what happened seems almost inevitable.

Today, globalization is pretty much done wreaking its havoc. The barn door has been open for decades. Forget even finding the horses.

But technology is just getting started. The number one job in probably half of America’s states is driving. Trucks. Cabs. Whatever. Four million Americans are paid to drive. Driving long-haul trucks is one of the best jobs still available for people without a four-year college education.

And the Obama administration spent the whole last year greasing the wheels for self-driving cars. For crying out loud, David Plouffe went to work for Uber, which is running self-driving cars all over Pittsburgh right now. How much you wanna bet Barack Obama will spend a whole lot of time in Silicon Valley after he leaves office?

Probably the best thing Trump could do to preserve American jobs would be to ban self-driving cars. But of course neither party would ever do that.

(In the technology community, an awful lot of the most interesting problems — the ones that attract the most venture capital and the smartest engineers — seem to coincide with putting lots of people out of work. Hardly anybody finds “helping the displaced” to be an especially interesting problem. Funny that.)

And there’s the point. Whether it’s globalization or technology, whether their intentions were noble or not, it’s pretty hard to tell someone in Allentown, Pennsylvania that America’s leaders and so-called meritocratic elites “have your good in mind.”

When I see Michael Bloomberg, I see a pretty benign guy who wants gun control and taxes on sugary soda, and put those cool red tables into Times Square, and likes bike lanes. I doubt that’s what a lot of Trump voters in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin see. Should they?

You wonder why some of them voted as they did? Maybe they’re thinking: I’ve done everything else I can think of, and nothing worked. (Maybe some of them would tell you: I even voted for a weird black guy named Hussein from Harvard and Kenya.)

For them, Trump is what Bill Clinton once was: he seems to authentically feel their pain.

Telling someone in that position that “Trump is a con man”… well, I know how I felt when Sarah Palin stood up and said, “How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for ya’?”

They’re not hearing “Trump University,” and they’re certainly not hearing “Nazi.” They’re hearing “he gets my life.” That’s a powerful thing.

We all know Trump can’t bring giant steel mills back from China any more than Pacific Islanders could coax American pilots to return by building fake “cargo cult” landing strips after World War II. But I think, deep down, a lot of Trump’s voters know that, too. We all know that Trump is crazy or damn close (put politely: “he lacks the temperament to be President.”). Deep down, some of Trump’s voters know that too. They’re that desperate.

People are complicated. I know perfectly well there’s plenty of racial (and cultural and religious) resentment mixed in with all of this. It’s wicked hard, probably impossible, to tease out the proportions. Especially as Trump’s alt-right minions poison the Internet and relentlessly harass Jewish journalists who dare to criticize Der Amerikaführer. With sociopathic amorality, Trump has unleashed an epidemic of bigotry that is terrifying: “deplorable” doesn’t begin to describe it.

But if it was only that, Hillary Clinton would be drafting her inaugural address.

The question is: What are we going to do about it?

 

 

 

 

 

“No. I won.”

Cross-posted from Facebook. Here, I usually speak with you directly, so let me say: I admire what you’ve learned about right and wrong, and the ethics with which you choose to live your life. 

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Asked by The Wall Street Journal if he had gone too far during the heated 2016 cycle, Trump offered a blunt response.

‘No. I won,’ he said.

Remember all Trump said during this campaign.

Remember how he claimed black people were cheering on cop killers — with absolutely no evidence.

Remember how he said a judge couldn’t judge fairly because his parents came from Mexico.

Remember how he told his supporters he’d pay their legal expenses if they beat up protesters.

Remember it all.

If you are honest with yourself, if you hold him to the same standards you would hold anyone else in your life, you know exactly what he is saying: “There is no morality except what helps me win.”

My son will soon turn 23. I have probably taught him most of what I’ll ever be able to teach him about right and wrong. But if I were still raising a young child, or guiding a grandchild, or if I were a Boy Scout or Girl Scout leader, or a teacher or principal, or the leader of a religious congregation, my blood would run cold.

This is no longer about Hillary Clinton. Even though she won hundreds of thousands more votes than Trump, she respected the rules of the game, offered a dignified concession speech, and is leaving the stage. (Can you imagine Trump having done the same?)

No, it’s not about her anymore. From now on it’s about the rest of us. Me and you and everyone else.

If you’re out there cheering on Trump because of the tax cut you’re going to get, or the Mexicans he’s going to deport, or the job he’ll allegedly bring back from China, or whatever else, it’s as if you are sitting next to Trump in that interview.

It’s as if they asked you: Do you regret any of what Trump has said or done in your name, and you said: “No. We won.”

Imagine President Trump

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What comes after Trump? Don’t count your chickens. Trump could very well win.

Yes, if Clinton survives this election, we desperately need to talk about where we all go next: how to repair all he has damaged, find shared purpose again, and build a country that works for all of us, including those who support him.

But that must wait. Right now the best contribution I can make is to contemplate what America will look like if Mr. Trump becomes President.

I write this to people who want a fairer, more humane country, one where we look for and encourage the best in each other. I write to people who want to lay the groundwork for long-term positive change… especially people who don’t like Hillary Clinton. 

I believe Trump will make it virtually impossible to achieve our shared goals for a long time. Maybe forever, because democracies don’t last forever, and societies can collapse.

Trump has often obscured what he might actually do. He reverses himself constantly. He specializes in telling people just what they want to hear. And he possesses demonic gifts for getting people to imagine that he’ll give him exactly whatever it is they they want.

It’s just the way his Trump University manual taught salespeople what to say to bamboozle their victims: “We will show you how to thrive in real estate and control your own financial destiny, and the best part is: when you double your income from real estate part time, you can quit your job, work twenty five hours a week, and create more wealth than you have ever dreamed of.” Trump has always known how to zero in on people’s hopes, fears, and vulnerabilities, to set up a zero-sum game where he wins at everyone else’s expense.

But we’ve all been watching him closely for 18 months now. (What choice have we had?) So we finally know enough to intelligently assess how he will govern, with — as would be virtually certain — two houses of a Republican Congress supporting him and prodding him forward.

It won’t be pretty.

Everyone knows Trump will quickly make America an even angrier and crazier place. He has spent his entire public life promoting hatred, lies, and unfounded conspiracy theories. He told the lunatic Alex Jones — the guy who claimed the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School were never murdered“Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

We already know Trump has no problem smearing entire races or ethnic groups at will: Muslim Gold Star parents, courageous judges whose parents happened to be born in Mexico. We’ve seen the impact of Trump’s rhetoric on our streets and in our schools.

Imagine four more years of that.

Imagine waking up every morning and wondering: What has President Donald Trump done today to divide us, frighten us, and convince us to hate each other?

It hardly needs to be said, but I will: Hillary Clinton has never done anything like any of this. And it matters. A lot.

But, even beyond the hatred he unleashes, Trump will also rapidly make America a far more unequal place than it already is.

His April tax plan redistributed $3.2 trillion upwards to millionaires and billionaires. His revised tax plans look even more like those of Paul Ryan and the House Tea Party republicans. Billionaires will get what they want most: no more estate tax: up to $4 billion more for Trump’s own family, $4 billion less for education, health, and other federal programs.

Read Trump’s plans. Then imagine a Republican Congress happily passing them pretty much verbatim. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their plan. Why wouldn’t he sign it? It’s his plan.

If you were ever even slightly sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street, you need to help prevent this, and you have only one chance: this election.

If Trump wins, Obamacare will of course disappear… replaced with… what? Nothing. Because the Republican Congress will get what it wants. People will die, just as conservative economist Tyler Cowen said they should:

We need to accept the principle that sometimes poor people will die just because they are poor. Some of you don’t like the sound of that, but we already let the wealthy enjoy all sorts of other goods — most importantly status — which lengthen their lives and which the poor enjoy to a much lesser degree. We shouldn’t screw up our health care institutions by being determined to fight inegalitarian principles for one very select set of factors which determine health care outcomes.

Trump may not use Cowen’s words. They are far too literate and well-crafted for him, if no less vicious. But that is precisely what Trump and Ryan together will do, and again, we only have one chance to stop them: this election.

After Reagan’s and Bush’s massive tax cuts for the rich went into effect, deficits (predictably) soared. What happened next? The political dynamic shifted to make it even harder to fund even middle-class social programs, much less help the poor.

It’s obvious now that Republicans never really gave a damn about the deficit: Reagan didn’t, Cheney even said he didn’t. But they were thrilled to convince people — through their own financial irresponsibility — that we can’t afford to educate and care for each other. So forget Bernie’s free college if Trump gets elected; forget even Hillary’s partial plan; forget any of that. 

Do you worry about global warming? Do you believe action is urgent? Trump called it a Chinese hoax. He promises to immediately walk away from our international agreements, halt all US contributions to international global warming programs, and quickly reverse Obama executive orders on everything from car emissions to coal to wind power. Remember when people said Keystone XL was “game over” for climate change? Obama finally killed it. Trump, who has personally invested in it, wants to revive and approve it.

Trump will appoint judges who will eagerly permit states and localities to restrict voting by minorities. Black lives are even less likely to matter in a society that has once again disenfranchised them.

Prodded by Republicans to do what he already believes and has done in his own companies, Trump will overturn worker protections and union rights of every kind. With fewer progressive voters and fewer progressive resources, it will become even harder than it already is for progressives to organize and win. 

Don’t think Republicans aren’t thinking strategically about this. Don’t think they aren’t salivating at the thought that some of us might vote for Jill Stein.

Of course, most of the judges on Trump’s list share the same hard-core opposition to gay and transgender rights as Mike Pence. You know: the Vice Presidential candidate Trump hand-selected because when it’s really important to getting him elected, or when it’s about issues he really doesn’t care about, Trump’s instincts are to give the far right exactly what it wants.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of marching backwards into the worst of the past, what exactly do you think he means when he says Clinton doesn’t have a “Presidential look”? The guys buying all that “Trump that b*tch” merch at his rallies know precisely what he means. The question isn’t whether you would choose Hillary Clinton is your imaginary favorite first woman President: it’s whether, in 2017, this man should succeed Barack and Michelle Obama in symbolizing gender relationships in America.

In a world that’s likely to become increasingly unstable no matter who is elected, Trump will promote unpredictability and chaos — all of which risks large-scale war even more than Clinton’s conventional hawkishness will.

As unpleasant as it is to hear graduates of the Bush national security apparatus endorsing Clinton, it’s even more unpleasant to see who’s advising and endorsing Trump. For instance, just today: Lieutenant General Thomas McInerey, who sued to challenge Obama’s citizenship and right to serve as commander-in-chief; and William G. Boykin, who described the war on terror as a battle between a “Christian nation” and the false “idol” of Islam.

I don’t love Clinton’s foreign policy. But the alternative is a candidate who wants to ban all Muslims, torture the innocent families of anyone he suspects of terrorism, and keeps asking why we can’t use our nuclear weapons. Expecting a more peaceful foreign policy from Trump is magical thinking.

For all of Clinton’s flaws, she at least understands that these are hard choices. We are still digging ourselves out from the last incurious President who thought everything was simple. God help us if we get another one.

Even where ideology isn’t at stake, Trump will make decisions based on his gut instincts and “very good brain,” rather than on anything normal people would recognize as “evidence.” Trump’s campaign team even admits they need to make sure he’s never left alone, because they can’t predict what he’ll tweet, insult, or do.

One thing I can’t imagine anyone denying: with Trump in office, the next four years will be about Trump, Trump, and Trump alone. But when politics is only about personality — even personalities that aren’t as narcissistic and sociopathic as Trump’s — progressive, inclusive social change rarely happens. Politics becomes about letting il Duce or der Führer handle it, just like he promised he would.

Last but not least, in the far-from-unlikely event of another economic crisis, Trump and his Republican partners in governance are likely to make the worst possible choices: decisions that could lead to a deep and lengthy depression.

In such an environment — with Trump’s alt-right hatred already mainstreamed and little chance of “lift-all-boats” growth — it’s far easier to imagine true fascism than progressive social change.

We now have 200 years of experience with the notion that “if times get worse, we can heighten the contradictions, and people will move left.” They don’t! “Heightening the contradictions” has repeatedly led to catastrophe — from the anarchist assassination of reformist Czar Alexander II (leading ultimately to Stalin) to the far left’s undermining of the German Weimar Republic and the (leading quickly to Hitler).

Which reminds me of one last thing. Why do you think Trump admires Putin’s leadership so much? Because Putin sees himself unconstrained by all constitutional limits. Putin has, through sheer force of will, essentially destroyed the forces in his society that disagree with him. Here in America, that includes you.

I’m no particular fan of Jeff Bezos, but when Bezos’s Washington Post criticizes Trump, Trump threatens to sic the Justice Department on him. In this post-Snowden era, all that was once arguably theoretical about the domestic abuse of government power will be right on the table if Mr. Trump owns the NSA and CIA. Nixon’s “Enemies List” will look unimaginably quaint. And do you see anything about either the Republican or Democratic Party that tells you they will stand up to him if he has an electoral mandate and the power of the Presidency behind him?

Anyone who thinks my rhetoric is overheated: Why? If you don’t think Trump’s election could well generate outcomes like these, why don’t you think so? Really: please walk me through your reasoning that it “won’t be so bad.” Be specific: give me details. 

I truly believe: if you want progressive social change, please don’t vote for Stein, or Johnson, or stay home. Please vote for Clinton, no matter how you feel about her. Then take whatever progress she is willing to give you. Build coalitions with her when she wants to do the right thing and needs public support. Pressure her where she isn’t already on your side. And build a long-term movement so you’ll have better choices next time. “Our Revolution,” Green, whatever you choose, after the election, but first things first.

Consider that most progressive social change in this country has occurred when a “compromised” progressive (such as FDR, JFK, LBJ, or Obama) has been in office. They were all subject to great criticism in their time for falling short, being insufficiently transformative, too corrupted by economic elites. Their social programs were far from perfect, but they created the basis for greater progress.

Then consider how little progress occurred in the teeth of a Nixon, Reagan, or George W. Bush. Forgive my personal recollection: it was simply exhausting. Whether as activists, citizens, or voters, we used up all our energy every day just struggling to protect the gains of those who’d come before, if we could even accomplish that.

Trump will be far worse.

That’s my message in a nutshell: With Clinton in office, progress will at least be possible on many of the issues we’ve passionately fought for over the past several years. With Trump, we’ll be fighting alone every day to stay afloat against disaster. Après Trump le déluge.

What Comes After Trump?

I posted this on Reasonable Creature, but I wanted to share it with you as well.

Now that we’re about nine weeks away from the general election, it’s time to start considering what comes next. More likely than not, Hillary Clinton will be elected president, along with many Democrats. The election will likely confirm the status quo, with little immediate shift in power between both parties. But I wonder how the media and the rest of us pivot post-Trump. I fear we’ve become too used to politics as a kind of grotesque theater of perpetual outrage, and not as an important outlet for debating and solving problems. Every Trump tweet or dumb comment takes attention away from serious issues. Clinton may have detailed policy plans, but if her opponent has no interest in debating her on the merits – only calling for her arrest and promoting conspiracy theories – then how can average Americans make informed choices based on anything other than disgust? She may be elected by 10 points and will still be viewed as illegitimate by tens of millions of people. Once elected, Clinton will struggle to address real issues, like poverty and wage stagnation, because whether her policy ideas are good or bad, the anger-industrial complex is too deeply invested in their failure.

Similarly, I’m worried we’ll be dealing with the consequences of reduced civility and sensitivity for a long time, particularly as it relates to women, people of color, people with disabilities, and toward middle and lower class whites that liberals scoff at and who Trump resonated with. He’s made liberals more likely to write off all Trump supporters as bigots, when as Arlie Russell Hochschild’s incredible story shows, their narrative of unfairness must be reckoned with. Further, Trump has empowered people who view all Muslims as terrorists, Mexicans as rapists, blacks as criminals, who despise women, especially the successful ones. A nation where former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, feels comfortable running for senate again is a weaker, more dangerous one. While not in every instance but always for Trump and his ilk, condemning political correctness has been about preserving their power to dehumanize people who aren’t them. I envision a country that gradually removes the structural barriers for disadvantaged groups to participate economically and politically, only for them to be discouraged by barrages of personal attacks.

Beyond that, I worry that we will start to think and act in groups at a dangerous level. Trump has encouraged whites to view only themselves as “real Americans” and view prosperity as entirely zero-sum. We’re in trouble when Americans stop believing their success is mutually dependent.

What gives me hope is that my generation, for the most part, doesn’t buy this crap. While we have grown up profoundly segregated by race, class, and even politics, we are also incredibly diverse, educated, and liberal. We won’t put up with people like Trump and the alt-right; a recent Pew poll shows that 76% of millennials say “immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. I won’t overstate our increased racial tolerance; the General Social Survey conducted by NORC found that white millennials are only slightly less racist than their parents. But millennials are only 55% white, those under 18 are 51.5% white, and those under five are minority white. I look forward to the day when there is no majority ethnicity or race in this country; perhaps, then, we’ll find something better that unites us.

I invite both of us to consider what that might be.