Thursday, August 3, 2017

Listen: we have been so lucky, because we found each other.

We have been lucky.  You have no idea just how lucky we have been.  We have been lost at sea with no stars.

Here's how things stood at the inauguration.  It was a moment of shock and horror and awe.  For many people, all the old rules and the old world seemed to be overthrown.  It seemed impossible that such a villain -- and let's be frank, anyone who brags about sexual assault, bullies the weak, and lies as easily as he breathes is a villain -- it seemed impossible that he could ever conquer a major political party.  But when he did, and then went on to win the election by openly embracing the assistance of a foreign power... well, if that was possible, what else was possible?

Most Republican leaders continued the course they'd adopted in 2008, sacrificing everything on the altar of power.  We will maximize damage to our enemies and devoutly defend our friends no matter what happens, no matter what falls by the wayside, they said to themselves, because these are sacrifices that must be made to achieve our goals.  Our goals will save the country, and that long-term good cancels out the short-term loss of lives and honor.  And it seemed that this Hell's gamble had paid off!  A Republican president would preside over a Republican Congress and appoint a partisan justice.  They had won, and now they would profit from the expenditure of so much American pain.

Trump bestrode the world like a colossus.  A single tweet from him could crush a company's stock, and so they paid him homage.  He brokered "deals" for investments and jobs from major corporations.  Many of the announcements were fake, re-announcing old decisions, but few people noticed or cared.  Trump seemed to remake reality, gaslighting the country by telling his supporters his preferred facts, over and over.

He began prepare to appoint people -- folks like Stephen Miller and Stephen Bannon, or his own family members, or crazed fringe activists.  And there didn't seem to be anything to stop him.  He could appoint any nut he wanted, and we looked to the adults in the room, and they just didn't seem to care.

How was this possible?  Wasn't there something that someone could do?  Can this really be the world?

Democratic leaders were afraid.  They were ready to work with him, to try to prove they had ideas and could be useful.  The plan was to try to drive Trump away from the GOP -- monumentally foolish, since they'd only deliver him victories and get nothing in return.

His supporters didn't seem to care.  They were a minority of Americans, but a rabid and fierce minority -- and they'd already carried Trump this far.  Who was to say they could not carry him forever, as long as he made his own sacrifices on the altar of power?  A monstrous Muslim ban, a wall... worse?

Did... did they run the country, now?  Was this how it would be?

It was unknown.  None of the rules or norms seemed to apply.  As always, that was our great fear: the thing we did not understand.

It was the day that Trump was inaugurated, and we were lost at sea and there were no stars.  It was just black, above and around, and we were left on the dark waters with no way home.

Lost at sea with no stars.

What was there to do?

The day after the inauguration, the largest protest movement in American history flooded every major city.  Millions of Americans rose up and got on buses and trains and planes.  They filled every car and every corner.  There was no violence.  There was laughter.

I know people worked and supported each other ceaselessly throughout the campaign and before the inauguration.  But for me, that day was when the Resistance was born.  That was when it was darkest, when the president-elect who'd run roughshod over our values and traditions was installed into power.  That was when it seemed like there was nothing to do but join hands and march, throwing our resistance out into the world.

That was when we saw that we were the ones we had been waiting for.

It could have gone so badly.  The president could have cemented his victory by cleaving between Democratic leaders and their base, using his power and leadership to force Republicans to moderate their policies.  He spent his first week arguing about crowd sizes.  If he'd spent it insisting on a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill -- well, would Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell really have refused him?  If he'd reached out and gotten Democrats like Jim Manchin to co-sponsor it -- Manchin, from West Virginia where Trump won by forty points -- then would the situation be so morally clear?

He could have broken apart those who voted Democrat for economic reasons and those who voted Democrat for cultural reasons, fracturing the coalition.  I don't know if it would have worked, but it would have worked better for him than this.  A big, bipartisan deal that delivered something the country desperately needed -- and it would be cover for when he tried to ban Muslims and refugees from the country!  How strongly could they denounce him, how energetically would they oppose him, if he had tried to reach out?

Those bridges are burned.  Trump's approval rating is in the single digits among Democrats, and his credibility is gone.  There is good evidence that even his supporters are beginning to sour on him, as six months have gone by without any major accomplishments (except for one hand-delivered by Mitch McConnell) but multiple hideous embarrassments and scandals.

The courts have rebuked his foolish outrages.  His own party has joined forces almost unanimously with Democrats to rebuke his foreign policy.  The justice system has begun years-long investigations into his malfeasance.  And a thousand activist groups have sprung up to oppose him on every front.

Once upon a time... it was dark.  We were lost at sea with no stars.

So we turned to each other.

And we discovered that we could shine.

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