With the inauguration just a week away, and even I am a little surprised that Donald Trump is actually going to be president. In March of 2016, I concluded that he was probably going to win the election, and it turns out I was right.
And I thought at the time that—should such an absurdity in fact take place—the effect on the American electorate would be rather like the one felt by the fellow who joins a gym at the New Year only to find himself warned off taking his first dip in the pool by the awkward pinch of swimming shorts that were, in times past, noticeably more spacious.
If Hillary wins, I told myself back then, things will go on just as they always have—no change in the tone of public discourse and business as usual.
But if Donald wins, I thought, no day will pass without pointless chatter about whatever tweet the president issued that morning from his perch astride the gold-plated toilet he’ll no doubt have had installed as his administration’s first order of business. Perhaps a few months of that might cause the electorate to pause and ask itself just exactly how we got ourselves into this mess. Perhaps the electorate might also asks itself other questions, such as: Is any political system capable of elevating Donald Trump to its highest office really that great after all? And how did we allow the presidency to metastasize to such Napoleonic proportions? And if it’s bad for one person to have that much power over everyone else, why is it OK for, say, 535 people to have the same amount of power?
It’s dangerous lines of reasoning like this that begin to tug at the curtain of American democracy that shields from view the same sort of grifters, bullies, and pimps who have run every other racket that’s declared itself a government—the same sort described best by HL Mencken:
The state — or, to make the matter more concrete, the government — consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.
But I’m now pretty sure I am going to be disappointed in my hope that a Trump presidency might cause people to doubt the right things. The two camps who contested the election will continue to proclaim their moral superiority over the other with an intensity that is exceeded only by the persistent faith each camp places in the belief that society must be governed by the state—as long as our guy is in charge.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
I wonder exactly what it would take for us to consider that might be a better guide than the CIA or CNN for our thinking about the effect politics has on people?