1. WHAT’S CLEAR
There can be no doubt about the kind of America Trump is determined to bring about. His cabinet appointments project a vivid picture. Whatever tactical differences between Trump and some Republicans, the goal is to cement one party rule controlled by Trump and his selected billionaires, generals and 'white' nationalist strategists. The America Trump envisions is a super-militarized plutocracy that violates democratic norms and moves apace toward a “law and order” dictatorship.
A majority of Americans don’t share that vision, and many millions are determined to defend democracy. The crunch will come in inevitable crises ahead, when ruthless force confronts the lives and liberties of immigrants and communities of color, when a host of economic, social and environmental rights and protections are cruelly attacked.
This we know. Democracy is threatened as never since the Civil War. The choice is and must be to resist. We have to believe that the vast majority of Americans value democracy however flawed our political institutions. Many of the large minority who voted for Trump may change their minds as reality registers. One way or another, resistance has to encompass everyone who sees (or comes to see) the perils of Trump’s road. Some will be unflinching; some will waver. But popular resistance, the will of the people, is the way to undo the damage and restore sanity.
2. NOT SO CLEAR YET
What’s ahead for America abroad, in foreign policy and world affairs, is less clear. Here again there are clues in Trump’s cabinet selections, particularly of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, as well as some of Trump’s comments and actions even before taking office.
Trump’s 'Fortress America' will not and cannot be 'isolationist'. It will remain the superpower with the most far-flung military presence and extensive imperialist involvements all over the world. But the Trump Administration will try to distance itself from past foreign policy failures: the disastrous consequences and intractable wars brought on by military interventions aimed at 'regime change'. His mantra in foreign policy is 'doing business', making the 'deal'. 'Business' favors conditions of greater stability, not chaos. But ‘wheeling and dealing’ has its own pitfalls and perils. Intrigues and corruption, setting one or more powers against another, conflict over markets and spheres of influence have sparked wars in a tragic past and can again.
Trump is comfortable dealing with fellow strongmen in Egypt, Russia, and anywhere else. And that may counter the reckless pursuit of a renewed cold war and the risk of military confrontation with Russia. But that possibility is far from assured. John Bolton, Trump’s pick as Tillerson’s right-hand man, is an extreme war hawk. What do we make of that? Anti-Russia frenzy is higher than ever in Congress. Does a possible “reset” with Russia, and Trump’s ‘undiplomatic’ phone call to Taiwan, signal a growing confrontation with China?
Whatever foreign policy machinations unfold under Trump, hovering over everything is the iron fist of unrestrained US military power, including nuclear.
For world peace and for the American people, nothing is more important than to change US foreign policy away from chronic military interventionism. In the long run, the hope for humanity is that people and nations find the way to elevate common interests to the highest level of global priority. Neither militarism nor business deals can make that happen. In fact, historic experience weighs against such a possibility. But never before have common interests been so compelling as the current need to check global warming and prevent nuclear annihilation. Now Trump and his cabinet of climate change deniers and polluters stand in the way. Public outrage has to prevent them from sabotaging the Paris accord and growing international cooperation on climate change. That’s a foreign policy fight that has to be won, and fast.
3. POST MORTEM AFTER-SHOCK
There are still a flood of post-mortems, many very valuable. That will go on for months and years to come, and it surely should. But now, with much media involvement, there is a frenzy of sensational 'revelation'. Suddenly it’s all about Putin and the Russians. It’s quite likely, although not with hard proof, that Russia had a hand in the hacks that plagued Hillary in the latter stages of the campaign. Such interference justifies public outrage. And it isn’t excused by the fact that US operatives have interfered routinely in the internal affairs of countless countries, including in elections and military coups. We are in the age of cyber-warfare. And we are certainly a player, as acknowledged for example regarding attacks on Iran.
But Hillary’s vulnerabilities, and decades of demonization by the GOP, were not Russian made. (We could well do without another round of Congressional cold war grandstanding.) The most serious and unfair blow Hillary took near the very end of the campaign was from head of the FBI, James Comey. Now that’s something worth investigating, at least by serious investigative journalists. Comey’s FBI thumb weighed more heavily on the scales than that of any anonymous hacker. His behavior is probably the tip of the iceberg, because it suggests that active support for Trump and Trumpism penetrated into the supposedly non-partisan law enforcement and intelligence community, into the centers of our “security state”.
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I look back at how I voted and why. I liked the idea of the first woman president and there was much about Hillary that I appreciated. Above all, I wanted Trump to be drowned in a landslide of voters rejecting his racism and everything he represents. I would have preferred Bernie or another candidate less hawkish and Wall Street cozy than Hillary. But I had no doubt which side I was on, the side of the millions who had most to fear from a Trump presidency, the millions of Americans who would fare better in their every day lives with Hillary as President than under Trump, the GOP, and their Supreme Court majority.
A minority on the left felt they couldn’t vote for Hillary as a matter of “conscience”. I think people certainly should always vote their conscience. My support for Hillary took positives and negatives into account — but it was my vote of conscience. I have a friend who felt she couldn’t vote for Hillary, but she works with a community that includes many “undocumented”. At the last moment, she thought of those for whom she felt such closeness, and voted for Hillary against Trump. That was her vote of conscience.
In what’s ahead, everyone is needed, those who are part of the revolution Bernie brought to life, those who supported Hillary’s campaign throughout. Nor should we forget that many voters for Trump voted for Obama twice: Trump’s support beyond its core is soft.