Buyers’ remorse is not likely to be so great that a standard-issue Democrat, tied to Barack Obama and, especially, Hillary Clinton, can make a lot of headway. Here’s the thing: Clinton and her backers failed to perceive the depth of anger in the country and failed utterly to understand that the voters were ready to lurch. The only question was whether they would lurch right or left, and for 40 years, the deck had been carefully stacked against the left.
This is not gloating because fingers of blame and arrows of recrimination are not what we need. This is just to try and explain where we went so tragically wrong. It is, I firmly believe, that we rejected the hopeful and progressive candidacy of Bernie Sanders. He proposed change of a fundamental nature. He had no significant personal demons or skeletons, and he demonstrated a remarkable consistency over a long career. In sum, but for his age, he was the kind of candidate we needed, and now need more than ever, to find.
Whither Medicare, Social Security?
Now there is hope. There is hope that, like an alcoholic in the gutter, we will finally have hit bottom. The Republicans are likely to overplay their hand. Repealing the Affordable Care Act will be welcomed by a lot of people — at first. The loss of Medicare and Social Security benefits will begin to pinch pretty fast. A wholesale attack on the rights of women, gays, and all kinds of ethnic and religious minorities will, perhaps, result in the coalition Clinton could not build but someone to her left might.
Lack of action on climate change will have dramatic consequences, and soon. A loss of prestige abroad and an uncertain, vague, and vacillating foreign policy likely will result in more war, more terrorism, and more refugees worldwide.
People will be shocked when the drill rigs start operating in Yellowstone. They will weary quickly of seeing Melania Trump’s old nude photos on the Internet, and they will find the president’s humorless bluster a lot less entertaining after a year’s time
They will find that the jobs are not coming back, after all, and that such jobs as are created will pay too little to live on.
People will also find themselves shocked, though they shouldn’t, by a Supreme Court bent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and preserving Citizens United.
They may well take their vengeance, yet again, in the congressional elections of 2018. Progressives need to get ready, starting today, for the opportunity of the midterm elections. Our Revolution, a nascent, hastily organized and somewhat ideologically fragmented outgrowth of the Sanders campaign, is already recruiting candidates. They will try to work together on a strategy and a message, and it is even possible that they will become, at least in effect, another party.
In the meantime, the damage Trump can do, even abetted by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and their majorities, is somewhat limited by the sheer complexity of massive change. They will gleefully take a budget axe to governmental arms like the Environmental Protection Agency. Under appointed heads who do not believe in their missions, those agencies will wither. But they won’t quite die, not for some time. Myriad laws, such as the Clean Air Act, are administered by the EPA, and removing the EPA from legal existence would require reopening legislative horror chambers that even this Congress won’t be eager to visit again.
The military, which already takes up more than half of discretionary federal spending (this excludes veterans’ spending, most of the intelligence establishment, and, of course, Homeland Security), will eat yet more of your tax dollars under a Trump administration. He seems to believe the Republican line that the rest of the government has been growing — it’s been shrinking — and to think he can make up the difference in military spending by cutting services, while cutting taxes.
It’s going to be a rough ride, but perhaps a brief one.