Can America survive President Donald Trump?Opinion Eric Zorn



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Can America survive President Donald Trump?



Eric Zorn
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In an electoral tantrum for the ages, angry U.S. voters have elected an impulsive, thin-skinned, ignorant con man to the presidency.
I have serious doubts that the American experiment will survive his reign.
The Founders were wary of demagogues and created a political system of checks and balances to weaken the chance that one would take power. That system has survived centuries of domestic and foreign tumult and the occasional election of buffoons and rascals as commander in chief, despite Alexander Hamilton's reassurance in Federalist No. 68 that all presidents would naturally be "preeminent for ability and virtue."
But our republic has never been tested as it will be when Donald Trump is sworn into office. He lacks not only ability and virtue, but he also lacks a fundamental respect for the Constitution (aside from the Second Amendment), he lacks an understanding of the fine points of domestic and foreign policy and he lacks the cool temperament necessary to guide the most important nation on Earth through perilous times.
He fans the flames of tribalism and nationalism, inspiring and comforting those with deplorable views. He purchased the support of a majority of American voters with a set of brazenly false, often contradictory promises. He praised and made common cause with brutal Russian dictator Vladimir Putin while actively undermining domestic confidence in our electoral system.
His campaign and his personal manner were so repulsive that many top members of his own party couldn't even bring themselves to mention his name or say if they were voting for him.
His unfiltered expressions of anger and contempt were so dismaying that his campaign reportedly had to yank his access to Twitter in the waning days of the campaign — yet voters decided to hand him the nuclear launch codes.

Sure, as a lefty I'm discouraged almost beyond words at the fact that Republicans will control the legislative and executive branches of government. This means the end of the extension of health care contained in the Affordable Care Act and pretty much the obliteration of the rest of President Barack Obama's legacy. It means efforts to ameliorate global climate change are dead, that the wealthy will enjoy generous tax cuts and for at least four years we won't see meaningful efforts to curb the easy availability of firearms.
Trump's victory also means that Republicans will regain control of the U.S. Supreme Court — a reward for their outrageous stalling after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February — meaning that the Citizens United decision will stand and the erosion of abortion rights will continue on the state level.
But that's politics and policy. The same would have been true had any of the other umpteen Republican hopefuls won the White House on Tuesday, and I would not be melodramatically forecasting comprehensive doom.
Trump is different. He's an aspiring strongman with a divisive record of bigotry and misogyny. He has put a quiet stamp of approval on white nationalism, and he has mainstreamed hateful anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish and anti-black sentiments that, until the rise of his candidacy, had been pushed far into the social margins.
Much was made of the anger that fueled Trump supporters. Anger at the loss of good-paying jobs for those without college education. Anger at the idea that undocumented immigrants were taking jobs from American citizens. Anger at multiculturalism and the attendant demands of "political correctness." Anger that the government system is rigged against them. Anger that media elites and other establishment types look down on them.
That anger may subside for a time as they celebrate Trump's victory, but it will surely return when they come to recognize — as many of us already have — that he is a grotesque fraud and a spectacular liar.
I'm not saying this to sway anyone's vote. The campaign is over. But many of those who championed him and are now exultant will come to despise him as much as those who have opposed him.
He will not bring jobs back that technology has taken. And if he actually starts the trade wars he has promised, prices for everything in the Walmart will rise, the market for exports will dry up and working people will suffer the most.

He will not build a wall. He will not give low-income people better, cheaper health insurance. He will not put a stop to crime "on Day One" as he promised. He will not lower the national debt or get rid of the tax advantages enjoyed by the wealthy. He will not improve the lives of inner-city African-Americans.
Extreme buyer's remorse will set in.
Oh, he'll blame his comprehensive failures on others — narcissists and hucksters always do. But sooner rather than later he will stand exposed even to his supporters as someone who never had a clue how to make America greater than it is, and who exploited for his own gain the fury and credulity of people who feel marginalized and disrespected.
His hair-trigger temper, poor self-control and failure to appreciate the nuances of foreign policy will make him a singularly dangerous man on the international stage.
His arrogance and his contempt for those who disagree with him will shatter what's left of comity in Washington, because he's not just a phony but a thug, an aspiring autocrat cut from the same cloth as Putin. The limits that our Founders placed on the despotic impulses of demagogues who ascend to the highest office will be severely strained if not broken altogether.
Nearly all the things that Trump falsely claimed during the campaign were a disaster will, in fact, become disasters under his rule.
Could I be wrong?
Well, I've been wrong about Trump at nearly every turn for the last year and a half. I thought he had politically self-destructed at least half a dozen times, most recently with his absolutely bizarre performance in the third and final presidential debate.
And I was wrong about this race until the middle of the evening Tuesday, when I had to stop believing that Americans are too smart not to see through his flim-flam and realize how spectacularly unfit he is for the presidency.
With luck, I'll be wrong again.
Twitter @EricZorn

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