On the likely departure of Donald Trump

With the Associated Press having called results in all but Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina, it very much appears that Joe Biden has won the presidency.[1] Certainly the celebrations I saw yesterday (November 7) in Pittsburgh suggest that people think this black hole presidency is over. And I will set aside for now that, to borrow a fat-shaming colloquialism, the fat lady hasn’t sung, that is, that Donald Trump is still desperately attempting to cling to office and may yet attempt further nefarious schemes to do so.[2]

We are in a weird place now, an interregnum if you will, where Trump in fact remains in office, Biden has not yet taken it. This is a time when the victors have high hopes for the future, but are not yet accountable for their lofty promises, and the losers go through the notorious stages of grief, including denial, including resistance. It remains to be seen how the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief will handle his loss and, indeed, how various heavily armed groups he has effectively allied himself with will handle his loss.[3]

Biden promises—I can’t emphasize that word heavily enough—a return to “normal,” by which he means an era of comity in which Republicans and Democrats could work together for the benefit of the country. The evidence suggests that this is far from the case, that given any opportunity, Republicans will obstruct.[4] It appears there will be special elections in Georgia, where the presidential outcome remains uncalled,[5] to determine control of the Senate,[6] but even if Democrats prevail—this is Georgia we’re talking about—the filibuster will likely mean continued partisan gridlock. Never mind if the obstructionist and shameless hypocrite Mitch McConnell[7] emerges yet again as majority leader.

And that “normal” is not in any case such a wonderful thing. A bipartisan consensus took the fall of the Berlin Wall as an affirmation of the Amerikkkan way,[8] boosting neoconservative imperial aspirations (allegedly in “defense” of the Amerikkkan system) and neoliberalism as a neoconservative moral imperative.[9] This, of course, is a false dichotomy: The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain at least partly reflected internal problems[10] and the failure of authoritarian socialism cannot in itself affirm capitalism or a constitutional oligarchy.[11] Most of the wars that the U.S. remains entangled in predate Trump. And neoliberalism has been intellectually utterly discredited[12] but remains a governing dogma.

It is this dogma that I blame for Trump’s ascent in the first place,[13] and I see no way now to exclude the possibility or even probability that four more years of neoliberal-imposed misery will promote yet another, even more dangerous version of Trump, one perhaps that the elite will be more comfortable with, perhaps less erratic, perhaps less blatant in his appeals to white supremacy and to right-wing militia groups. Mike Pence, perhaps.

“Normal” is, indeed, entirely the wrong answer to the problems this country faces and it really offers no answer at all to the polarization that has only intensified during Trump’s time in the White House but which can easily be traced to Bill Clinton’s presidency,[14] and, on reflection, I would date back at least to Jimmy Carter’s presidency, when Republicans mocked Carter’s “Rose Garden” strategy of focusing on the Iran Hostage Crisis while going behind his back to negotiate with the Iranian government to delay the hostages’ release[15] until—get this—Ronald Reagan’s inauguration day, indeed “[m]inutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration.”[16] McConnell’s obstructionist treachery, we should understand, is far from the beginning.

There is a curse, unsubstantively attributed to the Chinese, “May you live in interesting times,”[17] that has become cliché. It remains apt.

  1. [1]New Yorker, “Election 2020,” November 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/election-2020/live-2020-presidential-election-results
  2. [2]Max Boot, “What if Trump loses but insists he won?” Washington Post, July 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/06/what-if-trump-loses-insists-he-won/; Rosa Brooks, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Washington Post, September 3, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/09/03/trump-stay-in-office/; Will Bunch, “Trump’s diabolical plan to blow up democracy, get reelected and avoid jail just might work,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2019, https://www.philly.com/opinion/commentary/trump-wants-impeachment-2020-reelection-strategy-blame-democrats-ignore-subpoenas-20190505.html; Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, “Trump team eyes legal, political Hail Marys as options for comeback fade,” Politico, November 6, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/06/trump-legal-political-lawsuit-election-434786; Chris Cillizza, “What happens if Donald Trump refuses to admit he lost in 2020?” CNN, May 6, 2019, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/05/06/politics/donald-trump-2020-election/index.html; Democracy Now!, “What If Trump Refuses to Accept a Biden Victory? A Look at How Electoral Chaos Could Divide Nation,” August 3, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/8/3/nils_gilman_2020_election_scenarios; Barton Gellman, “The Election That Could Break America,” Atlantic, September 23, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/11/what-if-trump-refuses-concede/616424/; Mehdi Hasan, “Yes, Let’s Defeat or Impeach Donald Trump. But What If He Refuses to Leave the White House?” Intercept, March 6, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/03/06/donald-trump-impeachment-2020/; Colby Itkowitz, “Trump won’t commit to a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ if he loses,” Washington Post, September 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-transfer-of-power/2020/09/23/be6954d0-fdf0-11ea-b555-4d71a9254f4b_story.html; Ed Kilgore, “How Trump Is Trying to Ensure an Early Election Night Lead,” New York, August 13, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/08/trump-voters-could-vote-in-person-and-give-him-early-lead.html; Eric Lach, “What Happens if Donald Trump Fights the Election Results?” New Yorker, August 21, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/campaign-chronicles/what-happens-if-donald-trump-fights-the-election-results; Robert McCartney, “Here’s one way Trump could try to steal the election, voting experts say,” Washington Post, August 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/heres-one-way-trump-could-try-to-steal-the-election-voting-experts-say/2020/08/16/b5bf0c2a-de66-11ea-b205-ff838e15a9a6_story.html; Peter Nicholas, “Trump Could Still Break Democracy’s Biggest Norm,” Atlantic, June 16, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/when-does-trump-leave-white-house/613060/; Greg Sargent, “On Hannity’s show, Trump reveals his corrupt, panicky endgame,” Washington Post, October 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/10/09/hannity-trump-reveals-his-corrupt-panicky-endgame/; Felicia Sonmez, “Trump declines to say whether he will accept November election results,” Washington Post, July 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-declines-to-say-whether-he-will-accept-november-election-results/2020/07/19/40009804-c9c7-11ea-91f1-28aca4d833a0_story.html; Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Claiming two years of his presidency were ‘stolen,’ Trump suggests he’s owed overtime,” Washington Post, May 6, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/05/06/claiming-two-years-his-presidency-were-stolen-trump-suggests-hes-owed-overtime/; Timothy E. Wirth and Tom Rogers, “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President,” Newsweek, July 3, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Bloody November,” Not Housebroken, October 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/08/bloody-november/; David Benfell, “Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts,’” Not Housebroken, October 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/30/donald-trumps-brown-shirts/; David Benfell, “The very scary way to four more years,” Not Housebroken, October 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/25/the-very-scary-way-to-four-more-years/
  4. [4]Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg, “Joe Biden predicts a post-Trump ‘epiphany’ for Republicans,” CNN, May 14, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/14/politics/joe-biden-republicans-trump-epiphany/index.html; Moira Donegan, “What does Biden have in common with Trump? Delusional nostalgia,” Guardian, June 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/21/joe-biden-trump-sexism-delusional-nostalgia; Matt Ford, “Someone Please Tell Joe Biden That Bipartisanship Is Dead,” New Republic, June 12, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/154183/someone-please-tell-joe-biden-bipartisanship-dead; Paul Waldman, “Joe Biden still hasn’t learned the lessons of the Obama presidency,” Washington Post, December 6, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/06/joe-biden-still-hasnt-learned-lessons-obama-presidency/
  5. [5]New Yorker, “Election 2020,” November 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/election-2020/live-2020-presidential-election-results
  6. [6]Claudia Grisales, “Senate Control Likely Decided By Fate Of 2 Georgia Runoff Races,” National Public Radio, November 7, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/11/07/932068951/senate-control-likely-decided-by-fate-of-2-georgia-runoff-races
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Take those Amerikkkan flag pins off your lapels,” Not Housebroken, September 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/19/take-those-amerikkkan-flag-pins-off-your-lapels/
  8. [8]Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall,” Foreign Policy, November 7, 2014, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/07/berlin_wall_fall_25_anniversary_reagan_bush_germany_merkel_cold_war_free_market_capitalism
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  10. [10]John B. Dunlop, The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 1993).
  11. [11]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, November 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  12. [12]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); David Fickling, “The Gig Economy Compromised Our Immune System,” Yahoo!, July 25, 2020, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/gig-economy-compromised-immune-system-000048670.html; Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  13. [13]David Benfell, “Democrats must own Donald Trump,” Not Housebroken, November 14, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/11/13/democrats-must-own-donald-trump/
  14. [14]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  15. [15]Kai Bird, “Some ‘October surprise’ conspiracies turn out to be true,” Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-bird-conspiracies-october-surprises-20170620-story.html
  16. [16]History.com, “Iran Hostage Crisis ends,” January 16, 2020, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/iran-hostage-crisis-ends
  17. [17]Quote Investigator, “May You Live In Interesting Times,” December 18, 2015, https://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/12/18/live/

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