Finally, I can sit at my keyboard with minimal pain from surgery. Also, my head is clearer than when I wrote my last entry.
This is a two subject piece but they are related as I’ve come out of surgery pretty beaten up, dark, angry purple bruises on both legs and staples holding the pacemaker “wound” together on my chest, with limited range of my right arm, essentially a metaphor for how I feel about the election.
We all now know that if it were not for the arcane Electoral College method of electing the president, Clinton was the clear winner. So Trump was right in saying beforehand (haven’t heard it after the election from him, wonder why?) that the system is rigged. Can you imagine if the results were exactly opposite, Trump winning the popular but losing the EC? Instead of the relatively peaceful protests we’ve seen spontaneously erupting around the country, we’d have Trump’s heavily armed militia in the streets. Revolution and bloodshed. So, in a way, for the safety of our citizens at least short term, this outcome has that one benefit.
Long term, it’s a different deal. There are so many issues where an unrestrained Trump presidency can wreck the future of this country and the world, that it would be senseless to detail them all here.
First, though, as much as I thought Trump’s candidacy was a joke during the initial months of the primaries, I took it quite seriously later, my fear growing in direct relation to his Teflon ability to say anything and, what used to matter, our 4th estate -- the Press -- having little effect to act as a foil. If I was in a prolonged coma and came out of it to hear a presidential candidate talk about shooting someone on 5th Ave. with no consequences, grabbing women by their pussies, etc., I would have thought the Press would have been able to eviscerate that candidate long ago.
But cyber bullying was the factor in this campaign which made it unique. Facebook and Twitter had more to do with the outcome of this election than all the newspapers and TV news media combined. Trump’s attention span is ideally suited to 140 character tweets and his reality TV personality gave him entrée to TV coverage whenever he wanted it, gratis. And in spite of his racist overtone, he did carry a persuasive populist message, the forgotten plight of the white middle class male. Whether he can make good on promises to that minority group is highly unlikely, especially with his tax cut proposals which will benefit his own economic class most. (I don’t believe in trickle down prosperity. The “wealth effect” is to make the wealthy wealthier.)
So based mostly on anecdotal evidence, I thought Trump had a better chance than the polls reflected. I grew up only a couple of miles from his neighborhood in Queens, NY and we’re almost the same age. Although more than 50 years have passed since I’ve lived there, if I close my eyes when Trump speaks I hear street talk I’m familiar with. Between his celebrity status and his strong appeal to the middle class, people were willing to overlook the big picture and especially loved the way he took down the ruling oligarchy (including the now vestigial Press and traditional mass media). And given the unpredictability of what people do in the privacy of the voting booth (perhaps ashamed to be backing Trump publicly, but will pull the lever for him privately), I went into surgery thinking that this election was a tossup, especially with the FBI making unprecedented statements to Congress and Wiki Leak’s one sided email revelations, so ripe for Trump’s conspiracy campaign (imagine if the RNC’s emails were similarly exposed).
Thus, nothing about election night truly surprised me. In fact I called the outcome at 9.20 PM, turned off the TV and went to bed with the residual effects of anesthesia still in my system. I woke up in pain throughout the night but refused to look at the TV or phone to confirm “my call.” The next morning my heart sank, in spite of being prepared for the outcome.
So here’s the existential dilemma: how does one, as a citizen of a country he/she loves, support its new leader, while having complete disdain for that leader, his policies, his narcissistic disorders, and fearing the damage he and his administration might do?
While I could go into a long litany of all the specific issues, I’m trying to look at this from 50,000 feet so they don’t overwhelm. To me, I see a world undergoing turbulent change, hastened by a technology revolution. The industry I came from – publishing --is just one example of the incredible forces of creative destruction that technology has fostered. More books are being published (including e-books) using far less labor than in the past. The majority of book titles are now printed on demand. Warehouses are not needed for those and the process is completely automated. The whole landscape has changed. Robots now make the majority of heavy industry products. This trend is only accelerating. Capital finds the most efficient venues for its deployment.
Anyone who believes that Trump can simply bring back manufacturing jobs like we once had is self-deluded, abetted by the master manipulator himself, Donald Trump, who told the victims of disintermediation what they wanted to hear…….that things would return to the way they were.
I do believe there is a path to expanding jobs and prosperity for the forgotten middle class, but it means abandoning the past and embracing the future. America’s export is intellectual capital and technology. Our educational system needs to reflect those realities and build our industries with those as a foundation. Let the manufacturing of goods that require handwork reside in low cost labor countries, such as those which made Trump’s hats.
Going further up from a 50,000 foot overview you see a planet whose delicate atmosphere which protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet light and governs the balance of glaciers, oceans, and climate – all under siege. Can we afford to aid climate denial forces in our society, simply because it is the easy, short term answer to some of our economic ills? Here again is both a threat and an opportunity, an opportunity to develop the alternative energy and mass transportation industries, a win-win situation, jobs and a healthier environment for future generations. America has to lead other countries in this effort.
We seem to be at a Malthusian tipping point in the history of the world. Population is growing exponentially but while Malthus was concerned about the food supply keeping pace, little could he foresee the other factor, now a bigger part of the equation of whether humanity can survive changes to the environment itself because of our addiction to fossil fuels.
So these are just some of the big picture things I’m concerned about. I want to support my President but I fear that progressives will have to fight tooth and nail, hoping the country can hang on for four years.
If I’m around then, it will because of incredible medical technology, the kind that allowed me to survive my fourth pacemaker implantation with the removal of existing leads being the most dangerous part of the operation. New leads then had to be implanted, these being MRI compliant which my old leads were not. As I age, an MRI is inevitable. First they had to connect me to a temporary pacemaker as I am 100% dependent on the ventricle pacing by threading leads through each of my legs and then to a temporary pacemaker during the operation. Then they opened my chest to remove the existing pacemaker and begin the long arduous task of removing the existing leads, an operation of great delicacy to not injure the heart. Unfortunately, a small part of the lead in the atrium broke off and the surgeon felt it was just too dangerous to go after that last piece and thus I lost the MRI compliant feature. Overall the operation went well and now I’m trying to rest and rehabilitate,
I’m grateful to family and friends who expressed so much care and particularly to my wife, Ann, who stayed with me in the hospital room, sleeping on an uncomfortable cot, and watched over things for me, shaving my chest, stomach and legs and helping me take the first of two antiseptic showers before the operation. I can’t say enough positive things about the nurses at the University of Miami Hospital. To me they are as important as the surgeon, maybe more so.
Thus, I am slowly getting back to form, but to a political landscape that has been shaped by fear and intolerance. I have low expectations that Mr. Trump can suddenly function as the leader we all need to help us coalesce as a nation. His narcissistic personality must be fed and that is going to be a constant obstruction to doing the right thing, such as selecting Cabinet members who are NOT just yes people or those connected to his business interests or family. Can one imagine Sarah Palin, a climate change denier as Secretary of the Interior as rumored? He’s already appointed a denier, Myron Ebell, as the head of the EPA transition team.
My good friend, Artie, reminded me of H.L. Mencken’s prophetic quote from nearly 100 years ago: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete moron. Perhaps that time has come.
Nonetheless I’m desperately trying to end this with something positive: Trump is now going to become OUR President and I for one will try to give his administration a chance to do some of the right things for the nation as a whole.
After I wrote the preceding though, I read David Remnick’s incredible article from the November 9 issue of The New Yorker, “An American Tragedy,” perhaps the most important of the many I’ve read. Highly commended.