Before the election, like many liberals, I made a lot of jokes about moving to Canada. It was a way for people to deal with our anxiety. It’s not funny anymore, and people discussing it — reportedly, Canada’s immigration website has crashed due to excessive interest — are beginning to disgust me. I love this country. I believe in it. I’m not leaving. I’m sorry to sound hokey, but I’m going to stay and defend truth and democracy.
Never in my lifetime has the United States seen a period of darkness like the one that lies ahead of us. But we have seen periods of darkness before — segregation, McCarthyism, the internment of the Japanese, the Civil War, slavery. The American story is fitful progress punctuated by frequent reversals, some of which appeared at the time like they would last forever. None of them did.
The Trump years will be a horror. When I set out to write my long story in the magazine about Trumpism and the future of the Republican Party, I originally intended to focus on the immediate possibilities that lay before the Republican Party if it could capture full control of Washington. As this scenario grew less likely, I gave it less emphasis, but it is there. The Republicans will pass massive regressive tax cuts; they will take access to medical care from the poor and sick; they will deregulate the financial industry and fossil-fuel emitters.
And that is just the beginning, the best-case scenario. Trump is an impulsive, egotistical bully, intolerant of criticism and dissent and drawn to the ruthless application of power. Many liberals have been warning that American democracy is far weaker than we believed, and this was before any of us imagined a monster like Trump commanding the Executive branch. Trump will shake the Republic to its foundations. And the Republicans will shake it with him. If there is a central point I tried to drive home, it is that Trumpism grows out of a decades-long trend toward authoritarianism as the dominant tendency of Republican politics. I don’t know what American government will look like after four years of Trump — or if it will only last four years, or even if it will only last eight.
But I do not believe that the people who elected Trump will be helped by his program in any way. Trump avoided policy specifics to a comical degree. His health-care plan is “something terrific” that will take care of everybody at no cost to anybody. His wall paid for by Mexico is not even a punch line — it is a symbol of his supporters’ fascistic willingness to subordinate all critical faculties and endorse an obvious absurdity. What he will do is sign a quick succession of donor-driven laws written by Paul Ryan whose authentic support is confined to a trivial proportion of the party outside its big-money wing. To whatever extent people voted for Trump for reasons other than racial and cultural resentment, Trump will do nothing for them. He is a buffoon surrounded by a party apparatus that is unable to govern, as the Republican elite demonstrated during the George W. Bush era, and that has grown worse.
At the end of this month, the president-elect of the United States will face trial for committing massive fraud through Trump University. He openly vows to have his children run his family business, which will enrich him through his office in the manner of a post-Soviet kleptocrat. The depths of a Trump presidency defy our imagination. It is safe to assume it will not be popular. Trump and his party will probably respond with vicious anti-democratic measures. But fighting for democracy is part of America’s heritage, from abolitionists to suffragettes to the progressive reformers. Maybe you thought that fight was confined to history. It will go on.
And Trump does not represent the future. He only barely represents its present. His party controls all three branches in large part because its voters are overrepresented in the House, the Senate, and the Electoral College. He represents a rage against the direction of America they have no way of stopping. Even a complete halt to all of illegal immigration and a total deportation of every undocumented immigrant will not prevent the growth of nonwhites into an eventual majority. Republicans are increasingly focused on voter suppression and other anti-democratic measures to allow their shrinking cohort to rule. Trump is the perfect champion of their project.
But I do not believe they will win, at least not over the long run. As the shock of a Trump presidency set in, I told my children Tuesday night that I did not want to hear anything about fleeing. We are not going anywhere. And the America I have raised them to believe in will one day prevail.