Monday, December 19, 2016

Fear, Hope, Anger, and that Weird Place Where They Meet

I'm supposed to be working. The kids are home with me, and we went out and played a bit this morning. My plan was to work this afternoon. I've done some work: I finally made the printable gift card for Small and Spooky, for instance. Next on my list was "post a call for submissions." That has been on my to do list for weeks, and I'm just not getting it done. I don't know what is wrong with me. I want to write it, because I want to read the cool stories people will submit for publication. But every time I sit down to write it, I fail. Perhaps my problem is that looking ahead into 2017 makes me unhappy and nervous.

I'm working on changing that. I want to feel steely resolve, but whenever I try to summon that emotion my brain suggests we just sell our house and move to New Zealand. I am not a partisan activist by nature. I am an incrementalist, a "work within the system to make the system better" type of person. I am happy to discuss policy with people, but I am rarely so sure of my opinion that I want to be out there agitating for my way or the highway. I like to look for compromises and common ground. When I volunteer, I like to focus on helping specific people in my community, not on fighting an election or resisting an over-reaching state.

But the world doesn't really care what I'd rather do, and the times are what they are. So I've roused myself to call my representatives and push on lobbying groups (I'm happy to report that the AARP plans to fight to save Medicare and Social Security). I may even find myself at a protest before all of this is through. In fact, I may find myself at one soon. Some members of my book club are talking about going to the local Women's March, if it happens.

I am finding that taking action makes me feel more hopeful, and I need to hold on to hope or the part of my brain that is advocating that we sell our house and move to New Zealand will surely win.

We may yet sell our house and move to New Zealand, but that would be a big move that would leave us poorer than we are now, and it is one that we would be unlikely to be in a position to reverse at a later date. If we do it, I want it to be for well thought out reasons, not due some inchoate fear I have of the future, my hatred of having to make so many damn phone calls to my congresspeople, and my desire to not feel called to go out on the street and protest.


I have to confess, I'm getting tired of reading about "what Democrats should do to confront Trump." Oh, I'll keep reading these pieces, because I am still scared of what Trump might do to our democracy, and so I guess I'd better be ready to confront him.

But damn, I'd love to read a piece about what Republicans should do right now. I've seen some introspection from some conservative writers about how things went so wrong in the conservative movement that their base ended up electing Trump, who is not a conservative and who presents a danger to the liberty I've always assumed conservatives genuinely loved (I'll share some links on Friday).

But I haven't seen anything with a call to action for Republicans who are worried about what Trump might do to our democracy. I know some Republicans are indeed worried. I'm friends with some of them, and they are trying to figure out what to do now. It would be nice if someone wrote them a piece about their options.

(Personally, I'm hoping at least a couple of sitting House members get primaried over their refusal to investigate Trump, but that is probably unrealistically optimistic of me.)

I get that the Democrats are the most likely opposition, and we need to figure out how to fight effectively. But dammit, we're not the ones who nominated and elected Trump. The Republicans did that. I am tired of all the guilt being directed at me. I don't want to read anything more about Hillary Clinton's weaknesses or be made to feel bad for daring to hope we could elect her. I am tired of being told to have empathy for the people who just voted to gut their own health insurance. I am always sorry to see people suffer, but those voters are adults and I assume they decided something else mattered more. If they now wish to also hold on to their health insurance, perhaps they should call their representatives and express that wish. I fail to see what some extra empathy from me here in California will do for them.


Speaking of being here in California: my anger at being told I am "not a real American" and am "living in a bubble" is reaching a boiling point. California is a big state, diverse in politics as well as just about every other measure. I know and talk to Republicans. I know and talk to religious people. I know and talk to working class people. Some of them are even white.

I also know and talk to Muslims. I know and talk to Latinos whose families have been here for generations, and Latinos whose parents immigrated here. I know and talk to immigrants from a great many places. I know and talk to Black people. I know and talk to people in the LGBTQ community. I care about all of these people. When I read about a policy that targets one of these groups, I can see faces of people who will be hurt. 

I know fewer rural residents, that is true. But my America is just a real as rural America. My vote counts, too. I pay my taxes and up until the point I realized that some of them will be going to pay for Trump's refusal to follow norms like moving into the effing White House, I never complained about that fact that I live in a net-outflow state. 

I don't want us city people to run rough-shod over rural concerns, but neither do I want their opinions of immigrants and people not like them to run rough-shod over the lives and rights of my friends. We need to find a way to work together. Instead, we got the Tea Party and the politics of "no." It makes me angry to hear voters in Iowa interviewed about how they never protested the election of Obama, so we shouldn't protest Trump. They damn well DID protest Obama, that is where the Tea Party came from. They made our first Black president produce his birth certificate for crying out loud. Why can't we see Trump's tax returns?


Speaking of Trump's tax returns, another thing I'm angry about is the speed with which ethics and principles are being jettisoned by our incoming administration. Just today, there is news that the Trump Organization pressured foreign governments to move their events to the Trump Hotel and that Trump plans to keep his private security force after the election. Both of these developments are just wrong. I can find no middle ground with people who are OK with them. These are just the latest stories. Yesterday, there were different ones. Tomorrow, there will be new stories. We've fallen into a bottomless well of conflicts of interest and norm-breaking behavior. And far from attempting to convince our President-Elect to address these problems, Newt Gingrich is out here arguing that Congress should just change the laws to make the problems go away. (Hint: the behavior would be worrying and wrong even if it weren't illegal!)

I have seen little appetite from Republican leaders to take any of this on. I know that at least some Republican voters want them to do it. I hope they are letting their congresspeople know. But they could use some leadership. I suspect the Republicans in Congress would be willing to act if they thought it was politically safe to do so: if Trump is impeached, the next two people in the line of succession are staunch conservatives (Pence and Ryan). If I were a Republican, I'd rather action was taken before the 2018 election, but if I've learned anything in this election it is that I don't understand how Republicans think.


Amidst my fear and anger, I am trying to find hope. I am inspired by the sometimes unexpected people who are standing up and saying no. A big hooray to all the entertainers who are saying no to playing at the inauguration, for instance. I am inspired by the long time activists who are offering advice and encouragement, and by all the newly fired up activists I see in my Twitter feed. I am encouraged by the members of Congress I do see speaking up and introducing useful legislation.

I never thought the Electoral College would do anything but what they did today. I fully expect Trump to be inaugurated. But that is not the end. That is really just the beginning, because at that point we'll be in a place where we as a country have been before; with a corrupt President who has violated laws and can be held accountable by Congress, and by the ballot box if Congress refuses to act.

I expect more challenges to voting rights, and am working on a list of organizations who will be fighting that and working to mitigate it. I am trying not to let my brain go down to many "what if" rabbit holes about ways in which our freedom might be curtailed before the next election. For all of Trump's false talk about a "mandate," he has none. The people who voted against him are the majority, and a decent portion of the people who voted for him don't actually like him or what he stands for. If we stand strong and resist, we'll have another day at the ballot box.  


And now it is time for me to go finish the potato soup I have cooking in the crock pot for dinner, and make some popovers to go with it. This will be a long fight, and perhaps the most important thing will be to figure out how to keep the intensity to resist as much as we need to without burning out and ending up in despair. For me, that means taking time to focus on the things I love in my life, and trying to hold to my usual routines. It is working... so far. Share any "stay intense but not overwhelmed" tips in the comments!


  1. I feel you so much. So very very much.

    And I've noticed that my political posts don't get a lot of comments, but I do want to encourage you to keep posting these posts and to keep moving forward and fighting. You're helping ME, and I'm sure many many other people as well.

    Our next political post goes up on Wednesday.

    (I've been to a protest-- it was pretty awesome. Probably helps that I was at a university though.)

    I am SO disappointed with the bulk of Republicans. The sheer audacity of the grifting that Trump is doing without them lifting a finger is just beyond belief. I hope Jason Chaffetz gets primaried. I would change my party affiliation to vote for his challenger if I could. Are there really only two decent upstanding men left in the Republican party? (McCain and Graham, of course.)

  2. YES. re: putting some of the onus on the Republicans to challenge Trump on this nonsense. So many came out against him at various times during the primaries and election and now they just sit back and let these conflicts of interest slide? Its not even a partisan issue, its right vs wrong here.

  3. You're posts have shed light of what's going on down there, though scary to observe from the outside where really nothing can be done. Keep fighting!

  4. Alexicographer11:13 AM

    Yes. I found The Grumpies link to the Indivisible guide very helpful (And true, and accurate in terms of its points about the US political system: MCs value re-election above virtually all else, and it is a system set up to thwart action and, particularly, change). For now, I'm focused on targeted calling, but intending to build up.


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