An excerpt from James Marcus’s excellent, if at times blistering refutation of the incoming jester-in-chief, in the January issue of Harper’s Magazine:
…There is endless, feverish speculation about what Trump will do, now that he has won the office he often seemed to be pursuing as a promotional stunt. The thing is, he has already provided us with a road map. In late October, on the day that he delivered his own Gettysburg Address—name-checking Lincoln and the “hallowed ground” on which he stood, while threatening to sue every woman who had accused him of sexual harassment—Trump released a game plan for his first hundred days in office. The “Donald J. Trump Contract with the American Voter” is essentially a laundry list of conservative pipe dreams and petulant fantasies (or so we thought).
Many of them are familiar to us from the campaign trail. There is the immediate removal of 2 million illegal immigrants, the withdrawal from all U.N. climate-change programs, the wet kiss administered to the Keystone Pipeline, and the cancellation of “every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.”
Trump is what he is. Absorbing him will be a terrible challenge.”
All this, I should note, is slated for Trump’s very first day in office. He’s going to be a busy man, especially since he’ll also be proposing a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress—a surefire success with incumbents. And then, just as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom on the Mall, [he] will start jamming his other ideas down the legislative gullet, many of them with decorative (not to say Orwellian) descriptors. Stop-and-frisk and racial profiling will return, courtesy of the Restoring Community Safety Act. There is also the End Illegal Immigration Act, according to which the American people will pay for the construction of an enormous, impractical, insanely expensive border wall, then send the bill to the ever-amenable Mexicans. At least the Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act wears its heart on its sleeve, promising to trash our threadbare attempt at a national health service and replace it with privatization and Trump’s weirdo panacea of selling insurance across state lines, which is already permitted and has changed nothing.
These plans are, frankly, dystopian. So is the hiring of Stephen Bannon, Rudolph Giuliani, and Jeff Sessions to run the country—the pond scum of American political life, sadly impervious to sunlight and defoliants. By the time this essay appears in print, there will doubtless be many more outrages to add to the docket. The mind recoils, and there is an instinctive itch to normalize Trump: to pretend that what we saw during the campaign was a kind of rough adolescence, that the chastening effects of ruling the entire planet will finally turn him into an adult.
Hillary Clinton sounded this note in a pained yet gracious concession speech: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” This seems wishful in the extreme. Gravitas will not come easy to a man who has made himself the poster child for instant gratification, and we are fools to hope for any sort of Periclean turnaround. Trump is what he is. Absorbing him will be a terrible challenge. Emerson, whose snapshot of political disillusion is at the top of this essay, was similarly downcast by America’s ingestion of vast swaths of Mexican territory in 1848. We had conquered the enemy, he allowed, “but it will be as the man [who] swallows arsenic, which brings him down in turn.”
Resist. Despair, division, self-consuming rage, the paralyzing sense that the devil has not only the best tunes but the entire orchestra—resist it all. The battle is just beginning.”
That is my sensation now: we have been poisoned, and will spend some time groping for the antidote. Meanwhile, we might think of adding two more R’s to the curriculum at P.S. 59, assuming that it can survive the market-worshipping whims of the School Choice and Education Opportunity Act. The ones I have in mind are verbs, and imperatives. The first is Remember. The second, to be carried out in word and deed, and by no means confined to schoolchildren, is Resist. Despair, division, self-consuming rage, the paralyzing sense that the devil has not only the best tunes but the entire orchestra—resist it all. The battle is just beginning.