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The reality of the Trump presidency has now found a home in the national consciousness. The demonstrations and shouts and screams from the disappointed, the disaffected and the newly awakened will continue, but the reality remains – Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States. And there is another reality – Trump and his Republican enablers have now become the dogs that caught the bus.

For the past few decades, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has invested enormous amounts of time and money articulating a vision of America which might or might not be dystopian, depending on one’s point of view. But there is no doubt that this right wing vision is remarkably different from the America in which we have lived for the past half century.

Reduction in the role of government makes for a great sound bit until that sound bite bites back. Reduction in the role of government means less – a lot less – than what most Americans are used to. Less healthcare, less oversight of food, drugs and industrial chemicals. Less control over environmental factors and fewer stated rights for the underserved and those have been historically marginalized.

At one point in time the concept of privatizing Social Security or Medicare seemed as extreme as……privatizing the prison system. But just ask the executives at CoreCivic – formerly the Corrections Corporation of America – how business is these days, and they will tell you just fine. And similarly, there are healthcare companies and financial services institutions that cannot wait for the bonanza that would appear if Social Security or Medicare are privatized.

These change in the political environment did not begin on November 8, 2016 – indeed Trump’s victory and the Republican hegemony over the Executive and Legislative branches of government are the harvest of years of laboring in the political vineyards of America. While liberals and progressives lapsed into complacency or internecine battles over arranging the deckchairs on their personal Titanic, the conservatives have spent decades registering their voters, gerrymandering their districts, suppressing the opposition votes and seizing or greasing the levers of power to their advantage.

No one factor is responsible for the outrageous incarnation of pride, bigotry and bombast that the Trump presidency. But a bit of close analysis and introspection will reveal that this conservative cloud has been looming over the horizon for decades. And now, millions of Americans are discovering that elections do matter, that politics is not an affair of the heart but a condition of the mind and that winning is important.

The first round of Trump appointees, nominees and Executive Orders predict a type of chaos not seen in the Oval Office since the days of Andrew Jackson. Chaos is rarely good for the economy. Chaos is always bad for the poor and the marginalized segments of our body politic. But chaos is where the financial and political predators live – it is their native environment.

We will now have to see if the self-identified progressive Americans can find a way to be strategic, committed, focused and determined to win back this country. Taking America Back Again may be the new rallying cry that is shouted across this nation.

Why Elections Matter

It has now been 50 days since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. That means that there have been 50 days and 50 nights of men and women trying to figure out how a man, believed to be unfit for office by the majority of his supporters, could actually become President of the United States. It also means that there have been 50 days and 50 nights of an intensive, interactive, real time seminar demonstrating that elections do matter.

During the presidential campaign there was too much baseless rhetoric spewing, disseminated the shameful notion that the presidential election did not matter as there was no real difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Even as Trump and Clinton tried mightily to demonstrate the very real differences between their candidacies, there were so many “pure progressives” who tried to persuade their followers (or listeners) that there was no real choice between them and that no vote, or a third party candidate protest vote, was the best course of action. And now, we are witness to the first 50 days of a 4 year seminar on why elections do matter.

Consider the initial Trump cabinet appointments:

Attorney General – Jefferson Beauregard Sessions – That this U.S. Senator from Alabama is named after not one, but two Confederate heroes, should not be a disqualifying factor in and of itself. But Sessions is on record as being against the Justice Department inquiring too closely into police shootings or other local and state violations of civil rights. He is staunchly opposed to Roe v. Wade and is certainly a supporter of less governmental oversight of major industries.

The next time a white police officer unlawfully shoots and kills a black citizen and the Justice Department does not act, remember that elections do matter.

Secretary of the Department of Labor – Andy Puzder – Puzder is the founder and CEO of the company that operates the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains. He is an implacable opponent to raising the minimum wage, family leave, equal pay for women, overtime pay and other seemingly basic recognition of the humanity of workers, particularly low wage workers. There is no doubt that he will do everything in his power to roll back any and all progress and protections for workers that have taken place over the past decade.

The next time workers are needlessly harassed or injured and the Department of Labor stands by and does nothing, or even worse, advocates for more power for employers, remember that elections do matter.

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency – Scott Pruitt – The current Oklahoma Attorney General is a self-described “leading advocate against the activist agenda of the EPA” and will now be in charge of that agency. Since the establishment of the EPA during the Nixon Administration, it has been a matter of rare bipartisan agreement that the EPA is an important component of the effort of the federal government to protect the environment and the health of the American people. Pruitt clearly thinks differently.

The next time that a water contamination tragedy like the one in Flint, Michigan occurs and the EPA does little or nothing, remember that elections do matter.

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services – Tom Price is a Congressman from Georgia and a dedicated opponent to the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. He has already developed a plan to repeal the ACA, which would leave over 24 million Americans without healthcare coverage. Price (and Trump) supposedly have a plan to replace the ACA so that no one who is currently covered would lose that coverage – but, of course, Donald Trump has a tradition of making a breaking promises and has been a litigant in over 1000 cases to prove it.

The next time that an emergency room in a city near you becomes the source of primary care for poor people – again – remember that elections do matter.

There can be no doubt that if Hillary Clinton had been elected President of the United States, her cabinet would not be overstocked with overwhelmingly white and mean spirited avatars armed with a dystopian vision that includes the few and excludes the many.

In sum, due to the vengeance of 18th century elitist attitudes, aka the Electoral College, and the boneheaded notion that elections don’t matter, the entire American populace will soon have a lesson on why, and how, elections do matter.

As we continue to process the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States we can consult Greek mythology for some perspective and perhaps some answers. Specifically, we can look at the Myth of Sisyphus and the eternal punishment that was visited upon him for his pride and various transgressions against the gods. When we examine the Myth of Sisyphus we see ourselves – black Americans, we see ourselves – progressive Americans, and we see ourselves – people who are appalled at the reality of a Trump presidency that is no longer an unthinkable possibility.

By way of perspective, in Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a mortal who alternatively aided and enraged various Greek gods. Upon his death he was sentenced to pushing an outrageously heavy rock up a very steep hill, only to see the rock roll back down the hill at the end of every day – for eternity. Consequently, the Myth of Sisyphus as the allegorical expression of humans engaged in struggle and effort and to reach the precipice of success, only to have to repeat that struggle and effort again…..and again.

With the election of Donald Trump as President, black Americans, progressive Americans and many others, are about to watch the outrageously heavy rock of progress against racism, sexism, homophobia, soulless lack of compassion for the poor and defenseless, roll back down the hill – perhaps to where we were in the 1960’s, or the 1950’s or the 1800’s. For we see in Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his initial presidential appointments, more than a whiff of the meanness, and more resonance of the dog whistle that translated “Making America Great Again” to “Making America White Again”.

But when the legions of appalled Americans begin to ask “Why?” and “How?” we can begin by looking at the person that we see in the morning when we brush our teeth. Collectively we have grown complacent about the enormous progress that has been made over the past 150 years. It was only 151 years ago that black Americans were emancipated from race-based slavery. It has not been 100 years that women have had the right to vote. Gender equality is a child in its infancy, and the first strides to eliminating homophobia are also baby steps compared to the vile, virulent and violent assaults on those who are “other” by reason whom they choose to love.

Because of the wonders of very real progress, collectively we have come to believe that these changes have become woven into the American fabric, somehow replacing the savage threads of racism, sexism, homophobia and voluntary ignorance. And with that belief has come complacency, unwarranted comfort and willful ignorance of the forces that have been arrayed against that progress, forces that have been working 24-7 to bring about a special day – a day that turned out to be November 8, 2016.

And if we say that we didn’t see it coming it is because we didn’t bother to look or didn’t believe what we saw. The forces of regression and repression hid in plain view and we truly have no excuse. The Klan never disappeared. The Tea Party was never only about opposition to the first black President of the United States. The agenda of the Freedom Caucus in the Congress was clear and obvious to all who bothered to pay attention. But many of us were distracted or complacent in the false comfort of thinking that there was no way that the Civil Rights Act or Roe v. Wade or the Environmental Protection Agency or Marriage Equality could ever become nullities.

Now we know that we are entering an era of protracted struggle. In this column the past election was described as the “Gettysburg of the Culture Wars”. Unlike in 1863, the South won, philosophically and literally – when the Attorney General of the United States –under whose jurisdiction lies the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice – is someone named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions from Alabama, named after a slave owner and a defender of slavery respectively, we know that we are in for tough times.

Of course, too many of us have either forgotten or never known protracted struggle for rights and justice in this country. We have entire generations for whom marches, boycotts and demonstrations are just quaint black and white photographs of another time. But it is time for protracted struggle – – again. And just like Sisyphus we find ourselves having to push the boulder of justice and liberty and freedom back up the hill of interposition and nullification. And should we grow weary we should remember the opening lyrics to “God Will Take Care of You” –

Be not dismayed whatever betide
God will take care of you……….

But, of course, we must remember that God takes care of those who endeavor to take care of themselves. And in these days and times, taking care means protracted struggle against the forces that are now arrayed against the rights, freedoms, liberties and expectations of life that we hold dear.

The following was written approximately 12 hours after the election of Donald Trump was confirmed:

“I will need more than a few lines to express my thoughts about the election…..was up until 3.20 and saw the blasphemy through to the bitter end….was up at 5.30…went biking @6.30 and was in a tv studio @8.30 for about an hour and a half talking about the election results…….will decompress tonight and try to sort out my thoughts…the one thing I know for certain…I will not let the likes of Donald Trump bring me down for next to a moment…..my grandmothers were a domestic and a seamstress respectively, my grandfathers were a stevedore and a Pullman car porter respectively….after all that they faced – and my mother and father have faced…they would be embarrassed and ashamed if I would let a spoiled foul mouth billionaire diminish my spirit for even a nanosecond……that will never happen….Nietzche said if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger….We are not dead and we are getting stronger every day!”

As Election Day in America dawns in just a few hours, just about everything that can be said has been said – but not everything. That is because after Donald Trump loses on November 8th, America will be at yet another crossroads in its conflicted history.

Historians will one day ask how was it that the same country that elected as President Barack Obama, an African American progressive Democrat, could four years later come uncomfortably close to electing a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic Know-Nothing. The historians of the future will wrestle with the implications of the phenomenon known as American Schizophrenia but in the meantime we have to address the very real implications of the Trump candidacy and the massive vein of distaste for the present America and hate for the future American that it revealed.

By now, there are very few people who doubt that “Make America Great Again” is a thinly-coded dog whistle for a return to a time when white American males strode this land like entitled lords without having to take the time to consider racial, gender or immigration issues except in passing. And just in case someone did not hear that whistle, the very last Trump campaign commercials refer to a global conspiracy headed by shady bankers, all of whom just happen to be Jewish (one has to assume that reference to the Protocols of Zion was just too complicated for a two minute commercial).

There is no reason to expect that the sheetless Klansmen and the Breibart refugees and the birthers and the nativists and the reconstructed America Firsters are going anywhere anytime soon. The sad and true fact is that in going down to an historic defeat, Donald Trump was able to attract tens of millions of American voters to his doomed candidacy.

What is also sad and true is that there are truly deplorable people who supported candidacy who are not going anywhere. They will continue to hate and continue to vote. They will elect members of Congress and governors and mayors who will cater to their deepest hate and their visceral fears.

What is also sad and true is that not all of Trump’s supporters are deplorable. There are certainly millions of men and women who are afraid for their jobs, for their way of life and for the future of their children. These are men and women who listened to the sounds of the Pestilent Pied Piper Named Trump and who believed that the simplistic, fact-free and mythical solutions that he offered with the cult of His personality would indeed solve all of their problems and make their dreams come true.

Donald Tinyhands will fade into deserved obscurity. But there is an America that not only needs a voice, there are men and women who need to be listened to – and we ignore them and belittle them at the peril of the Republic itself.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton should celebrate and then they should listen – there are voices that need to be heard.

The noted journalist and historian Carl Bernstein has observed that the 2016 presidential election is “the Gettysburg of the culture war” and he is absolutely right. And with Election Day just a few days away, some historical perspective will be helpful in truly understanding how important November 8, 2016 will be in American history

In July of 1863 the Union army had yet to win a major, much less decisive battle against the armed forces of the Confederate States of America. Led by the flawed but charismatic General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Army had actually invaded Pennsylvania with the plan of encircling Washington, DC and forcing President Abraham Lincoln to agree to a negotiated settlement that would recognize the independence of the CSA.

The three day battle was epic in its loss of life, demonstrations of bravery and insane bravado as well as the gut-wrenching shifting of fortunes that ultimately left Lee and his Army a shadow of itself as it limped out of Pennsylvania, never to win another major battle as the CSA simply bled to death, the funeral ceremonies being held in Appomattox in 1865.

But it didn’t have to be that way – with a few twist and turns of fate and luck Lee could have won. And if Lee had won the CSA would almost certainly have become an independent country, immediately recognized by Great Britain which hungered for southern cotton. Racial slavery would have been institutionalized for at least another half century and literal complexion of the North and South would in no way resemble the America we know today.

The Gettysburg analogy is appropriate for the next week’s election because for the past half century there has been a cultural civil war being waged in this country. Issues ranging from racial civil rights to gender equality to the right of women to control their bodies to environmental sanity to marriage equality have resulted in battles that have raged in cities, states and in Washington, D.C.

There might actually be common ground on issues such as taxation policies and the limits of social service support by government. But there are entrenched forces on both sides of basic issues such as racial and gender equality or the right of women to decide how they will live their lives and control their bodies. On these and other issues there really is no middle ground.

And what we now see with not only the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not only incredible divergence of temperament, qualifications and personalities, but also a yawning gap between the policies of the platforms of the parties that they represent. And while there might be some value in parsing Clinton’s e-mails or coming to grips with Trump’s incredible obscenity, the fact is that the platform of the Republican Party calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade as well as the mindless denial of climate change.

The fact is that the Republican Party is the home of men and women who have spent a half century of their lives seeking to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and who literally celebrated when the Supreme Court gutted that historic and foundational pillar of the civil rights movement in the Shelby v. Holder decision of 2013.

And the fact is that a President Hillary Clinton will appoint Supreme Court justices who will defend Roe v. Wade and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a President Donald Trump has promised to do just the opposite.

In 1863 the literal character of the nation was at stake and that battle of Gettysburg, which could have gone either way, determined that the United States of America, flawed and faulty as it has been, had the potential and the possibility of aspiring to and achieving the greatness articulated in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

In 2016, the literal character of the nation is again at stake. A victory by Donald Trump will guarantee the degradation of the rights, hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans in order to keep the promise to the shrinking majority of non-college educated and angry and disaffected white Americans to “Make America Great Again” –an America when blacks and women and gay Americans knew their place in the shadow….an America where the myth of liberty and justice for all satisfied the then white male American majority.

It is not possible to exaggerate the apocalyptic results of a Trump presidency. Hillary Clinton will not be a perfect president, but there has never been a perfect president.

The Gettysburg of the culture wars will be fought on November 8, 2016 – each and every one of us has the power to make a choice.

As Election Day 2016 looms on the horizon, it is quite clear that when historians and political scientists reflect on this stranger than strange campaign, this question will be asked. How could the country that elected Barack Obama president in consecutive elections even consider electing as president a proto-fascist Barnum impersonator and charlatan named Trump less than four years later? The answer will not be comforting.

There is no doubt that there was a yawning ideological canyon separating Barack Obama from John McCain and Mitt Romney. There is also no doubt that all three of these men comported themselves within the bounds of what passes for decency in the political universe of 21st century America. And finally, there is no doubt that the basic skill set of any of these three men to serve as President of the United States was never a real campaign issue.

But now, when faced the prospect of Donald Trump being the next President, millions of Americans are comfortable with his misogyny, able to ignore his racism and willing to rationalize his stunning record of disgrace, fraud, deception and disregard for the basic principles of decency. It is a matter of public record that Trump has lied about his unsavory business practices and generally uses lies as a defense even when there are videotapes, audiotapes and living human beings who set forth a reality that he simply denies.

It is now clear that as election lurches to what will be the political demise of Donald Trump; there is a far larger issue than Trump that will remain when his political carcass is hosed down the drain of the public arena. The larger problem is that there will still be millions of Americans who are still prepared to believe the racist canard that Barack Obama (1) was not born in the United States and (2) is therefore an illegitimate President and (3) he is a Muslim and (4) is the anti-Christ.

The larger problem is that there will still be millions of voting Americans who seriously believe that walling off this country is a useful 21st century solution. There are millions of American who think that dismantling the Affordable Care Act (eliminating the health care coverage for over 20 million Americans) and the Dodd-Frank Act protocols (thereby removing the controls that preventing the cataclysmic collapse of the American financial system) are good ideas.

At some point after Donald Trump slithers back to the his own warped universe, there will need to be a serious discussion regarding how so many Americans became separated from reality and decency, in the process forgetting the responsibilities that come with their rights as citizens. It is clear that to the extent a Trump presidency has even been discussed in 2016 there needs to be a national civics awakening – with rights come responsibilities. Presidential elections are not a time to carelessly cast votes without regard or consideration of the consequences.

Fortunately, Donald Trump will not win. Unfortunately, the fact that he even has come this close means that we have a lot of work to do if the best aspects of this republic and its democracy are to be preserved and improved upon.