What to do? How to respond?

What to do? How to respond?


Howard Adelman

I begin with one sample of some of the emails I have received in response to my latest series on the victory of Donald Trump and the Threat of Climate Change. When I woke up to this morning and opened my email, I read this expression of despair and a plea for answers and guidance.

Number I – A Desperate Plea for Direction

I’ve been reading your blog more and more this election season, and I’ve been paying especially close attention since last Tuesday night. I’m enjoying the series on Texas, and enjoying the irony that my deep-blue state of California seems less environmentally prepared than redder-than-red Texas. I’ve also noted, with some sadness, that you seem to be as rattled about Trump as anyone else I know; yours is the blog I turn to when I’m looking for someone to calm me. I ran to my email again and again last week hoping (!) to hear from good ol’ Howard a reason why WW3 is terribly unlikely, but I haven’t found it yet.

In fact, it’s the blog post on hope from late last week that I want to ask you about. For the record, I agree with it all. “Hope for the best” cannot be the way any of us in this country (or anywhere else) spend the next four years. But … well, maybe it’s because my generation hasn’t really had to struggle for anything politically (compared to the previous two or three), but I’m at a loss about what to do now. I know what it isn’t – hope, a.k.a lie back and take it – but I have no clue what it is. The night of the election, hundreds of UCLA students spilled out into the streets at 2am to protest the election of the first racist, sexist block of cheddar cheese ever to lead our country. I sympathized with them, but it seemed futile at the same time. What the hell is protesting going to do against a man who can’t even pay more than five minutes’ attention to the people he ostensibly likes?

Was my reaction cynical? Should I have been out there, with them under the spotlight of the five or six LAPD helicopters sent to watch the scrum? I’m confused. What I really want to do is find a Democratic Party apparatchik, grab them by the collar, and yell at them for a good ten minutes. But of course, I’m as much to blame as any of them. I’ve been locked in my own little echo chamber for the last year or two (or eight!), happily discounting any rumblings of populist fervor that’d indicate that the man has a chance to win it.

Mid-terms, as well as the first rumblings of yet another presidential election, are in two years. The Democratic Party is a walking joke, and it doesn’t even seem to know it.

So, my question: If you were Gabe’s, or Dan’s, or my age, what would you be doing right now?

I offer seven additional possibilities other than despair and emotional collapse. They are as follows:

II Hope for Success
III Hope for Failure
IV Exile and Return
V A Sceptical Detached Wait-and-See Approach
VI Stress on Protest as a Source of Solace and Redemption but Not Salvation
VII Principled Engagement, Sceptical Resistance and a Smorgasbord of Tactics
VIII A Coherent Strategy for Victory

I will deal with II-IV in this blog, with V-VII in Sunday’s blog and with VIII on Monday.

II Hope for Success

I will not spend much time on this option as I already dedicated a full blog to brand this option as avoidance. Some of this is rhetorical, required by the customs of transferring power in America and of losing an election. The Donald, who referred to himself as Obama’s “worst nightmare,” labeled the latter as “a disaster as president” and “the most ignorant president in our history,” the man who became the lead in the birther movement and made such an enormous effort to delegitimize Obama’s presidency, reverted to form after he won and called Barack Obama “a very, very good man.” Barack Obama, who had previously labelled Trump a danger to the realm, unfit and inexperienced to hold the highest office, responded to Trump’s “newly” discovered tone of reconciliation by expressing his hope directly to Donald Trump in their meeting at the White House on 11 November 2016 that Trump would succeed. “We want to do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed we all succeed.”

Hillary Clinton’s concession speech on the day after the election set the tone. “Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.” The general population lacks the restraints of democratic custom. Yet they frequently echoed the same anodyne tranquilizers. “I can only hope that Trump will emerge other than he appears to be.” I only hope that, since Trump’s philosophy is all over the place, that his handlers and moderate Republicans will initiate some hope and guidance.” “I can only hope that the American Constitution and its system of checks and balances can offer sufficient restraints on a Trump presidency.” There are a myriad of variations.

Trump has shown that he is who he appears to be – a narcissistic, megalomaniacal demagogue. Hoping he will change is akin to a woman marrying a misogynist and bully and counting on changing him. It is futile. Further, rather than having an inchoate ideology, his strategies and tactics have buried the opposition within the Republican Party and then the Democratic Party. He wants power. He wants to win. And he has the determination and the will to do so. Others have diagnosed what is wrong with America and the world; Donald Trump knows how to take advantage of those weaknesses for his own ends. Even though he does not sail – or evidently partake in many other leisure activities (an issue of suspicion in its own way, though he does golf for business reasons, and cheats on his scores because he loves to win) revealing a man of focused vision and effort – sometimes he tacks towards those who try to moderate his methods and goals, but sooner rather than later tacks back and runs over them. Finally, he has clearly signaled and demonstrated a willingness to breach any political norm that stands in his way, including any purported system of checks and balances. He openly states that he is not a servant of the American Constitution. He has also shown that he can compromise and recapture under his wing those who dare oppose him and then throw them out to the wolves when he no longer has any use for such lackeys.

III Hope for Failure

There are those who predict that Donald Trump will crash and burn, that he will implode when operating within the complexity and constraints of government. But there is no record to back such a hope. Professor Allan Lichtman from American University I Washington, D.C., one of the very few to predict a Trump victory based on his 13 indicators, a professor who has correctly predicted the outcome of one presidential election after another by ignoring polls and utilizing other factors rooted in the record of the party in power, now predicts that Donald Trump will be impeached. “I’m quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.” But this prophecy is not rooted in Lichtman’s record of scholarship, but on his gut feeling.

Other hopes for failure are more ephemeral. Alan Clarey (http://captaincapitalism.blogspot.ca/2016/10/why-donald-trump-is-doomed-to-fail.html ) wrote: “I remember the Jesse Ventura administration, but the executive branch does not stand alone. This isn’t a monarchy, it’s a democracy. And the executive branch (gubernatorial or presidential) has to deal with a legislature. And in the legislature, BOTH Republicans and Democrats hate Trump.” Who is he kidding? It is the same thinking that seduced conservatives and Republicans who allowed Donald Trump to capture the presidential nomination. Further, it is based on the illusion that the U.S. is not a monarchy but a democracy when the U.S. is really a democratic monarchy with a similar system of checks and balances that restricted the range of actions of the British monarch in the eighteenth century.

Clarey continued: “I, sadly, predict this will go down very much like a Jesse Ventura administration and nothing long term, fundamental, nor genuinely hopeful will come of it. The truth is minorities are too brainwashed, people are too stupid, and congress is too corrupt to ‘get the government the WWII generation deserves.’ And while I know there may be some hope, perhaps wishful thinking, in the end you not only have to financially and physically prepare yourself for a decline with silver, guns, and overseas investments, you need to prepare yourself mentally for what’s about to come. Alas, I suggest you learn to enjoy the decline.”

There are other expressions of an anticipation of failure even though, as one who opted for hope for success, opined, “Wanting him to fail is like wanting the pilot to crash the plane we are all on.” Not quite! Just to crash his plane. But much of this is wishful thinking and does not arise from any analysis.

IV Exile and Return

Another reader wrote as follows:


I went to a service at an Interfaith Center on Sunday. The speaker was outstanding. She said that while Christ, Buddha, and other great spiritual leaders came here to show us the way, to be “way showers,” it is now WE who must show the way. We are our way showers, we are who we are waiting for and all must come forth no matter how raw or uncertain. She shared quotes from Facebook that were more inspiring than scripture. It was an amazing pep talk that gave vigor to Hirschman’s VOICE.

It was also “therapeutic” (to use your word) to be at that service with a full house where all had an opportunity to share personal thoughts. It was a time of “mourning” and “hoping.” I came home and announced I’m going to the Million Women March. And passing out safety pins. And going to escort kids to school if need be. The hate speech even in Ann Arbor is unnerving. Yesterday, I met a woman from Germany who reminded me that it took only 52 days for Hitler to dismantle the freedom to assemble. I keep waiting for the real therapeutic effect of your trip from the small blue dot in a big red state. I keep thinking (hoping?) you are going to tell us that the energy of commitment from the people you met to protesting Trump indicates he will not succeed in his tyranny. I keep hoping you share that you heard something, other than the cabbie’s remarks, that clue you in not to a deeper historical analysis of who Trump represents or how climate change progress is safe (for now) although these remarks are truly appreciated!, but a deeper forecast of the political climate to come. I’m hoping you’ll say the tyranny will not take effect because of what you saw or felt in Austin. I’m on the edge of my seat. Literally. Am I deluding myself?

I’m going to straight up ask: What would you do if you lived in the States right now? Would you EXIT and then give VOICE from out of the country? Would you give VOICE in the country and somehow Exit from within? Would you practice Loyalty to democracy and work from within the system to prevent the worst? A combination of these?

No. Exit at this time is NOT the answer. Too much is at risk and there is too little time. Leaving for Canada will not help. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I gathered my wife and four children to make a break for the north with our storage of food and emergency supplies. But then I stopped. As a leader of the Nuclear Disarmament movement, had I not said over and over again that the world would be inhabitable if nuclear war broke out. The MAD doctrine at core was mad. There could be no escape from the devastation.

Exile within is also not a responsible option – though many will take it. Any such exile will simply expedite the rate at which Trump becomes an authoritarian. Inserting yourself within the system to wait another day is also futile. Mike Rogers was intelligent enough to discover this relatively early. He was an adviser on national security to the Trump campaign. Rogers became concerned about the direction. But he was forced out before he could bail and then made the customary polite statement of continuing support. “These past six months, it has been an honor to serve as National Security Senior Advisor to the Trump transition team. I look forward to continuing to provide advice and counsel as needed to the incoming Trump administration as they work to make America great again.” If you have integrity, working from within will be futile and frustrating, especially if you really want to help Trump. But if you want to subvert the Trump regime’s efforts, then that option offers a real possibility that I will explore.

With the help of Alex Zisman


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