If you didn’t vote––fine by me. If you voted third party––that’s cool too, and if it helps you can imagine that we lost because they hated us more than we hated them. Don’t get too wrapped up in that fantasy though. The real reason we lost is that we didn’t listen to each other, we all found ourselves hiding in private little online echo chambers and we lost our nerve because we were so wrapped up in our private interests we forgot to give a shit about what happens to the country as a whole. But that’s over and done with now. Sorry folks, no take-backsies. We let the bovine constancy lead us to the abattoir and the Judas goat is in the oval office bleating nervously and pissing all over the nice furniture.
So the question is, what’s going to happen to us now? What this president really capable of with the reins of power in hand? Well, the reality is that the office of president is far less important than most of us choose to think––its powers are mainly convening powers and its obligations have more to do with civil service than “leadership” as understood in American mythology. The president holds veto power, command of the armed forces, the power to appoint Article III judges, grant reprieves or pardons, receive ambassadors and sign treaties (which must be ratified by congress).
Interestingly, it’s actually a duty of the office, not one of its privileges, which is the most powerful practical tool at the president’s disposal. Executive orders are the most dangerous thing, except maybe the nuclear codes, to see in the hands of an irresponsible (deranged?) president. This tool allows POTUS to give legally binding instructions, which need not be ratified by the legislature, to the executive branch. They function as a kind of clarifying and structuring document, but since they carry the full force of the law they can actually accomplish a great deal in real terms.
This is especially true in the current government since Obama had to do so much of his governing through executive order (because we never gave him the congress he deserved). With a few stokes of a pen a good deal of work can be undone at a gasp by a sufficiently cavalier Chief Executive. Usually, a new president needs focus and tenacity to accomplish anything in their first hundred days along with connections in congress and a healthy dose of luck. For this guy though, it seems like he can score a lot of points out of the gate just by fucking things up, and frankly he does seem like the kind of guy who might shoot first and ask questions later.
‘Course, in the long run we should be most concerned about our president failing to live up to his obligations and his promises. He might have an exuberant moment of rebellious accomplishment but he’ll quickly run out of easy wins. And when it comes down to the hard business of actually governing? Eh, if Obama is taking the time to give him special tutoring sessions on how to be president I strongly doubt it’s because he wants to hang out with the guy. What’s more, he can’t even seem to put together a team to staff the Whitehouse without a borderline public meltdown. When this orange cartoon goose does not properly executive the duties of his position the federal government will suffer, possibly badly. He might even break the law by accident and then we could be really screwed when the Pence Policy insurance plan kicks in. Personally, I’m looking forward to watching Paul Ryan on cleanup duty twice a week from now on. Embarrassed/annoyed Paul Ryan is my favorite.
Likewise, his supporters will be confronted with a reality that intrudes like an over-funded, underworked suburban SWAT team on the ludicrous utopian nationalist fantasy they were sold. Their reaction will likely play a major role in mid-term elections and the next presidential race four years from now. Most of them are confused moderates who will likely defect, or at least not vote again. Some of them are fucking crazy though, the neo-reactionary militants. These are the people, now as always, we most need to watch. POTUS-elect is a fuckstorm inside a shitbag sure, but he mostly just wants attention – he has no serious convictions or beliefs. A small segment of his supporters really do though and if you watch the news you can already see them mobilizing – and not just in the sticks. Thanks to the internet and the weakness of human nature these people are everywhere. The gun-toting, militia-forming racist, white nationalist, ultra-nativist combine that thrives in uptight white areas of the nation will not be happy when their great white savior fails to deliver on the insane commitments he’s made to them. If these people become even more alienated and disaffected than they are now we could face a serious potential threat to our real, actual, personal safety. We should do anything and everything in our power to prevent these wanna-be Red Dawn jackasses from feeling emboldened. Speaking of:
The Chief is already pandering to these wack-jobs. Steve Bannon for chief strategist? For real? Like actually have Steve Bannon in the White House? Why not bring in fucking Alex Jones while you’re at it? For those who don’t know, Steve Bannon is like Rupert Murdoch with less business sense and more contempt for the public. One of those guys who are so full of vile shit it comes out their mouth more or less constantly. And our president-elect has seen fit to make him one of his closest advisors, the Dick Cheney to his George Bush, the Iago to his Rodrigo, Rasputin to his Nicholas if you will.
Fuck. That. No. Way. A revolution carries real appeal for most of us on the left, we like the idea of a dramatic seizure of control and a tangible moment of liberation but I think the vast majority of us are looking for a bloodless coup. That kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight though and most of our “movements” in recent years have gotten us nowhere. Occupy and the Sanders movement seemed like they had so much promise but were unable to realize anything. Meanwhile, a slow, determined, and focused campaign on the right has paid dividends. Take a step back, work hard to lay a groundwork of support and solidarity, then find a moment and strike –hard –while the iron is hot.
And with that said, make sure you’re paying attention––there’s a moment here, right now guys, especially with the president’s transition plans in a state of such public chaos. No, we are not going to dismantle the Electoral College or somehow overturn the results of this election by petition. A cabinet appointment though, we can do something about. Stop just protesting in general and start protesting issues––specifically, if I may be so bold, protest the Steve Bannon appointment. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, stop moping and realize that the arc of history bends only slowly and only under the weight of collective action. Bannon is going to try to fuck your family, friends and neighbors into the ground because he thinks he has a mandate to do it, and the reality is that if he winds up in the halls of power that mandate will be real.
It’s crucial that the toxic conversation around the presidency does not erode our enthusiasm. If you want to stand on the street all day and wave a sign, go for it, but make sure you know what you’re doing and why. It’s possible to make presidents back down on the people they tap for appointments––it’s been done before and your protest will be much more meaningful if you take careful aim at a meaningful, practical issue. Better yet, call your congressperson and put real pressure on your government to take a stand on this. Your elected officials do not care about street protests or emails or letters or anything like that but they do care about phone calls. It’s true, look it up, you know how to use google. All it takes to actually make a difference to real human beings you share the world with is a phone call to your employee working in Washington. Do it. Bury this fucker.