After the Trump inauguration on January 21, the nation envisioned by our Founding Fathers will be no more. America was founded on the notions of liberalism as expressed by such thinkers and philosophers as Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and Henry David Thoreau. The ideas espoused by them and their contemporaries had a powerful influence on the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Liberalism is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as follows:
“A political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically: such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class).”
You can hear the echoes of liberalism in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
After the Trump inauguration, the American Experiment — the attempt to create a nation based on the principles of liberalism — will come to an end. In its stead will not be a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people but rather a nation of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations. The great social programs enacted during the New Deal will be unwound.
The rape of the United States for the benefit of the few will be in full swing. All of the wealth of the nation, instead of being redistributed to all members of society, will be placed on a one-way conveyor belt that transfers it in bulk to the richest Americans and the corporations they own. It is nothing less than a deliberate campaign to loot the federal treasury for private gain and further impoverish ordinary Americans.
Privatization will be the hallmark of the Trump maladministration, claims The Nation. Basic necessities like clean water and clean air will become commodities to be sold to the highest bidder. Those who cannot pay the tariff will be cast aside to suffer disease and death. The words of Ebeneezer Scrooge will echo across the land: “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” America the bountiful will become America the impoverished. A new feudalism will spread across the land as people become serfs doing the bidding of their corporate masters, struggling to scratch out a meager existence.
Once the Trump inauguration is done, things that were once considered basic rights like access to affordable health care, a modest retirement, unemployment insurance, and a guaranteed minimum wage will be swept away in the stampede to squeeze every drop of wealth from the citizenry and give it to those at the top of the economic ladder. There will be no middle class. There will only be the haves and the have nots. The channels of upward mobility that have been part of the national psyche since the nation was founded will be broken, leaving most with no access to the so-called American Dream.
Many members of the US population are gloating today at what they see as the end of a process that began at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960. The battle for civil rights — which most progressives assumed was long since won — has festered for 56 years. Whites have chafed under the burden of desegregation initiatives, racial quotas, and equal employment opportunity programs. Others have balked just as hard at laws and social policies designed to make women equal partners in American society. Under Trump, we can expect inequality to flourish.
The recent election has ripped the scab off a seething cauldron of racial hatred. The racism metastasized during the Obama administration when most of the US Congress were blinded with rage that a black man would dare occupy the White Man’s House. Now Donald Trump will unleash all that vitriol to sweep like a cancer across the American landscape. Trump’s supporters complain long and loud about government giving unfair advantages to those who are undeserving, yet they expect the government to make special rules just for them.
Angry white males are fully prepared to burn America down from within to get what they want. They are incensed because globalization has gutted the American middle class. But “free trade” was enthusiastically supported by every politician in Washington the past 20 years. Ross Perot was right when he said “that giant sucking sound you will hear if NAFTA is enacted is all those jobs going south of the border.” But no one wanted to listen. Now it’s too late to undo the damage.
After 4 years of Trump, Americans will wake to find they no longer have health insurance or social security. They will be working more and earning less. Our once civil society will be shredded by racial, religious, and regional strife. The environment will be worse off as Trump gives the go-ahead to strip mine and frack our national parks and public lands. CAFE rules will be thrown overboard as the EPA is neutered. Subsidies for fossil fuels will expand while cleantech research will be starved of funding.
The one countervailing force to the looming Trump disaster may be the cost-competitiveness and continued drop in the price of renewable energy. No matter how much The Donald insists climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to wreck the American economy, business is business. As the return on investment for renewables increases, rational business people will flock to wind and solar power. But investment in renewable research at places like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory by way of the US Energy Department will likely be substantially curtailed.
Ultimately, those who support Trump so vigorously today are likely to be severely disillusioned after 4 years of his madness. A coal miner interviewed on NPR recently was asked how long he and his fellow miners would give Trump to turn things around in the coal industry. He said if things weren’t better in 10 months, he and his peers would start looking for other answers.
The United States has been hijacked by those who sneer at the founding principles. Perhaps in 4 years, America will finally be ready for a new political consensus, one that is embodied in an updated constitution. The founding fathers would be astounded to learn the original is still in effect more than 200 years later. They thought of it as a temporary measure that would get the new nation off to a good start. They assumed it would be replaced every 20 years or so. Perhaps it is time to start fresh.
America doesn’t need to abolish the Electoral College but it needs to correct the imbalance inherent in it that gives a citizen of Wyoming 7 times as much influence as a citizen of California. Keeping things as they are and calling America a democracy is just a flat-out lie. The country needs leaders who aren’t billionaires or lunatics (or both). One way to do that is to eliminate winner-take-all elections. There are other ways of choosing our leaders. One is called instant runoff voting. Another is approval voting.
Both of those systems allow a person to vote for a third party candidate like Ralph Nader or Jill Stein without fear that their vote will be wasted. America would then get more voices in the political conversation, making it less necessary for the main contenders to skew hard right or hard left to appeal to their “base.” America would get better ideas and better leaders as a result.
The real danger of Donald Trump is his cavalier attitude toward nuclear weapons. The man is a flat-out lunatic who cannot be trusted to act rationally. If he can get incensed by some actors in a play speaking out, what is there to restrain him from obliterating some group or area of the world that makes him really angry? If Trump initiates a nuclear holocaust, we really will be able to build a new political consensus — in about 10,000 years when the radioactivity in the atmosphere drops to safe levels once again.
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