Well, I have had a night’s sleep here in Paris and taken my morning walk [Jean Gabin and Yves Montand were not at their usual station in the row of Batobuses – I think they have gone south for the winter] so it is time to offer my reflections on the state of play after just over two weeks of the Trump presidency.
One thing is now clear. Trump is a feckless, incompetent authoritarian would-be dictator, guided and manipulated by a quite competent, determined neo-Nazi. Bannon seeks to destroy the relatively stable post-World War II international order and replace it with a Russo-American hegemony by the preemptive use of major military force. This, in my opinion, would be dramatically worse than the existing American hegemony, which is terrible enough. Domestically, he and the Republicans seek to undo every hard-won gain liberals have made in the last three quarters of a century. Those who, quite understandably, were impatient with the caution and hesitation of Obama can now take a close look at what real implacable unrelenting bigotry looks like. It is too early to tell whether the Courts will save America, but I agree with the thrust of Tom Cathcart’s suggestion that the elevation of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court might have the effect of pushing Chief Justice Roberts to the left. Remember that Gorsuch will replace Scalia, leaving Kennedy as the swing vote. It is the next appointment that brings devastation with it. That is why Ruth Marcus wrote a plea to Kennedy not to retire.
What hope is there in the current situation? Clearly, the answer is the unprecedented and apparently unrelenting mass mobilization of opposition to Trump. The outpouring of people into the streets and airports is astonishing and greatly encouraging. These demonstrations are stiffening the spines of elected representatives and giving us hope for a wave election in 2018 that will take back the House and perhaps even the Senate. There is evidence that Trump cares excessively about polls and other public demonstrations of his popularity or lack thereof. The demonstrations at Mar-a-Lago, for example, enrage him. Keep it up. Every evidence of opposition to Trump has value politically.
However, the demonstrations could badly use a leader, a focal point, someone in whom tens of millions of people can put their trust and behind whom they can rally. I think it is clear that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown or Keith Ellison is not that person, admirable as each ne is. Like it or not, the only person in the United States currently with that sort of mobilizing star power is Barack Obama. For that reason, I was very much cheered by his statement, issued through a spokesperson just nine days after the Inauguration, calling into question Trump’s attack on immigrants and Muslims. Do not be misled. Cautious, precise, restrained as the statement was, the issuing of it by the outgoing president so soon after the Inauguration was an extraordinary event. I think it is quite possible that in the weeks and months ahead, Obama will slowly emerge as the titular leader of the revolt. If that happens, I think we can win the House, perhaps win the Senate, win state houses and state legislatures, and mount a real progressive movement that will eventually go well beyond what Obama himself might endorse.
Well, Paris seems to have restored some of my natural optimism [even though it is cold and rainy here.] Do not despair. This is a fight we can win, and the winning of it will do more than restore the Status quo ante, it will definitively move us in a progressive direction.