Thursday, November 17, 2016

Working with Monsters

You do know what you get when you drain the swamp, don't you? All those Things wandering around in the open.

Some horrified ferment around the tubes this morning on the Times story outing Senate Democrats threatening to collaborate with our monstrous president-elect:
On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like.
Bernie Sanders was on local NYC radio yesterday saying much the same thing (and voicing strong support, by the way, for minority leader Chuck Schumer, who he says will be a great leader of our diverse organization), and one of my favorite Senate progressives, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, is quoted in the Times story as well, which may—I hope it will—help people rethink what this means.

There's a strong, and completely understandable, revulsion to the idea of working with Trump, who is a very bad and in many ways disgusting man, but I'd like to make a little more than a Devil's advocate case that Democrats or liberals-and-progressives or what you will should be prepared to do this, under certain circumstances that are not all that likely to obtain, as follows:
  • Bad as Trump is, he's not as bad as most high-status Republicans, like Mike Pence and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to mention some especially pertinent examples, in a real sense, in that he can plead diminished responsibility for his wicked actions, because he's mentally ill, and deeply, deeply immature. 
  • It's horrible, especially in the way he escapes every sort of punishment and defeat, as a successful psychopath (that's a technical term), but it is true; he's less to be blamed than his parents and whatever therapists they gave him (military school is of course a form of intervention, and the worst possible choice). Whereas Paul Ryan, say, is what he is in full knowledge of what he ought to be, in terms of the demands his Church makes on him for one thing. It would be awful working with Trump, but working with Ryan would be in that way more shameful still.
  • Bad as Trump is, he's not particularly a conservative. I realize that's what the #NeverTrump conservatives all said before they moved on to #NeverMind, but it's true. He's perfectly capable of signing off on the most abusive conservative agenda you can think of, privatizing Medicaid and bombing Iran, but he's equally capable of going for something quite different, depending on who's the last person who flatters him, and his background in swinging New York in the 1970s and 1980s even inclines him in some ways to a kind of easy tolerance. 
  • I'm sure, for example, he doesn't automatically hate black people or gay people (at least if they are famous sports or entertainment figures), men at any rate (he clearly has deep problems with women in every background), and he's not against government assistance to the needy, as you can hear whenever he rhapsodizes about his imaginary Obamacare replacement program. He just doesn't want to write that check, and he doesn't really care about the checks the other billionaires have to write. He has no more empathy for David Koch than he has for you. Less for Mark Cuban.
  • Long-time Republicans, in contrast, really want to do terrible things; they want to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, they want to privatize Medicare and Social Security, they want to divert federal education money to private and nonunion school programs, they want a war with Iran. If Trump is working with the Republicans, he is working to make our world a crueler, nastier, and more dangerous place, and it would be better for all of us if he could be not working with them
  • Democrats have been complaining for eight years, with entire justice, about how Republicans have chosen to obstruct President Obama at every point, showing that they care more about scoring political victories than they do about the welfare of the American people. Democrats should not open themselves to that accusation, even if we think Trump is as illegitimate as they think (or pretend to think) Obama is. We care more about the welfare of the American people, even if it means shaking hands with the worst person in the world (I don't have to shake his hand anyway, Chuck Schumer does, and I'm afraid he probably doesn't even mind).
  • If the point where we can find a way to work with the Trump is one of the big ones, I'm thinking the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Affordable Care Act, a serious infrastructure program, and it actually can make people's lives better, it will isolate some Republicans who can't put up with it. If it really will make lives better, and this has to be our bottom line, I'm absolutely not saying we should cooperate with whatever, we should go for it for reasons moral and political, because it will enable us to say in 2018 and 2020, "We put this through even though it has the name of the worst president in American history on it, because we care that much," and it will even be true.
If it works that way, is all I'm saying, and it's not easy to see how it would. But don't pop off at Schumer, or Sanders, for just thinking out loud about it, because it really would be a good thing. I keep thinking it's terribly late to lose the Obama initiatives in particular, that if we lose the ACA and the Paris Agreement now it'll set us back ten years, not four, in the quest for universal health care in the US and the movement to stop fossil fuels, and in the latter case we really can't afford the time.

I'd rather save the polar ice caps, for example, in a way that leaves Trump thinking he won some kind of victory, than not save them at all.

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