I’ve been offline for a long time, nearly a year, I know. (Working on a new book and a few other impediments got in the way.) But yesterday’s election makes me want to record my few thoughts here.
I think yesterday’s events are equivalent, probably worse, than those of September 11, 2001 or November 22, 1963 or December 7, 1941. It looks and feels that violent. I remember September 11th vividly. We were right on top of it. I also remember JFK’s assassination and the grim weekend that followed. I wasn’t yet born when Pearl Harbor was attacked but I’ve been to the National Monument and got a sense of the scope of the disaster.
But a presidential election in which a monster, a grotesquerie of a human being has won office, avowing to lay waste to nearly everything that his honorable, moral and thoughtful predecessor has set in motion, is a very bad omen for this country. I have lived through the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, a destructive force to be sure, and George W. Bush, until now the worst president in American history by consensus, but what is about to unfold will make him look like a genius. I recorded in my book that when Obama took office, the brilliant Brian Urquhart wrote that:
A fog of know-nothing ideology, anti-intellectualism, cronyism, incompetence, and cynicism has, for eight years, enveloped the executive branch of the United States government. America’s role in the world and the policies that should shape and maintain it have been distorted by misguided decisions and by willful misinterpretations both of history and of current events. That fog is now being dispersed, and the vast intellectual and managerial resources of the United States are once again being mobilized.*
I think what we’re about to get, starting on January 20, will make Bush’s eight years look tame: the lies about invading Iraq, the misapplication of force that cost the United States countless blood and treasure in both Afghanistan and Iraq – not to mention the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost and shattered, and the resultant burgeoning of armed Islamic radicalism – and the refugee crisis that has engulfed Europe and the Middle East, and the near collapse of the world economy that plunged millions into poverty.
Expect more from the new regime, enabled and intensified by a Republican-controlled Congress, and, not too far now into the future, a five-person Supreme Court majority that will rubber stamp all the worst excesses and abuses of Congress and the White House.
From my perspective as an environmentalist, we are going to experience near-total calamity: the elimination of the Clean Power Plan, the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Accord, and the appointment of people to key posts at EPA, Energy, Interior and State who will neuter existing national and international environmental and conservation policies and the concomitant destituting of budgets for key initiatives. What makes this all the more painful is that Republicans were shoulder to shoulder with Democrats when the modern environmental movement started 50 years ago. Now the Republican Party is only and all about slash and burn.
Thank you James Comey, Vladimir Putin, mainstream media for never failing to run with anything that just hinted of a Clinton misstep, and the 59 million people who have so much hate in their hearts and sand in their heads that they would vote for someone who, manifestly, is going to make their lives worse.
Well, there’s 59 million of the rest of us who are going to fight you tooth and nail to preserve the rule of law, decency and tolerance in our society, and a semblance of sanity in public policy.
* Brian Urquhart, NY Review of Books, What You Can Learn from Reinhold Niebuhr, 3/26/09