So let me get this straight: We have a president-elect who is a billionaire con-artist and whose megalomania has been on display for decades, and he appointed as his "chief strategist" in the White House a white supremacist who is so extreme that even right-wingers like Glenn Beck and Ben Shapiro tell us he's "terrifying."
And we're supposed to "wait and see" if this arrangement turns out okay?
For years now, Donald Trump has been mainlining Big Lie ideology right into the bloodstream of the American body politic. The harsh and dehumanizing rhetoric we heard throughout the 2016 campaign could play a significant role in the crimes that follow. Such rhetoric gives permission for people to act out in ways they might not otherwise. We're already seeing an uptick in racist hate crimes reported since the election.
His top assistant, Stephen K. Bannon, the former Naval officer who made a fortune at Goldman Sachs and founded Beitbart news, is not the kind of guy who is going to sit around in the West Wing waiting for something to happen. He knows exactly where he wants to take the country (and the world) in two years, four years, eight years, forever.
All the Trump White House will need is some kind of crisis to exploit and their liberal opposition, the news media, and the Democrats in Congress are likely to fall in line behind the president to "keep us safe," much as they did for George W. Bush in September 2001 during another time of bitter national division.
If a presidential administration can fuse corporate and state power through "regulatory capture" by appointing, for example, a global warming denier to the Environmental Protection Agency or a fossil fuel industry lobbyist to be Secretary of the Interior, then it can pull off the same trick at the FBI and CIA by placing ideologues and sycophants in the National Security State.
Across the country we already have militarized police forces, a growing number of private prisons, a data-mining NSA, and a president-elect who's known to be petty and vindictive who talks about torturing terrorists and killing their families. The apparatus for a police state already exists and Trump and Bannon are just the kind of guys to take it out for a whirl.
(The Espionage Act is still on the books and the internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War Two were set up by a simple Executive Order. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force resolution, which grants the president vast war powers that should belong to Congress, sits on a desk waiting for President Trump.)
"Birtherism" was one of the craziest of the Big Lies perpetrated by the anti-Obama crowd and our President-Elect was at the center of it. Most people have largely forgotten how freaky and delegitimizing the whole "birther" movement really was.
Not long ago, wackos like Orly Taitz were running around claiming to have "proof" that President Obama was not born in the United States and Trump stepped up to become the birther in chief. He also said he doubted Obama could ever have completed his degree at Harvard Law School without some kind of forgery. Trump went from being the nation's most famous promoter of birtherism to launching a presidential campaign that smeared Mexicans and Muslims; an interesting way to launch a new career in public service.
So what do we have? The Big Lie (check); scape-goating minorities (check); visceral hatred for opponents (check); fetishizing torture, mass deportation, and militarism (check); belligerent nationalism (check); the corporate seizing of state power (check); appointing white supremacists to key positions (check).
This kind of thing has been sitting in plain sight for years now. David Neiwert, in his 2009 book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, has many examples of the mindset of the people who were just elected.
Rush Limbaugh: "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for."
Ann Coulter: "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go the New York Times Building."
Bill O'Reilly: "Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less."
Dinesh D'Souza: "There is no way to restore the culture without winning the war on terror. Conversely, the only way to win the war on terror is to win the culture war. Thus we arrive at a sobering truth. In order to crush the Islamic radicals abroad, we must defeat the enemy at home."
David Horowitz: "Make no mistake about it, there is a war going on in this country. The aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists who began a scorched earth campaign against President Bush before the initiation of hostilities in Iraq."
And whenever right-wing radio and TV hosts were called out on their incendiary rhetoric they always hid behind the idea that they were just "entertainers." Now that Donald Trump "entertained" himself right into the White House, what are we to make of these ideas now that they're going to be fully weaponized?
And what signal does Trump send by appointing Myron Ebell, a climate change denier from a fossil fuel financed lobbying shop, as his key environmental official to oversee the transition at the EPA? We're facing a planetary catastrophe and they're saying: "Drill, Baby, Drill! The "alt-right" websites refer to the Earth as the "green blob" worthy only of being drained, pumped, fracked, and drilled until every last drop of fossil fuel is burned.
The full-throttle greed emanating from the corporate tools who run the Congress, along with the incoming Trump administration, appear to have a death wish, collective environmental suicide. And in Trump and Bannon, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, we've got the twisted psychopaths ready to make a dying planet die more quickly.
In addition to hating planet Earth, many of the men around Trump also have a deep-seated misogyny. Trump's past statements about women alone, if continued through the bully pulpit of the U.S. presidency, will make life harder and more miserable for women the world over who live under repressive patriarchal regimes. And the Vice President-Elect is a Christian fundamentalist with a fixation on controlling the uteruses of women he'll never know.
Meanwhile, the corporate media -- CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CBS, ABC, NBC -- are all normalizing this dangerous authoritarian turn. We should be in FULL STOP mode with test patterns on our TV screens given the enormity of the national crisis. Nothing good can come out of allowing a megalomaniac and a white supremacist to run the free world.
The commentary saying that the bumpkins who voted for Trump are going to become disillusioned after he fails to deliver misses a key point of the 2016 election. The one truth Trump noted during the campaign was that there's nothing he could do to lose the support of his followers -- their votes were not transactional. A huge bloc of white voters were motivated by culture not policy.
This whole election felt at times like the prolonged public lynching of the nation's first black president. Some white folks turned their heads and looked away; others could only watch by peaking through their fingers -- but watch they did. Still others danced in the streets seeing the "usurper" get his comeuppance: replaced by someone who couldn't be more different.
"Democracy is a process, not a static condition," wrote William H. Hastie. "It is becoming, rather than being. It can easily be lost, but is never fully won. Its essence is eternal struggle."