January 20, 2017

(I learned late last night that Frosty Troy, the longtime editor of the Oklahoma Observer has died. Troy was a legend in Oklahoma journalism and a great advocate for liberal causes in this state. I will have a post celebrating his life soon. My condolences go out to his family and close friends.)

As he assumes power, it is correct and realistic to say that Donald Trump is an illegitimate president of the United States of America because of the failure of our country’s archaic presidential election system, if not for more reasons.

Note how I referred to the failure of our election system. There’s no clear proof, at least for now, that Trump worked directly with the Russians to hack the election or that there was ballot tampering. What we do know for sure is that his opponent Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by approximately 3 million votes. More people voted for Clinton than Trump, who, based on that fact alone, is an illegitimate president based on our flawed presidential election system.

This, of course, is not the ideal day to discuss the ongoing debate over the electoral college, created historically on racist premises to benefit slave owners, but that is a discussion that needs to be happening in classrooms and homes across the country right now. Trump received a lot of votes no doubt from racists, and it was a racist system that got him elected without actually winning the total vote count.

What we know is that Trump lost the popular vote by a wide margin. We know the Federal Bureau of Investigation meddled in the election at the last moment in support of Trump and that the Russian government hacked into and then revealed national Democratic Party emails that were basically innocuous but were reported by the so-called “liberal” media with breathless urgency and outrage as scandalous. The New York Times these days is boasting about its increase in subscriptions and its commitment to the truth, but its one-sided reporting on the non-story of Clinton’s emails was just as—maybe more so—damaging to her candidacy as the Russian government hack.

Trump played The New York Times like it has never been played before by a presidential candidate, and now the newspaper is trying to make money on the “truth” idea. I trust some of its columnists, of course, such as Paul Krugman or Charles Blow, but the political stories often don’t state the truth in direct ways. How about a lead that begins like this, “President Donald Trump lied once again Friday when he said “. . . (fill in the blank)”. How about a headline like this: “Trump Lies About His Russian Connections.” That’s not going to happen. It goes against established media decorum, the ingrained journalistic structures, which are leading to fascism in this country.

To restate and to never forget: A clear majority of voters wanted Clinton, not Trump, to be president. A major agency of the federal government, the FBI, and the country of Russia, which has a dictator and is a long-time adversary of our country, worked to get Trump elected. The mainstream media, including The New York Times, reported the non-scandal of Clinton’s email server when she was Secretary of State as a major event when it didn’t even come close to anything approaching a breach of ethics.

The past century’s history shows us how fascism emerges through disguised intent and basic ignorance and media complicity. It’s a slow, confusing process that occurs over time, but then one day, maybe one when you least expect it, your birthday, your wedding day, the terror becomes real and the government tanks are on the streets.

All of us are in this together. In the words of W. H. Auden, “We must love one another or die.” I believe many people who voted for Trump, far more than enough that would have changed the results of the presidential election, just didn’t or couldn’t foresee the potential impact of his authoritarianism and his wild unpredictability. There’s no sense blaming them in this dumbed down “reality TV era” or in a period when a lot of disillusioned people don’t vote at all. The error is systemic and holistic to our national culture in an institutional sense.

Here’s the understatement: Our political systems and institutions are broken. There’s no one person or one idea that will change that. It’s going to be messy if we want change, which will entail a lot of arguing, conflict and street action. If we don’t want change, then the result is truly massive chaos within the confines of the world’s leading superpower. The entire world is worried about Trump, not just the majority of American voters who didn’t vote for him.

I agree with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the famous civil rights fighter from Georgia, who said a few days ago he doesn’t see Trump as a “legitimate president” either. I stand proudly with Lewis, a real American hero, who was beaten by police for his belief in basic equality.

These are not normal times. These are not normal times. These are not normal times. “Bang the pots and pans.” Trump is not a normal U.S. president assuming office. The Trump cabinet picks are not normal. They’re extremists. Nothing Trump says on Twitter is normal. Don’t get lost in the media complacency and fragmentation. Laugh at how ridiculous Trump can be, for sure, and maybe we can just hook him off stage with an impeachment, but we have to take it to the streets when it all comes down, and I predict it will come down in horrible ways for many people.