Checking In, Eight Days On
I’ll do this one in Q & A format, in no small part because it will include questions that people have actually asked me, and that I want to address:
So, Scalzi, how are you doing?
I’m better than I was last week, thanks. I’m eating and sleeping normally again, and I can go for hours at a time without thinking about the fact that a racist buffoon will soon be President of the United States, and when I do think of it, the emotion I feel is closer to exasperation than outright despair. This doesn’t mean it’s not still a problem — hey, look at the mess he’s making of the transition! — but that my reaction to it is more usefully in line.
Plus, you know. A week’s enough time for me. President Obama (enjoy that while it lasts) had a conference call to Democrats in which he said he’d give people until Thanksgiving to grieve and then it would be time for them to get their shit together (I’m paraphrasing). I think for most people that’s about right. I needed a little less time. Others might need more. But by and large, after a while you have to stop being sad, or at least just being sad, and you gotta figure out what to do after that.
Which includes the rest of your life, I will note. Today I talked to my editor about which books I’ll be publishing over the next couple of years, and with my agent about some business in Germany, and later today my new monitor will arrive and I’ll reinstall my desktop and later on I’ll help my wife take a spare sofa we have over to the house of a friend, and so on. I don’t think any of us can or should ignore the mess that’s happening or the mess we’re going into. But everything else is still going on as well. I don’t think you can effectively deal with the former without keeping up with the latter.
But you’re still pissed, yes?
Well, yeah. That’s not going to change any time soon. We’re going from a president who was competent and scandal-free to one who is… not, in either case, and who is bringing along anti-semites and grifters and putting them at the levers of this country. Over in the congress, Paul Ryan and his party pals are salivating at the idea of breaking Medicare and the ACA. Around the country, bigots are celebrating Trump’s win by yelling at minorities, women and LGTBQ folks and leaving racist, threatening messages for them. And Trump’s not even president yet. Yes, I’m still pissed.
But I don’t think that it’s useful or effective for me to be pissed every single moment of my waking life. Scratch that — I know it’s not, because I’m me, and I know me and my body. More than that I just don’t think I could do it. So, yes. I’m going to be pissed, and I suspect I’ll continue to be. I’m going to be other things, too, in their moment.
So be honest with us: How bad do you think it’s going to get?
Well, as I said on Twitter yesterday, it’s sad when “too incompetent to function” is the best-case scenario with an incoming presidential administration. At this point it’s pretty clear that Trump didn’t expect to win, and maybe didn’t even want to win, and as a result he really made no plan to be president. But he did win, and now he has to work with the people he brought with him, and, well. He’s not bringing the best, is he? Cronies and sycophants and bigots, very few of whom have government experience or know how any of this works. I mean, there’s Pence and Gingrich (shudder) and then…? They don’t even have Christie anymore, now that Jared Kushner has chucked him and all his pals out of the boat.
We’ve had massively corrupt and incompetent administrations before — Harding and Grant come to mind, and George W. Bush’s administration was no great picnic either, although it’s rapidly looking better than it used to — and we’ve survived them. But we didn’t do ourselves any favors having had them. Be that as it may, if Trump’s administration suddenly developed competence, it might be terrifying. If all Trump’s administration gives us is incompetence and graft, then we’ll have gotten off easy. The problem is that Trump is an easy-to-goad narcissist who will have control of a military and a nuclear arsenal, and also he doesn’t actually give a shit about democracy, so there’s a lot more that could go worse than not. I don’t think Trump will get a chance to use the nuclear arsenal, but then I also thought he wouldn’t be president either, and look where that got me.
The problem isn’t that I don’t know what Trump and his party pals are going to do. The problem is that they don’t know. Trump didn’t have policies, he had stump speech lines. Now Trump has literally no idea what to do next. And if he doesn’t know, how can any of us know? The only thing we can do is believe his stump speech lines and work from there. The result is nice if you’re white, male and in the 1%. It’s less rosy for everyone else.
So: I think it’s going to be bad. I hope that the bad falls within historical norms. I wouldn’t count on it.
Then what can people who oppose Trump do?
Well, first you can remember that Clinton got more individual votes than Trump did. Trump won’t become president because more American voters wanted him to be so. He’ll become president because of the electoral college. And while that’s the way that goes, the point is of this —
But if we convince enough electoral college electors that Trump is bad they can choose not to vote for him!
Yeah, I mean, you can try that? But let me be real blunt and tell you that’s pretty much in the category of “wishful thinking,” and in the meantime the electors who are getting calls and emails are probably feeling like they’re being doxxed and harassed. Which is not going to help.
I know. I’m unhappy too. Look, I’m not telling you that you can’t do it, if you think you must. I am telling you that I wouldn’t do it, I don’t think it will work, and that you’re probably just antagonizing people and maybe even making them feel unsafe and afraid. Your call.
Grumble. Continue, then.
— as I was saying, Clinton got more individual votes than Trump. When you realize that the (yes, tiny but even so) plurality of American voters who roused themselves to vote didn’t vote for an incompetent bigot and his racist, sexist, anti-Semitic funboy pals, it’s a comforting thought. There are more of you than of them. And while that’s a cold comfort because Trump and his pals are still going to be running the country, remember that you’re not alone and that you still have a lot of power to speak and protest and effect positive action. Which will take effort on your part. If the whole of your political and social action is retweeting people (including me), you have a problem. The next four years will require more from you, I expect.
And also, for fuck’s sake, vote. Everyone has a favorite reason for why Trump won — racist fan boys, James Comey, voter suppression, emails, fake news, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein — and my favorite, which I will note does not obviate any other possible explanation, is that generally fewer people showed up to vote. Now, I think that is in no small part to voter suppression; when you make it harder to vote, then people don’t vote as much. But I don’t think it can be laid entirely at the feet of that. I think some people just… sat this one out. One of the less amusing little tidbits to come out of the protests that have been going on around the country is that at least some of those now protesting who could have voted, didn’t. And my thought about that is: You can make time to stand around yelling, but not make time to vote? Gee, thanks.
I am a Trump voter and I am not sad that I voted for him!
This is my standard response to Trump voters: I hope you never have cause to be unhappy that you voted for him.
What is that supposed to mean?
I mean that — to the extent that one subscribes to the idea that Trump voters gave him the nod for economic reasons rather than the other, more racist features of his campaign, which is a thing many will tell you — I am skeptical his administration will be beneficial to anyone other than those who are in or near the top 1% of income earners in the country. For that one percent, and leaving out all the short- and long-term repercussions of Trump’s trade, social, international and environmental policies, which are likely to be considerable, he’s going to be great. But for everyone else the crystal ball is less clear.
Yup, we will. I will say that for the sake of my neighbors, and again on purely economic grounds, I hope I’m wrong.
I will also say that if you did vote for Trump for racial reasons, then fuck you, and I hope you’re bitterly disappointed.
Hey, now that you brought it up, this Vox article says that calling people racist isn’t the way to confront racism.
I don’t necessarily disagree, depending on the situation.
But you wrote that piece where you called people racists!
What I wrote was that people who voted for Trump for reasons other than racism still had to accept that they voted for racist policies as part of his overall package, and that those racist policies will have an effect on other people’s lives.
That’s a subtle distinction, pal.
I suppose it might be for some. To be clear, again, I don’t think most people who voted for Trump would be actively racist or bigoted to another person in their day-to-day lives; most of the people I know who voted for Trump — and I know many — are in that “not actively racist” category. But that doesn’t change the fact that Trump has racist policies (and sexist policies, and Mike Pence, his VP, is definitely homophobic as shit, and considering Trump is going to leave a lot of policy to him, that’s a thing), and they weren’t hidden. People knew they were there and voted for them anyway. It’s not an accusation, it’s just a fact. One that Trump voters have factor in moving forward, whether they like it or not.
(To be clear, I do think that Trump did get nearly all of the out-and-out racist vote, too. The KKK and the American Nazi Party are delighted Trump won (and that Steve Bannon gets to hang out in the White House), and the people yelling racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic bullshit at other people from their cars are delighted too. Not everyone who voted for Trump is an active racist, but active racists love that they voted for Trump. And that, too, is a thing Trump voters have to factor in, whether they like it or not.)
As I’ve said before I think it’s okay to point out to people that their votes have consequences, intentional or otherwise, even if it makes them uncomfortable (especially if it makes them uncomfortable). And also, you know. If someone points out that Trump has racist policies and you voted for them when you voted for him, and your immediate reaction is to clutch pearls and cry how dare you call me a racist, maybe there’s some self-examination you need to do.
Okay, but, look, really: I’m not racist.
I’m very glad to hear it. One way you can show that is to be willing to step up when Trump and his administration pursue racist policies. And how will you know which policies are the racist ones? When in doubt, listen to the people who will be affected by them, and believe them.
(And do that for the policies that will affect women, too.)
(And the ones that will affect LGBTQ folks, too.)
(And so on.)
And that’s where I am, eight days on.