The day democracy died: An epitaph

January 20, 2017 Originally published on SFGate

This much we know: He is not going to step up. He is not going to pivot, or suddenly turn classy and shrewd, or reveal a surprisingly warm intelligence or thoughtful demeanor, one which makes us proud to have him representing our hobbled nation on the global stage. Just the opposite.

He will gain no kind of sure footing, inspire not a single iota of grace, compassion or dignity in those around him. He will relinquish no shred of the bloviated, terrifying reality-TV egomania that got him here, a place he very much does not at all belong, or deserve. Would that we could be so lucky.

No, on the day the pussy-grabbing, climate-denying, NATO-sneering, China-taunting, nuke-happy, Putin-fellating, woman-hating, neo-Nazi con-artist gameshow-host troll king officially ascends to the highest office in the land, we find a mad scramble across all media worldwide to locate a single bright spot, a silver lining, any kind of upside to this thuggish, deeply unstable man-child who is our 45th president, a brutishly vain, vindictive human chased by countless almost-certainly-true insinuations of vast corruption, crooked deals, massive debt, Russian hookers and flagrant tax evasion, sexual assault and ideological venality, all covered by a pocked orange skin as thin as tissue paper and twice as scaly.

And there is nothing, of course, to be found. There is no good news. No upside, no benefit either nationally or globally to a Trump presidency, AKA the end of common democracy as we know it, the convulsive death of the American experiment.

I have scoured the media, the analysts, the historians and the Trump biographers, and the best anyone can do is offer a meek possibility that the hatestorm that’s coming just might not be as destructive as everyone knows it will be.

As many others have pointed out, liberals have no idea how bad it’s about to get, what serious disfigurements Trump’s policies are about to wreak. Then again, neither do most Republicans, and certainly not Trump voters themselves, a stunningly naïve, mal-educated voting bloc that’s about to get smashed the hardest with the reality that their new king despises them most of all.

Did you note Joe Biden’s final speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos? The unprecedented alarm he sounded of just how volatile it’s about to get, the degree to which Trump’s degenerate egomania and venal soul could very well destabilize the fundamental world order, destroy economies, set us all on a tailspin toward antagonism and war?

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Lincoln has never looked more ashamed, or humiliated

Rest assured, it’s not because the new president has a sharp but divisive agenda, well planned but just a little bit… evil. Just the opposite: He has no clue whatsoever. He opines on topics he knows nothing about. He is guided by nothing by gross vanity and lust for power at the lowest, most tawdry levels. He will never be a statesman, will never separate the interests of the nation from his own gross self-aggrandizement. And he knows, just like the rest of the world, that his presidency has as much legitimacy as a pedophile suddenly handed the keys to Toys R’ Us.

I’m sorry, were you looking for a semblance of compassion for the alternative view, a calm call for unity among all positions and political opinions, a gratifying hint that we might just be OK through all of this?

You might have to look elsewhere. We will most certainly not be OK through all of this. We will not, as the world’s foremost democracy, survive this intact or in any way healthy. Will might survive it fractured and bleeding, hanging on by our moral fingernails as Trump’s army of billionaires, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, racists, torture fanatics and Wall Street robber barons rape the Constitution and the Treasury, and mock your beating heart.

Would that I were exaggerating. On this, everyone agrees: The Trumpocalypse is very real, and globally disturbing, representing vast and vulgar reversal of just about every noble and advantageous thing America had going for it. We had our problems, sure, but at least we worked to champion fundamental civil rights, women’s health, the immigrant narrative, healthy foreign relations, minority freedoms, individual autonomy, et al.

No longer. Trump’s official policy is simple enough: a tiny, raging middle finger to anyone, and everyone. No more do we as a country give a damn about immigrants. No more caring about the public health, the poor, improving public schools or roads or small businesses. To hell with reproductive choice. Climate science, vaccination for children, energy policy, China relations, respectful land use? Get serious. You think ISIS is bad? Trump’s GOP is, at scale, by far the most dangerous organization in the world.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from a senior envoy to one of our major allies, as told to New Yorker reporter Robin Wright, after Trump gave a particularly nasty interview to the foreign press:

“What he’s saying is so serious, so grave, that if you take it all seriously it’s a world crisis. And he’s saying it all in such a reckless and ignorant way that I suspect everyone is praying that this is not serious.”

Does this qualify as an “upside?” That Trump is too ignorant of world affairs, too game-show bombastic to know if he’s being serious? Did you note the creepy, entirely staged photo he took of himself “writing” his inauguration speech, sitting at the concierge desk at his tacky Florida golf resort, holding a Sharpie over a blank piece of paper, looking like a wax caricature of himself? There’s your clue.

Perhaps there is one thing, a singular positive note amidst the gloom on this, the most nauseating inauguration day in modern American history – though it’s less a silver lining and more an encouraging sign of life after you’ve just been told you have four weeks to live, and they will all be at gunpoint in the basement of a Hobby Lobby in rural Kansas.

It’s this: The anti-Trump resistance is, very quickly, gaining real power.

The historic Woman’s March is just the beginning, but it’s a telling one. As Rolling Stone reported, all the most important progressive groups, from the ACLU to the Sierra Club to Planned Parenthood, are seeing huge surges in participation and donations. But more importantly, the progressive world is, in the words of PP CEO Cecile Richards, experiencing a moment of “enormous solidarity – our issues and, frankly, our activists are all connected.”

In short, progressives are quickly putting aside their differences and realizing, if we are to save our ideals, our loved ones and a sliver of our national pride, we must unify, clarify our goals and tactics, and yank the chain of flatulent oppression until the orange beast chokes to death on his own mangled tyranny.

Let’s be clear. This is not, technically, a silver lining. After you’ve been mauled nearly to bloody, quivering death by an scowling orange demon with very tiny hands, the fact your big toe is still twitching is not an “upside.”

But on this, a day when democracy itself just took a serious bullet, it could be a sign that the shot might, just might, miss our most vital organs.

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Mark Morford

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