If I hear the word “unprecedented” once more in reference to this heartbreaking election, I will start cussing.
This election is not unprecedented. Any demagogue worth a statue has left a blueprint of how this happens, namely: Take one economic melt-down, and then stir up people who mourn the loss of their jobs, their neighborhoods, the implied promise of the fulfillment of the American Dream.
Add a semi-skilled orator – say, a reality television star who cut his teeth on media manipulation. Let the orator do and say the most outrageous things. It won’t really matter so long as he boosts ratings, or serves as click bait. Slavishly quote and report on the orator to the point that the populace, thrilled to see someone who speaks as they do, becomes enthralled.
Let the orator offend vast portions of people. It won’t matter, provided he can still provide that little thrill that comes when he promises to make America (Germany/Italy/insert country here) great again. Find a scapegoat for society’s ills.
Immigrants work well, as do people who belong to (what in this country is a) minority religion. (Let others talk about coming together and healing. This is not that column.)
Let the orator hold multiple mass meetings in which naysayers or protesters are harassed or worse. Create a coalition among people who’ve lost trust in traditional politics and establishment organizations.
Why trust the press? They’re crooked.
Why trust the courts? They’re crooked, too.
Why trust the election? It’s rigged – unless, of course, the orator wins.
Keep repeating the refrain: We will build a brand new world, a world that is is the fevered vision of a 267-pound id in a business suit.
That the id is allowed to say and do the things we don’t say or do in polite company makes perfect sense to the hungry crowd. At last, a voice for the people, and the fact that it’s coming from a man born with silver spoons stuck in all his wherevers does not matter.
Let a fever overtake the country to the point that the id can, say, stand in the middle of Fifth Ave. and shoot someone, and it’s incredible! Nothing happens. Oh, wait. Not “nothing.” The voters cheer louder and hoist their signs higher and cry out for change! Change! Change!
How to effect that change?
Change is coming and it’s going to benefit (finally) that broken group who don’t see their own (white) faces reflected in the traditional leadership, who have spent eight long years nervous at the rise of an African-American man to the highest office in the land, and who aren’t about to see a girl step in in his place.
And then? Elect that id, even though it hurts. In this case, disillusionment is not that bad. We shall know you by your yard signs. Now, we know how half of America really feels. Now, we who want to move forward can do so without illusions.
So here’s what we do, we who repudiate the president-elect’s homophobic, misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-American message: We organize. We start with letters to our local newspapers. We tell the id what we expect of him, and we hold him to it.
We join organizations that were full-throated against him during this recent bloody campaign.
We take our charity dollars and direct them toward organizations and individuals who are making a difference, who most likely will have to pick up significant slack once the id gets into office and starts slashing programs.
We fight back. For every despot-id, there’s an antidote. That would be us.
Campbell is a journalist, author and distinguished lecturer in journalism at the University of New Haven. She is the author of Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl and the upcoming Searching for The American Dream in Frog Hollow. Her work has appeared in the Hartford Courant, Connecticut Magazine, The New Haven Register and The Guardian. Follow her @campbellsl
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.