In “We Are Dissidents; We Are Legion” Mr. Blow says the Women’s March was an uprising. Prof. Krugman says “Things Can Only Get Worse” and has a question: What comes after “American carnage”? Here’s Mr. Blow:
On Friday, Donald J. Trump, the embodiment, instrument and provocateur of American animus, was installed — and I use that word with purpose and displeasure — as America’s 45th president. He delivered a particularly inauspicious speech to a seemingly sparse crowd, presenting a vision for America that would best be described as aggressive atavism, a retrograde positioning of policy that threatens to drag the country back to a time of division and fear and hostility, when some stand in the light by casting others into darkness.
The speech was replete with phrases never before uttered in an Inaugural Address. Bleed, carnage, depletion and disrepair. Ripped, rusted and stolen. Tombstones, trapped and windswept. Urban, sad and Islamic. It felt at times as though he were reading aloud from a post-apocalyptic movie script.
Indeed, some have pointed out that portions of the speech sounded eerily familiar to one delivered by the movie villain Bane in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” Bane, too, promises: “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you, the people,” even as he plunges the fictitious city into chaos.
There were few overtures to his opponents, let alone his enemies, little attempt to seek unity and amity. The Dean of Discord made clear his purpose and his plan: It is not to bring America together but to rip it asunder.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the speech was partly written by Steve Bannon, Trump’s white-nationalist chief strategist and senior counselor. At one point in the speech, Trump delivered the bewildering line: “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” Patriotism does not drive out prejudice; to the contrary, it can actually enshrine it. No one was more patriotic than our founding fathers, and yet most of the prominent founding fathers were slave owners.
Trump set forth a portentous proposition on Friday. Saturday’s Women’s Marches across the country and around the world answered with a thundering roar.
The marches, whose participants vastly outnumbered inauguration attendees, offered a stinging rebuke to the election of a man who threatens women’s rights and boasts of grabbing women’s genitalia.
And the marches, which included quite a few men and boys as well, also represented more than that. They were a rebuke of bigotry and a call for equality and inclusion. They demonstrated the awesome power of individual outrage joined to collective action. And it was a message to America that the majority did not support this president or his plans and will not simply tuck tail and cower in the face of the threat. This was an uprising; this was a fighting back. This was a resistance.
Members of Congress, laboring under the delusion that they operate with a mandate and feeling compelled to rubber-stamp Trump’s predilections, should heed well the message those marches sent on Saturday: You are on notice. America is ticked off.
There has been much hand-wringing and navel gazing since the election about how liberalism was blind to a rising and hidden populism, about how identity politics were liberals’ fatal flaw, about how Democrats needed to attract voters who were willing to ignore Trump’s racial, ethnic and religious bigotry, his misogyny, and his xenophobia.
I call bunk on all of that.
I have given quite a few speeches since the election and inevitably some variation of this “reaching out” issue is raised in the form of a question, and my answer is always the same: The Enlightenment must never bow to the Inquisition.
Recognizing and even celebrating individual identity groups doesn’t make America weaker; it makes America stronger. Acknowledging that identity groups have not always been — and indeed, continue not to be — treated equally in this country should not be a cause for agitation, but a call to action. Parity is not born of forced erasure but rather respectful subsumption.
Janelle Monáe, singer and star of the acclaimed film “Hidden Figures,” put it this way at the march in Washington: “Continue to embrace the things that make you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. You are enough. And whenever you’re feeling doubt, whenever you want to give up, you must always remember to choose freedom over fear.”
If my difference frightens you, you have a problem, not me. If my discussion of my pain makes you ill at ease, you have a problem, not me. If you feel that the excavation of my history presages the burial of yours, then you have a problem, not me.
It is possible that Trump has reactivated something President Obama couldn’t maintain, and Hillary Clinton couldn’t fully tap into: A unified, mission-driven left that puts bodies into the streets. The women’s marches sent a clear signal: Your comfort will not be built on our constriction. We are America. We are loud, “nasty” and fed up. We are motivated dissidents and we are legion.
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump — who spent his first full day in office having a temper tantrum, railing against accurate reports of small crowds at his inauguration — would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.
And how is he going to react to disappointing numbers about things that actually matter?
In his lurid, ghastly Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump portrayed a nation in dire straits — “American carnage.” The real America looks nothing like that; it has plenty of problems, but things could be worse. In fact, it’s likely that they will indeed get worse. How will a man who evidently can’t handle even the smallest blow to his ego deal with it?
Let’s talk about the predictable bad news.
First, the economy. Listening to Mr. Trump, you might have thought America was in the midst of a full-scale depression, with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” Manufacturing employment is indeed down since 2000; but overall employment is way up, and the unemployment rate is low by historical standards.
And it’s not just one number that looks pretty good: Rising wages and the growing number of Americans confident enough to quit their jobs suggest an economy close to full employment.
What this means is that unemployment probably can’t fall much from here, so that even with good policies and good luck, job creation will be much slower than it was in the Obama years. And since bad stuff does happen, there’s a strong likelihood that unemployment will be higher four years from now than it is today.
Oh, and Trumpist budget deficits will probably widen the trade deficit, so that manufacturing employment in particular is likely to fall, not rise.
A second front on which things will almost surely get worse is health care. Obamacare caused the percentage of Americans without insurance to fall sharply, to the lowest level ever. Repeal would send the numbers right back up — 18 million newly uninsured in just the first year, eventually rising to more than 30 million, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. And no, Republicans who have spent seven years failing to come up with a real replacement won’t develop one in the next few weeks, or ever.
On a third front, crime, the future direction is unclear. The Trump vision of an urban America ravaged by “the crime and the gangs and the drugs” is a dystopian fantasy: Violent crime is, in fact, way down despite highly publicized recent murder increases in a few cities. Crime could, I suppose, fall further, but it could also rise. What we do know is that the Trump administration can’t pacify America’s urban war zones, because those zones don’t exist.
So how will Mr. Trump handle the bad news of rising unemployment, plunging health coverage, and little if any crime reduction? That’s obvious: He’ll deny reality, the way he always does when it threatens his narcissism. But will his supporters go along with his fantasy?
They might. After all, they blocked out the good news from the Obama era. Two-thirds of Trump voters believe, falsely, that the unemployment rate rose under Obama. (Three-quarters believe George Soros is paying people to protest Mr. Trump.) Only 17 percent of self-identified Republicans are aware that the number of uninsured is at a historic low. Most people thought crime was rising even when it was falling. So maybe they will block out bad news in the Trump years.
But it probably won’t be that easy. For one thing, people tend to attribute improvements in their personal situation to their own efforts; surely many voters who gained jobs over the past eight years believe that they did it despite, not thanks to, Obama policies. Will they correspondingly blame themselves, not Donald Trump, for lost jobs and health insurance? Unlikely.
On top of that, Mr. Trump made big promises during the campaign, so the risk of disillusionment is especially high.
Will he respond to bad news by accepting responsibility and trying to do better? Will he renounce his fortune and enter a monastery? That seems equally likely.
No, the insecure egomaniac-in-chief will almost surely deny awkward truths, and berate the media for reporting them. And — this is what worries me — it’s very likely that he’ll try to use his power to shoot the messengers.
Seriously, how do you think the man who compared the C.I.A. to Nazis will react when the Bureau of Labor Statistics first reports a significant uptick in unemployment or decline in manufacturing jobs? What’s he going to do when the Centers for Disease Control and the Census Bureau report spiking numbers of uninsured Americans?
You may have thought that last weekend’s temper tantrum was bad. But there’s much, much worse to come.