Everybody Take a Deep Breath

Riots in the streets, colleges keeping grief counselors available, the world in shock.  No, it wasn’t another terrorist attack.  It was Donald Trump winning the presidency.

The displays of irrational fear and abject emotion have been all over the place. I got into some hot water with my friends on social media for not being sufficiently empathetic towards their irrational fears and despondency, and for that I have to admit they are right.  I’m having a hard time finding empathy for their irrational behavior.  This is kind of a pattern for me.

I didn’t have empathy for those on the right who claimed that Syrian refugees would destroy America.  I didn’t have empathy for them when they said the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the government and would implement Sharia law.  I didn’t have empathy for them when they said President Obama was a secret muslim from Kenya.  So, no, I don’t have empathy for folks on the left who think Trump’s election will result in the end of the world, mass lynchings, gays being forced backed into closets, and the like.  We shouldn’t have empathy for irrational fears.

What the left needs to understand is that Trump’s election is not the end of the world.  This is exactly what I told Republicans in 2006 when Nancy Pelosi took back the House, and what I told them in 2008 when Barack Obama won the presidency.  No single election is the end of the world or the end of our American experiment.  Even 1860, which was the closest we’ve ever come to dissolution, didn’t destroy the country.  This one won’t either.  Fears that Trump is going to take away women’s reproductive rights, roll back civil rights for millions, that people of color will be lynched in the streets by giddy crowds of Trump hat wearing racists – these are all irrational fears and they aren’t going to happen.

The sooner people accept that, the sooner we can get back to solving problems for the American people.

But this election is different, they howl.  The fears that Democrats have of a Trump presidency are not irrational fears, because they’re based on things he’s actually said he’d do, they argue.  It’s difficult to take this argument at face value, given that the Democrats and Hillary Clinton just spent something close to a billion dollars to convince the American people that Donald Trump was a colossal liar who couldn’t be taken at face value for anything he said.  And to a certain extent, they are correct – his positions on issues and his policy plans changed multiple times over the course of the campaign.  They’re even changing now, as some of the more controversial promises – like the muslim ban – are disappearing from his website.

Some of my colleagues who have benefited from Obamacare are concerned that it will be repealed and they and their loved ones with pre-existing conditions will be left hanging with no options.  Two – and this is not a hyperbole, they actually said this – are considering plans to emigrate to a country with universal health care if this happens.  Yet within a day of this conversation, Trump had already come out saying he didn’t want to repeal all of Obamacare, specifically citing the pre-existing condition language as an example of a part that he wanted to keep.  He even started backing away from his most famous promise of building a border wall and making Mexico pay for it.  Those who are worried about rights being eroded, like marriage equality, are ignoring Trump’s views on gay rights.

This is exactly in line with what happens in almost every campaign.  Politicians, even novices like Trump, overpromise and immediately begin hedging when elected because they recognize that the things they’ve promised to get elected are never as easy to do as they made them sound on the campaign trail.  We can expect, in the coming months, to see this scenario played out significantly.

A few more things to keep in mind.

First, this is exactly what happened when Obama got elected and when he got re-elected, especially in 2012. Folks on the right were despondent, calling it the end of the world.  There was a run on guns and ammo, because of the false belief that Obama was going to take away everybody guns (he hasn’t).  It wasn’t the end of the world.  Even given all of the complaints the right has about his excesses with Executive Orders, the Iran deal and a bunch of other things, the Republic still stands and a Republican just got elected president. The system continues to work as intended.

Second, violence and racism are still bad, and Republicans and Democrats alike can join together in condemning both.  All of the various stories of racist nonsense going on out there, the real ones and the likely hoaxes that haven’t been discovered yet, are horrible and need to stop.  Yes, the alt-right and a hardcore bevy of KKK and other white supremacists love Trump and are happy he won, but that does not presage a rise of these hate groups, either.  They existed before Trump, they will exist after him.  All Republicans and Democrats should continue, together, to condemn and fight this kind of racist behavior.  Violence against others because of who they are is not okay, and it never will be okay, and Trump’s election doesn’t make it okay.  It is pathetic that I need to actually write that, but I’ve been urged by friends on the left to condemn this behavior – I assume under the mistaken belief that because Trump won and I’m not in a ball under my desk, I’ve suddenly decided that the alt-right folks who were sending me death threats a few months back are suddenly nice people.  I hope that the left will be as vocal in condemning the anti-Trump rioting going on right now as they expect me to be about the multiple racial incidents we’re hearing about since the election.

Third, the likelihood of massive sea change in the next four years is relatively low and the repeal of Obamacare remains extremely difficult.  Our system was designed for incremental change and almost never in our history have rights at the federal level been recognized and then taken away.  The separation of powers can stymie even the most popular and strategically sound presidents from getting their agendas adopted.  The Democrats literally had to pull out every legislative trick in the book possible to get Obamacare passed in 2009, and they had much more control over Congress than the GOP does right now.  They had 58 Democrats in the Senate, and two independents who voted with them to get the bill passed, and after Scott Brown took away the super-majority when he was elected to replace Ted Kennedy, they had to use budget reconciliation (which bars filibusters and requires just 50+1 votes to pass) to get amendments made to fix the law.  The GOP has 51 Senators right now, with a potential 52 if John Kennedy wins the December runoff in Louisiana.  That’s not enough to overcome a Democratic filibuster on any Obamacare repeal.

You can’t use budget reconciliation to get a repeal through because to do reconciliation, there has to be a Congressional budget resolution, and we didn’t pass one last year for this fiscal year, and it’s likely that Democrats would oppose one this year simply to block the creation of a vehicle for an Obamacare repeal.

To repeal Obamacare wholly will require the nuclear option to permanently end the filibuster rule, and Senator McConnell has not stated he’s willing to do that.  If he does, it will be a very big deal, but I find it unlikely that he’d do that.  The Senate cares a lot about it’s history and it’s prerogatives, and he can only do this at the very beginning of a Congress. If the Senate passes their rules with the filibuster intact, the chances of a full Obamacare repeal are negligible.  This will be where the fight happens in January.

Fourth, I wrote months ago that the Constitution was designed specifically with the idea of what happens if a tyrannical despot suddenly finds himself elected president.  If you don’t trust Trump, that’s fine.  Trust Madison, then.  The system has worked well to constrain bad behavior over the years and you can expect it will continue to do that.  To expect differently is simply not rational.

Fifth, Trump did not win because of racism.  He won in spite of it.  Your average Trump voter was not voting for him because of race – they voted for him for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was they were tired of being called racist for no reason.

Finally, keep in mind Trump’s essential character.  This campaign was never about policy or ideas.  People have been complaining for months about the lack of policy talk in this race, and for good reason.  We rarely, if ever, heard actual policy talk from these candidates.  Even a day before the election, the media was complaining about how his policies seemed to keep changing.  This campaign was, for him, about one thing and one thing only: winning.  The campaign here was not a means to an end, as it is for almost every other candidate for office.  It was the end itself.  He cared about winning, and he won.  There’s no reason to think he cares at all about governing, so the chances of him doing bad things that will make him unpopular are pretty low.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Until Trump manages to get his policy plans on paper, and those plans have a realistic chance of actually being implemented, there is no reason to worry.  It’s the equivalent of lying in bed and worrying about whether the Redskins will ever win another Super Bowl.  Yes, it may happen, but the chances of it happening are so remote there is no reason to worry, right now.

Chill out, folks.  Until there’s a reason to worry, don’t.  Sitting around sobbing and wringing your hands in worry for the future has never yet solved a problem, and it never will.

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