After waiting for Hillary’s speech all morning, I finally gave up around 11 a.m. and came upstairs to work–it seemed like the only way to calm the sick-in-the stomach feeling. I found e-mails from friends in France and England, sending their condolences. No one has died, but it feels like a day of mourning.
So what went wrong, and why were all the polls inaccurate? I’ll let the pundits weigh in on that. What I need to express is my fear and rage: the United States has elected as its 45th President an unprincipled, ignorant scoundrel who has surrounded himself with the worst. In his prophetic poem, “The Second Coming” (written in 1919), the great W.B. Yeats wrote: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” I don’t think the first half of that sentence applies in this case–we have had plenty of excellent convictions expressed by sane people over the past few months–but the second half certainly does. The “passionate intensity” of Trump’s worst followers is beyond doubt: they want immigrants out, Jews (aka “global power elite”) reined in, Blacks and gays sent back to their place. I think it was Nicolas Kristof who wrote, quite early in the campaign, that “Make America Great Again” really meant “Make America White Again.” The embrace of Trump by the KKK and the alt-right corroborates that claim.
I am ashamed of Jews who voted for this man. And I am in a cold rage against the Republican establishment that allowed him to prosper. There was a time, not long ago, when bigoted speech–not to mention outrageous speech and behavior against women–would have discredited any politician, even among Republicans. No longer. Trump’s rants against “political correctness” were really rants against decency. The Republican establishment went along, and they will live to regret their cowardice and opportunism. Was a Supreme Court nomination worth trampling on every value that Americans have been justly proud of for more than two centuries? Liberty, equality, into the mud! Hatred and ignorance, Hello!
Yeats ended his poem, written just a few years before the “beerhall putsch” that first brought the name of Adolf Hitler into public view, with the following lines: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” Those of us who know the history of Europe in the 1920’s and 1930s have good reason to feel afraid.
But history need not repeat itself. If we feel rage and fear, we should also feel a determination to do battle against the mob mentality that Donald Trump and his enablers (shame on you Giuliani, shame on you Christie, shame on you Ryan, McConnell, McCain and all the others!) have unleashed on our country.