This is a test

Let’s think about how this plays out.

First, the executive branch defies the judiciary and we are outraged (correctly) by this breach of the rule of law. Next, Trump fills the Supreme Court justice seat that was legally Obama’s to fill, and the Court puts its imprimatur on Trump’s agenda. Soon, we are the ones defying the judiciary, giving Republicans the basis to belittle us as hypocrites.

He’s done this before, claiming the election was rigged, provoking our outrage about the peaceful transfer of power – only for him to win and belittle our outcry as poor sportsmanship. The macabre irony, of course, is that the election was rigged in his favor, thanks to gerrymandering and other voting restrictions, and the judiciary has lost a critical degree of independence thanks to Republicans stealing the Supreme Court seat. This is concentration of power by the manufacturing of crises.

We have to be ready for this.

Divide and distract

Trump: “It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports.”

What if Trump isn’t lying? Are the protests and outrage exactly what he intended? He obviously doesn’t care about national security, as neither the wall nor the ban are reasonably calculated to achieve their purported aims.

His ulterior motive: to control the conversation. The more we (justifiably) react to his most incendiary policies, the less attention we pay to kleptocracy.

This is not what democracy looks like

How powerful that the Women’s March assembled almost three million demonstrators around the country — and how disturbing that that is the margin by which Clinton won the popular vote. The marchers represent a beautiful diversity of causes — and the stifling of democracy by antiquated institutions.

In response to we who criticize the distortion of democracy, people like to say, “We don’t live in a democracy; we live in a republic.” But a republic is a form of democracy. A pure democracy is impractical, if not impossible, so democracy must be mediated by a form that facilitates the unwieldy process of majority rule, e.g., by electing representatives to govern.

The problem with our system today is that various distortions — including the electoral college, gerrymandering, barriers to voting, unrestricted campaign spending, and poor civic education — conspire to undermine the democratic essence (voting) and even the republican form (representation) of our government.

Since we cannot expect the power-holders who benefit from these distortions to correct them, we must work that much harder to overcome the odds stacked against us. We need a platform that can unite not only the current coalition of diverse viewpoints comprising the Democratic party but also an influx of new members to form a gerrymander-proof electoral super-majority.

The message must be more basic and more universally appealing than the many meritorious causes currently animating the Democratic party. The economic populism that fueled the unlikely rise of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders points the way. The message is just as simple, yet far more inclusive and accurate, than Trump’s patriarchal white nationalism: We are the 99%.

The presidential fetish

Impeaching Trump would be just and cathartic. But the more urgent danger than Trump is the Republican party that would retain and perhaps expand its power without him. We should be profoundly concerned about the possibility that Trump will attempt to become a despot — but we should be urgently distressed by the actuality of Republicans attempting to further entrench plutocracy. Would we be more or less vigilant of Congress, the Court, and state governments without Trump? Does he focus or distract us?