Well…a lot has happened this week. I’ve talked a bit about how we’re in unknown territory, and how the world’s economy is based on oil and that is quickly becoming unnecessary, but the fact that the Trump administration has already begun this level of awfulness so quickly is something surprising to me. The Muslim ban (yes, that is what it is. Let’s not pretend it’s anything else) has shocked the world. I’ve never been proud of people like I am of the people protesting this (I was at the vigil the other night, but I still don’t think I’m worthy to be in the company who have been doing this for decades), but there’s been a new sort of think piece that’s been cropping up a lot these days; that this is all a distraction for something altogether more sinister—essentially the plans to set up a dictatorship and that the public would be too fatigued and worn down to protest its existence. These pieces paint Stephen Bannon, white nationalist and Trump’s Karl Rove equivalent, as an evil genius who plans to use Trump as a puppet as he and Putin plot the destruction of everyone who isn’t white and drown in oil money forever, and that we shouldn’t protest the refugees being blocked because this is what our energy should really be focused on.
With all due respect, these takes are silly and dangerous. While I’ve always been of the predisposition that anyone who would uncover actual conspiracies would be killed before reporting them, and while it may be what’s going on, we have to keep our heads cool in times of crisis such as this.
So first, let’s get some stuff out of the way: Is Bannon a racist piece of garbage? Yes. Does Bannon threaten world peace? Yes. Does Bannon have a lot of fingers in pies that could lead to the destruction of our liberal democracy? Yes. Is he, alongside Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions, manipulating Trump to get what he wants? Yes. Are they smart and their success inevitable? No.
The sheer monstrosity of Trump, combined with his win that seemed to go against all logic, has left many of us shocked and reeling. I’m still feeling it myself. But to imagine he’s a strong man who will destroy us is dangerous, because that can fuel it. He’s a weakling and he can be defeated but only if we keep fighting him.
When I say weakling I don’t mean in terms of power. In terms of what the President is allowed to do it’s the most powerful job in the world, and the precariousness of the Trump situation (his party hates him but is afraid of isolating voters, everyone else hates him but can’t get rid of him) makes him seem as if he’s held us hostage, which in many ways he has. But consider what’s been going on from the myriad of leaks that’s been coming from the White House: it’s bedlam. Priebus is nearly about to quit and he’s the only thing holding the West Wing together. Trump won’t go up a flight of stairs to see Kellyanne Conway because he has a stair phobia. Trump isn’t talking to anyone except for Bannon. Press Secretary Spicer is possibly going to be fired to be replaced by either Conway or former reality TV star Omarosa, and all the while Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Trump confidante Michael Flynn are getting more and more pushed out of the circle of influence. That’s just the stuff we know about. A strong leader doesn’t have these kind of problems, where staff are left in the dark, there are constant power struggles, and decisions are made based on vindictiveness. A strong leader is indifferent to the public’s protests, rather than continuing to lash out about it days afterwards, if not at this point weeks. A strong leader can work despite any distraction and any protest, and their will is executed without any problem. With just one executive order Trump has radicalized his opposition even further then he already has.
Now, if you are worried about something, worry about David Frum’s scenario in The Atlantic this month, where he imagines America in 2021 as fundamentally indifferent, accepting of the corruption of the government and surrounded by loyalists willing to do anything for it, whether it be Twitter attacks or the occasional dead journalist. That will happen if you follow the idea that this is all three-dimensional chess played by Grand Supreme Evil Genius Bannon and that you should just give up, instead of realizing the government is surrounded by reprehensible idiots who have no idea what they’re doing and even worse (read: better for us) refuse to ask for help. Even though it’s Bannon and Trump against the world, there are actually several people who have spent ample time in Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes’ administrations who know how to create what they want: a nationalist, isolated America which suppresses minority rights so that they might as well not exist and a petrostate. But they’ve talked to none of them, offered them no jobs. If you keep protesting them, keep getting involved, and keep helping turn the tide against Trumpism and what it represents, to rework America so that this won’t happen again, then that will be what saves us. Be vigilant, be a fighter, and do not allow yourself to be fatigued. This is America, a place that does not have the Baltic and Russian Slave Mentality—the idea that everything is always terrible forever. We are a nation that complains and fights and we will continue to do so, no matter how tiring it seems. We are not going to let a bunch of fascists win this war for the American spirit.