Trump supporter? I have a nice typewriter I’d like to sell you.
According to recent Gallup polls, Trump’s faithful are still just that- sticking hard to the “Make America Great Again” mirage. No matter Trump tramples over policies that protect our citizens like a T-Rex crashing through the Cretaceous North American landscape. They won’t realize they’ve been had until Trump’s deal with the Congressional devil has undermined decades of progress in just about every corner of United States’ social, environmental, educational, economic and foreign policies. Every journalist, blogger and pundit out there has a theory as to why 62 million people voted for the Donald. It matters to the degree that we need to figure it out so it never happens again. But he won’t be able to deliver on his promises, for much the same reason that we will never go back to using the typewriter. The key to America’s success has always been progress, not regress.
MAGA is a brilliant phrase. It allows the user to go back to a time in his or her own mind when life was great- whether it was sitting at the dinner table with Mom and Dad, when Dad had a good job and didn’t drink so much, and Mom always made pot roast and chocolate chip cookies. Or maybe it was the time when work was plentiful- a white man knew where his paycheck was coming from and where it was going, his kids had shoes and clothes and a nice Kaiser Permanente healthcare plan to take care of braces and broken arms. It was a time when black people kept their mouths shut, or a company could dump sludge in the river and no one batted an eye. A guy didn’t have to see other guys kissing in public, drug addicts went to jail and women weren’t busy trying to take a man’s job. Gas was cheap, coal was king and immigrants weren’t trying to steal your job. Women were subservient to Man and God, just the way the Bible said it should be, and there were no abortions or birth control. That’s the America Trump sold, and that’s the one his supporters bought.
But while Trump will turn the clock back with the undoing of decades of progressive policy, the result will not bring back the past. Manufacturing isn’t gone because of bad trade agreements- it’s gone because technology has made human hands obsolete. Production is coming back to the US, but the jobs aren’t coming back with it. Factories are now heavily automated, so while production goes up, jobs go down. Bringing back jobs requires progressive thought, not backward thinking. Offering training and education to bring displaced workers into new industries would be a far better policy than an empty promise of bringing back a bygone industry. Trump also ran on the mirage of resurrected coal plants. But regulation didn’t kill coal. Once again, technology has brought more efficient and inexpensive means of providing energy.
Same-sex marriage, the bane of Mike Pence’s existence (after the freedom of women to choose when to have a baby), has been written into law, but there are still those who for some unknown reason feel that two consenting adults who love each should not be allowed to enjoy the same civil rights as heterosexual Americans, because, presumably, a gay marriage has some impact on the heterosexual one. The law should stand, not only because it is constitutional, but because of the positive impact it has had on the gay community. States that legalized gay marriage saw a significant decrease in LGBTQ teen suicide, with the inference being that reducing stigma through state action helps to legitimatize teens who aren’t straight. Gay marriage is also good for society as a whole by helping to provide the same economic securities (health insurance, retirement benefits, tax benefits to name a few) that heterosexual couples enjoy. Stripping rights from Americans won’t benefit America. We do better as a nation when more people have rights, not fewer.
This goes for voting rights as well. The Trump-empowered GOP is brazenly passing voter suppression laws to fight a voter fraud problem that doesn’t exist. Voter suppression laws tend to affect minorities and the poor, which leads to inadequate representation and lack of fairness in democracy. Limiting democracy does not benefit society. It takes power away from the many and hands it to the few. But while GOP can wage the war, it will not win. It cannot silence millions of minorities again — they will stand and be heard, and the majority of whites will stand with them. Republican town halls are being overrun, not by paid operatives as the GOP would have you believe, but by decent people who demand representation.
Trump wants to rekindle the War on Drugs, implemented in the 1970’s by Nixon and subsequently embraced by Reagan and Clinton. Unfortunately, the War on Drugs was mostly just a war on young black men who committed non-violent crimes and then spent decades in jail. The US War on Drugs has been an abject failure- communities suffered, society suffered, families suffered, but the prison industry thrived, as did manufacturing companies who were able to tap in to the legal slave labor system of the prisons. America does not benefit by spending billions of tax dollars on the incarceration of individuals who should be working, going to school, raising families, paying taxes. While we pay the prison system, they exploit cheap labor, taking jobs from those on the outside. Double whammy folks- but prison stocks (which were falling during the Obama presidency) have rebounded. Forward thinking? Hardly. A new War on Drugs will backfire mightily on Trump supporters- the demographics of drug abuse have changed, and the rural communities who came out to support Trump are being hit the hardest. Those folks will demand rehabilitation and treatment, not incarceration, for their citizens.
Trump and his band of conservative warriors also plan to turn back the clock on healthcare reforms. The Affordable Care Act, the law of the land for 7 years, has insured over 30 million people who did not have adequate health care coverage. The “disaster” that is Obamacare is a disaster only in the vitriol of the Republican Congress, who take their cues from mega-wealthy donors who will benefit greatly from a repeal. Going back in time to fewer insureds is not good for America- look for busier emergency rooms, more expensive care and fewer people able to get adequate care. You think Obamacare is a disaster? Wait until you get a taste of Ryancare. Unfortunately, with Ryancare in place, most of the folks who voted for Trump will feel the cold hand of the Speaker on their backs instead of the warm hand of a doctor when they get sick.
One of my most vivid memories as a kid growing up in Southern California in the 1970’s is the “smog day”. Kids in the east had snow days- kids in the west had smog days, when the air quality was so bad we couldn’t play outside. Some days we couldn’t even go to school. Remember Superfund sites? Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the only positive outcomes of Nixon’s presidency, is Scott Pruitt, a man who is intent on destroying regulations that keep our air, water and ground safe. Anyone nostalgic for the days of skies so thick we could barely see the sun? I didn’t think so.
Trump’s list of regressive policies is lengthy and dangerous, taking America not to a time when it was great, but to a time when it was headed toward greatness. Slowly, we learn that societies do better with more education, knowledge, protections and civil rights. As the great dismantling begins, America, and especially Trump supporters, will see that going backward will lead us to the dead end of the past. We will recover- it will take years, perhaps decades, but the America that rises will be stronger and better than the one we leave behind.
I remember the first time I used a computer. I was totally intimidated. “Can’t I just use the typewriter?” I asked my boss. He told me no, that I needed to get used to the new technology. My kids have never used a typewriter. They can conjure up images of one from watching Jack Nicholson’s demonic clacking in Kubrick’s “The Shining,” but they don’t know what it means to hunch over the machine with a bottle of Liquid Paper, whiting out mistakes, tossing reams of balled up essays and short stories, resumes and cover letters into the trash. They don’t know the sound of the keys hitting the paper, the ding of the end of the line, the ratchet of the return arm. If I took their laptops away and handed them a typewriter they would give me a confused look before chucking the thing out the window. Trump’s America will be like that for them- they are used to progress and they, and other young people like them, will not return to the old, clunky machine that white-washes mistakes and throws citizens away like balls of paper. The younger generations, who supported Bernie en masse and then Hillary, will not tolerate a regressive state.
We can’t resurrect the typewriter, just like we can’t resurrect the racist, sexist, polluted world Trump’s supporters bought into. The way for America, now and as always, is forward.