On the election of Trump: an Action Plan

I have been thinking almost exclusively about the election of Trump over the last few days, even during my day job. We all knew that his election would be disastrous, but given the absence of issues from the discourse around this election, few of us knew why. Here is my understanding of the ramifications of this election on the issues I care about, ordered by probable severity, and what my personal plan is for addressing them. Let’s stop being shocked and start taking action.

Freedom of speech

Trump has indicated that he supports strengthened libel laws; his transition team includes autocratic figures like Rudy Giuliani (of stop and frisk fame) and Chris Christie (who shut down a bridge to spite his enemies).

I’m a first amendment person. If we lose our right to speak, we do not know how much else we may lose. My personal action plan is to become more politically engaged, by speaking often (even to strangers) about the issues that matter to me, calling my congressperson (more effective than email/mail), signing petitions to publicize what I believe is right, and donating to defend these rights. There is safety in numbers; if we need dissenters to be safe, we must bolster their numbers.

Speaking out is frightening for me: my grandfather lost his job to McCarthyism, which led him to alcoholism and an early death. I hope you will join me in speaking so I do not speak alone.

Environmental impact

Trump has famously claimed that climate change is a hoax, and nominated noted climate denier Myron Ebell to be the head of the EPA. The likelihood is that the EPA will eliminate or stop enforcing many of the regulations currently on the books to limit our emissions. Trump has announced that he will pull us out of international climate agreements, and also has announced foreign policy goals that may chill international cooperation in general. The result is that climate change will almost certainly blow past 2 degrees C. Indeed, scientists now estimate that mean temperatures by 2100 will be higher than they have been in the last 784,000 years. The repercussions of our inaction will be felt for millennia.

Impact will also be felt in the short term. Consider, for example, failures of the current EPA. I expect these problems to worsen under the next administration. There is no reason to think we have learned how to not make mistakes.

If our economy is getting dirtier in the short term, one solution is simply to create less economic activity. In my household, we have thought hard about how to reduce our environmental impact, particularly over the next four years.

  • We will buy used goods whenever possible.
  • We will keep our house cold (62F) in the winter and hot (78F) in the summer.
  • We will stop buying red meat.
  • Although we are dubious about their efficacy, we will purchase carbon offsets corresponding to other purchases we cannot avoid, particularly air travel.
  • We will bike or walk whenever possible.
  • We will avoid eating out.
  • We will purchase electricity from a renewable supplier.

Advocacy may also help.

Xenophobia, racism, hatred

The episode of historical xenophobia I know the best is the Holocaust. Many Jews stayed in Germany so long they could no longer leave, even though towards the early years they might have been able to escape. I have often wondered what the breaking point should have been: how would I have known when it was time to leave? I think the answer is somewhat early: when Jews were singled out from the rest of the population, counted, separated. By the time they were tagged with yellow stars it was too late.

In this country, I do not think that things will get so bad for the groups targeted this time around (Muslims, Latinos, African Americans). America’s government is less unified than 1930’s Germany; for example, San Francisco and 31 other cities have declared themselves sanctuary cities where local law enforcement will not cooperate with federal law enforcement on issues of immigration. But if it did get so bad, I know what I will do.

There is safety in numbers, and we must be those numbers. If Muslims are targeted, we must all be Muslims. If they are asked to register, I will register, and I hope you will too.

I think the worst-case danger for the Latino and African American population is smaller because they represent a larger portion of the population, though incidents of racism and hate crimes may increase.

Here my plan is less well formed: it is simply to reach out as much as possible, to remind myself always of the humanity of all people, and to refuse to normalize racism. I will support the Black Lives Matters movement and immigrants rights organizations.

Tell me what else I can do and I will do it.

Economy

I think the economy will be just fine, in the short term. I expect tax cuts for the rich, and an infrastructure bill that bolsters employment among the poor. Trump cares about his bottom line, and so I expect real estate in particular will do well, to the extent Trump can exert effective control. Longer term, these policies will increase the wealth gap between rich and poor, hurting the constituency that elected Trump. I will not be surprised if looser regulation on Wall Street and elsewhere results in another financial crash. If we are lucky it will be before the election of 2020, and so attributable to policies enacted by Republicans. If we are unlucky it will be later, and those with short attention spans may not connect the dots.

My plan is to connect the dots.