Is Being on the Wrong Side of History Worth It?
“Gimme gimme gimme NOW!”
It’s the classic Deal With the Devil.
Maddeningly, those who’ve made the deal fail — or perhaps refuse — to see it. Conservatives have traded their souls, the foundations of the “family values” their party supposedly stands for— in a Faustian deal that gets them what they want right now. A gift from the hands of Republican patron saint Donald Trump.
We’re all programmed for instant gratification. It’s not a sin; we live in the age of digital downloads and streaming content. The desire for what we want when we want it is to be expected in this ecosystem.
But what happens when there’s no forward thinking involved? Bringing home fast food for the family may keep an exhausted mom or dad from having to cook tonight, but that’s money that could have gone toward the monthly bills. Or (if you’ll pardon me for shamelessly using an issue we’re all dealing with right now) how about face masks? Everybody hates wearing those hot, uncomfortable things. But some of us suck it up, while others stubbornly refuse. Guess who’s going to get sick first.
For Republicans, aside from destabilizing the Supreme Court’s equality of justice (standby for more on that), where’s the long-term planning? I don’t see any. All I see is how history will record every disastrous thing this President did in their names, long before it remembers any of his so-called “accomplishments.”
The grass, it turns out, is greener on this side.
A Bad, Bad Boy
There’s no arguing that Trump gives Conservatives what they want. His “broad-shouldered” approach to governing has pushed Conservatism to extremes, and his followers claim to love him for following through on his campaign promises. But the subtext is that he’s the guy who finally let them shrug off societal conventions and proudly express the unsavory beliefs they’ve always held.
Plenty of Republicans hated immigrants before Trump came around, but sharing those feelings out loud was an unimaginable sin. That decorum no longer exists; Trump spoke his mind about his dislike and distrust of foreigners from the very beginning of his political career. He didn’t care if it was polite or not, and Republicans lapped up his devil-may-care attitude like thirsty puppies.
Not only did they love it when he violated social etiquette, they felt that his bad behavior gave them permission to let loose with how they really felt, too. And they’ve been following his example on an adrenaline-fueled high ever since, feeling that he’s given them license to be as vainglorious as they want about their prejudices and pettiness and love for revenge.
Don’t Care How, I Want It Now
Trump’s example has given his flock easy solutions for everything they despise.
Don’t like the idea of world unity? Ditch it. Hate environmentalism? Trash it and mock those snowflakes who support it. Racial equality? Lower the standard of what racism is so you can get away with more of it. Anti-Trump protestors? Encourage violence against them. Healthcare for all? Laugh in its face. Global warming? Dismiss it as nonsense. Immigrants from shithole countries? Separate them from their kids and throw away the key. Political rivals? Ridicule them with childish nicknames. Gun control? All who suggest the slightest notion of taking away 2nd Amendment rights must be rooted out and punished!
Trump’s cavalier approach to national affairs lines up perfectly with the inner marrow of everything Conservatives have always wanted. “Enlightened” ideas like diversity, equality, restrained access to high-powered guns, fair distribution of wealth, affordable healthcare and prescription drugs… These are hippie concerns for nerds whose only focus is saving Mother Earth while sucking down granola on their way to the next tree they plan to hug.
Trump has injected his followers with political Ecstasy, stroking their pleasure centers in the most delicious of ways. They get all the perks of a delirious high with zero tangible consequences.
When History Cashes In
So what happens when the Devil comes calling for his end of the deal?
In this case, the Devil is history. The long-term records of Trump’s legislation and his supporters’ jubilant celebration of them can’t be erased. History will reveal the United States during the Trump era to be the Veruca Salt of nations, throwing tantrums with no concern about the far-reaching, global implications of their actions.
The forward drive of American history has a moral compass that always manages to right this ship, no matter how hard it threatens to topple to the right or the left. Trump’ carelessness could capsize this ship harder and faster than anything we’ve seen since slavery.
All around the country, there are whispered fears of another civil war brewing, no matter how far-fetched it sounds. If that hypothetical were to come to pass, would it matter to Conservatives that they could be the impetus that spurred a revolution?
I can’t even ask that question with a straight face. In true Trumpian fashion, of course blame would be cast on the other side.
So, whether the war is real or the cold variety, we’re facing a moral, cultural, and ideological divide so wide and deep that Trump is merely the catalyst of a long-brewing struggle. If that happens, then Trump’s legacy of stoking divisiveness will far outlast him, and could, in a worst-case scenario, lead to a collapse on the scale of the fall of Atlantis.
These conjectures probably sound absurd. But one day, Mephistopheles will come for Trump and his followers. On that day, if Rome is burning, will they regret their self-focused actions? Or still believe it was all worth it?
Harry Truman, with remarkable foresight, once observed, “The country has to awaken every now and then to the fact that the people are responsible for the government they get.”
Truth & Consequences
It appalls me to watch friends and family care so little about the reckoning that’s coming for all that they’ve supported, voted for, and enacted under Trump’s leadership. They love what The Donald is doing for them in this moment in time with no regard for the world and nation that’s being decimated in his wake. They buy into Qanon’s bizarre conspiracy theories because it reinforces their worldview. (Universal rule: nobody wants to be wrong.) In their defense, many of them believe they’re genuinely doing what’s best for their children, giving them a world worth inheriting.
But make no mistake: Donald Trump is on the wrong side of history. He will be recorded as the deceitful, self-serving, narcissistic charlatan that he is. History will remember every single one of his
- crimes against humanity
- profiteering off of taxpayers’ money
- authoritarian nationalism
- blatant racism and xenophobia
- delegitimizing of the media
- shameless nepotism and other ethical violations
- overreach and abuse of executive power
- compulsive lies
and so much more.
Regardless of whether Conservatives see him for who he is, or are allowing themselves to be blinded by his promises of fighting for the little guy, their focus is on immediate gains.
For example, look at how Trump is allowing the United States’ national parks to be gutted to make way for oil pipelines. Or how coal mining (even the laughably fictional “clean coal” he made up) and fracking are taking precedent over focusing on clean energies that would ensure that America’s future isn’t built on the collapsed ashes of the old. Coal power and mining jobs may be good for today’s economy, but in years to come, those destructive industries will leave behind a dangerous, unclean future for our children.
Justice Is (Not) Served
Domination of the Supreme Court is at the top of the list for Conservatives, so that everything from Roe v. Wade to Obamacare can be overturned regardless of who sits in the White House or Congress. Republicans — and evangelical voters in particular — will take issue with my assertion about ignoring the future for today’s victories. They’ll claim that control of the Supreme Court is the deal-breaking issue for them, the priority that caused them to pinch their noses and vote for Trump. They had to do it because having Conservative values dominate the judicial branch of government (remember, Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life) is in fact a future-proofing strategy.
What they fail to see is that the very system they’re attempting to bend to their will is becoming an unbalanced, fractured remnant of itself that has subversive implications for distant years to come. Consider it: the Supreme Court is the last word on every law in the United States. A Supreme Court ruling is final and cannot be appealed. This provision gives them more power than Congress or the President.
That power, by law, charges them with “ensuring the American people the promise of equal justice under law.” Those last four words are emblazoned above the entrance to the Supreme Court building. But there can be no equal justice for all Americans if the highest authority in the land is unbalanced with six Conservative Justices versus three Liberal Justices — which is exactly what will happen when Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed.
The entire purpose of building a nation on three branches of government is the distribution of power. Between the executive, legislative, and judicial systems, no one branch is intended to overshadow the others. A court that subverts this with a heavy imbalance makes the entire system wildly skewed.
This over-leaning to the right gives Republicans significantly more power for this moment in time, allowing them to push through nationwide changes that Conservatives want. But what does this new brand of Supreme Court mean for our children and their children? Well, suppose Conservative values continue the track their already on, hurtling toward the alt-right, far beyond what most moderate citizens want for their country? What happens then?
“Tough luck.” That’s what happens.
Aside from the infinitesimal possibility of a Justice’s impeachment, there’s nothing the citizens of the United States will be able to do about it. Nothing.
Legacy of Corruption
One day soon, history will look back at this era, where day after day we watched endless examples of Trump and his cronies eroding every last ounce of foresight from the positions they were elected for. And future generations will wonder how we could have been so foolish, so blind to caution that we voted corrupt, power-hungry miscreants and mobsters into positions of power.
It’s clear that for Conservatives, the future is an abstract, academic problem that’s a barely perceptible dot on the horizon. And all of our descendants will pay the price for their lack of circumspection.