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Something less than a democracy

Lee A. Daniels

Now I feel I more completely understand the sense black Americans must have felt when the Supreme Court handed up Plessy in 1896. And what Japanese-Americans and Japanese nationals must have felt when the orders came that those on the West Coast were to be imprisoned in concentration camps.

We live in a different country now — one in which the claim of “American exceptionalism” is no longer valid; one in which the white majority has repudiated the idea of democratic pluralism in favor of re-establishing a pecking order of citizenship by race, color, sexual orientation, religion and political belief. The white majority has voted for a return to the principles of the Plessy era. We now live in a country where repression will be the rule, and where those of us who are now “outsiders” should have no expectation that our rights will be protected by the government.

Yes, there are some obvious differences between then and now. But this vote was about establishing a rule of white male conservative dominion and moving blacks, Latinos, Muslim Americans, Asian Americans, gays and lesbians, uppity white women, Jewish Americans, and Democrats of every background down to second-class status. It was about not only choking off undocumented immigration and driving those here into the shadows; one can expect to see restrictions imposed on legal immigration from Asia, Africa and Latin America as well — both because these are colored peoples, and because all the Americans-of-color groups vote majority Democratic. This white-supremacist victory was about smashing the notion that equality that goes beyond white Christian conservatives has a place in America.

And, needless to say, freedom of the press and of the entertainment industry and of the book publishing industry and of liberal-leaning foundations will now come under severe threat from a Trump administration. And so will support for public schools. And a ratcheting up of attempts to impose a conservative slant on what’s taught in schools. And to tie federal aid to higher education to ideological tests. And the end of all investigations into the impact of climate change. And …. on and on.

I saw the Trump candidacy for what it was from the beginning with the overt anti-Jewish pitch, cloaked in Trump’s tirades against the media and his mob’s threats of physical harm to journalists there, that became a fundamental part of the rallies from late August onward. To me, that such profound anti-Semitism became an overt, prominent feature of Trump’s campaign is a devastating measure of how deeply an all-encompassing bigotry is the driving force of the “movement” now in charge of the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court.

This election was about indecency, anti-democracy, and the re-establishment of white racist power above all else. It has nothing to do with a commitment to the standards of the old Republican Party – which, having made room for it to grow into a monster, has been subsumed by it — or postwar conservative ideology, which is now an archaic historical artifact.

The new reality is embodied in the very personages and career records of the three principals themselves — Obama and Clinton, on the one hand: cool, superbly trained and competent, measured in their approach, with a proven record of leading talented people and solving problems; Trump, on the other: wildly undisciplined, predatory in business and toward other people, uninterested, and probably incapable of learning in any true sense, with a rotten business record, and a completely amoral character.

You see the title of this note. That’s what the USA is now as a result of this terrible, historic moment. The prospect of a more expansive, democratic America has been lost for the immediate future. There’s no reason at all to expect that victory will “change” Trump, or that his aides and the “weight” of office will improve his instincts or his character. We are in for very tough times across the entire range of issues one can think of. Of course, the use of the FBI as the instrument of the Trump October Surprise does not bode well as all for its integrity and that of the Justice Department now. For example, expect no more Justice protection against voter-suppression tactics and of civil rights, or oversight of questionable police shootings and oversight of corrupt police departments to effectively cease.

Barack Obama’s political achievements will fall now. But his legacy will shine all the more brightly in historical terms by comparison with what’s now coming. America’s stature in the world and in history has been, at least for the moment, ruined. Its new nightmare period has begun.

Lee A. Daniels, a longtime journalist, is a keynote speaker and author.