1) Trump and his family are the Kardashians, which is to say, unfathomably narcissistic and shamelessly mercenary–they court the gaze of the public so they can sell them stuff. Now that Trump Inc.’s leveraged buyout of America is complete, everything is up for grabs. And they are grabbing. Melania’s plan to market First Lady merchandise, like Ivanka’s dresses that Nordstrom doesn’t want to sell, are just the tip of the iceberg.
2) Trump is devolving. Just look at his tweets as if one of your relatives or friends had written them–the hallucinatory paranoia, the narcissistic self-regard, but most of all the impoverished language. I’m no Ben Carson, but it looks to me like there’s something wrong with his brain. Look at his photographs–he is bloated and pale beneath the spray tan. There are big bags under his eyes. He’s not sleeping and he’s eating way too much.
3) As deplorable and sad a spectacle as Trump may be, a big chunk of corporate America and the mainstream Republican politicians who are its servants see him as their last, best hope to abolish what’s left of the New Deal. They’ve joined forces with a whole congery of fringe characters and movements that under normal circumstances would be at odds with each other, but who see Trump as their champion–far right wing Zionists and hard-core neo-Nazis; old-line white nationalists and off-the-grid libertarians; Gates of Vienna war of civilization types, Know Nothing isolationists, men’s rightists, and Evangelical Christians–many of them the human detritus of the globalized, wired, knowledge economy, the under-educated, under-employed white blue collar people–Sarah Palin’s “real Americans”–who live outside the big urban areas. It’s a volatile, highly-unstable coalition and it is driven by grievance, superstition, and cynical opportunism. All of its members still add up to a numerical minority of the country, but for now, they are politically indomitable. And, oh yeah, there’s Russia too.
4) There’s no consistent underlying philosophy behind Trumpism–everything that comes out of his mouth or his smartphone is ad hoc. He will sell out anyone.
5) It’s not what Trump believes that we need to worry about–it’s what he’s going to do. And institutionally speaking, there’s no one that can stop him from doing whatever he (or his competing constituencies) like. The courts can try for now, but he will appoint hundreds of compliant judges to the lower courts and will control a majority of the Supreme Court in a matter of months. Congressional Democrats can throw sand in the gears of his agenda, but the Republican majority is in absolute lockstep with him. We can hope that the military and the police will defy his orders when he decides to go to war at home or abroad, but we’d be foolish to count on it. We can and should mobilize to elect more Democrats, but the Republican strongholds are gerrymandered and they will be working to suppress as many minority votes as they can.
6) Historians will wrestle with the question–why did so many people go along with him when he was so clearly corrupt and mad? We can only hope that they will also write about the steadfast, bottom-up resistance that finally broke Trumpism’s grip, about the unprecedented unity of purpose that brought progressives together.
7) Things really are as bad as they seem. Our national institutions aren’t going to save us, though some of our local institutions (city governments) will try. The only recourse we have is ourselves.