One of the best things we can do at this point, on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, is to reiterate to ourselves that, while our present reality is a crazy one, we ourselves are not crazy for seeing it as such.
We are not alone, either. In fact, we are in the majority. The president-elect’s popularity, before even entering the office, benefited from a very temporary boost after the election before plummeting back down to 37 percent. So no, it’s not just you.
In a way, I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the “liberal columnist” label because at the end of the day, it means that your thoughts, words and efforts are ultimately considered seriously by only half of those who encounter them. Political narratives have become frustratingly bifurcated and either-or. To quote George W. Bush, “You’re either with us or against us.”
And if you open your mouth ever, let alone online, it’s not hard to see why.
There are the echo chambers, sure, and there’s been so much talk about those in light of our collective exploration of what does and does not constitute “fake news.” Our networks organize themselves by way of algorithms we never see in order to engineer conversations with people with whom we exclusively agree. And when we disagree, we disagree in a big and aggressive way. If you want proof, read the comments below this column, or any of my past columns.
But, again, more than ever, being a “liberal columnist” is uncomfortable in that I see us at a point where “liberal versus conservative” ultimately takes a back seat to an embrace or rejection of Trump, his approach and his policies.
Do you care about the character of the country, its identity, its sanctity? Do you want to preserve respect for the office of president and for our position in the world? Do you have a desire to protect love for our civil identity and our civil liberties, and a collective aspiration to be better?
These are not liberal or conservative ideals. You won’t find them confined to the left or the right. Those are the basic underpinnings for all our political values, whether liberal or conservative. To acknowledge that Trump appears to threaten all of these ideals that we cherish is not to be liberal or conservative, it is to be a patriot.
That’s the label I would apply to the acknowledgment that Trump’s unquestioning allegiance to Russia appears dangerous, especially in the face of it being the only consistent position he has taken.
In my mind, acknowledging that it feels dangerous or crazy in the face of intelligence that suggests Russia holds private information about him is to be a skeptical patriot.
And acknowledging that the president-elect refuses to distance himself from conflicts of interest and being concerned about it is not unique to someone who leans left or right.
When we see a president-elect hold a press conference, belligerently demean the press for asking questions about these things, we can’t help but ask, “Am I crazy? Are others seeing this? How has this happened?”
Again, you are not crazy.
Trump appears to be one late-night tweetstorm away from calling for violence against the press, upholders of the First Amendment to the Constitution. I am not sure he knows or cares about our constitutional foundation or physical safety more than he cares about his ego.
As he ascends, every day I am torn between thinking that he doesn’t have the wherewithal to make it to inauguration and the fear that he might find his way into office for two terms.
We have to remember that we are not alone. Opposition to Trump stands outside of political identification; it is the logical extension of being a patriot.
Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Cornish.