In China, it was the Cultural Revolution — Chairman Mao unleashed the students against the academic and cultural leaders, and by the time it was over, some ten years later, there was carnage. People were beaten, they lost their jobs, their children turned against them, and it went on until finally people had enough.
Deep in my bones, I knew this was coming. I kept saying so to my fellow panelists on our public radio Roundtable show. I was told over and over again that I was wrong; that the ground game was all Hillary’s; that she had raised more money and that Trump’s comments about women didn’t matter. When one pro-Trump woman was interviewed on NPR and asked about Trump’s remarks about women, she said that she didn’t really think that he meant it.
The New York Times may have assured us that Trump had only a fourteen percent chance of winning, but the actual polls showed a two-point spread. I kept warning that the polling in the English Brexit vote was an omen demonstrating that people were not telling their pollsters everything. The anti-immigration, anti-Muslim sentiment spread by Trump is alive and well all over the world. Marine Le Pen is spreading the same gospel in France and it is working; Donald Trump harnessed that fear and loathing and captured the presidency with it.
According to one pundit, Trump understood that this was the last election in which a white constituency could be mobilized in a country with increasing black and brown populations to make it an “us versus them” strategy. It worked. It was part law and order (Giuliani time). It was an appeal to evangelicals. It was an anti-intellectual stance, as in the letter that was sent to me acknowledging that my fears were correct. “Alan, you were right all along to be wary of the organic anger that Trump tapped into. People are tired of the political academic elitists who believe that they know what’s best for the rest of us.” But it is the last line of his short note sent at 1:49 in the morning that really brought me back to the unscrupulous Mao and his cultural revolution. Our writer says of the political academic elite, “They need to take a beating and to learn from it.”
What exactly are we to learn from Hillary’s loss? Trump received only one endorsement from a daily newspaper owned by a conservative ally. Every other newspaper coalesced to warn of the dangers ahead if Trump won. Those editorials fell on deaf ears. What we have seen is nothing less than an anti-intellectual revolution. Trump has already made it clear that Rudolph Giuliani will be his Attorney General. We had a little pre-taste of what an unleashed FBI might look like when the leader of that agency doomed the Clinton effort with his announcement that they were looking into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, again.
So what to do? Some will go to other countries. In truth, that really may be the right thing to do. Some will stay here and carry on the struggle. There are a lot of Holocaust scholars who will tell you that they remember just this kind of thing during the late twenties and early thirties. Now Donald Trump tells us that he wants to be president of all the people. We‘ll see how much “stop and frisk” Rudy Giuliani encourages. We’ll see how many people lose their health care. We’ll see how far prison reform gets and whether we will continue to incarcerate disproportionate numbers of people of color.
President Barack Obama clearly saw it coming. He and Michelle gave it their all until the last minutes of the campaign. Hillary must have known it as well as she inexplicably called off the fireworks over the Hudson. Said Michelle, “When they go low, we go high.” Sometimes that doesn’t work.