Colson: Election 2016 — the coup d’etat is nearly complete
Hit and Run
We may as well admit it; many of us in this country are in a state of collective, electoral trauma following the choice of Donald Trump to be the next president of these United States of America.
Glassy-eyed, somber and in many cases severely depressed, we go about our daily business in a fog of disbelief and fear.
Something we thought could never happen here — the rise of an autocratic, infantile and completely unprepared political extremist — has blown away our comfortable notions about national stability, political civility and the safety of our democracy.
Back in November, on the Friday before the national election, comedian and commentator Bill Maher lost it for a bit on his cable comedy show, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” as he condemned what he’d taken to calling the “slow-moving right-wing coup” that has been overthrowing our federal, state and local governments for years.
Oh, yeah, he also condemned the mainline big media for not noticing what’s been going on and for not reporting it completely, truthfully and loudly.
I must admit that I occasionally think ol’ Bill goes off the deep end in his quest to either hit the viewers’ collective funny bone or harp on one pet peeve or another that he feels needs national attention.
But in this case, I think he’s on the right track.
In two recent presidential elections (2000 and 2016) we have been treated to the spectacle of a victory going to the candidate who actually lost the number game — Hillary Clinton beat Trump by more than 2.8 million votes (65,747,544 for Clinton, 62,904,682 for Trump, according to a Dec. 11 story in US magazine).
That means that, with nearly 129 million votes counted, Clinton won by a margin of roughly 2 percent or slightly more, although because of the way the Electoral College works, the margin was not in the right places and Trump won more Electoral College votes and took the election. The margin of Clinton’s popular-vote victory, according to NBC news, is the third-worst margin in the popular vote disparity since 1824, the year when nationwide popular-votes were first counted.
Of course, Trump rejects the popular-count numbers, tweeting out that they merely represent “millions of people who voted illegally,” though there has been ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE that voter fraud at that scale has taken place.
As I write this, the Electoral College is meeting to cast ballots in the presidential election, and indications are that they will confirm Trump’s win.
After that, the real horror of the next four years will begin in earnest, as Trump and his choices to run the federal bureaucracy get busy dismantling the federal government in earnest.
Some of Trump’s picks have said categorically in the past that, if they had the power, they would do away with the very agencies they are expected to run.
Well, it would seem that the power to do just that is now within their reach.
Three bulwarks of the United States’ social welfare net — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are now threatened by drastic reductions and realignments, at best, and by complete eradication at worst.
Federal control over our natural resources — which has long acted to at least pretend to balance national interest against the interests of the exploitative corporate class — is likely to become a thing of the past, as Trump and his cohort have expressed clear interest in turning public lands, minerals, water rights and more over to the states, which in Republican-controlled states means turning them over to the private sector.
All of this is in keeping with the longstanding Republican preference to let Wall Street and the corporations decide the fate of our national treasures and resources, which in turn is intended to more firmly entrench the disparity in wealth and income between the top financial echelons and the working stiffs who keep the country going.
This country has been for some time edging toward total oligarchy — control of everything by the rich, while the rest of us just work at ever-worse jobs, for continually diminishing rates of pay, to the point where the vast majority of us will qualify as “poor.”
With Trump’s election and the resulting demolition of any vestige of a social-welfare network, we may well fall over the tipping point.
Our flirtation with an expanding middle class, which was so highly praised in the middle of the 20th century, will officially become a historical relic.
And that, in my eyes, would constitute a successful end to what Maher characterized as a slow-moving, right-wing coup d’etat.
A harbinger of all this is what happened recently in North Carolina, where the Republican-controlled Legislature stripped powers from the Democrat, Roy Cooper, who in November beat out a Republican incumbent.
All over the internet, the terms for the move range from “coup d’etat” to “illegal power grab,” and most commentary views it as a severe blow to democratic rule in that state.
This has been a hallmark of our increasingly partisan political climate nationwide — when Republicans get power, they immediately begin to change the rules, gerrymander legislative districts and do whatever they can to prevent Democrats from ever regaining power.
This is not a case of politics as usual.
This is a political takeover engineered by right-wing zealots, special interests, corporate boards and their wealthy patrons.
And it does not bode well for the future of democracy.
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It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.