Politics & Prejudices: The voters rejected Trump

Nov 30, 2016 at 1:00 am

Don't waste any time mourning. Organize!

— Joe Hill, awaiting the firing squad, 1915

Look at these figures and tell me with a straight face that the American people chose Donald Trump to be their president:

Hillary Clinton: 63,541,056 48.0%

Donald Trump: 61,864,015 46.7%

Other candidates: 7,034,595 5.3 %

Clinton clearly actually was the candidate we most wanted to be our next chief executive — despite all the unexpected blue-collar and rural voters who showed up in droves in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and — yes — Michigan.

The working-class white revolt really happened. Hillary Clinton's weaknesses certainly hurt her, as did the FBI's clumsy and hugely inappropriate handling of the email investigation.

But forget all that. Had our system honored the choice of the American people, she would now be seen as the clear winner. Never forget this: Many more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. Probably at least 2 million more.

The final count will be even more lopsided than the figures above show. As I write this, there are still many uncounted absentee and mail-in ballots, almost all of them in heavily Democratic areas. She won by far more votes than John F. Kennedy did, or Richard Nixon in 1968.

But Trump had his votes where they mattered, and as has been the case throughout American history, some people are more equal than others. This, however, is especially outrageous.

There's only been one other case since 1888 where the Electoral College didn't pick the winner of the popular vote, and that was in 2000, when Al Gore ran half a million votes ahead of George W. Bush. There, of course, the winner would have won the electoral vote if it hadn't been for Florida's outrageous "butterfly ballots" and a partisan U.S. Supreme Court.

This time, however, is a total anomaly. We have never had a case in our history where there was such a huge gap between the popular will and the vestigial Electoral College.

Nor have we ever had a nominee or a President-elect like Donald John Trump, who knows nothing about government and frankly couldn't give a damn. He also has the petulance of a thwarted 11-year-old, except his is far more laughable.

After the cast of Hamilton made an eloquent plea to Vice President-elect Mike Pence for tolerance and to "work to uphold our American values," Trump shot off a series of tweets saying the musical was "highly overrated" and that the actors couldn't even memorize their lines, and demanding an apology.

(Pence, to his credit, said neither the cast's comments nor the audience's boos bothered him.)

But bizarrely, his boss, a man who has scared so many minorities, threatened mass deportations, and encouraged bullying, said the theater should also be "a safe and special place," words Trump would probably jeer if applied, say, to a facility to protect undocumented children.

We've got less than two months before the leadership of our nation is passed from an elegant grown-up to perhaps the most repellent case of arrested development on the planet.

So what do we do?

There are those who piously say that Trump "deserves a chance." But nobody can claim that after he named the notorious bigot and hate-monger Stephen Bannon chief strategist and senior counselor on Nov. 13.

That was followed by the appointment of Muslim-hating Michael Flynn as his national security adviser, and whack job conspiracy theorist Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA.

Flynn has said fear of Islam is rational; Pompeo thinks we need to hold more foreign suspects longer, and create a gigantic new spy database that coordinates phone records with "publicly available financial and lifestyle information."

We're really in trouble, and it's just beginning.

Again, so what do we do?

Well, here's what not to do: waste time trying to persuade the 306 electors Trump won to do their patriotic duty and cast their electoral votes on Dec. 19 for Hillary Clinton instead. Trump won their states squarely, if not entirely fairly. The people the GOP selects as electors are not persuadable folks off the street. They are longtime dedicated Republican activists. In most cases it is illegal for them to switch, and in any event nothing could persuade 38 of them to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Many people are giving money to organizations either threatened by Trump and his allies, such as Planned Parenthood, or who will fight him — such as the American Civil Liberties Union. By all means do that.

But throwing money isn't enough. We need, for one thing, somebody to create a pressure group to lobby for fair, bipartisan redistricting in this state and other states.

We need to challenge what seems certain to be a flirtation with fascism at every turn, and stiffen the spines of congressional Democrats.

Getting a Constitutional amendment to get rid of the Electoral College would be a good idea, but seems almost impossibly hard. It would take approval by two-thirds of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states.

Instead, get states to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a group of states that vow to cast all their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote, as soon as enough states join to reach the magic number of 270.

They're at 165 now, and if we could get Michigan to ratify, that would make 191. Meanwhile, do work to educate young people about what is really going on. Within a year and a half, all those gung-ho Trump supporters will realize those jobs aren't coming back from Mexico.

Democrats need to have a plan and an appealing program in place then. They need to find a way of really reaching these people, which Bill could do and Hillary could not.

We also will have to fight the erosion of our democracy and our nation, in a million ways, pretty much every day. This will involve speaking up, fighting them.

If they establish a Muslim registry, I intend to register as one immediately, and so should you.

Finally — take them seriously, but don't be afraid to poke fun at Cap'n Combover and his ship of fools. We already know he can't tolerate being laughed at.

The old civil rights song had it about right:

I know the one thing we did right/was the day we started to fight.

Keep your eyes on the prize: Hold on!

Remembering a hero

A few days ago, I stood in the Rosa Parks chapel at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit to pay tribute to Margaret Radulovich Fishman, who played a small role in the downfall of the demagogue Joe McCarthy in the early 1950s.

Margaret died Nov. 15 at 91, after spending a lifetime crusading for civil rights and economic justice in Detroit. She was warm, loving, tireless, and never sought any credit for herself.

In 1953, she appeared on Edward R. Murrow's famous program See It Now, to defend her brother, Milo Radulovich, against claims that he was a security risk because of her politics.

"Since when can a man be judged by the alleged activities of a member of his family?" she asked. Her brother was vindicated, and that show emboldened Murrow to take on and help destroy McCarthy the next year, though it took the nation years to recover.

When I saw Margaret last Christmas, she told me that she feared that since Sept. 11, a climate of fear had been growing in this country that reminded her of McCarthyism.

She had been very ill for some weeks, and family members told me she never knew how the election turned out.

I'm thankful for that.