Yes, it will get weirder, and yes, it will get worse


Dear Amer­i­cans, Hello from Toronto. We prom­ise not to be smarmy or con­de­scend­ing.

It’s just that we have some ex­pe­ri­ence elect­ing a uniquely un­qual­i­fied big­oted dem­a­gogue whose stunted emo­tional ma­tu­rity and ten­u­ous grasp of re­al­ity caused peo­ple to fear for things they held dear. But while we can’t pre­tend that our late for­mer mayor was ever nearly as ter­ri­fy­ing as your pres­i­dent-elect, there are suf­fi­cient sim­i­lar­i­ties that it may be worth com­par­ing notes.

There’s a whole sub-genre of Toronto pun­ditry de­voted to ex­am­in­ing Don­ald Trump in light of Rob Ford, and you can eas­ily google it, but what echoes right now is the sense of post-elec­tion desta­bi­liza­tion – the shock wave ra­di­at­ing from a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem de­lib­er­ately smashed to bits by an elec­torate that seems to pre­fer the whims of a nar­cis­sis­tic thug.

Please do not mis­take the fol­low­ing for wis­dom. Be­ing aware of these per­ils in ad­vance will not make a sliver of dif­fer­ence. But they may help you be less sur­prised by some of the phe­nom­ena com­ing your way, so you can put that much more men­tal and emo­tional en­ergy to­ward thwart­ing the loom­ing eth­nic cleanse. (We, uh, didn’t have to deal with that part here.)

So here are 10 things we learned the hard way:

1 It will get weirder and it will get worse.

Every­thing you have seen, heard and learned up un­til now was just the beginning. In ad­di­tion to all of the fore­see­able ways that Trump’s tak­ing of­fice will be de­struc­tive, the saga of his pres­i­dency will dart down brain-melt­ing paths of which you could not pos­si­bly have con­ceived. Your in­sti­tu­tions of democ­racy will be con­fronted with and over­whelmed by cir­cum­stances they were not set up to han­dle. And you will dis­cover gaps in the law that you never be­fore no­ticed, be­cause some prin­ci­ples of gov­er­nance had been deemed too ob­vi­ous to re­quire spell­ing out.

2 A mar­ginal vic­tory will be mis­taken for a crush­ing man­date.

He failed to ob­tain a plu­ral­ity in the pop­u­lar vote, let alone a ma­jor­ity. But be­cause he merely out­per­formed ex­pec­ta­tions, Trump will be treated as though he pos­sesses the un­re­stricted moral au­thor­ity to re­shape sys­tems of gov­ern­ment in his im­age.” And while it is sub­stan­tial and not to be un­der­es­ti­mated, the ex­tent of his sup­port will still be ex­ag­ger­ated.

3 You will be aban­doned by your elite class.

Re­gard­less how lit­tle you ex­pected from them in the first place, you will still be dis­ap­pointed by how much of the busi­ness and me­dia es­tab­lish- ment – even, per­haps es­pe­cially, those in­sti­tu­tions pre­vi­ously skep­ti­cal of Trump – will come to kow­tow to him and his sup­port­ers. They will make their best ef­forts to curry favour by treat­ing him as a con­ven­tional of­fice-holder, even when all ev­i­dence points to the con­trary.

4 Yes, it will be like Harry Pot­ter And The Deathly Hal­lows.

Trump will, for as long as pos­si­ble, at­tempt to gov­ern via fear, and that will res­onate through ev­ery branch of so­ci­ety that even in­di­rectly in­ter­acts with gov­ern­ment. Many places from which you would hope to hear bold state­ments of de­fi­ance will cen­sor them­selves, cow­er­ing from an in­stinct of self-preser­va­tion.

5 You will run out of pop-cul­tural metaphors.

You will spend years strain­ing to draw new par­al­lels with fa­mil­iar nar­ra­tives, un­til you re­al­ize that noth­ing can be ad­e­quate be­cause re­al­ity has dis­placed fic­tion.

6 You will never so thor­oughly hate your coun­try and be more proud of it at the same time.

You will en­counter ug­li­ness, anger and self-de­struc­tive im­pulses on such a scale that it will fun­da­men­tally re­shape your un­der­stand­ing of the na­tion. But you will also be moved and as­tounded by peo­ple’s ca­pac­ity to or­ga­nize and re­sist. You will learn to ar­tic­u­late val­ues that you’d pre­vi­ously taken for granted – of dig­nity, of com­pas­sion, of the greater so­ci­etal project – and why it is they’re worth fight­ing for.

7 Forces of in­tol­er­ance will be­come even less ab­stract.

Ev­ery bigot em­bold­ened by Trump’s vic­tory will grow more self-as­sured as his twisted rhetoric be­comes fur­ther nor­mal­ized. At the same time, move­ments like Pride and Black Lives Mat­ter that had flirted with the main­stream will once again be rec­og­nized as rad­i­cal acts of protest. Vis­i­bil­ity and sol­i­dar­ity will re­sume promi­nence as the bind­ing fab­ric of per­se­cuted com­mu­ni­ties.

8 The po­lit­i­cal cen­tre will shift.

The new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ex­treme po­si­tions – re­gard­less of whether they bear any re­sem­blance to ac­tual con­ser­vatism – will be ac­cepted as the new stan­dard for the right. And peo­ple who fancy them­selves moder­ates will weigh those non­sen­si­cal propo­si­tions with un­due se­ri­ous­ness, plop­ping them­selves on the mid­dle ground be­tween pol­icy and in­san­ity, as though that were the most rea­son­able, open-minded thing to do. This group may in­clude an alarming num­ber of elected Democrats.

9 Things will even­tu­ally get calmer, but they will not get much bet­ter.

Dull­ness will be­come a po­lit­i­cal sell­ing point in and of it­self, and fol­low­ing Trump, any mid­dling pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who can of­fer any­thing less than ab­so­lute chaos will be wel­comed with open arms. Af­ter four years of Trump, the stan­dard for com­pe­tence will be per­ma­nently low­ered, and the pub­lic will be too ex­hausted to care. He will not be re­placed by a fig­ure from the left, but by the avatar of a po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment that has sensed an open­ing. The 2020 Demo­cratic chal­lenger will not of­fer an an­ti­dote to Trump­ism, but, rather, a more art­ful ap­peal to many of the same in­stincts.

10 There will not be a saviour.

Trump will not be brought down by any one in­di­vid­ual (ex­cept pos­si­bly him­self). His de­feat will be slow and in­cre­men­tal, and will not take place in the courts. It will re­quire the col­lec­tive and con­certed work of ev­ery seg­ment of so­ci­ety that can­not stand for his shit, spend­ing years on grad­u­ally chip­ping away at his au­thor­ity.

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