November 16, 2016.
VOL. XVIII NO. 5

Thoughts for a Monday: Let’s Care for Each Other and the Planet

By Jonathan and Deanne Ater

The Aters sent the following to family and friends on Monday the 15th and gave us permission to share it. Scroll to the bottom of this missive to comment on this and your post-election mood. Click here to reflect on Yale President Salovey’s views on bulldog diversity and community.

We were and are still in shock and trying to sort out what happened and what this all means — not just Trump’s victory, but the cultural forces which are at work in our country and the world. Here are some thoughts for this Monday.

Sadly, Gwen Ifill died this morning. She was such a rock of civility, smarts and charm. We will miss her. The tone she set for public discourse is so often missing from our culture today.

We watched an interesting short piece on CBS yesterday where Ted Koppel sat down with several folks in what was once a bustling West Virginia coal county, now depopulated and dying from loss of work. The people seemed genuine — not racist or bigoted — and were both black and white. At least some recognized that coal is not coming back. The county voted 4-1 for Trump, although it had once been a Democratic stronghold. It is really easy to understand their frustration. The social compact is not working for these folks. It is hard to understand why they chose Trump. They obviously felt that the Democratic Party had failed them. But, in truth, what seems to be happening to these folks has little to do with the party in power and much to do with the state of the planet as a whole.

We also watched a very interesting Tavis Smiley interview of Thomas Friedman, recorded the day after the election. Friedman’s basic point — made in most of his recent books, including one just coming out — is that globalization is a fact of life. He now says there are three rapidly accelerating forces — climate change, technological change, and global commerce — which are disrupting life as humans have known it over the past several centuries. These disruptions are fundamental and not the result of any particular political leadership. Whatever you think of Friedman’s work, the interview with Tavis was particularly interesting, likely because Tavis is a very provocative thinker himself. Here is a link: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/thomas-friedman/?show=28661.

We think it was worth the 22 minutes! Another interesting Tavis interviewee was Stephen Cohen, a professor emeritus of Russian studies, who talked about our interaction with Russia, and his concerns that Russia is acting partially in response to what it sees as our provocations.

The demonstrations in Portland, our home town, and elsewhere are a fascinating response. (What would we all be thinking if Hillary had won and the Trump folks were in the streets?) Perhaps the effect will be to send a message to those Republicans who are still rational that they need to keep the trains on the tracks and not try to govern with a wrecking ball. What about the million-women march proposed for the day after the Inauguration? What is the message? What can be the hoped-for outcome? Actually, people may just be exhibiting profound frustration with the world we find ourselves in. Where is the hope?

We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch the 60 Minutes interview of Trump. He is such a distasteful multi-faced person. And then there was the picture of Priebus and Bannon in a gold-plated elevator. These guys are the saviors of the working class???

At noon, we watched the entirety of President Obama’s press conference. He was thoughtful, pensive, eloquent, insightful, and proud of the progress that has been made on his watch. How tragic that the Rs made it impossible for him to achieve what might have been. Now we must wonder, anticipate and perhaps fear what they will do now that they have power.

These are scary times. But, let’s try to care for each other and the planet.

— Jonathan and Deanne


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  • Jim Wechsler November 29, 2016 at 12:10 am

    I have been thinking about writing a long comment, but after reading the comments already posted, I am rather disheartened. I will say at the outset that I agree most closely with Lee Bolman’s comments. The likelihood that the Democrats would lose was written five years ago in a best-selling, but apparently little-read book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” That book laid out a Republican plan to ensure that the Congress did nothing so as to sow greater dissatisfaction with Washington with the realization that, when nothing happens, it is the President’s party that gets blamed. To add to that, Hillary ran the worst conceived of campaign in my memory. As a footnote, that Republican plan took advantage of the fact that the US is based on a collaborative government; everybody has to try to work together or it does not work. They have pointed out a flaw in the system. Is exploiting it treason?

    I agree with those who say that it is not the end of the USA, but my guess is that it is the end of America!, that unfulfilled and often dysfunctional beacon of freedom and hope for so many. That America is unlikely to ever be back, and that hurts us and the world. More severe is Trump’s attitude toward global warming. If he removes us from the international agreement, it will affect most the US, as it will almost certainly remove us as the leader of the West; indeed, the West may have no leader. Trump’s attitude toward global warming will not change much else, let alone climate change, because opinions at variance with facts cannot be sustained. Unfortunately, lack of action would be a disaster. Here, I am afraid that I agree painfully with Lee’s comment that our grandchildren will not thank us. In fact, I say this with great sadness and pain: our grandchildren will probably die as a consequence of climate change. I am sure that you love your grandchildren as much as I love mine, I would truly prefer that our legacy not be starvation, but after studying global warming for several years, I see a long tunnel that most be traversed quickly, and inaction by us, or Europe, or China is likely to mean not getting there. On that basis alone, Trump’s election is a likely disaster, although the push-back from our big corporations could correct his direction. I hope I am wrong, but to help you understand how to read this, most people consider me a perennial optimist.

    A final observation: not voting for one of the two main candidates amounts to a vote for the candidate most inconsistent with your views. If there were a third candidate with a real chance, of course, that statement not apply.

  • Bob Hartley November 17, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I share the feelings and concerns of the Aters and the comments of our classmates. Though unenthusiastic about Clinton’s policies, I am still shocked and depressed over the outcome. You have to wonder, too, about the stability of a Trump administration. After news reports of disarray in the Trump transition team, a friend of mine had a nightmare in which he was terrorized by pots and pans marked “Trump” wildly flying around!

    The question now is where do the Democrats go from here. My daughter-in-law, Sharon Horowitz, sent me the following link to an article that raises central issues the party must confront.

    https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-so-many-people-dont-get-about-the-u-s-working-class

    We can’t just say “No” to demagoguery. We need to the address the conditions that give rise to its appeal.

  • Jan Greer November 17, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I agree with our classmates who declare one poor president is unlikely to spell the end of America as we know it. (Among other things, the end of America as we knew it has already come to pass.) I do believe, however, a sufficiently lengthy series of poor presidents will assuredly bring about this denouement.

    What I cannot understand is the failure of the Hillary wailers to grasp one essential fact: the lesser of two evils (if indeed she is not the greater of the two) is still an evil. I did not vote for Donald Trump on election day, and I most certainly did not vote for Hillary Clinton. I wrote in the name Adm. William H. McRaven, USN (Ret.), who is currently Chancellor of the University of Texas System. Check out his biography: https://www.utsystem.edu/chancellor/biography.

    If you can think of a better choice of person to lead our country, I’d like to hear it. Seriously. My point is this: unless our so-called major political parties can get their thumb out and comprehend the reality “yours is worse than mine” politics simply do not work toward the genuine betterment of our country, then yes, America will continue to go down the tubes. That the Democrats and the Republicans will do so in this “go-along-to-get-along, you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours” world of US politics is a faint hope, I concede. But should they fail to do so their (and all of our) eventual demise is an ineluctable conclusion to anyone who has been watching the shitshow of major party politics for at least the last 24 years.

    End note: I did not write in Admiral McRaven’s name as some sort of weakass intellectual protest. I did it so I could write him a letter asking him please to consider putting his name forward four years from now so millions of other Americans could make the same choice I did this past November 8th. Which I have done.

  • Lee Bolman November 17, 2016 at 1:35 am

    I voted for Clinton, expected her to win, and was absolutely convinced that she needed to win because Donald Trump was unqualified and dangerous. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the results of this election. Here’s where my thinking is now:

    1. It’s not the end of America as we know it.

    While in Berlin last month, I visited the Topographie des Terrors, which relates the story of Hitler’s rise at the site where Gestapo headquarters used to be. It was easy and eerie to see worrisome parallels between Hitler and Donald Trump, but I don’t think we’re in danger of a fascist takeover. Germany in the 1930s was much more deeply traumatized than the US now and its political institutions and traditions were much less well entrenched (Hitler came to power only about 15 years after Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated; Germany had very little history or experience with democratic institutions).

    2. The Trump administration will turn out to be amateur hour and the most corrupt administration since Warren Harding back in the 1920s.

    The chaos we’re already seeing with Trump is likely to be a regular feature. So far, almost no one in the Trump transition team knows much about Washington, so at the least they’ll be slowed in the damage they do because they don’t know how to push the right buttons. Trump’s history of putting self-interest above any moral code and of being very loyal to those who are loyal to him, regardless of talent or competence, suggest that this administration will have more than one Teapot Dome scandal. We’re already seeing signs of disarray, and we’ll see more; the corruption will probably take a few years to become apparent. It should gradually become obvious (to those who don’t yet know it) that Trump is much better at criticizing what other people have done than at figuring out how to do things better.

    3. The thing that scares me the most is the possibility of losing time we don’t have to cope with climate change. Our grandchildren will not thank us.

    4. Democrats in Congress (Schumer, Warren, etc.) are smart in pledging to support Trump on things that they like and many Republicans hate (infrastructure spending, reforming trade deals, addressing rising college costs, etc.)

    Obama would have done more stimulus if Congress had let him; infrastructure spending is much needed and would have a positive impact on the economy and employment. Personally, I think trying to renegotiate NAFTA or impose tariffs on China would probably do more harm than good, but I know many progressives disagree, and letting Trump fight this out with Republicans isn’t bad politics.

    5. The Republicans may succeed in doing some terrible stuff in terms of the safety net (health care, particularly) and Trump might get the chance to move the Supreme Court way too far right.

    Elections, as they say, have consequences, and there will be some I really don’t like. But Republicans don’t have an easy path. With control of Congress and the White House, they have to do things, as opposed to not doing anything. That means that they’re on the hook if they break stuff, or if they don’t solve big problems. Trump promised not only to repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with something much better. The first is a lot easier than the second.

    6. We’re already seeing signs of racism redux, and we’ll probably see more, but I’m optimistic that this will be a temporary aberration.

    No doubt part of the Trump support was racism; some was a kind of soft racism based on a nostalgia for some imagined time when America was homogenously great (like back around the time we were at Yale); but some was more about economic concerns and unhappiness with dysfunction in Washington. The demographics say we’re not going back to whatever golden past Trumpistas are hoping for.

    7. The rich will get richer, and the middle class may not get much of anything – the jobs that Trump promised to bring back won’t come back.

    Like many of my classmates, I’d benefit from big tax cuts for the affluent, but I voted for Obama expecting that he would raise my taxes. If Trump gets both infrastructure spending and tax cuts, the deficit will balloon, but the economy will probably do pretty well for a while. At some point there will be a crash, maybe or maybe not within the 4 years of Trump’s first term. And many Trump voters will eventually conclude that they’ve been the victims of bait-and-switch.

    In sum, Trump’s election is not a good thing, but it’s not apocalyptic. Most of my friends and family are traumatized, but we’re all looking for ways to nudge things in a positive direction, and expect that eventually there will be more favorable winds.

    • Charles Merlis November 17, 2016 at 2:44 am

      Lee, I believe you posted legitimate concerns re Trump but I would hope that before the rest of your family heads for the hills they wait until Trump actually follows some of his disturbing campaign rhetoric with actual deeds.
      My mother and father spent several years in Berlin in the 30s. My mother was picked up by the Gestapo on the day after Krystal nacht, taken to Gestapo HQ, and released after 8 hours. She had gone back to Berlin from Paris to pick up my father’s medical degree from the University of Berlin. He had left in October after taking his final exam because someone had tried to blackmail him on some of his anti-nazi activities helping Jews. If they weren’t both Americans they may not have been able to get out or if they had been caught red-handed.
      I voted for Obama but was disappointed that he was not more proactive in fighting for various programs like infrastructure, etc.
      I have a bunch of friends in CT that are middle class, educated, not racist, who voted for Trump. Basically, they voted against the corrupt political system that was not changing with the usual politicians which they believed Hillary belonged. In 1968, I campaigned peacefully against the war but could understand some of the more extreme reactions. I ended up voting for Dick Gregory as a protest against the top three candidates. We survived the Nixon presidency (and he even did some good things) as we will survive The Trump administration.

  • Charles Merlis November 17, 2016 at 12:58 am

    My guy was Bernie Sanders as the best chance for change. By change, I mean some movement away from the corrupt system of money and politics that means nobody gets indicted for what happened in the banking and mortgage situation that resulted in the great recession or the opaque financing (citizens united) of political campaigns. I did not see Hillary as doing much in freeing politics from wall street interest and corporate control though she might have done something. The main reason, I might have voted for Hillary, if Connecticut was a close State was Supreme Court appointments. I don’t think Trump will be as bad as he has campaigned, and some of his early statements seem to keep alive that possibility. The first SC appointment will tell much and I hope he nominates the Republican equivalent of Merrick Garland. Since Trump has on almost every issue he discussed during the campaign has been on every side I am crossing my fingers and hoping he is reasonable and really does change things. If he builds a sturdy wall on a good deal of the Mexican border that’s okay with me especially if he also has infra structure projects like using American Steel to replace RR tracks so our new trains can travel a lot faster not being limited by obsolete rails and replace crumbling bridges, etc. Every politician has said they are going to fix our infra structure and none of them, dem or repub has. Going after all the felony convicted illegal aliens is a no brainer and can help the immigration issue. Let’s hope the convention speaker Ivanka can be the side that Trump ends up on.

  • James Kelly November 16, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    As in all elections that were unpredicted ( or inadequately assessed before the fact) there will be a lot of reasons put out. One that appeals to me is that it was a chance, for people who haven’t had any recent votes that bettered their lives, to take a flier. When the candidate who is all about Las Vegas gives them a smorgasbord of dislikes and defeated aspirations to vote on, why not give it a try (in the privacy of the voting booth). Brexit showed the way. I don’t think it is a new political paradigm. It is inherently too disorderly. But it is definitely a call to our leaders to lead and not obstruct; to talk to their voters and not just ask for money.

  • Gary Salenger November 16, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    I agree with the thoughts on the election. But I do think it was a Democratic loss and not necessarily Republican win. Trump connected with a variety of discontented voters, and Hillary could not bring her people to vote. What is surprising is that over 60% of voters felt that Trump was not prepared for, or up to the challenge of the presidency, but elected him dispite that.

  • tom triplett November 16, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    jonathan and I share a common home city, but we diverge in our political thought. The wonderful thing is, however, that we can have respectful discourse; vigorously disagree; but remain friends. Our country needs to recapture that essential

    • Hank Truslow November 17, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      This election will be studied for years and may well become the model for future campaigns. The one ingredient of this cycle that will not appear again is “Clinton fatigue.” Now we have a President touring Europe sharing his delusional view of the world and identifying himself and his policies for making the world a better place thus insuring himself of a glowing legacy. We also have a President-elect working to assemble the best talent he can find to form the government that will have to deal with the challenges provided us by the failed policies of his predecessor. ( Not necessary to list them all) He is already being severely criticized for not forming his team quickly enough when in fact no previous administration had done so only two weeks in. It is in the best interest of us all to root for his success.