Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cinder Block on the Gas Pedal

The day before the inauguration, I replied to a Twitter hashtag about the proposed wall at the US-Mexico border. Though I hadn't implicitly said it before on social media, I gave the response I normally give in mixed conversation: the wall will serve as a metaphor and not much else; its just a pipe dream for xenophobes. The tweet received nearly a dozen hearts over the span of a week, but it also dragged me into a conversation I wasn't preparing myself to get into. I spent the better part of two days arguing the point and purpose of the wall, how much it would cost, and how the preexisting laws are allegedly not being enforced. I was dismissed at least twice as just another aloof liberal. The whole encounter was a massive headache.

In other words, welcome to Trump's America. The man who spent the better part of 18 months hijacking the Republican Party to cater his own desires has launched the mother of all culture wars. Bigots, homophobes, reactionaries, and the generally under-informed now feel more entitled than ever to throw their weight around. Immigration hardliners now believe their $20 billion* pipe dream is becoming a reality. The quick and prolific succession of executive orders has been bewildering, and the nationwide protest of the temporary ban of Middle Eastern refugees was a justified rebuke. Though I am deeply concerned about Chief of Staff Steve Bannon's influence in Trumps's inner circle, I am more afraid that this new president will be a patsy of the party. The fact that Trump is still squabbling with CNN and the New York Times indicates Bannon has at least one hand on the steering wheel. If former President Obama had to work around gridlock for most of his term, then President Trump is fueling the loggerheads.

Tonight's appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, a prime-time spectacle that didn't have to be, was the closest thing to a bipartisan olive branch we might see in the next four years. Trump could've made a worse pick, but its tough to say which concerns me more: Gorsuch's originalist philosophy, which evokes a "Mini-Me" of the man he might succeed, Antonin Scalia; or that he's not even 50 years old, which could keep Gorsuch on the court for the next 30-plus years. Some Democrats are hoping for a Merrick Garland-type shutdown of the nominee, but I fear that it will not succeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in for a bumpy ride.


*a conservative estimate, to be honest.

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