Of course Trump is “not normal.” Not even close. But progressives and liberals will do well to turn away now, for the most part, from process issues and focus on the pain that most Americans, including many if not most Trump voters, are about to feel. That’s assuming that China and Russia do not take immediate advantage of chaos in the changeover, throwing us into foreign policy confrontation that distracts from all domestic issues and even perhaps serves as pretext for extraordinary executive powers.
Trump made a lot of promises to the “forgotten men and women” he invoked over and over, and those forgotten persons, whether “poorly educated” or not, are likely to take Trump’s promises seriously and literally. Trump may (as he did in the Carrier case) act surprised, and even actually be surprised, at such literalness. That is likely to be one of his biggest weak spots. His “truthful hyperbole” is not likely to wear well among those who voted for him if he goes along with Speaker Ryan’s agenda of shredding the safety net.
Protests against Trump and Trumpism are least effective when they implicate Trump voters as fools or worse. That way leads toward a nightmare of mutual treachery (as in Stalin’s 1937 purges–no, we are not there yet, neither is Russia today, but…). Any vote for a president is an educated guess about the future, and we would not have elected either Trump or Obama if Americans were not prepared, maybe too prepared, to take a flying leap into the unknown. Thinking that our Constitution and our “system” will save us from bad consequences may or may not turn out very well this time, and hope isn’t enough of a plan and never was. In any case, best to keep some powder dry for the day, coming soon, when Trump gores the ox of actual regular Americans (some but not all of whom will be black or Muslim or Mexican or gay). Trump will provide spectacle and circus; if he provides enough bread and does not use his presidential power to sow hate, that would be wonderful. But more likely, there will be ample opportunity and need for protest and assembly and nonviolent resistance before long. As talented as Trump is as exploiting our biases (see Michael Lewis’s Undoing Project and the work of Kahneman and Tversky; also Robert Cialdini’s Pre-suasion) he did not succeed in gaslighting all of us or even a majority of us. Staying woke in 2017 will be a challenge–but it’s always a challenge. Fake news is not new–Thucydides wrote in his History of the Peleponnesian War (Book 1: 20) that “most people expend very little effort on the search for truth and prefer to rely on ready-made answers.” Resisting Trumpism will require punchy, compelling, clever storytelling as well as tenacious focus on the real-world harms his regime is imposing on real people, including but not limited to us.