Last night should have been a decisive and defiant condemnation of a man so hateful that the prospect of letting him into the White House has terrified the world. In early voting, it started to seem like a narrow, and disturbingly so, thing. As the hours wore on, it became painfully apparent: America had just opted to elect a wildly bigoted, completely incompetent, horrific man to the office of the presidency, a move that will undo decades, if not centuries, of social and civil gains. It’s a bit difficult to quantify the full extent of what Americans will face under a Trump presidency, and beyond, but let’s give it a go.
Farewell to the Supreme Court
Eight justices currently sit on the Supreme Court — thanks to Republican obstructionism and the refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland — which will give president-elect Trump a nominee almost right out of the gate. It’s likely that two to three more justices will step down or pass away in the next four years, which would give him formidable clout when it comes to shaping the future of American jurisprudence. In addition to rolling back civil rights in a number of pending cases — including one revolving around trans rights — they would be laying the judicial groundwork for decades of legal decisions.
The Supreme Court is designed to act as a balancing body, protecting legal rights as it interprets and defends the Constitution. Conservative justices with a more strict interpretationist view are not good news when it comes to social equality, as they’re more likely to rule against progressivism. Certainly we can throw any hope at meaningful gun control out the window.
So long, Obamacare
The repeal of the controversial Affordable Care Act was a major point for the Trump campaign, as it is for conservatives in general. While riddled with programs, the ACA extended health insurance coverage and better access to health care to millions of Americans. That includes disabled Americans, historically caught in the trap of being excluded for preexisting conditions and being unable to afford the level of health care coverage they need.
Repealing ACA — which is almost certain — will have a horrific ripple effect. Millions of people in the United States will no longer have health insurance, and others may face substantial modifications to their policies that make it harder to access care. Attempts at reforming mental health services are similarly likely to be unsuccessful. The United States already has an infamously poor health care system, and the small gains under ACA will be rolled right back.
The president-elect has repeatedly avowed his belief that climate change is not an actual issue, and is certainly not caused by humans. He’s made it clear that he opposes measures to protect the environment, and wants to dismantle the EPA and other agencies working to protect the country’s environmental interests. Given America’s outsized role in the global economy, its policy decisions on issues like climate change are incredibly meaningful — and refusing to set and adhere to emissions targets and other measures to slow the rate of climate change will create a dangerous precedent.
As with the Supreme Court, this is something that will have an impact that lasts for generations — and it is one that will spread across the globe. From pushing forward on the Dakota Access Pipeline to granting new natural resources leases on federal lands, the climate, and the environment, are going to suffer.
Adieu, civil and personal rights
This was a campaign run on visceral hatred for anyone who is not Donald Trump, and it was won on the basis of that as well — while his voter demographics included people from many walks of life, he was carried by a corps of voters who are a lot like him. White, privileged, and convinced that they’re under siege from people who don’t look like them. For those who don’t look like Donald Trump, the coming years will be difficult; a spike in hate crimes seems highly likely, given the extremely hostile climate.
We can expect a crackdown on reproductive freedoms (driven in part by Mike Pence), shrinking voting rights, vanishing protection for LQBGT Americans, and a gutting of the Department of Justice (Rudy Giuliani’s name is being floated as possible AG). Efforts at addressing issues like the epidemic of police violence against people of colour and disabled Americans are going to stagnate at the federal level — and states that attempt their own changes can expect litigation that will land in the Supreme Court, and we know how that’s going to turn out.
Let’s be clear about one thing here: This is America. America is a place filled with a lot of very bigoted people and they are every bit as American as those who are fighting them. This election was a referendum on what America wanted to look like, and we’ve heard: Bigots prevailed through force of numbers, through voter suppression, through manipulation of the electorate, through appeals to fear and hatred. Those voters just handed a very terrifying toddler a very large box of toys. Any student of history knows that democracies can rise and fall, and that electing neo-fascist demagogues can certainly be a warning sign when it comes to the slide into decline.
All is not necessarily lost for America, though. The outcome of this election may be settled but the long term results are not. The country can resign itself to a Trump administration or it can fight back. Those with privilege who think this is a disaster can rise in solidarity with those who have the most to lose and need the most support. We may need a day to stare vacantly at the wall in shock, but tomorrow, we must plan, because America is about to find herself on the wrong side of history, but there’s still time to turn back.
Photo: Michael Vadon/Creative Commons