Three Trump Takeaways

I know many of my friends are still reeling from Tuesday’s election results. I sympathize. Thus, allow me to provide a positive, locker-room-halftime-style pep talk that addresses some inconvenient truths.

First, I understand how you feel. I felt much the same way when former law school classmates gleefully taunted me after Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the rigged Democrat primary. It is an unpleasant feeling. But we move on. We keep fighting.

Second, Trump won fair and square. And before you attack me, please understand, I am just as upset about that outcome as you are. Frankly, it seems like the most absurd and embarrassing moment in American political history to me. However, the fact remains that Donald Trump is our legitimate President-elect (typing that felt painful). And Trump won by a decisive margin of electoral votes, unlike G.W. Bush. The sooner we accept that reality, the sooner we can start fighting for a better future.

So, here are three election takeaways that are helping me stay positive about our situation:

  • Trump voters are not all racist monsters. I refuse to believe that. To me, it seems much more likely that 47.4% of American voters simply would not cast their ballot for a candidate who embodied the corrupt status quo at which they were so angry. To me, it seems likely that Americans, especially in the Midwest, are sick of working longer hours for less pay, and feeling like they have no voice in Washington. To me, it seems likely that these citizens wanted more than fear-mongering and false promises from a dishonest Washington insider. They likely felt desperate. And desperate people do desperate things, like vote for a complete scumbag with no coherent policy agenda just to send a message to the ruling elites. To me, this election seemed more like a referendum on the Democratic Establishment than a dress-rehearsal for facism.
  • Trump will fail. He is incompetent. The people around him are incompetent. His agenda (to the extent that he even has one) does not enjoy widespread support. He was only elected because the Democrats nominated a terrible candidate (sorry guys, but it’s objectively true). Unless Trump can do something to vastly improve the lives of the people who elected him, I seriously doubt he will enjoy the same level of support four years from now. And count me as skeptical that our President-elect will be able to deliver on his amorphous promise to “Make America Great Again.” This guy will be toast in four years. He’s not worth your fear.
  • Commit to fighting like hell to elect a real progressive in 2020. Trump actually did us a huge favor by taking out the establishment wings of BOTH major American political parties. Now, all we have to do is organize to defeat Trump in 2020 by electing a real progressive who will actually fight for the interests of working people. As noted above, this seems like a very attainable goal. Whether we bring the Democratic Party back to the people, or start something new remains to be seen. Either way, we already have the grass-roots infrastructure in place from Bernie’s campaign. We also have a number of strong progressive leaders like Tulsi Gabbard, Nina Turner, and Elizabeth Warren. I would be thrilled to see any one of them become our first woman President four years from now.

Instead of wallowing in an unpleasant present, let’s focus on where we want to take this country in the next four years, ten years, twenty years, fifty years, one-hundred years. Then, let’s mobilize, organize, and fight like hell to make that vision a reality.


Why the Kissinger Connection Matters

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”
Anthony Bourdain, A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

While Armchair Firebrand does not condone, endorse or encourage acts of violence, this publication certainly understands the sentiment Mr. Bourdain expressed in the quote above.

For me, the moment of truth on Hillary Clinton was when Sen. Bernie Sanders called her out for praising Henry Kissinger as her mentor during one of the primary debates.

At the time, my first thought was that Sen. Sanders overstepped because no Democrat Secretary of State would ever overtly state such a close relationship with a well-documented war criminal. Instead, Clinton replied by saying something to the effect of, “Yes, I take advice from him and I am proud to call him my friend.” My jaw hit the floor. It was like a spell had been broken.

For the first time, I actually started researching Clinton’s history, and was disgusted by what I found. Her record is disturbingly Nixonian, right down to the dirty tricks, militarism, and power-driven paranoia.

Given Ms. Clinton’s neoconservative foreign policy positions, it makes sense that G.W. Bush’s foreign policy team is lining up right behind her. That fact should give any responsible citizen pause.

Some Kissinger defenders seem to imply that the ends justified his destructive means. That argument makes me curious about what we actually gained from roughly 60,000 American deaths, over a million Vietnamese deaths, roughly a million Laotian deaths, and roughly 700,000 Cambodian deaths.

Did those deaths make the world any safer? Were our vital national interests ever really at stake in Indochina? In Iraq? In Afghanistan? In Libya? In Syria? Or do these disasters primarily serve the needs of well-connected energy conglomerates and defense contractors.

Kissinger’s illegal excursion into Cambodia led to the rise of Pol Pot, and the ensuing genocide that destabilized the region for decades. And then there’s Chile, East Timor, and Operation Condor to consider.

Kissinger’s well-documented actions go far beyond those of a usual Secretary of State. Christopher Hitchens, hardly a pacifist himself, makes a compelling case for Kissinger’s indictment as a war criminal.

It’s no wonder Mr. Bourdain feels the level of animosity towards Kissinger demonstrated in the quote above. The fact that Kissenger’s favorite disciple is already sounding the drums of war should alarm all Americans.

Breaking The Wheel

Fans of HBO’s hit drama Game of Thrones are surely familiar with Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen: The Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, and rightful ruler of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men. Lately, however, the Dragon Queen may have taken on a larger historical significance. To me, she seems to represent the restless spirit of the emerging progressive movement sparked by Bernie Sanders’ candidacy.

Earlier this season, Danaerys engaged in a strategy session with one of her advisers, the diminutive but formidable Tyrion Lannister. As they discuss the possibility of ruling without the rich, the Dragon Queen describes the Great Houses of Westeros as “spokes on a wheel” crushing those on the ground beneath them. The Khaleesi ends the conversation by declaring defiantly, “I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel.”

For twenty of the last 35 years, we have been ruled by either a Bush or a Clinton.  To me, neither House performed  well enough to deserve another term. And the conventional wisdom was that the 2016 election would be another showdown between these two decrepit Houses, before a certain orange-hued billionaire buffoon bloviated his way to the Republican nomination.

Thus, our two major parties also seem like spokes on a wheel, crushing the American People beneath them. This is especially true given the grim economic realities their failed leadership has brought us.

All evidence indicates that most Americans hunger for an alternative to the stale, two party status quo. In a 5/18 Data Targeting poll, 55% of Americans said they favor an independent challenger to Clinton and Trump. And according to a June ABC News/Washington Post poll, 70% of Americans view Donald Trump unfavorably and 55% view Hillary Clinton unfavorably.

The Democrat Party has made it clear they have no interest in embracing the grassroots, progressive movement Bernie Sanders ignited. Thus, it seems essential to seize this historic moment by channeling the passion and energy the Sanders campaign generated into a viable progressive third party.

Put simply, we are not interested in stopping the wheel by electing an Establishment Democrat for the third consecutive time. We want to break the wheel by relegating the two-party paradigm to the dustbin of history.

This year, Game of Thrones’ season finale ended with the Dragon Queen sailing across the Narrow Sea with her army of freed slaves, bent on liberating her homeland from a corrupt, repressive monarchy that fails to meet the People’s basic needs. Perhaps, this image will prove to be a harbinger of things to come, a peaceful political revolution resulting in real reform.