Before we dive in, some housekeeping. You'll notice – or maybe you won't, or maybe you noticed and you don't care – that we changed this column's name, from Legends of the Fall to Informed Dissent. We did so for two reasons: First, with the elections in the rearview, LOTF no longer seemed applicable. Second, and more literally, fall itself will soon be in the rearview.
Winter, literally and metaphorically, is coming.
It's now been a little over a month since Donald Trump – with just 46 percent of the vote, thanks to the anachronism of the Electoral College – became president-elect, and in that time, we've gotten a fair sense of what his presidency will look like.
Consider his appointments: a white nationalist as senior adviser; a former Goldman Sachs exec who ran a foreclosure mill after the housing crisis as treasury secretary; another Goldman Sachs exec as National Economic Council director; a minimum-wage-and-regulation-hating fast-food titan to head the Labor Department; an attorney general who, 30 years ago, was deemed too racist for the federal bench; a wrestling executive (who is, with her husband, the biggest single donor to the Trump Foundation; were this President-elect Clinton we were talking about, that would be a front-page story) to run the Small Business Administration; a climate change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency; a billionaire whose coal mine exploded, killing 12, as commerce secretary; a secretary of the interior who has advocated turning public lands over to private interests; to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a congressman who once opposed an expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program because it would lead to "socialized medicine"; a physician with zero background in housing or urban development to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development; a billionaire school-voucher champion to run the Department of Education; and, best of all, a conspiracy theorist, fake-news spreader and famous Islamophobe as national security adviser.
It gets better.
Consider just some of his actions, too: Twitter tantrums targeting the casts of Saturday Night Live and Hamilton, as well as the New York Times; baseless allegations that Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote because of fraud; an Orwellian rant calling it "unfair" that "professional protesters, incited by the media," had taken to the streets after his election; disallowing protests on the National Mall in the weeks surrounding his inauguration; an authoritarian threat to revoke the citizenship of those who burn the flag; maintaining his executive producer credit on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, for which he'll collect at least $10,000 per episode, even though NBC's news division will be covering Trump and its parent company, Comcast, often has business before the government he'll helm; refusing to divest from his company despite enormous conflicts and reportedly raising his company's business interests during a phone call with Argentina's president; breaking with diplomatic practice to take a phone call from the president of Taiwan (where in September a Trump representative reportedly expressed interest in a massive redevelopment project, though the Trump Organization has denied any plans there), thus infuriating China; picking a public fight with a union leader who dared criticize him; and narcissistically continuing to soak up his base's adulation at rallies while not making time for intelligence briefings.
This, quite simply, is going to be an ugly four years. But beyond the president-elect's many ethical quandaries and his rogues' gallery of top aides, even beyond his propensity toward ill-considered tweets that could just as easily provoke a war as tank a company's stock, there's a seemingly more benign thing that bothers me. That is: Given Trump's political inexperience, fiscal policy is going to be almost entirely set by House Speaker Paul Ryan and his merry band of tea partiers, who seem willing to tolerate no small amount of nonsense from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. so long as they're able to shred the safety net.
What does that mean? A trillion-dollar tax cut tilted toward the rich, for sure. The repeal of Obamacare and the scrapping of the Medicaid expansion, too. Also, the privatization of Medicare, Social Security cuts and new restrictions on food stamps and housing assistance for the poor. These are things that have all long been part of Ryan's budgetary plans. Expect attacks on LGBT and reproductive rights, on public schools and worker protections, not to mention the looming peril to civil liberties and voting rights, especially in the wake of a future terrorist attack.
Trump, the neophyte who – other than building a wall (which won't happen), massive tariffs on outsourcers (also not happening) and making America great again (eye roll) – has no discernible policy agenda, will go along for the ride.
All of which is to say, this is a time for resistance – for informed dissent, for loud, aggressive, unrelenting resistance, a resistance that pushes back against the tide of willful ignorance that empowers Trumpism. To wit: According to Public Policy Polling, two-thirds of Trump voters believe that Trump won the popular vote (he lost by more than 2.5 million votes), that the stock market went down under President Obama (it tripled), and that unemployment increased under Obama (it fell by more than half).
Speaking of PPP, Tom Jensen, the North Carolina-based firm's director, wrote last week about why, in an otherwise good year for N.C. Republicans, the state's governor lost his re-election bid and what that can tell us about how to fight Trump. And it boils down to this: From the outset of Gov. Pat McCrory's administration, the left was there, protesting, demonstrating, fighting like hell to tie every unpopular policy around his neck.
"Push back hard from day one," Jensen wrote. "Be visible. Capture the public's attention, no matter what you have to do to do it."
In this, our winter of discontent, let's take those words to heart.