The ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency could have devastating effects: on the economy, on civil rights, on the environment, on foreign relations, on — and this is not hyperbole, given his blase attitude towards nuclear missiles — life as we know it.
We need him to not be president, period; or, if president, to remove him from office as soon as possible, whether through impeachment or resignation. That is the prime directive.
I: Don’t feed the trolls — even the famous ones.
Vice President-Elect and gay conversion "therapy" poster boy Mike Pence went to see the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. When it became evident that he was in attendance, members of the crowd greeted him with lusty boos. At the end of the performance, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon addressed the Indiana governor, saying, “We sir, we, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us — our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”
That led President-Elect and inveterate shit-stirrer Donald J. Trump to tweet, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” and then, “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
Twitter went haywire. Trump supporters, taking the notorious liar’s version of what happened at face value, started the #boycottHamilton hashtag. Anyone who actually watched the clips and saw what happened were rightly infuriated by Trump’s tweets. First, the cast of the show harassed no one, nor was rude, but rather generous and respectful; it was the audience who booed. Second, here is a recidivist sexual predator, in whose name swastikas are being spray-painted hither and nigh, unironically calling for safe spaces and apologies for rudeness! If you are a reasonable person, one invested in truth and justice and the American way, this tweaks your sense of right and wrong.
But here’s the thing: Donald Trump is a defective human being. He has always been thus. Now that he has been elected president, he’s not going to suddenly, at the age of seventy, become something he’s not. Donald Trump is nothing more than a wealthy internet troll. Again: HE IS AN INTERNET TROLL. He tweets stuff he knows will push people’s buttons, and then sits back and delights in the shit he’s stirred up. That’s what trolls do. Which is why you don’t feed the trolls. Ever. Even — nay, especially — if they are going to be the President of the United States of America.
So Step One is, stop taking the bait. The brouhaha with Hamilton made the front page of major newspapers, instead of the fraud trial Trump settled for $25 million (Did he cut the check yet? Will he? Can we please see photographic evidence of same, and proof that it didn’t bounce?). This is a problem and will remain a problem as long as we keep being outraged by every incendiary thing he says. Because the press will cover the “controversy” about some idiotic tweet (Hamilton) rather than an actual important story (Trump U. fraud). This pattern repeated itself throughout the campaign, helping Trump drive the narrative by redirection. It MUST cease.
Stop feeding President Troll. Just stop. Ignore his tweets. Ignore his I-can’t-believe-he-just-said-that’s. We knew he was a racist, sexist, cruel, mean, selfish, unscrupulous sexual predator before he elected him. We knew it, and people voted for him regardless. Shame on them, but that phase is over. Trump and his ardent disciples do not care about any of this. To the contrary, they, like him, delight in seeing us get upset. So stop!
II. Scream bloody murder about conflicts of interest.
His fame, his wealth, and his outsized personality are compelling and drove ratings for cable news outfits across the political divide, all of which enjoyed banner years in 2016. (Sidenote: please stop watching cable news). Enough. Donald Trump needs to be covered in the media in the same way a non-celebrity would. The only way that will happen is if we, the consumers of said media, demand it. Which means we need to focus not on the mean tweets, the laughably horrible cabinet appointments, or even the hate crimes perpetrated in his name. (Too, we need to stop talking about why Hillary “lost,” how Bernie would have done better, how Jill Stein voters are to blame for the result...and we need never speak again about Democrats failing the white working class). We need to accept that bad stuff will continue to happen until Trump is removed, and then turn our undivided attention on what will remove him: his unprecedented conflicts of interest.
In short, his many business dealings put him in a position where he cannot act solely on behalf of “we the people.” Here’s an example: Trump carries extensive debt that he owes to the Bank of China. The Bank of China is owned by the government of China. How on earth can he negotiate anything with the Chinese, when he owes them so much money? That we don’t know exactly how much money he owes, because he still hasn’t released his tax returns, remains a problem.
To cite a more recent, and probably more egregious, example: Trump apparently held an event for foreign diplomats at his new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. At this event, he encouraged them to rent rooms there. Do you see how that’s a yuuuuge conflict of interest? How he’s using his public office to enrich himself? It also happens to be a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the acceptance of gifts from foreign government officials. Unless he sells or gives away the hotel — which he leases from the federal government, another ethical problem — before January 20, he could be impeached the minute he’s sworn in. (Read more about this on Judd Legum’s helpful tweet-thread).
The opinion page of the Wall Street Journal, no bastion of liberality, urges Trump to liquidate his assets for just this reason: if he does not, liberals will be able to attack him for it for the entire time he’s president. Because on almost every issue of import, he has a conflict of interest. And this advice was written by folks who support him!
So: from now until January 20, block out the noise. All we should be talking about is the conflicts of interest he’s exposed to by not liquidating his financial empire. That’s all. Everyone in the country needs to understand a) that Trump is in an ethically untenable position, b) why it’s bad for the country that he has so many conflicts of interest, especially with respect to China and Russia, and c) that he needs to liquidate all his assets before he places his short fingers on the Bible on January 20.
Write your representatives and your senators. Write letters to the editor of your local paper. Post about it incessantly on social media. Get the word out!
This must be the narrative for all of December and January, or we’re toast. It has to be put in the starkest, simplest of terms, and it has to have legs. To live at 1600 Pennsylvania, Donald Trump must sell the hotel down the street...and everything else he owns, the real estate holdings, the golf courses, every last divot. (The idea of a blind trust run by his kids is ethically unacceptable, a non-starter).
Basically, we need to make Trump decide which he wants to keep: his business empire or the presidency. If you believe he’ll choose the latter over the former, I have some lovely property in Atlantic City to sell you.
“But then we have Pence,” you might say. True. The thing is...
III. Without question, Mike Pence is preferable to Trump.
Yes, Pence is odious. He’s a religious nutjob who hates — hates — gay people. He would be a terrible president.
However, Pence, unlike Trump, is an actual politician with executive experience. He has a baseline competency for the job that Trump lacks (read: he probably won’t start a nuclear war over a mean tweet).
More importantly, Trump’s popularity stems from his personality, around which he has established a cult (or a klan, if you will). No one’s going to swear allegiance to Mike Pence. If Trump resigns or is impeached, Pence will be revealed as a mean-spirited Washington insider who wants to actively discriminate against gay people and work with Paul Ryan to gut entitlement programs. Good luck with that.
When it comes to charisma, Trump is a pound sterling, while Mike Pence is, well, one pence. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but on January 20, I hope it’s him and not Trump being sworn in. Our country’s future, and probably the earth’s, may depend on it.
This post originally appeared on theweeklings.com. It is reprinted here with permission.
Top photo: Facebook/Donald Trump
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Greg Olear is the founding editor of The Weeklings and the author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker, an LA Times bestseller.