This may well be the beginning of the end: the early moments of a historical pivot point, when the slide of the republic into something untoward and unrecognizable still feels like a small collection of poor judgments and reversible decisions, rather than the forward edge of an enormous menace inching its way forward and grinding up that which we held dear and foolishly thought, as lovers do, would ever endure.
So many of President-elect Donald Trump’s decisions herald a tomorrow that is bleak for anyone who held hope that he could be a different, better man than the one who campaigned — I was not among that cohort — or those who simply assumed that the gravity of the office he is to assume would ground him.
Hard-line Trumpism isn’t softening; it’s being cemented.
Increasingly, as he picks his Cabinet from among his fawning loyalists, it is becoming clear that by “Make America Great Again,” he actually meant some version of “Make America a White, Racist, Misogynistic Patriarchy Again.” It would be hard to send a clearer message to women and minorities that this administration will be hostile to their interests than the Cabinet he is assembling.
He has promoted Stephen Bannon, an alt-right, white nationalist cheerleader and sympathizer, to chief White House strategist.
Sen. Bernie Sanders responded to the Bannon announcement with a blistering statement: “The appointment by President-elect Trump of a racist individual like Mr. Bannon to a position of authority is totally unacceptable. In a democratic society we can disagree all we want over issues, but racism and bigotry cannot be part of any public policy. The appointment of Mr. Bannon by Mr. Trump must be rescinded.”
But of course, Trump had no intention of rescinding the appointment. Indeed, he had more controversial appointments to come.
He has chosen the extreme anti-Islam hyperbolist Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — who also happens to be a stop-and-frisk apologist and has tweeted that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” — as his national security adviser.
As The New York Times reported Thursday: “General Flynn, for instance, has said that Shariah, or Islamic law, is spreading in the United States. (It is not.) His dubious assertions are so common that when he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency, subordinates came up with a name for the phenomenon: They called them ‘Flynn facts.’”
In October, Flynn tweeted: “Follow Mike @Cernovich He has a terrific book, Gorilla Mindset. Well worth the read. @realDonaldTrump will win on 8 NOV!!!”
The New Yorker dubbed Mike Cernovich “the meme mastermind of the alt-right” in a lengthy profile.
The magazine pointed out: “On his blog, Cernovich developed a theory of white-male identity politics: men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.”
Then there was the choice of Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. In 1986, Sessions famously became only the second nominee in 48 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee, due to racist comments and behavior.
When confronted by the committee about remarks he was accused of making about the NAACP and the ACLU, Sessions responded: “I’m often loose with my tongue. I may have said something about the NAACP being un-American or Communist, but I meant no harm by it.”
But not all of Sessions’ issues regarding minorities have a 30-year vintage.
In response to the attorney general announcement, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement that read in part: “But we cannot support his nomination to be the country’s next attorney general. Senator Sessions not only has been a leading opponent of sensible, comprehensive immigration reform, he has associated with anti-immigrant groups we consider to be deeply racist, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Security Policy.”
Indeed, FAIR was quick to congratulate Sessions on his nomination Friday, saying in a statement: “It’s hard to imagine a better pick for the attorney general position than Senator Jeff Sessions”; the group called on Sessions to rid the country of sanctuary cities.
The SPLC has written about FAIR, saying: “FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country.”
Trump is making a statement that it would behoove America to heed: The America he envisions, and is now actively constructing from his perch of power, is not an inclusive America. It is a society driven by a racial Owellianism that seeks to defend, elevate and enshrine the primacy of white men and is hostile to all “others.”
That orange glow emanating from the man is the sun setting on America’s progress, however slow and halting, on race and gender inclusion and equity.
Blow is a New York Times columnist.