Sunday, December 11, 2016


By Dominique Paul Noth

Who is this man and what can he teach us
about dealing with the Donald?
Let’s not pretend the legal majority of American voters are happy about what the minority of American voters have foisted upon them. 

It’s not just Hillary Clinton voters – 2.8 million more than her opponent, easily matching the 2% national edge suggested earlier in national polls. With every expansion of his cabinet of Caligulas, with threats to core expectations about old age security, the environment, health care and public education, the unhappiness is now spreading among the free riders -- the 42% of eligible citizens who did not exercise their right to vote. I don’t have to call  out “shame on them” because events are doing just that.

The dilemma is, how in the US do any of us proceed? Many are simply not ready for the collegiality, respect of the Constitution and reliance on giving the new president a chance embodied by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. 

For those leaning that way, Trump stepped on them with his rambling obfuscations.

From his New York Tower he is hurling  cross-punches of cabinet choices and rally revels (denying these are plutocrat picks to the crowds, ignoring the crassness with which he fakes one way then lands on an extremist in the end).

The comically prescient Aptil 27 cartoon from the New Yorker
 and a profile of the author behind it
It will take the public weeks to figure out how to react. Those unhappy with this issue or that appointee, even those trying to read intentions into so manic a presidential manner – handshake by day, tweeting storm at night --   are bollixed about how to object or how to fight. It’s like facing the revolving head vomit in “The Exorcist.”

To the constant cries of “You lost, we won, get over it,” most of the country seems not getting over it and not about to, sour grapes aside. They lump the folks who are happy about this state of affairs with degenerates from the 19th century who can’t face up to a modern multicultural America.

The “get over it” trolls don’t yet grasp the fear and dismay because many live in a fantasy world where it’s okay for Trump not to release his taxes or falsely claim three million noncitizens voted against him. Stuck in irrationality, they may never understand. 

Now comes the likelihood that Russia was committing cyberwar to assure Trump’s success and even holding back on what it knew about the Republicans.  That’s deeply  disturbing even without knowing if the efforts were decisive.  It’s even more disturbing that Trump and his trollops deny it happened. Recent polls do indicate some 60% of those who voted for Trump believe the exact opposite of the facts about unemployment, the economy, foreign interference and much more.

How do you fight a shape shifter? Some feel overwhelmed,  as if America was under constant barrage.  Many  don’t have the courage to go to the mattresses in a street war – Trump after all is not yet the Mafia. Some can’t find a good system to respond and others feel  torn between the respect for peaceful transition demonstrated by Obama and their anger that the very strengths of America (openness, belief in an exchange of ideas, trust among opposite parties) have been used to shatter our expectations. It’s no longer about a Clinton robbed of victory, but belief that Trump succeeded in large part by appealing to our most ignorant and most fallen angels. 

And yet, you have to concede that some people had legitimate reasons to oppose Clinton and an understandable longing to wipe away the smug grins on the left.  You have to acknowledge that genuine appeal for  change played a role even while fearing that dupes and dumbness are the  real victors. How do you balance all that and keep a fire for survival alive in your bosom – for four frightening years? Is constant rebellion wise or productive?

We’re already seeing the fallout of internal conflict among Trump opponents, including Republicans. Some 20 groups are organizing protest marches around Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration in D.C., a big march of women for the day after. Currently clearance for their licenses to protest are hung up awaiting Trump’s inaugural committee to release details of how they will create a “fabulous” show though so many  name performers are refusing to participate.

(First small irony, the performers who won’t cooperate with Trump are slowing the process for the millions who also want to signal defiance.)

Yet that’s not the big news. It’s how many people who dislike Trump say these rallies and the online petitions  are a waste of time. You’ve surely heard that doubt or seen that shrug about efforts to return the Electoral College slates to their original purpose (a corrective when the voters lose their way) and about efforts to make the winner of the popular vote the president, like all the other civilized democracies  do. It is, after all,  the second time in 16 years the popular vote has been ignored and this one is the biggest, clearest margin in history where the will of the people has been abandoned.

But even serious haters of Trump are asking “what’s the point?” These protests are simply gnats of annoyance not focused on specifics, they say. Remember how even recent mass protests focused on a specific  – millions who marched against the war with Iraq and are only now acknowledged to have been correct  – were dismissed by the media and the public in Bush’s era, demonstrating to many cynics how sophistication and hesitation about methods prevent enduring impact in the media or among the targets. 

Well,  let’s explore that. There was an interesting moment recently when Rep. John Lewis’ third memoir won the National Book Award – the first time a graphic novel broke through to the top.

John Lewis before protests succeeded
The awards banquet chose to honor this civil rights icon by resurrecting his long lost mug shots from three arrests in the early 1960s when his efforts were being laughed at  or beaten away. There, looking for all the world like the people arrested today for Black Lives Matter and other grassroots protests, was proof how police and courts regarded him time and again as a criminal -- for peaceful protests against bad laws that have now all been changed (and that many fear Trump will change back again).

Look at those mug shots. Badges of honor.

Another set of Lewis police profiles.
Lewis admitted they brought him to tears at the memories, including how as a youth he had learned about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  from a 16 page comic book, part of the inspiration to tell his own story with drawings and text.  How often he had tried and failed in civil rights protests, even being beaten bloody at Selma. How immense his triumph of peaceful disobedience.

John Lewis today
Recalling how in the South his parents “told me not to get in the way, not to get in trouble,”  he didn’t listen then and  won’t now,  urging people to get into “good trouble” even hard trouble:

“If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.” 

Many citizens have an ill-defined moral objection to Donald Trump. It’s like what a noted Republican  justice said about  pornography. You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.

But now it can’t be about a phantom menace Trump. It has to be a more watchful vigilance and an intelligent reaction rather than just general distress.  His methods look horrible and actually a reversal of what he promised crowds during the election but actually he’s done nothing but threaten. It’s which Trump emerges from the White House and what fights selectively can be raised against his largely objectionable team of advisers (assuming he will ever listen to any of them).

The issue was framed in a New York Times opinion piece:  “Those who can will need to speak out boldly and suffer possible retaliation.” 

Yet marches around his January 20 inaugural  are being waved off by some progressives as simply a satisfying  blowing off of steam. I don’t agree, because there can be messages in millions, particularly if the pool of motivated then divides up to face particular threats to their core beliefs.  Trump may try but can’t dismiss the millions who assemble in general alarm and then  unify around specific dragons. 

The lessons of John Lewis suggest there is a moral power that can resonate even into the gold-leaf chambers of Trump Tower.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

1 comment:

  1. I finally found the time to read this article. Yet another well written, well thought out piece. Educational as always.