Thursday, January 19, 2017

Denial is not a river, it is "Not My President", and we could do better

Inauguration day is tomorrow. Tomorrow we will have a new president and I care, but since I don't wield much power, I don't really care that much. What's done is done, so I'm thinking about my family, my day job, my life. I don't have any plans to watch the inauguration, but I know it will happen. At the same time, I see millions of people are chanting, writing, sharing, protesting, that Trump is “not my president” as if somehow they can click their heels three times and find themselves back in Kansas again. This is denial. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a Trump supporter, I'm a Trump observer. I see the clown car he's drawing from for his cabinet. All his nominees seem to want to dismantle the agencies they claim to want to run. Most seem intent on running the government like a business, like it's their own private monopoly. Will they sell more than just government services? Will they sell access?

Denying that Trump is president has about as much effect as denying that Bush was president, or that Obama was president just yesterday. Saying that Trump is not my president has nearly zero effect on the reality of what is before us now. Denial of Trump as president arises from resentment. Resentment is like drinking poison while waiting for the other person to die.

I have made a point of being respectful of Trump, regardless of how bad people make him out to be. He still lives in this country and he has said he wants to make America a better place to be. I believe that Trump, like most people, wants to know he did the right thing when he goes to bed at night. I will assume ignorance before malice with Trump as I do with everyone else. I assume that people would do better if they could, but for lack of skills to do better.

Whether or not I agree with Trump on how to run government is almost immaterial here. I have near zero influence on Trump. To quantify that influence in scientific terms, I probably have 10 or maybe 20 ergs of influence on Trump. An erg is a tiny unit of measured force. I use this concept to lend some perspective, because although my influence on Trump is small, collectively, our influence can be large, if we choose to unite against the policies that he wishes to implement, should we disagree with them. I hold out hope that he might do something I can find agreement with.

Notice that I said that we should unite against the policies he wishes to implement if we find that we disagree with them, not Trump the person. I happen to like his ideas on NAFTA and other bad trade deals. So to me, uniting against Trump doesn't make sense. He has the power and the office. Why make him an adversary? Trump likes to make deals. So let's see if we can deal with him. We get to choose if we want him to be an adversary or not.

I once saw a poll that said that 25% of federal workers would quit if Trump became president. If only economic mobility were so good. I can hear how their next interview for their next job would go:

"So, why did you quit your last job?"

"Trump."

They better hope that their next employer and interviewer is not a Trump supporter.

I hope that zero federal employees quit when Trump becomes president. If you truly believe you are doing good service for the country as a public employee, quitting your job over Trump is the worst thing you can do. Once removed, you have also relinquished your influence. If you're going to leave, let yourself be fired while doing the best job you can do, and wear that as a badge of honor. 

If federal employees who oppose Trump stay, they can actually do something that most of us cannot. They can have visible and measurable influence on Trump. I will never forget what I once heard about William E. Simon, former Secretary of the Treasury under Jimmy Carter. He wanted to change things at the Treasury. He wanted to make it run better than it was being handled. But he had to fight people with decades of bureaucratic experience. He had to fight people who knew how to slow things down. He had to fight people who knew how to file the right paperwork to screw everything up so, so completely.

I say that for better or worse, Trump is my president. This isn't to say that I support him. It is to say that I acknowledge the reality of Trump as president and that I'm willing to work with it. Denying reality requires enormous sums of energy. Denying reality takes energy away from what we could do and applies it to what we choose not to do.

This is not the time for denial. If you're a Clinton Democrat, get off the pity-potty and and stop criticizing Bernie Sanders. Don't believe the lies about Sanders. Watch the confirmation hearings and see how Sanders is fighting for you. Do you ever hear him saying that Trump is not his president? I don't. 

I watched the exchange of Sanders and Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education. Sanders is doing what I would expect of any man who keeps his job in government. Sanders did not quit his job because Trump is going to be president. He kept his job so that he could keep the issues important to us in the bright lights. He wants to show us how appointment nominees may be subject to the influence of money in politics. He is pointing out that those in appointed office could start a sideline: selling access. Sanders knows that by keeping his job, he retains influence.

We have no control over how this is going to go. The best we can ever hope for is to have influence over the decisions that government makes. Denying the reality of Trump as president makes no use of that influence. Denying Trump is our president denies that we have any influence over him at all.
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