"There is no working with a president who will bring forth programs based on bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia."
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders
This was not a normal presidential election.
Traditionally, we give the winner a chance to show what he (sadly, it's only been a he) does in office before we panic. We have, of course, elected bad presidents before, and ones with policy agendas clearly designed to help the rich and screw the poor.
We endured George W. Bush, who took us into the wrong war with the wrong country for a bullshit reason.
But we've never had anyone like Donald Trump, a narcissistic, pathological liar who knows nothing about politics or government, and couldn't care less. As a longtime student of history, and the presidency, I can say we have never had a more disgraceful or dangerous man in office, and we should be scared to death.
Want to know what he is really like? Every thinking person in this nation should read David Cay Johnston's book The Making of Donald Trump, which was published last summer.
Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has covered Trump for 30 years. This book makes it perfectly clear however bad you thought Trump was, he is worse.
The author is certainly no Hillary Clinton partisan; he has been motivated throughout his career by a passion to uncover hidden truths — and by a growing, decadeslong concern about the growing inequality in this nation. He is also concerned about character.
"Action is character," Johnston concludes after 280 pages of meticulously documented accounts of some of the most astonishingly greedy, self-serving, and bizarre behavior by anyone in politics ...
Let alone a man who is now president-elect of the United States. Make no mistake about it: If you love this country in any fashion, once you read this book and realize this creature is about to sit where Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt sat, your reaction is bound to be swift:
You will want to vomit.
Character, Johnston notes at the end, "is why I focused on Donald Trump's obsession with money and the trappings of wealth ... That is also why so much of this book is about Trump's many complex and little-known relationships with criminals — a vast assortment of con artists, swindlers, mobsters and mob associates, a major drug trafficker he went to bat for, and other unsavory characters."
As these pages make clear, he adds, "Trump's relationships with criminals were often profitable, sometimes gratuitous, and never properly investigated by those whose duty was to investigate."
Sometimes, that clearly was because they were being paid off with barely disguised "campaign contributions."
When it comes to Trump the human being, all you need to know is this: His father Fred Trump, who died in 1999, left very little money to the wife and children of Donald's oldest brother, Fred Jr., an airline pilot who had died of alcoholism years before.
The elder Trump's estate did provide medical benefits to an infant great-grandson who was born in terrible shape, with seizures.
Fred Jr.'s widow suspected the old man, who had Alzheimer's, had been manipulated into cutting her family out of the will, and filed a lawsuit. "Donald Trump's reaction was swift and vengeful," Johnston reported. He immediately ordered all medical benefits for the baby would cease within a month, "a potential death sentence."
Fortunately, this was overruled by a judge. But consider:
This is the man who is about to become our president.
Apart from his personal behavior, I honestly thought Trump's picks for Cabinet and other top appointments might not all be terrible.
There's much evidence indicating Trump has no real ideology, that much of what he says is largely bullshit designed to stir up the boobs. He was a supporter of liberal causes well into the 1990s.
Yet the people he has placed in key positions have generally been the worst of the worst. Consider his nomination of Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA. Pruitt hates the EPA.
He's spent much of his time in office fighting its efforts to stop pollution and protect our drinking water. "Pruitt will be a CATASTROPHE for the planet," the League of Conservation Voters said in a press release moments after the pick became public.
Trump has been surrounding himself with a scary assortment of right-wing, hard-line military types for security positions — retired Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis for secretary of defense; retired Gen. John Kelly for homeland security.
Evidently the Donald didn't get the memo about civilian control of the military. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, known for his hostility to immigrants, will be attorney general; Tom Price, a congressman known for his near-fanatic opposition to the Affordable Care Act, will be in charge of health and human services...
And then there is Betsy DeVos, who is in a league of her own as secretary of education. She is, of course, the wife of an Amway billionaire, and has spent her entire life as a foe of public education.
DeVos has never taught, attended, or sent her children to public schools, and she is sometimes attacked as knowing nothing about education. That's not strictly true; she knows how to destroy it, and has worked hard to do so in Detroit.
Her misnamed Great Lakes Education Project used her money to successfully lobby the legislature to not give Mayor Mike Duggan, or anyone else, the ability to regulate where new charter schools could open up in Detroit. That has helped guarantee that the worst areas will be badly underserved, and that the newly renamed Detroit Public Schools Community District is guaranteed to eventually fail.
Which is what she and all the for-profit charter operators want. We are heading into four very bad years for this nation, and we must all be prepared to fight these people as hard as we can.
That is, if we are to have any democracy left to save.
Trump's 'mandate' revealed
Two weeks ago I mentioned in this column that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by more than 1 million. Since then, the margin has ballooned to nearly three times that: Hillary Clinton 65,525,364; Trump 62,850,329.
Incredibly, that's not yet the final figure; more than a month after the election, some states were still counting absentee ballots, and in nearly every case, her margin is growing.
The American people, in other words, didn't give their modern-day P.T. Barnum a mandate to radically change our nation. He got just about the same amount of the vote — 46.2 percent — that the hapless Mike Dukakis did back in 1988. But Trump came up with a lucky trifecta win and took Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan by very small margins — and so got a majority in the Electoral College.
That's the way our flawed system works, and someone needs to lead a major effort to repeal it, But in the meantime, don't forget that the American people do not want Donald Trump to be president.
Want proof? Almost 54 percent of those who went to the polls on Nov. 8 voted for someone else. (Hundreds of thousands of other voters didn't vote for any candidate for president at all.)
Nearly 3 million more people wanted Clinton to be president than wanted Trump. He shouldn't be anywhere near power. Yet he managed to game the system, win those three states by a combined total of only 76,000 votes, and so claim the presidency.
Verily, we know not what we've done.
But we're about to find out.