Post Election Blues? Could Art Be An Answer?

Okay, I admit, I am obsessed by the current political situation as, I imagine, many of you are. Some friends have expressed concern that I am taking the election results way too seriously. Just because Trump has chosen a Neo Nazi sympathizer as his chief strategist, a racist (or at least strongly anti civil rights)  as his attorney general, an Islam hater as his national security adviser, a fanatical doctor, obsessed with killing Obama Care, to head up Health and Human Services, and a climate change denier as the head of EPA does not necessarily mean that terrible things are going to happen. Look on the bright side. Chill out, as they say.

Good advice. On Saturday of last week when in NYC—where we attended the infamous, imaginary Trump press conference—we decided we did need a break; so Embry and I went to the Museum of Modern Art, with children and grandchildren in tow, before boarding our bus home. Think about it: The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA as it is called by New Yorkers, is the greatest contemporary art museum in the world. You can imagine our excitement. At last a breather from the dismal headlines and ominous signals coming from Trump Tower.

The museum was packed as you might expect on Thanksgiving weekend. Due to the large crowds we decided to visit Floor 4 after breezing through the museum’s main, permanent collection on Floor 5,which was jammed , and where you find all the famous Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and abstract painters.

We had never been to Floor 4, which this day was devoted exclusively to the 1960s, the decade when we came of age, the decade of civil rights, and the Peace Movement. What would we find that would give us a better perspective on what is going on now in our country, which would provide a lift, hope, and a chance to recharge our worn out batteries?

The first work of art was a pile of sand by the entry door that partly resembled a sand dune. Who would ever have thought to create such a thing? Interesting, I thought. Then there were the glass wastebaskets, maybe about 15, all clustered together. We could not get too close to see if they contained trash because so many people were gaping. Near it were three clusters of building blocks like you find at a day care center. Across from it was an old sports car and to the side in the hallway a real helicopter hanging from the ceiling. Then a Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe–at last something we recognized– and in the next room three, large, white, blank canvasses in a row. In the room after that was another blank canvass. Then a large sculpture consisting of a mound of white male body parts made out of alabaster (I think) and in another room a large mat on the floor with metal pipes and construction equipment scattered all around it. The room next to it contained bright red, yellow and blue plastic chairs and tables, which could have fitted in nicely at any McDonald’s play station. The exhibit was crowded with people mulling around, some appearing puzzled. I asked Embry where the fake dog poop in the corner might be, and she insisted it was in another modern art museum we went to once, maybe the one in Chicago.

There were a few highlights—a few photos by Cartier-Bresson, my idol, and Gordon Parks and some others, but I could not help asking myself, what am I missing here. What happened in the 1960s that produced this outrageous stuff that has found its way into the greatest modern art museum in the world? Who convinced the curators that these objects belong here, only a floor below Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin, Calder, and Van Gogh?

Mercifully on this day there was no exhibit at MoMA on any decade beyond the 1960s. God only knows what those galleries would have had in store for us. There is great art being produced in the United States like that of Mike Martin, my brother-in-law, who has been unable to get the attention of any art gallery or museum. I also think of my friend, Dickson Carroll. His sculptures surely belong in MoMA. Bill Christenberry, another artist friend, who just passed away at age 80, has gotten his share of recognition; but his art is not in MoMA. Great contemporary art exists, but most of it has not made it to MoMA or, for that matter, to other museums of modern art. I know, anyone who is an expert in such things will label me a hopeless Philistine, who does not have a clue, and they may be right though it is a remote possibility that the emperor has no clothes.

So much for art as an answer for the Trump blues. I guess I have to admit that it depends on what art you are talking about. Sadly art on Floor 3 of MoMA is no cure. On the other hand perhaps it provides some clues as to why we elected Trump in the first place.


Thanksgiving Weekend Fantasy Tale: Trump’s First Post Election Press Conference

You may not have seen or heard about this because no major news organizations, except the newly established Trump News, were invited to Trump’s first press conference, which was held in the lobby of Trump Tower appropriately on Black Friday. Embry and I were in New York City on that day and happened to be walking by, saw the vast crowds and police, and after passing the multiple vendors selling Make America Great hats, Trump jewelry, Trump cosmetics and Trump campaign memorabilia, managed to squeeze our way close enough to hear what he was saying. I had my handy recording device and captured every word. Here is the transcript verbatim:

Trump: I am having my first post election press conference as President-Elect because I just learned of the recount being conducted in Wisconsin. This is a dumb and stupid idea, which is a waste of money and will prove nothing. I won by a landslide. This is a mandate. Unprecedented. I will be the new president. Period. Plus I have Vladi’s—that is what Putin told me to call him this morning when we had our regular check in—Vladi’s word that Russia had nothing to do with any hacking of election machines or for that matter with hacking and leaking any emails. It is just a feeble excuse by sore losers. Get over it Democrats. I won. Suck it up and move on. Now first question:

Mr. President-Elect , Mr. President-Elect, …[shouts from the audience]

Trump: All right third row, John, from The Tribune-Phonograph, Abbotsford, Wisconsin.

John from the Tribune-Phonograph: What will be your first action the day after you are sworn in?

Trump: Naturally to repeal Obama Care and replace it with Trump Care. Ivanka and Jared are finishing up the planning as I speak. It will involve using reverse engineered savings accounts and introducing more players into the insurance business including Trump Health Inc., which was formed two days ago and is now available for investment opportunities. Donald Junior will head this up. The company will be big, really big and will totally and completely change health care delivery and insurance as we know it. Great investment opportunity. Really great! Next question. Sarah from the Baraboo News Republic, Baraboo, Wisconsin, in the back.

Sarah from The Baraboo New Republic: Sir, what about the wall?

Trump: Going up Day Two. I have already formed two companies to get this done quickly and cheaply. Everybody knows the government is inept so I had no choice. Trump Rock Inc. will provide the concrete and barbed wire and Trump Works Inc. will construct the wall. Half the people you saw entering Trump Tower this week were interviewing for these positions, not for some lousy government job. Trump Wall will happen fast, and it will be big and beautiful. People will love it who live on both sides of it. Freddy, from the Kenosha News, Kenosha, Wisconsin, front row on the left, you are next. What is your question?

Freddy from Kenosha News: What about massive deportations?

Trump. Going to happen soon but same problem as with the Wall. Government can’t do it. Too incompetent. My children, Tiffany and Eric, are working on this. Trump Deport Security Inc. will sniff ‘em out, handcuff ‘em, and Trump Wheels will take them to Trump Hostelries, which will be like mini hotels with bars on the windows and without the amenities of a Trump hotel, of course. They won’t want to leave, it will be so nice, so you bleeding heart Democrats don’t have to shed any tears over these no good illegals, who don’t belong here, and who will be thrown out of the country. Probably flown out on Trump Airlines, which I am now reviving. Melania will run this. My son, Barron, will be vice president when he turns twelve. Great airline by the way! George, in the back, from Adrian, Michigan, The Michigan Christian Advocate.

George from the Michigan Christian Advocate: What will you do for the working class, which was the key to your getting elected?

Trump: Everything. I am going to cut taxes across the board. Of course, the major cuts go to the Winners, not the Losers. That is the way it should be. But the Winners will spend money, and create jobs for my supporters, who I am sorry to say and I really mean this when I say I am sorry–are Losers. Plus I have plans for a whole bunch of new golf courses, and do you have any idea how much caddies get from tips at my exclusive golf courses and resorts? A lot more than you journalists make, that is for sure. Horace, from The Record Herald, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania on the right near the aisle.

Horace from the Record Herald: What about the Paris climate change deal?

Trump: I did say the other day that I would give that a second look and I will. In fact I have decided to set up Trump Labs Inc., which will do the research and render a non biased opinion. The government , of course, will pay for the research. If Trump Labs Inc. says climate change is happening, I may decide to stay in the deal, but I will renegotiate it so we get a sweeter deal and everyone else pretty much gets screwed– which means that the Chinese will end up footing the bill. You are next–Sammy from the Battle Creek Enquirer, Battle Creek, Michigan, front row.

Sammy from The Battle Creek Enquirer : What about the Chinese? Are you really going to put in tariffs?

Trump: Damn right I will. I will show ‘em. What is the guy’s name who heads up that country? Can’t remember right now and even if I could I couldn’t pronounce it, but he will find out real fast who I am and what it means to be a winner.

Sammy: And if they try to retaliate by putting tariffs on our exports?

Trump. Well, I don’t know about you, Sammy, but that sounds like an act of war to me. George, from The Herald-Standard, Union Town, Pennsylvania, you get the last question.

George from the Herald-Standard: Do you think that Russia will go along with all that you want to do?

Trump: Well, Vladi and I talk almost every day, and he is pretty much on board. We understand each other, two of a kind so to speak, both winners with shared mutual interests. Besides, he is one of my main investors and has as much to lose as I do. And we have plans for new Trump hotels to go up in cities all over Russia. Great investment opportunities.

Mr. President–Elect! Mr. President-Elect! [shouts from the crowd]

Trump: Okay one final question. Roger from Trump News.

Roger from Trump News: Do you have any regrets so far?

Trump: My only regret is how hard it is to fill all these important positions. And once I do that, then I have to start on the Cabinet appointments and other government jobs. That could take forever.

So that there  is no mistake, please note that the above event is a figment of my imagination and did not happen BUT IT COULD HAVE!

Dear white working class friend and Trump supporter,

I get the message. You voted for Obama twice. In fact, you do not recall ever voting for a Republican before, but these times are different. You voted for Trump. You sent a message: You are fed up.

There are a whole bunch of reasons why Hillary lost the electoral college vote, but surely none is more important than you and others like you crossing over the line to vote for Trump. You voted for him, not because Trump is a Republican but because he is an outsider, someone who is new to politics, who is not beholden to the elite who control both parties, who seems to understand your predicament, who “tells it like it is,” and who will shake up Washington.

You are right. We Progressives have let you down. Under our watch despite gains in a number of areas, over the past eight years, your life has not gotten better. Your job is shaky. Many of your friends have lost theirs, and your income has stagnated. You no longer have a old fashioned pension and have borrowed against your 401K to help get your kids through school. The thought of maintaining even a modest standard of living after retiring is quickly vanishing. One kid has graduated from college and the other from a community college, but they have taken on debt and are having trouble finding openings for career jobs. You are watching them struggle as they marry, have kids and can’t afford decent child care or even a nice house. You do not have enough money for you and your wife to go out more than one night a week to a chain restaurant and an occasional movie; and vacation travel is out of the question. You have health care at work, but many of your friends and relatives don’t; and those who signed up for Obama Care are watching their premiums sky rocket. Then there is the opioid epidemic. The list goes on.

You look at Progressives like me and conclude—justifiably in many ways—that we just do not get it. We talk about equality and diversity; but when it comes to helping the backbone of America, you argue that the folks like you who really were responsible for making America great in the first place, the white working class, have been left hanging out on the line to dry. We Democrats have taken you for granted and given you very little in return. You are mad as hell, and it does not mean that you are a racist or a sexist or intolerant of Muslims and immigrants.

You don’t ask for much—just to have a decent life with some security and reason to believe that the future will be better for your children and grandchildren. You do not think that has happened during the last eight years ( and before that too), and you have had enough: you voted for the long shot. What did you have to lose?

Were I in your shoes I would probably have done the same thing. But here is the problem: you have been duped. Trump is a sham, who has never given a twit about the working class or for that matter about anyone else except himself and his immediate family. He is a fraud. But let’s leave aside his personality and past history of exploiting workers and contractors. Let’s look at what he says he is going to do and then what he actually does do and its impact on you and your family.

The first thing he is likely to do (with help from his Republican Congress) is drastically cut taxes for the rich. Yes, there will be some across-the-board cuts and crumbs for those toward the bottom, but the bulk of the cuts will go to the rich. We have seen this movie before. Trickle down economics does not benefit working people like you. That is why the trickle down policies in the past–championed by Republicans by the way, not Democrats—are in part responsible for the disparities in income we see today. And if he does get a big tax cut through Congress, it will create huge deficits and dampen chances for job creation, paid family leave, infrastructure development and other things he has talked about.

His argument is that tax cuts and deregulation will stimulate the economy and create jobs. But will the jobs be in the U.S. and will they be the kind of jobs that will benefit you and your family? More jobs have been lost due to technology than off-shoring. Most economists agree that the job train that we used to know has done left the station and will never return.

The question of jobs coming back to the U.S from around the world is important because another item high on Trump’s list is to sharply reduce Chinese and Mexican imports. Trump will impose tariffs of up to 45% on goods shipped to the U.S. from these countries. You don’t have to be an economist to figure this one out. The goods you buy at Walmart and Dollar General will cost more. Plus, do you think the Chinese—which have a whole bunch of problems themselves—will roll over on this? They will impose tariffs on our products. The main problem with tariffs is that a   lot of economists believe they are likely to start a trade war, which could cause a global recession. It would not be a pretty picture for you and your family.

I know that you probably think that free trade has been a disaster. You are wrong. It is responsible for most of the extraordinary gains in incomes and living standards around the world. But you are also right. There are winners and losers in international trade; and many working people –especially in Mid Western industrial states—have gotten the short end of the stick. People like Bernie Sanders think we should have done a much better job. This is another way we Progressives have let you down. We have not been able to protect many American jobs or provide the retooling for the new global economy that is necessary to get you in the right job.

(For the record, Trump is also strongly against having any minimum wage at all, let alone establishing a national living wage minimum. There is a long list which if you look at it carefully, you will come away wondering what is in it for you. The answer: very little.)

But what about infrastructure? Trump has said he wants to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure. That should create jobs. Spending money on roads, mass transit and bridges was a big part of Hillary’s platform as well. This could be one item on Trump’s otherwise worker-hostile agenda that Progressives could support if handled properly so that the money goes to job creators and workers, not tax breaks for wealthy investors as appears to be the case now. So it could be a start and a silver lining in what otherwise is a dark cloud with few benefits for you and your family. This is something to pull for.

And what about Obama Care? According to Trump, this will also be among the first to go. We are talking about 20 million people who for the first time have affordable health insurance. Many are working class families. Yes, premiums are going up, but 85% of the people using Obama Care receive government subsidies. What will replace it? We have no idea.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But the facts are what they are. Who knows? It is theoretically possible that Trump could move toward a more worker-friendly agenda, but there is no sign of it happening yet.

So what are you to do? First, listen to what Trump says and figure out how it will affect you and your family. Second, watch very closely what he and the Republican-controlled Congress actually do. If they pursue the bait-and-switch scam which now appears to be unfolding, you have friends who want you back in the Democratic fold. We are going to fight Trump, and we need your help. I know, we have let you down in the past—not, I might add, because we wanted to but because we were not able to get progressive laws passed in a Republican-controlled Congress. But I also know you are not looking for excuses. You are looking for answers. The answers are that we need a progressive agenda which supports job growth, provides for job retraining, affordable child care and affordable public college, higher taxes on the rich to pay for it, universal health care, and a minimum living wage.

Watch what he does. If Trump does not deliver, we want you back. Together we shall overcome.

Your friend,



Dear Republican Friend

Admittedly I don’t have a huge number of Republican friends, but I have some. If you are one, this is what I have to say: You are a good person. My hunch is that you probably did not vote for Trump but for a third party candidate. Much of what he said and his personality was as disturbing to you as it was to me and most Democrats and many Independents. But now that he is president-elect, you are having second thoughts. After all, he was elected fairly even though he did not win the popular vote. Besides he could move more to the center. He could soften his position on immigration and on free trade. He could move toward the Republican ideals of smaller government, reduced spending and balanced budgets. Let’s give him a chance. Paul Ryan is supporting him and Lindsay Graham is mellowing a bit as well. You think that he might actually be ok.

Not so fast. All indications as judged by his early appointments show he is moving in the direction of what I call the Dark Side. Think again about what he said he was going to do during the campaign and what it appears he actually will try to do and ask yourself, is this the kind of person who represents my values and is this the kind of country I want to live in.

This is what he has told us he is going to do:

  1. Build a wall, which few experts think makes any sense.
  2. Deport at least six million undocumented immigrants, many of them who have lived here for years and many who are allowed to work because they came here as children and are part of the American Dream Act.
  3. Curtail open trade by imposing 35-45% tariffs on Mexican and Chinese imports, which would result in higher prices and probably cause a global recession.
  4. Appoint a climate change denier as head of the EPA, get out of the Paris climate accord, kill all of Obama’s environmental initiatives and drastically shrink the EPA.
  5. Get out of the Iran nuclear deal.
  6. Put through massive tax cuts for the rich with no off setting budget cuts. 
  7. Ignore the need for deficit neutral budgets and entitlement reform.
  8. Build massive infrastructure projects, with no dollars to pay for them.
  9. Cozy up with Putin and pull back from NATO.
  10. Put a ban on Muslims entering the country and institute surveillance at mosques.

My question to you is this: which of these initiatives (and many others) do you agree with. How do they square with your traditional Republican values of small government and responsible spending? How do they gibe with your human values of kindness and mercy and fairness? My hope is that you support few if any of these initiatives. Trump is not a Republican. He is a populist with the temperament of a strongman, who if he gets his way would move the country in a very dangerous direction.

So what should you do? You should not support these un-Republican initiatives and let your elected officials know this. Republicans now hold the majorities in both the House and the Senate and will continue to do so. Republicans are the first line of defense. Responsible Republicans should put the brakes on Trump’s actions which could lead to disaster. Democrats will join the fight. If Trump does in fact move forward on his Dark Agenda, the country and the planet Earth are in deep trouble. What will you tell your grandchildren you did to keep the worst from happening? Never have the stakes been higher.


Joe Howell

Early Warning Signs 2

I want to give Donald Trump the benefit of a doubt. I want to believe that most of the wild and reckless things he said were intended to capture the alienated, blue collar vote, which he did. I want to believe that now that he has the prize he will try to be a good president and represent all the people, not just his angry base. He will back away from most of the outlandish things he said—building the wall, massive deportations, huge tax breaks for the rich, climate change denials, trade restrictions with Mexico and China (probably leading to trade wars), curtailing freedom of the press, bringing torture back, outlawing the right to choose, abandoning NATO, encouraging nuclear proliferation, and many others. Surely he will have to do some of these things to please his supporters, but he will move more moderately and try to reach out to Democrats to find some areas of common ground. The remarks he made following his victory were a sign of hope. After all, his election is hardly a mandate since most of the battleground states were very close, and he did not win the popular vote.

The alternative to a moderate, balanced approach is in my view disaster for the country and for our small, blue planet.

We will know what we are in for very soon. It will depend on whom he appoints and whom he chooses as his closetest advisors. So far we have mixed signals. Appointing Priebus as chief of staff sends a signal of a more moderate approach along the lines of what you would expect from a traditional Republican—not to my liking but not doomsday. Stephen K Brannon is doomsday. He is the champion of the Alt-Right. His message is one of hate, dividing the country and promoting right wing extremists. I do not see how these two can work together for very long. Whom will Trump listen to? Who will win out?

The other early warning sign is immigration. Yesterday on “Sixty Minutes” Trump boasted that he would move forward with a wall/fence and deport between two and three million illegal immigrants “immediately.” How this delicate issue is handled could be the whole ballgame. If he sticks to his pledge to focus on the “bad hombres” –mainly immigrants with violent, antisocial police records, this is probably something the country can handle. This is really no different from what Obama has been doing. Very few experts, however, believe that there are anywhere near three million, violent felons who are undocumented living in the U.S.

If he expands the target population to deport the American Dreamers, who have been granted work permits by Obama, we are talking pain and suffering to the extreme. There are over 750,000 of these people, who came here as children and have made lives for themselves. Many are now married and have families. Perhaps as many as two million people would be affected when taking into account spouses and children. I know some of these folks. They love America. They are making a contribution. They are hard working. They are wonderful people. Our businesses depend on them. To start to round them up and deport them would put us on a path not that dissimilar to the path Hitler took Germany in the 1930s. Sure, some will say this is a gross exaggeration and certainly there are some big differences. But think about the damage that this would do to people who are, yes, innocent. Most came here as children with their parents. And similar damage would be done to others who overstayed visas or took extraordinary risks to get to a country which offered them a better chance. They did break the law to get here, but most have now been here for years and have become a fabric of our country. Deportation is not the answer. Instead we need a comprehensive immigration law similar to what the Senate passed on a bipartisan basis. Will that happen?

We do not know the answer to any of these questions, but we are going to find out pretty soon. Those who did not vote for Trump and now fear his presidency—and that is a majority of Americans—will not and cannot roll over and play dead, watching from the sidelines as our nation changes in ways unthinkable. It is not a pretty picture.

Early Warning Signs

In my first post election post I identified two directions the Trump Presidency might take:

There are two directions Trump can take. First, he can move toward the middle and try to achieve some reconciliation. This would involve backing away from massive deportations and building the wall and trying to work out compromises on some items, like infrastructure, that the Democrats can go along with. He will have to do some things like kill Obama Care because the Republicans will demand it–and that is a terrible thing for 20 million people who now have insurance–but perhaps the “replacement” could build on the structure now in place. Getting out of the Paris Climate Accord could be delayed until, say, Miami was under water when even the Republicans will get the picture. Since it is not readily apparent that Trump himself actually believes any of the things he says, maybe there is some hope for compromise since presumably he wants to go down as a good president in order to boost his fragile ego.

 The second direction is the red meat direction—more outrageous remarks to stir the masses, radical changes to health care and immigration and a move toward strongman leadership. This is always what has scared me the most. I have made the comparison to the 1930s in Europe when the most enlightened countries on earth gave in to Fascism. That does not appear to be a fear at this moment for us, but when you have a “ruler” with personal insecurity and a mandate for radical change, you can’t rule anything out.

It is too early to see a definite trend. On the one hand he seems to be moderating some of his positions such as locking up Hillary, demolishing all of Obama Care and building a “beautiful wall” starting on day one. On the other hand there is no indication as to the status of the massive deportation plan, and the NY Times reported yesterday that the likely new director of the EPA is a climate change denier. The early warning signs will be whom he appoints as cabinet members and key advisors.

It is important that progressives stay involved and follow the transition very carefully. When Trump moves toward the middle we should praise him. We know that he responds to approvals and wants to be liked. When he moves to the right we should fight him vigorously with all the non violent, peaceful tools we have to work with. To simply roll over and take what we get would be to allow his outrageous agenda to move forward. My son-in-law remarked yesterday that the conditions are similar in many ways to the conditions present in the early 1960s when the civil rights movement was starting to reach its prime. It was one of those rare times when the choice between good and evil was so obvious. And for those of us who chose to get involved in the struggle, it was one of the most important and proud times of our lives. That choice may again be available.


The Mourning After

Now that I have pulled myself off the floor of despair, I have a few observations about what could be one of the most significant elections in American history.

This was America’s Brexit moment. It is pretty clear that the Brexit movement in the UK was a thumb in the eye of the elite by people who felt left behind in the new global economy. The message: we have had enough.

First and foremost I believe that electing Trump, the anti establishment, “champion of change” candidate is sending a similar message. Bernie Sanders picked up on the alienation and discontent of those left behind and so did The Donald though Bernie was hearing the voices of intellectuals and lefties while Donald was listening mainly to the white working class. They both got it, however, and the message resonated with a lot of people. Bottom line: there are a lot of Americans who are sick and tired of stagnant wages, congressional grid lock, changing demographics, alternative lifestyles, changing cultural norms, and a deck that is stacked in favor of the elite. They want change.

The irony , of course, is that Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and and is quintessentially elite himself. His appeal apparently is his outrageous personality, a product of reality TV, which allows him to say “politically incorrect” things that many of his supporters feel but cannot express and to make the solution to their malaise real simple—throw out the aliens, build a wall, stop free trade, kill Obama Care and climate deals, and get tough with foreign powers—in short, to “Make America Great Again.” Think about the good old days when men ruled the roost, minorities were kept in their place, jobs were secure and life was good. Though many of us think he is a sham and a phony, we now know that his message worked.

A second irony is that the centerpiece of his economic proposals is a huge tax break for the rich and more trickle-down economics, which would do very little to help his alienated constituency. He is opposed to a minimum wage and skeptical of safety net programs. But that does not seem to matter. He is not part of the political establishment. He is not part of those people. He might not be part of the white working and lower middle class but he would be their champion.

Enter Hillary Clinton. We liberals did not get it, but from the outset she had three things going against her. First, she is the political establishment personified. Second, she is a woman, and sexism continues to be alive and well; and third and perhaps most important, she positioned herself essentially as running for Obama’s third term. We progressives did not get it because we love Obama. We want to see a continuation of what he started. We value experience, expertise, and competence and support her message of inclusiveness. We did not realize that precisely those things were what were on trial in the election of 2016. We missed this as did most of the press.

Given the fact the Hillary Clinton was the status quo candidate in an era of antiestablishment fervor, it is remarkable that she did as well as she did. She actually won the popular vote (by a hair) and was only one or two battleground states away from winning the election. We remain a divided country, pretty much straight down the middle. In other words, despite the populist revolt, half the country was in her corner.

The pundits I listened to today on the radio told us the reason she lost was also due in part to an “enthusiasm gap” and to her wonkish personality. They add that she never recovered from the Comey email investigation sandbag and that her “basket of deplorables” comment stuck with her. And, of course, the Wiki Leaks and email controversy just never went away. Despite all this she almost won. She ran a great campaign and held up under incredible pressure. She would have made a fine president.

So what happens next?

The first move is up to Trump. Who is this guy anyway? What does he really believe? What of all the horrible and outrageous things that he says he is going to do is he actually going to pursue?

There are two directions he can take. First, he can move toward the middle and try to achieve some reconciliation. This would involve backing away from massive deportations and building the wall and trying to work out compromises on some items, like infrastructure, that the Democrats can go along with. He will have to do some things like kill Obama Care because the Republicans will demand it–and that is a terrible thing for 20 million people who now have insurance–but perhaps the “replacement” could build on the structure now in place. Getting out of the Paris Climate Accord could be delayed until, say, Miami was under water when even the Republicans will get the picture. Since it is not readily apparent that Trump himself actually believes any of the things he says, maybe there is some hope for compromise since presumably he wants to go down as a good president in order to boost his fragile ego.

The second direction is the red meat direction—more outrageous remarks to stir the masses, radical changes to health care and immigration and a move toward strongman leadership. This is always what has scared me the most. I have made the comparison to the 1930s in Europe when the most enlightened countries on earth gave in to Fascism. That does not appear to be a fear at this moment for us, but when you have a “ruler” with personal insecurity and a mandate for radical change, you can’t rule it out. Our democracy is fragile and cannot ever be taken for granted.

There is also much we ordinary people can do. The split between the two camps is very real. Regardless what happens on Capitol Hill or in the White House, we need to reach out to others we can’t understand and try to work together to move forward. How this happens right now is pretty much up for grabs; but if it does not happen, the Republic will be in even worse trouble.