Donald Trump, a lying, bullying, womanizing autocrat-idolizer, is fundamentally transforming America in very real and lasting ways, in ways that have left decent people slack-jawed, enraged and exasperated.
He has overtaken and destroyed the structure of the Republican Party, unleashing its ugliest elements to chant his praise and stroke his ego like drunken apostates dancing around a golden calf.
He has attacked American institutions that seek truth and justice, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the press, because he wants to weaken America’s faith in truth and facts themselves.
He has shunned and denigrated America’s traditional allies and cozied up to America’s traditional enemies, in one of the most bewildering presidential postures the country may ever have seen.
And now, with the retirement of the Supreme Court moderate Anthony Kennedy, Trump will be able to solidify the court’s conservative majority for a generation.
Elections have consequences. Not voting has consequences. Falling for Russian propaganda has consequences. Voter suppression has consequences. Taking the absolutely ridiculous position that there would be little difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has consequences.
The most lasting consequence is in the Supreme Court, which has lifetime appointments.
So now, if you are a woman, a minority, an immigrant, a person who is L.G.B.T., the rights you have acquired could be in jeopardy.
If you are just a decent person who believes in expanding equality, respecting choice and identity and civil rights, your vision of America is in jeopardy.
This is for the long game; this is for all the marbles.
Conservative strategic thinkers are not caught up in the moment’s outrages and absurdities. They are thinking in terms of generations and eras.
They know as well as I know that the demographic tide is moving against them and will soon wash away much of their power.
Therefore, their strategy is to slow that progress as much as possible, if not reverse it.
That is why there is so much energy to restrict immigration, both illegal and legal. That is why there is such a push for voter restrictions, suppression and disenfranchisement. That is why there was so little resistance to mass incarceration.
Conservatives want to arrest America’s development and send our country into regression. This is about the maintenance of their power long after they have lost the dominance of numbers.
The courts are an insurance policy in their strategy of impeding progress.
Conservatives want to reserve the right to use religion as a weapon, to control other people’s bodies and to judge some people as less worthy of full participation in the American experience because of whom they love, how they identify, where they are from or which God they worship.
They want to protect what they call “American culture,” which is more aptly described as white culture. No matter how advantage was gained, no matter how privilege was acquired, it is the province of the deniable, scrubbed clean of blood and tears. Present privilege, power and prestige must be preserved.
That is one reason that the court’s decisions on the Affordable Care Act were closely watched and in some ways controversial. At its core, Obamacare is about the interconnectedness of civil societies. It asked those with more to help support the health and well-being of those with less.
This is precisely why conservatives hate it. They prefer a Darwinian ecosystem of care in which health corresponds directly with wealth.
Obamacare required the shifting of some of that wealth — redistribution, as we call it — for an overall healthier society. But in conservative circles, your well-being isn’t linked to mine. To them, shifting wealth was shifting power, and power in this grand battle over what America was, is and can be is the only thing that matters.
Trump’s imprint on the courts will help the conservatives preserve more of that power for a longer period of time.
This is one of the reasons that Trump’s base will never abandon him. He is their orange life raft in the middle of a blue ocean.
He is reassurance that although progress and enlightenment may feel like an uncontainable, unstoppable human yearning, it can be delayed and occasionally derailed.
Whoever Trump appoints to the Supreme Court will most likely be there for the rest of my life. I will live the rest of my days with Trump’s legacy. That’s a hell of a thought.
Over that time, the court will operate with his undeniable imprint. In this way, a man whose candidacy was a joke, whose election was a fluke tainted by fraud, and whose presidency is a bane will get the chance to remake the American bench.
This is an abomination and this moment of revulsion must burn itself into the psyche of the American electorate. This is how a country’s progress can be crippled. It’s happening right now in large part because too many people thought that it could not.