Sally Kohn is a writer and CNN contributor.
Is the sixth stage of grief spite? Because the part of me that isn’t feeling devastated right now is feeling very, very spiteful.
About half of America voted to elect a plainly hateful, divisive man lacking the basic experience let alone temperament to be president—a man who fueled his campaign with pledges of deportation forces that would break up immigrant families, with a promise to wall off our nation, with boasts about nuclear proliferation and boasts about sexual assault. In this moment, most of me is ready to spend the next four minutes mourning and then every minute of the next four years organizing my heart out to preserve a modicum of the equality and inclusion and dignity and kindness that have always been the aspirational chambers of our democratic heart. But that’s just part of me.
The other part of me wants to let Trump and his supporters get everything they wished for. Build your glorious wall. Cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin as we possibly get closer to a dictatorship ourselves. Appoint paleo-conservative judges who will roll back abortion rights and LGBT rights and even more that we can’t imagine. Repeal Obamacare and make 20 million Americans suddenly lose their health coverage. Spread nuclear weapons around the globe. Give trillions in tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and big business. And then slash the food stamps and public school support and other social safety nets that will be all the more important as unemployment skyrockets.
Part of me wants to fight against this, as I always have. That’s the part of me that knows that if Trump gets even a fraction of his way, millions of my fellow Americans will suffer. This is a very frightening day to wake up Mexican or Muslim in America. I know my neighbors need protecting.
And yet, I can’t help but want to just let Trump show his colors—show that he wasn’t kidding, that it wasn’t just talk. Let him leave NATO, and we’ll see how the global stability and relative peace of the world responds. Let him ban journalists, sue media outlets and infringe on the First Amendment. Let him raise the deficit by trillions and lose 3.5 million American jobs. Let him grab women’s rights the way he grabs their p—ies and we’ll see just how far not just Trump but the modern Republican Party is willing to go in its war on women.
I don’t really want any of these things to happen. Or, God forbid, worse. But part of me darkly feels like Trump’s voters should get exactly what they bargained for. After all, many of them live in communities that are the disproportionate beneficiaries of federal tax expenditures. Wanna burn down government? Fine. Let’s see how much you miss it when it’s gone.
Perhaps if Trump wants a dictatorship, we should let him have it. And then perhaps all the American people would finally realize the abject failure and the core of conservative economic and social policies that Trump, in spite of his insistence otherwise, are very much the cloth from which Trump is cut. Many people voted for Trump because they wrongly believe that undocumented immigrants take their jobs and hurt our economy, that equality for people of color comes at a cost for whites, and that if we just give more money and freedom to big business and the rich, the poor and working class will somehow reap the benefits. This has never, ever been true— but compassionate Democrats have always been willing to bandage up the wounds conservatives have inflicted on America, leading to a debate about who caused those wounds in the first place. What if instead, we backed off, issued a do-not-resuscitate order on America as we know it, and say to Republicans: you broke it, you bought it. And now you can fix it on your own.
Hillary Clinton and progressives could form a shadow government, to critique and offer counter-points, since our body politic will always need a second opinion. But let’s leave Trump and his party alone to do all the things he promised to do. “I alone can fix it,” Trump said in his Republican Convention acceptance speech. Fine, good luck.
I realize that what I’m suggesting may be too painful to consider, especially for millions of Muslims and undocumented Americans in our country who are sure to face the most brutal edge of Trump’s wrath. And I also realize that were I a member of one of those groups, I might not be willing to contemplate this step. Honestly, if Trump does half of what he’s promised, the pain he will inflict on our communities and our country is unthinkable.
And, of course, I think that if Trump advances proposals that are truly bi-partisan, such as spending on infrastructure and public works programs, Democrats should work to make these happen. But the fact is, if Democrats compromise on any of Trump’s more nefarious proposals, we’ll be complicit in his actions—and share part of the blame for their results. What we should not do is become the party of “no” that Republicans were under President Obama.
Democratic policies, and Democratic interventions in otherwise failed Republican policies, insulate the American people from the truly horrific outcomes of conservative ideology. But many Americans keep voting for it anyway. They voted for a White House, House of Representatives and Senate of conservative ideology Tuesday. Maybe it’s time Democrats stop playing compassionate nursemaid to the deathly policies of the GOP. Instead, maybe it’s time the American people get exactly what they voted for.