Early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.
Now, we fight. Or at least, we prepare to.
All decent people will hope and pray that Trump’s campaign promises to destroy the constitutional order, to violate the civil liberties of millions of Americans, to commit war crimes and retaliate against his political opponents were the kind of empty bluster we know he is capable of. All decent people will hope and pray that he will surround himself with advisers and aides who will warn him away from making good on his terrible promises. But we’d be recklessly, immorally naive to stake our civic future on it.
At the moment Trump gained his 270th electoral vote, it became the moral obligation of every decent American to prepare themselves, in whatever way they can, for the possibility that our next president will attempt a terrible tyranny. It is our job to prepare to resist.
A friend of mine opined that this is our generation’s Pearl Harbor. I think he’s right. Jobs, leases, grades, future plans — these have become secondary concerns. It is obligatory — not optional — that preserving the American Republic as we have known it become the top priority of every decent individual.
I say this as a small-c conservative, as an unapologetic defender of, and apologist for, the essential American order as it existed 24 hours ago. But now, everything has changed.
The liberal checks on democracy’s darkest impulses seem to have failed. The levees seem to have broken. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been saying for years that they were weak. It doesn’t matter if you tried to patch them. The only thing which has moral significance now — significance of any kind, really — is to prepare to stop the flooding.
I don’t know, concretely, what that means yet. I don’t know, in precise terms what I — or you — should do. The only thing to do right now is wait and see what moves Trump makes, but it must not be a passive waiting. To wait and see without preparing for the possibility that we might have to thwart the stated ambitions of the potential foul tyrant, who has been elevated to our nation’s highest office, would be a grave moral error.
I know that this all sounds dramatic. Overblown. Histrionic. Maybe it will turn out to be. I won’t lie, this has been written in a moment of profoundly distressed thought and judgement. But I can’t, in good conscience, simply assume that my darkest suspicions are unfounded. We need, for the moment, at least, to take Donald Trump at his word, at his promises to destroy the liberal order as we have known it. He has sworn to explode the greatest engine of human freedom and happiness that any of us has ever known — the American constitutional order. Ignoring or dismissing that now, just isn’t morally responsible.
A few people have specific obligations. President Obama must use his remaining time in office to shrink the powers of the presidency as much as he can and to destroy as many of the unilateral executive powers which he has helped to create as possible. All those in government should go about tyrant-proofing their offices however they can.
Republican legislators and officials must size up what their true values are and where their true allegiances lie. They should prepare themselves to put country and constitution over party and to vote against President Trump where morally necessary, whatever the personal and political costs.
Any politician who has ever called him or herself a conservative should join in the effort. Donald Trump is everything that true conservatism exists to oppose: he is a certain radical, a probable tyrant and a definite demagogue. Conservatives should recognize the utter meaninglessness of their most closely-held convictions — abortion, gun control, fiscal discipline — in comparison to stopping this calamity. They should make common cause with progressives to utterly and completely obstruct any moves that President Trump might try to make against the American order of rights, liberties and pluralism. There is no political position which rises above preserving hundreds of years of slow, agonizing, bloody progress toward the dominance of that system on the national and global stage.
I don’t have anything else to say right now. There isn’t anything else to say right now. Get out of bed on Nov. 9 and prepare to fight with any weapon you have available, as hard as you can, if needed. You have to. It’s just that simple.
ALEC WARD is a College senior from Washington, D.C., studying history. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TalkBackWard. “Fair Enough” usually appears every other Wednesday.
This is an edited version of the previous column released on election night, updated for clarity and timeliness.