I Wonder
Alternative Possibilities


Eliot Cohen, who served in the second Bush administration, has been a conservative critic of Trump. In a piece this week for The Atlantic he wrote about what we must continue to do in order to defy Trump.  Reading Cohen's essay actually encouraged me, the most encouraged I'd been after a week of unmitigated horror coming from the White House.  

I read the essay in the context of the widespread denunciation and protests against the refugee ban.  The American people are not going to sit idly by and let the new administration destroy what is most valuable about our nation and its high ideals.  I believe that.  And we will learn, as conservatives are often ones to remind us, how limited is the power of the government in the face of other social institutions such as the church, business, the media, non-profits, families, etc.  

Maybe we will even have a renewal of the social fabric and participatory democracy--in other words, citizenship--in the wake of this catastrophe, as people across the ideological spectrum are drawing together in their opposition?

Here are the encouraging final paragraphs of Cohen's essay, which come after the warning that things will get worse than the first week, so we must be prepared for that:

In the end, however, he will fail. He will fail because however shrewd his tactics are, his strategy is terrible—The New York Times, the CIA, Mexican Americans, and all the others he has attacked are not going away. With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say “enough.” He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.


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