To say the least, it's been an exciting (some would say bizarre) eleven days since Donald Trump took office. We've seen him engage in Twitter fights over the size of his inauguration crowd (he said the "dishonest media" downplayed it, and his press secretary claimed it was the biggest crowd in recorded history, or something like that). The new president also repeated his assertion that millions of illegal immigrants voted, and stole the popular vote from him (no evidence of it, and governors from both red and blue states have denied that such a thing occurred).
We've seen a number of billionaire nominees for cabinet positions, many of whom are not qualified for the post they've been offered... but all of whom will probably get confirmed anyway (extreme wealth has its privileges). We've also seen a sudden and highly disruptive ban-- and yes, it is a ban-- on immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries (while others, including several countries involved in 9/11, didn't get on the list... some of the new president's critics believe that's because he does business in those countries, a fact his press secretary denied); as a result of the new Executive Order, legal immigrants with green cards found themselves detained for hours, or told to go back to their countries, and an Iraqi interpreter who had helped the US and was given a visa in appreciation was not only detained but handcuffed like a criminal... yet Mr. Trump told the media that everything was fine and the order was implemented very smoothly; he also claimed that former President Obama had issued a similar order (when in fact what Mr. Obama had done was quite different).
And speaking of the media, we've had one of his inner circle, Steve Bannon, basically tell the assembled members of the press that they had humiliated themselves as a result of how inaccurately they reported the election, and it was time for them to shut up and spend their time listening; and another of his inner circle, Kellyanne Conway, suggested that journalists who were critical of Mr. Trump deserved to be fired. Mr. Trump too continued to insist wherever he spoke that he had been treated badly by the "dishonest media." And yet, repeatedly, the new president sought out media attention and seemed upset when he didn't receive enough of it (or when it wasn't the approving and adulatory kind he wanted).
There was a massive (and peaceful) Women's March to express opposition to Mr. Trump and his policies-- large crowds gathered in city after city. But Mr. Trump said the crowds were small (they were not). His surrogates then claimed the March for Life, annually held by abortion opponents, would have far larger crowds (it did not); and that the mainstream media would ignore the march (not true-- it received considerable coverage from all the networks & print publications). Mr. Trump's sudden Executive Order to ban Muslim immigrants (and favor Christian immigrants) was met by large and vocal crowds who opposed the new policy and who questioned its legality; it was also met by a number of volunteer lawyers who tried to help the detainees, especially the green card holders. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union received $24.1 million in online donations-- five times the amount the organization receives in a typical year. And while liberal and center-left publications wrote about families unnecessarily and arbitrarily denied entry even after being vetted for several years, the conservative media continued to promote stories about problems caused by immigrants, such as emphasizing how many crimes they commit. Various conservative publications insisted the Muslim ban is necessary to keep us safe, and denied that there was any problem with the Executive Order.
So, here's what I've learned: Mr. Trump sincerely believes he can run the White House like he (fictionally) ran The Apprentice; he has an autocratic style, admires other autocratic leaders, and has no interest in building any bridges or doing any outreach to those who didn't vote for him. He also seems to believe there are no norms any more-- he can disregard longstanding customs and precedents, and be as vengeful or petty or unkind as he wishes, whenever he wishes, to whomever he wishes. Just about no Republican right now wants to stand up to him-- perhaps because the party has a series of policies it hopes to implement and he is the vehicle by which these things will get done, or perhaps because they fear getting on the wrong side of him and being subjected to his wrath, or perhaps they will do anything to remain in power, even if it means ignoring their constitutional duties. And based on what I am reading in the conservative press and on social media, his supporters are delighted by what he has done, and they see no problem with how he has acted thus far.
But many of the rest of us disagree. And while I was pleased to see so much energy and so many protests, I had to wonder: how many of the folks who are now so actively dissenting stayed at home on election day because either Bernie wasn't on the ballot or they believed Hillary Clinton would be no better than Donald Trump. I wonder if they still feel the same way now, eleven days after Mr. Trump took office. I also wonder what the next eleven days will bring, and whether any of it will be good for our democracy. Somehow, I fear the answer is "no." Somehow, I fear that the partisan divide will only widen, and the anger will only increase. Mr. Trump seems determined to crush anyone who doesn't agree with him or didn't vote for him; in his administration, compassion seems to be in short supply. I am normally a positive person, and yes, I've lived through worse than this (I survived the Nixon administration, for example). But while I want to remain positive, I'm finding few reasons to feel optimistic at this point. Tell me: am I wrong?