My Donald Trump Survival Guide

17senate1-articleLarge-v2The next four years under Trump are going to be hard. It’s going to be chaotic. It’s going to be uncertain. All the normal rules of engagement with politics and our fellow citizens have been upended by the election of a person who has no interest in upholding norms or traditions. He seeks conflict and revels in dominating and destroying his opponents. It’s easy to get caught up in his maelstrom and lose your civility, lose your way and to feel maybe even like you have lost your mind. I have come up with a few rules that I hope will help me navigate the next four years. We have to think about things differently with Trump. We have to be smarter about how we spend our time, and we have to become more active. These are just my initial suggestions. If you have any more, generally or specific, please let me know.

1. The default position for every American should be that everything that Donald Trump says is a lie until proven to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is not the same thing as saying everything he says is a lie. I’m just saying it is almost impossible to tell just on face value alone what is true and what is untrue. His history of falsehoods, flip-flops, and broken promises should give everybody ample reason to distrust anything he has to say. Trying to figure out what is true and what isn’t just wastes energy and amplifies a person’s anxiety. Trump says or tweets whatever pops into his head, often without it ever having any connection to real policy, real legislation or even reality itself. Assuming that everything he says is a lie makes all of his statements inert, robs them of their importance and insulates you from his daily chaos. Focus instead on what he actually does.

2. Stop believing in the power of shame. Shame usually works on politicians. Despite the old adage that all politicians lie, they don’t really want to be caught in a lie, so they mostly tell the truth. Or at least they tell a version of the truth that can be defended. Trump isn’t like that. Shame doesn’t work with him. You have to give it up if you are going to make it through the next four years with your sanity intact. If you call Trump a liar, it doesn’t bother him. If you call him a crook or a con-man, it doesn’t bother him. If you call him a sexist, or a racist or a xenophobe, it doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t see lying to people, stealing from people or discriminating against individuals or groups as a liability. He sees it as a business model and a campaign strategy. So if shame doesn’t work, then what will work? Attacking his ego works. All of Trump’s angry tweets or rants have been in response to attacks on his ego. Call him a loser, and he will squirm. Question his wealth, and it drives him crazy. Make fun of his tiny little hands, and you will make an enemy for life. Suggest that his election was illegitimate because of Russian interference and it will drive him to distraction. That is the target that needs to be hit again and again over the next four years. Because of this, comedians have become more powerful than they ever have before. Post and repost clips of late night comedy shows poking fun of Trump’s failures. Use the power of laughter to make him look and feel ridiculous.

3. Do not treat the news as entertainment. Political junkies probably are in the habit of consuming more news, including print, radio, and television than your average hardcore sports fan. It is like a drug. We do it out of habit because that’s how we stay informed, relax and find validation for our own opinions. We can’t treat it like that right now. With Trump as President, the news has become toxic. It is now a source of anxiety and worry. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the news, just use it as a source of information only. Limit your intake to a certain amount of time each day. Try to read more long-form news from serious journalists instead of watching talking heads on TV argue with other talking heads on TV. Satisfy that political itch by reading books about politics, foreign policy or American history. You will become a much better informed citizen as a result.

4. Don’t get trapped inside a bubble. Spend some of your time each week reading conservative news sites. It can be tough to do every single day, but at least look in on the right-wing universe once every week or ten days. Our society has self-segregated along party lines. We have our own news, our own entertainment, our own myths, legends, heroes, and history. You will be shocked at how dissimilar our views on daily events are. Learning how they think is step one in being able to talk to them and win arguments with them. Consider it an act of espionage. You will be gathering intelligence to prepare yourself for the coming battles. Information is your shield and your weapon.
5. Don’t troll far right websites. Looking into what far-right conservatives think is one thing, interacting with them is another. Engaging in conflict with the alt-right, racist-right or other extreme groups is a waste of time. Also, ignore them if they try to troll you. I’m not talking about the average run of the mill Republican. Those people we should talk to and engage. I’m talking about those individuals who relish in the politics of personal destruction, especially those that hide behind a keyboard. There is no benefit in arguing with a racist, an Islamophobe, or anybody else who finds personal fulfillment through hatred. You have more important things to do.

6. You should speak out in public as much as possible. Don’t shy away from expressing your opinion in public whenever you feel safe to do so. Right now, many conservatives are a little giddy at the idea of a Trump Presidency and sometimes aren’t bashful about saying so. You should respond to them and let them know that not everyone agrees. There is something a little scary about speaking out politically in public. But there is also something very empowering. You have an opinion, and other people should hear it. The election was decided in November and Trump is President, but that doesn’t mean that the debate has ended. That doesn’t mean that your opinion stops being valid and it is important that people know that there is both dissent and resistance. Engage people in conversation. Make them hear your voice.

7. When you do talk to conservatives and Republicans, do so with respect and with the goal of extending the conversation as long as possible. It is no secret that many Republicans voted for Donald Trump as a vote against Hillary Clinton. All the polls show that there is very little confidence in Trump’s qualifications and temperament even amongst many of the people who voted for him. Do not attack conservatives for their vote or attack them personally for their opinions. There is a good chance that many of them feel the same way you do about his actions and his antics. Criticizing them only ends the dialogue and creates an enemy. Instead, spend your time attacking Trump, his policies, and his plans. Focus on the mistakes he makes, the conflicts of interest, the contradictions and the negative effects his Presidency is having on the country and the world. Make Trump the object of your derision, not the person you are talking to. If you don’t back people against a wall and blame them for Trump’s problems, you just might find that they agree with you about him. Don’t create a foe. Gain an ally.

8. Join up and get active. Seek out and join the resistance. Find the Democratic, liberal or progressive political groups in your community and participate. Go to town halls for Congressmen and Senators. Call them and write to them. Voice your opinion as much as possible. Put their numbers on your speed dial and put pressure on them to not support Trump’s agenda. Demand that they hold him accountable for his conflicts of interest and his mistakes. Go to local protests against Trump and his administration. Join a campaign and help get a Democrat elected to something. Run yourself. Vote. Everything you do that helps resist Trump and promote the causes and the candidates you believe in moves the ball forward. The inauguration isn’t the end of the fight. It’s just the beginning.

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About Mike Burns

For years I was a self described independent. I liked the idea that America was built on the powerful idea of compromise. Politics at its best was an exercise in give and take that at least tried to be respectful of both sides of an issue. However, since the rise of right wing talk radio and Fox News, this no longer seems possible. For me, it is time to fight back in my small way. The conservatives have had their way with the truth for too long without enough of us standing up and saying no more lies. Maybe this blog will make a small difference, maybe not. The main thing is that it will satisfy my need to speak out against conservative hate and hypocrisy. Mike Burns Google+

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