Sarah Kendzior is a St. Louis, Mo.-based commentator who writes about politics, the economy and media.
"I hate to say this, but I'm calling it for Trump. I think he's going all the way. I think people who dismiss this have no idea how poor off people are now and how badly they want a saviour and scapegoats. This country has nothing left but pain and the exploitation of pain for entertainment. Enter Trump. Deal is sealed."
I was right about Trump's win, but I was wrong about how much the United States still had to lose.
When I predicted a Trump win a year ago on Facebook, I did so because I live in an economically bottomed-out Midwestern state that was beset with racial strife, in a country of weakened institutions. I saw a demagogue whose life's work had consisted of shaking down the vulnerable and making their pain profitable. I saw that few in power were taking him seriously, and I felt afraid.
What I didn't see a year ago were the issues about which I worry most now: usurpation by a foreign dictatorship whose technological prowess outpaced our institutional response. The potential deployment of nuclear weapons, with which Mr. Trump has had a life-long fascination and has said he would use. The rise of neo-Nazis into the mainstream media, where they are instead called the "alt-right" and heralded for their fashion sense. An international cadre of billionaire kleptocrats, backed by the Kremlin but rising all over the West, whose combined power is little match for democratic entities weakened through war and recession and vulnerable to online propaganda.
I knew Donald Trump would betray his country, and betray the citizens who voted for him, which includes most of the voters in my state. He would betray America by doing what he has always done: abandoning principle for the pursuit of profit.
I did not realize his anti-Americanism ran so deep that his deepest fealty was to a foreign nation, to whom he appears to owe vast sums of money, and whose leaders Mr. Trump treats with deference as he savages those who fought for freedom in the United States, whether in war abroad like Senator John McCain, or in war at home like civil-rights icon and Congressman John Lewis.
The promises that Mr. Trump made on the campaign trail were betrayed the moment he selected his cabinet. Instead of "draining the swamp," he turned it into a cesspool of billionaires and corporate raiders, who will inflict economic suffering on citizens long seeking relief. Instead of making Mexico build a wall – a terrible idea, but one his supporters liked – he will force U.S. citizens to pay for it. Instead of replacing the Affordable Care Act, he and a GOP Congress will repeal it, leaving millions of Americans, including children, without the ability to pay for health care.
The crisis hits on so many levels that it is hard to contemplate. On Jan. 20, 2017, the United States will effectively become a kleptocracy, ruled by a cabinet of appointees designed to destroy the institutions they are supposed to protect.
In 1955, James Baldwin wrote, "I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." Baldwin, an African-American writer living in the era of Jim Crow, saw the worst of this country every day. He saw the betrayal of American ideals, but also believed that the ideals of justice, dignity and freedom are worth pursuing.
Baldwin's words should be heeded now. This is a time for intense criticism of an administration that abandons both compassion and constitutional rights. Do not have blind faith in checks and balances, or even in long-standing laws: this administration will rewrite them.
If you love America, then work to protect Americans from the suffering to come. Be ruthless in critique and match that in compassion. That is patriotism, that is serving the public and that is a commitment that our new administration – no matter how hard it tries – cannot destroy.