On Tuesday, both a Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll and the staff at FiveThirtyEight continued to freak out close election-watchers with the ever-increasing chance of Donald Trump winning next week’s election. I suspect that many Washington Post readers are, only now, contemplating a scenario that had not really seemed real: a Trump presidency. For most of this cycle, such an outcome seemed so improbable and unsavory that psychological defense mechanisms such as denial kicked in.
Well, we’re now in November and, although not probable, a President Trump is a live option. As an informed Washington Post reader, what should you do to prepare yourself now? I thought of five useful tips.
1) Don’t obsess too much about your family finances. Time magazine’s Taylor Tepper wrote a prescient article in June about the inherent problem of mixing your political biases with your money. It is easy to argue that if a President Trump carried out his proposed policies it would cause the stock market to plunge, the bond market to crater, the real economy to plunge into a recession and geopolitical risks to rise.
There’s a decent chance that these things would happen — but, hey, they might not! My advice is not to overreact to a Trump electoral victory. You’d be temped to buy Trump stock, given his natural predilection to use the federal government to enrich his failing brand. But this stock chart helps explain why that might be a bad bet:
When it comes to your savings in a Trump administration, don’t panic, and just hope that 99 percent of his crazy talk about the economy does not come to pass.
2) Hoard imported goods. There are important exceptions to what I just wrote. Presidents usually fulfill the political promises they can keep. And as the Peterson Institute for International Economics observed last month, Trump can keep his trade policy promises, with disastrous implications for the real economy:
Republican candidate Donald J. Trump’s sweeping proposals on international trade, if implemented, could unleash a trade war that would plunge the US economy into recession and cost more than 4 million private sector American jobs, according to an empirical analysis of the two candidates’ trade agendas by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Trump has proclaimed that he would “rip up” existing trade agreements, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and impose a 35 percent tariff on imports from Mexico and a 45 percent tariff on imports from China. …
There is ample precedent and scope for a US president to unilaterally raise tariffs as Trump has vowed to do as a centerpiece of his trade policy. Any effort to block Trump’s actions through the courts, or amend the authorizing statutes in Congress, would be difficult and time-consuming.
That’s a lot of taxes on a lot of imported goods!
Fortunately, Trump couldn’t exercise executive power until Jan. 20 — so stock up on imported goods while they’re still cheap! Buy out your favorite imported product lines at your local Walmart or Trader Joe’s. This is particularly true for lower-income readers — those tariff hikes will hit your wallet the hardest.
3) Get to know your new media overlords! If Trump wins, a lot of heretofore discredited media hacks will become much more prominent, as cable news outlets are likely to reward the most loyal Trump lackeys with fatter contracts and more prominent airtime. There have been some excellent profiles of some of these individuals. To get to know your new media environment better, I’d recommend reading Rosie Gray’s profile of Sean Hannity, Olivia Nuzzi’s profile of Scottie Nell Hughes and Charlie Warzel’s insightful portrayal of Trumpkin extraordinaire Bill Mitchell.
4) Read some Vaclav Havel. There’s a lot of talk from congressional Republicans about how they would constrain Trump’s “worst impulses” if he were elected. That’s adorable, but the evidence suggests it’s an absurd claim. So if Trump is elected, he’s likely to be able to command all the branches of government. It would also be easy for him to gin up paramilitary forces from his most ardent supporters.
So if the U.S. government takes on a more authoritarian cast, why not start reading the works of those who learned how to survive and even thrive in such an environment. In this regard, I cannot recommend Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless” strongly enough. Particularly this passage:
When those who have decided to live within the truth have been denied any direct influence on the existing social structures, not to mention the opportunity to participate in them, and when these people begin to create what I have called the independent life of society, this independent life begins, of itself, to become structured in a certain way. Sometimes there are only very embryonic indications of this process of structuring; at other times, the structures are already quite well developed. Their genesis and evolution are inseparable from the phenomenon of “dissent,” even though they reach far beyond the arbitrarily defined area of activity usually indicated by that term.
5) Do something. This post has been premised on the notion that Joss Whedon’s commercial comes to pass:
There are six days left in this campaign. Choose to take whatever civic actions are necessary to forestall the outcome you don’t want to contemplate at length.