Apocalypse not. At the moment, the 2016 political apocalypse seems to have run aground. Donald Trump, in his inimitable Trumpian fashion, has seriously jumped the rail. With his campaign tucked under his beefy arm, he is caroming off into the netherworld. I won’t count him out just yet, though. I pray the pundits are correct. But, this guy defies all attempts at rational analysis, so I am only allowing myself a modicum of cautious optimism.
What has been gnawing at me is how we got here in the first place. How did Donald Trump, of all people, become the Republican nominee for president? The question is really, “What did the Trump candidacy say about us as a country?”
Some would argue, and I wouldn’t disagree, that anyone, even this guy, running against Hillary Clinton had some built in support out of the gate. Think of the Clinton conspiracy theorists and the Clinton haters. They had their guns loaded before she even announced her candidacy. Moreover, Clinton didn’t do herself any favors at all with the email debacle. Not only did she make a serious error of judgement in using a private server, she also compounded the issue by refusing to come clean and own her errors until long after she should have. Then there was Bill on the campaign trail. He made even the most legendary Joe Biden drifts from the party line look like a child learning to ride a bicycle. Hillary should have relegated her husband to the role of audience sitter, looking handsome and thoughtful. No talking, Bill. Both missteps gave the Never Hillary people ample fuel to their fires.
Or, consider the Bernie supporters. For the most part they were young, enthusiastic, and still naive enough to believe that an avowed socialist could win. They put their hearts and souls into his campaign, and many didn’t take it well when Bernie conceded to Hillary at the Democratic Convention. There are still rumblings about how Bernie was robbed of the nomination, and from what I have read, there may be something to it. Another group unwilling to fall into the Hillary camp.
I wonder though, not about those groups. Their feelings are logical and understandable. Rather, I wonder and frankly fear the vein of vitriolic hatred mixed with a healthy dose unfounded fear Trump discovered in this country. He unearthed it and he mined it, over and over.
Trump’s meanness seemed to appeal to segments of our society who feel disempowered. It’s becoming almost a cliche to label Trump’s behavior as bullying, and yet look at whom it attracts. Those angry voices who reviled the protesters at Trump rallies belonged to men and women who seemed to relish striking out at those they didn’t like or didn’t understand without threat of reprisal. At last, they could vent their anger and exalt Trump as their cheerleader, the Mean Guy at the Top. When Trump insisted that the media be held in penned in areas at his rallies, if only so he could call them out as crooked and left-wing more easily, look at how his supporters behaved. They jeered, they snarled, they shook their fists in the direction of the pen. They acted intoxicated with the promise of the unbridled ability to strike back at those they thought had harmed them. Or him.
What about the immigrants? Trump took special vengeance in his threats against them. Building walls. Banning travel. Extreme vetting of members of the Muslim faith. Again, his followers cheered. “Build the wall, build the wall,” they chanted with glee. They said they wanted America to be for Americans (like themselves, one supposes). No amount of debate would convince them that America is for Americans, all Americans.
To be sure, these examples don’t represent the whole of Trump’s supporters. I have a good friend I’ve known since childhood who up until the release of the 2005 Trump tapes was a supporter. Although I disagreed with her selection, I am certain it was not borne of hate. I know there are lots of thoughtful people who just believed him to be the better choice, and their reasons are logical and understandable. I just don’t agree with them.
And then, last weekend happened. The apocalypse became the apocalypse not. Yet.
If there is an upside to the backlash Trump experienced as a result of his lewd and vulgar comments on the Access Hollywood tape as well as the spate of accusations coming to light almost hourly, it is this. Americans spoke up — in fact, shouted out — with a singularly united message. It was not only unacceptable to behave in such a way; such shameful and disrespectful behavior makes you unfit to be president of this country. Women have known it all along, but this week’s outcry was laced with male voices, liberal and conservative, gay and straight, old and young. Welcome to the party, Donald; that is how men and women think we should treat each other in 2016. Does the country’s reaction negate the real and constant danger of domestic abuse, date rape, and the like? Of course not. But the reaction represents a significant moment in time when the line in the sand was finally drawn. The Donald tripped over it and fell flat on his face. I’m finding it hard not to jeer and shake my fist. I won’t, though. That’s not the way I behave.
My concern however, reaches beyond the election. Even though it now appears likely that Hillary Clinton will be elected, we have not heard the last of Donald Trump. As a country, we are going to be dealing with the people who were electrified by his rhetoric. Even now, I hear calls for a revolution if and when Trump loses. The gridlock that has grown commonplace between the legislative and executive branches of government may take a back seat to the obstructionism of those who believe that Trump was right and that he alone can “fix” America. This doesn’t go away on Nov. 8. Our political scenario just enters a new and, I fear, dangerous phase. Donald Trump’s behavior lowered the bar of what acceptable American behavior is on so many fronts. Post-election, it will be up to the rest of us to shoulder it up again. Racism, sexism, and Islamophobia will not become the norm if caring people pledge to identify and condemn it.
On a personal note, one of my grandsons enlisted in the military today. As a person who supports peace, I wish he’d made a different choice, but I respect his decision. And I am ever so glad that the person who will be my grandson’s commander-in-chief will not be Donald Trump. While my sweet guy may be put in harm’s way, the decision won’t be made by a bully and a misogynist. For that, I am most grateful.
Apocalypse, not. At least, not yet.
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