As the election lurches toward us I find myself in a deep sadness, even a depression. Probably Mrs. Clinton is going to win. If she does, it will not give her a mandate or even a reasonably good chance of proving herself as President. She will be wounded from the moment she declares victory. If you think the conservatives did what they could to cripple President Obama, just wait until they begin their endless campaign against the Clintons. I meet people every day–some of them my close friends–who say they would rather vote for Charles Manson than Mrs. Clinton, that nothing could ever make them vote for her, no matter how distasteful they find Donald Trump. For the life of me I don’t know why Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to be President of the United States. Jefferson called it “splendid misery.” It’s going to be mostly misery for Mrs. Clinton, I believe. She will win the election, but she will never get the chance she deserves to develop a 21st century progressive program for the people of the United States. How can it be good for America for the opposition to prevent a duly elected President from using that endorsement–the imprimatur of a great nation using its well-developed distilling process to elect officials–to try to improve the lives of the people who legitimately elected her?
I don’t want four or eight more years of scandal, chants of “You Belong in Jail!,” persistent claims that the election was rigged, echoes of “email,” “Benghazi,” “Juanita Broaddrick.” And Bill.
Is it so “utopian” to wish for a new Era of Good Feelings (1817-1825), a period when we all find a way to agree on the major questions, to enjoy each other’s company, to love our country more than ourselves, and use our politics not to destroy each other but to differ about the precise fashion in which we decide to address public problems? What would it take for the country to calm down and cheer up? Or, to put it in a more useful way, why are the angry ones so angry? I’ve racked my brains for the past four or five years to try to understand why people are so angry with America, or with their government, or with the “establishment,” as Donald Trump puts it? I get that we have an appalling public debt, that our medical system is still highly imperfect, that the current folks who run America have been unable to prevent some terrorist incidents, that our borders are porous, etc. But that doesn’t make me want to buy an arsenal, vote for liars who pledge to shut down the government and “repeal Obamacare the day I take office!,” or speak of Hillary Clinton as the anti-Christ.
In almost every way, we’ve never had it so good. Like most Americans, I have a decent car, a good home, quite a bit of discretionary income, lots of nearly miraculous electronic gadgets, access to my friends and kin via FaceTime, access to good medical attention, a great deal of spare time, virtually unlimited intellectual and religious freedom, mobility, and more real security in my person, my place, and my nation than any people who have ever walked the face of the Earth. In addition to which, the U.S. Postal System can still deliver a letter from me in Dakota to my friends in San Diego in three days for about fifty cents.
Can we please calm down and be grateful for the almost unbelievable abundance and freedom of American life? Really, we think we need “second amendment solutions” to our puny problems?
But here’s what depresses me most of all this October. Think how frustrated and enraged approximately 60 million Americans must be that they are going to vote for Donald Trump in spite of everything they have learned about him. Most of them know that he is a towering narcissist, who probably doesn’t really give a damn about average people in Wadena, Minnesota, or Broken Bow, Nebraska; that he talks about women in a way that no decent man ever would and apparently gropes and fondles them, too, against their will. We know that he doesn’t pay much in the way of taxes, that he has cheated people to whom he owes money, in addition to using the U.S. Bankruptcy laws liberally to cut his losses (i.e. cheat other people and companies) in order to protect his own core assets. We know that he belittles people with disabilities, stereotypes a wide range of ethnic groups, bullies those who question his majesty, and wishes to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Shall I go on? Is it not clear to all of us, no matter how we intend to vote, that Trump is stuck in some prison of “rich man’s son-bully-frat boy-sex for power-anger management-brat” syndrome? And that, other things being equal, he is profoundly unfit to be the President of the United States? Is this how you want our President to behave at the G-8 Summit? Mugging about people’s foreign accents, either saying at a joint news conference that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is “only a four, maybe a five on a good day,” or copping a feel?
Look, even most of Trump’s supporters know that he is a brash vulgarian who violates virtually every standard of human decency, public and private morality, and statesmanlike demeanor. I’m guessing that many of his supporters, including ardent ones, wonder how conservative he really is–or perhaps he is just a man of gargantuan ambition and vanity who found the formula to tap the Great Anger in American life. I’m guessing that many of his supporters, including ardent ones, wonder if he will really follow through with his big vows (the wall, NATO, China, the special prosecutor for Hillary) if he becomes the President of the United States.
That’s my great sorrow. How angry do you have to be with the American system to cast a vote for a man that even those who wind up voting for him are embarrassed by, when you are privately unsure that he is a good man, much less a man worthy of the highest trust America can give one individual? The vote for Trump is not so much a vote for Donald John Trump, 70, NY, as for ANYTHING BUT THE WAY THINGS ARE AND IF THIS BUFFOON IS OUR BEST WAY OF SAYING F.YOU TO THE SYSTEM, SO BE IT.
Finally, I am disappointed in Mrs. Clinton (among other reasons) for failing to respect the tens of millions of Americans who are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” the tens of millions of people who feel that their beloved country has gotten away from them. I’m frustrated by my country too, but I’m not hoarding ammunition clips. The candidate who is going to get my vote is going to respect the “deplorables,” sit down with them to try to understand their rage, to show and express respect for their rage, and to deal them into a vision of America that finds a new center, a new consensus, a new Era of Good Feelings.
Who will heal this our broken republic? It’s not very likely to be Hillary Clinton, in my view; but it sure ain’t Donald Trump.