“THE HARDEST thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are actually unworthy to win.”
So said Adlai Stevenson.
AND SO here we are. Tomorrow the nation votes for our 45th president.
I have never been so depressed and fraught. Nothing in my personal life—deaths of family members and friends, professional set-backs, illness, romantic disappointment—has afflicted me so darkly. (And the romantic issues were fairly apocalyptic, let me tell you!)
Nope, it’s all small potatoes as we stare down the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two of the most disliked and distrusted public figures on the planet.
If Mrs. Clinton wins, Donald Trump, a majority of Republicans and members of the FBI, are assuring America that she will never have a moment’s peace in the White House—as if being president is ever “peaceful.” (The FBI is back to saying, “nothing there!” But who can believe them now?)
She will be tormented, threatened with impeachment, indictment, prison. Worse, her opponents gleefully promise she’ll never get anything done for the people of the United States.
We will suffer because after eight years of an African American as president, a woman Commander in Chief is just too much too bear. She has stood up to decades and decades of battering, “scandals,” conspiracy theories and lack of respect. There’s been so much of it, that she puts a guard up and over-protects herself. (The simplest, truest explanation of her calamitous email errors. If you become president, Hillary Clinton, please, in the words of Ronald Reagan—“Tear down that wall!”)
But battering hasn’t been enough. Hillary Clinton’s steely resiliency has driven Republicans nearly insane. Just as Barack Obama’s two terms and smooth, calm demeanor deranged them. (Perhaps in retrospect, Obama was too calm, too dedicated to the concept of civilized negotiation–to civility in general. In the end, did his foes deserve such respect?)
As for Clinton, they want to humble this woman, to drag her—perhaps literally—into the town square, and stone her. If she is not perfect, she is also no “criminal.” And let any politician, on either side of the aisle, who has achieved success, cast the first ethical stone at Hillary Clinton.
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
IF DONALD Trump wins, the United States will be in hands of a man whose sole aim in life has been to see his name in newspapers, on the covers of magazines, on the sides of buildings. He doesn’t give to charity. He doesn’t respect other human beings because they don’t deserve respect. His very words! Women are objects. Other men are weak. (Unless they are dictators.)
Trump prides himself on speaking his mind, as if we should cheer when sewers overflow. He has a hair trigger temper and gossamer-thin skin. He doesn’t pay taxes. He is joyfully supported by racists, misogynists, anti-Semites, homophobes. He is infantile emotionally. He speaks as if he barely passed the fifth grade. Most who know him well, don’t believe he has read a book in thirty years.
But we are a young country, one which has never functioned under a dictator—maybe that would be “interesting” some wonder? We are restless, agitated, disappointed in D.C. gridlock. Some of us want to go way back in time—a time when people of color knew their place, where homosexuals hid in the shadows, and no woman dared to dream of being president. Donald Trump has struck these notes and played his terrible, discordant siren song.
Many of Trump’s “reasonable” supporters will say: “But I’m not like that! I just want a better job, more pay.” We say:
“You’re not like that yet. And good luck on jobs and fair pay from a man hasn’t known a hard day’s work, or a moment of want, in his entire life.”
The Supreme Court? Who needs it to be balanced? Who needs it at all, some Republicans hint. Laws, rights? Nah, we’ve had enough of all that.
And do not forget Trump’s choice as Veep, Mike Pence. The man who said in summing himself up: “I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican.” Oddly, the word “American” wasn’t included. Imagine if Barack Obama had omitted his fealty to America in any public statement.
Being a “Christian first” implies theocracy. Trump’s fans who worry about their jobs, should think twice about a guy who is a heartbeat away from the presidency, whispering in Trump’s ear, “Let’s get them to pray for a job.”
“Ya think they’ll like me if I say that?”
“Sure they will, Mr. President. We can get you on the covers of all the religious magazines. It’ll be huge. But, sir, the gays, and those women who want to have control of their bodies, and helping all the lazy poor people. Sign these papers.”
“The covers, Mr. President, the covers.”
TODAY I will cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. I hope she wins. And not simply because she is a woman. We are way past symbolism and breaking glass ceilings. We are fighting for the soul of the United States. I have faith in her abilities, and in this country I love. Is she a figure for stained glass? No. Has she been less than rousing and more than infuriating in her efforts to protect herself? You bet. I still prefer her to the alternative.
Let Mr. Trump, if he loses, live and thrive in his bottomless well of self-worship. He will fume and foment and never go away. Good luck and good health to him and his family. He has become an historical figure whether all of us like it or not.
If Trump wins? He will be our president and we will have to accept it, and accept our own part in allowing him to flower so luxuriously. We who don’t approve will work hard to beat him in 2020. We will fight for our rights as human beings. We will survive.
So, I will vote, and then I will read. Perhaps try to lose myself in David McCullough’s great book on John Adams, or Doris Kearns Goodwin’s marvelous work on Lincoln, “Team of Rivals.” ( Those masterpieces will also remind me that the ugliness of this recent campaign is as American as apple pie! I mean none of the candidates fought a duel, with pistols, or beat one another about the head and shoulders with sticks. Then again, that might have been preferable to what both of 2016’s nominees offered us.)
Good luck, America. Let’s try not to be fearful or too angry or act out, no matter the result.
Remember, we don’t need to make America great again. We need to make America better; living up to ideals of democracy, fairness, inclusion and compassion that even our founders couldn’t fathom. Although politicians like to divide us, we are actually all in this together.
We need to look forward, always. And tomorrow, to those on either side, it won’t be a bad thing to be a bit British; keep calm and carry on.
P.S. Hopefully, once we are past this–more or less–I shall return with more amusing fare! (It’s been a hell of a year.)