The next president of the United States is a selfish, narcissistic, vindictive prick. For good measure, he is also a racist, sexist, fascist con man, as well as a lying, cheating sexual predator and a shameless, manipulative, vulgar hedonist.
On the bright side, he also appears completely in over his head, not knowing anything about the country he is soon to lead or the position he is about to fill, and has so far surrounded himself with a rogue’s gallery of losers, crooks and slimeballs.
Many of us have spent the past week searching desperately for a silver lining to the rise of Donald Trump, but in the end it’s a bit like realizing you won’t need to pay your electric bill because your house just burned down.
There is no silver lining to this election—no scrap of good news hidden in the raging dumpster fire of madness that the American people ignited last Tuesday. We have all boarded the crazy train to hell and there is no turning back.
As a white male—ostensibly the most pro-Trump demographic of all—I will forever defend my vote for Hillary Clinton as the easiest decision I’ve ever made in a voting booth, and I’m proud to have broken Massachusetts law by photographing my marked ballot for posterity, in case there’s ever any doubt as to which side of history I was on.
Now that the election is behind us (ah, what a beautiful phrase!), we have been told the Clinton campaign’s fatal flaw was to have effectively written off America’s white working class, either by ignoring them altogether or dismissing them as “a basket of deplorables.” Trump, sensing this untapped reservoir of potential support, exploited the fear and desperation of those who despise the Washington establishment and the status quo, and it turned out there were enough of those people to reach 270 electoral votes.
Politically, Trump played his hand superbly, and we liberals certainly deserve blame for not taking him seriously enough to assume he might actually win.
However, a brilliantly-executed con is a con nonetheless, and I confess I am still struggling with the theory that all the blue-collar folk who pulled their levers for Trump are owed our empathy and respect, and that they were justified in voting the way they did. (David Wong’s recent Cracked article, “How Half of America Lost Its F**king Mind,” offers the most persuasive argument for this that I’ve read so far.)
President or not, Trump is still the guy who casually suggested that his opponent be assassinated, and who encouraged physical violence against protesters at his campaign rallies. He’s still the guy who fostered contempt toward the entire country of Mexico and the entire Muslim faith. He’s still the guy whom at least 12 women have accused of sexual assault and who was caught on tape bragging about having sexually assaulted various women (what are the odds?!?). And he’s still the guy who earned the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups and never quite figured out how to tell them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
None of that should be either forgotten or forgiven, and Trump has no right to expect the nation will simply “move on” from the fact that he’s a wretched human being who will do and say literally anything to get what he wants. He could undergo a complete personality transplant tomorrow and end up being the second coming of FDR, but he cannot unsay all the things he has said or undo all the hurt he has inflicted on those Americans who have been the victims of his hateful, dangerous rhetoric—in particular, the Muslims and Latinos who justifiably feel that a permanent target has been callously branded on their backs.
As for the 47 percent of the electorate who supported this unconscionable degenerate: They may well have voted for Trump on the basis of economic desperation and/or white hot rage at everyone in Washington, D.C., but that does not absolve them of responsibility for casting their lot with a man who is a declared enemy of such fundamental American values as multiculturalism, pluralism, a free press and the right to peaceably assemble.
At best, Trump voters collectively decided that issues of character simply don’t matter anymore; at worst, they agreed with most or all of what Trump actually said. Call me cold-hearted, but I don’t find anything sympathetic in either of those explanations, and you’ll excuse me for casting aspersions on people who define themselves based on which ethnic groups they don’t like.
Of all the false equivalency that occurred during this abysmal campaign, the most irritating to me was the suggestion that all hate is created equal: That there is no substantive difference between hating someone because of who they are vs. hating someone because of what they think and do.
Of course there’s a difference. The hatred that drives a white supremacist to beat and torture a random black person exists in an entirely separate moral universe from the hatred that that victim comes to feel for white supremacists everywhere. The latter is a product of experience and intelligence, while the former is a product of sheer, irrational prejudice.
Sure: In the end, all hatred is poisonous, and the only way humanity can survive is for love to flourish from one end of the globe to the other.
But the way you guarantee that our country never gets there—and instead grows ever more suspicious of itself—is by electing someone like Donald Trump, who goes out of his way to divide America by race, ethnicity and gender and thereby license the most paranoid and violent among us to act on those noxious views.
This is not going to end well, and it will be almost entirely Trump and company’s fault. We can beat up on the Democrats all we want for their fecklessness and alienation from the entire American heartland (if such a thing still exists), but there is no excuse or justification for the terror and mayhem that only deep-seated bigotry can unleash—bigotry that, at the risk of generalizing, tends only to emanate from one end of the political spectrum.
As the leader of all of us, the president is supposed to be a high moral exemplar. By contrast, in his 70-plus years on Earth, Donald Trump has proved himself to be a moral disgrace in every sense of the word, and has demonstrated neither the ability nor the interest in becoming a better person while in office.
We can hope that he will somehow rise to the challenge, transcend all his worst instincts and be a president for all the people—indeed, we have no other choice—but we have been given precious little on which to hang that hope. In the meantime, we are left with our fears and suspicions that Trump will continue to be exactly what he’s always been, in which case we will spend the next four years rooting for the success of a man whom our conscience tells us to hold in contempt.
Fasten your seat belts. Things are about to get weird.