Let us count the ways, shall we?
(Oh, and I know I said the last one would be my final post on Trump, but that's because I thought he would lose. This one really will be my last political piece for a while. Pinkie swear.)
The election, of course, is not yet over – and yet it is. At least at the presidential level, the outcome is already known. Indeed, one bookmaking outfit is already paying out to its clients who bet on Hillary Clinton. There’s no reason to think the firm will regret its decision.
Yeah, well, best-laid plans, mice and men, yada yada.
In coming months, there will be endless debate about whether or not Donald Trump, under other circumstances or following a different strategy, could have won this election. For me, the answer is simple: the Donald Trump we know, the Trump who exists in our universe, could not have won. He simply lacks the right stuff. [etc.]
Swing and a miss!
This election was the Republican Party’s to lose – and lose it they did.
Or ... not. With a Republican President, House, and (almost certainly) Senate, as well as gains in governorships (the GOP now holds 33 of them), the Republican Party is as well positioned as it could possibly hope to be. At least for the time being, it has won back the fabled Reagan Democrats and recast itself as a populist party that is not the vassal of Wall Street arbitrageurs (even if its standard-bearer is an obnoxious Manhattan plutocrat).
Most likely, a President Trump would not prove to be a dictator, if only because being a dictator requires a mental focus, determination, and courage that Trump doesn’t possess. ... Had he been elected, he probably would have spent most of his time goofing off on the golf course or on social media, while his vice president, chief of staff, and cabinet members did the heavy lifting.
At this point I have no idea what kind of president Trump will prove to be. His victory speech was surprisingly low-key and gracious, even if it did feature the usual unrealistic promises.
... it could be argued that electing Hillary Clinton actually pushes us a tad closer to banana-republic status by cementing the idea that the rich, powerful, and politically connected are above the law.
This I still believe. In fact, throughout Election Day, as I pondered the looming reality (so I thought) of a Hillary victory, I found myself increasingly depressed and angry. The idea that this kleptocratic serial liar would be rewarded with the presidency after a lifetime of cheating justice and failing upward was infuriating and deeply discouraging to me. A four-year slog through a Hillary administration seemed like an almost unbearable prospect. Honestly, if I had voted on Election Day, I might have pulled the lever for Trump just out of sheer despair at the alternative — even though I still think Trump is dangerously unqualified and temperamentally unfit for the job.
In such a discouraging political environment, it’s easy to give up hope. Some academics argue that, having crossed our own Rubicon, we’ve effected the transition from a republican system of government to an “elective monarchy” not too dissimilar from that of Imperial Rome ...
Not necessarily wrong, but last night the people reminded us that they are still in charge, and that the "elective" part is at least as significant as the "monarchy" part.
In this country there’s still enough innate suspicion of government to prevent a Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini from gaining power, and, for most Americans, life is still comfortable enough to make manning the barricades an unviable proposition.
I think this is true, and I sincerely hope it won't be put to the test. In fact, I hold out a smidgen of hope that Trump and the Republican Congress will rein in the imperial presidency at least a little. (Okay, okay ... it's unlikely. I said it was a smidgen.)
Another unattractive feature of today’s politics is the assumption that one’s opponents have been hypnotized, duped, and brainwashed – assuming, of course, that they are not actually evil. The possibility of honest, intelligent disagreement is rarely broached.
I've been guilty of this as well — sometimes tarring Trump supporters in general with the brush of the alt-right white supremacist crowd, who represent only a small (I hope) subset of his voters. Most of the people who voted for Trump did so because they want a new direction, because they feel that the smug, self-satisfied elites are out of touch and out of control, and because they had no confidence in either the competence or the integrity of Hillary Clinton. These are valid reasons to support a candidate.
The truth is, the media and the #NeverTrump crowd (including me) made little effort to understand where Trump's support was coming from, outside of the spittle-flecked Pepe-the-Frog social-media trolls who were noisy and hateful, but probably not especially numerous. The more mainstream dimension of Trump's support largely eluded us, leaving us unprepared for his upset win.
So there you have it. That's my mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Having been wrong in my forecasts of the last three presidential elections, I now confess I am hopelessly out of touch with the American zeitgeist. Just when I think I've got it figured out, everything changes. Sort of like life.
For people (like me) who are still worried by the potential (large) downside of a Trump presidency, I'll add that, if nothing else, last night's outcome teaches us that our powers of prognostication are limited, and wildly unexpected things can happen. This can be a calming and even liberating thought. It reminds us that, even in our personal lives, the trajectory we believe we're on can be altered at any moment, sometimes for the better. You think you're destined to be alone for the rest of your life ... and then your eyes meet hers across a restaurant. You think you'll be poor forever ... and then your latest crazy idea takes off and makes you a million bucks. You think you have nothing to look forward to ... and then suddenly you do.
If Trump's surreal victory proves anything — if the consensus-defying election of an abrasive, septuagenarian reality TV star who's never held political office carries any larger message —it's that anything is possible. And if we ever think we have all the answers, reality shows up to give us a swift kick in the ass.