It occurred to us this morning that we ought to take – if possible – a moment to think without emotion about the avalanche of votes to be unleashed Tuesday.
We’ve tried (and failed, we know) to adopt a distant sense of fairness about our two major candidates. And we admit in advance that we’re going to fail again here. We simply cannot adopt the “fair but balanced” position the nation expects from pundits, commentators, casual press.
Horrified by Mr. Trump since his announcement of availability, and – as she stumbled her way through months of dutiful, purposeful campaigning – increasingly impatient with Mrs. Clinton, we turned today to The New York Times to read what others may be thinking. (Ah hah! we hear you scream. You think the Times is impartial, not in Hillary’s pocket? What we think is that the newspaper has been brutal to Trump, and not much less so to Mrs. Clinton. But we also believe The Times tries to present conflicting viewpoints, and often does it well, printing screeds from all quarters and as many intemperate letters to the editors from one side as the other.)
Reading the lead editorial – no matter that its main thrust was to catalogue the fear-mongering and machinations of a man who may be the worst candidate ever offered to the voters of America – stunning thoughts crossed our mind.
What if Trump really is some weird sort of electoral genius who adopts positions of others just to see what happens? Isn’t there a chance that his entire campaign has been a test of his own charm and strength of personality rather than his positions? It’s not just us here in the upcountry wondering whether what he says has any truth to it, reflects what he personally espouses. We doubt very much whether anyone – including his children and wives – can separate the theatre from actuality.
If this were so, then what a task would lie before us. We’d have to take each of his often outrageous and hurtful statements and erase them from our memories in favor (perhaps) of their very opposites. This would make the past sixteen months a game of thrones manqué. If none of us could separate truth from (testing) falsehoods, the fifty one kingdoms for which he is willing to burn, steal, execute, exile, and demean, then his entire campaign is simply a test of how far he might be able to go should he win the crown and come to the throne. If Trump has no personal parameters, perhaps he’s testing those of the rest of us.
(Sidebar: The Times today also published a defense of monarchy by novelist Nikolai Tolstoy which made a certain amount of historical sense. We can imagine Mr. Trump adopting this stance since, after all, he has an entire brood of heirs to the throne to offer as well as everything else he purportedly pledges. Plus it’s a lot easier than having to learn anything about his job.)
What Trump discovered was that millions of Americans had no parameters either. Millions were ready, willing and able to forego every lesson well-meaning parents tried to instill for instant recovery, advantage, income, justification. He learned how desperate is the electorate and how to play it. He has never suggested he himself could do anything about what people insist on seeing and hearing when he appears. His has been, in effect, a hands-off campaign. Let the people loosen up, let off steam, call others names they’ve been forbidden to use, openly display their hatreds and prejudices. He’ll be the guy they’d most like to have a beer with. It’s not his fault people can’t hold their liquor.
Trump is not a dummy. Chances are he assumed when he was starting out that the public was as canny as he was, and would realize that what he was saying was bananas. He knew (and he knew we knew) there would be no wall paid for by Mexico. He knew (and assumed we knew) that coal as an industry could not be resuscitated. He knew there was no way he was going to be able to force internationally active businesses from taking their wares to other, less taxing nations.
Trump’s campaign was so deep into make-believe that he could without embarrassment tell American blacks they had nothing to lose by voting for him since they were already at the bottom of George Martin’s northern ice-wall and totally unable to scale towards freedom.
(Nikole Hannah-Jones, again in Sunday’s op-ed pages, writes this: “he (Trump) is asking a poorly stated version of a question that many black Americans have long asked themselves. What dividends, exactly, has their decades-long loyalty to the Democratic ticket paid them?” And then: “Democrats have often opted for a sort of trickle down liberalism. If we work to strengthen unions, that will trickle down to you. If we work to strengthen health care, that will trickle down to you. If we work to make all schools better, that will trickle down to you….Too many black Americans are still awaiting that trickle.”)
Deep down, we hate to admit to ourselves that any American could be as lazy, empty and despicable as Trump portrays himself. We’re not arguing here for mercy should the revolution come, or even a chance to go purgatorial rather than straight to hell. If people see what they want and hear what they want when Trump makes an appearance, we want to believe that no one – man, woman, or child – could possibly be what we see and hear when he practices on the teleprompter.