Hard as it may be to recall now, there was a time when this quicksilver calamity of a presidential campaign was sometimes unabashedly silly. It was only a year ago, almost to the day, when GOP candidate Dr. Ben Carson let drop his belief that the Egyptian pyramids had been built by Biblical hero Joseph (he of the technicolor dream coat) for use as — wait for it — grain silos. Not tombs, as established beyond doubt by all of archeology. Grain silos. We waited to no avail for the good doctor to explain how the Sphinx was actually used to store weed, and that the Romans had shot its nose off trying to gain the stash. Carson doesn’t believe in archaeology, but does believe Romans existed because pizza exists, or something. Science!
Ah, those were the days. A month later, Carson was asked by debate moderator Hugh Hewitt how many children he was willing to kill in order to properly fulfill his role as commander-in-chief, and the shroud that has since wreathed this campaign in shadow and darkness fell with an audible thud. The bizarreness wasn’t quaint anymore. A lot of these people, the realization dawned, were actively dangerous — and none more so than the eventual GOP nominee. Donald Trump’s slash and burn campaign style, gleefully promoted by a complicit “news” media, laid waste to the GOP field, and the real nightmare began to unfold.
I have no intention of forcing you to endure a recap of the 2016 campaign as told by Trump. The information is all out there if you feel the need to punish yourself. The Muslim ban. The Mexican wall. The violent misogyny of the TMZ tape. The brazen racism. The rampant sexism. The deliberate ignorance. The lies, the denials, the debate disasters … hell, everything you need to know can be found in the opening clips of Saturday Night Live. Two days ago, a Trump surrogate was on MSNBC breathlessly informing the viewing audience that Hillary Clinton is a known worshipper of Satan — excuse me, “Lucifer” — because she wrote about Saul Alinsky in her thesis. Beat that with a stick.
My family has a wonderful friend named Suzi. We have standing plans to get together every other Tuesday, and when I saw her off two weeks ago, I said, “The next time we see you will be Election Day.”
In the short span of time between then and now, the FBI attempted to upend the whole race by lobbing a ball of nonsense about Clinton’s emails into the fray. The “news” media went predictably berserk, spraying lies and innuendo into the wind, all capped by Fox News reporting incorrectly that Clinton was about to be indicted. Trump’s campaign finally barred his access to Twitter, and yet another person got the stuffing beaten out of them at a Trump rally. Fox News eventually backed down, and FBI Director James Comey admitted that, regarding the emails, there was no there, there. Meanwhile, Trump’s people used that fracas at the rally to promulgate the fiction that Fearless Leader had narrowly avoided an assassination attempt, when all he really avoided was having to see a “Republicans Against Trump” campaign sign.
Two weeks between Suzi visits, two bitty weeks, and that’s the short version of what went down in the interval. It’s been like this on a daily basis for almost two years now. I see little point in sifting the sordid details any further. It happened. As we stand today before the precipice, our time is better served by encompassing the reality of one word: “Aftermath.” The sun will rise tomorrow to shine down upon a nation that bears little resemblance to the one we knew a year ago. Best we understand the lay of the coming land before we sally forth.
Aftermath. The numbers predict a Trump defeat, but that hardly matters. The damage has been done and the fascists are walking tall. Racists and sexists hold brazen rallies and command top interview spots on the “news” networks. Men sporting camouflage MAGA hats squat in the shrubbery fondling high-powered rifles, hoping for a chance to make history in an act of vengeance against The Other they’ve been carefully taught to despise. Call the FBI? Good luck with that. Hoover at least knew the dark art of subtlety; these modern Bureau clowns would be funny in their fumbling if they weren’t such a menace to the basic rule of law.
Understandably, some fear that voting has now become a dangerous act, particularly for marginalized people; you might get harassed or even harmed for trying to cast a ballot. Myriad other efforts to subvert the basic right to vote have been deployed nationally, often by elected officials or the Ku Klux Klan, or by the GOP nominee himself. It’s all “rigged,” right Donald? Except when you were winning, of course.
The lesson to be learned here is one we were forced to absorb during the George W. Bush years: the astonishingly fragile nature of American democracy. Bush showed us that it doesn’t take much to tear everything up, but he at least had a crew of brigands with him chopping away at the Constitution like maddened beavers. Donald Trump is just one man, a rich lout with money and no sense who got the media to carry his water because buffoonery makes for good television. He tapped into the angst of millions who have been getting screwed for decades by an economic shell game that robs Peter and Paul to pay Trump and his ilk as a matter of course. The failure of “trickle-down economics” isn’t a bug; it’s a feature.
Trump took the haggard infrastructure of the Republican Party — its aging, xenophobic, rural, poorly informed base that has been so well-trained to hate — and made them his, to the point that almost no GOP office-seeker today will speak ill of him, for fear that maddened Trump supporters will stuff live rats through their mail slot. Many Trump supporters are just as disposable to Trump as they have been to the GOP for generations.
Regardless of who wins today’s election, we must recognize that we are in a new age of dystopia and lurking violence; a Clockwork Orange-like era has been unleashed. After the polls close and the results finish streaming in, prepare for the dawn. It will not be the same as yesterday’s.