Just recently I opined that Trump probably can’t win. Already I’m less sure. Republicans are drinking the Kool-Aid en masse, trying to sanitize him, or at least sweep under the rug all his repellent points. I’d been thinking, he’s getting killed with blacks, with Hispanics, with women – how could enough white male votes compensate? But it seems I’m becoming the odd man out not just in my political party, but even in my gender group.
Part of it is Hillary’s negatives. I always thought her vulnerable; now she’s being shredded from within her own party. Bernie seems to have drunk his own Kool-Aid, intoxicated with his campaign and adulation. Likewise his supporters, with breathtaking ferocity. It resembles a religion whose believers torture logic to convince themselves of untruths. Here it’s the belief that Bernie still could – should! – win the nomination. This truly puts reality to the torture, inasmuch as Hillary has gotten millions more primary votes than him.
The Daily Show had a great send-up of Bernie-ite shrillness, exaggerating only modestly. It shows how polarized America has become, when most Republicans embrace a vile fraud because they consider Hillary too left-wing, while much of the Democratic party condemns her as not left-wing enough.
At a recent social gathering, someone read from his phone what he deemed a very reasoned appeal to Trump backers, to embrace a totally different narrative. I finally stopped him, saying, “This is preaching to the choir.” Trumpites would reject it as just the kind of thinking they despise. Too many Americans live in echo-chambers of confirmation bias, impervious to facts, let alone arguments, contradicting what they already think. (The phone-reader himself has a great appetite for online screeds mirroring his views. Discordant views, not so much.)
Voter bloody-mindedness isn’t uniquely American. That’s what made Dutch voters recently say no, in a referendum on the Ukraine-EU trade deal – bizarrrely playing into the hands of the pro-Russians who, remember, shot down a Dutch passenger plane. And British voters might opt out of the EU – not for any good reasons so much as sheer bloody-mindedness, to stick it to the political elites.
Hitler comparisons should always be avoided. But regarding Trump, we’re hearing, “They thought at first Hitler was a clown too.” (Alan Chartock, head of the local NPR station, loves this trope.) And Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, has fresh cachet.* We’re reminded that Hitler was democratically elected. It’s not true. He lost the 1932 presidential vote, and Nazis never got an electoral majority. But once appointed chancellor, Hitler mounted a coup, ditched the constitution, and literally burned down the parliament.
Could Trump do likewise? There’s no comparison between 1933 Germany and 2016 America. Germany was in the throes of the Depression, having also, just nine years before, experienced a total currency collapse. Today’s U.S. economic problems are nothing like that. And Germany’s institutions were far shakier, the age-old monarchy gone, replaced by a weak new government inspiring no loyalty. In contrast, America’s constitution is an icon of veneration, guaranteeing free speech and press, with a strong system of checks-and-balances, rule-of-law, due process rights, and an independent judiciary.
Yet God did not decree we must have all this forever. Its continuation depends upon a citizenry that understands and truly values it. Such a citizenry would not elect a Trump.
That even 45% would even consider it reflects a collapse in norms of civic responsibility and seriousness. Make America great again? Trump voters are shitting on what makes America great.
* I’ve read it; it’s plausible; with some Trumpian parallels.