Acceptance

Know what? I like Donald Trump more than Sarah Palin.

Donald Trump

Donald J. Trump. Apparently, the next president of the United States

Oh, I’ve gone through all the stages of grief. Anger, denial, bargaining. I’ve reached acceptance. But I don’t believe that this is the worst possible outcome. I think my fellow liberals and I have spent the better part of a year demonizing Donald Trump. I also remember demonizing Mitt Romney who, though a cad, was otherwise relatively harmless compared to Trump, and at least comported himself as a statesman.

Here are my points of solitude.
1. Trump doesn’t seem to think God got him here. It’s not that God doesn’t act in our lives; I’ve felt compelled toward acts of kindness I would otherwise ignore by a sense I’ve no other explanation for except that what God wanted me to do. Crazy? Yeah, I think so too, actually. But I don’t think he believes that he’s somehow anointed by God to be president, and I take some relief in that. I don’t want a president who views his policies as a mandate from God. Because that’s just crazy, and there’s no reasoning with it.

2. He says what he thinks people used to hear. I’ve read so many accounts of staff members abashed because they had gone over the message they felt Trump needed to deliver, only to watch him go out and incite the crowd with his oratory by saying what they want to hear. I disagree in the strongest sense with what the crowds want to hear, but I honestly think there’s a way around it: surround him with love. Go to the speeches with your “Make America Great Again” signs and red ballcaps and hear him out. When he goes off-script and starts spouting hate, give him negative reinforcement. If he changes course and says things that seem remotely kind, provide positive reinforcement. Think of it as the “Laugh-O-Meter” on Nashville Now when Minnie Pearl would read jokes; you want to move the meter higher on the lines you like.

3. Remember: He’s a New Yorker. Even Hillary was from Chicago by way of Little Rock. New Yorkers are coarse, brash and less-than-friendly, but they’re also pragmatic and resilient. These are important qualities in people who identify themselves as New Yorkers; who believe that being a New Yorker is a critical part of themselves. I’ve had the pleasure to know more than a few New Yorkers, and once you get used to them, they’re not so bad.

4. As bad as Trump is, his acolytes are WAY worse. Again, Trump’s a cad, but Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani are worse by a magnitude. These are the top candidates for prominent positions in Trump’s cabinet, but I’m ill-convinced they will hold as much pull as his more trusted advisors, such as his daughter…

5. Ivanka. There’s never been a more creepily doting father than Trump when it comes to his daughter, Ivanka. We worry about Trumps antisemitism, but his beloved son-in-law is an observant Jew, and his daughter has also adopted that religion. I know someone who adopted the Jewish religion; it’s really, really hard. Once you’re in, that’s who you are. His daughter did that, and if she tells daddy he’s out of line, he’s going to listen.

6. Four years. We’ve got four years to get out shit together. That means we need to quit blocking traffic and setting stuff on fire and looking like jerks, and start positioning ourselves as leaders. We need to cultivate the candidates who will make a difference in a few years. The first time Barack Obama tried to attend the Democratic National Convention, they wouldn’t even let him in. A few years later, he gave the keynote address, and a few years after that, he was the nominee. We need someone young, well-spoken, likeable and eager. Male or female, black or white (though black might get more people to the polls), Trump only has four years before he faces another referendum. We best be ready.

7. I’m not adverse to ALL his ideas. Oh, yeah, the vast majority are terrible. But term limits for Congress? No more career politicians? That actually sounds OK. And who knows? Maybe there are others.

8. There is no mandate. This wasn’t as close as Bush and Gore, but Clinton still got the popular vote. The fact that he won is tempered by the fact that he didn’t win “big.” That should temper his first 100 days.

9. We get to vote against him again? Wait. Covered that in No. 6.

10. He’s not Ted Cruz? I got nothing.

The difference is, Trump is at least aware of what’s going on. Palin had no idea. And we know now — since he’s still alive and serving in the Senate — that concerns about McCain’s death were premature. I’m a white, heterosexual male in the American South; I’ll be OK. I weep for the others, the gay, the black, the immigrant. But I’m beside you. I hope I can shield you. MLK did a lot of great things — but it was LBJ who got the Voting Rights Act passed.

So we wait. We have a long wait. We’re going to lose a lot of what we thought was safe. I’m scared. I haven’t slept well. I won’t for a while. But I’m trying to find a silver lining. This is all I’ve got.

Unbelievable

Well, I didn’t see this coming.

Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was cruising not just to an easy win, but to a potentially epic one. The polls were bound to tighten, because that’s what they do, but it looked like we were in for a Democratic win nonetheless.

Donald Trump speech

Trump: The next [shudder] president. (Image from the AP)

Myself, I got drunk Tuesday night. Honestly, I started drinking before the polls closed. I was celebrating. Then, the results started to come in, and I stopped drinking. I drink because I enjoy it; not as a coping mechanism. So when things went south, I put up the bourbon and got out the Diet Mountain Dew. Then I went to bed and listened to my phone buzz on my nightstand with more and more bad news.

I didn’t sleep that night. My wife and I lied on our backs in bed, staring into the dark and talking. I hadn’t had a night of sleep like that since my mother died.

What I didn’t believe was how angry people were. I didn’t believe how cruel people were, or blind to the reality of their beliefs. My in-laws were Trump people — a fact my wife struggled to reconcile with knowing her parents as generous and loving people.

There are plenty of other places to read about the why’s of Trump’s victory. And I’ve tried to console my daughter with the promise that everything is going to be OK. I’ve also given money to the ACLU and told my friends that I’m there for them. I’m reading the news — the bad news — to see what may be changing, what I need to watch for and where I need to focus my efforts.

I’m scared. I’m scared and I’m a heterosexual white male with an employer-provided health plan. I can’t imagine what others must be facing. But I’m putting my hope in a resilient republic and hoping too much damage can’t be done and that four years pass quickly.

The Disconnect

We hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see. This has been the story of humanity since time began. It’s why we fight wars over invisible gods or perceived principles of governance. It’s why we are unable to see the other side, or empathize with an enemy.

Humans are a peculiar species that can work together to cultivate empires and even break the bonds of earth to explore the heavens, but can’t have a civil dinner together.

This week, the implications of our inability to see eye to eye and understand another’s position came home in the form of an unrelated investigation that may or may not have turned up new evidence linked to a private e-mail server used by one of the contestants of the presidential election.

M.C. Escher print

It’s hard to tell what’s real anymore. (Print from M.C. Escher)

We’re going to stop here and let you re-read the sentence above, because it’s a little hard to follow. The whole thing is a little hard to follow.

The things that one of the presidential candidates are accused of are a little hard to pin down. Leaked e-mails detail the personal, otherwise-unpublishable back and forth of her campaign staff, including somewhat tasteless correspondence concerning Catholics and tone-deaf efforts to turn out black voters.

In a normal election, that might do some damage. Humans, collectively, might decide that these types of comments or activities are unbecoming the nation’s highest executive. Sure, we all like to eat the sausage, but seeing how it’s made is just too much.

But this isn’t a normal election.

One side doesn’t understand how the other can remain blind to how bad things have gotten while supporting a candidate who’s under federal investigation. The other side doesn’t know how things have gotten so bad that the other can continue to actively support a xenophobic misogynist who picks fights on Twitter like a slighted sorority girl.

This isn’t new, of course. Though the Obama Administration has been remarkably free of scandal, people nonetheless persist in throwing contrived criticisms their way, including that the president is a Kenyan-born socialist with a secret homosexual past.

Because, of course.

The fact is, no one seems capable of agreeing on the facts anymore. What’s real is up for debate. And that’s terrifying.

One. More. Week.

Here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to get up early, and my wife and I will go down to the elementary school down the road — the one where my daughter goes, where I went, where my mother and grandfather went — and cast my vote, just like my grandfather did when I was a kid. Then I’m going to go to work and be mad at myself all day for not taking a vacation day and offering to help drive people to the polls like I promise myself I’m going to do every year.

President Barack Obama

The first president my daughter will remember. (Image from WhiteHouse.gov)

At quitting time, I’m going to come home. We’re going to order pizza, I’m going to pour a glass of bourbon (a good American whisky, made with sour corn mash, like George Washington used to distill), and then I’m going to crash on the couch and wait for the votes to come in. We might let our 8-year-old daughter sit up a little bit to watch.

And I’m going to be confident that what she’s going to watch is our nation elect a woman to be president. The first president she’s going to remember will be a black man. The second: a woman, whom the black man beat in a bitter contest, brought in as part of his cabinet, then endorsed and campaigned for to succeed him.

I know we’re not going to witness the birth of a post-racial republic in my lifetime, no more than we’re going to witness the end of gender politics. This election itself has proven that these issues remain very real.

But I’ve been aware all my life that there are some things, right or wrong, that went my way by the simple absence of pigment in my skin and the inheritance of a Y chromosome, like I somehow had something to do with that. African Americans have a very different experience in this nation than my daughter and I, and are the products of a very different history. Deride it as white guilt; at least I’m cognizant.

Not all that long ago, blacks and women argued over who should receive the vote first. And within my daughter’s lifetime, she’s seen both a black man and a woman compete for — and likely ascend to — the office of the highest executive in our nation. And for her, this is routine. It’s just the way things are. That’s really cool.

It doesn’t mean for her that things have changed radically. But I hope it means they have changed a little. Because I want her to understand that the only thing that makes someone less of a person isn’t their pigment or chromosomes; it’s the things they believe and the way they behave.

Salut.

We’re All Just Tired

Is it over yet?

We’re tired. And we want to go home.

Elections didn’t used to take this long. But they also weren’t this much of a circus sideshow, either. Who thought we’d ever pine for the days when two old, boring white guys in suits would politely disagree about banal issues like economic growth rates and tax plans?

This election, though, has been a two-year trudge of misery; the political equivalent of the Bataan Death March. One candidate says and does such terrible things that we begin to grow increasingly anxious about the sanity of his supporters, while we hold our breath and wait for the skeletons to drop out of the other candidate’s closet.

People voting

People are already casting their ballots during early voting. (Image from Daily Kos)

There’s science behind the stress, too. In September, a survey from the American Psychological Association reported that one in four American workers felt more stressed and less productive in their jobs because of political discussions with colleagues.

It’s gotten so bad, some psychologists are beginning to reference an “election stress disorder” — a sense of “irritability and resentment” leading to anxiety and a sense of “powerlessness,” Washington, D.C.-area therapist Steven Stosny explained to the Washington Post. “If you listen to political stories on the radio while driving, you’re likely to drive more aggressively,” he said. “At work, it will be harder to concentrate without blaming co-workers or supervisors. At home you won’t be as sweet to your kids as you might otherwise be. You’ll be tempted to drink more than usual. It’s hard to tell that you have it — ask your spouse and kids if they’ve noticed a difference.”

It doesn’t help that voters seem to see both candidates as insufferable and boding catastrophe. These candidates have the lowest favorability ratings in recent history, and both campaigns have been guilty of stressing that a victory for the other side would mean certain doom. It’s gone beyond economic issues and tax policy to matters of debating one candidate’s morals and the other’s sanity.

You see it on Facebook, too. People are now casting their ballots in early voting, and sharing their “I Voted” stickers with a sigh of relief. For them, the game’s over. They’ve done all they can do, and there’s no turning back.

And the rest of us silently envy them, and not just because of the lines they won’t have to wait in on Election Day.

The Great November Tightening

Polls change. That’s what they do, and that’s why they’re conducted so often — to provide at least a hint of what’s to come.

For weeks following the final presidential debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had appeared a political juggernaut, barreling unstoppable toward the presidency while Trump futilely foundered.

And then, the FBI opened its big, fat mouth and, at first glance, seemed to vindicate all the criminal maleficence that Clinton has been accused of since the campaign began a year and a half ago.

Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is in a much tighter race. (Image from Time)

What the letter FBI director James Comey sent to Congress was rather opaque. The FBI investigation into Clinton’s controversial use of a private e-mail server during her time as secretary of state had been closed, and though chided for using “extremely poor judgement,” it did not appear that Clinton had technically done anything criminal.

And then some e-mails turned up in a separate investigation into former congressman and certifiable creep Anthony Weiner, who had until recently been married to one of Clinton’s closest confidantes.

The e-mails weren’t from Clinton, nor were they to Clinton. Nor was the FBI reopening their investigation of Clinton. But nonetheless, the words “Clinton,” “E-mails” and “FBI” were back in the headlines again, just as early voting was beginning nationwide and the campaign itself was finally coming down the homestretch.

The truth is, though, this is often what campaigns do toward the end. People start making up their minds. They begin to settle. And once-great leads tend to dwindle as people become hesitant to jump on the bandwagon of the leading candidate — often for no other reason than just to be contrary or to be able to take the “don’t blame me, I voted for the other guy” view once the election’s over.

So yes, the e-mail investigation has hurt Clinton. But so has the calendar. This likely only means Clinton’s apparent landslide from a week ago will be a bit more modest in its scope.

The Fraying of the Republican Party

At the start of the 2016 presidential election — back in 2015 — the Democrats had five main candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffe.

The Republicans fielded almost 20: Donald Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Jim Gilmore, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker and Rick Perry.

Why were there so many more candidates on the right than there were on the left?

It’s not that all Democrats (or liberals, for that matter) agree on all things. Black churches may reliably back Democratic candidates, even if they don’t endorse other pillars of the Democratic platform, like gay marriage or abortion rights. However, black churches may be aware that Democratic majorities seek to expand — not restrict — access to the ballot, which is historically a very important issue for their congregations. These issues are not contradictory; ensuring voting rights does not limit gay marriage or a woman’s right to choose. The left proposes gun control, which many on the left are willing to negotiate in some measure, either through expanded background checks or using the law to limit the types of firearms private individuals can purchase.

On the right, however, factions have formed with interests that are often at cross purposes. Big-business Republicans oppose the decline in sales that would follow the limits on media supported by Christian conservative Republicans. Libertarian-minded conservatives don’t understand the need among other conservatives to use the law to butt into the private affairs of people’s bedrooms, and sportsman conservatives who love the outdoors seem incapable of rationalizing their opposition to the climate science that big business Republicans claim is bunk.

Yes, that all sounds twisted. Because it is.

What appears to be happening is the Republican Party is beginning to splinter. It likely will not be a permanent break and it may even rebound before the next presidential election cycle. But the nearly 20 candidates who actively sought the Republican nomination for president each ran not to represent their party but to represent their faction. Some represented the establishment, some represented business activists, and some represented conservative Christians — all reliably safe categories in the Republican camp.

With their cross-purpose policies, however, conservatives are battling themselves as much as the political opposition. And it may be only a matter of time before one or two of those groups decide to take their ball and go start their own party, taking their voters with them.

What Would a Landslide Mean?

Ever more, national polls are beginning to show that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton isn’t merely going to win the 2016 election contest — she’s going to trounce her rival, Republican nominee Donald Trump, “very badly,” as the billionaire real estate tycoon might say.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com — which pulled off forecasting how all 51 states and the District of Columbia would vote in 2012 and went 50/51 in 2008, missing only Indiana, which Obama carried by 1 percent — Gives Clinton an almost 85 percent chance of winning the election, with at least 333 electoral college votes to Trump’s 203.

That’s a lot of electoral votes. And Trump isn’t doing himself any favors.

Bush 2004

George W. Bush felt that he entered his second term with a popular mandate and loads of “political capital,” especially after the razor-close contest with Al Gore in 2000. What would Clinton do with a huge vote haul? (Source: National Memo)

George W. Bush famously proclaimed after his 2004 victory over John Kerry that “I earned capital in this campaign — political capital — and now I intend to spend it.” The idea being, once the electorate supports you enough to turn out in large numbers to elect (or re-elect) you, then you get to enjoy a mandate (at least for a while), where those who would ordinarily oppose you, well, won’t.

The most immediate benefit — to Democrats, at least — is that down-ballot candidates may ride Clinton’s tide, handing the party control of the Senate at least and possibly even control of the House of Representatives as well (to this, FiveThirtyEight.com presently gives Democrats a better than 67 percent chance of claiming the Senate).

Beyond that, an electoral landslide would give Clinton leeway to act aggressively on her policy proposals, which might be earthmoving were she succeeding a rival administration rather than a friendly one of which she was actually a part. That makes it unclear where Clinton would spend her own political capital or what priorities she would set in place. For most of the recent months of the campaign, she’s been able to run on a platform of “I’m not Donald Trump,” and that’s served her admirably.

The polls are likely to tighten closer to election day — assuming Trump maintains a modicum of self-control — but with typically reliable red states like Texas and Georgia inching into the “tossup” category in several polls, it looks like Clinton is going to close out election night with electoral votes to spare and a clear mandate to lead.

The question is, what’ll she do with it?

Trump is Why Wikileaks Doesn’t Matter

In any normal election year, the steady drip-drip of hacked emails would probably prove fatal to a presidential candidate.

In private emails made public, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign staffers mock Catholics, bicker, discuss strategies to court the black vote and, from emails released today by Wikileaks, collude with White House officials to explain or cover up Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

Trump in Gettysburg

Trump at a campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pa. Trump used the occasion to lambast several women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. (Source: Associated Press)

These revelations should be damning. They should send the campaign spiraling toward the ground like a malfunctioning helicopter.

But instead, Clinton’s lead in the polls continues to steadily grow. Because this isn’t a normal election year, and this is by no means a normal campaign.

Clinton envisioned herself as the woman who would crack the world’s greatest glass ceiling, assuming the office of the nation’s highest executive and serving as an inspiration to girls everywhere. Instead, she’s become a bulwark against the perceived catastrophe of a Donald Trump administration.

So what should’ve been easy hay to make for Trump has instead been forgotten amid the Republican nominee’s own erratic behavior. At a speech this week at Gettysburg, in which Trump was expected to invoke the fond admiration of the nation’s 16th president and spell out a course for his first 100 days in office, he instead mocked the polls and threatened to sue a number of women who have come forward in recent days to accuse Trump of sexually assaulting and manhandling them — a far, far cry from “four score and seven years ago…”

The Republican nominee’s behavior has been enough to make one wonder if he actually wants to be president at all — if he ran on a lark and never expected to get this far, and now he’s just having fun with it.

Instead, the Wikileaks emails are only becoming fodder for Trump’s most ardent supporters, who already suspect the former secretary of state of all kinds of crimes and transgressions. While the emails don’t validate the most egregious crimes against the candidate, they do cause a withering of her esteem and sense of trustworthiness — an area she’s long suffered anyway.

In the days to come, Wikileaks promises to continue to drip the emails that should’ve ended a candidacy, but have instead only made it awkward for certain Washington insiders to be in the same rooms with one another.

Trump’s Rhetoric Begs: Is He Trying to Lose?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s favorite bully pulpit seems limited only by the 140-character limit.

And lately, Trump has been taking to the pulpit to cast aspersions on the validity of the election.

“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” he tweeted Monday, Oct. 17. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”

The fear many people take from Trump’s rhetoric is that, in the view of some of his more ardent supporters, the election will be invalidated and the eventual winner (according to recent polling, that’s most likely to be Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton) will be an illegitimate president.

Trump speaking at rally

Trump at a campaign rally Monday. (Photo from the BBC)

(This is especially troublesome given that we’ve recently endured eight years of accusations that President Barak Obama was not born in the United States, undermining the legitimacy of his presidency — speculation that was fueled in no small part by Trump himself.)

Be this as it may, Trump’s accusations may actually have another result: they may mean that he loses even worse than he otherwise would.

Let me explain.

This is the point in the election cycle where candidates typically shift from winning over undecided voters, who statistically have a low likelihood of even voting at all at this point in the campaign, and focus on mobilizing their base, or the voters who have made up their minds and now must be persuaded to actually go and cast their vote. It’s one thing to make a decision, it’s another to go wait in line and deal with poll workers to make your decision matter.

And history has demonstrated that voters are actually less likely to participate in an election if they believe it is illegitimate or if they think the outcome is a foregone conclusion. That is to say, a candidate that is doing very poorly ahead of the vote may actually do even worse on election day because his or her supporters don’t feel like he or she has a chance, so they don’t make the effort to go vote. Or, in the case of rigged elections, voters may feel that casting a ballot would somehow legitimize the election, so they stay away from the polls.

So if the efforts are actually to drive voter turnout, Trump is doing himself a severe disservice. Those who support him, even in the most hotly contested states that he needs to win the election, may feel that the outcome is already in Clinton’s hands or that shadowy machinations are at work to steal the election for Clinton. If either is the case, why bother participating in the political contest?

Meanwhile, Clinton is continuing to maintain a strong lead in national polls as well as several important state polls, and expanding her campaign to traditionally strong red states like Arizona where she sees an opportunity to make inroads, if not for herself than for candidates down the ballot that could help her wrap up a Democratic Congress.

So while Trump continues to bluster, his supporters continue to grow more enraged — and less likely to vote come November.