They’re terrified, and so am I.
Together, we fear for the pillars of our democracy. We worry he’ll wreck the economy, lay waste to our foreign policy, make us all less safe. We’re nervous he’ll worsen race relations, make women’s lives harder, isolate immigrants, divide us even further.
We see the polls tightening, amid predictions that tens of millions of voters will support Donald Trump on Tuesday, maybe even make him president, and many of us feel something very close to despair: How is it possible that this nation — a nation that venerates values he mocks every day — could be so close to electing such a man president?
“I can’t imagine what will happen to this country if Trump wins,” said Liz Carver, 53, loading groceries into her car in Jamaica Plain last Friday morning. “To democracy, to the rule of law, to press freedoms, civil rights, pretty much across the board. It’s a scary time.”
It turns out Barack Obama’s emotional evocation of national unity at that Democratic National Convention here 12 long years ago was more hope than fact. We really are two Americas.
We could go from electing that young senator our first black president, to being led by a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.
In the America that would never vote for someone like Trump — an America that includes some Republicans, too — there is a sad need to reckon with that looming possibility.
Trump promises to make America great again, to return this country to the way it was before, when the nation’s global authority was absolute, and coal was king, and we weren’t overrun by criminals and immigrants, and everybody was happy. Only that America never was. And “everybody” doesn’t really mean everybody.
It sure doesn’t include Leah Shapiro.
“I’m afraid of what it says about our country if he wins,” said Shapiro, 51, who was walking on Centre Street. “We’re at this point, halfway between being done with all that hate and fear and racism and bigotry, and we have the opportunity to move forward as a nation, and he speaks to the part of it that is afraid to do that.”
If Trump wins, Shapiro said, we’ll no longer be able to say we’re a great country where anything is possible. Instead, we’ll be “scared, afraid other people are trying to take our stuff, that we need to push other people down and invalidate them so we don’t have to take responsibility for who we are. It breaks my heart.”
Voters who fear a Trump presidency do so only partly because the scant policy positions Trump has offered are troubling — economic policies that favor the rich, cartoonish stances on foreign relations, pronouncements on the military that reveal distressing ignorance. No, their fear is really about character.
And Trump’s is disqualifying. He has boasted of his sexually predatory behavior and been accused by a dozen women of making good on those boasts. He has said racist things about immigrants and African-Americans. He has mocked a disabled reporter and a Gold Star family. He has swindled people and avoided paying taxes. He has an astonishing contempt for facts.
In the face of this (only partial) catalog of inexcusable offenses, what do policy differences have to do with it? The man is simply unfit to be president.
“I am absolutely terrified,” said a customer at Whole Foods who declined to give her name, worried she’d become the target of angry Trump supporters. “His lack of intelligence, his lack of humanity. How do we go from a country where I would never have believed we could elect Barack Obama, to electing him twice, to this?”
Going backward might appeal to some people. It doesn’t look so good to folks who aren’t white, to immigrants, to women, and many others. It doesn’t look good to Michael Carvalho, 54, who happens to enjoy living in a Boston that is far more diverse and tolerant than it once was.
“I don’t want a return to the 1950s,” Carvalho said, adding that he’d be concerned about Trump’s “erratic behavior” as a head of state. “I don’t think it’s right to exclude people. I’m so surprised at how well he’s doing.”
That surprise was strikingly evident among Hillary Clinton supporters in interviews. It has forced some of them to reassess the country they thought they knew.
Yes, they recognize, there is anxiety in America, a sense among some voters — mostly white, mostly working class — that they’ve been left behind.
There is understandable anger at the status quo and at the way Washington works. Even so, the fact that those voters are willing to embrace, or look past, Trump’s bigotry, his disregard for the Constitution, his lack of basic humanity — it makes you wonder what kind of a place we live in.
“You can dismiss him as just one individual, but the fact that he has so many supporters is so scary to me,” said Carver.
Those who have been left behind by the economy are hoping for redemption from a man who outsourced his own manufacturing to China and who has found myriad morally and legally suspect ways to maximize his own wealth. Nothing about the man, or his way of doing business, suggests compassion for those who struggle.
“I’m scared of having a businessman be the leader of the free world,” said JP resident Will Ferguson, 23. “He’s someone who historically has not cared about people. People think any change is different and therefore better. People are purposely not informing themselves.”
Ferguson said he isn’t sure Trump even really wants to run the country.
“I think it was a joke that went too far and now he can’t pull out,” he said.
Too late now. A man who does not represent my America or theirs, who is the exact opposite of it, may lead it — and maybe destroy it — anyway.
Unless Fritz Louis is right.
“He’s not gonna win,” the 67-year-old immigrant from Haiti said. “The people can be bluffed. Sometimes they can be lied to. But Trump won’t be president.”
Why not? He’d had a dream Clinton had won, the Milford man explained on his way to early voting. It was the same kind of dream Louis said he had about Obama before he became president.
In this desperate hour, I’ll take it.