The politics of hatred and resentment seem headed for defeat
Donald Trump’s last electronic appeal was aimed at those who believe there is a vast international conspiracy to pillage our once-great nation.
In his final ad — “Trump’s Closing Argument” — the Republican nominee took aim at a broad but unnamed group of international power brokers who, to hear Trump tell it, care about nothing but themselves and their fortunes.
It’s Trump at his most darkly Nixonian, spinning conspiracy theories, and appealing to a silent majority that may exist mostly in his head. It ends, of course, by declaring that he will “Make America Great Again.” It’s an article of faith in campaigns that one seeks to end on a positive note, but maybe a freak-out campaign can only end on a note of paranoia.
Actually, to say these power brokers are unspecified may be misleading. When Trump’s ad was released, it was immediately assailed as anti-Semitic. That’s because, other than Hillary Clinton, its most prominent villains — Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, businessman/activist George Soros, and Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein — all happen to be Jewish.
I thought the ad was a disgusting piece of work. But it just might be a fitting final note to the ugliest and strangest presidential campaign of modern times.
How strange has it gotten? During a campaign appearance Saturday night, Trump was briefly hustled offstage by the Secret Service. A protester had held up a sign, someone yelled “Gun!” and bedlam broke loose. There was no gun. Trump was never in any danger. But the guy said he got beat up by Trump supporters anyway. Thank goodness the campaigning is almost over.
I feel comfortable predicting that Hillary Clinton will be the president-elect when we wake up on Wednesday morning. This is not just a gut feeling, or wishful thinking. She is leading in the vast majority of the swing states Trump would have to carry to prevail. Trump is not going to win Florida, or Pennsylvania, or North Carolina, or (probably) Michigan. Perhaps Clinton is not headed for a landslide, but this election isn’t all that close, either.
Early indications are that heavy Latino turnout in states like Florida and Nevada bodes well for Clinton. After Trump’s incendiary anti-immigrant rhetoric there would be poetic justice in a defeat delivered partly by a significant contingent of Latino voters.
What will Wednesday look like? If Clinton wins, Democrats will celebrate, of course. Women — and many men — will rejoice at the election of the first female president. Deep soul-searching awaits Republicans who wonder what it means now to be a Republican. This won’t be the standard “What went wrong?’’ post-mortem, not after the way Trump hijacked the party.
Should Trump pull off the upset, the country figures to lurch to the right. Many of his promises — like building a wall, or mass deportations — are so untenable that he’s already backed away from them. But his election will terrify many Americans and much of the rest of the world, given his unorthodox view of foreign policy. The biggest effect of a Trump election might be that he has emboldened millions of people to unapologetically wear their hatred on their sleeves. I don’t worry about Trump so much as what he has unleashed.
But we are a country that has traditionally steered clear of extremism, and I believe that will hold true.
This election has blown open divisions we would prefer to deny. Barack Obama was elected as an idealist who wanted to unite America, who famously claimed that the divisions between red and blue America were exaggerated. The unity he promised doesn’t feel imminent at the moment.
But for all the drama of this campaign, we will survive, and probably thrive. For all the bluster, I’ve believed throughout this campaign that hate and resentment did not reflect the values of most voters. That faith is certainly being tested, but America’s voters will pass.