Most progressives were thrilled after Hillary Clinton’s dominant debate performance last Monday night over Donald Trump. Me? I was scared to death.
I couldn’t help thinking of the millions of Americans who couldn’t hear Clinton’s words because they are deaf to facts, who have been brainwashed into believing that Trump is Clinton’s intellectual and moral equal, who look at Clinton and see a demonic bureaucrat who will take money from hard-working whites and hand it out to ghetto and barrio residents on welfare. There are still too many Americans who have been indoctrinated into this sort of idiocy…and they could still constitute a voting majority.
Trump could still win. Make no mistake. If he does, we must conclude that, with regard to the American electorate, sexism has far greater power than racism: an African-American man can have a good shot at the White House, but a woman, no matter how accomplished, will still run into a concrete ceiling created by those who will always prefer to have a President with a penis (even if that President is an apparent tax dodger).
If Trump wins, we must also conclude that the long right-wing effort to delegitimize public service has succeeded beyond all imagination, that right-wing radio and Fox News and the bigot blogosphere have finally accomplished all of their grotesque goals, that the country has been fully contaminated by crassness. Let us not forget: Richard Nixon had more decency than the current nominee of his party. After all, you never heard Nixon speaking pruriently about Tricia or Julie.
What will it say about our country, our humanity, our values, our morals if a man can go from shaving Vince McMahon’s head in 2007 to taking the Oath of Office in 2017?
On October 30, just a few days before the election, the National Geographic Channel is scheduled to broadcast the documentary Before the Flood, produced by and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which documents the savage impact that human-caused climate change is inflicting upon our world. DiCaprio has suggested that he wants this documentary to influence the election, but that dream is likely to be deferred permanently because of the legions of Americans who have been taught by right-wing media to a) view DiCaprio as a elitist punk who lectures working-class Americans about their SUVs and b) view Trump as a climate expert. Only the climate-concerned left and certain folks in the center will watch this important film, and that’s a shame.
In a sick way, Trump has already won this election. He has already demonstrated that obnoxiousness has its benefits, that hate can make you a hero, that the mainstream media can be bullied and intimidated with little effort, that celebrity can make you a deity.
“What’s America without greed and glamour?” asked the hip-hop artist Kamaal “Q-Tip” Fareed 25 years ago. If Trump wins, the answer to that question will be “Nothing.” The election of Trump would not just be an endorsement of his misogyny and his mendacity towards Muslims and Mexicans, it would also be a thumbs-up to his vanity and self-love, a shout-out to his nationalism and jingoism. It would represent America telling the rest of the world to drown (something that Trump’s pro-fossil-fuel energy policies would almost certainly bring about).
This election is a moral test. Will America fail miserably? We’ll find out soon enough.