I meant to write this in time for last week’s paper, but I missed the deadline. That means you will be reading these words on Nov. 5. Between this day and that date an enormous event is taking place.
It is strange to write into the future. Everything I describe will be old news by then. When I note the extreme anxiety and tension I am experiencing, feelings shared by so many, I pray by then they are just beginning to recede, pushed out by an incoming tide of hope, and the early glimmerings of relief. Alternately, through chicanery or just plain bad luck, we may find ourselves plunged into even worse despair, or in a paralyzing suspension of resolution.
As you read these words you will already know which of these scenarios has unfolded, as I do not, writing them.
I think of myself as a reasonable person. I am radical regarding my goals, but moderate in my means of attaining them. I would like to consider myself congenial. I genuinely like people and enjoy their company. In my life, my friends and associates have held a range of beliefs, a spectrum of political leanings. To a fault, I look for the other person’s perspective. I have long wished for a local group discussion between sincere liberal and conservative thinkers, in which ideas could be honestly and respectfully pursued, where people listened to each other.
I seek commonality and shared values: we all really do have them. Moreover, I have difficulty ascribing ill intent to others. James Baldwin wrote, “No man is a villain in his own eyes.” With few exceptions, I generally believe that.
I have never written a political column, and, strictly speaking, I am not doing so now. But I have to cry out the truth as I see it: Donald J. Trump is an evil person. I am not addressing his policies, but his person. You know, dear reader, it is true: his evil is self-evident. Plop a committee of unconnected Mongolians in a room, send in Donald J. Trump, and they would instantly tell you: that guy’s not right. The lack of empathy and self-awareness wafts off him like a miasma.
His life is a tabloid of missteps: his multiple marriages and even more multiple affairs; his numerous bankruptcies and failed business deals, and the many people cheated out of their due (including, it seems, American taxpayers — chumps, in his eyes, for paying their fair share). Trump University is just one example.
Trump and his father got in trouble for discriminatory housing practices decades ago. Trump was the main proponent of the “birther” movement, a blatantly racist attack on Obama. Trump was a frequent and randy participant in the sophomoric Howard Stern radio show; he bragged about grabbing women by their genitals (you can hear him on tape); he is documented to have paid off a porn star for an alleged affair.
His name-calling of political opponents, from the poor schmoes in his primary race to the staunch Democrats fighting his policies, is behavior we would not tolerate in our children. The turnover in his White House and various agencies of government is unprecedented and breathtaking; his abandonment and callous treatment of associates is chilling. He differentiates between Red States and Blue States. He called Mexicans rapists and targeted Muslims for special treatment. He mocked a disabled reporter. And he is the first president in 130 years not to own a dog.
I have just scratched the surface. I could go on and on, but, to quote the man: “It is what it is.” There is no “fake news” here, just documented facts. But the real story is not even Trump: it is about his supporters, those who know every example I have just rolled out, and either overlook or actually celebrate his behavior.
If Trump has lost, we will have to deal with these people. If Trump has won, they will have to deal with us. There is room in the streets of this country.