Make it stop. Won’t somebody, please, make it stop?
I realize my plea is in vain. We have three more weeks of this appalling spectacle in which a ridiculous comic-book villain – a cross between the Joker and the Penguin – is trying his best to destroy American democracy. Yes, Donald Trump, I’m talking about you.
Three weeks. That’s normally the blink of an eye, but the time between now and Election Day yawns like an eternity. How many new outrages will test our capacity to be outraged? How many more quisling Republicans will stand before microphones and pretend their party’s nominee for president is fit for the office? How many early-morning tweetstorms will a certain set of unusually short fingers unleash upon a weary and anxious nation?
Look, I happen to believe Hillary Clinton would be a good president. You may disagree, but no one seriously doubts her ability to do the job. By contrast, does anyone really believe it would be safe, let alone wise, to put someone as impulsive and thin-skinned as Trump in command of the most powerful military machine the world has ever known? The thought would be laughable if it were not so frightening.
So yes, this is a scary election. And no, it is not safe to take anything for granted. The bottom should have fallen out from under Trump’s poll numbers long ago, but it hasn’t. For those who see Trump the way I do, it is unfathomable that he would have the support of 40 voters, let alone 40 percent of the electorate.
I understand being tired of politicians and politics-as-usual. I understand frustration at Washington’s perpetual gridlock and stasis. I even understand the appeal of a candidate who promises to be a wrecking ball, demolishing the old system so we can start over. But Trump is not a revolutionary who just happens to be an egomaniac. He is an egomaniac who says what his supporters want to hear so that they will bathe him in the adulation he pathologically craves. He isn’t doing this to make people’s lives better. As Lady Gaga sang, he lives for the applause.
He decided early on that racism, bigotry and xenophobia would be major planks in his platform. He rails against losing American jobs to China, although that’s where his garish Donald J. Trump neckties are made. He invites Russian cyberwarriors to interfere with our election process by hacking into Clinton’s emails. He refuses to learn anything about domestic or foreign policy, offering nothing but patriotic slogans and some desultory “plans” with numbers that don’t remotely add up.
I’ll enjoy having the luxury of four years to explore the complex societal factors that led to the rise and fall of the Trump phenomenon. But first things first: We have to make sure it falls. Which means we have to make it through the next three weeks.
The passage of days will indeed be painful. As Clinton extends her lead in most of the swing states that will decide the election – and even challenges in reliably red states such as Utah, Arizona and Georgia – Trump becomes increasingly unmoored from reality. On Monday morning, he took to Twitter to make such pronouncements as: “Can’t believe these totally phoney stories, 100% made up by women (many already proven false) and pushed big time by press, have impact!” And: “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” And: “WikiLeaks proves even the Clinton campaign knew Crooked mishandled classified info, but no one gets charged? RIGGED!”
He was referring to the highly credible claims by numerous women that Trump groped or kissed them against their will, which he bragged about doing on the now-famous “Access Hollywood” tape; his own unsubstantiated, indeed wholly imaginary, claims of voter fraud; and his unrequited wish for some kind of smoking gun in the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks. Trump isn’t campaigning, he’s flailing.
Three more weeks. We have another debate to survive, though I can’t imagine at this point why either candidate would look forward to the experience. Trump lost the first two encounters, according to every scientific poll, which means he probably will lose the third as well. And Clinton could have a more meaningful policy discussion with an Irish setter.
We are a resilient nation. We have survived worse, though perhaps not weirder. Soon we get to tell an unfunny clown what we think of his act.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.