Donald Trump Robbed Me
Donald Trump robbed me.
On the list of people Trump has harmed, I’m certainly very, very, very low. His crimes against me are nothing compared to the vile, despicable things he’s done to at least 10 separate women. I’ve never been a contractor for the Trump Organization, and as such, he’s never filched me after I performed contractual work for him. I’ve never purchased a Trump steak, or Trump wine, or taken classes at Trump University.1 I’ve never seen more than half an episode of The Apprentice.
No, what Donald is guilty of, in my case, is robbing me and many others of the joy and thrill of a Presidential election, especially one without an incumbent. There have only been three of those in my lifetime, and the first one happened when I was two years old. The opportunity to witness a legitimate transfer of power does not happen frequently in this country, and it should be an occasion to celebrate our great civic traditions in this country, namely, a high minded exchange of ideas and philosophies, and the fact that we don’t need to activate the National Guard when the election is called.
Beyond that, we are witnessing the first woman to run a general election presidential campaign in our nation’s history. That is no small thing. She is certainly flawed, but she’s whip smart and running on a progressive platform that deserves a spirited and vigorous debate with an intellectual equal. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been half of that equation. She’s laid out an impressive albeit imperfect agenda. The idea, then, is that the Republican nominee would do the same and be prepared to respectfully but intelligently counter her ideas.
Rather than that, we got Trump, an intellectual fruit fly.
I’m no fool. I know that politics in this country has mostly been a slow race to the gutter since the early 1990’s. A Republican congress spent much of the 90s dealing with the various transgressions of President Bill Clinton, and a lot of the criticism was certainly justified. But in their furious attempt to discredit the Commander-in-Chief, Republicans embraced the scum that had been collecting around their fringes. Case in point: after the 1994 midterm elections, Congressional Republicans named the renowned pill-popping, conspiracy-peddling, racist, sexist, peddler of filth Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their caucus.
But at least, at the VERY least, we the voters were treated with a modicum of respect by the Presidential candidates. Presidential debates, and elections in general, somehow managed to stay mostly above the fray. Rewatch the debates from 2008 and 2012: during both elections, the candidates were engaged in fierce campaigns, and those campaigns bore out on the stage. The debates were tense and at times adversarial, but they were substantive. Even the slip ups were minor: in 1992, George HW Bush had the gall to check his watch during a town hall debate, and in 2008, John McCain referred to Barack Obama as “that one.” These breaks in decorum were treated as serious transgressions.
Rather than any of that, we got Trump.
A candidate who fully and openly appeals to facist white nationalist false flag wavers. A candidate who, at his nominating convention, shouted “I alone can fix this.” A candidate who’s best moments in the debates were the ones where he didn’t manage to call for his opponent to be jailed, or pledge to question the outcome of the election, or call the first female major party nominee “a nasty woman,” or complain about the amount of time she got to speak (spoiler alert: it was the same amount of time he had). Those top moments for Donald, by the way, were devoid of anything remotely approaching what can legally be called a thought. It’s somehow considered a successful sound bite if he manages to parrot the moderator’s question back.
I didn’t watch the debates live. I couldn’t. I did try though.
I had the first debate ready to go on my remote’s previous channel button and kept tuning in, only to flip back to a mediocre Monday Night Football game any time Trump opened his mouth.
I gave the second debate a fighting chance, but left the room after Donald failed to grasp the very simple concept that groping a person’s genitals without consent is sexual assault. This after failing to grasp the fact that a major party candidate bragging about said groping might bother some people. And all of that after his shameless attempt to deflect attention away from his sex scandal by trying to relitigate Bill Clinton’s 20-plus year old scandals on the fly. I had to leave the room. I didn’t even bother with the third.
I’m very conflicted by all of this. I’m the guy who would give patriotic puppet shows to my first grade class, not as a part of any assignment, mind you, just because I loved America and lived for the applause. I memorized the Presidents’ names in order when I was six, and still read books about Presidential and American history to this day. I love the strange traditions, the pageantry, the stakes, and the drama of a national campaign. There’s a romantic, Frank Capra element to the whole thing – the bunting, the canvassing, the dumb jokes in every stump speech, the bus tours – that rouses the six year old wearing the homemade Yankee Doodle costume inside me. This campaign isn’t much like that, chiefly because one side refuses to play ball. It’s as if Hillary signed up for a tennis tournament and made it to the finals, only to discover her opposition brought a flamethrower instead of a racquet.
Our country is built on a bedrock of ideological debate. Sometimes it gets nasty and there are hurt feelings, but that debate is vital.
One of the lessons I’ve taken from Hamilton (which you may have guessed is my favorite thing in the history of time) is that our nation’s infancy was one of great conflict, but it was on the level. Our founders engaged in discussions over the the size and role of the government itself, not the size of a candidate’s – ahem – hands (he assures you, there’s no problem). The fathers of our country – Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton – were all deeply flawed, and if they didn’t wind up dead they wound up hating each other, but they fought to create and sustain the system we have today.
And now we have Clinton, as imperfect and human as ever there was, trying to both respect and honor the sacrifices of our civic ancestors while also forging a new path. And in the other corner is Trump, who has a fragile ego and a pathological need to win and would rather light the court on fire than play and lose.
This has been a nasty, bitter campaign season. For the first time since I was a child, I’ll be glad when it’s over. We’re all owed an apology for this crime against the voters. Rather than that we get Trump.