I’ve been trying to come up with a closing argument on this election that edifies rather than irritates — a way of communicating that embraces wisdom and thoughtfulness instead of the shrill anger that has characterized so much of the campaign.
After days of introspection, what it comes down to this: I got nothing. Either you agree with me or you don’t. There’s not much I can say that will change your mind now.
I have tried to resist the idea for years now that people having different political ideas makes them bad people. But Donald Trump appears, from everything I can observe, to be a bad person. At best he’s a boor, the proverbial rich boy who was born on third base and assumed he’d hit a triple. Mostly, though, he’s a breeder of resentments — against Mexicans, against Muslims, and against Jews. (Oh, and women. Perhaps especially women.) He doesn’t ask us to be our best selves. Instead, he glories in being his worst self, calls it a crusade against political correctness, and invites us all to sink deeper into the mud with him.
We’re told these days that Democrats prepared the ground for Trump by … saying mean things about Mitt Romney. Dubious. This line of thought ignores, for one thing, the entire radio career of Rush Limbaugh, who has spent a generation depicting each and every liberal as a threat to the nation, worthy of mockery and name-calling. Over time he was joined by clones on radio, Ann Coulter in the book world, Fox News on television, and Breitbart online. Each outlet aimed to create ever more outrage among Republican voters, to keep them in a constant state of anger against liberal. And those outlets succeeded, financially, at least. Did they mean to bring us to the edge of voting Donald Trump for president? I’m not sure they did.
Eight years ago, I lived in Philadelphia when Barack Obama was elected president. For a few moments it seemed like maybe our hopes — not our fears or anger — could guide the nation.
We’re sadder and wiser now.
I no longer expect that a president or presidency can produce an era of good feelings. Though the president is the most-known face in our government he (or she) still faces a system of checks and balances. There are limits.
But I do think a president can produce an era of bad feelings pretty easily. By blaming minorities for our problems. By exalting his own ego at the expense of the people he serves. By treating every criticism as cause for Armageddon.
Hillary’s just as bad? No, no she’s not.
This election has tested my ability to maintain friendships across the ideological aisle. I’m not sure what will be left after Tuesday. One of my values is to to treat people who think differently than I do with friendship and respect. But I have other values — a deep-seated belief that racism is wrong — that I must also heed. Finding a humane, yet correct, balance to those values … I don’t have an answer yet.
What I do know is that I must oppose the possible presidency of Donald Trump. And, after the election, to oppose the forces of clear, unambiguous racism that his campaign seems to have empowered.
We will be judged by our actions in these days. We can only do the best we know how. We voters must not hand Donald Trump the presidency. Period.