This week was a wake-up call, but the kind of wake-up call that sits you right up because you weren’t expecting it.
It wasn’t just the polls tightening a bit, as you knew they would when Republicans consolidated around their nominee. It wasn’t just a “Commander-in-Chief Forum” that established just how low the media is setting the bar for Donald Trump. It wasn’t just the GOP nominee for president continuing his cuddly embrace of Vladimir Putin, going as far as arguing that Putin’s journalist-killing, neighbor-annexing, anti-LGBTQ authoritarian ways are comparable to President Obama’s governance.
And it wasn’t just the press going into a full outrage conniption over Hillary Clinton’s truthful comments about Trump’s extremist support, while ignoring Trump’s promise to go to war if an Iranian solider gives us the finger. Or the press caring more about Clinton’s reaction to humidity than her mental health plan.
All of this should jar us, a bit.
But the normalizing of the obscene isn’t too surprising anymore, given that we’ve now come to casually accept that we have a Republican Congress that will politicize the fight against Zika and refuse to even consider the president’s constitutionally-obligated appointment to the Supreme Court.
What should rock us from our sleep and leave us with that groggy feeling that makes you wonder where the hell you are is a chilling realization that comes from the combined weight of all these realizations: All that stands between America and Donald Trump is one human being.
The debate moderators won’t save us. The press won’t save us. Even the repulsion of a society watching a man who wants to be America’s Putin avoid the most basic disclosure we require of a serious presidential candidate won’t be good enough.
So much depends on one person — and then the tens of millions of Americans who will vote for her.
Though the Democratic nominee holds a bigger lead over Donald Trump than President Obama held over Mitt Romney at this point in 2012, there are far more undecided voters. And for the first time in our history, we face a foreign adversary that seems intent at least injecting doubt into our electoral process and at worst committed to actually hacking our election.
We head into the last few weeks of this election with our societal immune system largely failing and the fate of the nation dependent on one person. Luckily for us, that person is Hillary Clinton.
Only one human being has ever defeated Clinton in an election. He’s now in the White House and many of his best operatives are working on Clinton’s campaign.
If you want to get a sense of the kind of president Clinton would be, look at the organization she’s built.
“In Iowa alone, 25,000 volunteers are helping send real-time data on voters back to the campaign’s New York City headquarters, where dozens of analysts model the electorate,” the AP reports. “The campaign says it has about a half-million volunteers in swing states, including 40,000 in North Carolina. In Florida, the largest of those pivotal states, it claims 90,000.”
If you want to get a sense of the kind of president Trump would be, look at the kind of campaign he’s run: nearly substance-less and built almost entirely off of stoking racial anxieties while ignoring actual problems and grifting money into the hands of his business and kids.
It’s a never-ending PR stunt that has elevated the worst instincts of the right.
Conservative instincts have always tended toward oligarchy in order to preserve consolidated power, but Trump is the first true example of the Republican base’s full-blown desire for a strongman, unwilling to cede power should he even be soundly defeated at the polls.
As feminist in the role of a political wife in an era where women’s roles have radically expanded, Hillary Clinton has been badgered, condemned and questioned like she’s a lab experiment run wild.
Now she faces the most ridiculous and contemptible nominee for president in our lifetimes.
Donald Trump’s campaign CEO is the he man who publishes the leading voice of America’s white nationalists. His key debate coach is the political operative who as much as anyone brought us Richard Nixon, the “Willie Horton” ad and Iraq War, only to lose his job running Fox News after documented accusations of serial sexual harassment.
So don’t be surprised when Trump does well in the debates — or, at least, don’t be surprised when the press tells you how well Trump did in the debates.
If he doesn’t hump the podium into submission, Trump will exceed expectations. And you can be sure there are millions and millions of Americans who just feel more assured by the confident bluster of a man than the nuanced considerations of a woman. Plus, he has no allegiance to truth, logic and sense — all impediments to cable-news style battle.
But don’t lose hope. Keep in mind that Clinton’s lifetime of serious consideration of the issues should eventually shine through and remind the America that voted for Barack Obama of the advantages of reimagining and expanding who we see as president of the United States.
Is it fitting that the first woman to be a major party candidate for president is facing a thrice-married man backed by a cadre of thrice-married men who have built their careers exploiting every privilege our society offers to men? Is it fitting that the first candidate “whose signature issue is early childhood” could crush a man who refused to change diapers? Should we take great solace in knowing that the world’s greatest birther will be stopped by the woman who introduced much of America to “the vast-right conspiracy?”
No, this is all terrible. We deserve better.
And if we get it, it will be because of a candidate who has been preparing her whole life to face a man who personifies why we are desperate need of more women leaders.