I have a bad feeling about this.
Election days--in this country, in my experience--are supposed to be hopeful days. They usually feel restorative, even if the candidates I favor seem bound to lose. (I am used to--and probably more comfortable--being in the minority.) But it seems the best case today is that a clear and present danger might be avoided and a competent but divisive caretaker elected, largely by people who feel they are voting in self-defense.
I don't want to rehash everything--Hillary Clinton has been targeted and harassed for more than three decades, and much of what some people believe about her simply isn't true. But she was a problematic candidate from the very beginning, and she's had trouble articulating a compelling case why she should be president other than she's better than the alternative and that her years of service somehow entitle her to the position.
And though that's reason enough to vote for her, it's not enough to make some of us feel good about it. Clinton is a firewall candidate, maybe our last best hope, but it's disturbing that so many of us are willing to support a man who quite plainly and transparently represents the worst aspects of our anti-intellectual, fear-driven society. It's neither my job or inclination to make predictions, but my best guess is that Donald Trump will come perilously close to winning the presidency today.
If he does win, I do not think he will put me in prison immediately. But I would not put it past him to try.
Some of you would enjoy that. I know because you've told me so. Unless a whole lot of people are having a lot of fun with the pollsters, Trump will win Arkansas. He has the support of a governor who, in ordinary circumstances, would probably not suffer his boorishness at his dinner table. He has the affection of an attorney general who seems to believe that the people of Arkansas have positioned her to try out for the cable league shout shows. We have seen what some people will sell themselves for; we should remember those Republicans who put "team" before country.
For the last time, I want to say it plain: Trump is unfit to be president. He lies. He cheats. He's a bad businessman and a bad American. He's a bully who keeps score and you shouldn't trust him around your teenage daughter, much less the nuclear football.
If you support him out of fear, you should be ashamed, for nothing noble is ever achieved from fear. If you honestly believe that for all his flaws and lies and craven advantage-taking he still represents the best way forward for this nation, then I can do nothing for you, son. The propaganda worked on you. Lee Atwater--I hope to God in heaven--is weeping because his plans worked too well.
But hey, it's all over now. Tomorrow we'll know, and most of us are going to accept it. There will be some grumbling, but I hope no real drama or ugliness. On Wednesday we can let this go--though some won't. Some are already running for 2020, and don't care how damaging this never-ending campaign is to the quality of American life. Whoever the president-elect is, there's going to be a ginned-up machine raking cash away from the scaredy Americans.
There's going to be someone on the radio or the Internet sobbing about how someone's coming to get their guns and that Sandy Hook was some false put-up job.
You have to be a grown-up, you have to understand that most conspiracy theories are comic book-level narratives spun by cynical people hoping to get rich off the naivety of those susceptible to that kind of story-telling. A lot of things that happen aren't planned in secret by a cabal of insiders. Some things are, but usually we find out pretty quickly because human beings have trouble keeping secrets and any plan with a lot of moving parts is liable to fall apart at any time.
The real way to rig an election is to gerrymander congressional districts so even if a majority of Americans vote for the other party you'll end up with more House seats. (As an institution, the U.S. House of Representatives is about as irritating and insensible as the Baseball Hall of Fame.) The real way to rig an election is to collect and spend enough money to scare off any challengers. The real way to rig an election is to enact legislation designed to change the composition of the electorate by making it difficult for certain demographic groups to exercise their right to vote.
If we were genuinely interested in having as many eligible Americans as possible participate in the democratic process, we'd make it easier to vote. We'd have registration drives in homeless shelters. We'd let people vote on the Internet or through the mail. We'd accept a little more risk of voter fraud--which, despite what you may have heard on your favorite news channel, is virtually non-existent under the current system--in exchange for a higher turnout.
I'm not saying I'm for those things. I don't necessarily want to encourage people who aren't terribly interested in politics to vote. I sure don't want to shame them into it. Our Constitution ought to be strong enough to guarantee the rights of the apolitical to ignore the ladies and gentlemen in the bad (pant) suits turning rhetorical cartwheels on the periphery of the American attention span. I'm sick of people who want me to vote for them telling me how brave and honest and close to God and overall worthy they are--I'd prefer it if they'd just drop off their résumés and stay off the TV.
Anyway, tomorrow is coming. And no matter what happens, no one is coming to take our guns. No one is going to make us any greater than our spirits will allow. Make no mistake, we are getting what we deserve. We need to start taking this stuff seriously, we need to stop listening to those who tell us we're the best and the brightest and that nothing is our fault.
To paraphrase Dean Wormer, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through history, America.
Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his blog at blooddirtandangels.com.
Editorial on 11/08/2016