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They say one way to be seen as prescient is to make a lot of predictions. People will tend to forget bad guesses, but if and when one of your guesses comes true you can remind them you told them so.

Lindsay Graham said that if Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, it would end up wrecking the party. (And that they would deserve to be wrecked.) I may have said something along those same lines. It hasn't come true quite yet, but the game isn't over. When it does, I'll try not to say I told you so.

I don't know how the enablers and the stooges are going to rehabilitate themselves after the Fall of Trump, but some of them will. Maybe they will tell us they were trying to mitigate the damage that an incompetent, emotionally thwarted and abjectly amoral man could do in the highest office.

And to do that, they had to flatter and cajole the big baby, they had to try to stay on his good side and embrace incrementalism. "At least we kept him away from the nukes; at least we kept him from nominating Vladimir Putin to the Supreme Court."

Gee, thanks, dudes.

I don't believe in historical determinism, but it's not difficult to see the election of Trump as part of the inevitable step back this country had to take as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama. Let's leave aside for now any discussion of the merits of the Obama administration and just admit that putting a Black man in the White House galvanized a certain ugliness in the hearts of some Americans. In a real way, Obama--a charismatic and intellectually sophisticated man who also exhibits an uncommon urbanity--prepared the way for Trump.

It's like how baseball teams tend to hire a player's manager after firing the old-school disciplinarian, and vice-versa.

There were many things about Trump winning the 2016 election that were flukes; for a long time no one took him seriously. (Guilty here.) His primary opponents didn't, Hillary Clinton certainly didn't, and a lot of Trump's people (including apparently the eventual POTUS himself) didn't. Trump didn't expect to win; getting the job was kind of inconvenient for him.

The novelty of Trump's campaign bought him tons of free attention from the media, especially cable infotainment outfits like CNN and Fox News (which are to real journalism what the McRib is to McClard's), and his name recognition was already high, thanks to his adventures among the carnies and pimps of reality TV land.

Add to that the possibility that spending a couple of decades attending to the freak shows and rigged games of reality TV had normalized the milieu in the minds of a lot of Americans. Celebrity is seen as a virtue by many voters. So is being rich. And finding out things is boring and stupid when you can just ask the Google machine to manufacture whatever reality you prefer.

So despite the polls (which weren't wrong; they all allowed Trump at least a 20 percent chance of winning, which means that if you played out the scenario 10 times he'd win twice) we ended up with a nihilist with daddy issues as our commander-in-chief. It's on us, we elected the fetal pig from biology lab to be class president.

I didn't predict Trump would win the election. But I did say, a couple of days out from it, that I had a bad bad feeling about it.

That's old news. I wouldn't even begin to try to predict what's going to happen over the next few months.

But we already know there's been a big reaction to Trump. He seems to scare even more people than Obama did, and with better reason. Even some of his most vociferous supporters seem to have been given pause by his outrageousness and inability to stay on topic.

Intemperate tweets about Rosie O'Donnell are one thing, but re-tweeting the "white power" screamers could only give comfort to that portion of the base that has no stake in even make-believe civility.

Trump gave people permission to expose their ugliest selves. To print T-shirts and wear hats declaring themselves exactly what they took such umbrage at being called: Deplorable.

Not of all them, of course. Some were taken in; a lot regret their vote. To be fair, Hillary Clinton was never a good candidate, and as smart and capable as she is, she should have recognized that and factored it into her calculations. She lost 2016 more than Trump won it, and while she didn't mean to do that, it is part of her legacy. She didn't save us from him and she could have; she's a general who lost the most important battle she ever fought.

It's not all bad to have habitual hypocrisy exposed. Trump has ruined tiki torches and Hawaiian shirts, but he's also forced us to face the reality that not all those who wear flag pins in their lapels genuinely believe in America as a nation founded on ideals rather than identity.

He shook some people out of their complacency and made them realize that the struggle for human rights goes on even in a country that, until very recently, would have been universally acknowledged as its greatest champion.

Sure, there's probably an over-correction coming. Most people don't live their ideals all the time, and it's fun to be an iconoclast and to feel superior to the stupidity of the past. People who are attracted to extreme viewpoints are generally unpleasantly strident and humorless.

Whether we like it or not, when and if the next normal arrives, we'll still be mostly a right-center consensus country with pretensions. America is too big and diverse to drift too far left or right, and "left" and "right" are, in any case, relative terms. Obama and Clinton were more conservative than Richard Nixon.

And Trump is no conservative at all--just a black hole of grievance, tactical improvisation and deep psychological pain. He's a bully who has never had to face the consequences of his actions because he's always been insulated by unearned money and the power that accompanies that money. He was never afraid of abasing himself on TV, and for a lot of us, being on TV confers legitimacy.

When they write the history of this era, Trump might be portrayed as much a victim as a perpetrator. He couldn't have done what he did--which, look around, was profound damage to America's people, institutions and existential purpose--without the complicity of cowards and "good people, on both sides."

I guess.

pmartin@adgnewsroom.com

Read more at

www.blooddirtangels.com

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