This past weekend, a bomb went off in New York City, injuring 29 people. A man attacked several people with a knife in a Minnesota mall, and an explosive device was discovered where Marines were set to run a 5 km race in Jew Jersey. These incidents are likely to boost Donald Trump’s already ascendant campaign, feeding into his narrative that Americans are in imminent danger from illegal immigrants, Muslims and others who do not “love America”. No doubt we’ll be hearing from him about how the victims of these attacks should have been carrying guns because, of course, nothing says public safety like ordinary citizens armed to the teeth as they head out to the mall for a new pair of jeans and a Starbucks grande latte.
The race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tightening. Millions upon millions of American voters are coming around to the idea that Donald Trump deserves to take on the mantle of the US presidency. They actually intend to vote for this grotesque narcissist to become the most powerful man in the world, thereby ensuring that the next four years at least will be even less satisfying for the majority of people than all the years in recorded human history. Donald Trump, who for decades has been considered a buffoon, an amusingly vulgar showman best known for his shameless self-promotion, his many trophy wives, his complete lack of interest in anything but his own bottom line (and possibly his daughter Ivanka’s bottom and the bottom-feeding racism behind “birtherism”), could very well be sworn into office in January.
If Donald Trump becomes the next American president, this fragile planet will suffer a blow from which it may never recover. This man thinks it is perfectly okay to invade other countries and steal their natural resources. He thinks women who’ve had abortions should be punished. He is unnaturally obsessed with Mexicans, whom he believes are rapists and murderers. He thinks vaccines cause autism. He gave his name to a “university” clearly designed to scam desperate people out of their money. He has blithely and repeatedly asserted that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil after the invasion. He surrounds himself with advisers who work for dictators, support the alt right, sexually harass their female employees, and believe government is run by lizard-people who wish to enslave the world. And he’s winning! In fairness, he warned us. He likes to win, he always wins. He’s a winner.
Whether or not his supporters believe his lies or get behind his more outré pronouncements, they are lining up behind this despicable person in the name of upending the establishment, the elites, the media, globalism and pluralism. They want to “take their country back”. They are gleefully cheering on the bully, convinced that when the dust settles they’ll be rewarded for their loyalty to the toughest kid in the schoolyard with a big wall, guns, Christmas, lower taxes and a return to a time when white men ruled America. They believe that Hillary Clinton’s mendacity, her use of the private email server and her profitable speeches to Wall Street are worse sins than invading another country and stealing its resources, bilking the elderly out of their hard-earned money, refusing to rent apartments to black people, denigrating women, amassing huge wealth for himself and giving none of it away to charity, lying, lying again, insulting the disabled, being plug-ignorant about almost everything, spreading conspiracy theories, pledging to pay the legal bills for supporters who attack protesters. He believes (or says he believes) that climate change is a hoax cooked up by the Chinese to destabilize the U.S. economy. And on and on. Given the catastrophe that may soon befall all of us if he wins the presidency, his enablers deserve scorn. This is no time for appeasement or evenhandedness.
It is true that millions of Americans have lost their manufacturing jobs as companies have relocated their factories to countries where labour costs are lower, and numerous towns and cities across the U.S. are now essentially ghost towns, eviscerated and populated by desperate people who have lost their financial security and their sense of the place in the world. Local merchants have seen their businesses steamrolled, their communities stripped of dignity, their citizens forced into indentured servitude at big box stores like Walmart’s. Many large coastal cities have pulled away the brightest lights, inventing new technologies that connect all of us to the wider world while underscoring the futility of the old ways. Demographics are changing, the old certainties are shaky, politicians whip up resentment and argue for wildly competing world views while so many citizens fall back on entertainment, the false security of gun ownership and nostalgia for a golden era that never was.
Despair, lack of purpose, existential angst and communities lying in ruins deserve solutions. Trump says keeping immigrants and Muslims out and forcing companies to produce their goods in America will solve these problems. But he lies. America needs immigrants, whether it wants to admit it or not. The country is in no danger of being overrun by enemy Muslims, even if Obama were to bring 100,000 Syrians this year. Mexicans are no longer as interested in immigrating to the U.S. as they once were, and the American financial system cannot operate in a bubble.
A significant percentage of young people, disgusted with the status quo, say they will opt for a third party candidate this year. Many of them are flocking to the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, whose genial if simple-minded “Aw shucks, let’s legalize pot and simplify the tax code” message contains just enough to appeal to the young, but far too much to implement. Word to the wise, he doesn’t like public education, public health care, or environmental regulations. And he’s not exactly up to speed on the cataclysm in Syria, which is causing the whole world so much angst.
The only people who can keep the U.S. from running aground are the Democrats. They’ve been shrinking back from their candidate of late. Years of slander have taken their toll. She represents the status quo. She’s old-ish. She’s a woman. She lacks rhetorical flair. She’s not inspirational like Bernie Sanders. She’s rich, and possibly greedy. She’s been around forever.
But Democrats have an urgent duty to embrace her this November. They are morally bound to set aside their ideal of perfection and choose the only candidate whose worldview includes scientific fact, at least some measure of social justice, the right of a woman to decide whether and when and with whom she wants to have a baby, an understanding of geopolitical realities and the importance of reaching across the ideological abyss to solve urgent problems.
Forget ideology for a moment. For God’s sake, forget about the email server. Forget identity politics, the alt-right, the price of college tuition or the best way to deliver health care. There are many, many urgent problems. Terrorism is a huge one and can’t be solved by “bombing the shit out of them”, as Trump would have it. But the most urgent issue of all is climate change. It is a giant, amorphous and many-tentacled problem that needs to be addressed today and into the indefinite future. The fate of the world really does hinge on American involvement and leadership in the solution. If America elects Donald Trump, there is every reason for despair. Our children and grandchildren will not enjoy even a sliver of the quality of life we expect and demand for ourselves. A President Trump will plunge America’s head so deep in the sand that we won’t see the sea levels rise, the millions of climate refugees on the march, the dead oceans, the disappearing coastlines, the unbearable heat and the withering crops. Until America begins to die, and by then it will be too late.
Democrats, get out there and vote for Hillary Clinton this November. If you don’t love her, it doesn’t really matter. Once she is elected President, you can drill down into the other issues that matter to you. You live in a democracy in the 21st century, which means you can use the greatest communication tools in history to make change happen. Support causes that matter. Vote Democrats into Congress. Insist on evidence-based policy. Fight back against racism and police brutality. Hillary won’t stop you. Donald Trump will. First you need to make sure the world keeps turning.