It’s been a while since I checked in from the old Brooklyn Basement. Even when I was writing on here regularly, I usually tried to steer clear of politics, for the same reason that I mostly avoid political posts on social media: The vast majority of people who follow me or care enough to read what I write have the same general political views that I do, and I’m not under the illusion that I can change the minds of those that don’t. Besides, while I try to stay reasonably politically informed, I’m not particularly a news junkie, and the reality is that I’m not going to write anything Earth-shattering that Jonathan Chait or Ryan Lizza hasn’t already.
With all that said, I don’t think I can let this election slide by without saying something about it. Because, without being too dramatic about it, I really believe that if tomorrow goes badly, it will be the end of America as we know it.
Before I start my rant on Donald Trump, I want to point out that I am the furthest thing from a Hillary Clinton fan. Truth be told, I have never—not once—voted for her in any election for any office (and I have had multiple opportunities). I’ve never forgiven her for her vote to go to war with Iraq and her subsequent refusal to disavow that vote. I’m not happy with the hawkishness she displayed as Secretary of State. I think that the critics who accuse her of being corrupt, of being in bed with Wall Street, of flip-flopping to whatever viewpoint is politically advantageous, are correct. And at the end of the day, she’s too conservative for my taste. I’m in the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren area of the political spectrum, and, frankly, Barack Obama, despite being labeled a Socialist by Republicans, is also too conservative for my taste. (He’s pretty much exactly where I’d want him to be on social issues, but he’s an economic centrist who failed to punish Wall Street for the financial crash and didn’t do enough, in my opinion, to reform the banking system). You don’t have to agree with me on these viewpoints, but when I hear people say they wish there was a moderate Republican to vote for in this election, I always respond that there is. Her name is Hillary Clinton.
In essence, I believe that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the current system, for status quo (other than the whole “first woman president” thing, which is of course a big deal). This is not something I would normally advocate. But when the alternative is an end to the very idea of America as we have come to know it? That, friends, is enough to get me to cast my first ever vote for Hillary. Because whatever her faults—and they are many—they pale in comparison to Donald Trump’s.
Let me stop for a second here, take a deep breath, and gather myself, because I have a lot of things to say about Donald Trump.
Donald Trump likes to tout his business successes, despite his numerous bankruptcies and failed endeavors (some of which, like Trump University, have been blatant con jobs). The truth is, if he had done nothing with the fortune he inherited except let it sit in a bank account and collect interest, his net worth would be higher than it is today. In 1995, he declared a $916 million loss on his taxes. In one year! He lost money in the casino business. That’s fucking impossible! Donald Trump was born on third base and got caught in a rundown while trying to steal home.
Donald Trump is a vapid, borderline illiterate buffoon, whose greatest success was being the host of a reality TV show in which the climactic moment of every episode was when he cruelly fired someone. In a way, Trump is the logical conclusion of our reality TV society: People think they deserve to be rich and famous for no reason, without doing anything of actual value—see the Kardashians—and since Trump is already rich and famous, he thinks he deserves to be President, even though he knows nothing about politics or world affairs. He is, in many ways, the President that our dumbed-down, TV-narcotized nation deserves.
I was having lunch with my father recently, and he told me that, given a recent spike in his income (good job, Dad), he really ought to vote Republican. My response to him was something I’d like to say to every economic conservative who is going to hold his nose and vote for Trump: It doesn’t matter if your tax rate is 10 percent or 20 percent or whatever percent lower if the moron you elected starts a nuclear war. This is not an exaggeration: Trump has repeatedly asked members of the intelligence community why we can’t use nuclear weapons. When Cormac McCarthy’s The Road becomes a day-to-day reality, you’re not going to be worried about the deductions on your fucking 1040 form.
Sadly, Trump’s stupidity isn’t even his worst characteristic. Let’s take a minute to talk about his bigotry. His behavior with women is disgusting. (An aside, regarding “Grab ’em by the pussy” and “locker room talk”: I played sports for much of my life. I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms, and have occasionally heard some shitty things said about women, but I’ve never heard anything that approaches that Trump tape. Even the misogynistic dudes that I’ve known aren’t rape-y about it. Also, “Grab ’em by the pussy” just isn’t a phrasing that anyone would ever use. Trump sounds to me like a high school virgin who’s trying to convince his friends he gets laid all the time.)
His attitude toward people of color is arguably even worse. Calling Mexicans “rapists and drug dealers,” maligning a Muslim Gold Star family, and failing to disavow the Ku Klux Klan are just a few blatant examples of his racism. And it’s not like racism is a new thing with the Trump family: His father was reportedly involved with a KKK rally in the 1920s and was later sued for discriminatory housing practices. It’s not a coincidence that Breitbart’s “Alt-Right,” which is really just a White Supremacist movement that has somehow been accepted into the mainstream, has joyfully embraced Trump. When Trump says he wants to “Make America Great Again,” what he really means is that he wants to make America white again. That’s not happening. The demographics have shifted, and even if you immediately shut all of the nation’s borders today, we still wouldn’t have a white-majority population going forward.
By the way, people, another thing that’s not coming back? All those manufacturing jobs that Trump (and Hillary, for that matter) claim they’re going to create. Bruce Springsteen was writing songs about those jobs disappearing in literally 1984.
We live in a globalized economy now, and companies turn a greater profit when they do their manufacturing abroad. That’s capitalism. It’s a sad situation, because it has led to the shrinking of the middle class, as people now have to resort to service-industry jobs in the place of manufacturing—this, by the way, is why raising the minimum wage is so important—but it’s not something Trump (or Hillary) is going to fix. That ship has sailed.
Take all the lies, all the stupidity, all the bigotry and misogyny, and you still haven’t hit on the worst aspect of Trump’s candidacy. The thing that makes him truly scary, truly a threat to America, is his authoritarianism.
To be clear, I’ve never subscribed to the Reagan-esque notion of America as the shining city on the hill. People tend to romanticize smalltown Mayberry, America, while glossing over how that supposed paradise was built on the backs of a subjugated race of people who were often promptly lynched when they decided to try to get a slice for themselves. And then there’s our history of Imperialism, through which we completely fucked over every country in Latin America. (United Fruit Company, anyone?) The good ‘ol USA isn’t nearly as morally superior as they teach us in grade school.
But you know what? As flawed as this country is, it does still stand for something. There’s a reason why, when I look out from the F Train in the morning and I see the Statue of Liberty out in New York Harbor, I feel something. A lot of it is bullshit, but we are supposed to be a beacon of liberty, of freedom, an ideal for the people of the world—including us—to live up to.
Trump is the gravest threat to this ideal that we have ever known. This is a man who has casually advocated for the assassination of his opponent, who has mused about throwing his opponent in jail after the election, who has suggested that another country should engage in espionage against his opponent. This is a man who has vowed to punish news media outlets that have had the temerity to report on him. This is a man who offers no solutions, only the boilerplate assertion that he and he alone is the answer to all of our problems. This is a man who admires Vladimir Putin, who is, make no mistake, a dictator.
Combine Trump’s desire to consolidate power and crush his rivals with his bigotry and his strange populist charisma, and you have a man that can legitimately be compared to Adolf Hitler.
That is not a comparison that I make lightly. I come from a very small family. We never had family reunions when I was younger, as I have just one aunt and one uncle—and no cousins at all on my father’s side. My family is so small because Hitler murdered nearly all of us during World War II. When Trump suggests banning Muslims, I think of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. When Trump describes rounding up Mexicans, I can’t help but think of Nazi concentration camps. When Trump maligns Syrian refuges, I think of the fleeing Jews who were turned away from America and Western Europe in the 1930s.
It’s easy to downplay comparisons to Hitler as being extreme, given that he is generally regarded as history’s greatest monster. But to paraphrase Louis C.K., the Germans didn’t know they were electing Hitler when they elected Hitler. Our Constitutional system has checks and balances built into it to prevent a demagogue from seizing too much power, but these have been eroded over the years as presidential administrations have increased executive power (both Bush and Obama accelerated this trend). Imagine President Trump with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and a Conservative-leaning Supreme Court (thanks to the justices he would be able to appoint). The GOP has already shown a complete inability to control him. If he actually assumed power, there would be no one to stop him from running amok.
This is the crossroads at which we find ourselves, and there’s only one thing that any of us can do about it: vote for Hillary. If you give even half a shit about this country—and really, the entire world—get your ass to the polls tomorrow and do the right thing. I do not believe that it is an exaggeration to say that human civilization depends upon us keeping Donald Trump out of the White House.
You have one chance, America. Don’t fuck this up.