NEW YORK - Judging by all the signs, all the trends, almost all of the polls and most of the experts and analysts, Hillary Clinton is on her way to being elected president. She will be the first female leader of the United States and of the free world, a dramatic and historic watershed moment that may have gotten lost in the hubbub of a long and tedious election campaign that has been one of the most poisonous and divisive in American history. But the extraordinarily moment in human history will come shining through when the fog is cleared and the votes are counted and Clinton wins.
Of course, everyone could be wrong. Perhaps all the polls harbor the same kind of fatal flaw that has crippled predictions throughout the world. Maybe the experts have failed to appreciate the strength of subterranean currents that will bring an unprecedented number of white supporters of Donald Trump to the polls and ensure his election. This would also be a momentous moment in American history, of course, but one which most of the world, as well as the political, economic, intellectual and cultural elites in the United States currently view as nothing less than a catastrophe.
The latest polls show Clinton consistently getting stronger. In the national polls the trend in her favor is growing steeper, with the exception of one or two outliers that have leaned more towards Trump from the outset. Most analysts expect Clinton to pick up a sizable majority of the 538 Electoral College delegates. Contrary to its own polling, the Los Angeles Times predicted on Monday that Clinton would beat Trump by a 352-186 margin. Other news sites, such as Real Clear Politics, are more cautious. In their estimate, too many contests in battleground states are too close to call for a clear-cut projection of a winner.
The dramatic 11th-hour letter by FBI Director James Comey on Sunday, which stated that the new emails found on disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s computer did not yield anything incriminating and would not lead to a reopening of the investigation against Clinton only adds to her campaign’s momentum. Clinton and her aides have made a tactical decision to try and ignore Comey’s letter, on the assumption that any focus on the email affair, even if it’s in a positive context, does not work in her favor. Instead they will press their more effective argument that Trump is unfit to serve as President and accentuate Clinton’s superiority over her GOP rival in knowledge, experience, levelheadedness and good judgment.
Comey’s new announcement has removed a dark cloud that had been hanging over Clinton’s campaign, instilling new energy and motivation at an optimal moment, from her point of view. Comey’s original October 28 letter, in which he first wrote of the discovery of the new emails may have negatively influenced some of the 43+ million people who have already voted, but that damage cannot be undone. But the sense that Trump may have benefited from what Democrats perceive as the FBI’s grossly unfair, if not completely reckless intervention in the elections could give Clinton the extra push she needs in order to turn a close loss to a close win, or a close win to an overwhelming landslide. And the inertia of such momentum might be enough to clinch the Senate for the Democrats, a factor that would be crucial for a Clinton Presidency.
Trump, as might have been expected, is not letting any facts get in his way. He continues to portray the emails as proof of Clinton’s gross criminality, although the FBI that he has praised over the past ten days is back to being part of the corrupt establishment that is rigging the elections. Trump continues to sneer at the possibility that the FBI sifted through the 650,000 emails found on Weiner’s computer in such a short time, even though computer geeks, including Edward Snowden, have explained how easily it might be done, especially if most of the emails were duplicates of those already examined by the FBI. But Trump continues to promote his dark conspiracy theories and to lay the groundwork for a potentially violent uprising by some of his followers, who are convinced that the only way he could lose, is by the establishment’s forgery and manipulation.
Trump continued to swing haphazardly through several states on Monday as he has in recent days, between those in which he is definitely running neck and neck with Clinton, like Florida, North Carolina and possibly Ohio, those that experts can’t discount the possibility that he’ll win because of a last minute surge, such as Michigan and even Pennsylvania and those that no one really understands why he’s bothering to court, such as Minnesota and Virginia. But to the theories that Trump knows something that no one else does or that he’s playing mind games with the Democrats another one was added Monday: that he has no idea what he’s doing, that his campaign knows that his paths to 270 electors are rapidly closing and that they are desperately flailing to catch whatever they can, hoping against hope that something will eventually stick.
But maybe it will turn out that Trump knows how to read the American public better than all the experts, just as he deciphered the Republican Party’s DNA better than its own politicians. Maybe he was right on Monday to leak the potential makeup of his cabinet, with the mercurial Newt Gingrich at the State Department, the angry General Michael Flynn at the Defense and the volatile Rudy Giuliani at Justice. Maybe there are enough Americans who view this roster as a dream team rather than the stuff with which even conservative nightmares are made. Maybe Trump will have gambled correctly on resentment and distrust, racism and fear of strangers, outright lies and outrageous inventions as the instruments with which he will pry his way into the Oval Office.
After all, this isn’t really a contest between two opposing ideologies, because Trump doesn’t actually have one. He forms his worldview in his gut rather than his brain. Over the past 18 months he has said many things that were diametrically contrary to what he’s been saying most of his life. He has often refuted today what he proclaimed only yesterday. HIs campaign is based on the fervent wish of far too many Americans to burn their own house down, with some of its residents still inside. He represents a populist movement with nihilist undertones that is tired of the establishment, yearns for revolution, wants to drain the so-called swamp and is glued together by shared hatred for Clinton, Obama, minorities and uppity liberals.
True, there are reasons and backdrops that help to examine and understand where this movement came from, how it was born in religious fundamentalism and anti-Muslim fanaticism, why the callous establishment contributed to its formation, how it took over the Republican party from within until it consumed it, and why it has deposed the run of the mill GOP politicians who pretended to control the masses with a boorish, inexperienced charlatan who lacks empathy for fellow human beings. All of these don’t change the fact that the fusion of such a reactionary, ethnocentric movement with a demagogue who knows no bounds is dangerous for America and for the world at large.
Even if we assume that periodic change is healthy for democracy, that Obama is a failure and Clinton is corrupt - although there is no proof for that - a Trump triumph would nonetheless inflict a lethal blow on basic concepts of fairness, integrity, honesty and mutual respect. It would be a clear victory for forces of darkness. Whoever doesn’t grasp this, whoever hasn’t been haunted in recent months by the memories of our parents and grandparents, whoever hasn’t had increasing associations to mid-20th century Italy, Germany, Spain or Portugal has either not been following the campaign closely or has willful blinded their eyes to its ominous characteristics.
There has never been a presidential candidate who has so told so many lies to so many people so much of the time. A contender for whom truth is so flexible and reality so indistinct, who unabashedly denies proof that is laid in front of his eyes, whose supporters forgive so many outrageous statements and assertions, any one of which would have sufficed to finish off candidates in previous elections. This is not a partisan claim or politically motivated assertion but an incontrovertible fact, backed by hundreds of fact checks in the media, including conservative outlets. For every one of Clinton’s misrepresentations, Trump produces fifty lies. For every one of her distortions, he manufactures a thousand malicious inventions.
In all of modern U.S. history, no candidate has ever railed against so many minorities, including George Wallace who ran independently in 1968 but kept his racist rants to African Americans alone. There was never a candidate who so thoroughly and mercilessly humiliated his own party’s leaders. There has never been a candidate who denigrated women and treated them as chattel, who openly mocked the disabled, who insulted and denigrated blacks, who defamed and libeled Hispanics, who tolerated and nurtured anti-Semitic groups the likes of which have not been in the open since World War II.
The fact that there are many Jews and even more Israelis who believe that Trump is preferable to Clinton is evidence, if we want to be generous, of how far removed they are from the impact of Trump’s conduct. The other possibility is that his message of hatred and bigotry comes naturally, unfortunately, to a large number of Jews here and in Israel, where it sometimes informs and forms official policy. Unlike Israel, where Clinton holds only a small majority over Trump in informal polls, U.S. Jews will vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate. He won’t come close to the 30 percent that Mitt Romney got in 2012 and may fall as low as the 16 per cent that Bob Dole got in 1996.
Clinton is a creature of the establishment in an era where it has become a dirty word. She has been in the public eye for too long for her own good at a time when the public is seeking new and fresh faces. She has moved far too easily from politics to big money and back again, especially for someone with Presidential aspirations. She didn’t keep enough distance between her role as Secretary of State and the Foundation run by her husband. She made a potentially fatal mistake by setting up a private email server while she was in the State Department and may have put classified material in danger of being hacked, if only inadvertently.
But Clinton is not the anti-Christ criminal portrayed in the vile and half-insane Republican propaganda machine. She is a moderate, centrist politician who displayed social awareness when Trump and his father were still being sued for discriminating against blacks in their apartment buildings. Even if Obama is exaggerating a bit when he describes Clinton as the most experienced and qualified candidate ever, there is no denying that she has the intellect, the cool headedness, the experience, the knowledge and the good judgment required for the Presidency, that Trump so clear lacks. Many Republicans who now support Trump are well aware of this fact and will be only too glad to say so to the public if and when the polls close and Trump’s defeat becomes a certainty.
The scary thing is that no one can guarantee that this will happen. Even though the signs are encouraging, no one can promise that America won’t find out on Tuesday evening that Trump’s delirium has triumphed, that the evil winds he is stirring haven’t blown away logic and prudence, that America hasn’t fallen into the hands of an opportunistic demagogue whose arrogance is even more dangerous than his ignorance. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past century, it’s that people can be their own worst enemies.
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