Friday, October 21, 2016

Democracy, Denial, and the Death Rattle of a Demagogue

Everyone keeps talking about the big scandal that is Trump's sneering refusal to "accept" the results of the election unless he wins it. In reality, this is less a scandal than it is yet another manifestation of a persistent theme: 

Trump's ongoing--and, yes, SAD--public denial of reality. 

From walls to women to faux-fortunes, Trump's entire campaign--if not his entire life--is a sham. A house of cards built on bullshit, and fueled by his sociopathic lack of empathy and relentless compulsion to promote and satisfy himself at the expense of everything from women's bodies to democracy itself.

To be sure, Trump's promise to keep us all "in suspense" regarding his acceptance of election results gives the middle finger to previously sacrosanct democratic traditions and norms. It even threatens to rile his most ardent supporters into a dangerous (albeit likely temporary) frenzy, with terrifyingly unpredictable consequences.

Here's the thing though: It doesn't matter if Trump "accepts" the results of the election or not. 

If, and hopefully when, Trump loses the election, that's it. It's over. Hillary Clinton is President of the United States, and no amount of denial or acceptance on the part of Donald Trump or his supporters will change that. I don't "accept" that I'm not 29 anymore, but guess what? Time marches on, and doesn't care about my back fat and wrinkles. The idea that Donald Trump could hold the presidency hostage simply by "refusing" to "accept" an election result is just one more self-delusional fiction in a long line of grandiose Trumpian delusions.

Last week, I wrote about how we can't put the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube. You can churn out a million red baseball caps and hold a rally every day of the week if you want to, but there is no making America anything "again," great or otherwise. 

The world is globalized. The planet is warming. People are more interconnected than ever before. Rigid constructs of race, gender, and nationhood are becoming increasingly fluid, if not irrelevant. There is no undoing any of this. It's a numbers game, and white supremacists and nationalists are outnumbered. There are simply not enough alt-right zealots in this country or anywhere in the Western world to move the needle of that movement meaningfully beyond the fringes where it currently resides.

That is not to say the movement isn't dangerous and newly mainstreamed by this election. Clearly, Trump has lifted up a rock and a billion snakes have crawled out from under it. And it's not to say that a smarter, more self-controlled, self-aware, and generally more cunning person than Donald Trump couldn't pose a serious threat to the stability of American democracy and the constitution. 

Trump has already exposed their vulnerabilities, though not necessarily for the reasons that have provoked the most outrage. His apparent willingness to ban Muslims and Mexicans, build walls, silence the press, and jail his political opponents are much more insidious and un-American than his failure to commit to a concession speech. They are certainly more offensive (strictly from a civics standpoint) than anything he has ever said about the female anatomy. 

Fortunately, because Trump is Trump--i.e., a basic failure of a human being by every measure--these comments are hollow lies just like everything else that leaves his mouth.

As abhorrent, shocking, and unprecedented as it might be for a major party candidate to refuse to commit to the results of a federal election and the peaceful transition of the presidency, that refusal should be seen for what it is:  

The howling death rattle of an angry, pathetic demagogue who has finally reached the outer limits of his own denial.

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