From day one, this election has been custom designed for speed and spectacle. Nevermind the finer points of politics, economics, or foreign policy – none of that mattered this time around. Neither did facts. It was all too heady. Because we need our heroes and villains effortlessly characterized inside of the split second it takes to swipe through our Facebook feeds. So, we got what we wanted: We got entertainment, allowing a presidential candidate to waltz his way onto the ballot with nothing more than bravado and soundbites. Without a message or even a plan of his own, Trump just bent his ear to the bros in Legion halls and gun clubs and asked them to check off what was wrong with the country. He then spent the last year reiterating precisely what they barfed out – the Mexicans are responsible; the Chinese are responsible; the Muslims are responsible; the American Left, above all, and the media with them, and on and on and on. Trump became, in a sense, a mirror to redirect to the masses the most venomous and backwoods edges of America. I underestimated it, in its size and its fervor.
My friend Jeff and I grabbed some beers over the Bills-Dolphins game and, of course, we got talking of the election. Jeff’s a smart, level-headed guy. He tends to peel back an extra layer or two on things, and he had an interesting thought about this election: Once the votes begin trickling in, a clearer picture of our divided country will begin to emerge. We may think we’ve come a long way socially and politically, but Trump’s numbers will tell us otherwise. That, Jeff said, is a good thing – we’ll know where we stand as a country.
And he’s right. If nothing else, Trump has ferreted out the ugliest segments of our citizenry – those seduced by empty threats aimed to push back the vague Others, those who warp their convenient ideologies to align with anyone who promises a return to a Mayberry America that never actually existed. Trump is the bigoted totem by which we measure our perceived growth as a nation. So, thank you, Mr. Trump. Your campaign built on rage and fear proved an easy lure for modes of thought rightly abandoned generations ago. Bright and early Tuesday morning, we’ll begin to see just how far we’ve come … or, a more terrifying prospect, how far we still have to go.