Imagine, If You Dare, A World Where Trump Was A Disciplined Campaigner

Nighthawks, by Dennis Hopper

A friend of mine is taking some solace in the popular vote. He points out that not only did Hillary win the popular vote, but Trump got fewer votes overall than either Romney or McCain did in losing decisively to Obama. We just need more turnout, that good old-timey medicine.

This is foolish. Optimism, mine very much included, has delivered us here, and here is where we bury optimism in the back yard. Let it dig itself out if it has the energy. Now is a time to measure, as accurately as possible, the dimensions of the present crisis.

The crisis is not Democratic turnout. The crisis is that Donald Trump won despite the pussy tape, and the women who credibly accused him of sexual assault. Imagine if all that never came out, and everything else about the election was the same: He still battled the Khans and “fat” Miss Universe; still never released his taxes; still got caught banning minorities from his properties; still had an immigration policy that consisted mostly of the words rape, murder, drugs, and wall; still proposed to ban a religious group from entering the country; still openly reveled in violence against his opponents; still holy shit, it goes on.

Imagine all that was the same, only the pussy tape never came out. What’s the result then? Trump wins a majority of the popular vote? Worse?

Then just strip off the other most obviously self-defeating things Trump did during the campaign one by one. He wasn’t able to hold it together in a debate for more than 20 minutes. Imagine if he had been.

Imagine if he’d been able to invest in a GOTV effort comparable to what we were told the Democrats had.

Imagine if Trump’s campaign staff took away his Twitter a month ago, instead of a few days ago.

That is the crisis. For all we know, there may be an actual national majority of people who would be glad to vote for a candidate that incorporated the Muslim ban, the framing of immigrants as murderers, and the open threat to jail his political opponents, into a more disciplined campaign. Maybe that campaign would win white women by 20 points instead of 10.

It goes without saying that I don’t know how to counter this. Maybe I will dig out my optimism and believe it can be countered. It will not suffice to simply declare these ideas to be dangerous threats to the republic, though they are. Too many people now believe that nothing truly threatens the republic. George W. Bush was called a threat to the republic. Obama was called a threat to the republic. Now we have a real, self-declared threat to the republic about to assume the presidency and an electorate so inured to hyperbolic critiques of politicians that the hyperbole may well become reality before enough of us notice what’s happened.

For now I am going to physically work hard to win the next election.

I am also going to adjust my own rhetoric. I am going to speak in terms of what is, to me, morally right and wrong, first and foremost. I am going to oppose ideas and policies rather than people, because I have personally had enough of hating people. I also think that I’d like the Democrats to have a person’s vote even if that person has some affection for Sarah Palin, for example. So I won’t call her a ninny anymore. I’ll simply say I think she’s wrong about what this country needs, and I’ll say why. And it will still be funny, promise.

It is okay, totally, if you feel I'm wrong and that bad people need and deserve to be personally held to account. You may be right. Half of me feels you are. But that half is tired right now and wants to stop for a bit. And this isn't why we lost. Not at all. It's just my own feeling.

I think for now, the thing to do is to love and fight for what is good. I have spent this entire election scrupulously cataloging all that is bad in the opposition. And it was all very bad indeed and remains bad. But we elevated it. I talked about “Trump is bad” while Trump talked about jobs. So I’m going to try and remember that for everything I see that is bad, there’s necessarily an inverse that is good, and it’s my job to make the good thing bigger and the bad thing smaller. I am going to cling to that for a while.


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