Thank you, Donald Trump
I am grateful for Donald Trump.
No, really. Hear me out. I really am grateful. I don’t want him to be president. In fact, I hate the idea. I hate the idea that this is even something that has a reasonable probability of happening. I rebel against it viscerally, but I don’t trust my gut. I rebel against it intellectually, and I do trust my intellect. And I don’t trust him.
But I am grateful.
I showed up at Democratic Headquarters in Ellsworth the other day and volunteered for duty canvassing. Someone said, “Thank you for your help.” I answered: “Don’t thank me. Thank Donald Trump. He’s the reason that I’m here.”
That’s the kind of gratitude I’m talking about.
It’s election night, and I’m deliberately staying away from news sites while I write this. When I’m done, I’m going to post it, turn off my internet connection, and go to sleep. In the morning I will wake up and either Hillary Clinton will be the winner or Trump. Or the agony will grind on the way it did with Bush/Gore.
And even if Clinton wins, there’s a good chance that Trump will make the agony drag on.
I care who wins, but in the end, as Scott Alexander says, unless there’s a blowout, it doesn’t matter who wins the election. Tuesday Shouldn’t Change the Narrative
If a Trump victory tomorrow would convince you that X is true, I suggest that you believe X is true regardless of whether or not Trump wins, because Trump’s victory almost certainly will depend more on noise than on X. If a Hillary victory tomorrow would convince you that Y is true, I suggest that you believe Y is true regardless of whether or not Hillary wins, for the same reason. If there’s some Z that you will believe only if Trump wins but not if Hillary wins, then I suggest you seriously reconsider what thought process has led you to decide that you will flip your views on politics and society depending on whether or not there’s a rainstorm or a 2% polling error or whatever.
Instead, I suggest people precommit to their views on politics and society now. We live in a country and a world where Hillary can be at about 47% and Trump at about 45%. This is pretty much all you need to know. It suggests that a lot of people are willing to support a nationalist candidate, and a lot of other people really hate that candidate. It suggests that political fundamentals are totally compatible with a situation where either Trump or Hillary could win based on noise in the electoral
The votes are being counted, and I’ve precomitted.
I want to help Democrats do a better job of explaining liberal policies—and do a better job crafting them. And I want to work to help Republicans do a better job of explaining conservative policies—and do a better job of crafting them.
Ideally, I’d like to see both parties working together to understand that the world ain’t what it used to be and combine the best ideas to deal with our changing reality. But I don’t think that much chance of happening.
But at a minimum, I’d like to help make sure that neither party nominates someone like Donald Trump again.
I don’t think that’s likely, either.
But the fact that it’s unlikely doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.
I was an idiosyncratic political activist in the ‘60s, working for the military-industrial complex during the week, and marching with anti-war protesters on the weekend. I wasn’t against war and I’m still not. I think it sometimes is the answer. But I am against stupidity. My objection was not to the war in Vietnam, but its stupidity.
War sometimes is the answer. Stupidity should never be.
Trump is not stupid, and he is not without virtues. I value hard work and drive, and showmanship and risk-taking, and I believe he’s got those virtues. He’s also shown himself to be creative and innovative. And depending on your taste, you may find him charming.
Is he a misogynist? A racist? A xenophobe? I don’t know, and neither do you. Nor can you. These are states of mind, and none of us are mind readers. So let’s just take those questions off the table, and instead consider the attributes of his character, made visible by his behavior.
Trump has attributes that I admire, but he fails to show me that he has another set of attributes that I value: among them are consistency, honesty, politeness, transparency, self-perception, and self-control.
To the contrary, he shows himself to be inconsistent, dishonest, impolite, opaque, narcissistic, and temperamental. He showed those traits throughout the campaign, and most dramatically for me, in the debates.
Someone who I regard highly proposed that the ability to debate is not a job requirement for the president. And he’s right, as far as that argument goes.
But what are the job requirements? And how does one demonstrate them?
In the end, there’s only one job requirement, and that’s the ability to win a majority in the electoral college. Performance in the primaries, and in the campaign, and the debates aren’t job requirements. They’re a kind of ordeal—for the candidates and for us. They are a means for helping us understand some important job-related attributes of a potential president.
If you can’t put together a good-enough organization to contend, you’re probably not going to be a good president. Trump has done that. So has Clinton. If you don’t have the stamina to show up and keep showing up, you probably don’t have what it takes. Notwithstanding what seemed like a lack of stamina in the debates—after accusing Clinton—Trump has stamina. And so does Clinton. He is in great shape for a 70-year-old guy. And she’s in great shape for a woman who will be 70 within the year.
But if you show up for your debate, after bragging about how you don’t need to prepare, and demonstrate that you are unprepared; if you claim you’ve won—thereby accepting the premise that winning the debate is an important test of capability—and the majority of objective observers judge that you’ve lost, and lost badly—then we’ve learned some important things about you.
And if you behave during the debate the way Trump behaved—behavior consistent with his behavior through the campaign and compressed into a 90-minute concentrated dose of “raw Trump”—if you show yourself lacking the consistency, honesty, politeness, transparency, self-perception, and self-control that I want in my president—not to mention seeming ignorance or disregard of facts and an understanding of policy then you’ve told me something about yourself.
You’re not the person I want as my president.
Trump showed himself clearly to be inconsistent, dishonest, impolite, opaque, narcissistic, and temperamental. And if you don’t find those worrisome in a prospective president well—I guess we think very differently about these things.
But he’s a success. He is the CEO of a large organization and he’s running for CEO of the company. Doesn’t his success in business show there’s a good chance for him to be successful as president?
I don’t think it does.
Bono, front-man for U2 started from nothing and is reported to be worth $600 million. Some of that money is because of his ability as an entertainer. But a lot comes from investments. He and six partners made an investment in Facebook that was worth 1.4 billion more than he has ever made in his music career
Does that qualify Bono to be president (never mind he’s not a citizen)?
Oprah Winfrey, starting from nothing, is worth more than $3 Billion, close to what Forbes estimates Trump is worth—and he had a big head start. Oprah for president?
I grant that it takes a lot of skill to run a company that builds buildings and manages staffs of people. I think it takes a lot of skill to even run such a company badly. But there’s an argument to be made that Trump’s wealth is more the result of his status as a performer and a marketer, and less as an executive.
But never mind that. Let’s consider Trump’s virtues.
It’s true that it’s hard to be successful if you don’t have the virtues that Trump has. And I acknowledge he has them.
But you can’t even be a successful crook, con-man, or psychopath without those same virtues. Or a successful rock star.
So let me be clear: Trump’s having the set of virtues that I grant him is not sufficient to distinguish him from a crook, con-man or psychopath.
Maybe if he had shown consistency, honesty, politeness, transparency, self-perception, and self-control I would think differently. But in the debates and the campaign he did not.
She, on the other hand, did.
I started out disliking her. Looked at my feelings and wrote a post to explain that she did not deserve my disliking her as much as I did
And that changed my opinion of her—not much.
It was the debate that made the real difference. She agreed with Trump that winning was important. Her self-perception told her that she needed to prepare. She prepared.
Is she inconsistent? It is true that her opinions on some topics have changed. If you want to say that makes her inconsistent, you can. But his reversals are epic. He’s a pro-choice guy who has become pro-life. A guy who said he identified as a Democrat and who said the Republicans had become “too crazy right.” Listen to Trump.
As someone pointed out: the chances of Trump winning are about the same chances of losing at Russian roulette, and the consequences—well, let’s skip that.
I like the theory (or theories) of multiple universes, and if true, then in an infinite number of universes people wake up and he’s president. I hope that they all the people in those universes are NPCs and that tomorrow (as I write this) and today (as you read this) my consciousness wakes in a universe where Donald Trump is not going to be president.
Still, win or lose, I am grateful for Trump.
I’m grateful for Trump in the same way that I grateful for the pain I endured between July of 2015 and February 2016. I did something that in retrospect was stupid and hurt my back and my knee. I didn’t take the pain seriously enough, and it got worse and worse. Every time it got better, I went back to something like a “normal routine” and it got horribly worse again.
Finally, I learned some of the lessons that the pain was trying to teach me. I learned to be more considerate of my aging body; I learned to appreciate my wife’s heroic efforts to live with her own ongoing pain; I learned to care more about preserving my mind because I learned that pain makes you stupid.
I don’t think I would have learned those things by reading about them (although I am hoping that some people will read what I’ve written and will learn even a little from my experience.)
And since I’m grateful for the outcome, I must be grateful for the cause, mustn’t I?
Well, perhaps I need not be, in a moral sense. But I need to be because the person I have come to be is grateful.
And so, here I am, after years and years away from political involvement, rushing to finish up my draft of this essay so that I can run off to the local Democratic Headquarters and volunteer. And I’m determined to stick with it.
I’ve discovered that one of my almost-neighbors, a woman in nearby Brooksville named Libby Chamberlain started a facebook group supporting Hillary Clinton called “Pantsuit Nation.” It’s gone viral with about 2,400,000 members as I write the draft. So here’s someone nearby who is making a difference. Maybe I can help her make a bigger difference.
I don’t know, but my life’s direction has changed, thanks to Donald Trump.
I’ve been discussing and debating policy with some friends who hold differing views. The discussions have been enlightening. I’ve gained respect for people I used to dismiss, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, high on the list. I’ve come to have a higher regard for conservatism, not the jingoism of the neoCons, and not the people who say “let’s go back to the way it was” but the fundamental conservative idea that you need to conserve what works, and change things slowly and not radically.
To a degree. I thank my friends for leading me to greater understanding. But I also thank Donald Trump. He’s the one who has moved me to action.
Trump helps me appreciate rational conservatives, people with whom you can have policy discussions more than I did before. Not to say that I did not appreciate them before; I did. I just appreciate them much more than I used to.
My future activism is motivated by Trump.
If I ever do something politically useful, you can thank Donald Trump.