OK, time to veer off into politics for what I hope will be the last time for a while. I always regret it when I do this on the blog, but with Election Day being tomorrow, it’s hard not to be a bit worked up. Back during the primary season I was very upset about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee, because I saw no way that I could possible vote for him. Since then, those feelings have deepened: never have I loathed a political candidate more. I could go on for another five thousand words elaborating on that theme, but I’ll spare everyone. He is simply the person least fit for the office that I have ever seen a major US party nominate. Even the historical record brings little comfort. Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce were pretty bad at the job, but I don’t think that they were as comprehensively unworthy of it as Trump. As for unsuccessful candidates, William Jennings Bryan, perhaps? But if I have to go back over a hundred years (and I’m still not sure about that comparison), what does that say?
To be clear, I am not basing this opinion on anything to do with the subject of this blog. The positions of either candidate on the drug industry – indeed, on scientific research in general – are roundoff errors compared to everything else. And I also want to be clear that I find very little to recommend in Hillary Clinton. Growing up in Arkansas, I had the opportunity to see both her and husband from far back in their careers. Under normal circumstances I would cheerfully vote against her. But this is not a normal year.
I agree with P. J. O’Rourke that Hillary is likely to be a terrible president, but terrible on the existing scale. Trump, on the other hand, does not fit on the chart. I think that his candidacy alone has damaged the country, but (to be fair) some of this is probably also just revealing damage that has already been done more quietly over the years. The fact that so many people are willing to vote for him I find horrifying, and I’m still working through the implications of it. There are out-and-out racists in the crowd, but that’s not enough of an explanation in itself (and I think that people who stop there in characterizing Trump’s support are making a serious mistake). There are plenty of low-information voters, to be sure, who may find Trump’s characterizations of things believable and his proposed “solutions” kind of plausible. There are people who despise Clinton so much that “Not Hillary” is all the qualification they need – I can understand that thinking, anyway, because I’m almost to that level with “Not Trump”. And there are, absolutely, a lot of his voters who are just deeply pissed off, feel that they’ve been patronized and/or ignored over the years, and are ready to go for someone who terrifies and disgusts the people that they themselves hate.
But the fact that so many people higher up in the Republican party have been willing to endorse his candidacy ensures that I will never vote Republican again. I think that the party has been stained beyond cleansing by the events of this electoral cycle; I don’t see how anyone running under that banner can make a plausible candidate. You can divide Trump’s high-level Republican supporters into various camps, but none of them do the people involved much credit. There are true believers, of course, who have been waiting to hear the sorts of things that Trump is saying. There are opportunistic power-following types, who sign on with whoever looks likely to win and dispense the favors. And these shade into the I-have-a-career-to-think-about types who do not want to be seen lining up against their party’s nominee. There are also a number of people, opportunists of another sort, operating under the assumption that they and people like them would be the real powers in a Trump administration, since the Big Man himself is notoriously hazy and impatient when it comes to any real details of government or policy (the same thinking has been applied to other Maximum Leaders in the past, with mixed results). The number of public figures in the Republican party (and on the right in general) who have been willing to come out against Trump (as opposed to just keeping quiet) is as not large as it should be, not by a long shot, but as far as I’m concerned these are the people who have behaved with honor in a low-down, dishonest year.
Because proclaiming your support for Donald Trump as president is simply not an honorable act. President? If all he ran were a hot dog stand, I’d skip lunch. As I write, it certainly looks as if he’ll lose, but just having to worry about the possibility of him winning means that this country has some real problems to deal with after the election. That’s going to be some hard work, and if it devolves, as things may, into people screaming “Stupid racists!” and “Elite traitors!” at each other, that’s not going to help. But first things first: Trump has to lose. I know I risk sounding like Cato the Elder here, but Trump has to lose.