It’s easy to make fun of the hats.
It’s not so easy to contemplate what makes so many people think America’s greatness is in desperate need of reformation, or what would make them turn to someone like Donald Trump to make it a reality.
America has flaws as deep as its founding, when the men who laid down basic principles of human rights – principles that have endured 240 years – were fed and clothed by human beings they owned. That paradox still defines the fault lines of our nation, and it’s along those lines we are drawing the ugliest election in modern history.
It isn’t just economic anxiety or trade deals or the opioid epidemic driving the mostly white, mostly male movement behind Trump’s campaign. It is the existential fear of displacement from a world that has slowly – too slowly, for too long – been chipping away at white male supremacy.
The “grab ’em by the pussy” moment was disastrous for Trump’s campaign; it reinforced the defining narrative of his sexism. But it drew his strongest supporters even closer to him, because it reminded them of the world they’re losing. They want to live in an America where they can grab women by the pussy and brag about it to their friends. They want to casually use the n-word – just for the bad ones; they’re not racist! – without being set upon by the PC police. They want what’s coming to them, what’s owed them.
And they are willing to burn down the world to get it.
Donald Trump is the worst major-party candidate for president in American history. This is not a close call. By virtually any measure, he is unfit to lead a Cub Scout troop, let alone the nation with the world’s most powerful military.
It’s worth going back and reading the transcripts of his debates with Hillary Clinton just to remember how he speaks when he’s answering questions off the cuff. It’s breathtaking how incapable he is of forming a single coherent thought. The expectations for him were so low that there was little to no coverage of his failure over four-and-a-half hours to say anything intelligent about any issue important to the American people. He meanders, he interrupts, and he whines. He is uninformed and unprepared.
Trump’s values are, in a word, deplorable. He launched his campaign calling Mexican immigrants rapists, issued a call for a ban on immigration by Muslims, and said women should be punished for getting an abortion. He lies, constantly, about everything. He stokes anger and fear and even violence among his supporters. He nurtures their very worst instincts.
He brags he has the best temperament, but that’s nonsense. He’s lashed out and punched down, attacking the parents of a dead soldier, a former beauty pageant winner who gained weight, countless reporters and anyone he perceives as insulting him.
It is impossible to predict exactly how deep a disaster Donald Trump’s presidency would be, but there’s no limit to the potential for horror. Think how much we still don’t know about Trump – how he hasn’t released his taxes, how many women there likely are who haven’t come forward – and you can imagine the scandals and corruption that lie in wait. Consider how thin his policy knowledge is and how impulsively he reacts to insults, and imagine his twitchy little fingers on the nuclear button.
Donald Trump cannot be president of the United States.
And while Trump has a considerable movement of supporters who see him as a great conquering hero, who believe every word of his lies, no matter how outlandish and easily disproven, there are many people, even at this late hour, who are torn about whether they can support him. Maybe they’re deeply conservative Republicans who despise what they believe Clinton would do to the country. Maybe they’re independents who see constant stories about her emails and have genuine fears about her judgment.
But now is the moment for every last American to decide what it truly means to be a citizen. You can be reluctant about Hillary Clinton. You don’t even have to vote for her (though I did, without doubt or hesitation).
What you cannot do is vote for Donald Trump and pretend that this is just another election, and he is just another candidate. It is your minimum duty as a citizen not to support a racist, sexist, unqualified, dishonest, corrupt manchild who celebrates everything that’s ugly about America and not a single thing that’s great about it.
No matter how left out or left behind you feel, voting for Trump is nothing short of a moral failure. It’s a vicious act against the human beings, mostly women and people of color, who would suffer miserably under his presidency.
It’s an act of violence against America itself, whose greatness has always been about progressing from more oppression to less – slowly, sometimes haltingly, but forward.
The promise on those red hats is to turn back in the other direction. The greatness they sell is a lie.
Watch Donald Trump’s acceptance speech after becoming the new President-elect of the United States.