As of two weeks before election day, it is looking like we won’t have a fascist as our next president. It’s less of a sure thing than I would like—if you trust FiveThirtyEight’s model, then the odds of a Trump presidency are about the same as the odds of rolling a 6 on a die, which scares me a lot—but Clinton’s lead at least seems quite a bit larger than it was before the first debate.
But, even if the polls turn out to be accurate and Clinton wins, we’ll still be in a country where around two-fifths of the voters think that the better candidate is the one who is male supremacist, white supremacist, Christian supremacist, hostile to democracy, and hostile to the concept of truth. And that’s not a great situation to be in.
So a big part of me is scared of what comes next, now that the lid has come off. But the flip side is that none of this is new to Trump. Congress and state legislatures are full of men, with many of them passing anti-abortion legislation that becomes more and more transparently about punishing and dominating women every year. Congress and state legislatures are full of white people, with a decent number of people in the country in such disbelief that Obama got elected that they hallucinate ideas about him not being born in the country, and with extra-judicial assassinations of black people by cops being commonplace and actively defended by many. Congress and state legislatures are full of Christians, and our nation’s response to 9/11 wasn’t “religious extremism is horrible”, it was “religious extremism is great, you just have to believe in the one true religion”. State governments are gerrymandering everywhere and passing restrictions explicitly designed to make it harder for black people to vote, and the filibuster has become normal. And people and organizations are happy to construct a web of “logic” around whatever position feels right for them; if we lose our coastal cities because of that, so be it. Other people are more informed than I am, but it feels to me like, even since the first Clinton presidency, the Republican party has been going on a path that leads straight to Trump.
I guess I’m glad that it’s so out in the open right now? Because I can imagine a more competent, more polished version of Trump that wouldn’t have self-destructed in the same way; that scares me a lot more, and maybe seeing Trump will start inoculating our political culture against that? But even that happy path can get very ugly as the hatred and fascism that Trump has pulled together feels like it can show itself; and there may well be smarter, more polished people who are reaching for the same goals as Trump while learning from his (many!) presentational/tactical mistakes.
And then there’s the question of what will happen to the Republican Party: it’ll be very hard for it to present itself now as a party of good government, of sober morality, of fiscal and legal conservatism. I’m not a Christian, but I suspect that it will even get harder and harder for the Republican Party to present themselves as driven by Christian morality (as opposed to Christian group dominance): Trump certainly doesn’t feel to me like anything that I remember as a positive model from the New Testament.
Parties last a long time, but not forever; it can’t feel good right now to be a good government, fiscally conservative, sober Republican and to be confronted with the number of voters in your party who are happy to burn the party down if their brand of authoritarian dominance doesn’t have complete control. (Though, of course, this isn’t new with Trump, as the House leadership struggles this decade have shown.) So the happy case from my point of view would be for the fascist segment of the Republican party to stay uncompromising but too small to win at a national level, and to dwindle in importance as the rest of the Republicans get more and more disgusted with them; and eventually the Republicans that actually believe in democracy will make peace with a subset of the Democrats, and we’ll be back to having two political parties that believe in majority rule and good government. It won’t be pleasant getting there; but the politics of the last two decades have been horrible in many ways already.
Or maybe the Republican party will pull back from the brink but stay on their current path. I have no idea what comes next in that scenario: if Trump can’t blow up the party, what can?
And, of course, if Trump inspires more a more polished Trump to follow him, then wow.
This post has not been revised since publication.