Friday 14 October 2016

Hatred Unleashed

I hoped the USA would wake up to the awfulness of Trump, and give him a clear electoral defeat. It now looks like it's going to happen; Hillary Clinton's lead is 6.7% in the RCP polling average. Nobody should be complacent, but Trump is running out of time to turn things around. Obama won by 7.2% against McCain in 2008, and if Trump continues to implode, it's plausible Clinton could exceed that margin.

Maybe I should be happy. Instead, I am sickened that it's come to this.

Trump and Clinton at their second debate. Source: CNN

I'm relieved Trump will not get anywhere near the Oval Office, and cautiously optimistic about Clinton's leadership. Those feelings are overshadowed by fear and loathing, of what Trump has done and continues to do.

This is what it took to bring Trump down: Video of him boasting of how he committed sexual assault. His previous offences weren't enough: Open racism; dangerous ignorance; crass insults to federal judges, grieving parents, and prisoners of war; threats to have his political opponent jailed. All of it was tolerated by too many people, for far too long.

Many of them tolerate it still. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, cannot yet bring himself to withdraw his endorsement of Trump. Even after all that has happened, Trump is at about 40% in the polls.

Think about what that means for a second: Four in ten Americans think Trump is the best candidate for President. Whether from hate, ignorance, desperation, or partisanship, they want him to win.

Many continue to celebrate Trump. His core supporters are numerous, angry, and heavily armed. They don't care about his behaviour. Some of them think it's funny.

I find it sickening, and I'm a straight white man on the other side of the Atlantic. I can hardly imagine what impact this has on women, gay people, and people of colour in the USA.

We try to build a society on shared values. We tell ourselves stories about what we find important. Stories like this one:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

That is from Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. It's a dream of a better world. Little by little, brave people have worked to make it a reality.

We reached a place where our leaders endorsed the dream. Of course their actions sometimes fell short. But apart from a handful of cranks and outcasts, leaders in politics, industry, and religion claimed to believe in the equality and dignity of all human beings. At least in public, they rejected racism, sexism, and homophobia, and respected the rule of law.

It was always a fragile achievement, and now it stands in danger.

The Brexiteering government of the UK, with its contempt for foreigners and human rights treaties, is undermining the consensus around human dignity. However, it pales in comparison to Trump and his supporters.

Trump derides equality, dignity and the law as "political correctness". He is trying to burn down two hundred years of hard-won progress since the Enlightenment, and drag us back into a medieval era of tribalism and hatred.

Why is he doing this? The same reason he does anything else; for fun. It amuses him. It makes him feel important.

Here's a prediction: Trump will lose, but not by enough. This despicable man will hang onto thirty or thirty-five percent of the vote. Others will follow after him, because they see power and profit to be had. His supporters will not accept the legitimacy of a Clinton presidency, and some of them may turn violent.

Long after this election is over, the hate Trump has unleashed will remain. I am afraid for America and the world.

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