Read "Trump in Exile" over at Sam Harris's blog. If you're a Trumpista, you'll vehemently disagree, of course. One of the more amusing passages:
Hillary Clinton is a terribly flawed candidate for the presidency, and this has allowed millions of otherwise sane Americans to imagine that she is less fit for office than Donald Trump is. Much depends on a majority of the electorate seeing through this moral and political illusion in the weeks ahead.
To consider only one point of comparison: We have now witnessed Donald Trump bragging about his sexual predations in terms that not even Satan himself could spin to his advantage. He has admitted to repeatedly groping women, kissing them on the mouth without their consent, and invading the dressing rooms of teenage pageant contestants to see them naked. Every day, more women come forward confirming the truth of these confessions. Trump has even said that he would have sex with his own daughter, were she the offspring of another man. He talks about his libido as only a malignant narcissist can: as though it were a wonder of nature, a riddle no mortal can solve, and a blessing to humanity.
Such disclosures should have ended Trump’s presidential campaign. But as luck would have it, Hillary Clinton is married to a man who can probably match Trump indiscretion for indiscretion. Indeed, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton are both trailing serious accusations of rape. Whether or not the worst of these charges are true, these are not normal men. Each has lived for decades as a roving id flanked by a security detail. Each is the very avatar of entitlement. However, only one of these cads radiates contempt for nearly every other member of our species. Only one has made humiliating people—and women in particular—a central part of his brand. Only one has become a troubled adolescent’s fantasy of what a man should be, exposing a ruinous insecurity and moral emptiness every time he opens his mouth. Most important, only one of these men is running for president today. And, personal ethics aside, only one is dangerously unfit for the job.
While Trump’s attitude toward women should be disqualifying, it is among his least frightening traits when it comes to assuming the responsibilities of the presidency. His fondness for Vladimir Putin, the whimsy with which he has entertained the first use of nuclear weapons, his disregard for our NATO alliances, his promise to use federal regulators to harass his critics, his belief that climate change is a hoax, his recommendation that we kill the families of terrorists, his suggestion that America might want to default on its debt—any one of these sentiments should have ended Trump’s bid for public office at once. In fact, Donald Trump is so unfit for the presidency that he has done great harm to our society by merely campaigning for it. The harm he could do from the White House can scarcely be imagined.
I've seen the choice between candidates framed various ways, many of which revolve around the "devil you know" trope:
"Vote HRC! She's damaged goods, but who knows what horrors await us with Trump?"
"Vote Trump! We know what horrors HRC brings, but we don't know what Trump will do!"
In one case, the devil you know is a reassuring entity, far better than a weaponized wild card. In the other, the devil you know is the fiend you want to keep away from power. Sam Harris, however, seems to be arguing that, although we can't imagine the damage a Trump administration might do, we nevertheless already know everything we need to know about both candidates to make a judgment. We don't need to see Trump in office, according to Harris, to know how he's going to perform. Harris's view represents a very large school of thought: that of the already-decided pro-HRC voter.
At a guess, it's that all-is-known assumption that rankles Trump advocates. Naturally, they fire back. He's a raging egomaniac? Well, quite a few presidents have been that. He's a serial groper? This isn't news to people who understand that many—if not most—males in power tend to abuse that power, often in a sexual way. He's a crass, uncultured vulgarian? People think civility has only recently drained out of politics, but they forget that, centuries ago, politicians sometimes settled their differences by shooting at each other. Ask Alexander Hamilton. By that standard, today's mudslinging is an improvement over pistols at dawn. From the Trumpista's point of view, each of the major criticisms of Trump has a reply, and it's not obvious that Hillary Clinton is clearly the better choice. If anything, a Trumpista would say it's the reverse. Here's a sarcastic reply to an anti-Trumper comment on a Daily Caller thread:
Yes, because Trump:
- Has the entire media complex on his side
- Has a long, deep history of corruption
- Intentionally mishandled state secrets, thus placing them in danger
- Started a 'charity' so he could fund his political aspirations using foreign money
- Stole property from the White House when he vacated it
- Left the White House 'dead broke' only to be worth over a $100 million in less than a decade off of 'speaking fees' and foreign 'donations' to his foundation
- Created a homebrew server for the purpose of hiding corruption
- Destroyed evidence in a criminal investigation
- Destroyed public property after leaving office
- Lied under oath to Congress
- Lied to the FBI
- Abused his political power to avoid prosecution for charges that would have landed any of us in federal prison for 30+ years
- Lied to the American people repeatedly
- Gave his donors special treatment while he was in office
- Robbed from the Haitians after a massive earthquake devastated their country
- Publicly shamed and humiliated his spouse's sexual assault victims
- Enabled his spouse to be a serial sexual assaulter
- Has a documented history of being downright nasty to anyone he looks down upon
- Can't do anything in public unless it's 100 percent scripted to uphold the fake persona he tries to portray
- Made a fortune off of serving in government
And the list goes on, and on, and on, and on...
But it wasn't Trump that did any of those things, it was Hillary Clinton, and she did them while she was in our government. Regardless of what you think of Trump, nothing he's done as a private citizen has had any bearing whatsoever on our nation's government, laws, or policies, which means he bears no responsibility for the mess we're in. That's all on Hillary and her beloved Democrat Party.
Go ahead, vote for Hillary. All you'll be doing is voting for more of the exact same thing everyone wants to change now.
What a mess, eh? That said, I'm glad to have read Harris's article. It's a way of keeping myself balanced. I'm still not sure who might win the election, although my suspicion remains that Trump isn't pulling off any landslides anytime soon. I think that, if Trump wins, we're going to see massive riots in big cities, all fueled by leftist rage. If Hillary wins, I expect conservatives to sulk for a long while, then go about the business of trying to undermine her at every turn.
One of the more interesting pro-Trump arguments I've heard came from Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. Several months ago, he said that, if Trump becomes president, the media will do its proper job and constantly take him to task, forcing his administration to be maximally* transparent. If Hillary Clinton were to become president, by contrast, the media would do nothing but cover for her, as they're doing now during the campaign. This humble argument, which Reynolds nonchalantly tossed out in one of his many short blog posts, strikes me as one of the most powerful arguments in favor of Trump. Granted, it's not powerful enough to persuade me that I should vote for the man (I'm very likely going to abstain this time around; I don't want to be blamed for helping to put either of these people into power), but it's certainly a factor to consider. When a Republican occupies the White House, the Fourth Estate can be counted on to hold him to high standards. Dissent becomes patriotic again.
As many others have noted, there was a point in the second presidential debate when Trump’s campaign ceased to be a depressing farce and became the terrifying, national disgrace we now see before us. The crucial moment wasn’t when Trump threatened to imprison Clinton if he wins in November—it was the shriek of joy this threat produced in half the audience. That was the sound of our democracy unraveling. And there was Trump, the crazed man-child tearing at the threads.
I've mentioned before that the two contrasting worldviews at work in this election can see the very same evidence and interpret it in completely opposite ways. Was Trump's "Jail to the Chief" moment about the death of democracy or the triumph of justice? Whatever it was, I see both sides arguing that their candidate is going to win big. On November 8, one side is going to have a lot of explaining to do as it picks through the rubble of defeat.
*Note that I said maximally, not completely. No one is naive enough to believe the media can uncover every secret deal, plan, or operation of the US government. But the media will do their utmost to make a Trump administration as transparent as possible. They won't let him get away with a single stray remark, eyebrow waggle, or whiff of impropriety.