NORTH CHATHAM, New York — U.S.A.
October 24 was a Saturday of dramatically mixed weather here in upstate New York, as mixed and moody as months of speculation by political scientists and amateurs alike over the prospects for the survival of America as we know it. This day was our first in a week of early voting in the lead-up to November 3—Election Day throughout the United States.
So, there was I on that cool grey misty morning, near the front of a sidewalk line-up outside my polling station in the Hudson River Valley—a region of orchards, rolling hills, green mountains and dairy farms, largely populated by a fading breed of middle-class white conservatives who constituted a once-upon-a-time Republican Party that was mostly rational. Doors would soon open for us to cast ballots either for or against the the foremost hazard to peace in the valley, and the wellbeing of the free world: the frighteningly irrational Donald J. Trump.
From the chatter around me, appropriately circumspect, it seemed that Mr. Trump held little sway with this crowd. Which would reflect the sentiment of all national surveys predicting defeat for the president, and a party he has refashioned into a bloc of plutocrats, ignoramuses, fellow golfers and white supremacists. I heard people quoting the opening line of a remarkable editorial from the New York Times: “Donald Trump’s reëlection campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since the Second World War.”
Between now and Election Day, when results may or may not be immediately known, lies a sea of angst. Will we kill Trumpism in its fascist tracks? Might we suffer another four years of Trumpian hate, ineptitude and violence? Will a closely decided contest presage civil war?
Or, at last, may we know a new American decency?
Anything can happen, from the absurd to the deadly—for better or worse, or worst. But as I now write, five harrowing days before November 3, I sense an imminent cleansing of the national soul: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the respective Democratic Party nominees for president and vice president, will be victorious.
Back to October 24 and my early vote: I check the Biden/Harris ticket, proudly aware of the historical dimensions of my choice. Mr. Biden, a few years my senior, will become the oldest man elected president, and Ms. Harris the first African American woman vice president.
As well, I mark my ballot for an ambitious and effective young Democratic congressman standing for a second two-year term, a man soon to be familiar to the rest of the nation, and perhaps the world: Antonio Delgado, a Harvard Law School alumnus savaged by his white Republican opponent during his initial run for Congress in 2018.
In 2018, Mr. Delgado defeated incumbent Congressman John Faso, a pearl-clutching Republican who expressed shock—shock!—that his black challenger had once recorded hip-hop compositions decrying economic injustice, police brutality, and white supremacy. Shocking lyrics included, “All the pain and poverty/Hypocrisy fuels my truth/Ain’t no stopping me.”
This time around, Congressman Delgado is opposed by Kyle Vander de Water, whose credentials include rabid admiration for Donald Trump, a thick head of blond hair, and a determination that his children not “grow up in a country run by socialists.”
Never mind that the congressional office Mr. Vander de Water seeks for himself is a paradigm of socialist welfare. Its comrades enjoy state-sponsored health care, travel and housing and education allowances, heavily discounted meals and personal grooming service, brisk salaries, outlandishly generous leisure time, fat pensions after merely six years of service, and Heaven only knows how many other perquisites courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
(Blessings of socialism that accrue to what Republicans call the “truly needy” pale by comparison; incessantly, the party labors to make life ever more pale. As you read these words, Republicans are hellbent on reducing federal food subsidies for impoverished families, abolishing or reducing government support for public education and health initiatives, and wrecking the old-age pension program known as Social Security.)
Mr. Delgado, by all indications not a dirty rotten socialist, is part of a New Guard of progressive politicians filling the ranks of state, municipal and federal authorities. His fellow travellers more closely represent changing demographics in the historically Euro-centric U.S.A. Mr. Delgado, certain to win reëlection, will take his place among newly prominent officials of the African, Latino, Muslim and Asian persuasions—“people of color,” per corporate media reference; people who cause palpitations for Republicans, overwhelmingly of alabaster hue.
I emerge from my polling station to a sudden burst of sunshine and a warming breeze, which I take as signs of goodness trumping Trump. Foliage is at peak fall color, brilliant red and gold. I breathe deeply of the refreshing autumn air. I feel blessed to have had voice in the most important American presidential election of my seven decades of life.
I am part of something both mighty and muted. Something that calls to mind a journal entry from Albert Camus (1913-1960), the French philosopher/author and Nobel laureate:
“In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realized, through it all, that in the midst of winter, there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there is something stronger—something better, pushing right back.”
Daily, the headlines tell us of invincible Americans from coast to coast. How they turn out in droves to break all records for early voting. How they have surmounted barrier after barrier to their electoral rights, as thrown up by Mr. Trump and his intimidating street thugs, and stooges of the Republican establishment who see mass voter suppression as the only route to success.
I rejoice in this calmly defiant response to Mr. Trump et al.: The People bravely accepting a present necessary hardship of standing on line for hours and hours and hours, weather be damned; The People, by god, will have their say here in the world’s oldest continuing democracy!
I rejoice for the history of my people—we revolutionists. How we created a nation-state in resistance to the world’s mightiest empire at the time, Great Britain of the eighteenth century. I rejoice in the progressive outcomes of our internal revolutions: civil war in the nineteenth century to end chattel slavery, the women’s suffrage movement of the early twentieth century, the gallant Depression-era labor movement, the heroic civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s…
…All of this and more revolution to come, in accordance with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, declaring among our societal purpose a duty to “form a more perfect union.”
No matter the crimes against democracy, we Americans resist and insist and persist in constitutional purpose. Standing on line to rebuff Mr. Trump and his cohorts is no small thing. It is big and powerful, communal and beautiful. People dance to pass the hours of waiting; people use cell phones to order take-away food, sharing the deliveries with neighbors and strangers alike; people hold places on line for those heeding a call of nature; people cede their folding chairs to the elderly and lame; people bring children to witness patriotism.
All this gave me joy on that Saturday morning of October 24. Call me a cornball, but I wanted to fly a flag. I wanted to blow a bugle. I wanted to sing, ”I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy/A Yankee Doodle do or die…”
The world, after all, seemed changed. Americans from coast to coast—really and truly patriotic Americans—were poised to dump Trump, the personification of joylessness and selfishness.
And then it rained. The type of rain my Irish grandfather would call a “bleezer,” when the rain comes sneaking at you sideways and rams into your kidneys, as sharply hard as a beating with a belt.
But, is possible that nothing will change in this godawful year?
The rain brought a halt to my sentimentality, my sugar high. I flashed back four years. Back to the dark political Zeitgeist of July 2016, when Republicans anointed Donald Trump as their great white hope to succeed Barack Obama, America’s first black president.
Kindly forgive me for repeating my dispatch for CulturMag at the time (Fear & Loathing in Ohio – Donald Trump’s Fascist Bacchanal):
“Like flies buzzing over hot dung, admirers of the execrable Donald J. Trump flocked to mid-July’s Republican Party convention in Cleveland—as both duly-elected delegates and a rabble of nazis, white nationalists [and] spittle-spewing Jesus jumpers howling about abortion and black helicopters coming to get them, and pistol-packing motorcycle louts with muscled arms inked in swastikas.
“… [Republicans] have incubated a mob of true-believers to support a blowhard who claims to have built a multi-billion dollar real estate, entertainment, and merchandising empire; a faux tycoon who refuses to prove his wealth by releasing his tax returns for public scrutiny, as candidates of both major parties have done for nearly a hundred years; a man whose shoddy character and shoddy professional record are well-known.
“By the evidence of his harsh pronouncements, Donald Trump is a racist, fascist, narcissist, misogynist, anti-Semite, ignoramus, vulgarian, pathological liar, and bully. By the evidence of legal briefs and depositions, he is a litigant in more than three thousand past and present civil court cases; most lawsuits accuse him of fraud or failure to pay.
“This summer—finally—the establishmentarian Washington Post and New York Times respectively warned that Donald Trump is ‘a danger to the nation and the world’ and a ‘shady, bombastic liar…whose quest for the presidency revolves around targeting religious and racial minorities and people with disabilities, who flirts with…the Ku Klux Klan, who ridicules and slanders those who disagree with him.’
But according to Paul Manafort, the candidate’s principal mouthpiece, all charges and allegations [against] Mr. Trump are ‘absurd.’ Which is a careful expression, one quite different than denying the charges and allegations outright.”
There is but one substantial change from circumstances of four years ago: Paul Manafort, early ringleader of the Trump campaign operation in 2016, was eventually arrested and convicted on multiple counts of tax and bank fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States. He currently occupies a cell at the Loretto federal penitentiary in the state of Pennsylvania.
But of course, Donald Trump remains exactly as he was: vulgarian, fraud, tax evader, moral degenerate, pathological liar, and inspiration for a confederated mob of right-wing hooligans variously known as “Proud Boys,” “Oath Keepers,” “Boogaloo Bois,” and “Wolverine Watchmen.”
Mr. Trump notably ordered the “Proud” to “stand back and stand by” in the event of his Election Day loss. The leader of the “Oath” clan promptly invited Mr. Trump to issue a call to arms. The “Boogaloo” bunch hungers for full-on civil war. And in early October, thirteen “Watchmen” were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for allegedly plotting the abduction and execution of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
While campaigning in Michigan’s capital city of Lansing on October 26, incidentally, Mr. Trump foresaw the murder of Joe Biden when he assumes the presidency: “Three weeks in, Joe’s shot,” said Mr. Trump.
This would be one of numerous statements that alarm the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (I.G.C.), which recently issued a report warning that Mr. Trump’s “often incendiary rhetoric suggests he will more likely stoke than calm tensions,” adding—
“Beyond the implications for any Americans caught up in unrest, the election will be a harbinger of whether its institutions can guide the U.S. safely through a period of socio-political change. If not, the world’s most powerful country could face a period of growing instability and increasingly diminished credibility abroad.
“The country is awash in firearms, has gun homicide levels unmatched by any other high-income country, and is home to a white supremacy movement that…is growing in virulence. Racial injustice, economic inequality and police brutality are chronic sources of tension, which periodically bubbles into…civil unrest.”
The avalanche of abominations committed by Mr. Trump, his family, and his flunkies have numbed America and most nations abroad.
Among the serious abominations of late is persuasive evidence of the president’s financial entanglements with oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin, the murderous president of Russia and his country’s wealthiest man. A book-length account of all this—“Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump,” by former F.B.I. Agent Peter Strzok—was published in September. In it, Mr. Strzok presents an exhaustively detailed case of rank corruption that would be the downfall of any other politician in times of normalcy.
Mr. Strzok was dismissed by a Trump henchman after coöperating in congressional investigations related to the president’s impeachment last year for abusing his authority and obstructing Congress in its probe of Kremlin interference in this year’s election.
There is also a continuing series of damning articles in the Times that likewise speak to Donald Trump’s dubious finances. First off the press was news that Mr. Trump, who claims a net worth of $10 billion (€8.57 billion), paid a piddling $750 (€643) in income tax in 2016 and ’17, and zero during the preceding decade. According to the Internal Revenue Service, middle-class American salary and wage earners are assessed an average yearly income tax of $2,200 (€1,892).
And we must not forget the matter of the Trump regime’s incarcerating nearly six thousand children under its barbaric policy of separating them from parents seeking U.S. sanctuary, as is their right under American and international law. In some cases, infants were seized while nursing at their mothers’ breasts.
Kidnappings, as the United Nations properly labels them, were designed to discourage the migration of brown-skinned people from Central American countries plagued by violent crime and corruption stemming from American governmental and corporate contamination. Since June of 2018, federal courts have sided with the plaintiff American Civil Liberties Union in ordering family reunifications.
The White House recently claimed inability to locate the parents of five hundred and forty-five of the kidnapped. Thus, orphans remain in the cement floor cages of concentration camps erected during the tenure of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the first of Mr. Trump’s several attorneys general. Subsequently, White House senior advisor Stephen Miller—said to resemble a balding vampire—became the gleeful commandant of America’s concentration camps, where beatings and rape have been credibly exposed in media reports.
Turning to the relatively lighter side of abominations, Donald Trump roamed the country in the waning days of his presidential campaign—sans facemask, which he deems unmanly, or something. From town to town, he boasted of having bravely overcome a personal bout of coronavirus disease, the so-called Covid-19 that hospitalized him for three days. And which may have rendered him even more incoherent than usual.
During a recent stop, he mocked California’s efforts in convincing its residents to wear facemasks that health science experts say is vital in mitigating Covid-19. Contemplate the president’s words:
“In California, you have a special mask. You cannot under any circumstances take it off. You have to eat through the mask. It’s a very complex mechanism, and they don’t realize those germs, they go through like it’s nothing. They look at you with that contraption and they say that’s an easy one. I’m going right through with the food. Now, how about California, though, where you’re supposed to eat with the mask, can’t take it off. You see people and boy, you know, when you have spaghetti and meat sauce, that mask is not looking. You walk out, it looks like you got into a fight…”
Snide observers tag Mr. Trump’s last campaign gasp as a “death tour,” noting the high breakouts of disease among the faithful who gather to behold his regal appearances; they packed together closely, virtually nobody wears a mask. There is a whiff of schadenfreude to this. After all, Mr. Trump’s admirers actually believed their king as he routinely declares the pandemic “behind us” due to the “phenomenal job” he’s done to stamp out the spread of plague—a phenomenal job that has America “rounding the corner,” with a vaccine due “very soon, very soon.”
Why should King Trump’s cult believe in such mishigas? Behold, a press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy that places “ending the Covid-19 pandemic” at the top of the list of presidential accomplishments. While cultists hailed the announcement, it was given short shrift by what Mr. Trump would call “the fake news media.”
By the way, the incipient ex-president was not subtle in hinting that he might take his post-presidency cue from the fraternity of loathsome potentates down through history gone into exile—fast—after losing power. Scoundrels the likes of German Emperor Wilhelm II, Zog I of Albania, King Farouk of Egypt, the cannibal president Idi Amin of Uganda, and Paraguay’s Alfredo Stroessner.
“Could you imagine if I lose?” Mr. Trump whined in mid-October. “I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”
Paraguay, known as the last place on Earth for the worst people in the world during thirty-five years of the Stroessner dictatorship, could be an attractive option for Donald Trump. The country is lousy with palm trees, lush golf courses, and comely young women not overly tawny. Plus, there is no extradition treaty with the United States.
It is hardly too much to expect at least some of those who voted for the madman Donald Trump in 2016 to muster a bit of grace and admit their mistake. Speaking for myself, I am willing to forget and move on. Apologies are difficult and unnecessary. A single word will do—“Oops!”
Safe to say, we would welcome all our mistaken countrymen to join with us in the spirit of Thomas Paine (1737-1809), the eloquent revolutionist and pamphleteer who inspired audacious patriots of 1776 to demand independence from the madness of another king.
My favorite line from Mr. Paine’s writings: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag. His essays with us here.