Forty-two percent.

More than a third, less than half.

That is the number of Americans who would vote for Donald Trump for president were the election today, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Which I guess could be seen as encouraging, because 50 percent would vote for Hillary Clinton. Which means the epic and undeniable disaster of a Trump presidency would be avoided were the election today which, sadly, it is not. Only 92 days of this to go, folks.

So I don’t want to go all Debbie Downer on you. But 42 percent.  Who are these people? They can’t all be the snarling haters hopping up and down at Trump rallies, gleeful that they have permission from someone in authority to take their gruesome politics out of the basement and into the light of day. Can they? I sure hope not.


The bulk of Trump’s support is among economically stressed white males without college degrees. They thrill to his impossible idea of a big wall across our southern border, embrace his daft, anti-American scheme for barring Muslim immigrants — whoops, it seems now to be all immigrants — and fantasize at how rich we’ll be once we curl up in a protective ball, trade-wise, and the world stops eating our lunch.

You almost feel sorry for them. The Trump candidacy is like one of those late-night infomercials selling some junky piece of useless kitchen garbage — a set of wires that will jam the first time you try to push a potato through — and you wonder, “Who buys this stuff?” They do. They want it now. They’re waving their credit cards, chanting, “Sell us the Trump-o-Matic! Sell us the Trump-o-Matic!” I try not to use the f-word, but really. Fools.

I actually think the media is being thick when it parses Trump’s specific idiocy of the moment.

Details don’t matter. Political partisanship is like being a sports fans: a die-hard Bears fan doesn’t suddenly switch to the Packers just because this year’s team sucks. You stick with your sucky team. More than half of Trump supporters are not ignorant would-be concentration camp guards, but rock-ribbed Republicans who’d vote for a sock puppet if it ran on the red ticket. That has to be about 27 percent of the electorate; not a figure lifted out of the air. In 2004, 27 percent of Illinois voters chose Alan Keyes, the conservative carpetbagger wingnut, over Barack Obama, who got 70 percent. A considerable margin of victory — 43 percentage points — and one that would make more sense in the Clinton/Trump matchup.

Eight percentage points is too close. These numbers can change — Trump was leading Clinton in May, before his ignorance, his malice, his impulsiveness, began to show themselves in unmistakable ways. They can change again. My fear is that in October there will be a few horrendous acts of terror. Trump, who among his blizzard of unsubstantiated claims, fancies himself as a Putin-like strongman, will declare that safety and security reside with him, and jut enough voters will buy it.

What to do? Wave the flag for Hillary Clinton: her supporters can be skittish, the corrosive effect of 25 years of abuse firehosed on her from the right. She feels mildewed, disreputable, which is really saying something considering her opponent.

Should America be spared the shame and ruin of a Trump victory, we need to still keep those 42 percent in mind. Trump didn’t create them — he is not a cause, but a symptom. Those people were already there, willing to gamble their nation’s future on party pride and a fear of the unfamiliar. Maybe it’s a matter of education. When I was born, 40 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes. Now 19 percent of Americans engage in a dangerous, destructive behavior for the small blurt of release from stress it offers. We need to find a way to coax those people back into the American dream, to re-introduce them to the fact-based world. It’s a big job; I hope Hillary’s up for it.