At New Year’s 1993, outgoing President George H.W. Bush, on his way to Russia, visited the American troops he had sent to Somalia three weeks earlier. He toured a hospital and spent a total of 10 hours in the country.
If you’re wondering what that historical blip has to do with anything, especially our chaotic presidential race, remember last week when I introduced you to my Cleveland cabbie. I mentioned he is voting for Donald Trump but didn’t get the chance to share his reply when I asked why a black Muslim would do such a thing.
He said that Bush visited Somalia and thus most Somalis vote Republican. The cabbie waved off other considerations that Trump would ban Muslims like himself from the country or that Bush himself isn’t supporting Trump. The cabbie offered up the fiction that Trump had recanted and apologized, which he certainly hasn’t.
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His answer set the tone for Cleveland. Everyone I spoke with seemed motivated by an equally nonsensical rationale: Black Lives Matter protesters who aren’t voting because our country isn’t equal yet. Jews supporting Trump despite his cracking open the Pandora’s Box of bigotry because they prefer his stand on Israel to Hillary Clinton’s. Those who are voting for neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton because the most important things in this election is for them to preserve their own moral purity.
The bulk of Trump supporters are not dumb or crazy or racists but are showing the blind loyalty of my cabbie. They’re Republicans and this is the Republican guy, end of story. Pointing out Trump’s glaring deficiencies is rude and changes nothing. They do not see him for what he really is, to quote a fire bell of an editorial in the Washington Post, “a unique and present danger.”
How to deal with this? Only two choices: despair, lower our heads and await the blow. Or stand on a chair and shout the truth as we understand it.
Trump is a fraud. His followers, as is common with those being cheated, believe the scam completely. They are like those pensioners who wire their retirement savings to a crook in Nigeria posing as their girlfriend, long after any sensible person would wonder why a young European fashion model would fall for a septuagenarian in Berwyn online? Outsiders marvel how anyone could be so gullible. The answer is simple: the victims want the lie to be true, are drawn in by its appeal, start being duped, and soon they’ve lost so much they can’t do anything but continue being bilked. That explains the Trump phenomenon as neatly as it can be explained.
Only ruin gets through to those people. The Democratic National Convention, beginning Monday in Philadelphia, certainly won’t. It’ll be lucky to reach Democrats. I watched the introductory speech of Clinton’s new running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, and thought, “At last, a normal person.” Grieving Bernie Sanders supporters, however, find him “boring” — that should be a high compliment after the pyrotechnic insanity of the Republican campaign. You would think that anyone who cared about the issues Sanders represents would be painting Hillary signs at this point. The fact they’re not — they’ll be howling in the streets of Philly instead — shows that they’re as lost to reason as my Somali cabbie. It’s like refusing to let the fire department put out the blaze in your burning house because there is another, better fire department far away in a distant town.
Sometimes readers will complain that they’ve detected bias in this column, so I’m going to state it plainly, to avoid confusion: Hillary Clinton is the only chance for our nation has to avoid complete disaster. Voting for Donald Trump is like picking up a handgun, pressing it to your temple and pulling the trigger. You might have reasons to do that, maybe even good reasons. But it is still a terrible idea.