Donald Trump is going to be elected president of the United States on Nov. 8.
At least I believe he will. I’m not the Delphic oracle. But that seems the direction we’re heading, and Monday night’s debate only reinforced my suspicion.
What? You think Hillary Clinton won? Since I have my seer cap on, let me peer into your mind, read your thoughts and make a bold guess:
You liked Hillary Clinton before, right?
Amazing. But that cuts both ways. Trump fans were equally buoyed. Eighty percent of Drudge Report readers picked Trump the winner in a post-debate poll, as did viewers of Fox News. They’ve supported him so far; what could possibly happen to shake them?
The Democrats and the pundits were ululating Clinton’s victory Tuesday. I watched every minute and agree that, under the usual rules of what I think of as SaneWorld, Clinton won, looking poised and presidential while Trump babbled and flailed. But his supporters recounted something very different the morning after.
“Honestly, and the truth is . . . a draw,” Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, told the City Club of Chicago on Tuesday. “I don’t think anything that happened last night in the debate changed anybody’s mind. If you were going to vote for her before the debate, you’re going to vote for her after the debate. Donald Trump the same way.”
Despite this split decision, Schneider sees Illinois suddenly up for grabs.
“They’ve written off Illinois,” he said. “All the pundits said Illinois is going to be blue. But I tell you, this is a different election. You go down to southern Illinois and they’re ‘Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump.’ They’re really, really rooting for this guy. There are many, many states that have never been in play before that are in play this time, and who knows?”
Who knows? I do. Trump wins. Not because I’m one of those Trump Trump Trump chanters.
To be honest, I wasn’t convinced the man will win until I read something about Richard Nixon.
I pulled down Elizabeth Drew’s book “Richard M. Nixon” and happened upon this sentence: “Nixon had transformed the party of Abraham Lincoln into the party that welcomed racists and despisers of big government, setting in motion a Republican conservative ascendancy.”
Yes, the past is not prologue, necessarily.
But it is a hint, a map indicating that events can fall a certain way.
All those commentators decrying, correctly, how Trump is the worst candidate in modern history are missing the point. Yes, Trump is terrible. But Nixon was pretty bad too. He had more experience, sure, been a congressman and a senator and Eisenhower’s neglected vice president (is there any other kind?) for eight years.
He was also loathed, also seen as uniquely unqualified, a House Un-American Activities Committee’s henchman. During his 1954 cross-country anti-communism tour, the Washington Post’s Herbert Block famously drew Nixon emerging from a sewer to be greeted rapturously.
Ring a bell?
Nixon’s opponent, Hubert Humphrey, was enormously qualified. Also vice-president, but with none of the drawbacks and personal deficiencies of Nixon. Humphrey was the mainstream politician from Central Casting.
Just. Like. Hillary. Clinton.
Enthusiasm for Clinton was overshadowed by the big love for Bernie Sanders. Just as in 1968, Democratic passion was drained by tantalizing might-have-beens Eugene McCarthy, whose candidacy fizzled, and Robert F. Kennedy, who would have taken the nomination had he not been assassinated.
Nixon was law and order. Humphrey was violence in the streets. There was a third party candidate attractive to those disgusted with both.
Nixon won, barely: 43.4 percent of the vote to Humphrey’s 42.7 percent, with George Wallace getting 13.5 percent of the vote.
So if — when — Trump wins, we can’t be surprised. It has happened before.
I’ll be signing my new book, “Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery,” written with Sara Bader and published by the University of Chicago Press, at Atlas Stationers, 227 W. Lake St., from noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29.Tweets by @neilsteinberg