America should be ashamed of itself. This is indeed a conspiracy — of racists and reactionaries, white supremacists, misogynists, Islamophobes and xenophobes, isolationists, sexual scavengers, haters. America is angry, seething with bitterness and bile. America is maddened.
A nation unparalleled in might and brilliance. A nation built on a plinth of freedom and liberty and equality. A nation which, even when it did wrong, did it for the right reasons.
That country no longer exists. That country has ripped out its own guts.
Riven by division, polarized by ideologies not merely in conflict but at hopeless anomie, estranged from within.
President Donald Trump? Jesus wept.
A man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, who would invoke mandatory registration for Muslims, who has been accused by at least a dozen women of sexual impropriety, who would withdraw the U.S. from NATO — this rogue American will apparently, or so it seemed as the clock ticked past midnight Tuesday, have his fingers on the codes for the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and, as commander-in-chief, be able to deploy the world’s largest military at his whim.
Oh America, what have you done?
Not just president but a Republican president with a Republican-controlled House and, it seemed destined, a Republican-controlled Senate. Nothing standing between Trump and utter autocracy.
The polls were wrong and Trump was right when he said so, though as recently as Monday, during his final dervish dash across five tipping-point states, he’d sounded more wistful than self-confident. Still brash and coarse, of course, but atypically vulnerable, as if he’d seen the future and it didn’t favour him.
Hillary Clinton, with her decades of public service, her fistful of bona fides — arguably, as President Barack Obama said, the most qualified candidate for the Oval Office in memory — was rejected in ways large and small, underperforming in a slew of states that she should have claimed easily, firmly rebuffed in states where she never had a chance.
How quickly — even on what turned into a very long night into morning — the fates turned on Clinton, from those early evening returns that projected so optimistically for the Democrats to the swiftly pivoting numbers out of Florida and Michigan and Ohio, then a stunning swivel in Pennsylvania as well.
All those brightly smiling faces at Clinton’s presumed victory celebration venue, a midtown Manhattan, turning downcast and teary, disbelieving and aghast. Only a mile away, at Trump Central, where initially the mood had been low-spirited, second and third winds brought gusts of delights.
But something far uglier, too: Chants of “LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP!’’
Because that’s who they are, at their craven heart, the Trumpists — a mean and miserable people whose only pleasure is derived from maligning others.
The whole electoral map was re-scrambled, with reliably blue states that Obama took in the last two elections flipping. Blue-on-blue violence, as the graphics sprayed red splatter.
Trump’s message — that Washington is a swamp, that Americans have been ill-served and abused by a detached elite — clearly resonated. Spite triumphed, misanthropy triumphed, rancour triumphed. Appealing to the lowest common denominator prevailed as the night marched on.
White working-class America saw in the billionaire Trump not just an advocate but, absurdly, a fellow traveller. As if he’s ever felt the pain of an Appalachian miner on the dole or a Nebraska farmer facing foreclosure.
They’re sick of it, sick of being taken for granted, sick of jobs fleeing the country and conned into believing that Trump will bring them back. He couldn’t even protect the jobs at four of his own casinos that went belly-up.
A narcissist with skin as thin as onion paper. A knuckle-dragger who doesn’t read, whose vulgarities are legend, who admires Vladimir Putin, who claims he’s smarter than all the generals in the Pentagon and will fire those who disagree. He turned the election campaign into a scorched-earth rampage.
Millions upon millions of Americans are afraid today and they have ample reason to be fearful. The rebellion Trump fomented and feasted upon may have spent itself in one moment of coalescent uprising. But what will this American insurgency have to ennoble itself in the cold light of the day after?
Trump is monumentally averse to conciliation. He thrives on belligerence and revenge. He’s said: “I love to have enemies. I fight my enemies. I like beating my enemies to the ground.”
Clinton, CNN was the first to report at 2:40 a.m., called Trump to formally concede. She did not, however, speak to her troops at the Javits Center. Campaign chair John Podesta came out at 2 a.m., advising everybody to go home. That too was immediately assailed, Clinton’s alleged lack of graciousness in publicly acknowledging the winner at the merciful end of an exhausting and traumatizing odyssey.
That congratulatory phone call allowed Trump to conclude this bizarre Election Day with a middle-of-the-night speech at the Hilton as upset but decisive president-elect.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. Complicated business, complicated,” he began, flanked by family and running mate Mike Pence.
“Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. I mean that very sincerely.
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division.
“To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans and this is so important to me.
“For those who have chosen not to support me in the past — of which there were a few people — I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign, but rather an incredible and great movement, made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better brighter future for themselves and for their family. It’s a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will.
“Working together we will begin the urgent task of re-building our nation and renewing the American dream.”
If Trump sounded a gentler note, it is not to be credited.
He turned his pursuit of the White House into a scorched-Earth rampage.
Behold the ashes.