I wish it were possible to have the presidential election this moment and have the winner declared a few hours later. Of course, such would surely produce Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States. A most desirable outcome, you’d agree.
For me, that wish is more than just an ordinary one. It is a consuming wish. And lest you think that it’s driven by the fact that the polls currently indicate she could blow Donald Trump out of the water if the election were held now, I hasten to tell you that I simply want an end to this unfolding madness otherwise named a presidential election season. It is completely sickening.
I have witnessed four presidential election cycles since coming to America, including the outcome of one that was contentious, extremely bitter, and ended up being resolved by the Supreme Court. American elections are nasty and brutal, and most decidedly not meant for the faint of heart. If the outcome could drive partisans to the brink of depression and insanity, even the process that produces such an outcome does something similarly worse. The participation of Trump in this cycle makes all the previous cycles and indeed any other in modern American history, pale in comparison, in terms of how shamelessly low a candidate for the most important office in the world could go.
“Let’s hope America will not make herself the laughing stock of the world by voting Trump,” Dave Chukwuji, a Nigerian poet and a man I’m proud to call a friend, worrisomely wrote to me on August 29. Chukwuji is hardly alone. Millions around the world continue to shake their heads in shocked disbelief that a man like Trump could come this far, could even win the election, if some terrifying outside event happens and suddenly shifts the dynamic of the race tectonically in his direction. Even the most reasonable section of the electorate, under such a scenario, could feel justifiably obliged to switch to him even when it knows it’s acting unwisely. The margin of error, Andy Akporugo, the late Nigerian intellectual journalist once said, is often a split second of human frailty.
It might be difficult to admit, but the truth is that Trump’s candidacy has exposed, if not shattered, some widely cherished beliefs about American democracy. First, it has exposed the vacuousness of a part of the electorate. Trump has shown how breathtakingly gullible a large swathe of the voting public can be, how so eager it is to drink a witches’ brew of deceit and all manner of rubbish served up by its politicians as policy. It should embarrass, indeed scandalize, anyone who wishes the American political system well.
But you have got to give Trump some credit. His ways might be crude and vile and diabolical, and therefore revolting to the morally conscious among men. Trump does indeed understand the inherent weaknesses of both the electorate and the media, and accordingly feeds on them. Now you may cut the electorate some slack for its failure to get it right sometimes, but you can hardly absolve the American media of the guilt of misinformation and gross dereliction of duty; and that is the second and more important point that needs to be made here.
Remorselessly, we have all seen how the American media has singled out Hillary Clinton for constant pummeling in both its reporting and analyses. Although she has made some really annoying mistakes in the course of her political career which no one should gloss over, nothing, however, excuses the misogyny, the hatred and the invidiously unfair treatment the woman has endured at the hands of the media as she labors assiduously to stop Trump from pushing America over the edge into the abyss.
I have written about this in the past. At some point in the future, I’ll visit it again. But the more urgent point to be made here is about how the media has steadily and systematically normalized the candidacy of Trump as though it (the media) is bereft of a moral compass. Was there any time in American political history when key members of a political party rejected or treated its nominee like a man afflicted with leprosy? Perhaps not. But that is the prevailing situation inside the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln as its current nominee leads it to the November election.
Yet, members of the elite press keep asking such insane questions as the following: When is Trump going to pivot to a general election mode? When is Trump going to start acting presidential? How long is it going to take Trump to start acting like a man who can sit behind that Oval Office desk? Enough of the schoolyard taunts and the bullying and all the derisive antics and profane ejaculations that have come to define his run for the White House so far, they tell him. It’s about time he began acting adult-like and transition finally into behavior befitting a man seeking to move house to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with all its world-class aura and larger-than-life prestige, they say.
For many months, these suggestions by folks in the media have left me, by turns, bemused, confounded and exasperated. For, implicit in the suggestions, is the idea that most Americans are either stupid, or have an atrociously short memory. All Americans, including the Clinton campaign, would suddenly forget every crazy thing Trump has said or done for more than a year now. Right? The suggestions also carry the implication that the bar can be set so low for anyone who aspires to be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. Right?
These same media folks who have been feverishly seeking evidence of presidential demeanor from Trump, well, found one this past Wednesday, and promptly rose to applaud him for so great a comportment on the shores of a foreign country. I’m talking about his hastily arranged cross-country visit to Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, during which both men addressed a contrived press conference. Even as Trump’s plane was still winging its way back home, these journalists were already gushing over how “presidential” Trump looked on stage with the Mexican president.
Joan Walsh is a well-known public commentator. I follow her on twitter. She’s one of the few virtuous journalists in America I admire for their great consciences on race and politics. Now, I don’t know if any of Walsh’s tweets has been retweeted more than several hundred times in the past. After listening to some of her colleagues spout nonsense on television about the optics of Trump’s trip Wednesday night, Walsh fired off several tweets in righteous indignation, one of which earned several thousand retweets. It reads: “I’ve never been so ashamed to be a mainstream American journalist. The excuses for this man I’ve heard make me want a new job.”
A deeply poignant remark, without a doubt, and absolutely one that all journalists evaluating the actions of the two candidates in this election should continue to reflect on as they ply their trade. But it is still some 66 days to go, and that, to me, sounds like an eternity. I’m sickened enough already by this theater of the absurd, this madness staged by Trump and the media. Not even several doses of Zofran can stop me from throwing up. I wish the election were now.