You don't have to like Hillary Clinton to hope she becomes the next President of the United States. But, by god, this year, in this election, she is, as you might say, likeable enough.
Of course there is something dispiriting about Mrs Clinton's campaign. But, based on time-served entitlement and identity politics as it may be, it is nowhere - nothing - like as dispiriting as the alternative. Nor is it as mournfully depressing as the spectacle of so many Republicans dutifully lining up to endorse a man they know - if they have any shred of intellectual or even political decency - is the most appalling, dangerous, and unqualified candidate selected by either major party in living memory. Paul Ryan, who had previously given the impression he was a member of the Never Trump caucus became the latest Republican to disgrace himself when, yesterday, he too suggested that Donald Trump was a better candidate for the presidency than Mrs Clinton.
There is no conceivable sense in which this can be the case and no even vaguely honest person can pretend otherwise. Not if they have a brain. There may be, indeed are, many reasons to object to Mrs Clinton but whatever her faults and shortcomings she is a figure from well within the normal parameters of American politics. Trump, it should be clear, is not.
Like many other people, I discounted the possibility Trump might actually win the GOP nomination. Even this spring I still thought that a ludicrous improbability. Well, we know better now. But if Trump's victory has been chastening it has also been a miserable one. No-one who likes or admires the United States can view his nomination, far less the idea of his actually winning the Presidency, with anything other than a creeping sense of horror. It is worse, much worse, than Sad!
Yesterday, however, Clinton gave the kind of speech Trump's erstwhile opponents within the GOP should have delivered months ago. As she said:
Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.
He is not just unprepared – he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.
This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.
[…] He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008.
He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture and the murder of civilians who are related to suspected terrorists – even though those are war crimes.
He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has – quote – “a very good brain.”
He also said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” You know what? I don’t believe him.
He says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and he has the gall to say that prisoners of war like John McCain aren’t heroes.
He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends – including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope.
He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.
And to top it off, he believes America is weak. An embarrassment. He called our military a disaster. He said we are – and I quote – a “third-world country.” And he’s been saying things like that for decades.
[…] It’s no small thing when he calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. We’re lucky to have two friendly neighbors on our land borders. Why would he want to make one of them an enemy?
And it’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea – and I quote – “If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.”
I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.
Of course he doesn't, Daisy. Or if he does it doesn't matter because, hey, politics is part of the entertainment business ain't it? Except it isn't. Nor will it do to say that, having won the nomination, Trump will retreat to sanity and that, consequently, there's no great reason to worry about what he might actually do in the still - I trust - unlikely event he becomes President. He would have to change, wouldn't he?
Well perhaps he would. But the best indicator of how a President will govern is what he or she says on the campaign trail. The campaign, long and hard, is a testing ground. It is a means by which the American electorate - and the rest of the world - gains some greater understanding of the character and calibre of the people who would lead the United States. So while election results may often be driven by underlying fundamentals - of the economic and demographic variety - the campaign matters too. Because it is an arduous test and a revealing one too.
Trump's success thus far appears, it is true, to contradict this but the other, greater, more important truth is that his candidacy is much worse than a mere blunder; it is a kind of crime against the idea of America itself. A refutation of the ideas that, in their better moments, built the United States. Those ideas, those ideals, have often been compromised or otherwise corrupted but they still, at some fundamental level, meant something. Trump spits on all of that. No more Emma Lazarus here. No more shining city on a hill. No more anything.
Which is why no-one of good conscience, whether in the United States or elsewhere, can endorse Trump. It's not enough to say he couldn't be as bad as he seems when all the evidence available is that he is actually every bit as bad as he seems. The policy horrors of a Trump presidency scarcely bear thinking about but the sickness driving his campaign is something just as bad. It is an admission of defeat, a blow against the idea of America. An idea that, though often qualified and just as frequently dishonoured, still has some value. A republic, if you can keep it.