Among the hazards of criticizing our politics is that one runs out of superlatives. Dub something the worst, the most egregious, the most baffling, and soon something arises that better deserves those pejoratives. Just when the ultimate seems to have been reached, there is a new record. I have in mind, of course, the advent of Donald Trump as President.
In 2000, the electoral college produced a President thought to be unsuited to the job, although more people had voted for his opponent. This year it produced one who is unequipped by experience, temperament or intellect; again, his opponent received more votes. At least this time the partisan Supreme Court didn’t have its thumb on the scale. I referred the other day to our recapture of the prize for electoral folly. Implicit in that contest was the notion that in 2004 George W. Bush was the worst imaginable choice as President. No longer.
Many voters were angry and anxious, and felt that a liberal elite, undefined but somehow in charge of government, did not understand them or care about their concerns. (Congress is in Republican hands, but never mind). Once the contest was framed in those terms, Hillary Clinton was at a disadvantage, being regarded as part of that uncaring set. How Donald Trump, a self-centered financial manipulator, became accepted as their champion is a mystery. One only can assume that his followers did not regard him as a potential president but only as the spokesman, the outlet, for their anger. It would be interesting to know whether many of them actually expect that he will change conditions in their favor.
We’re in the odd position of having to hope that someone who never should have been nominated will perform well, or at least not disastrously. It’s almost impossible to guess whether he will be better, worse, or simply different from the Donald Trump of the campaign. As one of his advisors put it, a Trump administration "is basically a blank slate that needs to be filled in."