Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Absorbing the Impossible by Maureen Dowd

I sat watching in astonishment. The one who couldn’t bear to show up to concede was not, as expected, Donald Trump, but Hillary Clinton.

I thought the hard-core support for Trump had dwindled down to a hardy band of loyalists: Rudy, Newt, Chris, Sarah, Kellyanne, Omarosa, the kids, Melania — the woman who told him “If you run, you’ll win” — Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter, Jeff Sessions, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, David Bossie, Alex Jones, Bill Mitchell, Mike Pence and my brother, Kevin.

The Republican establishment couldn’t stand Trump. The Democratic establishment mocked him. The Republican nominee didn’t even really seem to have much of a campaign. He spent more on “Make America Great” hats than on polling. When I visited his campaign headquarters this summer, there were more pictures, paintings and cardboard cutouts of Trump around than Trump advisers. If you don’t count Newt Gingrich — and I don’t — only one major political historian, Allan Lichtman, had predicted that Trump would win.

But then the impossible happened. As Salena Zito had presciently written in The Atlantic: “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

“As flawed a candidate as Trump was, he had his finger on the pulse,” Kevin said. “The polls were off because nobody wanted to admit that they were going to vote for him. But it’s a populist revolt and a lot of people believed in Trump’s message: too much regulation, too much government. The whole thing is a bunch of guys getting rich on Capitol Hill and not paying attention to the people who elected them. They stay in Congress a couple years, then move on to K Street and call on the same people who replaced them.”

Kevin had his moments where he wanted to desert Trump, who was not his first, second or third choice in the Republican primary. He was tempted to bail when Trump had his abominable fight with the Kahns, the gold-star family, after the Democratic primary.

My sister did desert Trump in the end, disgusted with his demeaning tweets about women and his inability to focus on issues rather than his own petulance. But she couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton either, unable to condone the Clintons’ miasma of financial and ethical cheesiness. She did not understand why the president discouraged Joe Biden — someone she could have supported — from running.

Trump was like Rasputin, being declared dead time after time, but living on. The thought of another President Clinton kept Kevin on board, and yesterday he went to the polls in suburban Maryland and voted for Trump, as did his sons.

“Hillary was the status quo and one of the most flawed candidates in history,” he said. “This is a complete repudiation of President Obama, the man who pushed Hillary and deemed Trump a clown.”

It is unthinkable to imagine the most overtly racist candidate — and head of the offensive birther movement — driving in the limousine to the inauguration with the first African-American president. What would they discuss? How Trump plans to repeal Obamacare? How Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices that will transform America into a drastically more conservative landscape over the next 20 years? How Trump plans to undo the Iran deal? When will Trump begin deporting Hispanics? When will Attorney General Rudy Giuliani pardon Chris Christie and put Hillary in jail?

Hillary’s closing line in the campaign was that she was the only thing standing between her and the abyss. But to my conservative family, Hillary was the abyss while Donald was the baseball bat to smash Washington.[....]

When Trump beat 16 seasoned pols in the Republican primary, Kevin wrote, that should have sent a clear message that the public was fed up with political insiders, including Hillary, who “has been in the public eye for 25 years,” with an image “cast in concrete.”

I was in Europe the night before the Brexit vote and no one thought it could possibly pass. But I woke up the next day and it had. And last night in America, no one ever thought they would see a Times headline “Trump Triumphs” but at about 2:40 a.m. they did. While Democrats were calling it a national disaster and many women were freaking out, Trump came onstage at the Hilton looking subdued — and perhaps terrified? — with a calm and conciliatory speech about dreaming big and bold, about dealing fairly with everyone and avoiding hostility and conflict.

But, I asked my brother, would there be buyer’s remorse, as with Brexit?

Kevin was unconcerned, celebrating quietly at home through the wee hours because, as my colleague Binyamin Appelbaum tweeted: “After months of chatter about the implosion of the Republican Party, we are instead witnessing the obviation of the Democratic Party.”

“With Brexit, the markets went down and bounced right back,” Kevin mused at 3 a.m., sounding serene as Democrats keened and Hillary failed to show up at her party at the Javits Center. “Trump voters did the country a service. Anybody but Clinton.

“The Clintons remind me of the Universal horror movies where you thought the monster was dead and then the monster would show up in a bad sequel. I’m glad now that they’re finally gone.”

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