Memo to Hillary Clinton: Yessum, you may win this thing. I wouldn’t fall over in a state of cardiac arrest should that happen, given what the polls are saying. This, though history instructs mortals to be very, very careful when it comes to predicting lead-pipe cinches.
But say you’re right. I mention merely that you and your cheerleaders are setting yourself up for a fall — in the Greek manner.
The Greeks talked of “hubris,” meaning overweening pride. We can pick up there: “Pick up,” I say, because America is wrapping up, at last, eight years unmatched in the presidential-hubris department, overseen by the only president ever to know, in his own opinion, everything worth knowing about the world. Signs are that America may not welcome a second know-it-all president determined to run roughshod over the opposition. The fervor of the Donald Trump movement is one such sign.
Beware your encouragers in the media; don’t get to thinking this race is about Donald Trump. It’s not. Major political candidates — like him or not, Trump is major — rarely emerge full-armored from the brow of Zeus (I am really into the classics today). They emerge from various unpleasant factors involving the electorate: anger, fear, defeat, danger. Trump is more than the celebrity candidate par excellence; he is the candidate with whom the discontented (not all of them Republicans by any means) have most closely engaged.
There is, sweeping the Clinton camp (which includes the campaign itself and its cheering section in the media) just now, a ghastly theme. It has two parts: The first is that Trump should be drummed out of the human race, not least on account of an unworthy tape made 11 years ago. The second part of the theme follows from the first: What kind of a dumb jerk would support a dumb jerk for president? Not a nice question. And it’s a pretty dangerous one, too, in the context of presidential politics.
Nastiness is a poor governing technique. It breeds more hubris than before. And it makes existing problems harder to solve.
Well! Hasn’t Trump been nasty — “Crooked Hillary” and all that? Indeed. But when this whole thing is done, and you, Hillary Clinton, assuming the correctness of your supposition, take the inaugural oath: What then?
The large fact for which you can’t account, Madam Candidate, is that you’ve further divided an already divided country.
It’s not just the woman-groper vote that’s been lost with your slams on Trump’s character; and The New York Times’ name-calling; and the obsession of the networks with details of Trump’s past; and the general feeling that Democrats “deplore” people unhappy with their lot in a world of mounting problems (many of them chargeable to government). No, it’s the Ordinary Folk vote the Clinton camp is losing: people who go to church; who marry and generally stay that way; who respect policemen and honor the flag; and who wonder whether the real dumb jerks are the politicians and activists who have decided it’s time to remake America — starting with a vote for Hillary Clinton (and by implication, Elizabeth Warren and Charles “Chuck” Schumer).
Generally, the more friends you make during a campaign, the better off you are when the campaign’s over. Making enemies isn’t generally advised. (And isn’t that Trump’s specialty?)
So ugly, so bombastic and dismissive is the Clinton campaign that the task of governing, once this is over, looks between hard and impossible: all the more so with Republicans likely to keep control of the House and possibly the Senate.
Why am I telling you this? For the record, chiefly. I’m confident you won’t back off the denigration, ma’am. But you really should. If, as you think, you’re going to win, can’t you suggest ways to get at some of the grievances that brought us the Trump campaign, that sink the national spirit and hint at the coming imposition of federal control over all of life?
No? Thought not. But there it is anyway.