Thursday January 23, 2020

US presidential election: The end is nigh

The national mood in the US is extremely dark ahead of election day, writes Siobhán Brett

7th November, 2016
2
Supporters at a Trump campaign rally in Pittsburgh Pic: Getty

Two weeks ago, in what was for me one of the tidiest examples of the abject silliness that this election has forced upon America, a man my age was apprehended by police outside a bar in my neighbourhood for making a clunky joke, in conversations with friends, about Donald Trump.

The NYPD nabbed him on his way out and he was detained for later questioning by a member of the Secret Service. Upon reading the report, I laughed and laughed.

The Roebling Sporting Club? Give me a break! I laughed at his dumb joke, and I laughed at his plight, until I remembered the long, sour weeks that have brought us to this point, and stopped laughing.

People are regularly joking about killing others. Trump’s aides were quick to allege an assassination attempt yesterday during a fleeting security scare at a rally in Nevada.

Last week, one of Trump’s sons said that a notorious campaigner whose support Trump will not disavow, “deserves a bullet”. One former congressman tweeted a number of weeks ago that he would “grab” his “musket” were Clinton elected, a claim he continues to entertain.

An LA Times stringer was dismissed for posting something off-the-cuff about the end of Trump’s life. Of course, Trump himself has obliquely suggested people consider gun violence to change certain political outcomes. The national mood is extremely dark.

Luckily for everybody, tomorrow is election day.

Basketball player LeBron James campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Cleveland Pic: Getty

The last act

Last week this round-up had a lot to do with FBI director James Comey, and his decision to bring the issue of Clinton’s private e-mail server back into the ring. Comey sent a second letter to Congress, made public yesterday afternoon, in which he said: We’re grand. Nothing to see here. As you were.

Should you continue to care about Comey and the FBI, Elizabeth Drew blows smoke in the face of the “October surprise” in the New York Review of Books(this was prior to James Comey’s step-down), before going into finer administrative detail. At the time of writing, the effect of Comey’s flag-raising remained unclear.

In short, the Anthony Weiner-related reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail was in vain. The conclusion did not change, and nothing new was found.

Comey will now be under fire from both Democrats and Republicans. By the former, who will slam his meddling needlessly at a crucial time, without cause, and by the latter, for — and Trump has already given this a name — not getting to the bottom of it, whatever “it” is. The FBI is “protecting” Clinton, he alleged yesterday, because the system is (once again) “rigged”.

What more can go on between now and tomorrow morning? Little, one hopes. Trump will be made toe the line, Clinton will continue to keep her cool (no mention of Comey’s correspondence yesterday, as an example, and this might have been a drum to beat).

Trumped?

Of a sea of last-ditch, best-for-last, final-breath weekend election commentary and reportage published yesterday (we can expect many more of this genre today), my favourite was a post entitled: “Donald Trump Is Going To Get His Ass Kicked On Tuesday”.

The race isn’t close, according to Drew Magary, a writer at Deadspin, and never was. “Sure, he [Trump] has a ‘path’ to victory, if he wins a handful of states he has little chance of winning, slays a dragon, walks across a tightrope while balancing a baseball bat in his tiny palm, and recites the alphabet backwards and in Greek,” Magary writes.

This is more than just a brightly-coloured screed hinging on one man’s desirous expectation. Elsewhere in the news and per analysts, Trump is in trouble. Or continues amid the trouble he has long faced.

The New York Times yesterday presented readers with a hi-res panorama of Trump’s behind-the-scenes anxieties. Four reporters chipped in on an exhaustive, exhausting report that enumerates his insecurities and doubts concerning his campaign.

The appearance of any kind of stability or evenhandedness, the reporters suggest, is just that. To wit: Trump no longer has direct access to his own Twitter account. He has been allowed to dictate tweets to aides, but no more.

At Foreign Policy, “lifetime GOP voter” columnist Max Boot says that, in the end, “the strongest case for Clinton is what she is not”. “She is not racist, sexist or xenophobic. She is not cruel, erratic, or volatile. She is not a bully or an authoritarian personality. She is not ignorant or unhinged.

“Those may be insufficient recommendations against a more formidable opponent. But when she’s running against Donald Trump it’s more than enough.”

Let’s see.

Further reading

- If by some rare stroke I am the first person to recommend to you the New York Times’ Dan Barry’s beautiful, immediate report from Las Vegas, Nevada, which tells the story of a groundswell of Democratic support among Latino voters by focusing on one such voter, here it is.

- The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi, this time for Esquire, writes a good profile of David Duke, former “Grand Wizard” of the KKK, and, in 2016, a frightening campaigner for Trump who believes Trump’s election will lead to his own contemporary political ascension.

- FiveThirtyEight, which has lately attracted the ire of many Hillary supporters for having the temerity to arrive at things like this, puts Trump ahead in Florida. The Guardian’s Jonathan Shainin posted an amusing tweet on the subject of that ire.

- Talking Points Memo assesses the Trump campaign’s “closing ad”, deeming it blatantly antisemitic. The clip itself is enlightening watching.

- New Yorker profile of Marcelo Ebrard, a one-time Mexican presidential hopeful who is now gamely and meaningfully lending his support to the Clinton campaign.

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