Don’t Do It!
An Open Letter to Swing Voters Still Considering Donald Trump
Imagine explaining to your kids after President Trump encourages supporters to murder his opponents that, hey, you didn’t see much difference in the candidates.
Exactly seven weeks remain until Election Day, which means I have 14 columns (perhaps a few more) to do my modest part in stopping Donald Trump from being president. Because that’s really all this is about. It’s so clear. As clear as cyanide. He can’t be president under any circumstances.
This should be evident to anyone. I understand that there are conservatives out there who despise Hillary Clinton and the things she stands for, and there are some other folks who want a border wall and a Muslim ban and all the rest, and they’ll vote for Trump. They’re 40 to 45 percent. And there are the Hillary supporters,who don’t have to be preached to.
But what about the people in the middle? Judging from my Facebook feed and other evidence, there are voters out there, swing voters, who (a) don’t like either candidate and (b) therefore don’t see much difference. I want to address these next 14 columns, in various forms, to them. You can think (a) all you want. But the key thing here is that (b) doesn’t follow from (a). Not even close.
One candidate is someone you’ve seen for 25 years, and you may be tired of her and unenthusiastic about her, and you don’t like the way her voice sounds, and you believe she’s constantly cutting ethical corners. Or you may think even worse than that. Fine. But you do concede she’s intelligent and temperamentally within the normal range of presidential contenders. The other candidate is…
Well, let’s just take two things he’s said in the last few days, because these two things, setting aside everything else, the making fun of the disabled reporter, the attacks on the parents of a dead U.S. soldier, are themselves disqualifying for someone who wants to lead a free and democratic society.
The first was his assertion that Hillary Clinton was initially behind the lie that Barack Obama wasn’t born in America. Trump said this last Friday at a press conference—along with the claim that he, Trump, put an end to birtherism. Both are monstrous lies.
Birtherism did start on the left, as The Daily Beast’s John Avlon reported back in 2010, by a renegade Clinton supporter who was a more extreme member of the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) brigade. But as Avlon notes, she didn’t start the crusade until after Clinton had already conceded and endorsed Obama. So there’s no way this person had Clinton’s blessing. PolitiFact asked last fall whether Clinton started the birther movement. They answered it was flat-out false.
As for Trump’s other claim, that he “finished” the birther accusations, that was an even bigger lie than the bit about Clinton. He was the most prominent person in America who kept it going for years. Watch this CNN report from a few days ago. He kept doing so well after Obama produced his long-form birth certificate in April 2011. More than a year after that, Trump was tweeting things like: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”
OK, swing voter. This is not “oh, they all lie” territory. Please examine with me the types of falsehoods. Clinton’s involve trying to explain away or cover up unflattering revelations—she used a private email for convenience’s sake, notably. That is unless you think she lied about Benghazi, which no one has ever proven she did, and if you believe she lied on that one I doubt you’re actually a swing voter.
So her prevarications are within the standard political realm. Trump’s birther lies are altogether different. Here, he is saying precisely the opposite of the truth, imputing to his opponent the thing he himself did—and did in plain view of an entire country country that saw the opposite unfold, if it has the capacity to remember, and a free press that is committed to reminding us. That is not in the normal realm. That’s in the Goebbels realm. It’s a 2016 American equivalent of “the Czechs are the aggressors in the Sudetenland.”
And on an issue that injected such poison into the body politic. For years. Total lie. That “very credible source” in that tweet; think that person even existed?
The second thing Trump did in recent days was make his second suggestion that perhaps Hillary Clinton should be shot. You remember the first one, when he said that “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something to block Clinton from appointing judges who oppose gun rights.
Of course he said it was a joke. Other supporters said he meant they must mobilize and vote. But come on. Watch the clip. The way he let it hang there. It’s obvious what he meant, and it wasn’t that gun enthusiasts should hold bake sales to raise money to promote the right to bear arms. He meant maybe someone should shoot her.
Here’s how naive I am. I thought at the time that that was so beyond the pale—a presidential candidate in effect calling for his opponent’s assassination!—that Republicans would finally say, “OK, enough,” and maybe even force him off the ticket. But of course, the Republicans did what they always do. Oh, he didn’t really mean that.
Well, what do they have to say now that he’s done it again? Last Friday, Trump said that since Clinton opposes unfettered gun rights, maybe her bodyguards should be disarmed and “let’s see what happens.” Pretty unambiguous. Was he suggesting that if their guns are taken away, she’ll…what? Catch cold? Only one thing correlates to the removal of guns from some people’s hands, and it’s that the other people get to use theirs with greater impunity.
I don’t know, swing voter. Don’t you find this uniquely disturbing? And yes, I know, Hillary Clinton said a wildly offensive thing about Obama and RFK’s assassination back in 2008. It was indefensible. But here’s the difference. Clinton instantly apologized and never said anything like that again. It was out of character for her. For Trump, it’s completely in character. It’s so in character that he said it twice. And if it suits him and he feels like it, he’ll say it a third and a fourth and a fifth time, and the Republicans say "well, he didn’t really mean that," and the media will give those lies equal weight to the quotes that are their opposite.
Maybe you don’t care enough about Hillary Clinton’s life to be outraged about this. So think ahead to a Trump presidency. He’s capable of saying something similar about anyone who crosses him—a liberal judge, a by-the-book bureaucrat, a left-wing academic, whatever. And then suppose one of his followers actually takes him up on it. Imagine explaining to your kids why the president of the United States incited a murder. And then imagine your kids asking if you voted for him, and you explaining that well, before the election, you just didn’t see much difference between the two.
There’s a world of difference. One candidate is flawed. Even deeply flawed, if you prefer. The other is psychotic.