Once again, and maybe this time more than ever, the entire election may be in our hands, Colorado. It’s easy enough to joke about our swing-state status. It’s my go-to move at this time every four years. But there’s no joking any more.
If Hillary Clinton doesn’t win Colorado, Donald Trump will in all likelihood be the next president. It’s really as simple as that. That’s why Trump was in town late Saturday night, telling his supporters how well he’s doing among the Hispanic Latinos, even as the New York Times reports that a late surge of Latino voters may doom Trump’s chances.
You know the swing-state rundown by now. If you haven’t yet committed the red-blue election map to memory, I guarantee you will by sometime Tuesday night. If Clinton holds Colorado, along with Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and either New Hampshire or Nevada, she wins. She wins even if she loses Florida, if she loses North Carolina, if she loses Iowa.
None of this is new or surprising. But what makes it different — and I’d say, even now, shocking — is Trump himself and the absurdist notion that he could actually become our president. As of now, Nate Silver gives him a 35 percent chance, which I translate to mean that at least 94 percent of Democrats have a chance of being scared to death.
Look, it’s not unusual for politics to be painted in apocalyptic terms. In fact, it’s pretty much the norm. But this year -— and maybe only this year -— is actually different. There are no norms. There is no precedent. There is this race, and this race only.
The conventional wisdom was that, in response to Trump, Colorado had left swing-statedom behind. A combination of too many Latinos, too many millennials, too many college-educated, suburban women seemed like a toxic mix for Trump. The polls looked solid enough for Clinton over the summer that she took down her ads. But the ads are back up now. Trump is here every other day. Bernie is here. And Bill is here. And suddenly, we’re back to being one of those tipping-point states. Again, according to Silver, if Trump is to break through anywhere, it will likely be in Pennsylvania. Or in Michigan. Or in, yes, Colorado. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure I even believe it.
Still, this is where we are — Clinton favored, but Trump with a chance. And I’m at a loss to explain how we got there. I know it’s about fear and demographics and the fear of demographics (demographobia?) and finding an uncertain America at an uncertain time when faith in nearly all institutions has cratered.
And yet. However bad things are, Trump is still, without question, the most dangerous person to have ever gotten so close to the presidency. I want to be as nonpartisan as a full-blown liberal like myself can be, so I’ll just say I stand in agreement with George Will and David Frum and Michael Gerson and Charles Krauthammer and so many others on the right who have said much the same.
Trump wants to blow things up in Washington — hence, his appeal. But he could truly blow things up in Washington. Hence, the danger.
I’ll say again — because I can’t help myself — that Trump is an unqualified demagogue, completely unprepared for the job, equally ignorant of domestic and foreign policy, who feeds on fear and division and says, as no one running for president has ever said, “I alone can fix it.” In America, we don’t just hand over the reins to anyone. We didn’t to Lincoln. We didn’t to FDR. But we would to Donald Trump?
Republicans like Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman may have backed away from Trump — and unlike Darryl Glenn, stayed away — but they haven’t done what is right and necessary. They haven’t warned their constituents of the genuine threat that Trump represents to the ideals of American democracy.
After the debates, which Clinton dominated (because, yes, she had actually prepared), Clinton had pulled away in the polls and a desperate Trump had gone to full rigged-election mode. Pundits were saying the election was over and some had moved on to speculating about Trump TV. But then the emails came roaring back, and James Comey was caught somewhere between misfeasance and malfeasance. And reluctant Republicans began coming home, even those who must fear that Trump is ready to burn that home down. That’s how stuck we are in this red-blue partisan divide in which the Paul Ryans are content to stay mum, John McCain threatens to help block any Clinton Supreme Court nominee, and Trump profits.
This couldn’t have happened without the successful demonization of Clinton, who, unlike Nixon, is not actually a crook. This demonization has been a long-running project, of course, but who’d have thought that lock-her-up would ever go mainstream?
In the worst instance, Clinton is a paranoid, private, guarded politician who will bend the rules to her favor. Yes, she has flaws. She has major transparency flaws. She is too close to big money. She is too hawkish for my taste. But most Americans think she can do the job, whereas most Americans don’t think Trump can.
As you may have noticed, I haven’t even mentioned policy. That may be the worst part of this soulless campaign. We’ve learned a lot in these past months about private email servers and Access Hollywood groping tapes and how rich people avoid paying any federal taxes. We’ve learned, too, that many people have a surprising tolerance for outspoken intolerance.
But what have we learned about solving problems like ISIS or Syria or income inequality or systemic racism or immigration reform or gun violence or climate change? You can blame the crooked, rigged, dishonest media if you like. You can blame the candidates, as I’d prefer. Clinton has long pages of detailed plans for everything, but the thrust of her campaign has been to ensure that the focus stays on Trump. Meanwhile, the gist of Trump’s closing argument is that America is a big loser and that Clinton spends her days either napping or talking on the phone with evil international bankers.
So, where does this leave us, besides in a hell of a mess?
I’d say this: It leaves us on the eve of an election that many of us could never have imagined — and with Colorado still somehow right in the middle of it.
Photo by Anna via Flickr Creative Commons