Here we are, vortexing toward the end of the pocket-picking, venom-spewing Hate Tornado technically known as the first term of the Trump administration. On Election Day, voters will be asked a simple question: Do you want more of this? That’s all a re-election campaign is about: Do you like what this guy’s been dishing out and want more of it, or do you think the other guy might do better?
In the dwindling days before the election, the media focuses on undecided voters. As a person who begins and ends his day with politics, and who gives as much of the middle of the day to it as possible without entering full bankruptcy, every time I hear the term “undecided voters,” I ask the same question: Who in God’s name are these people? Unless they were lucky enough to have been in a coma for the last three and half years and woke up only an hour ago, I can’t imagine what piece of evidence, either exculpatory or incriminating, they need to make a decision.
There is a simple way to clarify the equation: Think of the election as a job interview. Voters are hiring, and Trump and Vice President Biden are applying for the job. You will decide who is best suited to handle its enormous responsibilities, as well as its awesome powers, based on what you learn about the candidates through the equivalent of job interviews: debates, speeches, town halls, and by studying the candidates’ records.
Here are some questions that the Inexplicably Undecided might find helpful as they conclude their deliberations:
Would you hire someone to work in your business or home if he were a liar? I don’t mean someone who shaves a year off his age or tells you he loves your new haircut when secretly he wonders if you got it done by a macular degenerate working at the pound. I mean someone who goes day after day, minute after minute, unable to tell the truth. Of course you wouldn’t hire that person. So why would you hire him as president? Does America mean so little to you? Yes, all presidents lie at some point, but when one defines “at some point” as “the period each day between waking up in the morning and going back to bed at night,” that’s not a weakness of character. It’s a bottomless absence of character.
Every time I hear the term “undecided voters,” I ask the same question: Who in God’s name are these people?
Would you hire someone to work for you if he made fun of people with physical disabilities? The simplest way to make up your mind about this election is to watch Joe Biden talking to a young boy with a stutter and then watch Trump ridiculing a handicapped reporter. In all the rallies and the ads and the party platforms, there is no more clarifying contrast between these two men: it’s Decency versus Depravity.
Part of the responsibility of this job is to be the commander in chief of our military. Do you feel that respecting our troops should be a requirement for the job? Normally—by which I mean in every single election we’ve ever had—you wouldn’t have to ask that question. Even in the divisive years of Vietnam, it was the war itself that politicians denigrated, not the soldiers. But as The Atlantic reported, Trump has referred to our soldiers as “suckers” and “losers.” (He denies this, but I refer you to Question No. 1.) He declined to visit a graveyard to honor our dead veterans because there was a chance of rain, which would have put the fragile architecture of his hair at risk. He did once visit the grave of a soldier who was the son of his then homeland-security chief, John Kelly, and he said to Kelly at the graveside, “I don’t get it. What’s in it for them?” He really said that—to the father of the dead soldier. He was enraged to see the flags lowered to half-mast for John McCain, whom he called “a fucking loser.” Trump claimed his low opinion of McCain was based on McCain’s capture by the North Vietnamese. Trump really said that, too. But I don’t think that’s why he hated McCain. I think he hated McCain because McCain led his life in a way that was a rebuke to the way Trump leads his: McCain dedicated himself to public service, Trump to self-service.
That’s not a weakness of character. It’s a bottomless absence of character.
Would you hire an applicant who thought it was acceptable to grab a woman, or anyone for that matter, by her genitals? To further understand the concept, replace the words “a woman” in that question with “your sister.” So far, 26 women have accused the president of sexual misconduct. He has denied these charges and cites as proof the ugliness of some of the women, saying, “Believe me, she would not be my first choice.” He really said that.
Wouldn’t you like to have a president about whom you don’t have to keep saying, “He really said that”?
If you were interviewing someone for a job and more than once in the interview he pronounced “Minneapolis” as “Minneanapolis,” would that give you pause?
Would you like to go longer than a day without hearing a historian on TV say any of these phrases: “unprecedented,” “unheard of,” “norm-breaking,” and “another shocking low”?
Would you hire someone to work for you if he told you his mentor was Roy Cohn?
I think he hated McCain because McCain led his life in a way that was a rebuke to the way Trump leads his.
If you were doing a quarterly review of an employee and found that he spent the bulk of every working day tweeting and calling into TV and radio shows to talk for as long as two hours, mostly to say what a great and perfect job he was doing at the job he was neglecting while he was talking on that show, would you renew his contract?
Would you hire someone to work for you who can never admit he’s wrong? Trump’s fatal flaw is that he has so many fatal flaws, but his inability to admit a mistake and change course might be the most fatal. It explains his criminal mishandling of the pandemic. The rallying cry of many Democrats is “Believe science,” but it’s not a winning slogan for the average voter. People believe their wallets. Trump did not cause the pandemic, but his ignorance and vanity caused it to get much worse, and as a result he kneecapped the economy. He is inextricably tied to both our physical and our economic collapse. He will never be able to fix the problem because he can’t admit what he did to cause it.
Would you hire someone to work for you who put his interests ahead of the company’s?
Finally: Aren’t you tired of living in a daily state of emergency? Wouldn’t it be lovely to wake up and not feel like the roof is on fire? Why does every single issue, every single minute, have to be Armageddon? Don’t you hate having to gird yourself every time you turn on the news? Do you not long for lowered voices and mutual courtesy and some sense of neighborliness? The only good thing you can say about Trump as president is that he has kept us out of further foreign wars. The irony is that he wages unending war at home, battling within the borders of our country with everyone from Antifa to Bette Midler.
Donald Trump is an arsonist disguised as a firefighter. I’d prefer a firefighter.
We need one.
Douglas McGrath is a filmmaker, playwright, and a columnist for Air Mail