I have been writing a lot about the 2016 presidential election. And for that, I’d like to apologize to my readers.
Longtime readers of Spoiler Alerts are well aware that my area of expertise is in international relations and American foreign policy, not electoral politics. To be sure, in writing “The Ideas Industry,” I’ve become better versed in American politics. Nonetheless, there are far better and smarter writers than I who can opine about such matters.
And there’s a lot happening elsewhere in the world. China appears to be rethinking its lending practices. The Brexit negotiations are going to the bad place. The Middle East continues to be the Middle East. The universe is really, really big! These are all important issues worthy of commentary and analysis.
And yet, here’s the cold, hard truth about world politics right now: The most important crisis point over the next month will be whom the United States elects as president, and it’s not close.
To understand why, take a look at this snippet from Trump’s speech on Thursday. Bear in mind that the Trump campaign thinks this is the “good parts” version of his speech:
— Official Team Trump (@TeamTrump) October 13, 2016
Or consider these excerpts from Trump’s speech:
The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. As an example, just one single trade deal they’d like to pass involves trillions of dollars controlled by many countries, corporations, and lobbyists.
For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind. Our campaign represents a true existential threat, like they haven’t seen before. This is not simply another four-year election. This is a crossroads in the history of our civilization that will determine whether we, the people, reclaim control over our government. The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals, massive illegal immigration, and economic and foreign policies that have bled our country dry. The political establishment has brought about the destruction of our factories and our jobs, as they flee to Mexico, China and other countries, all around the world….
We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.
Today, Trump plans on doubling down on this line of attack, accusing Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim of being the foreign mastermind behind all of the Trump campaign’s misfortunes.
These aren’t gaffes — this is Trump unshackled. He, his family, and his closest advisers apparently believe that the best way to explain what’s happening in the United States is to devise an elaborate conspiracy theory in which rich, powerful,
Jewish, moneyed interests are scheming against a presidential candidate who was fading before any October oppo dump. Trump’s new theory of how the world works isn’t too different from is old theory — he’s just adjusted a few things to abdicate all responsibility for what happens next month.
Imagine how he’d govern with this kind of worldview. There’s a reason the Economist Intelligence Unit labeled Trump one of the top geopolitical risks at the beginning of the year.
Unfortunately, there’s still a better-than-15-percent chance that this nutball could actually become the next president of the United States. Which means I have paid attention to the eddies and currents of this campaign to the exclusion of the rest of world politics for the past few months. And it’s killing me, it’s absolutely killing me.
The next few weeks are going to be agony for anyone paying close attention to this campaign. There’s going to be more unsavory revelations about Trump. There will be more incendiary rhetoric at his rallies. There will likely be some small surge in his polling numbers as GOP leaners get inured to scandals, which will feed media speculation about whether he’s gaining momentum. Trump’s defenders in the GOP apparatus and in religious circles will find new and innovative forms of pretzel logic to wave away his repugnant words and deeds. In all likelihood, Trump will succeed at nothing more than lowering Americans’ trust in institutions even further. But there’s a small chance he could still win.
So I’ll be paying attention.
Okay, fine, I’ll be obsessing about it.
The ends of losing presidential campaigns are rarely pretty. George H.W. Bush did not distinguish himself in 1992 when he started raising questions about whether Bill Clinton was a KGB agent, for example. But as I noted earlier in the week, most losing candidates had the good sense to offer a dignified bow at the end of the day. Donald Trump has made it clear this week that this is now how he wants to end his campaign. The rest of America will pay a steep price for his selfishness.
So I’m sorry, dear readers. I’ll focus much more on the rest of the world after Nov. 8. But until then, this campaign is the story. And I hate myself for doing so.