In “Donald Trump, the Worst of America” Mr. Blow says he is the logical extension of misogyny, racism, privilege and anti-intellectualism. Mr. Bruni, in “For Donald Trump, Lessons in Grace,” says the patriotic concession speeches of prior presidential candidates show an alternative to his corrosive conspiracies. Prof. Krugman has a question in “Their Dark Fantasies:” Why do Republicans hate America? He says their vision of the country is at odds with the reality. Here’s Mr. Blow:
Donald Trump has virtually stopped trying to win this election by any conventional metric and is instead stacking logs of grievance on the funeral pyre with the great anticipation of setting it ablaze if current polls turn out to be predictive.
There is something calamitous in the air that surrounds the campaign, a hostile fatalism that bespeaks a man convinced that the end is near and aiming his anger at all within reach.
As his path to victory grows narrower, his desperation grows more pronounced.
Last week a steady stream of women stepped forward to accuse Trump of some form of sexual assault, abuse or inappropriate behavior. Trump’s response has been marked by a stunning lack of grace and dignity, let alone contrition or empathy, a response much like the man himself.
Instead, he is doubling down on sexism.
On Thursday, Trump said of the People magazine reporter who accused him of forcibly kissing her: “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”
He said on Friday of the woman accusing him of groping her on an airplane: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”
He also said of Clinton, “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”
His response to these charges has been surprisingly — and perhaps, revealingly — callow. He has mocked, whined, chided, bemoaned and belittled. It’s as if the man is on a mission to demonstrate to voters the staggering magnitude of his social vulgarity and emotional ineptitude. He has dispensed with all semblances of wanting to appear presidential and embraced what seems to be most natural to him: acting like a pig.
Furthermore, everything is rigged against him, from the media to the election itself. He’s threatening to sue The New York Times. He says he and Clinton should take a drug test before the next debate.
These are the ravings of a lunatic.
Trump is back to carelessly shooting off his mouth and recklessly shooting himself in the foot.
It is sad, really, but for him I have no sympathy. He has spent this entire election attacking anyone and everyone whom he felt it would be politically advantageous to attack. Trump, now that you’re under attack, you want to cry woe-is-me and have people commiserate. Slim chance, big guy.
The coarseness of your character has been put on full display, and now the electorate has come to cash the check you wrote.
Trump now looks like a madman from Mad Men, a throwback to when his particular privileges had more perks and were considered less repugnant. He looks pathetic.
He is a ball of contradictions that together form a bully, a man who has built a menacing wall around the hollow of his self. He is brash to mask his fragility.
But in a way, Trump was authentically made in America.
America has a habit of romanticizing the playboy as much as the cowboy, but there is often something untoward about the playboy, unseemly, predatory and broken.
For years, Trump built a reputation on shuffling through women, treating his exploits with jocularity and having too much of America smiling in amusement at the bad boy antics.
But he’s not a kid; he’s a cad.
And he seems constitutionally incapable of processing the idea that wealth is not completely immunizing, that some rules are universally applicable, that common decency is required of more than just “common” folks. He seems genuinely offended that he should be held to the same standards of truth, decorum and even law as those less well off.
Trump is in fact the logical extension of toxic masculinity and ambient misogyny. He is the logical extension of rampant racism. He is the logical extension of wealth worship. He is the logical extension of pervasive anti-intellectualism.
Trump is the logical extension of the worst of America.
With him you get a man who believes himself superior in every way: through the gift of fortune and the happenstance of chromosomes. He believes the rules simply don’t apply. Not rules that govern the sovereignty of another’s body, not rules that dictate decorousness.
And the Republican Party was just the right place for him to park himself.
When you have a political party that takes as its mission to prevent government from working instead of to make government work, a party that conflates the ill effects of a changing economy with the changing complexion of the country and is still struck by fever over the election of President Obama, Trump is a natural, predictable endpoint.
Furthermore, Trump is what happens when you wear your Christian conservative values like a cardigan to conveniently slip off when the heat rises.
Trump is fundamentally altering American politics — coarsening them, corrupting them, cratering them. And America, particularly conservative America, has only itself to blame.
Republicans sowed intolerance and in its shadow, Trump sprang up like toxic fungi.
Next up we have Mr. Bruni:
As Donald Trump seethes recklessly through the final weeks of this furious campaign, he should take just a few minutes to read something important: Al Gore’s words on Dec. 13, 2000.
Gore had reason to feel burned by the electoral process. His fight against George W. Bush for the presidency went all the way to the Supreme Court, which then had more Republican than Democratic appointees.
But when he conceded, there was no talk of anything “rigged.” There was no reminder that he’d won the popular vote. He clearly understood that the circumstances of his defeat were a threat to many Americans’ faith in the system, especially if their rancor was stoked.
“While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it,” he said, going on to add: “For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together.”
I realize that those remarks came as the battle ended, not in the heat of it. So there’s no neat and clean comparison to what he said then and what Trump is saying now.
But Trump’s conspiracy-minded rants, with which he exhorts voters to treat any victor other than him as illegitimate, are the obvious precursors to a singularly dangerous concession speech, should he be called upon to deliver one. I’m close to sure that he will be. And now is as good a time as any to point him toward the way real patriots behave, to remind ourselves that losing needn’t be as incendiary as he is hell-bent on making it, and to reacquaint ourselves with decency in American politics.
Gore’s speech is just one example of it. In fact it’s the norm among the Democratic and Republican nominees who fell short of the White House — the Democratic and Republican nominees who preceded Trump. To revisit their words is to savor a maturity, dignity and civic spirit that he lacks.
In 1952, after Adlai Stevenson was shellacked by Dwight Eisenhower, he said: “It hurts too much to laugh, but I’m too old to cry.” And he urged Americans to give the new president “the support he will need to carry out the great tasks that lie before him. I pledge him mine. We vote as many, but we pray as one.”
I went back and took a close look at the presidential contenders’ concession speeches since 1992, which was the year that a different Clinton — Bill, not Hillary — won the election.
He beat the first President Bush, who was seeking re-election and responded by exalting “the majesty of the democratic system,” telling voters that “America must always come first,” and also saying:
I want to share a special message with the young people of America. I remain absolutely convinced that we are a rising nation. We have been in an extraordinarily difficult period, but do not be deterred, kept away from public service by the smoke and fire of a campaign year or the ugliness of politics. As for me, I plan to get — I’m going to serve and try to find ways to help people. But I plan to get very active in the grandchild business. And in finding ways to help others. But I urge you, the young people of this country, to participate in the political process. It needs your idealism. It needs your drive. It needs your conviction.
Four years later, when Bob Dole failed in his effort to deny President Clinton a second term, these were some of his remarks:
I’ve said repeatedly in this campaign that the president was my opponent and not my enemy. And I wish him well and I pledge my support in whatever advances the cause of a better America, because that’s what the race was about in the first place, a better America as we go into the next century.
Then came the 2000 election, which remained undecided for weeks after voters went to the polls, as a recount of the Florida vote began and was then stopped. Gore’s concession speech included, in addition to the sentences I presented above, these:
Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country. …
I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome . . . .
While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party.
In 2004, after losing to the second President Bush, John Kerry alsospoke of national unity, national pride and common values:
In an American election, there are no losers. Because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning, we all wake up as Americans. And that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth.
With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion.
I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years.
I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters. But I ask them — all of you — to join me in doing that.
John McCain’s concession speech in 2008 didn’t just encourage his supporters to respect the election’s outcome and to put common cause among wounded feelings. It also took full, celebratory note of the historic nature of Barack Obama’s victory:
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House — was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.
Four years later, another Republican, Mitt Romney, also lost to Obama and also took the high road, saying that he wished “the president, the first lady and their daughters” well and that he was looking to “Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.” There were also these words:
We can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.
Rising. Healing. Linking arms. Moving on. That’s what’s supposed to happen in the aftermath of even the bitterest elections. At least that’s what vanquished candidates are supposed to encourage. May the loser in this election uphold that tradition. So very much rides on it.
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
I’m a baby boomer, which means that I’m old enough to remember conservatives yelling “America — love it or leave it!” at people on the left who criticized racism and inequality. But that was a long time ago. These days, disdain for America — the America that actually exists, not an imaginary “real America” in which minorities and women know their place — is concentrated on the right.
To be sure, progressives still see a lot wrong with the state of our society, and seek change. But they also celebrate the progress we have made, and for the most part the change they seek is incremental: It involves building on existing institutions, not burning everything down and starting over.
On the right, however, you increasingly find prominent figures describing our society as a nightmarish dystopia.
This is obviously true for Donald Trump, who views the world through blood-colored glasses. In his vision of America — clearly derived largely from white supremacist and neo-Nazi sources — crime is running wild, inner cities are war zones, and hordes of violent immigrants are pouring across our open border. In reality, murder is at a historic low, we’re seeing a major urban revival and net immigration from Mexico is negative. But I’m only saying that because I’m part of the conspiracy.
Meanwhile, you find almost equally dark visions, just as much at odds with reality, among establishment Republicans, people like Paul Ryan, speaker of the House.
Mr. Ryan is, of course, a media darling. He doesn’t really command strong support from his own party’s base; his prominence comes, instead, from a press corps that decided years ago that he was the archetype of serious, honest conservatism, and clings to that story no matter how many times the obvious fraudulence and cruelty of his proposals are pointed out. If the past is any indication, he will quickly be forgiven for his moral spinelessness in this election, his unwillingness to break with Mr. Trump — even to condemn him for questioning the legitimacy of the vote — no matter how grotesque the G.O.P. nominee’s behavior becomes.
But for what it’s worth, consider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ryan never mentioned).
Now, to be fair, Mr. Ryan claimed to be describing the future — what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins — rather than the present. But Mrs. Clinton is essentially proposing a center-left agenda, an extension of the policies President Obama was able to implement in his first two years, and it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such policies do.
According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”
Does today’s America look anything like that? No. We have many problems, but we’re hardly living in a miasma of despair. Leave government statistics (which almost half of Trump supporters completely distrust) on one side; Gallup finds that 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with their standard of living, up from 73 percent in 2008, and that 55 percent consider themselves to be “thriving,” up from 49 percent in 2008. And there are good reasons for those good feelings: recovery from the financial crisis was slower than it should have been, but unemployment is low, incomes surged last year, and thanks to Obamacare more Americans have health insurance than ever before.
So Mr. Ryan’s vision of America looks nothing like reality. It is, however, completely familiar to anyone who read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as a teenager. Nowadays the speaker denies being a Rand devotee, but while you can at least pretend to take the boy out of the cult, you can’t take the cult out of the boy. Like Ms. Rand — who was basically writing about America in the Eisenhower years! — he sees the horrible world progressive policies were supposed to produce, not the flawed but hopeful nation we actually live in.
So why does the modern right hate America? There’s not much overlap in substance between Mr. Trump’s fear-mongering and Mr. Ryan’s, but there’s a clear alignment of interests. The people Mr. Trump represents want to suppress and disenfranchise you-know-who; the big-money interests that support Ryan-style conservatism want to privatize and generally dismantle the social safety net, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
The big question is whether trash-talking America can actually be a winning political strategy. We’ll soon find out.