Donald Trump's name won't be on your ballot this year, but Donald Trump very much will be.
If you've read this column at all during the 24 months since the Mango Mussolini claimed the White House – thanks, of course, to the anachronism of the Electoral College – you're probably aware of my not just opposition to but outright contempt for him. I haven't made it a secret. I often struggle to understand how anyone else sees it differently, when the facts make the reality of our present crisis so plain.
Since taking office, Trump has shown himself to be a cancer infecting the body politic: racist, narcissistic, mendacious, resentful, incoherent, inept, corrupt, chaotic, cruel. He professes affection for dictators but dismisses scientists. He has surrounded himself with a rogues' gallery of the worst minds of his generation: white nationalists like Stephen Miller and warmongers like John Bolton, quislings like Mike Pence and grifters like Scott Pruitt, incompetents like Ben Carson and shysters like Rudy Giuliani. He's separated children from their parents, mocked a sexual assault survivor, praised a politician who body-slammed a reporter a week after his Saudi pals apparently killed and dismembered a Washington Post correspondent, and repeatedly attacked the law enforcement officials investigating his campaign.
Of this I am certain: History will judge Trump the worst president in a century – and America by whether we allowed him to debase us for a century to come.
That's what's at stake in two weeks. Not just having a Democratic Congress that can check the president's myriad abuses of power and investigate his administration's bottomless pit of corruption. Not just having a Senate that will block Trump and Mitch McConnell from stacking the federal courts with a generation's worth of revanchists and reactionaries. Not just keeping the proto-Trumpian Rick Scott or Trump ass-kisser Ron DeSantis from power. Not just restoring a measure of sanity to Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee.
It's all of those things, but it's also about sending a message: We, as a country, are better than Trump, better than his most rabid supporters, better than the white supremacists who have taken him on as an avatar, better than the shills and con artists who propagandize on his behalf, better than the so-called Christians who so casually brush aside Trump's wanton immorality if it means getting to put women in their place and gays back in the closet, better than unabashed cruelty dressed up as policymaking. Despite the image our president broadcasts to the world, we as a people are empathetic enough to care about the less fortunate and intelligent enough to see through the administration's whirlwind of bullshit.
Whether America is great again is almost beside the point (and a dumb, ahistorical question besides). The real question on the ballot is whether America is still good.
I carry no torch for the Democratic Party, which is rife with its own breed of corporatists and weak-kneed opportunists. But we'll deal with its manifest faults later. Right now, there is only one major American political party in thrall to a would-be demagogue, forsaking its own erstwhile principles and decency in its unbridled lust for power. The Republican Party is nothing more right now than the Party of Trump. It needs to be treated as such.
Trump or Not Trump. That's what's on the ballot, from congressional races all the way down. This is our last, best hope of saving the republic as we know it. The Party of Trump must be banished to the political hinterlands and left to rot until it comes to its senses or dies.
If the predicted blue wave peters out, if Democrats fail to recapture the House and/or lose seats in the Senate, if there is not an unmistakable repudiation of Trumpism, then Trump and his minions will become emboldened. There will be more bombastic appeals to our basest instincts, more demolition of norms, more of a willingness to look the other way while Trump closes down investigations and leverages the powers of his office to make his cronies rich. It'll be the same Trump, but cranked to 11. And America will become meaner and more polarized and dysfunctional.
Tuesday, Nov. 6, will test the notion that America is still a good country. I fear for the future if we fail.