My 2016 Election Nightmare
I had the craziest dream — one of those surrealistic nightmares that seem so improbably real while you’re dreaming them. You know the kind: they’re filled with plausible-but-absurd details that alarm and bewilder you — like a tyrannical math teacher demanding that you find the square root of Norway or flunk the course. You shudder and stammer while your brain shuts down. Then you wake up with a start and feel immeasurably relieved. You shake your head and wonder how something so palpably ridiculous could have riddled your mind with terror.
Let me tell you about my nightmare. I dreamed that the two major parties had nominated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for the presidency. Can you believe it? A corrupt billionaire con-artist battling it out with a corrupt establishment insider — two grasping, ruthless, vindictive souls engaged in mortal combat for the ultimate prize in American politics, an office once held by the likes of Washington, Lincoln and the Roosevelts.
Trump was the ultimate scary clown, a minor-league Mussolini who strutted and scowled with upraised chin while spewing sound bite after sound bite of vitriolic, fact-free promises and threats. His equally scary hard-core fans loved his candor and his comical outrageousness; he provided solid entertainment value in an age that prized entertainment above virtue, intelligence or character. Poor Jeb Bush never stood a chance.
Here’s where it got really frightening, though. Trump would utter the most outlandishly offensive statements… he’d find himself ensnared in one mini-scandal after another… stumbles that would have killed the campaign of any mortal candidate. But Trump became The Thing That Wouldn’t Die. Every time you thought his campaign couldn’t possibly recover from the latest disaster — that surely the accusations of a dozen sexually harassed women would bring him down — he’d raise himself up and keep lumbering toward his goal like some radioactive beast from a 1950s sci-fi film.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton pretended to take the high road. Her bright blue eyes blazing with intelligence and conviction, she insisted she’d fight for the middle class. She’d treat Muslim refugees and undocumented immigrants with classic American generosity of spirit. She’d make us proud to have elected the first woman president.
But here’s the scary part: the noble-browed Democrat secretly seethed with rage. Her temper tantrums were legendary. She comported herself faultlessly in public, yet the unwholesome whiff of chicanery clung to her like stale body odor. The Clinton Foundation and its mysteries. Those too-cozy Wall Street connections. Intimations of meddling to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign. The revelation that she came to the televised debates a little too well-prepared, thanks to having been slipped a few key questions in advance by none other than the chairwoman of the DNC. And of course, those “damn e-mails.”
Hillary Clinton was the premier Jekyll-Hyde personality of American politics — or at least a female Eddie Haskell: gracious and unflappable on the surface, devious and malicious when nobody was looking. One could imagine her cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West in her private chambers.
Election Day was drawing near (we could count the days) and the scandals kept mounting on both sides. Trump was still standing, incredibly. Clinton was bruised but still clinging to a thin lead. And here was the thumping heart of my nightmare: we actually had no choice but to elect one of these reprobates to the highest office in the land.
If Trump won, we’d essentially become a rogue nation, led by a borderline psychopath… a land swarming with angry whites, angry blacks, and angry moderates who couldn’t understand how the “greatest nation in history” could elect such a malevolent clown to office.
If Hillary won, we’d simply continue down the inevitable path to oligarchy — and we’d still be a land swarming with angry whites, angry blacks and terminally frustrated moderates. The terror was starting to grab me and twist me in its grip. Trump? God help us! Hillary? Why not just let Goldman Sachs run the country? What to do… what to do?
I woke up, looked around, and breathed a long sigh of relief. It was 1959, Eisenhower was president, and all was right with the world. I could hear the birds singing outside my window and smell my mother’s brownies baking in the oven. A soft golden light filled the room. I was young and content.
Then the alarm went off and I woke up for real, shortly before the election of 2016. Reality — what a nightmare!
Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate.