“Every day I am making calls on behalf of the local Democrat party”. So said an email we received yesterday from a long-time friend in Michigan. Earlier I had a conversation with another friend in Maryland. He was cautiously optimistic about a Democrat win next Tuesday, ‘cautiously’ being the operative word. He won’t be satisfied until inauguration day in January because he fears Republican attempts to hold on to power.
Four years ago some dear friends of ours in California told us that they had voted for Trump in the last election. We were amazed. We tried to understand why they would vote for a man who seemed to trample on so many of the values that we share have shared with them for many years. They talked about needing a businessman to restore the economy and put the country back on its feet - about resisting the threat of socialism. How such highly moral people could vote for someone who seems to us amoral is still beyond our understanding!
Polls show that around 80% of people questioned in the UK are hoping for a Democrat victory. We are among them. Many seem to be hoping not so much for a Biden victory as for a Trump defeat.
We support them. Why? For many complex reasons.
There are attitudes towards climate change and the Paris Agreement. Concerns for inclusivity and diversity – not to mention democracy and free speech itself. Fears for American and Middle East security. And so many more.
But on a more human level one of his qualities stands out. In the presidential debate Trump constantly interrupted his opponent – who was not himself entirely blameless either. It was a deeply offensive display of macho designed to convey strength, superiority, authority.
Interrupting others is a common behaviour in our society. But it can often be a small act of violence. It can suggest that your intervention is more important that the words of the one you are speaking with. It prevents them from fully forming and expressing their ideas and feelings. It is a failure of patience with those who go at a pace or think in a way different from your own.
Trump has demonstrated to us all what overblown self-regard looks like when pressed to the extreme. He has abruptly interrupted and uncouthly rebuffed journalists who have dared to probe his ill-considered claims. He has shown us the sheer ugliness of dismissing people who are different in a whole range of ways. He has demonstrated what happens when you try to refashion the truth according to your own self-interest. In his crude naivety he has taken behaviours to the extreme. He has generated a warning.
Trump may have performed – unwittingly – a great service to us. He has taken us to the edge of an abyss and allowed us to look over and hopefully to step back. He deserves a footnote which will say that by his crass egotism he has shown where self-indulgence and inflated self-regard lead.
It is not a world which we would want our children or grandchildren to inhabit.