"From the stench, it's obvious he's been dead for several hours. The deceased appears to be about seventy years old." - Coroner
"I've been declared dead by better coroners than you!" - Jay Sherman
There's a great scene in Se7en where Morgan Freeman (the old, jaded homicide detective) and Brad Pitt (the young, eager homicide detective) are looking at grisly crime scene photos together. Freeman tells Pitt:
"Let's take a fresh look at these. Even though the corpse is there, look through it. Edit out the initial shock. The trick is to find one item, one detail, and focus on it until it's an exhausted possibility."
Pitt sensibly responds by getting himself a beer, which everyone who's been covering or following this year's election easily deserves by now. But the advice to see through the horror in order to concentrate on something real and possibly meaningful rings true.
Donald Trump is going to lose. This has been apparent since at least summer if not earlier. For all the blaring headlines and overhyped poll fluctuations since then, Clinton has always held a lead, usually between 3-5 points. It is not as large a lead as those of us who fear a Trump presidency would like, but polling-wise it's been the least close election since 1996. Even the doomed McCain campaign pulled into a slight (if brief) lead in the immediate afterglow of the Republican convention. Trump couldn't even manage that.
Yet Trump has still provided a horrorshow, every bit as gory as uncensored homicide photos. He's mainstreamed white supremacy (a/k/a the alt-right, or "white nationalism"). He's called for his opponent to be jailed. He's threatened the press. He's tacitly admitted to serial sexual assault. And he lies at a speed so breakneck that even the age of social media and instant reaction can barely keep up with him. But to understand 2016, you have to edit out that shock and look through all that.
The scariest thing about a Trump Administration isn't Trump himself or whatever chintzy antics he'd bring to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (gold rimmed toilet in the Roosevelt Room anyone?, stripper poles on the South Lawn?). The scariest thing about Trump is the legislation he'd sign.
(Sure he'd also illegally turn the federal government against his enemies, but Bush the Younger was no slouch in that department. Let's not forget that his Administration tortured people for political purposes, fired independent prosecutors for not indicting enough Democrats, and even put a guy who denies the Big Bang in charge of NASA. Trump would undoubtedly be worse, but it'd be a difference of degree, not kind.)
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have a whole host of things they'd push under his pen, everything from revoking health insurance from millions of Americans to taking food from poor children. And then there's the tax cuts: yuge ones that would let every millionaire in America get a bigger yacht and every billionaire get a bigger jet while hospitals close, schools crumble, and poor people literally die.
Trump wouldn't do that on his own or because he's uniquely evil or dangerous. (Given all he's said, it's doubtful he could even name more than two or three federal agencies.) No, Trump would do that because those have been the stated goals of the Republican Party for a generation and longer.
Since the 2000 campaign, the Republican Party has shorn itself of all distractions to concentrate on only one (1) goal and only one (1) means of achieving it. The goal is lowering taxes for the rich. The means is stoking white people's fear. That's it.
Trump is the purest distillation of both yet seen (a fascistic white guy who doesn't pay any taxes), but he didn't come from nowhere. And tomorrow, after he's been soundly defeated, the Republican Party will still exist, will still have the same goal, and will still have the same method of realizing it.
That's the one thing. That's the exhausted detail underlying all the lies, grotesque statements, and self aggrandizement.
After 2012, the Republican Party famously conducted an "autopsy" on itself. The conclusion was that stoking white fear was a losing electoral strategy (at least on the Presidential level, it still works great lower down). It won bigly in 1980, but it only won narrowly in 2004, and it was an increasingly loser proposition.
Perhaps they will write another autopsy, and perhaps they'll focus on keeping unqualified non-politicians away from their nomination. But the Republican Party can't change.
Whether it's voices in their head, God telling them what to do, or just wealthy donors who will excommunicate anyone who dares suggest anything but tax cuts, they're stuck with who they are. They are the party of rich people. They are the party of white people. And American is going the other way.
Donald Trump changes none of that. If you doubt it, see whether his absence dims their eagerness to demonize Muslim and Mexican Americans. See if his defeat cools Republican fervor for voter suppression. See if his humiliation shames them into allowing a vote on a Democratic Supreme Court nominee.
Tax cuts. White fear. They've driven our politics to this new low, and they won't be gone on Wednesday morning, or in 2018, or even 2020. To quote Se7en Morgan Freeman one more time: "It's just going to go on and on and on."