I voted early at the town hall in my small Vermont hamlet last week. Partly because I may be out of town on election day—and partly because I wanted to make sure that just in case Donald Trump got forced from the race, I had the pleasure of voting against him. And it was a pleasure, the same pleasure an antibody must feel when it wipes out some invading virus.
For me, Trump represents much of what’s wrong with American politics. A man who wants to jail his opponents, harass women, and scapegoat immigrants for the nation’s problems would obviously do great damage in the White House—heck, he’s obviously done great damage already. But it’s the “obviously” part that worries me some.
Yes, it was good that the tape emerged of Trump boasting about his sexual aggression; it removed any possible doubt that he was fit for the presidency. But the very crudity—the very obviousness—of his pathetic boasts may lower the bar so much that other forms of political ugliness seem tame by comparison. Trump is defining political deviancy so far down that from now on, if there’s not a tape of you talking about the private parts of strangers, you may get a pass as normal. Which would be a shame. Because while Trump represents “much of what’s wrong about American politics,” he by no means represents all of it.
Take Vermont, which has historically been spared most of the worst currents of American political life. Partly because it’s so small that it gets overlooked. And partly because it’s so small that you can’t get away with much: If we’d had a Trump, we’d have figured it out pretty soon because there’s only 600,000 people here. A couple of loud millionaires have moved here over the years, thinking that they’d be able to buy themselves a Senate seat or a governorship on the cheap, but they’ve been sent packing. (One lost his debate, and the election, when he didn’t know how many teats a cow has.)