“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump,” said the large white man in a big, baggy purple shirt as the Amtrak train pulled into the Cleveland station.
Craig said this as an interjection into another conversation Sonny, 45, was having with another older passenger, whose name I didn’t get. I was uploading photos in the dining car, and trying to stay out of the conversation, just listen.
Sonny was there to sell skin care products, and also to show her support for Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, starting today. She was an immigrant herself. Even so, Trump’s bans on immigration from “Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia” made sense to her. They need to be properly vetted.
“I don’t want them around me,” Sonny said. “The media just takes little bits of what Trump says and they change it around,” she explained to her interlocutors. I was still just half paying attention.
Sonny had it backwards. People, not reporters, are changing Trump’s words around to suit their own will. Forgotten was Trump complete “shutdown of Muslims” coming into the United States, and immediately remembered something that sounded less unfair.
You, dear Mondoweiss reader, might have a very negative opinion of Trump and his followers, but the important thing to remember is that they are just like you. Almost certainly none of them raise glasses “to evil!” over a dinner of raw veal. They’re selling skin care products. They might even be immigrants like you. In either case, these are fellow human beings with whom you share the planet.
“What kind of camera is that?” Sonny asked me. I explained. She said she had the same kind. She was a pleasant person, and probably a nice person overall.
Dragged into the fray, I decided to start asking questions of these Trump supporters, because that’s what I’m here to do. I went first to the anti-semitism of Trump’s online supporters, which is often viciously directed as Jewish journalists who question Trump’s nationalistic gibberish.
“He doesn’t have any control of who supports him,” said Craig.
I heard this same logic at AIPAC from American Jews gathered in Washington D.C. earlier this year. Of course, it might make sense if Hillary Clinton were attracting a similar share of the anti-semite vote.
One thing the Democratic party doesn’t seem to appreciate is the blinding hatred for Hillary Clinton many people, right and left, share. It’s lonely in the middle, and it’s getting lonelier.
“She set the Muslim world on fire,” Craig proclaimed. “She helped the Syrian rebels who became ISIS.’
That much is true, to an extent, although more accurately she ordered other people to do so.
“I want to go with the person who hasn’t been tried already,” he said.
This election is a battle between two of the most corrupt political ideologies. And they have voters jumping through rationalization hoops to justify voting for two of the most unpopular candidates a primary season has ever produced.
On the one hand, Clinton has a record of using the American military as a magic wand to achieve vague Foreign Policy Objectives, but ending up committing vivisections of nations without anesthesia. Like many Democrats, she’s so convinced of her correctness and experience that common sense doesn’t figure into decisions, or the constitution factor into whether a drone should obliterate an Arab-American Muslim teenager by drone strike. That happened in Yemen, under her watch.
The international order she so reveres is corrupt and unequal and doesn’t seem to be doing anyone any good, even Americans, who live like everybody else under the whims of the dogma of free trade and whose bodies come back in bags after pushing Democracy at the point of a gun. Clinton’s angry tirades against Iran in the debates, and firey defense of Israel, defy both the reality of the critical US-Iran alliance against the Islamic State, and the equally real self-mutilation that Israel’s commits in running a decades-old military occupation that Clinton’s Democratic party allies won’t even admit exists.
Meanwhile, Trump is facing an active lawsuit from a woman who says he raped her when she was a child. Multiple business partners and clients accuse Trump of fraud, and his fake University swindled people out of precious savings just so they could hear some inspiration pile of nonsense. He has encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters, which they did with glee. He has genuinely terrified countries around the world who don’t have control over 7,000 nuclear weapons. He has delighted the Kremlin by suggesting NATO is useless and dangerous.
“I think they both belong in jail. They’re both fucking criminals,” said Dan, my taxi driver on Sunday, who took me from a hippy wedding I went to out in the Catskills to Poughkeepsie, where I took a train to Cleveland. “People in this country need to start working together.”
The Queens native, of course, said he left his neighborhood because “English was optional. I couldn’t learn five languages.” He also considers Nixon to be our last great president.
“He said what he was going to do and he did it,” Dan said as Classic Rock squealed through the radio as we hurtled through the Hudson Valley.
At the hippy wedding, there was an Israeli woman named Ronit, who told me she had left Israel because of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right wing policies.
“Trump is awful. My advice is do not elect Trump. He is like Bibi. It’s very bad,” she said. “Trust me, you don’t want to do this.”
But mutual hatred of each candidate by both sides threatens to do just that. Republicans who hate Clinton will overlook Trump’s misdeeds just to avoid a Clinton presidency. Democrats who hate Clinton will vote for her just to avoid a Trump presidency. One side is going to be deeply, deeply disappointed in November. But neither side is going to give up. And they’ll have 2020 election as their next battleground. That’s assuming there is an election in 2020. We’ll see.