On the road again. This time I’m driving from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic — Seaside, Ore., to Jacksonville, Fla. This may take awhile.
It’s a nice time of year to be piloting a late-model SUV across this great country of ours. But along the way I keep seeing Trump signs, and, occasionally, people waving Trump banners from overpasses. I see “Hillary for Prison” stickers on enormous Dodge pickups. It’s dispiriting. I’m so tired of hearing about this guy, but he will not go away, even when I’m miles from anyplace and the only sound is the hum of tires on pavement.
The man has cast a big orangeish shadow over everything. I’ve covered a lot of miles this year, across a whole lot of states, and I’ve not really seen the kind of America he alone can fix. But then Trump is a guy who boasts about not listening and not reading, and I’m guessing he probably doesn’t look out the window that much either. This is a born-rich frat boy whose proudest achievements involve screwing people. This guy helps nobody who is not named Donald J. Trump, and yet a large number of people somehow believe he’s going to help them.
I don’t understand it at all. America remains a pretty decent country and most of us seem to be getting by. A lot of the places sprouting Trump signs have big RVs parked by the garage, maybe a couple of four-wheelers and a motorboat. Today I walked by a fat guy getting out of an Escalade with “Make America Great Again” plastered across the grill. How great do you want it to be, tubby? Holding out for your own submarine?
The fact is, we’re doing OK without Trump at the wheel. We have our cars and our houses. We load up our carts at Costco. The jobless rate is going down and the economy is better than it’s been in years. For all the hysteria about terrorism, more people get attacked by sharks than by terrorists in this country. And yet an ignorant fascist has convinced about half the country that he’s going to keep them safe.
Trump can’t stop yelling about conspiracy and danger and disaster. He’s right on two of those: the danger is him, the imminent disaster is him. He’s a giant asteroid and he’s on a collision course with earth. In elections past I’ve felt generally immune to politics, but now there’s this sense of impending doom. Even without being elected, the guy has done some serious damage to the Republic by empowering the lunatic fringe. If he’s president, well … I think some people are in for a big surprise.
This cross-country trip has an elegiac feel to it. Maybe it’s the time of year, the quality of autumn light in the afternoon — nothing gold can stay. Maybe it’s the age I am, finally knowing for sure that I’m not going to be around forever. But part of it, too, is that I find myself in a country where a man like Donald Trump may well be elected president, to do with it as he pleases.