By Tommy Hough
There's no use trying to deny it – the race is tightening, and tightening quickly. There is a chance Hillary Clinton may yet lose this election with the renewed FBI investigation into e-mails she may have saved as drafts, may have sent, may have received, or which may simply have her name in them. We could see another 2000-style electoral college/popular vote split. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is a time-honored Democratic tradition, and the smoke around Hillary Clinton is another reminder of how good we've had it the last eight years with the scandal-free, effective presidency of Barack Obama.
No wonder Republicans hurled everything but the kitchen sink at Obama for the last eight years. When Obama was elected I figured everyone would calm the hell down, get back to work, and maybe stop listening to Glenn Beck. Wrong. Republican spinners found they had to maintain their house of cards alternate reality that Obama was a demon out to take your guns and destroy the country, so they became desperate for something scandalous to stick, no matter how ludicrous: Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Darrell Issa – I'm sure you remember it all. And how nothing was there.
Obama was the real deal – a genuine moderate who was never going to give his opponents any reason for an arched eyebrow or bit of smoke. In their fever, Republicans became incapable of even acknowledging Democrats were in the room, determined to discredit Obama at every turn as a non-entity, and refusing to consider anything that might give Obama even the perception of a "victory," even if that victory was non-partisan and relevant only to the normal mechanics of the nation and government. Enter the Tea Party, the birthers, the Bundys, government shutdowns and Ted Cruz – all of which led to Donald Trump.
For the GOP, playing more and more to a divorced-from-reality right-wing believing it's own Alex Jones-fueled house of cards, there became no other way to behave around Democrats except to reject their elected authority to lead at all levels – another symptom of the cumulative damage wrought by 30 years of unfiltered right-wing media and hyper-partisan messaging on the public's airwaves. Today, no excuse or justification is beyond Republican leadership. Having demonized Democrats for so long, the idea of having to share the people's government with anyone other than themselves is anathema. Part of this strategy, of course, is to disenfranchise the public by making government appear so paralyzed and incapable of functioning that people forget what actually happens when you have all players, Republicans and Democrats alike, working together and negotiating in good faith (see: Congress, 1952 to 1994).
But whoever could've imagined the catalyst for Hillary's current electoral dilemma, just days before the most critical election of our lifetimes, would be supreme idiot Anthony Weiner and his computer, which he apparently shared with his soon-to-be ex-wife Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's top aide. Granted, if Hillary were more forthright or better on her toes, she might've been able to work around this – and better address the vacuity of the charges and concerns, especially in light of the Bush administration's 22 million missing e-mails on everything from Iraq to Halliburton to WMDs to needlessly firing U.S. attorneys.
Hillary Clinton is a laudable, remarkable woman. She is also a policy wonk and not a natural campaigner. While she wasn't blessed with instinctive, broad communications skills, to her credit she hasn't tried to water down her own problems by finding something worse with Bush or anyone else. But for all her ability, competence and experience, Hillary simply lacks the natural, public ability to inspire like President Obama or Bernie Sanders, or the touch of authenticity and charisma that buoyed her husband's political career.
Granted, Hillary is tougher than all three of these high-profile men, and she's certainly tougher than the death-knell of Donald Trump and the parade of also-rans in the GOP. If elected, Hillary will be an effective president, and she may be even prove to be the kind of transformational president that Obama was unable to become in the face of 24-hour-a-day Republican intransigence. She certainly won't take any shit from the GOP, the Russians, or from crass political opportunists like Ted Cruz.
And while it's ironic that Clinton may lose Florida and Ohio and still win the presidency on Nov. 8, the tightening of the race even before the FBI director's announcement shows how over-confident her team became in trying to expand their reach into red states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas while sacrificing efforts in Florida and Ohio, and even Iowa. Too much time has elapsed since the last debate, which Clinton clearly won, but which feels like an eternity in the public perception of the race. The only thing blowing up right now are the words FBI, e-mails and investigation, coupled with the toxic name of Anthony Weiner. You'd never know Donald Trump was the most unqualified man – emotionally, professionally or intellectually – to ever seek the presidency.
Hillary may survive this, and she may yet defeat Donald Trump, but it remains a staggering prospect to millions around the world that anyone would consider Trump fit for the presidency at all. The litany of horrible to hateful things the man has said over the last 18 months, his utter lack of experience or curiosity about the job has no precedent in American politics, and the fact that so many otherwise well-meaning Americans are falling for Trump's con reveals not only the depth to which right-wing media has undone Americans' ability to discern, but the failure of American education to properly prepare citizens for basic civic awareness. In 2008 Republicans howled about the "celebrity"nature of Barack Obama. But in 2016, that argument is moot. As usual, the GOP stands for nothing, except winning.
But a greater danger than even a Trump coronation would be the Mike Pence administration that would follow. Pence would become the day-to-day operating template of a White House that would be Trump in name only. While Trump would be busy barnstorming the nation with his legions of Brownshirts, settling personal, professional and imagined scores while claiming to make America great again as he cut deals with flatterer-in-chief Vladimir Putin and nails "no littering" signs into Redwoods, Pence would be quietly leading the nation down a path of Bible-thumping theocracy – think of it as a compliment to Trump's pursuit of authoritarian idiocracy.
Armed with a Republican congress, the path to American religiosity under Pence will be replete with the insane policies that pass for GOP talking points in 2016, like undoing Social Security and our nation's public lands so they can be sold – and exploited – by the highest bidder, all while our infrastructure crumbles and religious and corporate quacks deny the rising sea levels, drought and increased risk of wildfire and severe weather from global warming.
Whatever you may think of the last eight years, it's hard to deny we're in a better place in 2016 under President Obama than we were in the dark days of 2008 with a crashing economy and two wars. The free radical in this progress is Donald Trump, who will say anything for attention, anything to be adored, and has a willing partner in mainstream media that will apply a false equivalency to anything the man says, no matter how outrageous. Trump may be an immature, thin-skinned con man, but the one favor he may have done for this country is to demonstrate how banal and useless the political industry is, and how it needs to change.
If you look back at how we've progressed since 2008, why would you want to undo the legacy the Obama era has been able to deliver, even in the face of ongoing malfeasance by a Republican party that has ripped itself to pieces? Do we need that on the national stage while we as a nation have so many serious issues to address – including jobs, the environment, rebuilding our infrastructure, money in politics, income inequality and securing our borders like adults? If you really have to work at deciding who you're going to vote for on Nov. 8, I've got news for you – you're overthinking it.
Vote for Hillary to ensure Obama's good-sense, pragmatic legacy continues, to save the environment and the sanctity of our nation's special places, and for Supreme Court justices who will overturn Citizens United and defend women's health – while saving the republic from the whims and stupidity of a Donald Trump Apocalypse.
Tommy Hough is a San Diego broadcast personality, wilderness and parks advocate, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He was a candidate for San Diego City Council in the 2018 election cycle.