cartoon by Bill Day @BillDaytoons

The Chaos Candidate and Our Collective National Depression (Also, Why the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause is Relevant to this Election)

Who could have predicted that the most prescient line of this entire election cycle was to be delivered by Jeb Bush? In comments made last December during the fifth Republican primary debate in Las Vegas, Mr. Bush, referring to Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, said “Donald, you know, is great at the one-liners but he’s a chaos candidate and he’d be a chaos president, he would not be the commander-in-chief we need to keep our country safe.”

The chaos candidate.

Let that sink in for a moment and just allow yourself 10 seconds to remember even a fraction of the vile rhetoric you’ve heard in the last 10 days. By the time November 8 rolls around, we will have been subjected to nearly 18 months of Trump’s recklessness.

It is useless to recount the repulsions of his toxic campaign, his actions, how he has thrived. All of this is well documented, and you, the voter, know exactly what you are getting. If you do not know, please see just one list of horribles as a refresher.

So how did we get here? A large chunk of the blame falls at the feet of our malfeasant media for being so tardy for the party and force-feeding us all-Trump, all the time, for a year plus. They have also given us the gift of false equivalency — if only I earned a buck every time I overheard “they’re both horrible and disgusting”…. (And let me just say that, subject to withholding from the above blame are David Fahrenthold, Kurt Eichenwald, Tony Schwartz, Ana Navarro and even Katy Tur, bless her damn heart). The networks’ need for a show outweighed the people’s right to know, at a minimum, that Donald Trump does not pay federal taxes, never had any intention of releasing his returns, defrauds small business owners, has made a living off of the con — any con — is wont to debasing women in insanely cruel ways and that he traffics in the most base racism and conspiracy theories we’ve ever seen at this level of politics. We have known these things from the very beginning (even before), when on June 15, 2015, Donald J. Trump floated down on that gaudy escalator at Trump Tower and announced to the paid crowd of “supporters” and to the world that Mexicans were rapists. We knew these things; they were there for the taking. Our Fourth Estate knew it too, and shame on them. As much as the GOP gave us Trump, so too has corporate media.

By contrast, remember the Democratic primary? The one that was barely covered? The one where Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated substance and issues and policy? The primary that culminated in the DNC and the most progressive platform in party history? Those were the times. How terribly sad that it all seems like ancient history. That we have not seen one lick of this substance in the general election. No — the slime and vitriol of this election has instead left us in knots. It is not a stretch to say that it’s left us worrying for the literal fate of our country, if not the world. It has left us with perpetual sleepless nights; a heightened sense of dread and anxiety; disbelief. It has left most of us cosmically depressed that, after all is said and done, tens of millions of Americans — many of them good and decent people — will go to the polls in three weeks’ time and pull a lever or punch a ballot for the most despicable American public figure to ever draw air into his lungs. The damage Trump has done thus far is incalculable.

What we must now deal with head-on is the chaos, the way in which Trump, circling the drain, has whipped his supporters into frothy madness. That he has promised them: this election is rigged. That he has inculcated them (they, of “2nd Amendment remedies”): man the polls; watch out for funny business. That t-shirts sold and worn at his events bear the rallying cries “Kill her”, “Lock her up”, or “Trump that bitch”, and “Cunt”.

This, all of it, brought to you by The Law And Order Candidate, with all that evokes of Nixon and the “Southern Strategy”.

But this should not be solely about Trump. Let us recognize what we have learned of Secretary Clinton that we refused to see after 11 hours of Congressional grilling, 13 published reports and resulting investigations, to say nothing of the Twenty Three Million Dollars in taxpayer money spent on the Benghazi witch hunt. If Trump’s “personal Vietnam” has been to not contract sexually transmitted diseases while philandering, then Hillary Clinton’s 3 A.M. phone call was the 2nd Presidential Debate — all angst-inducing 90 minutes of it. Guess what? She answered, and she delivered, with a spectacularly steady hand and grace in the face of an unprecedented barrage of lies, circus tricks and cruel attacks having nothing whatsoever to do with the American voter’s concerns. In fact, it was Clinton’s response to this sheer spectacle that caused me to fall sort of in awe of her, whatever my prior personal feelings.

Trump (and the GOP more generally) took what are arguably two of the most difficult and painful periods from Clinton’s personal life and made her face them in front of us all — her husband’s serial philandering, and, the death of her friend, Ambassador Chris Stevens and the resulting fallout following his death and that of three other diplomatic personnel in 2012.

Trump’s trotting out as props the Bill Clinton accusers just an hour before the debate and making these women a central focus of the night (not to mention having to see them — and to see Chelsea’s pain every time Hillary looked out on the audience); being told that she has “tremendous hate” in her heart; being stalked on stage by this hulking, fidgety and unpredictable bully…..it was the way Clinton comported herself in this situation, her steadiness, the way she was able to continue to answer the questions, to relay her ideas and address the voters on stage….she was….presidential. And aren’t these the qualities we want in a President? I want my President to be smarter than I am. I want my President to have a preternatural inner calm about them. I want my President to be able to stand up to tyrants without flinching. And I frankly want my President to be a good person. I can think of two other people in this country who could respond the way Hillary did in like situations —who are also good people — and they currently both reside in The White House.

Back to chaos.

I’m positive I’m not the only one to consider — stress over — what comes next. What sort of country do we wake up in on November 9? To be pragmatic, we’ve got to seriously reflect the fallout of a Trump defeat. What does this man-child loathe more than anything? Losing. Does he show his face to concede on election night, or does he send Mike Pence to do so? Even if Trump himself does concede, we can say almost assuredly that it will not be gracious and that it will have all the subtext of a Firestarter’s manifesto. Uneasiness about these things has caused me to look into where a Trump insurrection might leave us on election night and beyond. Poll-watchers. Open carry. Islamophobia. Homophobia. Anti-Semitism. Racism. White Supremacy. Illegitimacy at the outset of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

So on this note: show of hands if you are familiar with the “anti-commandeering rule”, i.e.: Supremacy Clause in Article VI, Section II of the U.S. Constitution. Neither was I, until a book written by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was brought to my attention. The book, Six Amendments: How And Why We Should Change The Constitution, offers six simple ways in which America can address what have all but become Constitutional crises-in-the-making. Stevens’ suggested fixes range from dealing with campaign finance to gerrymandering to gun laws. And as related to this particular election, none is currently more important than understanding the anti-commandeering rule. Article VI, Section II provides, in part:

“This Constitution….shall be the supreme Law of the Land ….and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Law of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

The above is commonly known as Federal preemption, or, the “supremacy” of Federal law over State law in the event of any conflict. I.e., the “Supremacy Clause”.

In 1997, a 5–4 Supreme Court decision, Printz v. U.S., penned by Antonin Scalia and the legacy that keeps on giving, held that the Supremacy Clause permitted Congress [and/or the Executive Branch] to enact laws [or issue executive orders] that impose duties on State judges to enforce Federal law, but not on any other State or Local official, thereby creating a serious risk that any Federal response to a national catastrophic event — such as a terrorist attack, pandemic, natural disaster, etc. — will be inadequate if not impotent. It is completely antithetical to Federal law superseding State law. For example, as the New York Times so aptly noted in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter, Federal background checks on the sale and purchase of firearms by anyone other than a licensed Federal firearms dealer is entirely flawed and inadequate because the system is voluntary ever since 1997 (thank you, Justice Scalia). Failures such as these have been directly linked to several mass shootings, most notably Virginia Tech. Pay attention, because this “anti-commandeering rule” may well play out dramatically in the aftermath of this election.

Let me paint a very clear portrait: on election night, say we end up with “watchers”, as directed by Trump himself, intimidating and driving away voters in Florida. Bundy acolytes trolling polls with AR-15’s strapped to their backs in Nevada or Arizona. Let’s say we get outright vigilantism in North Carolina. Should there be any “chaos” — riots, intimidation, threats of or actual violence in a swing state, there is nothing the Federal government can do proactively or even in immediate response. There can be no coordinated federal response. The Federal government cannot even order the states to call up their National Guard, for instance. This is a terrifying proposition and it makes the rhetoric and directives we are hearing from Trump that much more potent. Chaos in the extreme, and by design.

With all of these scenarios in mind, I do not feel that I am reluctantly choosing the lesser of two evils this November. Hillary Clinton is not an “evil”. She is deeply flawed, but she is also the ONLY rational and adult choice. If you are still undecided, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Freaking Trump, I would probably try to convince you that the election has been moved to November 28.

And it does not at this point matter how disgusted you are with (a) all politicians and (b) our failed two-party system. It’s very simple: for this election, for this time in our nation, there is but one right thing to do.

For those who, like me, agree that our two-party system does not work and that it must — must — change….now is not the time.

I was a die-hard Sanders supporter (and I just typed that line as I sip from a Feel The Bern mug) — I have been sending both he and his staff crazy messages for years, as I’m sure many have, encouraging wide support and all but begging him to run for the Presidency. After Bernie conceded, I moved on to Jill Stein. I was never Bernie-or-bust (I got you, Sarah Silverman), but it did take me a while to come over to camp Hillary. Now that I’m here…..I. AM. HERE. And the beauty is that this is one of two good things Trump has given to us: the first is the utter implosion of the out of touch group of children known as the GOP (not a moment too soon); second, Trump doesn’t know it yet (we will see the full fruit of his labor on election day), but he has built a vast army of women who are now ferocious advocates of the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State — and — front of the line defenders of their hard won rights to autonomy over their own bodies and yes, the very right to vote.

This is not the election to make a protest vote. I would even say this is not the election to “vote your morals”. Vote sanity, please. Fundamental changes to our system, while absolutely essential going forward, must start from the bottom up. Not from the presidential level down. In the coming years, we must work to elect good candidates to local and state offices, first. We must work just as hard in mid-term years as we do in presidential years. We must tackle the establishment with sound ideas, such as what former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has proposed (and which is on Vermont’s ballot this November) — ranked voting — also known as preferential voting.

But all of this — soundly defeating Trump and every disgusting thing this hospital-JellO-hued, nub-fingered mongrel stands for; electing the first female POTUS — all of it will be for naught if we cannot get back to a world in which we admit that facts do exist, that there is truth and there is fiction. Not just your opinion and mine. Not just “you decide”. Fact and fiction. Right and wrong. Black and white. We don’t need to take our country back. We need to take our airwaves back.

Finally, this election is not about politics. It is not about party or ideology or, sadly, even policy. It cannot be. It has instead been distilled down to basic human decency. And survival. And that is not overstating it.

We must see to it that Donald J. Trump is branded with a Scarlet “L” for all of eternity.

19 days, my friends. Vote.