The Election Will Not Bring Redemption
In three weeks, Hillary Clinton is going to win the presidential election. And it’s going to drive me insane.
I’m a fanatical Hillary supporter. I voted for her in 2008 and was proud to do so again this year. I have no doubt the country will be better for her presidency, perhaps better than for Barack Obama’s.
That’s not why I’m going to lose my mind.
The 2016 election has exposed grave evils. Many of them were always with us, in the form of racism and sexism political professionals like me saw regularly but “normal” people never believed. But now it’s laid bare. Donald Trump got on the ballot by appealing to darkness within his supporters, and they eagerly answered.
But more than that, there is the evil of the candidate. Trump is a monster. Because he is rich and white, his monstrosity went more or less unnoticed until recently. But a handful of his victims found credibility in coming forward, and now more have.
And now we see that there is a hideously evil man who has a lot of money and power.
He’s going to lose. I’m going to hate it.
I learned the hard way that elections are not about righting wrongs. This is the story of how. Perhaps it will speak to you. Perhaps not. I’m not going to pretend to dispense wisdom. This is also a story of how I spiraled into alcoholism and despair. It’s not about me making good decisions.
It’s an ugly story, and it involves rape. If reading that will hurt you, then don’t read it. The victims will not appear. I can’t even begin to fathom their pain, and their story is not mine to tell anyway.
I’ve left out identifying details, although those close to me know this story already. There’s no news here.
It’s just about me discovering a monstrous evil, and trying to redress it, and things going horribly wrong.
I had almost wrapped up the opposition report when my client called with a rumor about the target. Let’s call him Paul.
“I heard a rumor,” my client began. I rolled my eyes and started scrolling through Facebook.
Usually when my clients relay a rumor they’re excited. Not this time. If anything he seemed shaken.
“I just talked to a friend who used to work downtown out at a gym Paul owned,” he continued. “A lot of the time the guy would hang out there too. My friend says he bragged on multiple occasions that he would solicit women on the internet, Craigslist or whatever, he didn’t say where, to go ride on his brother’s boat with him. Then, again this is just what he said, that Paul does drugs with them, then rapes them. Once he said he threw a woman overboard afterwards.”
I paused. Pausing is helpful for not laughing when your clients say ridiculous things.
“I have no idea how I could even begin to look into this,” I said. “But I’ll see what I can do.”
“Great, thanks.” He hung up.
I sighed, logged into Lexis-Nexis and started looking for the fastest way to prove that this rumor was false or at least unprovable so that we could all get on with our lives. Opposition researchers often do that when presented with time wasters: we look for reasons it’s false, so that we can stop looking, instead of reasons it’s true. It’s just faster that way.
First I focused on the brother. I knew he had one, but maybe he lived in another state, or even better far away from water.
His brother lived in the same city. And a boat registration showed up in his Lexis public records profile. It was colored bronze. For some reason that stuck with me.
Fine. The claim originated from a gym Paul allegedly owned. I hadn’t yet finished the legal/property section for his report, because there were a lot of lawsuits. I thumbed through several hundred pages looking at his various businesses.
He had owned a gym. It had been downtown.
I sighed. This was turning out to be more of an unprovable rumor than a false one. I hated those. It meant I had to do more work.
So I opened up his personal Facebook page, which he had left open for casual perusal and opposition researchers, and started the long, tedious process of clicking through every single one of his posts. They were full of spelling errors.
Then I got to comments on himself posing in a pumpkin patch, and my blood froze.
A woman had commented. “I prefer the ones of u on yr boat,” she had written. “Maybe I can see it!”
No. This isn’t right. Rumors don’t work. They never work. This can’t be happening.
I scrolled back. This can’t be happening. She wanted to see his boat. I’m sure she’s a friend or something. I’m sure she chats with him all the time.
She never commented on his posts after that. As far as I could tell, she didn’t comment on anything after that.
It was a fluke. It had to be a fluke. I found this in ninety minutes. Anyone could find this. Someone hates Paul and put this story together. I kept looking through his feed.
And then I saw another woman. And another.
The same thing happened. They stopped interacting with him after an invitation and/or interest in his brother’s boat.
I left the office for cigarettes. I smoked one, then another. Then I went back in and called my client and told him.
“Yeah,” I said.
“So it…it’s real.”
“Ok I need to…Jesus. I’ll think on this.” He hung up.
It was about three in the afternoon. I opened a bottle of wine.
What do you do when you have a devastating story, one that needs to be told, and you know it’s true, and you have everything but proof?
I don’t usually talk to reporters. But I did this time.
In retrospect it wasn’t surprising that I was politely brushed off. I had spent years doing the same to my clients, over and over. The stories changed. She was a porn star. He beat his wife. He killed his lover in another state. She was in Girls Gone Wild in college. I swear it’s true. They got really creative.
But the frantic, desperate tone never changed. And now that tone was coming from me.
It probably didn’t help that I was opening my first wine bottle at noon by then.
My client won the election. It wasn’t terribly surprising; Paul was an epic dumpster fire even if no one knew that he had a rape boat.
“We don’t deserve this,” I mumbled on my back deck.
The election didn’t help. Why the hell would an election help? What did it matter if a serial rapist was in office or not? All that mattered was that he hadn’t answered for what he had done. No one even knew about it.
Day drinking had turned to morning drinking. The difference between wine at noon and a bloody mary at eleven is small. The difference between a bloody mary at eleven and whiskey in your coffee is nonexistent.
Opposition researchers don’t have anything to do after elections. We barely have anything to do right before elections. There’s only so much work to be done fact checking scripts and opponent’s ads, and pretending to care about field and media buy updates.
Nothing to do. Nothing but listen to myself, the only person who knew the rape boat was real, and who had utterly failed to do anything about it.
Of course, I had tried. Not openly. You can’t just accuse someone of having a rape boat without proof. That’s not helpful. So I talked to victim groups, friends who knew law enforcement, anyone who would listen.
But nothing happened. Because as much as I knew it was true, there was no proof.
I didn’t blame them. Couldn’t. No proof, no process. For all of the hundreds of things wrong with the criminal justice system regarding rape, this wasn’t one of them.
I blamed myself, and my client, and my entire party. A rapist had fallen through the cracks, and I had discovered it, and accomplished nothing.
I didn’t remember why I had gotten into politics. Something about being mad at George W. Bush or whatever. Irrelevant.
It didn’t matter why I had. Who cares why I started doing what I do, if doing what I do does not include stopping a goddamned serial rapist? I didn’t.
My client had been panicked when he came to me about this job. They needed research in a rush, so I charged them extra. I laughed about it at the time, because Paul was a dumpster fire and I was getting paid extra for proving the point.
Later I laughed hysterically, in my home or while smoking in bar alleys. Laughed until I was sobbing. A rape boat. RAPE BOAT.
How many people would become victims because I didn’t stop him?
When whoever sat down and wrote the Democratic Party’s action agenda, why did “stop rape boats” slip their minds?
I dropped my whiskey on the deck. Stared at it. Decided I didn’t care.
“If we can’t stop this,” I whispered,”we shouldn’t exist.”
There is no catharsis to this story. I spent the next year drunk morning, noon and night.
Kicking the bottom out of functional alcoholism isn’t a choice you make, not like people think. It’s a choice, but not like choosing to drink instead of confronting your problems. That’s now how alcoholics think.
I just drank.
Trump is going to lose this election, and I’m going to lose my mind.
How many people will vote for the proudly confessed rape enthusiast? Forty million? Fifty? More?
It will be EMBARRASSING for Trump to lose. It will be a blow to his ego.
The sexual predator will have a really, really bad day in three weeks.
Then he’ll go golf at one of his stupid overpriced resorts.
I can already feel the anxiety. Eventually it will turn to anger, then disgust, and then hate.
He will lose, and it will not be enough. Nothing will ever be enough.
Trump is going to lose and I’m going to lose my mind, because I’ve never been able to let go of the belief that an election should bring good, and redress evil.
That’s what we do in elections. We decide what is good and what is bad and who we are and where we stand.
But that’s not how elections work. It’s how every last person on earth thinks when they vote, and that is not at all what elections do.
Hillary Clinton is a good person, better than many I know. Donald Trump is a hideous monster; with one exception, I’ve never encountered worse.
But there’s nothing good or bad about the votes that will get counted in three and a half weeks. Over a hundred million people will go vote for a hundred million reasons and we’ll count it up and give someone the launch codes.
The Constitution never said anything about good and evil. No Constitution should. It’s just a mostly okay way to decide who gets the launch codes.
I’m recovering from my addiction now. Therapy and antidepressants are involved. It will be fine.
Eventually I’ll accept that elections don’t bring redemption.