If Donald Trump wins the election, I will not move to Canada.
I will not slit my wrists, jump off a bridge, set myself on fire, or drink myself to death. I will not declare the election invalid, and unless it really does turn out to be too close to call, as in Florida in 2000, I will not demand a recount. At no time will l sport any T-shirt, hat, badge or bumper sticker that says any version of “Donald Trump Is Not My President” because I am an American. This means that if enough of my fellow Americans vote for him, Donald Trump will be my president.
I will, of course, wish he weren’t, and will feel a strong urge to do all the above acting-out, plus TP Trump Tower. But I will not. Instead, I will do the middle-aged-mom, post-Netflix version of what I did as a singleton in the face of any dire professional or personal outcome. I will hibernate disgustingly but fleetingly. I will soak in a red-hot bubble bath until I have granny wrinkle-toes. I will consume many pints of Talenti Caribbean Coconut gelato straight from the plastic tub while re-watching every episode of Mary Tyler Moore. I will do all this in the dark, in my fuzzy fleece sweat pants, breaking only for offspring-related emergencies and the bathroom.
All this will make me feel much worse, but eventually, somehow, also much better.
At that point — late on day two, early on day three, somewhere in there — I will brush my teeth, pull on my big-girl pants, open the door to the still-bright American sun, and declare myself Over It. I will do what I would want Republicans, pro-Trump and not, to do in the event of a Hillary Clinton victory, and open my mind at least a crack to the possibility that “President Trump” and “planetary apocalypse” might turn out not to be indistinguishably identical concepts. I will do what Republicans, pro-Trump and not, have astoundingly refused to do, and acknowledge that any President, no matter how bad his combover, has the right to nominate the Supreme Court justice of his or her choice, and to have that nominee almost certainly confirmed by the U.S. Senate. No doubt my criticisms of President Trump will be many, frequent and fierce, but I will try to keep those criticisms much more focused on what he says and does, and not who he is (let alone who he is not; i.e, a Kenya-born Muslim.)
Granted, it is hard for me even to type out this scenario. But no matter what may be going on in the pit of my stomach right now, I know that the defeat of my candidate is not the worst case scenario. The further debasement of our democracy is. In my view, to join in with any of the now-inevitable attempts by voters on the unsuccessful side of a presidential race to destroy or de-legitimize the leader of the successful side would be corrosively unpatriotic -- not to mention painfully illustrative of the word “loser.”
Then again, this time around, such efforts would also be redundant. If Tuesday ends in defeat for Hillary Clinton, none of her supporters will be able to do anything worse to the victor than he will have done to himself. After all, if Trump wins the presidency, he is going to have to be president.
For me, this could never be a fun fact. But there would, I must admit, be a poison little stinger of fun in it. If she loses, Hillary will be off the hook. Donald will be on the griddle.
Sure, at first she’ll grieve and he’ll gloat. But fast-forward six months, or even three. There’s Hillary, free to make book deals and rake in speaking fees. And Donald, obliged to explain to Rust Belt out-of-workers why he hasn’t gotten all their jobs back just by taking a red pen to Nafta. Hillary is deciding whether to go with the full spa pedicure, or just a quick toenail-touchup. Donald is butting his head against an unbuilt wall. Hillary isn’t traveling as much as she did while Secretary of State, but she still gets around globally, shining a large yet softening spotlight on the empowerment of women and girls. Donald is going around NATO, handing out invoices. Given her “first woman nominee” stature and her decades in the crucible of domestic realpolitik, Hillary still plays a very powerful role in the building of unity, strength and solvency in her party — and, not serving officially, she can play that role selectively, tailoring her activities to those deemed most helpful by herself and her fellow Democrats. Donald’s taking his very first stab at public service: trying to run the country while half his own party is working overtime to ensure he’s a blip.
For all its freakishness, a Trump victory would activate at least one deeply familiar dynamic. The moment she loses, Hillary will start doing what every national politician, including Nixon, has done upon exiting the stage: start looking better and better. Conversely, Donald will follow the path of every dreamer-turned-doer, most recently Obama, and start looking worse. Between the blaring frankness of Trump’s promises and the glaring impossibility of his ever fulfilling them, make that much worse.
How’s that for irony? If Donald Trump wins the presidency, he will have done so in no small part by vowing to “lock her up.” But in so many ways, he’ll have put himself in prison.
I, for one, will be very tempted to keep him in there, scrubbing toilets, until voters get the chance to send him home in four years -- and to support every effort on the part of Trump's foes to ensure that voters do just that. But I am going to resist those temptations, because to give in to them would be to sacrifice the good of the whole country to the political blood-thirst of my half of it.
Maybe it's just because I'm at the age where the eye doctor starts talking bifocals, but I think of the period between elections -- when leaders have to, you know, lead -- as a time of having two lenses to look through. One is the lens through which to see a president's policies purely in terms of what they might do for -- or to -- the country. The other is the lens through which to see those policies in terms of what they might do for -- or to -- that president. I find it to be nothing short of catastrophic, the extent to which those two lenses have become one.
Granted, even in my most conciliatory mood, I have trouble imagining that I would ever find many distinctions between the objective of benefiting the country and the objective of obstructing the aims of a President Trump, at least as those aims have been expressed so far. But if Trump does win, I absolutely will look for those distinctions. I will spend four years opposing my president where I must, but searching for opportunities to support him where I can. If I don't see those opportunities at first, I will squint. I will squint hard.
I am an American. Republicans, pro-Trump and not, are Americans, too.
Which brings me to my final question, and it is not meant to be rhetorical or snide. What is the GOP willing to do if tomorrow brings them defeat? Any Republicans out there, from McConnell and Ryan on down, willing to stand up and say that as of January 20, they would really and truly treat Hillary Clinton as their next president?