The Donald J. Trump Traveling Crazy Circus will finally crash and burn on Election Day, when millions of sane Americans head to the polls and pull the lever for Hillary Clinton. (This will happen regardless of what happens at the debate Wednesday night.) And once the election is called for the first woman to be elected president, millions of Americans will point and laugh at the empty suit reality-show millionaire and his delusional presidential folly.
Most will make the mistake of thinking that Donald J. Trump will act like most losing presidential candidates and disappear. Mitt Romney headed back to Utah, which is like going into a "whiteness" protection program; while Al Gore went so deep undercover that he grew a James Harden-like beard. But if you think the Donald is gonna spend the rest of his days playing Jenga with Melania, you’ve got another think coming.
The forces of racism, xenophobia, misogyny and religious intolerance that Trump unleashed over the past two years may not be enough to send him to the Oval Office, but a con man—excuse me, "businessman"—like Trump recognizes how much money can be had by playing to America’s worst instincts. So, folks, get ready for Donald J. Trump: The Ugliest American. And I have a feeling that the Ugliest American is gonna haunt Hillary Clinton from the day she takes office.
To be fair, it’s not as if Trump invented racism, xenophobia, misogyny and religious intolerance within the Republican Party.
The modern GOP has always had two different faces: One face stoked the white-hot flames on talk radio, where the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity types would tell uneducated, unwashed white masses that their problems were the result of all those other people: you know, n—gers, w—backs, f—gots, feminazis and anyone with an SAT score. But these "First-time caller, longtime listener" conversations were supposed to stay outside the mainstream public eye.
The other face was the seemingly respectable, sensible-sounding GOP elites, politicians like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, who nonetheless presented racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and religiously intolerant public policies, but did it in Brooks Brothers suits while wielding perfect Colgate smiles.
These elites talked about how they were guided by God to take away women’s rights to their own bodies, and every so often they would throw red meat to the talk-radio masses when they needed votes at the polls. In the polite GOP politician elites, voter-ID laws had nothing to do with restricting blacks and minorities from voting; it was about dealing with a nonexistent problem that just so happened to restrict blacks and minorities from voting.
However, here’s the thing: The dirty, unwashed masses didn’t like the polite policy conversations of the elites; they wanted their elites to give them their racism, xenophobia, misogyny and religious intolerance rough, rugged and raw, and they wanted it all the time.
To them, the elites were playing a phony three-card Monte con game, because everywhere they looked, those others were getting things like rights, and who said they could have those? So when a real con man got hold of the cards and he started saying things like, "Make America great again," it felt like … freedom. And these folks ain’t about to give up that freedom, especially when Trump has proved to be such a great figurehead.
And now, to the consternation of the elites, the unwashed masses have taken over the Republican Party.
So there’s a danger that the Hillary Clinton presidency, which should focus on the problems of income inequality and police violence against the black community, will instead be consumed with fighting the GOP, now controlled by the extreme right.
This newfangled extreme right, now called the alt-right, is a racist movement. One of its better-known representatives is Steve Bannon, the Trump campaign’s CEO. Bannon, the former fiery editor of the oft racist and anti-Semitic Breitbart website, helps foster the alt-right, which is a younger, more social-media-aggressive, extreme-right demographic than your dad’s Ku Klux Klan.
Racist and misogynist performance artist Milo Yiannopoulos is one of its generals, while regular soldiers use 21st-century social media anonymity to intimidate people like Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones. Typically, even in the worst political circumstance, the alt-right would be relegated to the political backwaters, but by attaching itself to Trump, like a virus attaching itself to a weakened host, the alt-right now has power, and it will use that power to turn our democratic politics on their head.
If past is prologue, then just as President Barack Obama was greeted not with "hope and change" but with “Show me your birth certificate, n—ger!” by an America not ready for a black president, I’m sure that we’re going to enter a world where the United States will temporarily feel the psychological euphoria of having a woman smash the glass ceiling. But the shards of that glass will be used by the alt-right, and those who feel they can gain political power by associating themselves with these extremists, to cut minorities, women and the LGBTQ community to the core.
After being rejected at the ballot box, these uneducated white masses will fall prey to every conspiracy theory, every grievance that can be turned into a sound bite. And my fear is that some will think that waiting for the ballot box is old-fashioned, and that perhaps the talk of needing a Second Amendment "remedy" is more effective.
And where will Donald Trump be? His narcissism and ego would require him to find the heat of the spotlight even without the alt-right; but now that he’s co-opted by it, he’ll do what he always does: He’ll monetize it. There will be a Trump Network of some sort, and it will feature Donald J. Trump spewing the same bile that he did during the campaign, except now he’ll get money for every eyeball. And the anger he stokes will need to be directed somewhere. Hopefully, that somewhere won’t be toward us others
Make sure you protect your vote in this critical election for America. Learn more about how to register and protect your vote here.
Lawrence Ross is the author of the Los Angeles Times best-seller The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. His newest book, Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses, is a blunt and frank look at the historical and contemporary issue of campus racism on predominantly white college campuses. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.