So, after two stinging US presidential debates in which Donald Trump sneered, lied and prowled, the just-about Republican nominee still retains his voting base. These are people who don't just want radical change, but a political earthquake of seismic, shocking magnitude that shakes the very foundations of a country, in the name of waking up Washington to its forgotten plight, and Donald Trump is their messiah, whatever his personal failings.
Increasingly it looks like this will not be enough to shoehorn him into the White House, now that Republican lawmakers have stared into the eyes of their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, female employees, bosses, shop assistants, dogs, cats and goldfish.
Over the past year Trump has effectively weaponised disaffected voters by digging up the roots of the undervalued, white, Christian-right males, and cultivated them into vengeful offshoots who relish his attacks on minorities. He appeals to Americans who refer to their fellow citizens as “the” African Americans, “the” Latinos and “the” Muslims in the same way that David Attenborough identifies different species of animals. They remain hitched to the Trump wagon car crash, gathering around the bully who, like the family drunk on Jerry Springer, reels between angry outbursts and quiet seething. Those voters who simply wanted to provide for their families have been rewarded with a monster.
Yet whatever the outcome of the presidential election in a few weeks' time, America will be left staring into a mirror whose image it doesn’t recognise, not because of globalisation’s continuing effects on wealth disparity, but because of the domestication of division inside its borders. It is hard to see how the aspiring, the multiethnic and progressives will ever find common and un-pitted ground, or indeed sympathy, with those who cheered at the taunts, the bashing, the threats and fear-mongering of anyone who doesn't look or sound like them. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, having won the popular vote and lost the election by a supreme court’s ruling in 2000, spoke afterwards of healing “the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we’ve just passed”. Today, this sounds like a line from Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”, circa 1920, when reconciliation was post World War II and still meant something.
Although protest politics rarely gains traction after victory, it festers in defeat. A post-Trump world is disquieting; conspiracy theories will formulate opinions and drive political conviction now that the goalposts of decency have been blown away, when hypocrisy dictates common sense and a lie is part of a belief-system. A nation’s intelligence has been infantilised and stupefied into speechlessness.
This is when Trump, the reality television star will come into his own. The man will not retreat into a corner and lick his wounds; win or lose, Terminator Trump will be back, either with a male menopausal news syndicate called "Trump News”, leaving Fox News blushing with modesty in comparison, or with Breitbart News broadcasting out of the White House headed by newly appointed national press secretary Stephen Bannon helping Putin get rid of NATO.
Because America's Achilles heel, an uneducated and blinkered heartland that will be suckered into believing anything, bodes well for Russia’s efforts to sow further doubt and mistrust into America’s vulnerable democracy. Trump might not know anything about Russia, as he contended in the second debate, but there is enough evidence to point to Vladimir Putin's efforts to interfere with America's presidential elections. This has proved an effective and winning tactic in a renewed conspiracy age and could play an even greater disruptive role when the presidential outcome is suspected of having been tampered with electronically by Democrats and Republicans alike, depending on whose candidate won.
For now, the only thing that is rigged are the minds of the undecided and of those still planning to vote for Trump. His unmitigated triumph has been to energise his name, at the expense of a country's future welfare and security, social civility and cohesion. To empathise with the angry frustration of voters has become a way to enable and perpetuate it, not repair it, when his fans are not informed enough to prove him wrong.
Trump’s apology for assaulting women was less an act of contrition and more a sign of regret that things are not going his way. The wounded pride that is his conscience will turn into mental mayhem with every new accusation of sexual misconduct that he denies. He has consistently hissed at Hillary Clinton’s evilness and publicly fantasised about the effects of getting rid of her security detail. She has signalled that if she wins she will spend the first hundred days on immigration reform. He has a bevy of derailed minds shouting for a Mexican wall and for her incarceration.
No doubt his stoking and goading will result in a fashionable new line of Trump designer gun holsters made of the finest feed-lot leather because, as he is fond of reminding us, this is a scary world, the American dream is shattered, and success is owning the tallest building in Manhattan after the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11