More than one observer has remarked that the tactics of the Trump campaign, which misses no opportunity to turn the truth upside down, have taken us to a crossroads. The tightening race indicates that millions of Americans are willing to overlook Trump's insults, misinformation, evasions, outright lies, exaggerations, and character assassination. What is referred to as the "normalizing" of Trump, the steady assimilation of new outrages day by day, is a strange phenomenon. It partly goes back to some positive characteristics that American democracy is known for, such as toleration of extreme views and a willingness to redeem outliers from "normal" society.
There are also some questionable American qualities at work, such as our history of ornery politics and a fascination with celebrity that permits bad characters to be given a pass simply because they are famous in the tabloids. Into this mix, however, must be added a troubling American trait, the passive willingness to let wrong turn into right. This trait has been steadily cultivated by the right wing going back at least as far as Nixon's Southern strategy, which told racists that they were acceptable to the GOP, a fact that still pertains. Ronald Reagan normalized the fringe values that Republican respectability had once rejected. In an effort to expand their white male base, successive Republican candidates welcomed in the religious right, gun nuts, conspiracy theorists, birthers, and the ultra-patriotic fringe with their xenophobic belief in "my country, right or wrong" and "love it or leave it."
It took Trump, however, to plunge us into a looking-glass war, where we are forced to see ourselves starkly and to take a stand. W. B. Yeats's warning from the early 20th century applies to our own times when he wrote, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Yeats faced the horrors of world war and rising totalitarianism, and we live in a different era. But Trumpism touts wrong as right with passionate intensity, while countless people who should see him for what he is lack all conviction to counter him.
The looking-glass war is a contest taking place in collective consciousness. According to a fact-based view of reality, the U.S. is not in imminent danger from terrorism on a mass scale; we are a prosperous, growing economy; our military strength far surpasses any other nation; immigrants are a positive force in our pluralistic society, not a gang of criminals and freeloaders. But facts aren't the same as consciousness, and the wrong-is-right strategy that the Republicans have fostered for decades is rising to claim what is due to it. Because they owe their political survival to the very values that Trumpism expresses in exaggerated form, few Republicans are safe enough, or courageous enough, to speak out against him, and the prospect that this grotesque caricature of a candidate may actually win the Presidency has actually had the opposite effect. It has made estranged Republicans "come home," as they say, which means the embrace of shameless, shameful values as if they are acceptable. Sadly, 95% of Trump supporters are eager to vote for him, as opposed to 80% of Hillary supporters.
Nothing I'm saying is news to anyone who has been paying attention to the campaign so far, and now we are in the hands of an electorate where convinced supporters of Trump and Clinton are not going to budge, leaving the final decision to "low information voters," as they are politely known. They are actually the politically indifferent, and if they cast a middle-finger vote in the same spirit as Brexit, the worst of American values will prevail. I'm not writing this to spread gloom, alarm, or fear. Collective consciousness holds up a mirror to the truth, and in the end there is no arguing against reality, wherever it takes us. My only point is to underline that all of us are reflected in the mirror as individuals. If anyone fails to stand up, stops speaking the truth, stays at home on Election Day, or votes out of spite and resentment against Clinton, the reflection that results from such feeble lack of conviction will be very dark. It will show each of us things about ourselves we don't have to see.
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com