Anika Hazlewood can hardly sleep. The 40-year-old personal trainer has seen all the polls dissecting this year’s wild and unprecedented presidential election between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. A New Yorker of 15 years, Hazlewood is a proud supporter of Clinton and a self-described political junkie who likes to stay on top of the daily goings-on of arguably the most polarizing presidential match-up since 1828, when incumbent and earnest abolitionist John Quincy Adams squared off against war hero and two-fisted slave owner Andrew Jackson.
That election, deemed the dirtiest of them all—Team Jackson brazenly labeled Adams a pimp who set up sexual escapades for a czar during his time as American ambassador of Russia. Adams’ backers accused Jackson’s wife Rachel of bigamy…fun times—didn’t have the intense 24-cable TV saturation of FOX News, CNN or MSNBC. And it certainly didn’t play out under the filter of a seemingly endless barrage of social media hysteria on Twitter and Facebook.
And, most importantly, Adams and Jackson’s matchup didn’t have Donald Trump, an over-the-top billionaire who has been lambasted by both the Left and the Right for what many deem as his demonization of Latinos, African-Americans and Muslims; his misogynistic and at times disturbing treatment of women; and an overall blatant dismissal of the conventions of normal political discourse.
“On a visceral level, my heart rate is accelerated right now just thinking about Trump winning,” says a nervous Hazlewood, who like millions of Americans is on edge concerning the outcome of today’s Nov. 8 showdown. Hazlewood’s surreal unease is backed up by Nate Silver’s go-to opinion poll analysis site FiveThirtyEight, which currently has Clinton up by three points against Trump (45 to 42 percent). The numbers-crunching guru and his team currently give Clinton a 72 percent chance of winning while her bombastic opponent comes in at 28.4 percent. To put those numbers in perspective, it was just last week that Sliver’s polls-only forecast gave Hillary Clinton a whopping 85 percent chance of winning.
Real Clear Politics’ poll average also projects a tenuous lead for Clinton at 47 to Trump’s 44 percent. Other outlets, such as the ABC/Washington Post tracking poll, which has the Democratic challenger ahead of Trump by a more robust five points (48-43 percent), are bullish on the candidate vying to become the first woman president of the United States.
The reality of such a close race has Hazlewood in a pensive mood. She supports her views on pay equity, health and criminal justice reform and climate change. She glowingly praises Clinton as the most qualified presidential candidate in modern history and wholeheartedly trust her vision of a more inclusive America. Yet Hazlewood is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
“Lots of people have been researching what to do if he’s elected,” she says, soaking in the nightmare scenario of a Trump win. “I have some family right outside Montreal in Canada, but what my cousins are telling me is you can run here, but U.S. policies affect the globe. The thought of him with the nuclear codes is frightening. A Trump presidency makes this entire world an unsafe place.”
Historically speaking, presidential races tend to tighten up the closer we get to the big election day. In 2012, for example, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had the race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney by just one point (48-47), with just days to go. But somehow this 2016 election, the most polarizing and scandal-rich (both over-inflated and legit) in recent memory, feels quite different.
“The electoral map is actually less solid for Clinton than it was for Obama four years ago,” Silver said during a Sunday, Nov. 6 appearance on ABC’s The Week. “Clinton has about 270, so she’s one state away from losing the Electoral College. You would rather be in her shoes than Donald Trump, but she’s not in a terribly safe position.”
Yes, Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine holds a lead in the majority of the polls over Trump and Mike Pence. But as the all-important battleground states continue to tighten—the two candidates are in a margin of error dogfight in momentum-changing regions like Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Nevada—the shocking ascendance of Trump is getting too close for comfort for many voters.
Whether he wins or loses this election, one thing is for certain: We are now living in a Post-Trump Land.
In this brave new world, you can threaten to jail your opponent (LOCK HER UP!!!) if elected president. Trump, apparently applying for the position of a dictator in a banana republic, has gleefully painted his left-leaning counterpart as “Crooked Hillary,” the ultimate conduit of political corruption. The much welcomed headline that the FBI had found nothing new that would warrant a re-investigation into the former Secretary of State’s careless handling of classified emails offered only respite for the Clinton campaign and her followers.
“It’s a rigged system…Hillary is protected,” Trump said during a stump speech in Michigan Sunday night. Even though embattled FBI head James Comey cleared the Democratic nominee of any serious legal breaches, the damage from renegade leaks targeting Clinton has already been done.
Cue liberal freak-out.
“I have gone through a range of emotions since last year,” says Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, CEO and founder of WEEN (The Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network). Butterfield-Jones served as the deputy director of Public Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009-2011. She has seen her fair share of political anomalies, but nothing like Donald Trump.
“I’ve experienced everything from shock, disbelief to really being angry and disappointed in us as a country for allowing someone like Trump to become the nominee of a party that has a shot,” she continues. “Donald Trump could actually become our president and it is absolutely disgusting.”
Indeed, fear of Trump presidency has galvanized Clinton’s progressive coalition as a diverse range of surrogates have come out to stump enthusiastically for the Democratic candidate. From President and First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former Democratic primary adversary Bernie Sanders and husband and former president Bill Clinton to Beyoncé and Jay Z, Pusha T, LeBron James, Katie Perry and Bruce Springsteen, Clinton will need every last bit of help.
“I’m voting for her,” says another Clinton supporter, a Haitian-American, Brooklyn, New York native who has asked to remain anonymous. She says a lot of her loved ones still have a bad taste in their mouth from the Clinton Foundation’s poor accounting of relief money that failed to make it to the devastated island nation following a mammoth 2010 earthquake that killed 200,000 people and left 1.5 million without a home.
“Haitians would kill me for admitting my support for her,” she says. “I have reservations because of her dealings and mishandling of Haiti’s funds and relief efforts. But at the same time I’m proud of [Clinton becoming the first woman president]. And thirdly, look who she is up against.”
The GOP’s patron saint Ronald Reagan certainly would have never imagined in his wildest dreams Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. His head would spin at the thought of any Conservative candidate extolling the virtues of a hostile Russian dictator (Vladimir Putin) accused by America’s intelligence community of orchestrating the hacking of a Democratic opponent (Clinton) during an election.
Since Trump made his memorable escalator descent on June 16, 2015 inside his self-aggrandizing, NYC monument Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States, American politics has been forever turned on its head. And all it took was a perfect storm of weak GOP presidential opponents, Congressional dysfunction across the aisle, a massive partisan divide driven by the Republican Party’s ongoing demonization of big government and the blatant obstruction and de-legitimization of the Obama administration.
In Trump Land, a serious presidential candidate can get away with not releasing his or her taxes. That tradition goes as far back as when future president Franklin D. Roosevelt disclosed his 1913 tax returns. An emboldened Trump has yet to even blink.
“But I think what’s more troublesome to me is the loss of $1 billion from a guy who claims to be such a brilliant businessman,” says the Rev. Al Sharpton. The veteran civil rights activist, founder and President of the New York based National Action Network and the host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation is still amazed that Trump has made it this far. “And for him to run for President where his only background has been as a businessman, this I believe does serious damage to the entire premise of his race,” reasons the Rev.
However, in Trump Land, such self-inflicted blows matter little. Indeed, in this surreal, up-is-down new reality, a New York tabloid-dominating, womanizing real estate tycoon turned gregarious reality-TV star turned presidential candidate can survive lighting the fuse to one of the most explosive issues of this pivotal election: illegal immigration.
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Trump infamously charged of Mexico during his opening speech, which will forever go down in political science lore. Such a widely rebuked characterization of an entire Latin American country (Trump was instantly branded, at best, a buffoonish nationalist for his big solution of ordering Mexico to build a wall and, at worst, a full blown racist) would usually be grounds for instant disqualification in any mainstream political election. So would Trump’s calling for a ban on all Muslims from entering the United States, a frightening stance that he and his team have since amended to stopping the flow of refugees from terrorist-plagued nations.
But as the media laughed off any notion of a Trump presidency, unwittingly (and wittingly) aiding the candidate by featuring uninterrupted, wall-to-wall TV coverage of his bombastic speeches and Jerry Springer-like rallies, the 70-year-old responded by delivering a devastating punchline. Donald Trump, the orange-skinned, Cheetos-fingered joke; the classless, fact-check destroying; tasteless moneyman and former Miss Universe pageant owner vanquished his dazed and confused Republican primary competition.
And he did so with the savage, relentless skill and killer instinct of a Patrice O’Neal gig without the wit. Trump hijacked the Republican Party by winning the hearts and minds of its angry, disillusioned, throw-the-bums-out base who had as much contempt for GOP elites as they did for the Democratic Party. For them, Trump’s message was emphatic and clear: do not put your trust in any U.S. institution.
“Trump’s supporters believe that the scandals surrounding him are all entirely made up,” says John Hudak, Brookings Institute Senior Fellow and author of Marijuana: A Short History (Brookings Institution Press). Hudak, whose work focuses on the science behind elections and campaigns, points to an avalanche of serious allegations that would have completely sunk any other presidential contender in American political history.
A string of alleged sexual assault accusations; the bombshell “Grab ‘em by the p***y” leaked tape from a 2005 Access Hollywood appearance; the blatant dismissal of an Mexican-American federal judge because of his Hispanic heritage; his unhinged verbal attacks on the parents of a slain Muslim American soldier; Trump University. Teflon Don’s followers contend that the Hillary-shielding media is not only out to destroy their politically-incorrect leader, but to protect the status quo, which has its foot on the neck of the working class.
“I don’t think Trump supporters are going to change their minds based on any allegations,” continues Hudak. “But to the rest of the country they have been alarming. They are the type of allegations that you really don’t want levied at a person you want to be president. So all of this is only going to reinforce what you think you know about Donald Trump.”
Indeed, when you talk to Trump followers, it’s obvious they could care less. They have completely taken in the intoxicating, powerful message that the entire system, whether political or economic, is rigged. They see an America under siege by terrible job-destroying trade deals, illegal immigration, disastrous Middle Eastern foreign policies and lawlessness in urban cities.
“I’m a veteran who served two tours in Iraq and fought for a country that was not this divided by political correctness 10 years ago,” says Trump voter Angelo John Gage of Brick Township, New Jersey. “Trump is the only person I think that can unite us all and fight against the establishment and the politically correct narrative which have both been destroying America.”
The disabled vet is fearful of a Clinton presidency and believes that if it weren’t for the constant drip-drip hacked email revelations by WikiLeaks, FOX News and leading controversial alternative right site Breibart, the truth about the democratic candidate would be buried by the mainstream media.
“Hillary cannot be trusted whatsoever and she is part of the very establishment that has been destroying this country,” a fired up Gage testifies. “Her donors are foreign countries, special interests and big banks. She will put their interests first. Trump, on the other hand, is an outsider who is not part of the establishment, cannot be bought, wants to end their tyranny and will put the American people first.”
Long Beach, California native Kelly Ann, also an armed forces veteran, originally voted for Ted Cruz in the Republican primary, but is now fully behind Trump. She is not at all turned off by a candidate who has significantly lost support of college educated and some suburban Republican women (Clinton is way ahead of Trump 53 percent to 38 percent in the last NBC/WSJ poll) after referring to females on various occasions as bimbos, pigs and dogs.
The married teacher is dismayed by the apprehension of some high profile establishment conservatives to embrace the GOP nominee. Like most Trump supporters, she blames House Speaker Paul Ryan’s slow walk into backing the Republican candidate for some of the party’s dysfunction.
“[I’m] not happy with the civil war currently being waged within the GOP,” Ann says. “Speaker Ryan is a disgrace. I think that the GOP should shut their mouths, hold their noses if necessary and start marching in time. If HRC wins the Oval Office, we’re done as a Constitution, as a republic and as a nation.”
Voters like Gage and Kelly Ann dismiss any notion that they fit the “deplorable” Trump voter stereotype of an angry, xenophobic, low information, white racist. They insist they are more concerned with what they see as a stagnant economy, sinking job wages and poor border security.
“Crooked Hillary [uses] her positions of power to enrich herself and engage in pay-for-play politics as she is part for the establishment, says Gage. “I believe Trump has our country’s best interests: taking a logical stance on immigration to end the drug-dealers, terrorists and lawbreakers from flooding into our country.“
He then offers a more eyebrow-raising, provocative view that has become a common talking point amongst the Trump faithful. “Trump doesn’t use race-baiting, divisive rhetoric and has found a way to unite all our people under the flag through inspiration,” he adds. “Compare that to Hillary who does use such rhetoric trying to keep minorities on the Democratic plantation and using them for votes. I do not believe for a second she actually cares about any American, let alone any minorities.”
Which is why Jamelle Bouie, Chief Political Correspondent at Slate, has never bought into the economically disgruntled white working class narrative of the Trump voter. “If Trump really was this populist candidate for the working class, you’d expect to see more than just white people coming to his events,” he counters. “There are black and Latino working class conservative Americans out there. But when you start talking to the Trump voters, they go on about immigration and how they are upset about Black Lives Matter more than their economic situation. They are talking about cultural and racial issues.”
Bouie also points out that Trump’s popularity with Republican voters skyrocketed after he became the leading voice of the racist Birther Movement. “Trump didn’t become popular by talking about trade,” he says. “He became popular by calling Obama a Muslim and questioning his birth certificate.”
However, in Trump Land the natural order of politics is often blurred. While it’s true that his support amongst whites dwarfs Clinton—53 percent to 38 percent, according to NBC/WSJ—Hudak says the wildcard’s lack of traditional right-wing ideology complicates things. In Trump’s alternative universe, a Republican can be firmly against free trade and overseas U.S. military intervention, both previously associated with GOP doctrine.
“The Trump coalition is not as easy to pigeonhole as people think,” says Hudak. “People believe that most Trump voters are working class or middle class or that they are under educated or that they are all racists. The reality is while there are certain elements of his coalition that are all of those things, his coalition includes wealthy people, some women, and even some minorities, all small percentages.”
One of those minority voters is Brunnel Donald-Kyei. The African-American Chicago-based lawyer, who twice pulled the lever for Obama, is the Vice-Chair of Diversity Outreach at the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. When asked how she could bring herself to support a man who many critics charge has shown racist disdain for America’s first black president, Donald-Kyei was unmoved.
“Donald Trump helped fund Rainbow Coalition with Jesse Jackson and the Black Caucus when it was unpopular to do so,” she says, pushing back at the criticism that the GOP candidate continues to label all black neighborhoods as violence-plagued, ghetto wastelands.
“The eight years during the Obama administration people in Chicago waited on life support for new schools, better economic opportunities, safer neighborhoods and putting economic investment into our communities that never came,” she says. “Trump is talking about bringing back jobs; he’s talking about being tough on immigration and crime. I think that Donald Trump has the right to talk to those black people that did not see those changes.”
Of course, being a black Trump supporter means living on a deserted island alongside the side-eye inducing likes of Omarosa, Diamond and Silk, Ben Carson, Sheriff David David Clarke and pastor Darrell Scott. It’s a heavy burden of which you are required to explain your support for a man who re-tweeted a racist, white supremacist-backed meme last November that claimed that black people were responsible for 81 percent of white homicides.
“How is Trump a better candidate for minorities when his only alternative has been stop and frisk?” Sharpton bristles at the notion of the billionaire’s minority outreach. “I’ve been a household name in New York as long as Trump. The only race-related situation that I can recall in 30 years that Donald Trump weighed in on is when he spent tens of thousands of dollars buying ads to call for the execution of the Central Park Five.”
Sharpton is referring to the group of African-American teens who were falsely accused and convicted of raping and beating a white female jogger in Central Park in 1989. Years later, they were exonerated and won a $40 million lawsuit against the city. “Even after some of them had done time in jail for 15 years and were cleared by DNA evidence, Trump never apologized,” Sharpton adds.
Donald-Kyei has no such concerns. “Trump misspeaking is small in the big scheme of things when you are talking about Hillary Clinton,” she fires back. “She destroyed emails that were under a federal investigation. We have Americans who died in Benghazi because of Hillary’s negligence. We are talking about the scandals surrounding the Clinton Foundation. We have to vote the person that says America first.”
But Donald-Kyei’s well-worn Benghazi and email talking points are quaint compared to the wild stuff coming out of Trump Land. Before he officially jumped into the presidential ring, talk of Jewish-controlled, global banking cartels, rigged political elections and a new world order were reserved for fake news sites and extreme right-wing and white supremacist message boards.
Now it is impossible to tell where the truly bonkers conspiracy theories begin and where they end. Much of the credit (or blame) should go to Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon and executive chairman of Breitbart News and Trump confidant Roger Stone, whose fingerprints are all over the Republican presidential candidates’ final ad. Titled “Donald Trump’s Argument of America,” the last minute appeal showcases the candidate as a heroic, populist, outsider fighting for the little people. But it dips its feet in some troubling, dark waters.
“It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities,” Trump says in the clip, before several prominent American Jews (Fed Chair Janet Yellen, billionaire and Democratic supporter George Soros and chairman of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein) flash across the screen.
The ad, which traffics a belief espoused by many on the alt-right, was immediately deemed by the Anti-Defamation League and others as anti-semitic. But for those confident that Trump’s flurry of offensive cheap shots at seemingly every minority demographic breathing will ensure a humbling defeat hours from now, Pandora’s box has already been opened.
Trump Land, with or without its bullying, unapologetic King, is here to stay.
“The next presidential hopeful will begin to incorporate a softer version of Trump’s rhetoric and appeal,” imagines Jamelle Bouie. “They will double down on opposing immigration and criminal justice reform and insisting on absolute obedience for law enforcement. And they will be much more disciplined that Trump.”
Continues Bouie: “What Trump has revealed is that the Republican base isn’t primarily college educated whites anymore. It’s working class whites. Their attitude towards racial liberalism and immigration are much less favorable. Someone will successfully exploit that.”
It’s a Trump world, after all.