Making predictions can be a columnist’s curse.
I have tried to avoid the tricky practice since, in all likelihood, my crystal ball is as unreliable as your crystal ball.
Still, I can confidently predict that by the time Americans vote on November 3, the fingernails of countless progressives, liberals and other largely sane people will have been gnawed to their root because, despite US President Donald Trump’s current political predicament, one question dominates: How is it possible that he can still win?
These days, oodles of columns are being written by oodles of commentators on oodles of avowedly progressive and liberal websites insisting with varying degrees of sometimes forced sincerity that Trump is headed for a much deserved and persuasive defeat.
Invariably, many of these columns – like this one – end with a telling caveat: Yes, Trump is losing, but it is still early and things could change dramatically and, of course, for the worse. Hence, the compulsive nail-biting.
Clearly, the trauma of 2016 remains embedded in their injured psyches. With a few notable exceptions, countless progressives, liberals and other largely sane people shared an often-cocky conviction that Hillary Clinton would prevail. Poll after happy poll fed that happy consensus.
The other prevailing sentiment fuelling the near wholesale and ultimately naive belief that Clinton would indeed emerge as America’s first female president was best conveyed by the man she sought to succeed: Barack Obama.
Obama was convinced that Americans would reject “a fundamentally unserious person” whose “standards of ethics and tolerance” were “corrosive”. In the end, Obama had faith that the inherent decency and wisdom of Americans would win out and, as a result, Trump’s manifest ignorance, incompetence and indecency would be rejected.
Obama was wrong, and he was not alone. The pollsters were wrong. The cognoscenti were wrong. The Clintons were wrong.
Scores of rationales and theories have been proffered to explain why almost everyone was wrong. The predominant explanation, I suppose, was that a complacent Clinton and her allies failed to acknowledge or convincingly address the distemper of the times, while Trump captured the zeitgeist and seething antipathy towards governing elites and the status quo.
Whatever the cause or causes of Trump’s astonishing victory, the grim, lasting residue of his shocking, disorienting presence in the White House has translated into another persistent question that hangs over the coming presidential election like a black, foreboding shroud: Could Obama, the pollsters, the cognoscenti, the Clintons and now, the Bidens, be wrong again?
Sentient Americans and much of the sentient world has had to endure the thicket of depressing, unrelenting ugliness emanating from Trump’s mouth and what haltingly passes for a mind.