Sorry for the misleading title: there’s no place.
Then again, despair is not the answer. Despair would simply continue the spiral that has led us to this point. It has already overtaken Great Britain since their vote to withdraw from the European Union, and a great many Brexit supporters are ashamed of the shadow their country now casts—a racist and xenophobic nation fearful of having its purity sullied by foreigners. Not only was this was not England, but seventy-five years earlier, the selfsame England was fighting a malevolent dictator who advocated his own brand of racism and xenophobia, and at the end of whose reign 70 million people were dead.
But that’s what nationalism looks like in 2016—an exclusionary and limiting method of governing that relies on ill-conceived patriotism and a misunderstanding of what it means to be a citizen of the world. That’s where we are, and it’s ours to confront, not run from.
People who are threatening to move to Canada aren’t going to do that in any great numbers, mainly because at heart we still believe in the principles that constitute America. Not just the Constitution—that’s not what we think about every day—it’s the intangibles, the ethos that changes and alters over time but remains distinctive: we recognize diversity, we watch out for each other, we work to make things better, we share what we have and play by the rules even when we don’t like or understand them. There’s a common good, and even if we can’t define it, we feel it. It tells us not to randomly grab at women’s crotches, or belittle soldiers who have died for their country, or ridicule the physically challenged, or restrict minorities’ right to vote. If you want to call it patriotism, then it’s one that doesn’t rely on waving a flag or singing the Anthem or harking back to some imagined good ol’ days when women knew their place, immigrants brought disease, and minorities accepted their lot in life. Instead patriotism should rely on how we treat other citizens.
That’s why Donald Trump cannot win. Even if he earns more votes and sits in the Oval Office, he will never impose his will on this country. Not only that, but his fall will be rapid. The good people who support him because he will “shake things up” will also be the first to concede their error and turn against him, but even the most deplorable of the deplorables will balk after a while and begin to wonder if a world of lewdness and cruelty and fear was what they really signed up for. Even they—as much as they were able to countenance his disrespect for anyone different—will come to realize that fraying the social fabric creates dangers and consequences more dire than political correctness ever did. In truth they won’t have to turn against him: these are the people that Trump himself will dismiss out of hand. Anyone as superficial as Donald Trump, who thrives on his connections to the rich and powerful, will never accept the uneducated masses: they have nothing to offer. His disdain will be obvious and even his most rabid supporters will realize it.
Give him credit, though. Like all demagogues, he has created a reality and then defended it with lies. He claimed America is no longer great, then created a country that doesn’t exist where people lack jobs, where all Blacks live in dangerous ghettos and are routinely shot, where Muslims come to blow up buildings, where Mexicans enter to rape and deal drugs, and where women make up lies about lecherous men. It’s not Germany in the thirties and it’s not the Jews. But the similarities are frightening and unavoidable.
So go ahead and be tense today. Agonize over the possibilities. Tomorrow cast a vote against him. And afterwards, if the worst does occur, we can all work to ensure the fact that his “victory” is a hollow one by simply adhering to and insisting upon the policies that have defined America’s greatness, the policies that not even a pathological liar can deny for long. Donald Trump can never be the president of any United States that we know, no matter what position he holds next January.