Breathe deeply, then go vote

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Eu­gene Robin­son

— Take a deep breath. Ex­hale. Re­peat, un­til the anx­i­ety at­tack passes. Then go vote, and soon our long na­tional night­mare will be over.

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey’s “Oc­to­ber sur­prise” de­ci­sion to cast last-minute shade over Hil­lary Clin­ton, based on emails he and his agents had not even read, was ap­pallingly un­fair. But there’s noth­ing to be done about that now — and no rea­son to be­lieve it will change the fun­da­men­tal shape of the race, which has been re­mark­ably con­sis­tent. Don­ald Trump re­mains on track to lose, and the ques­tion is by how much.

The only way he could pos­si­bly win is if Democrats and other “Never Trump” vot­ers stay home on Elec­tion Day out of com­pla­cency. Comey’s in­ter­ven­tion should have elim­i­nated that pos­si­bil­ity. Look what hap­pened Fri­day af­ter his let­ter about the emails was made pub­lic: The Dow Jones in­dus­trial av­er­age re­acted as if to a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, plung­ing about 150 points be­fore slowly re­cov­er­ing when it was learned that this latest twist grew out of the An­thony Weiner in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In other words, the thought that Trump might ac­tu­ally be elected touched off a mo­men­tary panic. Then the re­al­iza­tion that this re­mains quite un­likely coaxed in­vestors down from the ceil­ing.

Noth­ing con­cen­trates the mind like a glimpse into the abyss.

To state the ob­vi­ous, this is not a nor­mal elec­tion. Democrats have nom­i­nated the first wo­man to head a ma­jor-party ticket, a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure with vast ex­pe­ri­ence who has been on the na­tional stage for three decades. Repub­li­cans have nom­i­nated the worst can­di­date in mod­ern his­tory, a know-noth­ing nar­cis­sist who lies con­stantly, treats women like pos­ses­sions and ap­peals not to the bet­ter an­gels of our na­ture but to the worst big­otry and re­sent­ment. One can­di­date surely would be a com­pe­tent pres­i­dent, per­haps a very good one. The other would be an un­mit­i­gated dis­as­ter.

That has to be the bot­tom line: Who’s go­ing to be sit­ting in the Oval Of­fice, mak­ing the life-or-death de­ci­sions that come with be­ing the most pow­er­ful in­di­vid­ual on earth? Do you want a life­long pub­lic ser­vant with an en­cy­clo­pe­dic grasp of the is­sues, or a buf­foon guided only by his own prej­u­dices?

The fact that more than 40 per­cent of vot­ers will choose Trump any­way, re­gard­less of his many dis­qual­i­fy­ing faults, is de­press­ing but should not be de­feat­ing. Our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers will have the task of find­ing some way to knit the na­tion back to­gether. But the im­me­di­ate im­per­a­tive is keep­ing our fate out of Trump’s hands.

In that sense, this elec­tion has never re­ally been about Clin­ton, her his­tory, her hus­band or her emails. It has never even been about her many ex­cep­tional qual­i­ties or her le­gions of en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers, as ev­i­denced by the fact that she won nearly 16 mil­lion votes in the pri­maries — about 2.5 mil­lion more than Trump. Next Tues­day’s vote is pri­mar­ily about the fact that she stands be­tween us and the grave risk of a Trump pres­i­dency.

For­tu­nately, most vot­ers seem to un­der­stand. In the Real Clear Politics av­er­age of na­tional polls, since the two can­di­dates wrapped up their nom­i­na­tions Trump has held a lead over Clin­ton for all of two days — July 29 and 30, when Trump was en­joy­ing a boost fol­low­ing the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion. Since then, Clin­ton has held a clear lead — some­times big­ger, some­times smaller, but un­in­ter­rupted.

Like­wise, in the swing states that will de­cide the elec­tion, Trump has never shown signs in the polls of com­ing close to the kind of clean sweep he would need to win an elec­toral ma­jor­ity. Clin­ton could lose both Ohio and Florida — which have gone back and forth — and still win com­fort­ably. More­over, she has put tra­di­tion­ally Repub­li­can states such as Ari­zona, North Carolina and per­haps even Ge­or­gia into play.

The ideal out­come would be a Clin­ton land­slide in which the coun­try thor­oughly and un­am­bigu­ously re­jected Trump and all that he stands for. The un­for­tu­nate out­come of Comey’s an­nounce­ment may be to make this less likely. Be­fore Fri­day, Trump was flail­ing and his sup­port­ers were be­com­ing de­mor­al­ized as de­feat seemed cer­tain. Now Trump has a clos­ing ar­gu­ment and the crowds at his ral­lies can dream once more of stun­ning the po­lit­i­cal world.

But those who want to see Clin­ton win and those who want to see Trump lose also should be newly en­er­gized and mo­ti­vated. They have a clear ad­van­tage in sup­port. They have a vastly su­pe­rior get-out-the-vote op­er­a­tion. They have far more vi­able ways to as­sem­ble the nec­es­sary 270 elec­toral votes. So stop ob­sess­ing. Breathe. And vote. Eu­gene Robin­son is a syndicated colum­nist. Con­tact him at eu­gen­er­obin­son@wash­


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