Skip to main content

Just for a few seconds, set aside your disagreements with Hillary Clinton when it comes to policy, or her 2016 campaign strategy, or whether you simply don't like her as a person. There ought to be one thing most Americans can agree about, and it's the fact -- and I do mean fact -- that Hillary is an exceptional American. It doesn't require you to actually like or support Hillary to understand that her achievements, her aptitude for knowledge and her personal discipline are lightyears above those of average Americans.

While watching her appearance and hour-long interview on The Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night, I couldn't stop thinking that whomever decided it'd be a good idea to champion politicians who are "just like us" should be memorialized in infamy as the destroyer of presidential exceptionalism. (Maybe it was Karl Rove or Lee Atwater. It's difficult to pinpoint a single perpetrator.)

The ultimately irony being that the same folks who think America is exceptional would rather not have exceptional presidents. 

Why? Trump is just like his voters, apparently, and therefore, he's... what exactly? Relatable? Folksy? I'm not sure how "relatable" and "folksy" will solve healthcare or assuage tensions overseas, but that's what they keep saying about Trump. They also say he'll hire experienced advisers to handle the tough stuff. So, how's that working out so far? At this point, the women and men who surround Trump are merely there to babysit the president, making sure he doesn't lean on the nuclear button while trying to find the TV remote in the Oval Office couch cushions.

(Video via Mark Sherman)

Conversely, 62 million Trump voters ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and jettisoned us into an alternate timeline in which Spock has a goatee and Trump is president instead of Hillary or some other qualified -- and exceptional -- candidate. Hell, even though I didn't like Mitt Romney and didn't vote for him, he was an exceptional man. Obviously Barack Obama was one of the most exceptional men to hold the office, too, with personal discipline and thoughtfulness that far exceeds even the best and brightest among us. George H.W. Bush was an exceptional figure as well. 

But we've inexplicably traded candidates like these for shrieking dolts and proud morons like Donald Trump. Looking back, it's clear that Trumpers voted the way they did because they thought Trump spoke for them -- that he'd disrupt Washington and somehow miraculously solve all the things. 

They obviously didn't think it through. During Hillary's appearance on Maddow, they cued up some B-roll of a Trump rally crowd from the 2016 campaign and I couldn't stop thinking, Look at all the easily misled stupids. They mistakenly believed the presidency is something we can experiment with. If the system isn't working very well, especially for (cough) white people, they figured: why not roll the dice with a man who thinks it's acceptable to molest women's genitals without permission or to "lock up" his political opponents or to refuse to pay his subcontractors merely because he's a raging dick who uses dominance and intimidation in lieu of smartness and erudition?

Trumpers aren't educated enough to realize that domestic policy is deeply nuanced. Political negotiations are that way, too. And international diplomacy is considerably more treacherous than Trump supporters seem to think, knowing they chose Trump to be our chief diplomat. The very nature of communicating with different cultures with different languages and norms is an extremely delicate proposition requiring presidents who, you know, study and who have a respect for cultural differences -- at the very least. One word improperly translated or misunderstood could precipitate a shooting war, and the fact that it hasn't happened yet has nothing to do with Trump's skill as a leader. He's just gotten very, very lucky, and so have we. The fact that no one's declared war on us due to Trump's ineptitude is kind of a miracle, but it's a miracle that can't possibly sustain for a full four years. Just wait.

Electing presidents who are fun over some beers at the bar probably aren't savvy enough or studied enough to understand the nuances of the office, nuances that extend deeper than the splendor of the literal Oval Office itself. Besides, presidents should be too busy for beers because they're thinking about how to be more effective leaders. Trump thinks being the occupant of the office is nifty because he has a child's perspective -- a movie-goers simplistic impression of the presidency. 

Voting for nincompoops like Trump over exceptional leaders like Hillary is like being diagnosed by a physician at Johns Hopkins and instead, after disagreeing with the prognosis, choosing to be treated by a gaggle of clowns with balloon animals at the local party supply store. Maybe this will stir up some changes in the healthcare system!

If there's one thing We The People, from either side of the aisle, should accomplish between now and 2018 and 2020, besides resolving to vote, is to re-familiarize ourselves with the kind of true exceptionalism that should be item number one on the list of qualifications for anyone running for national office. And bear in mind that "eccentric" is different than "exceptional." We need to ignore the eccentrics and gravitate to the supremely excellent candidates again, then coerce everyone we know to do the same. We still have a chance to navigate this vessel of state back to the proper historical timeline, leaving the Trump experiment in the past as nothing more than a cautionary tale.