Unwisely, I watched the debate yesterday evening, and I feel unclean as a consequence. Leave aside the presence of women who have accused Bill Clinton, a really classy move by Trump. Leave aside Trump's bizarre snuffling, which after the last debate led Howard Dean to speculate that he is snorting cocaine. Far and away the most important and chilling moment was Trump's threat to use the machinery of the legal system, were he elected, to put Clinton in jail. With that threat, Trump took us into the realm of banana republics and modern dictatorships. In any sane world, that single moment would once and for all time completely disqualify him for public office.
This election cycle has reminded us how fragile democratic institutions and practices are. Those of us who seek radical change must recognize that there are really only two routes to such change: electoral victory and violent revolution. In this country, considering which segment of the general public has the guns, violent revolution is not the avenue to progressive transformation. That means that we must hope for, and work for, a preservation of the institutions of political democracy.
I think last night should put paid to any left-wing fantasies that Donald J. Trump could be a vehicle for progressive change. Those of us on the left who do not like Clinton have no choice but to do what we can to ensure her election and then, without so much as a pause to catch our breath, turn to electing, at every level, the most progressive candidates we can find. If we cannot muster the votes to win city councils, state legislatures, and majorities in the House and Senate, then we have no hope of transforming American society.
I realize that working to elect a progressive to a seat on the local School Committee is a come-down from theorizing about world-historical revolution, but if you cannot be bothered, then you have no right to complain when Creationism is taught in your neighborhood schools.
Now I shall cleanse my mind by reviewing my notes for today's sixth lecture on the Critique of Pure Reason.