Think of Trump as a Stress Test

4 min readNov 21, 2020
Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

The late Alan King said that all Jewish holidays are the same: “They tried to kill us. They failed. Let’s eat!” By that definition, this Thanksgiving will be a Jewish holiday for America. Trump tried to kill America, he failed, so let’s eat.

Buried in King’s one-liner is the familiar idea that what does not kill us makes us stronger. Trump, I believe, has made America stronger by trying to kill it. Who else could have brought out eighty million Americans to vote against him? I like Joe Biden, and he may be just the man for these times, but he did not attract the votes he got. He won because voters who did not come out for Hillary in 2016 came out against Trump in 2020. Those who stayed home in 2016 were no wiser than those who voted for Trump in that election. The former, however, are apparently more educable.

We can thank Trump’s 160-year shitstorm for stress-testing our democracy. How can we find out how strong we are if no one seeks to exploit our weaknesses? Did the Civil War teach us something, or didn’t it? Some of our institutions failed miserably— that’d be you, Republican Party — but others have held up well enough. We did not know what line needed to be crossed to wake the sleeping turn-out giant. Trump has shown us where that line is. With any luck, Mr. Biden will take us back to the other side of the line, where only the political junkies follow politics, and the rest of us can go back to worrying about hearth and home. But we learned a lot about ourselves this year, and, if we don’t fall apart, we will be better for it.

Until this week, I was repurposing in my mind the old joke about lawyers being used as lab subjects because there are some things a rat just won’t do. I had substituted Republican officials; I now see, however, that even some of them have their limits. GOP state legislative leaders, famous mostly for gerrymandering, apparently are not willing to usurp the voters’ right to choose Presidential electors. It’s not clear whether they believe such action would be rejected by their state courts or whether they just plain think it’s wrong, but they are not doing it, and for that we can be grateful. For showing us that they won’t do it, we can thank Mr. Trump. (I am still trying to figure out Georgia Sec. of State Raffensperger. He is clearly a man of integrity, but he wished that Trump, a man of no…