Thankfully, Biff Tannen will not be president
- Subtitle: Letter from Law Law Land
I'm going to boldly make a prediction (two weeks before the election in the United States) that Hillary Clinton will become the next U.S. president and that Donald Trump (who former prime minister Kim Campbell publicly called a "self-celebrating sexual predator") will not become groper-in-chief. Not only will Biff Tannen lose badly (so we won’t need to use a time machine to fix things), he will lose ignominiously because he'll claim that the election was rigged by “Crooked Hillary and the media” (as he’s already doing at the time of writing).
The night he loses, my bet is that he won't publicly accept the results and he won't give a concession speech like every unsuccessful presidential candidate before him in the last 100 years. If I’m right, it will mark a turning point in American democracy. If he doesn't accept the election results, some of his more outrageous supporters won’t either. And it won’t be pretty. (Lets hope I’m wrong, at least about that.)
Anyway, what I'd like to do here is presume Trump's defeat in advance and make a few observations about democracy, the rule of law and the importance of humour in elections.
1. The rule of law is a fragile thing. When Trump threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” Clinton for those 33,000 deleted emails (a trumped-up charge to say the least) and said that she should be in jail, people should have been outraged at something so diametrically opposed to the rule of law. Such words, if carried out, would have made the United States the equivalent of a tin-pot dictatorship where leaders imprison, torture or murder their political opponents. Working up his supporters at rallies with anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican and anti-Clinton rhetoric only stirred up the crazies and led to violence. He baited supporters at his rallies and, like pouring gasoline on a fire, encouraged them to chant "lock her up” (without a trial). When he obliquely suggested followers might exercise their “second amendment rights” to prevent Clinton from getting elected and appointing “lefty judges,” this charlatan “dog whistled” assassination.
2. One of the losers in this election were the facts. Of course Trump said global warming was a fraud started by the Chinese. Of course he supported the war in Iraq. Of course he touched those women. Of course he cheated his contractors. Of course he didn't pay income tax for 18 years. Of course his favourite book isn’t the Bible. Of course he spearheaded the “Birther” movement. One fact-check organization claimed 85 per cent of Trump’s factual claims were false, but only 25 per cent of Clinton’s facts were false. When people believe Alex Jones’ rants about Barack Obama and Clinton being demons who hate families, children, America and prosperity, or the propaganda espoused by Sean Hannity and Fox News, we are living in a world where verifiable facts don't matter anymore. Only opinions matter. It is and should be terrifying.
3. The other loser was civility and respect for individuals and institutions. Trump rarely referred to Clinton as Mrs. Clinton or Hillary. Instead, it was "Crooked Hillary" in virtually every tweet. Likewise, his disrespect for President Obama was palpable, together with his disrespect for other democratic institutions and principles (like the rule of law).
4. Character is fate. Casino Mussolini prided himself on being perceived as a powerful and wealthy business tycoon who was too smart to pay tax and too smart to pay his creditors yet smart enough to be president. Hubris was his worst enemy. Because of his wealth, power and celebrity, he felt he could grab the genitals of any woman he wanted to because he was a “star.” Clearly, the women who he once hit on didn't like it (but didn't raise it at the time because they didn't want the publicity or didn't want to be on the receiving end of a spurious defamation lawsuit, so they stayed silent until they could be silent no more). To quote that old Klingon proverb: “Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.”
5. For the life of me, I don't understand why many Americans dislike an ambitious, smart and experienced candidate like Clinton, unless it’s because they don't like an ambitious, smart and experienced woman. And these 33,000 emails? Good grief people, George W. Bush started a war on false pretences costing trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives and his administration engaged in state-sanctioned torture. The inability to see Clinton’s shopping list or what she thought of a political opponent is a contrived piffle. If you want to read the diabolical truth about her, read this piece in the Washington Post.
6. But perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of this year’s U.S. election has been humour. The right of free speech was well exercised by publications such as The New Yorker. My favourite? A Barry Blitt cover showing a portly Donald Trump in a beauty-contest bikini, walking down the Miss Universe catwalk with flowers, a Miss Congeniality banner across his/her chest and tears running down his/her cheeks. This was in response to Trump tormenting Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado for being, in his opinion, too fat and too Hispanic. It should hang in the Met. Although much in the humour department came from Bill Maher, Seth Meyers, John Oliver, Samantha Bee and other talk-show types, I’m wondering how many political science PhDs will be written on the effect of Alec Baldwin’s masterful Trump impersonation on Saturday Night Live and whether the faux debates changed any votes. It got to a point where art imitated life so well, it was hard to tell the real Trump from Baldwin’s SNL faux Trump. It was the sort of hilarious, edgy satire that might get Baldwin and Lorne Michaels arrested (or shot) in a country with no rule of law or freedom of speech. All Trump could say about it was: “Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!”
What might he have done had he been elected?
Tony Wilson is a franchise, licensing, and intellectual property lawyer at Boughton in Vancouver and an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University. He is a regular business law columnist with The Globe and Mail and other publications. He is also the author of Manage Your Online Reputation, a book written to guide individuals and businesses on how to monitor and protect their personal and corporate reputations on social media. The views expressed are strictly those of Tony Wilson and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members.
Column: Letter from Law Law Land