Columnist John Sheirer: Not this time

  • President Donald Trump talks to reporters at the White House, Friday, Nov. 22, in Washington. AP

Published: 12/9/2019 9:38:47 AM

I chased down the long rebound at the top of the key and faced the basket. Chris, the best player in the gym, took up his defensive position. I faked right and dribbled left, creating just enough space to rise up with a left-handed floater. The ball inched above Chris’s block attempt, kissed high off the backboard and slipped through the net.

Game point. Chris turned to me and said, “Nice shot!”

That was more than a decade ago, just before age and injuries forced me to quit pick-up basketball. You probably don’t remember my big retirement ceremony on ESPN because there wasn’t one.

I saw Chris at the gym the other day. He doesn’t play any longer either, but that’s a bigger loss than my retirement. Chris was on another level. I spent most games chasing him while he mixed deep jumpers with driving layups. He got the better of me about 90 percent of the time. That game-winning floater was the best of my treasured 10 percent.

We chatted briefly on the way to the exercise bikes and rowing machines. It turns out that Chris enjoys my columns, which is always nice to hear.

“I wish I had your optimism,” he said. “I’m worried that we’re stuck with this guy for another term.”

I can’t blame Chris for thinking “this guy” might get reelected — even with an abysmal approval rating, pervasive incompetence and impeachable crimes. Trump defied the odds once, so it’s possible he could do it again.

As Chris and I talked, I counted off the crazy circumstances that aligned for Trump in 2016. He had the Electoral College, that outdated affirmative action program for less qualified Republican presidential candidates. But Trump’s state-by-state approval is currently underwater in the several swing states where he squeaked by in 2016. And he’s struggling in some red states that he needs for any chance at reelection.

What about the fake 2016 scandals like Hillary’s emails? Well, Trump’s getting impeached for trying to get Ukraine to fake-investigate Democrats, so he’s clearly trying to cheat again. But the 2020 nominee won’t be the target of three decades of conspiracies, as Hillary was. Will Russia hack and WikiLeaks dump? Probably, but that won’t fool as many gullible people as in 2016. The mainstream media covered every Trump lie as if it were legitimate back then. But now, CNN and others have discovered that fact-checking makes for excellent journalism and still generates ratings.

Will Bernie-or-Busters stay home, vote third party, or write in Bernie’s name? Possibly. But there seem to be fewer of them now, and some have probably learned the harsh lesson that not voting for the Democratic nominee is almost as bad as voting for Trump.

Will there be people in MAGA hats who say, “I don’t know much about Trump, but he seems like a successful businessman who can drain the swamp and help the little guy while behaving more presidential once he’s in office?” Sadly, more than a few. But not as many as in 2016. That level of ignorance is hard to maintain in the face of nonstop infantile behavior, pervasive dishonesty, tax breaks for the rich, mounting deficits and widespread corruption. “Fool me once,” as the saying goes.

Most important, will Americans be as apathetic as they were in 2016? Will anyone say, “I’m not going to bother voting because Trump as no chance”? That would be the dumbest move of all. We learned in 2016 that even when a candidate has a 90 percent chance to win, 10 percent can still happen.

Elections since 2016 certainly show that voters don’t want Trump or the Republicans who have hitched their broken wagons to his burned-out star. Despite gerrymandered districts and voter suppression efforts, Democrats have been winning in previously red areas throughout Trump’s term.

Most notably, the Democrat’s 2018 victory in the House paved the way for impeachment proceedings. Republicans in the Senate will probably thwart Trump’s expulsion, but the high crimes and misdemeanors will be on full display. Will a significant percentage of Americans vote for a criminal in 2020? Yes, absolutely. Will that percentage be enough for a second term? Realistically and optimistically, no.

“I hope you’re right,” Chris said. Me too.

It was time for Chris and I to start our respective low-impact workouts. I didn’t ask him, “Hey, remember when I hit the game-winning shot over you?” I’m sure he wouldn’t remember. When he relives his playing days, he probably remembers making better plays against players far better than I am.

I still recall his words, “Nice shot!” That was classy. He recognized that I beat him fair and square. He didn’t begrudge my 10 percent edging out his 90. He knew I didn’t cheat. I didn’t goad the mainstream media to scream in Chris’s face about Hillary’s server while he tried to guard me. Fox News didn’t set illegal screens, and Russia didn’t knee him in the groin.

Trump could still win in 2020, of course. If he earns it fair and square, we’ll keep fighting for the next elections, local, state, and federal. But Trump’s already trying to cheat again because that’s his only path to victory. We can’t let him get away with it this time.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His new book is, “Too Wild: Flash Fiction.” Find him at JohnSheirer.com.


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