The One Thing You Really Need To Think About This July 4

On Monday, the United States will mark yet another annual tradition, undoubtedly the most red, white, and blue-drenched national holiday on the calendar. That's right, it's the 4th of July, Independence Day. And while there'll probably be plenty to fix your mind on if you're getting involved in any of the usual festivities, spare a few moments to consider this, too ― it's one thing you should think about this July 4, as the country creeps ever closer to yet another presidential election.

The long and the short of it is this: We're rapidly approaching a presidential election that represents a dramatic choice, even if it's less of a change election than some Democratic primary voters might have wanted ― you've got Hillary Clinton on the one hand, a time-tested party leader (and someone who's been effectively in the hunt for the presidency for more than a decade, and has clearly put in the work), and Donald J. Trump, an ill-tempered businessman who seized the GOP primary by bouncing from one dangerous, ill-informed and seemingly incongruous proposal to the next.

Basically, especially in the aftermath of the startling Brexit vote in the UK, Independence Day 2016 is as good a time as any to consider just how fragile our preconceived norms and comforts can be, and just how easily upheaval or regression can take hold if it's allowed to go unchallenged.

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Progressives loyal to the primary candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have pointedly highlighted any number of areas where a Clinton nomination might give someone pause ― her decision-making in international affairs (she both supported the Iraq war as a senator and spearheaded the Libyan intervention as Secretary of State), her thick ties to Wall Street and the American financial sector, her late come-around to same-sex marriage, and many others.

But none of that compares to the litany of inflammatory, bordering on absurdist proposals and attacks Trump has been flinging around since day one of his candidacy, proposals he's now seemingly trying to inch away from in the general. By now, you probably know the standard hits, but it's important to not lose sight of just how radical and potentially devastating this stuff would be in a president. Since launching his campaign in the summer of last year, Trump has said and done the following:

  • Broad-brushed Mexican immigrants as "criminals and rapists" during his presidential announcement speech.
  • Mocked Arizona senator and Vietnam veteran John McCain, who famously spent years of his life as a prisoner of war, for being captured.
  • Taunted a reporter who used to cover him (who he claimed not to remember) by crudely mimicking his physical disability. Which, needless to say, demonstrated that he remembered him plenty well.
  • Declined to denounce former KKK leader and leading American racist David Duke, until it became completely untenable not to.
  • Told Rolling Stone that Carly Fiorina was too ugly to be elected president ― "look at that face, would anyone vote for that?"
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  • Hand-waved away a question about his years-long history of sexist, boorish attacks as "political correctness."
  • Sat out a presidential debate to protest the involvement of Megyn Kelly, who he'd been complaining about for weeks for having the temerity to ask him a journalistic question about said history of sexist, boorish attacks.
  • Rehashed long-debunked, dangerous claims of a link between childhood vaccination and autism during a nationally televised president debate.
  • Insecurely bragged about the size of his penis during a nationally televised presidential debate.
  • Proposed executing the families of terrorists as a deterrent, which in addition to shredding American moral authority abroad (such as it currently is), would be a war crime.
  • Argued that women must be punished for having abortions (he later backtracked, but not on any lofty moral grounds, saying he'd been told that advocating for legal consequences against women was "an older-line answer").
  • Took a moment to acknowledge all the congratulations he'd received after the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
  • Implied that President Obama might be colluding or sympathizing with terrorists.
  • Repeatedly bragged about how he was self-funding his primary campaign, which was never wholly true. Now, he's done away with the pretense and is not self-funding his general election campaign, even though his own generous estimates of his personal wealth should allow him to easily do so.
  • Praised Vladimir Putin as a "strong leader."
  • Called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, "until we can figure out what the hell's going on."
  • Demonstrated no extemporaneous knowledge on virtually anything associated with the rigors of being president.
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OK, so that last one was more of an opinion. But all in all, that's quite a list, and it's not even as long as it could be. Beyond even just those grievances, too, there's the chilling sense he's given throughout his candidacy that he has no moorings, no intellectual bedrock. He just drifts to whatever's most comfortable ― not necessarily easiest, or most political advantageous, but whatever will make him feel good in a given moment. In every sense, whether politically or temperamentally, this guy's a nightmare.

And even though the polls suggest that he's not a real threat to win, polls aren't iron-clad ― so when you're mulling over America and it's place in the world this Monday, consider how much you can do over the next several months to help avoid this bleakest possible timeline.