Chekhov's gun is a narrative theory that insists if a firearm is revealed in an early scene it must go off later in the story. Real life is not storytelling, but the reality of this Presidential election sure feels like make believe.
We have an incurious, reality star-businessman with no history of public service as the Republican nominee for President of the United States - the most important job in the world. In some ways, it does resemble intentionally absurd fiction or film or drama, where hapless characters stumble their way into influence and power. Donald Trump's rise, though, exceeds the absurdity of anything found to date in narratives of any form. Despite his grotesque tower of disqualifications, he has survived to this point and has tens of millions of dedicated followers.
These devoted legions are identified predominantly as working-class white men. Most of them are pretty pissed off at an America that does not seem to want or need their contribution. They do not like where we're going as a culture nor as a country. They - in large part - built this nation, and their once respected legacy and current status is now marginalized as their opportunities for gainful employment fade. They are, in many ways, the forgotten America. Their anger is understandable.
Through raw pathos and unprecedented mendacity, Trump captured their support. He tapped their outrage by building straw men out of every imaginable threat: immigrants, Muslims, intellectual elites, business elites, the media, feckless Republicans, corrupt Democrats, and more. At the same time, he made a promise to "Make America Great Again" through impossible vows to tear up trade agreements, conjure jobs, build walls, ban faiths, imprison opponents, sue the media, torture enemies, and kick the crap out of ISIS.
The entire Trump campaign has been fiction all along. The polls suggest that most of America recognizes this, from the electorate to the media, to odds-makers and donors and operatives.
Trump's narcissistic personality disorder does not allow him to accept failure. He is spending the final weeks of his campaign not offering a closing argument for his election but as an opportunity to explain his potential loss. And his rational is predictably pathetic and fictitious: The system is "rigged." The only way he loses - according to Trump - is if a secret cabal of international bankers conspire with the Clinton camp to alter the election results and undermine American sovereignty.
This is where things get dangerous because the only ones who still truly believe in Trump and his rational for losing are his core supporters, and they are, in large part, heavily armed. They show their guns early and often. Personal arsenals are growing. Guns sales have surged throughout the campaign and robberies of gun shops and pawn shops are on the rise of late in places like the Carolinas. There is ample talk of anarchy, not just on the fringe-right websites but openly at Trump rallies. The faithful are being told that their messiah may be cheated; that after putting all of their hopes and dreams for a better life in Trump, they, too, may be cheated. That all those straw men (and their "nasty woman" of a leader) will win not through the American democratic process but through theft.
Violence is often a last cry from the desperate. And revolution can be justified by those who believe that they have been denied what is theirs. Trump's core supporters are likely in for a devastating election outcome. The kind of outcome that leaves one feeling tremendous loss, with very few options for dealing with the grief.
They have shown their guns; will they use them?
It's time for Mike Pence to renounce the talk of a rigged election in a formal address. While doing so, he needs to be flanked by Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell. Behind them should be every elected Republican member of Congress who considers themselves a proud and loyal American first and foremost. They can still support Trump; they can't support his talk of election fraud.
A large part of the American electorate has been grossly misled by the Republican candidate. It's the responsibility of the Republican party to save them, and our nation, from the kind of potential reaction which would mar our democracy, bring shame to our nation and blood to our streets.
We, as a nation, need to find a way to bring the working-class legions back to a reasonable and respectable place in our society. We need to find a way to spare them, and us, from the liar next time.