Gullixson: Don’t be too surprised if … Donald Trump wins

If you look at the numbers, it is a dead heat. And, worse, it's starting to feel a lot like the 2000 race.|

For a moment on Friday, I found myself standing in Santa Rosa Plaza mindlessly staring at boxes of holiday decorations and statuary of Clara, the Mouse King and other Nutcracker figures, still wrapped in plastic, looking much like many of us feel - nearly suffocated and ready for the holidays.

Over the past three months, The Press Democrat Editorial Board has interviewed more than 70 candidates and advocates for and against the 17 state ballot propositions and the 23 Sonoma County ballot measures. From this, we've written nearly 50 editorials, including recommendations in all eight city council races. (Our complete list of endorsements can be found on page B12 in Sunday's edition, and online here)

Given all those discussions and all that has been happening, here are a few “Don't be surprised if …” thoughts. Such as:

Don't be surprised if … Proposition 64 is closer than anticipated, at least locally. Remember that Proposition 19, a 2010 attempt at legalizing recreational use of cannabis, failed in Mendocino County (53 percent opposed), Humboldt County (54 percent opposed) and Trinity County (60 percent). They form the Emerald Triangle, the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States, an area that is doing just fine without all those rules and taxes - and competition.

Don't be surprised if … nobody ever wants to run for the Santa Rosa City Council again, given that total spending in this campaign - buoyed largely by developers and outside interests who seem determined to get anti-rent control candidates on the council - has broken all records and has reportedly surpassed $500,000 when independent expenditures are included. Keep in mind, this is for a job that pays less than $10,000 a year.

And don't be surprised if … one or more of the seven local tax measures fails. Non education-related revenue measures have had a sketchy success rate among local voters in recent years. For example, Measure A, a quarter-cent sales tax for county roads, lost by a nearly 2-1 margin last year, and of the six local funding measures on the ballot in 2014 (not including bond measures), only two were successful.

But here's the one that should be most concerning to us all.

Don't be surprised if … Trump wins.

I never thought I would be writing that. In fact, I promised my kids that this would not happen. I had too much faith in the voting public to believe this was a real possibility. But if you look at the numbers, it is a dead heat. And, worse, it's starting to feel a lot like the 2000 race.

Consider that just three weeks ago, following the disclosure of an “Access Hollywood” video showing Trump bragging about his potentially felonious conduct with women, Hillary Clinton's lead in the polls swelled to comfortable margins. Although Florida and Ohio remained battleground areas, polls showed key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado and even Nevada were suddenly either “lean Democratic” or “safe Democratic.” But all of that has flipped in about a week's time - for nothing other than a report that the FBI is looking into more emails. According to RealClearPolitics, those states are now back in play. Trump now has a strong lead in Ohio, and all-important Florida and North Carolina, once again, are a coin toss.

Meanwhile, a Fox News poll on Friday found Clinton holding only a two-point lead nationally, while a USC Dornsife/LA Times poll on Saturday reported a five-point lead for Trump.

And come next week, instead of studying hanging chads in Broward County, we could be debating recounts in Augusta, Maine. Why? Because although the state only has four Electoral College votes, it allocates two to the popular vote winner and then one each to the popular vote winner in each congressional district. And for the first time in state history, Maine voters appear poised to split those votes.

Given how close this race is, even one vote could be the tipping point in getting to the all-important 270 needed to win the White House.

But the bigger question is this. How did it get to this point?

Yes, Clinton showed poor judgment about the emails, as well as how she went about accepting donations for the Clinton Foundation. But there's no evidence that she did anything deliberate, such as giving sensitive information to the Russians. Trump is more suspicious on that front. When all is said and done, Trump has only two things in his favor - he is wealthy, and he is not Hillary Clinton.

Beyond that, there are only negatives to having him as commander-in-chief, risks far beyond his imprudent speech and itinerant hands.

It's not just that I wouldn't want Donald Trump in the White House. To be clear, I wouldn't want him in my house - certainly not alone with my wife or my 14-year-old daughter.

I can't say that about any other presidential candidate. Even Dick Nixon I would have had in for a highball, although I would have counted the silverware afterward.

So why the strong feelings about the Donald?

Because I know him. We've all known too many men like him, the kind who want to believe that all men think and act like he does no matter how profane his language or dehumanizing his suggestions and actions toward women. The kind who is unapologetic about his conduct and would browbeat, ridicule and potentially ruin those who have the courage to stand up to him. The kind who sees no limit to his mockery and fails to understand that those around him who snigger along in apparent support do so mostly out of fealty and fear. They are as obsequious as Trump is vain.

He is all that we don't want our sons to become. That's why.

I've seen too many guys like this in my lifetime, and I've been able to tell my kids that people like him never win. But one may be about to.

And I'm embarrassed to say that if he is elected, people like me - white, males, including college-educated ones - will largely be responsible.

All major newspapers across the nation have either endorsed Clinton or taken a strong stand against Trump. It's hard to find even a conservative columnist who hasn't done the same.

As the Washington Post has reported, French President François Hollande has said Trump “makes you want to retch.” Italian Prime Minister Matteo has criticized what he called Trump's “policy of fear” and has backed Clinton. And German foreign secretary Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned that a Trump presidency would lead to “many uncertainties” for relations between Europe and the U.S.

Still, we sail straight for these rocky shoals.

I get, as I noted in my last column, that we are in an age of emotion - where emotion prevails among all reason or even any attempt at reason. And Trump is the emotional choice. But he offers little more than the momentary gratification that comes from such things as punching our fist through a wall. In the end, we will wish we had showed restraint.

But by then, the damage will have been done.

We still have two more days. There's still time to be surprised, in a good way. But, for the first time, I'm not counting on it.

Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat. Email him at paul.

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