Surrealism And The Death Of The Republic
I’ve voted in eight national elections since 1984. To my recollection, exactly two of them – 1992 and 2008 – had somewhat cursory brushes with actual issues (the deficit in ’92; how to pick up the pieces W tossed all over the floor in ’08). By and large, our Presidential campaigns are little more than . . . what?
In the aftermath of the ridiculous 1988 campaign, in which then-VP George H. W. Bush promised to defeat the ACLU and make sure Willie Horton didn’t rape anyone else, political journalists Jules Witcover and Jack Germond wrote what may well be one of the best books on American politics, ever. Entitled Whose Broad Stripes And Bright Stars, the subtitle – The Trivial Pursuit Of The Presidency – captured the totality of that year’s Presidential campaign. Whether it was “Read My Lips” or whether or not Michael Dukakis would want to kill the man who raped and murdered his wife (I do so hope Bernard Shaw spends quite a bit of time in purgatory being asked this question over and over and over . . .); whether being a card-carrying member of the ACLU was a sign of being unAmerican or how one looked in a photo-op riding in a tank; that fall was a real graduate course in the politics of surrealism. That absolutely nothing that happened over the ensuing four years had anything to do with any of this is not only beyond dispute; I do believe the whole purpose of the campaign was to avoid talking about things that really were important.
Since then we’ve had reporters bashing Al Gore because he was smart. We had John Kerry’s on-the-record war record besmirched. In 1996, Bob Dole didn’t really get much of a fair shake, although I do think legitimate questions about his health were dealt with a bit too gingerly. And four years ago, alas, Mitt Romney stepped on his own a dick a few too many times, what with his binders of women and 47%-takers business. Poor Mitt got, “Please continue, Governor”‘d by Pres. Obama as Romney tried to claim Pres. Obama didn’t say something he actually had said (there was even videotape evidence). It got even sadder on election night when it became clear poor Romney actually believed the whole unskewed polls business. Viewers could see the utter disbelief on his face as the numbers starting coming in.
This year, however, we are faced with an actual choice with real consequences. Obviously there are always consequences to an election; just as one fer-instance, consider had John Kerry won in 2004 how much better off the people of New Orleans would be. Anyway, this real choice this year, qualitatively different from any of the previous 8 Presidential elections in which I’ve participated in one way or another, is between an admittedly Establishmentarian, status quo, middle of the road Democratic candidate and a man so unfit in so many ways to execute the office of the Presidency it would be a joke were it not all so real. Mrs. Clinton, with years of private and public service behind her, continues to be painted as a dishonest crook while Donald Trump, with decades of grift, bankruptcy (how many times can you bankrupt a casino? I mean, reall?!?), and leaving creditors and contractors with millions in unpaid bills, somehow doesn’t have “CROOK” attached to him in every article. Mrs. Clinton’s years of service for minorities apparently counts for nothing, being the real racist as opposed to Donald Trump, whose years of racist blathering is still out there for anyone interested in finding it, all the while surrounding himself with some of the worst America has to offer.
Part of the reason for this is we just don’t have the tools – journalistic, institutional, political – to confront the reality that’s plain to everyone except those who are only recently tuning in: There’s only one candidate this year who’s fit to sit in the Oval Office in January, and unfortunately she may well lose to the most dangerous man in American politics since George Wallace, or perhaps going as far back as Huey Long. The real test come January 20, 2017, should the American electorate be so foolish as to force Barack Obama to surrender the keys to the White House to Donald Trump, will be whether the American experiment, always a shaky prospect, will survive. Since there are military personnel who have already made it clear that under certain conditions they would not obey a President Trump’s order to use nuclear weapons, we are already facing a Constitutional crisis of the highest importance. Of course, we’re talking about Hillary Clinton’s coughing and the rating for Morning Joe on MSNBC. It’s clear enough Trump bought himself out of a state investigation in Florida with an illegal campaign contribution, yet the fact that the Clinton Foundation and Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State dealt with some of the same people is far more important.
Thus it is that our Republic might not survive the second decade of the new century.