Sunday, July 31, 2016

Convention Hangover 2016

Sorting Through 
The Dumpster Trash

            It’s finally official. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) will run against Donald Trump (R-NY) for President of the United States. Two weeks of back-to-back political conventions highlighted the drama, and of course the lines are clearly drawn.
            Or are they?
            According to what the parties want us to believe, it’s a contest between I versus we, proud white male versus uppity feminist, strict Daddy versus kind Mommy.
Sky and Sarah
            But after watching all but a couple hours of the two-week political extravaganza, I’m reminded of Sky Masterson, the slick New York City crap-shooter, and Sarah Brown, the Salvation Army social worker who scolds him for his profligate ways, in the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls.
            I mean, it’s just theater, right?
            Or is it?
            As I’ve said before in the Thinking Dog’s Journal, I supported Bernie from the start, exulted in his unexpected primary victories, and felt that terrible sinking sensation in my gut when I realized he wasn’t going to make it.
            I found his release of his campaign highly honorable, and I found his re-entry into the convention rank-and-file totally appropriate. It must have been painful for him to be there and hear the party leaders’ speeches of praise for his triumphant rival. But, unlike Bush, Kasich, Cruz, and a few other of the original 17 Republican contenders for the most powerful position in the world, Bernie did not betray any sign of the sore loser. He did the right thing to the end.
            Now some of his followers are saying he betrayed the movement he started and are abandoning their loyalty to him. They will vote, they say, for Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, or they will not vote for President at all.
Jill Stein Rally
            I understand these reactive sentiments. I also think it’s a kind of tragedy that in these times when we never needed true wisdom and vision in a leader more, we are looking at two candidates who don’t exhibit a whole lot of either.
            Trump is probably not the millennial version of a Caesar or a Hitler, though it’s tempting to make the comparison. Hillary is probably not another Eleanor Roosevelt or Margaret Thatcher, though I suspect she’d like to be both.
            But that’s part of a problem I’m having with this election. Trump seems to be branding himself as a strong man who’s going to come in and fix everything, especially security, as if he were renovating a grand, historic hotel. Hillary, on the other hand, thinks the hotel is just fine as it is and only needs her guiding hand to maintain and expand its services to more of its guests, not just the few living in the penthouse suites.
            But, while Hillary I’m sure is a compassionate and sincere advocate for the poor—single mothers and children, especially—there’s no doubt that her advocacy expanded broadly when she realized Bernie was winning primaries with his democratic socialism. Did it trouble anyone else that Hillary became a socialist in the primaries when she wasn’t one before? What’s to stop her, once the campaign is underway, from reverting—or, as they say, pivoting—back to her former moderate positions on what constitutes a fair and just society?
            Then, too, it strikes me there’s little difference between her and Trump when it comes to war. Her defense of social programs for poor children, adults and the elderly—exceeding anything I’m sure even Trump would endorse—comes with a very large commitment to military spending as well. Lyndon Johnson made that same mistake.
She promises guns and butter while Trump promises guns and maybe butter but guns 
before butter, which is what any hawkish Democrat would revert to as well.
            So while the Republicans are losing their firm lock on conservative social values and policies, they’re getting red meat from Trump on guns, war-readiness, and America-first-again style patriotism.
            Clinton argues that America is already first, and a legion of Democratic stars took to the podium at the convention to sell that certainty. Biden was the most strident and, in my opinion, the most offensive, turning the convention into a nationalist rally. If the Republicans want to make America first again, the Democrats want to make it clear that we are now, always were, and always will be USA! USA! USA!
            But there does seem to be a peculiar difference between the Trump convention and the Clinton convention that one might not expect.
            Trump was almost universally opposed by traditional Republican top guns all the way up to the convention. Some still refuse to endorse or support him. Yet he won, it seems, fair and square.
            It’s not clear that Hillary did. The release of the DNC emails revealed the party apparatus itself plotted against Bernie. Is it credible that the Clinton campaign knew nothing about that?
            According to videos posted on YouTube by Bernie supporters on the floor, there apparently was also manipulation of the seating in the convention hall, controlling where the Bernie supporters could sit. Devices identified as “white-noise boxes,” it was reported, were mounted above the Bernie sections so their chants and boos would be muffled on television.
            Dirty tricks. Where’s the fairness? The justice? The respect for an honest dialogue among the candidates with the voters left to decide which one will serve their country best?
            No, that part of the shiny hotel on the hill didn’t get polished in time for the convention, so organizers tried to keep the cameras away. Can anyone believe Hillary didn’t know about those dirty tricks, didn’t approve them? Trump says Hillary will say anything, do anything to win. Is he right? Some obvious evidence points that way.
            Trump’s long harangue, worthy of satire in many a comedy club for a long time to come—even Tim Kaine picked up on that—was somehow interesting.
Tim Kaine
How did this guy get there out of all those traditional Republican rote scholars? Apparently not by cheating.
            And that’s a problem. Indisputably, Hillary has a long history of public service. We can debate whether her service has been wise or tainted, but there can be no doubt she knows the present system and capably navigates it. That’s her advantage.
            But her legitimacy will always be in doubt because she—or those who work for her—cheated to give her unfair advantage in the primaries and even at the convention, after nomination was assured.
            The Democrats feared a repeat of 1968, when radicals turned their convention into a police riot outside. They didn’t want anything like that again. So they repressed the opposition—subtly. It may have looked fair and square, it may even have been legal, but it was still dirty politics.
            And that’s the problem with this election. Thanks to Bernie, Hillary’s got to campaign on some progressive issues she has never fully supported before. But that makes her sincerity suspect.
            Trump, on the other hand, has some ideas about personal freedom that are attractive to both libertarians and many on the left. But he’s a hard-core conservative on defense and national security and denies climate change. These are bigger issues than social issues. They put the whole premise of the western democracies—continuing growth, onward and upward forever—at major risk of collapse into another dark age. Bernie called climate change the single-most pressing crisis facing our world, never mind the country. Hillary puts it in her laundry list of action plans. Trump ignores it. Disappointed Bernicrats say, “At least we got it in the platform.” But that’s not the same as winning the election, and we all know it.
            It’s strange to feel that the times may not produce the hero we need to lead us through the years of clear and present danger ahead. But that’s how it feels. And maybe that’s a sign that the world is changing far more than we realize, when, in a time of multiple global crises, America does not rise to the challenge. Some other country takes the baton and stylizes the next era of global politics.
            Will democracy continue to expand and evolve in the world that’s coming to be? Or will we lapse into some form of dictatorship as changes spin out of official control and anarchy threatens our streets?
A Star Is Born
            I wish that were the clear choice in this election. But it’s not. So far, it’s a choice between a star-studded Democratic campaign of nostalgia and glamour, with our politicians the biggest celebrities of all, and a Republican party stitched together, a patch-work of criminal Christianity, the separation of business and state rather than church and state, using the threat of terrorism at home and abroad to restore order in the homeland.
Missed Kiss
            Some fucking choice. Who wrote this movie? Oh, yes, that’s one thing everyone agrees on. Ronald Reagan wrote this movie. We’re all in Ronald Reagan’s movie. A multi-generational saga.
            As Bill Bendix famously used to say on the ‘50s TV sit-com The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development this is.”


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