Tuesday, September 20, 2016

7 Weeks Out....

Rambling Thoughts on a 
Ridiculous Election

            It’s difficult to find anything to say about our Presidential election which hasn’t already been said. Yet one is compelled to say something! I wish I could say it’s probably not the end of our democracy, no matter which of the two contenders gets elected.
            But of course we’ve never had a democracy. (We’ve barely had a democratic republic.) We’ve always had an idealistic belief in democracy, but it’s never been true that we are all equal under the law, even though the law says we are. What has always been true—and we all know it—is that some of us are more equal than others, especially if we’re white, well-born, and educated.
            So what will change if Trump is elected? Apparently, a lot, but the details are sparse. We don’t need to know them, Daddy Trump will take care of all that, delivering jobs, security, victory in foreign wars, protection at home from terrorists and illegal immigrant thugs, increased fossil fuel exploration and production, a wall across our southern border, extreme vetting of Muslim immigrants as well as domestic critics of our country, and good deals in general for the American people at large.
And what will change if Hillary is elected? Nothing at all, if Congress, as is likely, stays Republican. The social and economic justice programs Hillary adopted from Bernie’s political revolution will be dead on arrival without Democratic majorities elected to the House and Senate. But the political revolution has lost its head and its revolutionaries are scattered in disarray. Hillary battles illness to regain her edge, given up to repeated campaign gaffs, while Trump is surging on bald-faced lies and outrageous flip-flops. At this point who wins depends more on how many people hate the other candidate the most than on which one is most acceptable for the job. That’s been true ever since it became apparent that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would be the candidates. Has there ever been such an election? Maybe in other countries, but not in America!
            Over the weekend President Obama told his African-American constituency that he’ll take it personally as an attack on his legacy if their community doesn’t turn out for Hillary as they did for him. It was quite forceful yet also moving—an appeal to their racial solidarity. Keep Barack’s legacy alive with Hillary! Trump certainly won’t do that. Hillary says she will. We can only speculate on how sincere she is. She and Obama have a history, apparently drawing them close. Are the Clintons and the Obamas friends or just political allies? Michelle hit the campaign trail for Hillary over the weekend.
imagine Hillary welcomes that support. Michelle is more beloved by the public than any of them, including her husband. It’s a shame she’s not running. There would be no contest then.
            But Trump and Hillary are the candidates, and the problem persists that this is in too many ways a ridiculous election. Trump is obviously an amoral wheeler-dealer, Clinton we know to be both ambitious and secretive, raising suspicions that she’s always up to something. Not even astrologers can pin her down, with two birth times given twelve hours apart. But either way, she’s a Scorpio with deep wells of emotional intensity she doesn’t like to share and may not even be able to. It appears she is also capable of ruthless pursuit of her ambition.
            (Trump, for those interested, is a Gemini born within hours of a full-Moon eclipse, which is a fateful omen of emotional constipation. He also can’t hope to hide his underworld tendencies—perfect for a nation enamored with organized crime but a questionable talent in a leader of the free world.)
            So while we don’t know what either of them will do if elected, we know that with Trump what we see is what we get. With Hillary we’re not sure what we see but we suspect it will be familiar Clintonian talk-from-the-left and rule-from-the-center government because that’s what Clinton Democrats do.
            As for Republicans, it used to be they talked from the right but ruled from the center as well, but that’s changed in the past twenty years or more. I first saw it clearly with Bill Clinton’s impeachment fiasco. A gang of House Republicans embarrassed themselves and the President with a public, X-rated witch hunt into a private, consensual, sexual relationship between the President and an intern of legal age. It happened during an enforced lull in their duties because those same impeaching Congressmen—no women were part of the lascivious inquiry—joined their colleagues to shut down the government, regrettably leaving the President idle. His subsequent actions are easily understood. Theirs—not so much, given the sanctimonious hypocrisy of their unattractive voyeurism.
            The right wing never had any love for Bill Clinton, but Hillary especially has rubbed them the wrong way. She taunts them, lumps them all in one bin reserved for subhuman life forms. They in turn think she’s capable of murder, among other crimes. This mutual aversion seems to mirror the feelings of millions who stand on either side of the cultural divide which first manifested (after a long gestation) in the 1960s.
The Clintons, more than any other national politicians of their generation, came across as hippies, though no true hippy would think so. But the right wing did, and nothing seemed to alarm right-wingers more than the treasonous fantasy of hippy values invading the White House—environmentalism, pacifism, gender equality, sexual freedom, sustainable living, legal pot, and rock’n’roll music occupying the very center of American power and prestige. It fed their Ronald Reagan postpartum depression for an entire decade.
            Now they’re stuck with Trump. It seems very unlikely he’ll work closely with conservatives to bring strict Constitutional law and Judeo-Christian values back to America. But he wins elections, and he says he’s Republican. He may lean toward Libertarian (if he has any political ideology at all), but most Christian conservatives can live with that...for the time being.
            However, can America live with a President who shoots off his mouth like Wyatt Erp’s six-gun? What kind of world would that be? Hillary’s knowledge and experience of international politics, with its formal protocols, seems a better bet—if we could only forget her vote on Iraq and her flawed judgment on Libya and the infamous emails (not to mention her decision to marry a philanderer).
            On the other hand, what good does it do any of us to say that neither candidate fills the bill when it’s the only bill we’ve got?
            It’s too early for me to say what I’ll do on election day. My obvious choice between these two is Hillary. I cringe at the specter of a Trump dynasty in the White House, with fresh gossip and images in newspapers and broadcasts every day, the cult of celebrity triumphantly completing its takeover of the American mind, with unknown consequences for the future.
            But I also think Hillary is the better candidate in this localized rivalry between a New-York-City developer and a former New York U.S. Senator. In that rough-and-tumble, dog-eat-dog political environment, neither of them could be clean. But it’s still no contest in my mind, and I’ll vote for her, most likely. However, I’m old enough to remember the election of 1964 when LBJ beat conservative Republican Barry Goldwater in a landslide. Democrats thought they’d decimated the right wing for good in that election, only to have conservatives persistently forge ahead to elect Nixon in 1968 and Reagan in 1980.
            After that the conservative movement coalesced around Reagan like disciples around a master, lifting to the pinnacle of greatness a President increasingly ill with Alzheimer’s disease. (You can’t make this stuff up!)
It was with Reagan that our national delusions became our reality, as if he took the whole country to a patriotic movie and
left us there. Few of us ever came out.
            In 1991 George H.W. Bush’s Desert Storm seemed to fulfill ancient prophecies of the final battle at the end of the world, but it never went that far in our reality. It only set up more battles yet to come.
            And then that brash young man—that “draft dodger,” in the words of the defeated President—acquainted us with the Presidential penis, an unprecedented revelation. Hillary stood by her man all through the sordid affair, conducting herself with great dignity, at least in public, despite traditional shaming from those suggesting she was too cold to perform her wifely duties satisfactorily.
            After that, perhaps stolen, the Presidency went to Republican George W. Bush, who must find it hard to sleep at night. He oversaw the invasion of Afghanistan and, later, Iraq, which set loose the demons now making the Middle East a hell-on-Earth and the western democracies targets for delusional mad men with bombs.
            Donald Trump would decisively destroy the mad men with bombs, in particular Isis, the terrorist group at the core of today’s fighting. Then he’ll secure Iraqi oil for world use while otherwise pulling out of the Middle East. Hillary, apparently, would stay there as long as it takes to bring that region of ancient habits into the modern  commercial world. She is part of the global capitalist establishment, of course. Trump, meanwhile, is a maverick in that same establishment, which tolerates some toying with legal limits but is not comfortable with Trump’s tendency to ignore them, behaving, it must be said, as white men have behaved around the world for centuries. And, in making America great again, he promises to reassert that arrogance.
            Political correctness, it seems to me, is basic manners. Trump is decimating manners, bringing the culture wars to a head. Maybe that’s a good thing—to have it out with the “deplorables,” as Hillary has called them: the racists, misogynists, religious bigots, nativists, and gun fanatics committed to dualistic ideologies of Us versus Them.
Are they “the real America?” If so, then it’s probably a good thing if they take over and do their worst, however others suffer. Perhaps the wars to follow will purge those elements from our humanity, allowing us to resume with greater clarity once most of life on our planet has been decimated by international corporate wars and climate change.
            But I think Hillary might—just might—be able to guide us past the major catastrophes waiting ahead if we duck our responsibility to cooperate with the rest of the world in a plan for collective survival. But if she’s invested in being the first woman President rather than the 45th President, she’ll fail.
            Trump, on the other hand, is like a Godfather figure on the international stage, allying himself with the shadow elements at home and abroad and embodying in his ego all the power, wealth, and prestige of the USA without much of our national empathy and generosity of soul.
            Unfortunately Americans, inured to incredible violence in all the media they consume and largely ignorant of the inconvenient truths of their history, are not much given to empathy or generosity these days. Something has been lost without compensation.
            So all I can think to say about this election which perhaps hasn’t been already said is that, unfortunately, we got the candidates we deserve because of the idols we worship—fat-cat success in business on one hand and an impressive resume of establishment jobs and honors on the other.
            Maybe from this, if we survive it, we’ll learn that neither really qualifies a person to be President of the United States. But will we be any better able to determine what does?


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