Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election day, 2016

     This is the 13th presidential election in my memory, not counting being irked that the 1964 Republican convention pre-empted "Mr. Magoo." So starting with the 1968 battle between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, the first contest I really noticed in detail, one where, at age 8, I insisted my parents take me to the Berea, Ohio Humphrey headquarters so I could snag a campaign button, which I still have.
Candidate cookies, Bennison's Bakery, Evanston
     And true to its unlucky #13 status, this election has been, by far, the most jinxed, sordid, troubling , jaw-dropping affair of the baker's dozen, if not in the wide sweep of American history, for reasons that hardly need to be articulated at this point. I read one pundit who, trying to argue that it wasn't the ugliest campaign ever, reached back to the 1800 battle between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, which isn't exactly a compelling case for this election's ordinariness.  
    But now, at the end, or the end of this part anyway, a bit of summation is in order. Where to begin? From Trump descending the escalator at his namesake Manhattan tower to call Mexican immigrants rapists — the hook set deep in the mouth of the media that left them flailing on the line from that point on — to the motley crew of 16 GOP debaters, to the passionate Bernie Sanders insurgency, to the chill figure of Hillary Clinton who, alone among them all, seemed to understand what this was about: choosing someone to run the government of the United States of America, not break further it apart.
     The Republicans have been locked in a 30-year trench war to tear down that government, brick-by-brick, ever since Ronald Reagan taught them that if society changes so much that you can't directly oppress the people you hate, you can kneecap the government that helps those people and and lower your taxes in the bargain. They've been sliding down this chute for decades, only to plop at the feet of Donald Trump and sedition.
    Trump was the last man standing at the Republican pygmy wrestle-off, and the GOP, to its deathless shame, more or less lined up behind him, the Bushes notwithstanding—and really, names like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney and the word  "valor" don't usually belong in the same sentence, but now they do. 
    Donald Trump. So much has been said about him it seems overkill even to type his name at this point. Bigot. Fraud. Liar. Misogynist. Bully. I will go to my grave marveling that a man like John McCain can be directly slurred, and see all American servicemen in general and POWs in particular mocked and dismissed, and support the guy anyway. It defies understanding.  
   Bigot. Fraud. Liar. It's a shame the GOP has already worn out slurs by hurling them willy-nilly at their opponents, because they ring hollow now when justly applied. Trump had a way of echoing back any charge directed at him, an "I'm rubber, you're glue" stunt that, alas, was only one of the many juvenile aspects of this Schoolyard Election. 
     It's like the Hitler analogy -- it's been overused to much, that when you finally get a guy who talks like Hitler, passing around Nazi -- whoops, "alt-right"—paranoid fantasies as fact, raving about international conspiracies and grasping bankers, it's only good for an eye roll. Oh that again?  You become the Boy Who Cried Wolf. And there was some debate whether he was more of a fascist buffoon, like Mussolini, than an actual menace, like Hitler, though that would depend if the man achieves power or not. Still, it is an apt comparison; Trump allowed the lowest rung of anti-Semites to hoist him upon their shoulders, merely grinning at the attention. He even has his own Goering/Goebbels, fat/thin duo of fawning underlings in the shrill, gaunt, fist-pounding Rudolph Guiliani and the ever-sniveling lardbag Chris Christie. 
     Though to be honest, nothing Trump said sparked quite the visceral disgust as on Monday, when he said, "You have one day to make every dream you ever dreamed for your country and your family come true." 
    By voting for him of course. Trust drop into daddy's arms and he'll take care of everything 
    No programs. No plans. He never explained how he was going to do any of this, because of course he won't. It's all snake oil and bullshit. And Americans lapped it up. As awful as Trump is, you can't blame him — he didn't create these people, he just goaded them on, drew them out. The blame is ours. A freedom loving people. Howling to be enslaved.
     Clinton seems to be winning -- she preserved her narrow lead in all the polls-- but Nate Silver still gives Trump a  35 percent chance of winning, which is better odds than the chance of tossing a coin and getting heads twice.
    Not that a Clinton victory will end the dark forces that Trump has so skillfully summoned. They were there all along, and now in blinking the light and normalized, they'll batter even more relentlessly at the foundations of our government and society. Maybe if Trump's defeat is massive enough, they'll go slink back under their rocks. But I doubt it. Assuming he isn't elected president—and I'll exhale only after he isn't—how could we have come this close? Any joy at Hillary's election will have to be mitigated by the grotesque sight of what's under the rock Trump kicked over. The only comfort: they were already there. Trump didn't create them, he only exploited them. Not a cause, as I've been saying for a year, but a symptom. Being the folks who believe in facts and science, we can't decry the fact that we are now aware of this noxious reality. As Sarah McLachlan sings, "Better I should know."
   And if Trump wins? Well, then bar the door, Katie. We sail off the edge of the world, outdoing Britain which dropped out of the European Union with a thud last June, throwing away economic prosperity in terror at the prospect of Turkish immigrants.. I don't know what the country will look like then, but it will be dark for four years, if not forever. It's hard to imagine, and I'd prefer not to. We don't have to worry at this point, all we have to do is wait for a few more hours and we'll find out.


  1. I noticed the Goebels/Goering connection as well. The idea that a man who has shown, with his own words and actions, to be a malignant narcissist, a misogynist who brags of assaulting women, who has mused about dismantling NATO, who praises a Russian dictator, is somehow supported by tens of millions of American citizens - well, it's too much to bear.

    And, as you point out, he has never given us even an inkling of how he will perform the miracles required to achieve the few initiatives he has boasted of achieving. It is as if otherwise sentient adults have been hypnotized by a five year old sociopath who revels in sh-tting in the sandbox.

    It is nightmarish to think he might win, yet even if he loses, his followers, crazed from decades of Fox News memes and right wing anger, will keep the country in turmoil for years to come. If they can turn Obama, one of the most dignified, informed, competent, down to earth people ever to hold office, into a foreign, anti-Christian, America hating demon, just imagine what they will do with Clinton.

    The horror.

  2. To me Trump resembles Joe McCarthy far more than he resembles Hitler or Mussolini. Both of the latter were full of, in Yeats's phrase, passionate intensity; Trump, like McCarthy, is unfocused to the point of being scatterbrained, utterly uninterested in anything other than self-aggrandizement. Both were willing to slander anyone and everyone who got in their way and to say anything, no matter how reckless or irresponsible, for the slightest momentary political advantage.

    And they were both masters of media manipulation. The difference is that McCarthy, a master of print, was undone by TV, still a new medium in his day. Trump "grew his brand" (a loathsome phrase that makes me want to apply a literal brand to the buttocks of anyone who utters it seriously) on TV and has ridden that, God help us, to the brink of the Oval Office.

    Bitter Scribe

    1. Trump isn't Hitler, an evil ideolog. Perhaps he would like to be Mussolini -- he certainly has some of his personality traits -- who aspired to make Italy great again, although his model seemed to have been the early Roman Empire. Hitler started out admiring Mussolini for his ability to get things done, but seems to have ended up viewing him with contempt.

      I wouldn't call Il duce just a Fascist bufoon. He was a narcisstic bully who destroyed his country. But if he hadn't chosen the wrong side we probably would have been able to live with him. A faint local connection: Italo Balbo, one of the original Fascists, whose name decorates a Chicago street, told him he should have gone in with England and France, saying he will end up shining the German's boots.

      Tom Evans

  3. I offer a small amount of comic relief, with timely advice (not, I assume, that any of Neil's readers require the extra nudge). Warning: there is some profanity.


  4. As far as I can see, can't find any Trump or Clinton sign by that polling place photo. Do the campaign people really think folks will vote for someone because they saw a sign with that name?

  5. God, Neil! I agree with all you have written 1000%. How can anyone vote for the bitter joke that is Donald Trump?

  6. I imagine a Trump presidency would resemble Emperor Nero's reign of Rome.


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