Thursday, November 10, 2016

Explaining the election to a child

Tuesday night my 9-year-old son went to bed around 10pm, crying at the prospect of a Trump presidency.  I assured him it was early, the returns would go late into the night and everything would be ok by morning.  At 2:30am, along with just under half of the country, I watched the news report that Hillary Clinton had called to concede.  Tears poured down my face and I walked into the bedroom and told my wife that the United States as we know it died in that moment.  I firmly believe that the country reached an inflection point and will never be the same: economy, environment, science, tolerance, acceptance, self-determination are on the chopping block.  Dear Odin, I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

But I couldn't say any of that to my son in the morning.  He's a smart, aware, curious, sensitive child and the last thing any father wants to do is terrify his son, so I owed him something better.  My favorite part of the day is the half-hour I spent walking him to school in the morning.  (My work calendar has that time is blocked off with the label "Sacrosanct".)  As we left the apartment this morning he asked how so many people could be so stupid as to vote for someone so clearly wrong for the job.  What I told him may not be especially profound but I think it came out well and might be helpful to other parents struggling with the same thing.

 I started off saying it's not about smart or stupid.  This country clearly has issues, though not the made-up problems most people think (immigration and unemployment to name two.) And they're complex problems.  Because if they were easy they would be solved already.  Difficult problems require thought, experience, effort, time, patience and dedication.  In short, it's very hard work.  We average citizens have enough to deal with in our own lives without having to take on the nation's burdens alone.  So easy, simple answers have their appeal: Build a wall, take the country back, make America great, deport all of the illegals.  A few moments of serious thought make it clear none of those are realistic, much less desirable, but without the effort those solutions can be comforting to people who don't know better.  Compound that with the news bubble that feeds you only what you already believe and you get president-elect Trump.  

It's unquestionable that many of his voters are racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic and/or antisemitic.  (Look at the virtual orgasm David Duke has been having for the last 24 hours.)   But I just can't believe that this country has that many, well, deplorables, for lack of a better term.  I blame last night on laziness more than malice.  

None of what I've said is meant to excuse the laziness and its fallout.  Far from it.  I was just looking for a way to explain it to a precocious boy who's waking up to politics just in time for what promises to be a disaster.  

Once again, dear [your deity here]  please let me be wrong.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Welcome to "The Apresidentist"

I haven't posted much here in a while.  (And by "a while" I mean almost three years.)  I was hoping my absence would cause chaos and rioting in the streets by my (checking....) thirteen many followers but, come to think of it, there's already been too much of that the last year or so.  I've had ideas to post here, but none were particularly original so I didn't want to waste your reading time or my writing time with the same things you've seen elsewhere.  Finally, though, I think I have something to add.  Let me know in the comments if you agree.   Or disagree.  I can take it.

It goes without saying that I'm ardent in my beliefs, but at the same time I recognize that people disagree and, as long as their points are thought-out and well-reasoned, I respect and even understand them.  At least I try to.  And as a long-time political junkie I've been following this election cycle with intense interest.

And alcohol.

A lot of alcohol.

A lot of alcohol.

But until a few days ago I've been completely unable to wrap my head around how Donald Trump could be, well... Donald Trump.  Even more, I couldn't grasp how anyone could not only support him, but do so vigorously.  Then it clicked in - I understand not only his supporters but him.  Every bit of it.

First the more obvious: his supporters.  Two words: Fucking Nuts.  No, wait, not those two.  Ok, yes those two, especially for what's probably the bulk of his fans.  AKA the basket of delporables.(#ThanksHillary).  But for a subset who probably thinks that they're thinkers there are two more words: Supreme Court.  Yeah, this one's been discussed in the media already but what really gelled was how this can be a prime motivator.  Supreme Court justices almost always serve for much longer than the Presidents who nominate them and they end up impacting society for generations.  When Antonin Scalia died I saw a chance to bring some real balance to the court.  Of course the GOP saw that too so they've obstructed Obama every way possible hoping that a Republican would beat Hillary.  Well, they're going to get what's coming to them - I'd put good money on President Clinton (yes, a week out I'm still confident she's going to win) nominating someone to the left of Merrick Garland.  (Aside: wouldn't it be great if that nominee's name was "Obama"?).  To staunch blind conservatives this must be a fate worse than, well, a Trump presidency.  Hence, ardent support. Conservatives with functional brain cells, though, realize that no liberal justice could do more damage to the US, not to mention the world, than a President Trump.

I've tried to imagine the flip side.  What if the GOP had nominated someone sane and reasonable (You're laughing. I'll wait.) but the Democrats had chosen a ranting idiot with no experience and an uncontrollable mouth?  Bernie?  Nope.  Alan Grayson?  Closer.  Ralph Nader?  Almost.  Kanye?  Ah, there we go.  Mitt Romney vs Kanye West.  Honestly, I'd vote for Romney. But I'm also not a rabid ideologue.  The big picture matters to me, even if it means sacrificing what I want.  

Now, as for Trump himself - what explains all of his behavior, going back to the now-legendary elevator descent?  Reality.  No, not reality reality but reality TV.  Think about it: That's the only thing he's ever really done well.  He's a lousy businessman and a crummy real estate magnate but he's a good TV host - in the way that a cattle prod is a good way to wake up in the morning.  But he's no longer making "The Apprentice".  Now he's the creator, producer, writer, director and star of "The Apresidentice".  He doesn't actually want to be the POTUS.  Why would he want to cramp his lifestyle like that? Think of the freedom he has now to do what he wants, go where he wants, live where he wants, buy what he wants, talk to who he wants, sell what he wants, grope who he wants, say what he wants.  He could do none of that living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  He may not even realize it but, subconsciously at least, he's doing everything he can to sabotage his own candidacy.

Evidence?  Sure, I got ya: He lies far more than any other candidate in history;  he rejects science and facts; he perpetuates conspiracies; he retweets bigots; he goes out of his way to insult the largest voting blocs in the country like Latinos, Asians and Women; he comes up with ever-more-ludicrous nonsense - like he's trying to see how far he can go; and most recently he's doing his best to depress turnout of his own voters.  He talks about how the election is rigged, which makes people think "why vote - it doesn't count anyway?" He insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he's ahead in the polls and will win on November 8th so voters think "He has it in the bag - I don't need to vote."  He fails to capitalize on news that should be harmful to Hillary's candidacy, even going so far as to create his own spectacles that push her out of the news.  Last but certainly not least he's told people the wrong day to vote.

So what is his end game?  Trump TV.  What better way to start a network than to travel the country; hold huge rallies; get billions in free airtime; convince experienced, media-savvy former-politicians to go all out on your behalf; all on someone else's nickel?  Give it a few weeks and you'll see his major campaign surrogates with their own shows. Give it a few more weeks and they'll all follow "Sarah Palin's America" into the footnote bin of history.

A year ago if you were to have pitched this script to Hollywood they would have laughed it off as absurd.  Soon, though, this script will be Hollywood.

At least it won't be Washington.

I hope.