Wednesday, July 6, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person:
You come to me with a bone in your hand
You come to me with your hair curled tight
You come to me with positions
You come to me with excuses
Ducked out in a row
You wear me out
You wear me out
“Country Feedback” — REM/Out of Time
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Another week, another series of examples of our broken political system. On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that, for all intents and purposes, Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted for her email transgressions. Yet again, the Clintons skated along the edge of disaster and escaped with their political lives, despite their best attempts at self-immolation. Not to be outdone, Donald Trump reaffirmed his position as chief engineer of the crazy train by re-upping his fondness for strongmen. This time? Saddam Hussein, of course. Because “he killed terrorists.” Anything about gassing tens of thousands of Kurds or operating Spanish Inquisition-style torture chambers? Not a peep.
Both our candidates represent the worst of what our political discourse has become. Clinton and her coterie of advisors, protectors and scalp hunters have played the game long enough to know just how far they can push the envelope — and just how short the memory of the American people often is. However, they mistake her intelligence and endless ambition for true political talent and the vision to lead a fractious party and nation. She lacks the ability to inspire and the will to do anything other than bend to the moment’s prevailing political winds.
Unlike her husband, Secretary Clinton is unlikely to ever have a true “Sister Souljah” moment that gives those not of her natural political constituency a reason to stand behind her. Instead, she is likely to pick up many disaffected Republicans not because of anything she stands for, but because she is seen as a slightly less-bad option than her Republican counterpart. If there’s anything the Clinton seems to have the most of is excellent timing and seemingly endless luck — neither of which she controls, but which continue to propel her forward.
Donald Trump on the other hand, is a classic demagogue strong man. He conjures anger in his followers almost as easily as he conjures up new versions of the truth, as he sees it, on a moment-by-moment basis. Just when we think he can’t run a more backward and dysfunctional campaign, he finds a way to do it. Just when we think he can’t out-do himself in the crazy-speak that punctuates his appearances, he creates cutting-edge ways to offend, befuddle and terrify.
If Hillary Clinton has mastered the mechanics of American politics and bureaucracy, Trump has mastered the art of using other peoples’ money to enrich himself, and use every crony-capitalist loophole in the tax code to ensure that when one of his projects ultimately fails, taxpayers and creditors are on the hook for the losses, allowing him to zoom away in his helicopter as the terrain beneath him burns.
The unpopularity of the two major candidates, whom now respectively represent their ideological brands even more than their parties, exacerbates the divides we see among us as a nation. The “elites” look down on the “everyman” and the city-dwellers can’t comprehend the trials of those who live in rural areas. We rise up in the name of freedom and small government but then ask that same government to decide how our neighbors live their lives. The Beltway-Broadway corridor looks down on just about everyone else, regardless of what they tell you. They are, after all, there and you’re not. By definition, they’re doing something right.
We see the north versus the south. We see black versus white. We see cops versus those they’re sworn to protect. Everyone has their own personal adversary and every group has its sworn crusade to prosecute, regardless of its necessity or validity.
Objectivity is dead. Subjectivity is everything. The recent July 4th holiday? To tens of millions, it is the birthday of the greatest republic the world has ever known. But today, it’s also a micro-aggression to celebrate the brainchild of a bunch of people who were so insensitive that they didn’t take into account the need for safe-spaces. One can disagree with a creator and agree their invention was a marvel. Steve Jobs wasn’t the greatest guy in the world and Apple builds its products in Chinese sweatshops. Are you willing to give up your iPhone and MacBook because of it?
We can’t even agree on how to talk about terrorists. Isn’t someone who walks into an airport and blows themselves up an objectively bad, even evil, person? One would think. We’re so afraid of offending people with whom we disagree on so much, that we are unable or unwilling to stare down those who would harm us. The results of this? An enemy that sees the West and other countries as objectively weak and unwilling to stand up for themselves — and they take full advantage of our mealy-mouthed attempts to keep the slate of history a tabula rasa ad infinitum.
The greatest damage done by all this may also be the hardest thing to see until November. Exhausted by the bullshit, hue and cry of two unbearable, disingenuous campaigns, voters may stay home in droves. That eventuality would reinforce exactly the dynamic we’re currently seeing. Two largely unelectable individuals are being swept into notoriety and toward potentially immense power because tens of millions of Americans were simply worn out by the process and voted by staying on their couches.
Politicians pay lip service to “every vote counts” rhetoric but that is a fallacy. They make promises they know are impossible to keep — and then admit they’re lying to us. They say things they know to be of middling-truth to incite a given response; typically to raise money on the proffered outrage. This is no secret and nothing new. But the levels to which our elected leaders and candidates are willing to do and say the most inflammatory thing they can think of is unprecedented.
Political campaigns don’t care about every vote, indeed that’s not their job. They care about their voters, and those whom they can persuade to become their voters, ensuring on Election Day that they achieve 50%+1. That’s okay for a political consultant. It is not acceptable for someone who claims to want to lead all Americans.
Hoping politicians will sort these issues out is a fool’s errand — it’s not in their interest, nor in the interest of the system that has been built up since the end of World War 2. American voters will have to do the heavy lifting — as they have done before. If we care about this country, waiting for someone else to fix it will leave us disappointed and further disjointed.