Page Two: Darkness on the Edge of Town

Thoughts on the mean season of U.S. politics

Page Two

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean ...

– Raymond Chandler


This American mean season seems to have no boundaries, no limits, but extends without grace or reservation in all directions. Not only is there little redemption in sight, but few seem even interested in such. Categorizing political foes as viciously as possible, we are again in a time of heroes and villains with few of the former and all too many of the latter.

The Republican Convention was like a satiric late-night horror show mocking decency and inclusion. The president is a Muslim, Hillary Clinton should not only be arrested but is a conscious agent of Lucifer, while this country is in a despair-ridden Dark Ages that were almost deliberately caused by citizens with different beliefs. Making America great again is really about a fictional imagined past where the country was white, Christian, straight, powerful, and very affluent. More time was spent attacking Clinton than discussing alternative policies.

The Democratic Convention, far more inclusive and expansive though also strife-ridden, will be criticized by opponents for every real and imagined reason.

My sympathies are obviously with the Democrats. But I also fear Trump as I never recall fearing another candidate. This has me even more concerned than usual about the forthcoming November election.

The Bernie Sanders campaign at first was a welcome breath of fresh air. Finally, a broad-based populist progressive movement that articulated goals for the left as ambitious as those long sought by the right. Sanders himself was an inspiration – intelligently plainspoken, politically consistent, and just so basically decent. Unfortunately, as his chances waned, many of his followers seem far more interested in the man than the message, turning with a vengeance on front-runner Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party supporters.

Claiming election fraud – the elections, candidate, and party were disparaged. For many who embraced Sanders' ideas, the focus shifted from policy to personality, with one sacrificed in pursuit of the other.

Over the years, there has been a tendency to ascribe political relative-unknowns with all the virtues, integrity, and ideology those viewing desire in a candidate. Thinking back to Ross Perot, who – despite his track record as a businessman – was ascribed saintly virtues. Although some of his business was dependent on government contracts, he was hailed as a laissez-faire libertarian champion.

With Nader, many claimed support for him rather than vote for the lesser of two evils. As much as you may love Nader and his often courageous stands, given his acceptance of the purity of his vision against the assumed mendacity of those with differing views, by almost any standards he would have made a terrible president. Now we find those disillusioned with the two candidates and parties, not just themselves supporting third party candidates but urging others to do so.

If either the Libertarian or Green parties became viable with either of their candidates in a real competitive situation, many of these supporters would soon turn on them. What they support are neither the ideas or track records of the candidates but a feeling that they somehow represent a fully fresh wind. Imaginary pure politics is always favored over the difficult and necessary compromises involved in actually accomplishing things. Investing in people not in power, who are very unlikely to get there, is a way of playing fantasy politics.

Some Thoughts for This Mean Season:

Trump is the anti-candidate. Like a character in a science-fiction story, whatever is thrown at him just makes him stronger. Investing a preposterous range of virtues in him, especially given his track record, more than anything his supporters are convinced that while strong and visionary enough to be president, he is not tied down by the mundane politics of elected legislators and both parties. Any attack on him, reasoned or just diatribe, adds to his strength, the more the wide-ranging establishment – business, academia, government, and so on – denounces him, the more they are indicating his independent maverick uniqueness to his supporters.

Sick and tired of business as usual, they seek a miracle cure. Rather than Teflon, Trump is somehow a sponge where negatives just empower him.

On the other hand, Republicans and Sanders' progressives accept any accusation against Clinton as fact, any charge as proven, and any attack as deserved. She has become a two-dimensional figure of evil. There is a level of hostility there that transcends party and policy differences. Easy declarations of conspiratorial manipulations, corrupted elections, and bought candidates argue for a generally hopeless, nonfunctioning democratic republic.

Many of these folks, privileging their conscience and sense of self over real world consequences insist on not voting for the Democrat candidate and party.

There is an enormous difference between Clinton and Trump. If he is elected, it is reasonable to expect the near antithesis of Sanders' platform.

Invoking the most dire historical examples is often almost too easy. Recently, however, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were both among the most modern of nations not just behind the Iron Curtain but in Europe. The collapse of the Soviet empire saw both countries independent. Longstanding tensions within the population intensified as political leaders, exploiting the situation for power, encouraged neighbor to hate neighbor. Eventually these modern countries dissolved into brutal civil wars accompanied by war crimes and genocide.

Trump championing the politics of fear and hatred encourages Americans to hate Americans. In his new documentary, Dinesh D'Souza declares to a willing audience that the Democrats are and have always been criminals. Progressives declare Clinton should be in jail and dismiss the party as corrupt and hopeless. There is little common ground. Common decency is dismissed on all sides as acquiescing to corruption. Something wicked is not just coming this way, but is already upon all too many of us.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

2016 election, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Dinesh D'Souza, Democratic National Convention, Republican National Convention

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