My youngest sister called today while driving home to Saginaw from Kalamazoo, where her daughter is soon to graduate from college. We barely mentioned the latest eruption of evil in America, the random massacre by an Uber driver carried out between his fares in Kalamazoo.
No one in this godforsaken land needs to say much, because everyone knows what lurks just below the surface, whatever his or her relative degree of denial and distancing. How is this underlying reality translating politically?
Let’s begin with President Obama. His news conference last week was a study in what’s best and worst about the man and his presidency. When asked what he thought of Donald Trump’s campaign, he gave a clear and passionate defense of the presidency. When asked whether Putin had out-foxed him in Syria, Obama’s measured words slowed to a stumbling, sleep-inducing monotone. Where was your leadership when the world needed it, Mr. Obama?
When pressed about the disturbing Trump phenomenon, Barack’s last line of defense was, “I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president, and the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people.” That not only rings hollow; it’s begun to sound pathetic.
The mouthpieces in the media are playing the fascistic farce on the Republican side in the usual horse race fashion, steadfastly refusing serious examination of America’s state of disunion. When Trump wins the nomination, they will be complicit in the destruction of what’s left of democracy in America.
Would even the election of Trump as president wake up the intelligentsia in this country? Since the talking heads are the intelligentsia, the answer is no.
Obama’s form of denial is to insist that the American body politic remains intact, and that American leadership is still indispensable and inspiring in the world. That an otherwise rational man adheres to such fictions has not just made Obama a mediocre president; it has helped pave the way for the nomination of his nemesis, a slimeball developer and reality TV star.
Trump is not Hitler, but he echoes Mussolini. His ‘Make America Great Again’ drumbeat reverberates with jackbooted enemies America once stood against and defeated. So do his strutting egoism, and his vicious line that protesters at his rallies should be “carried out on a stretcher.”
The knee-jerk progressive excuse for why Barack Obama has failed so miserably as the “hope and transformation” president is unremitting opposition from extremist Republicans. I call it the Paul Krugman form of denial. In this view, America is fundamentally ok, even humming along fairly nicely economically, but the problem is that one of its political parties has gone off the rails. That simply doesn’t wash.
In a two-party system, the destruction or self-destruction of one party destroys the national compact, whether it happens by design or default. The now-likely nomination of Donald J. Trump for the Republican Party is a death knell for the political system as we’ve known it in America.
If Trump wins, the American people will have elected a classic strongman and fascist; if he loses, the Republican Party will be finished, and we’ll have a one-party system.
Krugman is right about two things however—first, that what’s left of fairness, decency and rationality resides in the Democratic Party; and second, the media, by pretending to serve defunct notions of balance while actually serving entertainment values, is effectively propagating two different elections by two different standards. That’s untenable and unworkable. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Meanwhile, the would-be Clinton dynasty is picking up steam, even as the Bush dynasty ended in an ignominious defeat in South Carolina for JEB! George Junior, looking rather wan and creepy, was dragged out of painter’s seclusion on his ranch in Texas for one final, desperate attempt to crown the favorite son, to no avail.
Against this entire background, we have the implausible candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a non-card-carrying member of a non-existent political party in America—democratic socialism. If nothing else, Sanders is giving Hill-Bill a run for their money, and attesting that youthful idealism isn’t completely dead in America.
Bernie’s biggest deficiency in the de facto global society is that he doesn’t have much insight into rest of the world. He might argue, with merit, that bringing about a fair and just economy and society at home is the best thing America can now do for humanity.
Can we to take his rallying cry of a “political revolution” as anything more than rhetorical hyperbole however? It isn’t a question of ‘electability’ (after all, it may turn out Hillary is more unelectable than Bernie) but of meaning.
Just what does Sanders mean by “political revolution?” Is he really saying ‘psychological revolution,’ but feels he has to put it in political terms? Or is he, like all politicians still talking about how great America is when the house isn’t just in utter disorder, but has collapsed?
Real hope and transformation can only come from facing and remaining with things as they are.