Once it began to sink in on election night that the anticipated Great Blue Wave was not going to come and wash away the insanity that has gripped this land, the sad-but-obvious conclusion that I was forced to confront is this: We are a deeply divided nation.
Some 78 million Americans saw what has been happening to and in our country over the past four years and were motivated to wait in hours-long lines in northern cold and southern heat in the midst of a pandemic to rid our nation of Donald J. Trump. At the exact same time, nearly 73 million Americans braved those same conditions because they saw what has been happening to and in our country over the past four years and concluded that what America needed most was four more years of it.
I get a knot in the pit of my stomach when I listen to the current occupant of the White House. The rambling incoherence is bad enough, but I really get dispirited from the taunting and the belittling and the name calling. And from the way his loyal followers and trusted advisers stand behind him and give him encouragement. It’s so ugly. So familiar. It evokes such visceral images of high school that I can practically feel the acne erupting.
If you mentally superimpose an image of a school cafeteria behind him when he speaks, Trump’s behavior becomes crystal clear: The school bully, emboldened by his minions standing behind him. They snigger when he mocks the kid with the disability. The pretty girlfriend at his side smiles her bloodless smile when he calls the smart girl names. They all laugh when he cracks a joke at someone else’s expense. They whoop and encourage him.
Around them, the other kids stand uncomfortably, looking down at their shoes, not wanting to say anything, because then the attacks will surely be turned on them. Better to stay quiet and safe. Out of the line of fire.
The bully isn’t the popular kid. No one actually likes him. But there will always be those kids who are broken enough inside that they’re willing to latch onto him. Sad, lonely, unhappy people who find a sense of belonging with other sad, lonely, unhappy people. They like the security that comes from being part of his crowd. And the bully draws his power from the ugliness that they feed back to him, like some perverse super-villain. Without them, his power would vanish.
Wherever I go, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. Whether I’m having dinner with friends or out for coffee, whether I’m with one person or with a group, everyone wants to talk about it. Even at work, where politics is taboo, the subject comes up: Bernie or Biden? What about Warren? Some candidates, like Mayor Pete and Kamala Harris were the hot topic for a while, but their stars have begun to wane, as has Corey Booker’s, and Beto O’Rourke’s and many of the rest. No one seems to be particularly excited about any of the possibilities, but everyone is anxious about the outcome.
The overriding consideration in every conversation, of course, is beating Trump. But there’s a whole lot of angst and disagreement about the best way to do that.
Political junkie confession time: I have no interest in watching the debate this evening.
This primary season has been utterly disheartening, as has the political environment in general over the last 3 (or more!) years.
The debates are promoted like sporting events, with splashy graphics and pre- and post-game analysis, because apparently someone has determined that sports is the only thing that Americans can understand. The moderators and the networks are more interested in ratings than they are in helping voters understand the issues. Honestly, how much has anyone learned about any of the candidates in the previous two events? Close to absolute zero, I’d estimate.