Saturday, November 5, 2016

So Close

I'm taking it for granted right now that Hillary will win, simply because Trump's winning is unthinkable. If it happens, we'll rethink it, but I don't think we'll have to.

So, let's do a prospective post mortem. What is the meaning of the election?

Clearly, we are in the era that so many have foreseen, where intermediate organizations, like parties, like establishments, have less power. Trump almost made it, a charlatan, a thief, a thoroughly disreputable reprobate. A real asshole. A dangerous demagogue, the kind of person who has arisen in the past – Huey Long – and in other places – Argentina – but who has come so much closer to the center of world power than any of them. He's clever, true; he's talented in a borsht belt kind of persona, content-free, truth-free, which frees him to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. The Republican party couldn't stop him, and they showed their moral hollowness through and through, so they may be through. The Democratic party did a better job, and it was the party that did it, with a very vulnerable candidate, with an organization that worked. My favorite sight was on Friday's edition of Chris Mathews' Hardball, where he visited a meeting of the Philadelphia Democratic party apparatus, the last of the big city political machines. It's just organization, that's all it is. They could run a hell of a medical practice, that's what I think. And it was Philly that was Hillary's keystone. Go, Philly!

The non-directly political Establishment did it's job also. Money flowed to the Dems. Major figures endorsed Hillary. They had some effect, they were important. But, it was still very close, very close. Very close.

So, what to learn from that? I'm not sure. But one thing, America and the world needs American stability. We all count on it. And achieving stability, by achieving the consent of the governed, need to be the overwhelming objective. Call me conservative. OK, I accept it. But progress comes from stability with the consent of the governed, which much be achieved.

Personally, I think we need super-delegates in both parties, even though the Dems are ready to jettison lots of theirs. It's not ideal, but we need intermediate institutions to avoid a caudillo. You can't outlaw social media, and even I can't watch network news – it's so boring, full of ads for intestinal disorders and constipation, which gives you a pretty good idea of the viewer demographics. Much of the media is trapped in false equivalents, although increasingly they started to take Trump's lies apart. Long term, education of the populace would be nice, but that's really long term, and a different society all together. We are dumbed down for a long time, I'm afraid. Let's just put it down as something to be worked on. In the meanwhile, we need some elements of indirect democracy.

Second point: substantive politicians need to be media personalities as a primary job, not just something that they may or may not have. It's a central part of the job, not an add-on. Hillary has done as good a job as she is capable of. I think she has gotten better, yelled less. She is still not great at persuasion – although she was terrific in the debates. But as I put it somewhere or other, she couldn't persuade a toad to jump; she'd be standing there giving orders instead, I think. I did get to like her better as the months went along, but I still won't look forward to hearing her speak. Take acting lessons, everyone, if you want to lead!

Also, given the power of the negative, major political figures need to eschew hugging the ethical line; they have to stand way back from it. Bill Clinton has made himself fairly disgusting in achieving megabuckdom. OK, he does good with the Foundation, but it leaves a bad taste, not to mention Hillary doing the same, and Chelsea in her $9 million penthouse. It's legal, and I'm not sure how many favors were done, and it's not altogether a bad thing to have a place for political figures to perch for a while, but it's too close to the line.

Contrast Obama. Part of his record breaking approval rating is his personal life and his standing far back from the line, as well as Michelle's persona and ethical ardor, and their family dinners every night. Plus Obama's sports interest – that's key to American life, I figure. OK, the ignorant fall for the idiocy of Rush Limbaugh, but that's far from a majority, and with time I think it will abate. We need people who realize that the public life is different from the private business life, and they will just make less.

Looking to substance as opposed to visuals, the white male non-college populace might be deceived – they ain't the smartest - but they have real grievances. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, they and their children need attention. If I were Hillary, I would include in my victory speech something like this:

“I know it was a close election, which means that millions of people voted for someone other than me. But now that the election is over, I want to speak directly to them. Even though you didn't vote for me, I am going to take my responsibility seriously to be President of all the people, and that means you, too. You may not trust me, you may not agree with me, you may not like me – but that doesn't make any difference to what my responsibility is. I have to serve your interests just as much as everyone else, because we are all Americans. And I want to serve your real interests to make progress in your lives.

“We have to make sure that nobody is left behind, and that includes you. We need for you to have meaningful work. We need to have your children educated and trained and capable of contributing to society and fulfilling their inherent promise. I pledge myself to deliver not only for the people who voted for me, but to serve the welfare of those who didn't. Government can't do everything; we all know that. But you need education, health, and jobs, and I'm going to do all I can to get government to contribute to that end.”

And then that's what I would do as President. If she is successful, both in substance and in appearance – they have to see her trying, and they have to see some results – then maybe she can clip off enough of that demographic to make the Democrats the party of the center, a predominant party, while the Republicans complete their self-demolition. That will bring stability.

There is no dearth of challenges. But it's important not to underestimate the importance of the job. To make the world safe, government needs the endorsement and confidence of people at large. It's very scary to think that America is not stable. Everyone has relied on that stability and that strength. But to maintain that, a lot of work must be done.

Wake up call, ladies and gentlemen, wake up call.

Budd Shenkin

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