To say that we are in the midst of a unique presidential election race would be an understatement. Truly, “choosing the lesser of two evils” has taken on a new significance that we have not had to grapple with before. Voting for Bush instead of Gore or Obama instead of Romney seems so bland and boring when compared with what we’ve got in 2016. Now to be fair, there are avid Hillary and Trump supporters, but I haven’t met too many of them, nor have I seen all that many on Facebook (and we all know that Facebook is the clear indicator of all that is true). It seems that Hillary is the lesser lesser of the two evils, but notice that I wrote “seems”. I have family members who will vote for Trump because Hillary is the worst of the two in their minds and I understand that. Lesser evil aside, I’m stuck pondering what all this means, that it’s either Clinton or Trump, that that’s the best we’ve got. Invariably, being a historian at heart, I’ve got my theories, but I’ve also come to realize that the answer may lie closer to me than I am willing to admit, or realize. Since there’s been much talk about how the Clinton Trump race is truly a commentary on American culture, I think it’s high time that I turn the focus on one of its very own for insight: me.
And so it’s come clean time. Care to step into the confessional with me?
So here’s the dealio. I am one of those people who couldn’t get enough of the Donald starting last August (for verification just ask my wife). Each evening I turned on CNN just to see the latest news related to Trump. In the words or letters (?) of the ineffable Gwen Stefani, “this %$#@ is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!” and I couldn’t get enough of it. I mean for every crazy thing the guy did, just when you thought his poll numbers would drop, they’d continue to rise. Immigrants are rapists, Meghan Kelly and menstruation, not needing forgiveness, Carly Fiorina’s looks, John McCain not being a war hero because he got caught, making fun of the disabled, Muslims not being allowed into the US, and plenty more. I can honestly say I have never been a Trump supporter, but there were moments as the primary campaigns continued onwards that he appealed to me. On one level it was amazing and validating to see the pundits, the strategists, and dare I say “the establishment” get him wrong time and time again. Here was a group of people, who in some ways are used to controlling the narrative, unable to control or predict what would happen. They were powerless before Trump. It felt good to witness the king makers thrown off of their heals. It was also a great feeling to watch him tear down the narratives of the Republican establishment. For instance, during one debate he said that President George W. Bush lied about Iraq and failed to protect us from 9/11. Such statements were mostly true and it felt good to finally see someone say such a thing in such a setting. Those were moments when Trump tapped into the anger that I have felt and I have to confess that it felt good, it felt real good. Now, such things never brought me to the point of becoming a Trump supporter, but they did elicit within the deep, dark, recesses of my mind and soul, if only for a split second, a sort of flirtation with the idea. At the same time, though, it helped me better understand why so many were supporting Donald Trump in his run for president.
On the flipside, there’s Hillary, who has actually taught me a lot about myself. Yes, you read that correctly Hillary Haters. Again, remember we are in the confessional, this is a safe place, no condemnation please. Now, please let me continue to pour myself out to you.
I have a morning ritual where I drive to get a cup of coffee at our local Dunkin’ Donuts. Along my drive I listen to NPR and get the needed news updates for the day. Of course, in the last year these updates have heavily consisted of all of the election talk involving Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Now, I’ll admit, like the rest of the younger electorate, I was quite excited about Bernie Sanders given his desire to repeal Citizens United and to hold Wall Street accountable for their questionable activities. Though, he really turned me off in regards to his stance on abortion. Nonetheless, as the possibility of Bernie began to wither away with the clear option being either Trump or Hillary, my own complacency in this wretched system began to become so very clear to me. I realized that I’d rather go with the devil that I know rather than with the devil I didn’t know. What’s more, the idea of President Hillary Clinton brought me comfort. Think about that, a war hawk brought me comfort. With Hillary, I can at least be guaranteed that the status quo will remain the status quo. As much as I complained about the present state of politics throughout the years, as much as I was dismayed at what looked like another Bush Clinton presidential election at the start of 2015, I found myself wishing it were so. Just like the child of an abuser, I found myself taking comfort in the familiar, even though it really wasn’t good or healthy. Though, to be fair, a different sort of abuser was on the other side.
Now all I can say is, “thanks a lot Donald!” You’ve brought out my shadow sides. Anger and complacency. Funny how those two characteristics are quite common amongst the American electorate. And here I am, one lowly American who represents a swath of other Americans. So maybe there is something to the notion that elections, that leaders, are simply a commentary on the people they lead.
Thanks for listening or…umm…reading.
This is probably a good time for me to drown myself in the waters of my baptism. Maybe I’ll stay down for a little while longer. See you when I come back up out of the water.
“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” – Dorothy Day