I was watching Meet the Press and Face the Nation every Sunday morning by the time I was 9 or 10. By choice, if you can imagine. That’s the kind of geek I was. At 12, I ran for and won the vice-presidency of my elementary school. Later that same year, in the Spring of 1968, I was handing out “literature” for Robert F. Kennedy in my neighborhood in the fascist heart of Orange County, California. (Even at that young age I was a glutton for punishment.)
And then RFK was assassinated. Undeterred, I started high school that fall with a fire in my belly about race riots, Vietnam, and the war on poverty. I ran for something (Secretary? Treasurer?) that first year in a new school … and was unceremoniously defeated by a girl who was smarter and cuter and infinitely more popular than I. And so it was over almost before it started, my career as a boy politician.
(I did come out of “retirement” briefly in 1982 to hand out buttons and bumper stickers for Gore Vidal’s campaign for Senate … but I was no longer a true “believer;” I just liked the idea of a Senator from California who’d written Myra Breckenridge.)
I’ve voted in every presidential election beginning in 1976. But not until 2008 did I vote for a presidential candidate who won. With the sole exception of 2008, I have voted Democratic when a Republican has won, and Green, Libertarian, or Peace and Freedom when a Democrat has won. So, if you’re in the business of wagering on politics, consider my choice … and then bet the farm on the opposite candidate.
(I did vote Republican once, in 1996, for Bob Dole; partly because of my hatred for Slick Willie, and partly because at one of the last rallies of his campaign, when it was clear that he would lose, Dole let fly an off-the-cuff description of some children near his podium as “these cute little tax deductions up here.”)
But, over the last couple of decades, having finally realized that our politics do not produce elected officials whose primary focus is representing the needs of their constituents, I now find it easy to separate myself from the “horse race” aspects of campaigns and take a wider view. Since it is my opinion that this system is fatally flawed, I generally root for chaos, which is why I’ve enjoyed so thoroughly Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride through the GOP primaries.
It was apparent early on that there was NO FUCKING WAY his party would allow him to become their nominee. And now that their various methods of “stealing” the nomination from him are revealing themselves, we are in for a great deal of fun between now and the Republican convention in July. I will be sad to see Mr. Trump go. I never thought he would get even this far and I thank him for the memories: his odious blather has exceeded my wildest imaginings, and the unrepentant xenophobic racism his followers evince is a thing of terrible beauty. My lone remaining wish for the GOP is a convention in which they complete the task of ripping themselves to shreds.
(My chief fear, on the other hand, is the unlikely event that their nominee will be Mr. Cruz. Those of you who decry the hysterical antics of The Donald better be careful of what you wish for: Mr. Cruz is FAR more dangerous than Mr. Trump and would likely lead us down a thorny path to a Christian evangelical version of Shariah Law.)
On the Democrat side, it’s a far different kettle of fish. Mr. Sanders is an ideal candidate in many ways. I agree with most of his positions and find his geriatric hippie cool utterly charming. His reaction to “Birdie Sanders” landing on his lectern in Seattle was priceless; you just knew this was a good dude. It is also a tribute to Mr. Sanders’ basic decency that, when confronted with an opponent who is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the corporatist stranglehold on our elections (Ms. Clinton), he has almost without exception taken the high road and confined his critiques of her to their differences in policy, rather than tearing into her putrefying carcass as a lesser man would.
Is there no possibility that, having in 2008 elected a black man named Barack Hussein Obama, the nation might find it in its collective heart to elect a 74-year-old Jewish democratic socialist? Probably not, since every tool in his own party’s arsenal is arrayed against him. He will almost certainly not get the nomination, and Democrats will be left with Ms. Clinton, a weak candidate with no ability to inspire whose only hope (and it is a considerable one) is that the Republicans will nominate someone so ridiculous that she can serpentine through the assorted land mines of the general election unscathed and assume the mantle that she believes is justly hers.
In a very real sense, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders represent “the will of the people” this year. They are the ones whose stories are resonating and whose campaigns have energized their respective parties. The very real possibility that neither of them will emerge from this hellish season as nominees may make the general election an exercise in ennui and disaffection. Young people, especially, are likely to stay home in droves.
Which brings me to my final observation: might the shenanigans of this year ensure the destruction of BOTH political parties? If everyone, from white redneck meth-heads in Tennessee to Bernie Bro stoners in Colorado, feels that their parties have overridden their votes, what is likely to happen? A further retreat from politics in which our already anemic voter turnout levels shrink even further? Or an open rebellion against the idea that parties are needed at all, since their only function may seem to many to be to deprive the people of their choices?
The internet has broken down nearly all barriers between “performer” and “audience,” compromising the power of record labels, movie studios, and other “middlemen.” Is it not possible that social media and “virality” may likewise spell doom for our aged two-party system?
Lover of chaos that I am, I certainly hope so.