Has there ever been such a sour and depressing political season?
It’s as if every NFL team went 0-16; as if Chicago’s weather spread across the nation and covered all 50 states with ice, slush and dirty snow; or as if we all got fired on Christmas Eve.
And it’s not all Trump’s fault — remember, a year ago the rambunctious bad boy billionaire was everybody’s favorite disruptive candidate as he made fun of Republican stiffs like “Little Marco,” “Low-energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted.”
Feelin’ the Bern was fun for Dems, until it looked as if the Democratic Socialist children’s crusade might actually happen.
And now? Hillary vs. Donald hasn’t exactly brought out the best in America. Rather, it has given us permission to despise and delegitimize those who disagree with us while bonding more strongly with those who agree. But if history is any guide, most of the rancor will dissipate after the election, leaving us with divided and dysfunctional government in Washington and (divided or not!) highly functional governments in Colorado Springs, El Paso County and at the state Capitol.
Yet despite the gloom, there are rays of sunshine out there, examples of the glories of American democracy. Here are but a few.
• Electra Johnson versus Stan VanderWerf for Sallie Clark’s District 3 seat on the El Paso County Board of Commissioners. Two absurdly well-qualified candidates vying to succeed the formidable Ms. Clark — it doesn’t get any better than this. Either will do a good job. Think Eisenhower versus Stevenson or Obama versus Romney without the rancor of national elections.
• The loaded ballot. If you think most of the initiated measures on the ballot are the demon spawn of special interests and calculating political pros, you’re wrong. Some are the demon spawn of naïve idealists and crusading politicians and there are even some that are intelligently conceived for the betterment of the state. We get to decide, thanks to the dewy-eyed idealists of the early 20th century who gave voters the right to initiate constitutional amendments.
• The opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” first published in 1859: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insist on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Dickens was writing about the French Revolution, a time when such dramatic views were reasonable and appropriate. Ours is not such a time, so let’s all take a deep breath and get on with our lives.
• That said, this is a great time for connoisseurs of bare-knuckled political rhetoric. “Build the wall” and “lock her up” — unmatched! And what about the letter New York Times assistant general counsel David McCraw wrote to Donald Trump’s attorney, who threatened to sue the Times for libel? “The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a ‘piece of a**.’ Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.”
We should all have such representation! McCraw for Attorney General.
• The Donald himself: blustering, buffoonish, incendiary, egotistical and utterly unqualified to be president — absolutely. If you think he’s a crypto-fascist, racist, woman-hating, nuclear-war-starting Hitler for our time, you give him too much credit. He’s like a big, nippy dog that jumps the fence and wreaks havoc in the neighborhood, but don’t worry. Ivanka and Melania will catch the mutt and put him back in his towering kennel on Nov. 9. And give the Trumpster credit — he stripped the bark off the GOP and may have created a new party template for someone else to run with in 2020.
• Hillary! Think Jersey Joe Walcott, a legendary boxer who won his first professional bout at age 16 and ascended to the heavyweight championship 21 years later. Jersey Joe never gave up and neither has Hillary. After 36 years of taking body blows from the right, she’s still standing, still fighting, still winning … and probably still emailing.
• Small money! Every day my inbox is full of appeals for tiny contributions; $3,$5,$10. The numbers add up for candidates struggling to compete in elections dominated by the Brothers Koch, Peter Thiel and the politically engaged super rich. Social media has enabled millions of Americans to participate in this inexpensive ritual, the political equivalent of Powerball. For Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, the donor numbers were large, the gains in credibility even larger.
• The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. That’s why I can write these words and you can read them.
As the great North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin used to say: “No law means no law — not even little tiny laws.”
• Colorado. I love our state and my crazed friends, Republicans and Democrats alike. Post-election prediction: The weather will be fine; the Broncos will resume their winning ways; and I’ll win a modest jackpot in Cripple Creek.
That’ll be, as Warren G. Harding was wont to say, a return to normalcy.