“There is no there, there.”—Gertrude Stein
The calendar on the wall stares at me with the baleful glare of an unjustly hanged penitent. The current page, as with all the pages behind it, is a hectic cluster of identical slash marks confined within small numbered squares, each denoting a dead day I somehow managed to slog through on the way to November’s festival of mourning. Even the Sharpie I use is bitter. I should be labeling files or doing laundry marks, it tells me, but instead I get to be the herald for another dumb dawn in US presidential politics. Just leave my cap off, it implores, and let me dry out in peace.
Sharpie’s lament is entirely understandable. Slash-slash for the day Donald Trump talked about his penis size during a debate, slash-slash for the day Hillary Clinton’s campaign blessed the “news” media by bungling the response to her pneumonia diagnosis, slash-slash for the day Gary Johnson couldn’t name a world leader. Day after day, and for what? For a group of candidates I wouldn’t follow into the water? In the words of a Scottish friend, “Thankya no.”
I am not writing about Trump and his lost billion dollars, his money-laundering “charity” that just got shut down in New York, his serial cruelty to women, his indefatigable tin ear when it comes to addressing the Black and Latino communities by advocating dumpster fire policies like “Stop and Frisk,” his wanton incoherence during the last debate, his likely flame-out in the upcoming Town Hall, his breaking of the Cuba embargo, his plan to banish Muslims, his embrace of Rudy Giuliani who appears to be devolving into some inarticulately racist version of Gollum, his dismissal of the climate crisis as a Chinese plot or his inability to put down his phone and stop tweeting gibberish at all hours of day and night.
Not doing it.
I am not writing about Clinton and her indefensible Iraq War vote, her equally rancid PATRIOT Act vote, her tenure at State Department during which the Keystone XL pipeline became the favorite toy of all the DC cool kids, her “gold standard” love affair with the pestiferous Trans-Pacific Partnership that lasted until she saw Bernie Sanders looming in the rear-view, her deep and abiding ties with the worst of corporate and Wall Street state, or the fact that she stands firmly on the dead-wrong side of war-making, the environment, trade and economic justice, which are only among the most important issues facing the nation today — but everyone makes mistakes, right?
Not having it.
I am not writing about the glory and wonder that is the third-party phenomenon this time around. My goodness, this is what we get? You’ll seldom find someone more hopeful for a true third-party challenge to this sludge-freighted status quo than me, but I’m not about to batter my poor abused keyboard trying to square the peculiar circle that is our current third-party estate. Johnson has never heard of Harriet Tubman or Aleppo and thinks the climate crisis should be dealt with by the free market because the Earth is going to crash into the sun someday (yeah, no, he said that). Jill Stein could conceivably swing some weight in a presidential campaign if the Green Party’s infrastructure and general strategy weren’t cobbled together out of popsicle sticks and old shoelaces. Just being “third party” does not automatically bestow merit.
The vital matter of our fractured Supreme Court has been all but ignored by our corporate “news media,” and by and large by the candidates themselves, along with Citizens United, the forbidden topic that is the bloated “defense” budget, or all the vital down-ticket races. The climate crisis has become a Trumpian punch line, and God forbid we even dare to tickle the outside edge of how to hamstring the National Rifle Association and get our national gun crisis under some semblance of control. The disgrace that is the corporate “news” media would apparently collectively break out in hives and bleeding string warts if forced to forego the horse race claptrap and actually cover these vital issues.
Sixteen months of this, of Trump and Clinton and Bush and O’Malley and Cruz and Santorum and Webb and Christie and Fiorina and Gilmore and Graham and Chafee and Huckabee and Jindall and Lessig and Pataki and Kasich and Paul and Walker and Carson and Perry and Rubio and Sanders and a national press corps that wouldn’t know integrity if it threw rocks at their cars … and after all the burned-out campaign buses were towed off the road and the blood was hosed off the walls, we find ourselves here. I have been writing about all these issues, and every first-rate second-rate candidate who survived to the final round, with dreary regularity for nearly two long years now, trilling away like some doom-struck songbird in a trackless wilderness. To say I am exhausted, dispirited and more than a little freaked out at this point is to say water is, was and will always be wet.
Not today. There is one month left, one more series of black X-marks to scrawl on the calendar. Once more unto the breach … tomorrow, OK? My bilge tanks are filled to bursting with this pitiful display of poxed democracy and failed journalism. I said it a while ago and it remains true today: It only gets weirder from here. Take appropriate precautions, and I’ll see you in the morning.