How many more of these goddamn elections are we going to have to write off as lame but “regrettably necessary” holding actions? And how many more of these stinking double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the forty million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?
—Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72
Hunter is dead, and I’m not him. Now we’ve got through the bad news, let’s take a good hard look at what’s changed in the past 48 years.
OK; I lied: We’re not through with the bad news.
At this moment when the nation’s total attention is focused on the Great Washington Impeachment Show, I think it’s time for those of us with a functioning cerebellum to instead look past it. The results of the Senate trial appear uncertain, but let’s face it: Now that the rules are set, everything else is just a formality. Oh, there may be a moment of excitement when Senator Beauregard Claghorn finally succumbs to terminal ennui, but the results are known. The fix is in, and we’ll be notified in due course.
So let’s take a good hard look of what’s coming down the pike. This way we can at least see it coming, and rather than being blindsided we can choose to face the upcoming storm head-on. Or, if we’re wiser, maybe we can duck behind something — or at least cover our mouths before it hits. Because I can smell it in the wind, and friends, that ain’t rain.
It’s the moment before the Iowa caucus, the pause before the blast. Grampa Joe is in the lead — we used to call him Uncle but the signs of senescence are too numerous to ignore. And yet the thought of a Trump – Biden contest is so very depressing I can’t help but hope for some way to avert fate. Grampa Joe is such a basically decent man that I don’t want it to be a catastrophic health crisis, but if that’s all that can save us from another round of Worse and Worst I guess I wouldn’t cry too much.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Grampa Joe. He never touches alcohol, is beloved by his neighbors and everyone that ever knew him, fights steadfastly for the working man, and rides Amtrak by choice. He’s decent and upstanding; he fights the good fight. And maybe I’m wrong about encroaching senility; the Biden Gaffe Machine has been going strong since Day One, and perhaps this is just the newest iteration. But I fear it’s not.
And the elephant in the room— No. That’s Trump. I should properly say “the jackass in the room”, but that’s nowhere near specific enough. I’ll settle for The thing that’s staring us right in the face, which is that Joe’s an old white guy in the party of identity politics. Don’t get me wrong: I despise the concept. I’m on board with men voting for women, straights for gays, normals for freaks, black for brown for yellow for blue. I don’t care what your category is; I care about who you are and what you stand for, and I think most of us agree. But the DNC has embraced identity politics, which in effect makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy: They can’t preach diversity while running an old white guy and expect their whipped-up crowds to go for it.
There’s a dozen causes blamed for Hillary’s 2016 loss and some even have substance, but it’s an error to forget what drove Trump’s win: He generates passion. His followers came out in droves to support him; Clinton’s did not. This time around, there might be enough anti-Trump vitriol out there to elect his adversary, but history tells us otherwise. In 1972 it was Richard Frigging Nixon, one of the most loathed men in the history of politics, and he got re-elected because McGovern just couldn’t inspire.
It’s been fifty years, but politics hasn’t changed and never will.
So in the sincere hope that we can in some small way do our bit to make sure history doesn’t repeat, The Not Fake News plans to do a series on the character of the other contenders. You’ve seen them in our Scorecard, but that’s far too pithy for everyday use. Instead, expect to read about Tulsi’s domestic expertise (a short read), Warren’s foreign policy mastery (even shorter), and why Amy Klobuchar using a comb to eat a salad may be the greatest accomplishment of any candidate ever.
And, as an added bonus, it’s my earnest desire to feature possible replacements for The Donald if he should prove unable to make the ticket this time around. After all, it’s what half the country is hoping for; let’s explain why that might be better — or worse — than they might think.
NOTE: Photo is of Hunter S. Thompson and George McGovern in earnest conversation, courtesy the McGovern archives. The only credit I could find is “staff photographer” but Nick assures me it’s supposed to be Annie Leibovitz.