A year of dis­rup­tion and dis­may

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - David Shrib­man Colum­nist

Now, fi­nally, there is a logic -- a strate­gic and even ide­o­log­i­cal ra­tio­nale -- for a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that has shat­tered all the as­sump­tions of logic, all the strate­gic and ide­o­log­i­cal prece­dents, of our pol­i­tics.

With the final pres­i­den­tial de­bate now in the swiftly re­ced­ing past, the final bal­lot­ing now swiftly ap­proach­ing, the ba­nal­i­ties and bathos now reach­ing their in­evitable but wel­come ends, we see clearly what this elec­tion is about.

The ul­ti­mate dis­rupter now has a lim­ited amount of time to dis­rupt the process that has given him the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion but now threat­ens to deny him the ul­ti­mate prize. The con­sum­mate cu­ra­tor of the con­ven­tional now faces the lim­ited chal­lenge of run­ning out the clock on an elec­tion that once seemed hers to lose, then seemed pos­si­ble to see her los­ing, and now seems within her grasp.

In sports terms, we have the two-minute drill against a “pre­vent” de­fense. In mu­sic terms, we have a master of the scat line against a vir­tu­oso of the sonata-al­le­gro. Man­hat­tan busi­ness­man Don­ald Trump and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton are strug­gling, re­spec­tively but not re­spect­fully, to pro­duce and to pre­vent a sur­prise sym­phony.

The re­mark­able thing about this dispir­it­ing cam­paign is that nei­ther of the roles these two pugilists have as­sumed is nat­u­ral -- they are ac­quired, though to say that they are an ac­quired taste is to give to them more honor than they de­serve. In­deed, these roles go against the in­stincts and his­to­ries of both of the prin­ci­pals, to say noth­ing of their fast-van­ish­ing prin­ci­ples.

Con­sider Trump’s back­ground: a busi­ness­man, al­beit with a show­man’s flair. Whether on Wall Street or Main Street, or on the down­town av­enues and coastal re­sorts from Bay Street in Toronto to Ocean Boule­vard in Palm Beach, busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives or­di­nar­ily prize sta­bil­ity -- and yet Trump is the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of dis­rup­tion.

Con­sider Clin­ton’s back­ground, from the New Eng­land af­ter­noons of her an­ti­war ac­tivism to the com­mence­ment morn­ing of her Welles­ley ed­u­ca­tion to her stereo­type-smash­ing years as first lady in the gov­er­nor’s man­sion in Lit­tle Rock and in the White House. Al­ways, un­til now, she has been the sworn en­emy of the sta­tus quo -- and yet in this race she is the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the an­cien regime.

In tran­si­tion are the party align­ments (blue-col­lar vot­ers to the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, a patina of elitism to the Demo­cratic coali­tion); the tra­di­tional forms of pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics (party loy­al­ists not al­ways ral­ly­ing be­hind their nom­i­nee); the lan­guage of pol­i­tics (Clin­ton said her ri­val “choked” in his late-sum­mer visit to Mex­ico; Trump said his op­po­nent “shouldn’t be al­lowed to run” be­cause she was “guilty of a very, very se­ri­ous crime”); the con­tent of pol­i­tics (whether one can­di­date was a phys­i­cal abuser of women and whether the other was an in­tim­ida­tor of women); and the con­duct of de­bates (in­ter­rup­tions, men­ac­ing back­ground move­ments).

Some of these el­e­ments are of sub­stan­tial po­lit­i­cal mo­ment: If, for ex­am­ple, the Democrats are los­ing their New Deal coali­tion, and if the Repub­li­cans are adopt­ing a fresh ap­peal to work­ing Amer­i­cans, we may be wit­ness­ing a land­mark turn­ing point.

These sorts of dis­rup­tions up­end po­lit­i­cal as­sump­tions, and they have oc­curred, among other times, in 1828 with An­drew Jack­son, in 1980 with Ron­ald Rea­gan and dur­ing the Al Smith/Franklin Roo­sevelt tran­si­tion of 1928 through 1936. They set in mo­tion im­por­tant in­tel­lec­tual and ide­o­log­i­cal forces.

We may be wit­ness­ing such a mo­ment this fall. But we also may be wit­ness­ing merely the coars­en­ing of our cul­ture -- and the fur­ther diminu­tion of our pol­i­tics. The new­est Ras­mussen Re­ports sur­vey in­di­cates that half of likely vot­ers say they will be se­lect­ing the lesser of two evils. It is an elec­tion of the lesser an­gels of our na­ture.

David M. Shrib­man is ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor of the Post Gazette (dshrib­man@postgazette.com, 412 263-1890). Fol­low him on Twit­ter at Shrib­manPG.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.