If you were masochistic enough to watch the third presidential debate of 2016 between Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican nominee the pissed-off Great Pumpkin, one line in particular ought to have stood out amidst what was otherwise the rhetorical equivalent of scraping the floor of a dive bar with an old bottle cap. “Such a nasty woman,” the Trumpkin muttered in the debate’s closing moments. He was, of course, referring to the first major-party female presidential candidate in American history, and the line quickly became an internet feminist rallying cry; an embodiment of the typhoon of chauvinistic misogyny that has characterized the Trump phenomenon from the moment its spray-tanned gargoyle of a leader announced his pursuit for the nation’s heretofore most respected office.
Be honest. Did you ever really believe that the foul-mouthed, swirly-coiffed, animate bottle of Tropicana Pure Premium that announced his presidential run by marking the guys who mill about Home Depot parking lots as the greatest threat to Western Civilization since the Barbarians sacked Rome would eventually run neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in a race for the White House?
Depending on where you stand politically, the 2016 race is shaping up to be either the election of your sweetest dreams or most abominable nightmares. Following the thinly-veiled Klan rally that was the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, erstwhile reality TV pimp-turned-trucker-hat-sporting Grand Dragon Donald Trump sunk in the polls like a snitch in the Hudson River. Heck, for a few halcyon summer weeks, it seemed like America might emerge from its collective fever swamp and realize that, while by no means perfect or even necessarily desirable, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was the far more stable option over which to hand control of the nuclear arsenals.
Alas, this is America we’re talking about.
There’s a country called America. It’s a place where amber waves of grain dance along the horizon like so many sprouting capitalist entrepreneurs. It’s a country that built an impressive interstate highway system to provide weary travellers with easy access to Cracker Barrel restaurants. It’s a place that might elect as its next president a filthy-rich, xenophobic, muskrat-domed can of sentient Spray Tan.
Not every corner of America is Donald Trump country, of course. But if you wanna know what pockets of this great nation embrace the Great Orange Demigod, then look no further than the small towns and boroughs of William Penn’s old stomping ground. Referred to derisively or proudly as “Pennsyltucky,” the swath of ‘Murica that sits between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia like a super-sized Norman Rockwell diorama loves itself some Trump. In particular, there’s a region in western Crawford County (straddling the border of Ohio’s Ashtabula County) where you can watch ducks and geese traverse the wet backs of thousands of Wonder Bread-chomping carp. Here, amidst all the fish and fowl, Trump signs abound.
Americans really love their Civil War. In the popular imagination, the Civil War is the nation’s trial by fire; that utterly necessary event that determined if a house divided against itself could rise from the ashes and prove to the world that a nation “of the people, by the people, for the people” could survive.
Yet beneath the mythology of reconciliation is the reality of a war that endured long after the armies laid down their guns. Strip away the mythology and you’re left with what historian Eric Foner calls America’s “Unfinished Revolution,” a revolution defined by violence, terrorism, and a string of broken promises that stifled the march of equality for generations. This “Unfinished Revolution” was Reconstruction, and the film Free State of Jones depicts Reconstruction’s brutal reality better than any previous popular treatment.
On Halloween night, 1936, incumbent Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a riveting speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The United States was in the eighth year of the Great Depression, and FDR was fixin’ to tout his smorgasbord of government programs known collectively as the New Deal.
FDR acknowledged that Americans “wanted peace of mind instead of gnawing fear.” To offer this piece of mind, he promised to protect currency, ensure fair wages, reduce working hours, end child labor, and crush financial speculation. Moreover, The president directly addressed the business and financial interests and their Republican allies who opposed his administration: “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.” Democrats used to talk like that. They ought to again.
Something smells foul in Cleveland, and for once, it isn’t Lake Erie fish die-offs, the polluted Cuyahoga River, or the Indians’ post-All-Star Break performance. Nope, the stench wafting above the city’s majestic brown and gray skyline came from the Quicken Loans Arena, where the Republican Party officially coronated its own version of a mid-20th century authoritarian Strongman on July 21, 2016.
Historically, America’s conservative party has been no stranger to political scare-tactics, but in his speech to officially accept the Republican presidential nomination, Donald J. Trump — he of the bombastic ego and even more bombastic roadkill coiffure — laid out an apocalyptic vision of America that was beholden less to Ronald Reagan that it was to Immortan Joe.
On the evening of July 27, 2004, during a steaming hot summer in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, the junior senator from Illinois took the stage at the Democratic Party’s national convention and delivered one of the most important speeches in modern political history. Though the convention’s focus was to anoint the hapless John Kerry as the party’s standard-bearer for what became a futile effort to boot President George W. Bush from the White House, the convention’s keynote speaker focused less on an uncertain present and more on a hopeful future.
That keynote speaker — future President Barack Obama — delivered an address squarely aimed at undermining the toxic national divisiveness that defined America during the Bush years. In perhaps the defining moment of his political career, Obama insisted that, “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” Twelve years later, in the twilight of President Obama’s second term in the White House, some think that America is more divided than ever.
Remember when the sun never set on the British Empire? Remember when political decisions made by dentally challenged limeys on some dank Atlantic island had far-reaching implications for the entire globe? Of course you don’t, but that might change in the very near future.
When the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016 (a move popularly designated as “Brexit,” as in “Britain + Exit,” get it?! Yes, yes, very droll indeed), global markets shook, and badger-bouffanted blowhard Donald J. Trump went to Scotland to congratulate the Highlands’ heroic William Wallaces who “took their country back,” even though the Scots voted to stay in the EU. As he does about every world event about which he knows nothing, Trump has an opinion about Brexit, and like most of his opinions, it’s spectacularly wrong.
Whelp, it’s over folks. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has made history by becoming the first woman to (officially unofficially) clinch the nomination for a major party’s presidential ticket. While I’ve been vocal in my support for Sen. Bernie Sanders over the former Secretary of State, Clinton’s nomination is nonetheless an awesome and historic moment in U.S. history.
Think about it: it took until two-thousand friggin’ sixteen for the United States to get a viable female candidate for the highest office in the land. That’s frankly disgraceful, but to paraphrase an apocryphal quote from Winston Churchill: Americans always do the right thing after they’ve exhausted all the other options.
There was a time in America, not so long ago, when thumping your dog-eared King James, warning about the threat posed by the queer-o-sexuals, and arguing that life began at the moment you noticed that glint in your girlfriend’s eye while watching Beach Blanket Bingo at the Podunkville Drive-In theater could transform you into a political kingmaker. From at least the late 1960s until the mid 2000s, presidents ranging from Richard Nixon, to Jimmy Carter, to Ronald Reagan, to George Dubya Bush ceremoniously kissed the totally not gay rings of Evangelical Grand Poobahs whose political clout ensured that so-called “Values Voters” would turn up at the polls to reclaim America for one VERY specific God.
But in the year 2016, America has a new God. His will is capricious. His hair is supernatural. And His wealth is so yooooge it would make King Solomon blush. This God is Donald J. Trump, and he appears to have rendered the once mighty Religious Right as impotent as a crew-cut Samson.