HERE WE ARE AMERICA, WITH JUST A FEW MONTHS TO GO BEFORE ELECTING A NEW PRESIDENT, AND THE CHOICE IS A BLEAK ONE.
Most likely, the Democrats will offer up a tainted political warhorse, Hillary Clinton, and the Republicans a vicious misogynist, Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Bernie believers feed the flames of anti-Hillary rhetoric, and Teflon Don spews a cascade of outrageous tweets and quips using language that would, in an earlier time, embarrass a third-grader. Hillary, meanwhile, is being hoisted by her own petard in the form of unsanctioned (unsanctified?) e-mails. She should have known better.
The media are complicit in creating this circus of fools, the voting public being the fools, of course. I can hear Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, exhorting his cohort of news readers to follow The Donald’s bombasts wherever they may lead, and don’t, for the love of God, ask him any questions that might make an advertiser uncomfortable. Ratings mean revenue! And ratings rule public opinion in twenty-first-century America.
The expression, “here today, gone tomorrow,” applies to virtually everything said in the political arena, except for those ingenious Trumpisms like “crooked Hilary” or “little Marco,” which gain traction with a public weaned on sound-bites. A public that sacrifices its intelligence at the altar of sensationalism cares little about journalistic integrity, nor does the Third Estate itself, with the exceptions of, perhaps, The New York Times and The Washington Post, the last holdouts against that sewer journalism we seem to adore. (Yes, I am a progressive, which makes me, along with the Chiricahua Leopard Frog, an endangered species.)
By the way, America, words and phrases like “progressive,” “liberal,” “environmentalist,” “climate change,” and “global warming” are not dirty, despite what Rush Limbaugh and the Far Right would have you believe. If it weren’t for progressives, “workplace safety” would be an oxymoronic expression, and the Hudson River would be devoid of life. Look at what anti-progressive thinking has done to the residents of Flint, Michigan. Since-resigned Mayor Dayne Walling’s thinking might have gone something like this: “Those neighborhoods are mostly black. What have they done for me lately?”
In late May, Trump announced that, as president, he would “bring back coal,” which is another way of saying, he’ll bring back the Stone Age. Even China has acknowledged the dangers from coal emissions. Actually, Trump is probably mining for Koch brothers’ campaign dollars, although some would label me a cynic for saying this. But what greater cynic is there than Trump himself for suggesting that he would consider Sarah Palin as his running mate? Mining the fundamentalist voter segment, Donnie Boy?
As Americans, we are the world’s greatest consumers of both material goods and verbal garbage. Fox News tells the truth; MSNBC tells the truth; for some, The Enquirer tells the truth. With so much “truth” in circulation, you would think that Americans were the best-informed people on Earth, but just the opposite is more likely to be spot on. To be well-informed, you must be curious and accept nothing at face value. Instead, we accept as truth whatever makes us feel good, which too often involves blaming others for our own failures. Trump has played into this thinking by equating Islamist terrorism with perceived “threats” from Chinese exports, and Mexican migrant workers with rapists and murderers.
For Trump, it’s us against them, any enemy of convenience whose identity can change according to his whim. Fortress America reborn—no more Alamos. The spirit of jingoism runs deep in America, and Trump knows how to play it.
Bill Britton is a Vero Communiqué Contributing Editor and a freelance writer for John Hopkins University.