Clinton & Trump (Against the Apocalypse)

kati perry

Exhausted, I’ve never spent so many hours watching as I did over the last two weeks the presidential nominating convention of either party –including lots of the pre-primetime coverage. What was I looking for? Portents and signs? Performance and spectacle? A view of America from the bottom of the political sewer dredged up by Trump? The death throes of the GOP? The coming apart and the coming together of the Democratic Party? The hope, either strong or naïve, that Clinton is the one who will able to re-structure our political center on a robust and fair basis?

I’m not utterly unsympathetic to the feelings expressed by some that this is an apocalyptic moment. Mostly, though, I’m not sure how one goes about gauging apocalypse. To what degree are these moods and moments driven by media and social-media constructs? Having jumped the shark, the GOP base represents how much of the country? 20 million people? 30 million people? 40 million people? Are there enough angry white men out there to scale up and win Trump a general election, as opposed to a highly charged primary cycle? What happens when you look outside the large and voluble parts of the GOP and a smaller percentage of the Democratic base?

Maybe it’s the case that most people want nothing more than a little relief, a little human sympathy, and something “normal,” that they want the system to work. That would depend upon what one means by “the system,” by which I mean those institutions that represent the middle class and protecting the middle class, including social security, health benefits, job security, college affordability, as well the myth that Americans are a generous people who welcome immigrants and abhor religious bigotry.

Are women, as a general rule, less given over to apocalyptic fantasy than men? On the one hand, I’m comparing the apocalyptic mood to the powerful optimism conveyed by the utter and banal normality of Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Demi Lavato, Rachel Platten, and Sara Bareilles who provided so much of the sound track powering Hillary’s nomination at the Democratic Convention. On the other hand and most of all, I’m feeling tired. We’re all waiting upon the polls, which now keep Clinton ahead, and upon every latest verbal outrage from the Republican standard bearer. I wish this election were over already and safely in the bag.

Leibniz was right. This is the best of all possible worlds,  by which he meant that in this world everything is possible. But enough already. It’s going to be a long haul to November. The New York State Fair opens at the end of August, and then school starts, and with it my commute through a pocket of north east Pennsylvania and up Central New York . I still don’t believe that there are enough stupid and malicious people in this country to elect Trump president, but I’m going to hold my breath. On the drive up and back to Syracuse, I’ll be listening to a lot of NPR, pop music, rightwing talk radio set to something sad like compositions by Arvo Pärt or Mozart’s Requiem.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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