I do believe this election season is part of a long last gasp. When my daughter Quinn casts her first vote for president in 2020 it is a probability, if far from an inevitability, that there will be a woman incumbent on the ballot. At that point, Quinn will have no personal memory of a white, male president.
All systems (families, societies, governments, riverways, economies, the trees and shrubbery in my backyard) not only resist change but will exert considerable and collective, even unconscious, energy toward returning to stasis, either the inherent “norm” within natural systems or the dominant “norm” as experienced (by which I mean living within the fiber of their being) by those who hold power and have held power for centuries.
It takes substantial and sustained effort, dogged really, for the Army Corp of Engineers to change the course of a river or stop its flow almost completely. Since the civil rights gains of the 50’s and 60’s and the emergence of overt and vocal feminism that contributed to the near success of Equal Rights Amendment in the 70’s, the culturally Christian uber right white male has been—not always quietly, but always with collective persistence and dogged determination—eroding the foundations of the levies, creating cracks in the dam. Over 60 years they have forced open breaches here and there, caused some floods now and again, but what they really needed was a storm, a Katrina-like storm or something greater.
Nixon was nothing more than a finger removed from the dijk. There was much hope for Reagan, but he turned out to be just a long rain storm with too many gay friends, helpful but not enough to break through. Gingrich was just a brief and annoying hail storm. Bush II was a tornado with ADD, creating real damage but unable to focus long enough on one spot to break everything open (close at the end, but no cigar).
Donald Trump? Trump is a hurricane, a record setting, once every few hundred years hurricane.
I’m not talking here about a massive conspiracy and as fun as it is to think about star chambers and such I don’t believe they exist, not for long anyway. I’m talking about something more like Jungian collective unconscious, the autonomous psyche of the angry white man.
This is why Trump supporters do not care that he has no real conservative agenda and, in fact, holds views contrary to long established conservative values. This is why they do not care about anything, really, other than the storm. The fact that he is obviously a broken human and unfit for any public office whatsoever is wholly irrelevant. All that matters is a storm so great that the levies fail, the dams break, and the river might go back to the way it flowed so many years ago, white and male and Christian… goddammit.
I think Michael Moore was close to correct when he said Trump was a Human Molotov Cocktail his supporters are throwing at Washington. I just think that analogy implies to much thought and intent. I think the “unconscious” in collective unconscious is far more accurate.
As for the leaders and politician and public figures who do not truly support Trump, who know better but have their fingers permanently crossed behind their backs and imagine air quotes every time they must give lip-service to voting for Trump, they represent a traditional character in our society, the ambulance chaser.
Then there are the true conservatives, family and people I count as friends, who have no agenda outside wanting what is best for their family and community, people who want to vote for what they believe in, things like the free market, liberty, smaller government, states’ rights and more local control. They would like, whenever possible, to vote for someone who at least shares an approximation of their values and world view. For them, the storm has already arrived. I can stand on the shore listening to reports of how it looks like hurricane Donald is going to turn and head out to the reality TV ocean. I picture my conservative friends in small boats, out in the storm and feeling lost at sea. Everyone keeps telling them which way to paddle but the truth is they are just trying to hang on.
Yes, I think we are witnessing a long last gasp and, as these things go, it will likely get worse before it gets better. Under an African American President, race relations were stripped of the pretense we’ve been personally and publicly painting on it for decades, well, some of it anyway, and exposed to the light of day things seem worse than they were not too long ago, even if we know the thing that is worse is the ability to pretend. Under a woman President will it be the same for rape culture? Will it seem to get worse when in fact we are just turning on the lights and seeing the roaches scurry?
Finally, the tragedy and comedy of this last gasp is that the angry white man thinks he is dying. Like the TV character who hears the gun go off and thinks he’s shot, grabs his chest and drops to his knees to sputter out his final wishes, he discovers he’s not shot, not dead, but he has been brought to his knees. The angry white conservative male is just losing his power, that’s all. He’ll just have to learn how to stand in line like everyone else and, come to think of it, so will I.