Tomorrow is the most important Election Day in my lifetime. Among other things, the results will tell me whether my longtime faith in the common sense and goodwill of my fellow Americans has been justified or misplaced.
Hopefully, after tomorrow, this blog can return to discussions of rational, albeit debatable, policy proposals, commentary on interesting research results, and occasional forays into legal disputes and political philosophy. Hopefully too, we will have occasion to use a phrase introduced by Gerald Ford: “our long national nightmare is over.”
One aspect of that “long national nightmare,” of course, is the incredible amount of destruction it will leave in its wake–regulations that must be reinstated, laws that must once again be enforced, corrupt people who must be held accountable, and a return to public health directed by medical scientists rather than politicians, among many other things.
The opposite of “nightmare” is a good night’s sleep, and if all goes well, we can once again look forward to days when we haven’t had to think about the President of the United States, followed by nights when we can once again sleep soundly because–whether we agree with administration policies or not– a sane and honorable person is in charge.
If there is one word I have heard over and over during this political season, it is “exhaustion.” Trump’s desperate need for constant attention, his bizarre tweet-storms, insults and various insanities have sucked the oxygen out of our public life. He has been in our faces, on our television screens, Facebook feeds and comedy routines. As several columnists have recently noted, he has crowded out so many activities that we would otherwise enjoy–books of fiction, works of art and music, conversations with friends that didn’t give rise to disappointment when we discovered their willingness to look the other way so long as their 401K stayed healthy…
Last Thursday, at the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg wrote about all the things we’ve lost.
After listing the “big” things–the lives lost to COVID, the children whose parents can’t be located, the people whose livelihoods have disappeared, and after acknowledging the greater significance of those losses, she speaks for so many of us:
When I think back, from my obviously privileged position, on the texture of daily life during the past four years, all the attention sucked up by this black hole of a president has been its own sort of loss. Every moment spent thinking about Trump is a moment that could have been spent contemplating, creating or appreciating something else. Trump is a narcissistic philistine, and he bent American culture toward him.
I’ve no doubt that great work was created over the past four years, but I missed much of it, because I was too busy staring in incredulous horror at my phone….
Conservatives love to jeer Democrats for being obsessed with Trump, for letting him live, as many put it, rent-free in our heads. It’s a cruel accusation, like setting someone’s house on fire and then laughing at them for staring at the flames. The outrage Trump sparks leaves less room for many other things — joy, creativity, reflection — but every bit of it is warranted. The problem is the president, not how his victims respond to him.
If the polls are right, if Biden wins convincingly, Americans will nevertheless be on pins and needles until January 20th. We won’t be out of the woods until this blot on our nation and our history is gone–and even then, we will be left with the alt-right haters and know-nothings who have spent the campaign brandishing guns, refusing to wear masks and cheering ugly pronouncements at Trump rallies– voters motivated by fear and grievance who want only to “own the libs.”
Buckle up. We’re about to see how this horror show ends.