What kind of presidential election is this?
Damned if I know. By traditional standards it defies definition. Bizarre is a word that easily comes to mind.
Politics used to be graced by candidates who might not be geniuses but who could at least articulate a message even when at root it was nonsense. Besides, there were always pundits around – dozens of them – to point out the failings and errors of the candidates. Punditry was usually enlightening then, and often entertaining.
Now, there are no pundits left, no modern equivalents of Cronkite, Huntley, Brinkley and Wallace – sceptical centrists who could be relied upon to present a well-reasoned analysis of the day’s events and gently to dismantle any outlandish statement, regardless of the source. Pundits are nowadays found only on the political margins – mainly on the right of the spectrum, it must be said – perhaps most obviously manifested by that half-demented, pseudo-fascist propagandist James Hannity.
Why would any analyst of sound mind bother to stick around anyway when there are no policy issues to examine, no precedents to summon, no personalities with whom to engage, or even to analyse. Trump sells himself as a personality but he is nothing of the kind. He is a superficial, loud-mouthed and inarticulate peddler of childish propaganda. He may still be recovering from the shock of being the candidate of a once powerful and respectable party, and potential leader of a world that lies beyond his capacity or desire to comprehend. As for Clinton, she is so busy defending herself from attacks on her ethical probity, as well as claims that she has a serious and perhaps even incapacitating health issue, that she has found little time for serious political campaigning.
Trump’s campaign is almost entirely skewed towards awakening ancient and deep-seated anxieties to make bigotry respectable. Clinton’s plane has yet to leave the runway because Feds with sniffer dogs are busy inspecting it.
A great many Republicans secretly agree that Trump is an oaf and an electoral disaster waiting to happen, and more than a few Democrats openly despise Clinton as a financial manipulator who has turned sailing close to the wind into a legal art form. One could, in short, conclude from recent campaign events that one candidate is mentally deficient, the other a physical wreck. Some choice!
A lot of Americans I speak to say ‘a plague on both houses’, while wishing that somehow the campaign could be started over with new candidates. Well, someone should have thought of that this time last year.
Anyway, where are the candidates who would make a sensible and decent alternative contest? My friends shake their heads. Not, I might add, that I have any more idea than they do.
In the debates at the start of the Republican nominating campaign, Trump took on fourteen party rivals, all with decent pedigrees in the political world and many as well known as he was. Not one of them landed a single telling blow on Trump, let alone a mortal one. Quite an intellectual accomplishment, n’est ce pas?
Meanwhile, the Democrats managed to come up with just one candidate to challenge Clinton: an elderly old-fashioned Socialist whose popular appeal seemed to be based exclusively and desperately on her lack of it.
Now, instead of the quaint and old-fashioned political virtues that used to enliven and even inform the hustings, like spirited exchanges on economic policies and testing of the candidates under pressure, we are given a range of outlandish conspiracy theories. I may have forgotten some of them but they include the following: Trump is secretly in league with Putin to sabotage the Democrats; Clinton, apparently suffering from pneumonia, is actually being poisoned; Clinton is using a body double to cover up her physical frailty. The Bard himself could not have concocted such a witch’s brew of dramatic nonsense.
After all this is over, God may well bless America.
I can only add that I hope he spares a thought for the rest of us.