I’m taking a break from my new focus on vulnerability to say a few things about the election. I have a really hard time with people encouraging everyone to “get out and vote” without also encouraging people to become informed before they vote. Personally, I’d rather you not vote if you’re not informed. Not voting doesn’t increase the value of some diehard’s vote as much as voting without knowing what you’re doing does. And it does take time. You can’t really just show up at the ballot box and expect that the little blurb on the bill or person or proposition is going to tell you everything you need to know. It took me four hours to fill out my ballot. Here’s some thoughts on the most stressful choice on the ballot this year:
The voter’s pamphlet mailed out to Washington State residents explains, “the chief duty of the President is to ensure that the laws of the nation are faithfully executed.” This means, among other things, that a country is a legal entity, not a business or a sports player or a child that must get its way. Under Elected Experience, Clinton lists US Senator; under Other Professional Experience, she has four lines of demanding, progressively public positions. Her statement, like every other woman’s on the ballot (and unlike every other man’s) is in first-person plural language: “our campaign…;” “if we win this November;” etc. Trump has no elected experience and the paragraph under Other Professional Experience matches the first paragraph of his statement. It reads like advertising copy that the uninformed voter might take for actual fact.
But at least one of his best sellers, The Art of the Deal, was ghostwritten by a man who has since distanced himself from the COP’s candidate. According to Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston’s book, The Making of Donald Trump, the “standards of excellence” he has set in real estate and entertainment (by which this largely means casino management) involve multiple lawsuits he agreed to settle and multiple loans from both his father and the government. He will stand trial for racketeering in November regardless of the outcome of this election. The mainstream media ignored it, but a child-rape lawsuit was filed against him, which will proceed to trial next month. It is, however, pointless to go on, not because facts like these have been public domain for years. It’s the Information Age, after all; despite Trump’s efforts at concealment and deception, truth does seem to eventually come into the light.
The problem is that it doesn’t seem to matter. Perhaps more accurately, it is precisely because of such troubling facts, his puerile rants and almost dreamlike ramblings that restate questions as their own answers, that swell the ranks of Trump supporters. Those who hold or have been swayed by Trumpism are probably the most united voting block in history. Despite Clinton’s political and public-service experience, support for her seems underwhelming in comparison. Perhaps it is the fracturing of the Democratic Party with the letdown that was the Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Perhaps it is the disillusionment of so many voters: here is one thing Trump may be right about. The system is rigged, though not exactly against him; a clandestine, 40-year campaign of a small group of ultra-wealthy Americans (think Koch brothers cloned) is to blame.
Perhaps, though, it is because of the very fact that Clinton has been involved in politics by some accounts since the 1970s. Trump makes better reality-TV material than presidential material, but things have been working for fewer and fewer people; lots of experience may signal more of the status quo when many are desperate for something different. Thus, Clinton’s careful, selective manner, necessary for diplomacy, is viewed as dishonest, perhaps even paranoid, while Trump’s over-the-top antics are seen as trustworthy. No one would speak that freely if they weren’t telling the truth, right?
Some version of this is, in fact, exactly what a large majority of Trump supporters give as their rationale for rallying behind him: he tells it like it is. Whether he actually tells it like it is or not is beside the point; evidently, this is what a vast portion of Americans think “telling it like it is” looks like. Many of the people of this country think The Truth looks like bullying, labeling vast groups of people and assertions of concurrent might and innocence. We have been swept nearly entirely off of our feet by a candidate whom a prominent newspaper of KKK endorses because somehow, we have become fixated on the right to hold – and express – our own opinions rather than how to inform ourselves and listen well to those who differ from us.
It is curious that this heavy emphasis on the right to one’s opinion coexists with the en masse failure to fully form it. It’s understandable to struggle to shift through the sheer amount of material living in the Information Age affords us. But the result when a candidate offers to “be your voice” is relief rather than recoil. Trump has said this in stronger terms – “I will be your voice” – are we so overwhelmed or distracted or confused that we don’t recognize this as the very definition of a dictator? Have we been so deeply bred to believe that such a democracy as ours could never produce or elect an authoritarian? Or do we find such promises of tough-guy tactics and total control comforting in the face of the tectonic social, economic and environmental upheaval many can feel is already underway even as the status quo continues to grind onward?