This is a bit of a placeholder.
I’ve taken a few weeks on and off because of work, and am about to take a few more weeks off to catch up on work and seeing family. Part of that work is my dissertation, where I’ll be applying the methods and observations I’ve been working on here to a study of Nixon’s post-presidential works. I’m really looking forward to diving into that research for real, into this kind of research, but at a bit of a remove from this race.
Here’s the other thing about why I’ve only been posting bi-weekly, and need a bit of a break. We’re at a point in the race where each campaign has come totally unstuck from its original moorings. Where the original narratives centered on character and issues, these new narratives and ideologies—ideologies in the sense of an explanatory rationale for how the world works and therefore why we should vote for a particular candidate—are about delegates and the inside-trading merry-go-round of who can beat whom and by how much and oh god will there be a contested convention who knows. This isn’t about who will make the best president. I mean, it is, but only tangentially—it’s really about who’s going to win the damn game.
I don’t know what to do with this phase in the campaign. The campaign books were obviously manipulative, repetitive, contrived, boring, and dispiriting at times, but the project of reading all of them was (and is! when I’ve had time in the past few weeks) fun, and rewarding. Part of the fun has been the joy at finding things I agree with, finding moments of humanity and interesting observations, in books on both sides. This has been surprisingly easy, because these are about people and these are books and I like both people and books, and can take or leave politics. I’ve humanized the books in a way that really surprises me (I’ve talked about it here), and so seeing candidates suffer setbacks or drop out of the race has been sad, in a way.
The violence of the campaign trail and of Trump’s rhetoric and policy is truly, deeply disheartening. To be entirely honest, for most of the race, I’ve been an on-and-off Trump agnostic, in part because this whole project has been an exercise in giving the benefit of the doubt and being pleasantly surprised at what happens. I think that while it’s our prerogative and duty to judge who we think will be the most capable candidate, to a certain extent, we’ve never been able to predict how the candidate we elect will actually act in office from their pre-presidency record. While his rhetoric has been absolutely reprehensible, I’ve also thought very clearly that it might not have much of an impact on his actual capacity to govern, comfortable as he obviously is playing a character.
But this rhetoric has consequences, and one of the consequences seems to be justifying violence. There is nothing to be proud of here. There is nothing to justify here. Further, the endless coverage of the Trump rallies, waiting breathlessly for violence, seems to be making the problem worse. I’m exhausted explaining this election to friends and acquaintances across the pond. Trying to articulate the difference between the hope and the humanity and optimism of the books and the vitriol and violence of the actual election is miserable.
So let’s take a break. As always, email me at email@example.com or leave a comment if there’s anything I’ve missed.