Monday, August 3, 2015

Send in the Clowns

Yes, I know, they're already here.

Although it's difficult to assess whether the politics of our Glorious Republic is comedy or tragedy, the efforts of the relentless categorizer Aristotle notwithstanding, there's something laughable about this presidential election.  I wonder if the plethora of clowns running for that sublime office is a kind of affirmation by fate that our elections have caused whatever gods may be to despair of us entirely.  Since we are beyond saving, why not turn our national politics and governance into a kind of farce, something entertaining if nothing else.

The cast is impressive in size, although the characters are stock.  The venal, disingenuous, unlikeable Clinton; the big-mouthed,  pompous ass Trump; the holy-roller Huckabee; the scatter-brained, disturbingly named Rand Paul; the oleaginous opportunist Cruz; the youthful, handsome and vacant Rubio; the excitable, apparently vindictive, Christie; the dully passive-aggressive Walker; the odd, emotional Graham; the unexciting leftover Jeb Bush; and the others, thus far unnoticeable, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, who seems to suffer from nothing more than being old in age and an old-time liberal.

And soon, perhaps, Vice President Biden may join the race.  That would be like Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin running for the office.

How can an intelligent, responsible individual make a choice among these undesirables?  It is not, if it has ever been, a process of choosing the best or most qualified person.  It has become an exercise in determining who is most likely to do the least amount of damage to the United States and its people, and even to the world given our propensity to rush into problems and places where angels fear to tread. 

There are of course intelligent, responsible individuals left even now here in God's favorite country, and it's likely some if not all of them vote.  But it's not at all clear that they will have any significant impact in deciding who becomes president.  We (and other, less favored, people) enjoy comparing our nation to ancient Rome, which in a way is appropriate as we borrowed so much of its form and architecture.  We have not quite made it to the point where the presidency can be bought in the way Didius Julianus bought his place as Roman Emperor, but we clearly have reached the point where money is of paramount importance, a direct if not the sole cause of success in our elective politics.  For this we must thank our Supreme Court, which decided that hurling any amount of money at our politicians in the hope if not the expectation of favors is perfectly fine in the law.  Only bribery of the most blatant kind is prohibited here in the home of the free and the brave.

We may still hope, however.  Didius Julianus reigned for only a matter of weeks, and was disposed of by the Praetorians he paid.  The auctioning of the Roman principate was shown in a Hollywood spectacular, called The Fall of the Roman Empire by someone who was its seems unaware of the fact that the empire continued in the West for another three centuries or so after that memorable event, and in the East for another thirteen hundred years, more or less.  I recall Christopher Plummer playing Commodus in that film as something of a cruel but cheerful lunatic.

But who can be said to be even the least likely to do harm to us among this rogues gallery?  We can expect such as Clinton and Jeb Bush to play the tired old game of Washington politics in a predictable if not effective manner, but the ascendancy of that caricature of a boorish rich man, the Trimalchio of our time, is it seems a sign that many have soured on business as usual, or have at least concluded that if we must suffer through it we may as well have someone who, being rich and only concerned with being rich, doesn't care about what he says or thinks.

Is it possible that Trump's popularity may indicate that we all now recognize our politicians are pandering hypocrites, ready to do or say anything to be elected and remain elected, which is to say ready to do the bidding of their paymasters?  Or indicate that we are for other reasons sick of what has become a sham?   If so, it may perhaps be a desirable development in its own peculiar way.

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