The Old New Soapbox


TV news of all stripes regularly, breathlessly  over-aim reality; it is par for the cable-course.  So when an election of legitimately historic trajectory appears over the horizon, the bright lights and slickly produced segments’ bag of adjectives can be found wanting from past overuse. The single word, “unique,” will serve.  It is not normal for living presidents to sit on the sidelines, or an ally Speaker to profess public reservations.  To be fair, it is also new for both nominees to be so disliked by your polled, generic, Joe and Jane American.  Hillary Clinton has an up hill climb to appeal to other human beings as more than a Prototypical Beltway Insider.  Experience and baggage in spades.  Besides her gender, she is uncommon in that you have to go back to Richard Nixon of 1968 to find a major nominee that is as well-defined in the opinions of Americans as a known figure of twenty years or more.

The utter singularity of Donald J. Trump is a meal never before served nor tasted. We as Americans have flirted with some exotic flavors as side dishes in the past, such as when Eugene V. Debs ran on the Socialist Party ticket in 1920 from jail– but never as the main course.  More than anything else, I cannot stress enough this is not business as usual.  Yet I cannot predict any outcome.  Historians have lately thrown up their hands at this intriguing, off-the-charts menu.

It feels that both parties are evolving at this juncture into something new, to differing degrees.  GOPers are cracking, breaking, their well-lived-in chrysalis in favor of a new political body.  While no one probably thought this would happen in 2016, external and internal pressures long at work initiated these contractions. This is normal, when considered in the long-term,having occurred many times. And it is healthy in its own way to adjust to changing realities– as long as responsible, selfless minds guide the institution’s morphing. The crux is, who among us has the perspective to drive along a 21st-century road currently under construction? We’re fresh out of maps of the future.

As a student at SIUE we turned over the quandary of ‘who exactly makes history?’ Meaning, does it come from above, guided by a few people of uncommon renown, or does it bubble up from cracks in the surface of civilization, and is responded to by all? Or is it some Goldilocks combination of both?  Long ago it used to be thought Great People almost exclusively molded their respective times,and the great mass of people simply formed sides to battle out their Person’s worldview.  A modern interpretation is that the great waves of each era push-and-pull on every individual, who are given voice as assembled groups or masses, to effectively react to whatever event or crisis.

`What is our era? For the last few decades technology has helped level the global playing field (such as India), while ultra-communication has at times awkwardly brought human beings of disparate cultures uncomfortably nose-to-nose.  It is my view that what we are seeing in the United States is our own version of what is occurring elsewhere around the world (such as the possible pulling apart of the European Union, and the Continent’s similar spike in interest in nationalism).  Some people are deciding it is best to pull back into a protective crouch with those like themselves; the aim is to gain a measure of relief that safety will exist.  At the same time, many jolted Americans are of the mind that New Things must happen quickly.  Old Things won’t do.

Trump, the pompadoured purveyor of New Things, both in policies and prevarications, now stands on the unlikeliest of Old soapboxes.

What is dizzying to me is that now both nominees are suggesting novel, unprecedented strategies, instead of just Democrats.  It can be taken as normal practice when  Democrats say,”Hey, let’s try this thing!,” such adventurism goes back to at least the New Deal. A subsidized, Swedish-styled re-imagining of college is championed at Bernie Sanders rallies, for example, and a restructuring of the financial system.  Yet a Republican is also championing the reshuffling the American life too, from restructuring long-standing trade deals to reneging on international relations.  If long has the Left supposed to have given voice to the Impetuous, Creative and Dreamy spheres of the 20th century National Mind, then the traditional, much-embraced characterization for the Right has been the Sober, Prudent Adult in the room that considers things slowly. Slow, gradual change over time, as befits the label conservative.

Paul Ryan tried to enunciate the standard Republican mindset this week in hedging on Trump.  Yet this current legislative Great Person, the leader of the House, has a strangely precarious perch for so traditionally powerful a post.  He might step aside at the convention, if asked, another first. This would be another example that Ryan is simply feeling out and responding to, along with the masses he is a part of, this non-traditional era and moment.









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