That Queasy Feeling You Get When You Realize Americans Are Voting with Their Viscera
It shouldn’t feel like the home stretch with seven weeks still to go, but it already does, doesn’t it? And could that feeling have something do with the queasiness in the pit of your stomach?
Over the weekend, the Times reported on what some have called widespread bed wetting among Democrats over new polls showing a tossup. Larry David likened the feeling to witnessing one’s own death. The pneumonia thing doesn’t really faze these folks; it’s more that they see with mounting alarm how effective Trump and the GOP have been in exploiting Hillary’s horrific “basket of deplorables” gaffe.
The Trumpians appear to be getting more mileage from that than Democrats ever got from Mitt Romney’s equally ill-considered “binders full of women” remark.
And why not? Clinton’s remark, made before a posh audience in New York, was clearly brimming with contempt and condescension.
The candidates hate each other’s guts and make no pretense about it. The partisans of each hate and fear the partisans of the other, likewise at a gut level. There’s never been anything like it.
This presidential race is coming down to a matter of viscera, of contempt, and on both sides. The candidates hate each other’s guts and make no pretense about it. The partisans of each hate and fear the partisans of the other, likewise at a gut level. There’s never been anything like it.
Except that there has. Try the rugged “westerner,” Andrew Jackson, trouncing the (allegedly) effete and corrupt John Quincy Adams in 1828. So-called Jacksonian Democracy had a distinct outsider vibe with a whole lot of visceral mistrust and loathing of people like the aristocratic Nicholas Biddle, our first central banker.
But from 1900 until now, even taking into account “Gipper” Reagan’s merciless 48-state pounding of a cerebral-but-distant Walter Mondale in 1988, our contests for the job of chief magistrate have been relatively classy affairs with at least a patina of principled issue-based differentiation defining the choice between the candidates.
No more. This time, the outcome will turn almost entirely on which side can generate more fear and loathing of the other. It’s an all-out, down-and-dirty Kulturkampf, and by Kultur here we are not talking about the difference between having a taste for Chopin vs. having a taste for Brahms.
Two weeks ago, I wrote (quite foolishly, I now feel) that it’s too bad Hillary Clinton’s victory in November won’t be the kind of moral victory that could flip the Congress and open the way to a sustained pushback against plantation capitalism.
Now I must confess I have joined the bedwetter camp. And here’s why. Trump’s supporters could not care less about their guy’s many flip-flops and endless contradictory statements on issues. They could not care less about his vulgarity, his mendacity, or his apparent ADHD. They like his gut. They trust his gut. And their gut-level passion for him runs deep.
Clinton’s people (and, I fear, too many of the people who are still in the middle) respect her brilliance and experience but they can’t seem to find or feel her gut amid all the policy books and issue checklists she puts out. They aren’t feeling any fire in the belly from her, and that’s a huge, huge problem going down the stretch. That and the fact that their contempt for Trump and Trump supporters doesn’t carry nearly the same voltage as the seething resentment of HRC’s smugness and elitism among Trump voters and Trump “likelies.”
Oh, and the Bible in all this? Viscera are clearly important to the biblical writers, but in both Hebrew and Greek texts the root word “bowels” is almost always paired with the positive value of compassion or mercy.
Would that we had a U.S. electorate whose “bowels of compassion” were focused on raising up the excluded and marginalized! But that’s not the electorate we have.
Could someone please pass the Maalox?