Regardless your political persuasions, after last Tuesday I think most of us looked a lot like the picture above. If anyone was looking for The Understatement of the Year, 2016, it seems safe to say that many of us were a wee bit surprised by the election results. Obviously, it’s going to take some time to sort all this out.
Over the course of this election cycle (which is a terrifying term, cycle, because this shit is going to start up again, and all too soon), the one thing I’d hoped from Trump was that by his very presence he’d upend the Republican Party, as well as contemporary Evangelicals enthralled with the Republican Party. We’ve now got four years, which is several more than many of us had planned on, to see if that occurs. More pertinently, Trump’s election should, and hopefully will, grab those of us on the left by the lapels and shake us ferociously until we arrive at what Norman Mailer, who I’ll quote extensively in a moment, once noted about liberals:
They might be forced to study what was alive in the conservative dream.
One can debate the merits of Norman Mailer—there’s plenty to substantiate plenty, and if we know one thing about old Norman’s ego it’s that he’d certainly think he deserved all the chatter—but I believe that the following lines, culled from his attendance at the 1968 Republican National Convention, have a lot of merit today, nearly 50-years after the fact. And so, until I can get my own head un-spun so that I’m capable of doing more than sputtering sputum, I’m going to turn back the clock and give this post over to Mr. Mailer.
(And let’s also remember that in 1968 Nixon won the White House, and even though things got messy, we still survived.)
They (the Republican Party) had every power but the one they needed—which was to attach their philosophy to history; the druggist and the president of the steel corporation must finally learn if they were both pushing on the same wheel. Denied the center of political power, the corporation and the small town had remained ideologically married for decades; only by wielding the power could they discover which concepts in conservative philosophy were viable, and what parts mad. One could predict: their budgeting would prove insane, their righteousness would prove insane, their love for order and clear-thinking would be twisted through many a wry neck, the intellectual foundations of their anti-Communism would split into its separate parts. And the small-town faith in small free enterprise would run smash into the corporate juggernauts of technology land; their love of polite culture would collide with the mad aesthetics of the new America; their livid passion for military superiority would smash its nose on the impossibility of having such superiority without more government spending; their love of nature would have to take up arms against the despoiling foe, themselves, their own greed, their own big business. Yes, perhaps the Wasp had to come to power in order that he grow up, in order that he take the old primitive root of his life-giving philosophy—which required every man to go through battles, if the world would live, and every woman to bear a child—yes, take that root off the high attic shelf of some Prudie Parlsey of a witch-ancestor, and plant it in the smashed glass and burned brick of the twentieth century’s junkyard; see from that what might grow in the arbors of modern anomaly. Of course, Republicans might prove frightening, and were much, if not three-quarters, to blame for every ill in sight, they did not deserve the Presidency, never, and yet if democracy was the free and fair play of human forces then perhaps the Wasp must now hold the game in his direction for a time. The Left was not ready, the Left was years away from a vision sufficiently complex to give life to the land, the Left had not yet learned to talk across the rugged individualism of the more rugged in America, the Left was still too full of kicks and pot and the freakings of sodium amytol and orgy, the howls of electronics and LSD. The Left could also find room to grow up. If the Left had to live through a species of political exile for four or eight or twelve good years, it might even be right. They might be forced to study was was alive in the conservative dream. For certain the world could not be saved by technology or government or genetics, and much of the Left had that still to learn.