I care for few things as little as I care for politics. As it goes, I prefer apolitical conversation to a political conversation any day (canned laughter). Nothing turns seemingly normal, genial human beings into yakking, snarling hippos faster than the words “I’m a democrat” or “I’m a republican.” Just socialize with a herd of hippos and you’ll understand political group dynamics from the senate floor to your extended family.
That being said, there’s something that needs to be said to every voting citizen of the United States leading up to this 2016 presidential election:
Donald J. Trump is not Hitler (see related: What Robin Williams and Adolf Hitler have in Common). Or Mussolini. Hillary R. Clinton is not Jezebel. Or Mary I of England.
Furthermore—and this is what I really want to say—America is not yours to safeguard, America is not forever, and your vote changes little besides you.
Let me share with you what will happen if the projected nominees (respectively) become the 45th President of the United States. I’ll try to curb the details to match your fleeting attention span:
President Donald J. Trump
Following a narrow victory fueled by aging cynicism and youthful ignorance, the establishment GOP unsuccessful to stop the 70-year-old juggernaut dolloped in golden wisps, President Trump stands at the point of inauguration in all his Trumpian glory—as glaring as it is unavoidable. The magnate is sworn in, manifesting the destiny of rebellious 18th Century Brits and embodying in shameless publicity that which previous presidents tried to sweep under the rug. He’s not honest, but at least he’s brazen and predictable in his audacity.
President Trump proceeds to author The Audacity of Audacity with a reluctant, disavowing foreword by Barack Obama and glowing afterward by Vladimir Putin. It sells a million copies in two days, half to rising sensation D.J. Trumptastic (“I’m a big fan of his—so, what? He’s a nice guy. Great music. Doesn’t make him me, though, let’s face it”).
Trump’s four years in office transform him into a senile man whose chief accomplishment is his Twitter following. Political power reverts to the Supreme Court and Congress, the conglomerate of which bicker like hippos in the Nile over how to check and balance President Trump.
The irony of it all, of course, is Trump’s real goal in all of this. Perhaps this is pie-in-the-sky hope, but I’ll say it: What if Trump actually built an empire of falsehood and asinine absurdity, secured the presidency, and made a mockery of the American political system as a sort of art piece? Looking at the guy’s record, failure seems integral as iron in Trump’s blood. Perhaps he’s learned the secret of transforming failure into success—perhaps that explains his success in the Republican primaries—by exposing this entire political cinematic for what it is: a damn good show with incredible acting talent.
President Trump, in sum, is the cognizant outworking of America’s rebellion and hypocrisy, an alchemical monstrosity borne from conservative pride for man-made tradition and liberal intolerance for deviation from progression.
The dollar collapses. New Jersey goes double bankrupt. The GOP fractures, bringing a little 2016 back from the past. As they say: hindsight is 2020.
President Hillary R. Clinton
We’re back in 2016. President Clinton wins by threads, and Al Gore demands five recounts until the electoral college concedes Hillary’s victory due to exhaustion. Dissident republican voters sulk back to their homes in shame, trending #NeverTrump as #MadamPresident trounces their hashtag on social media. LGBT activists celebrate a victory for rights; WHO and Planned Parenthood celebrate a victory for rights; aging flower children celebrate a victory for rights. Republicans, meanwhile, declare the end is, as it always seems to be, nigh. Germany’s Angela Merkel knowingly pats President Clinton, who appears to be frothing at the maw, on the cheek. Merkel laughs. “You worked so hard for this, Hillary.”
Months pass, then a year. The House and Senate fluctuate between parties. Bills pass and bills fail. President Clinton keeps some promises and pretends she never made others. Three years later, human rights activists call her a traitor for sending troops to Syria and Ukraine. She’s more crinkly than ever and… her hair! It’s nearly, dare I say, Trumpian.
Most of what she tried to accomplish in the first two years was blocked by a Republican-majority senate, her last two years marked with that Millennial malcontent and perseveration on change. She’s let down everyone in some way, the Republicans declare her presidency a failure, and the election cycle begins in January 2017. There are twenty-seven GOP candidates and twelve democrats.
Karl Marx is raised from the dead to be the democratic nominee, Joel Osteen buys off his twenty-six opponents and becomes the republican nominee, and Shia LeBeouf (inexplicably) wins in a landslide victory.
President Clinton would be a win for establishment politics for four, maybe eight years, but her triumph spells the undoing of establishment politics in the United States, at the very least an end to a two-party monopoly.
What Have We Learned?
If you’re willing to pardon my sardonic parody of American politics, perhaps you’ll seek the truth of what I hide behind the veil of levity. Notice: none of the aforementioned outcomes includes the end of the world, Orwellian surveillance or Brave New Hedonism.
The truth is that whether we vote for Trump, Hillary, or Peter Freakin’ Pan, your vote, and the aggregate of voting citizens, do not compete for red vs. blue dominance. Rather, we viciously vie for weight and significance. We are set on opposing scales, but the balance is borne between us, not by us, but through us—graciously through us. We aren’t the cosmological tradesman; we are the goods.
If Trump wins, the world will not end. If Hillary wins, the world will not end. The world will end someday, but your vote in the 2016 United States Presidential Election is not going to tip the scale one way or the other. That’s the point of humanity: we are one race of people, tugging against one another until the cord finally snaps, but in the end the only person you’ll have to account for is yourself. The mere fact that you get to exist is rare and beautiful.
Political ambivalence and abstaining from voting (as is my method) is often considered tantamount to embracing the political opposition, but I contend that political disengagement need not be synonymous with societal apathy. Conversely, I love the human race in all its multitudinous creativity, and thus I say our creative energies die squandered on clever games.
I must endorse an excellent book published by Oxford Press, To Change the World by James Davison Hunter. For those of you weary of politics, who believe the world is made for more than voting and beating one’s perceived political rivals, for those who long for connectivity, a world where beauty and hope are stronger than bureaucracy… from Hunter’s summary:
“Because change implies power, all Christians eventually embrace strategies of political engagement. Hunter offers a trenchant critique of the political theologies of the Christian Right and Left and the Neo-Anabaptists, taking on many respected leaders, from Charles Colson to Jim Wallis and Stanley Hauerwas. Hunter argues that all too often these political theologies worsen the very problems they are designed to solve. What is really needed is a different paradigm of Christian engagement with the world, one that Hunter calls ‘faithful presence’.”
I didn’t mean for this book to be the punchline it turned into, but I’ve been at this for too long, and the energy I’m investing into this blog entry will likely result in the very thing I’m suggesting here: very little return for the investment.
That’s your vote, really. Insignificant. In the end, you, the American people, even the whole world cannot stop President Trump from happening; it is the entropic will of a rebellious nation, whether it’s President Trump or President LaBeouf.
Don’t panic. You’re not a big deal. Neither is the president. Neither is America. Neither is this Wounded World.
Benjamin Scott Campbell notices these italicized blurbs at the bottom of other news articles and thinks he’s cool enough to have one of his own. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org