The moment before and during the first Republican Presidential Debate when you know it is going to be a terrible shitshow, so you make a mess of food, invite people over, call the cable provider because you never turn on the television but really need Fox News to work just for one night. Your friend texts, “This is going to be the ‘Dancing Queen’ party of the season,” because you know people who are more likely to watch Eurovision than the Superbowl.
You wake up the morning after the first debate, repulsed by everything and everyone, like a vile coat of shit has been sprayed across the nation and it’s the morning after Bush v. Gore was decided all over again – only that was the end of the election and this time around it is the start. You recall your favorite ridiculous moderator question was Megyn Kelly’s, “How would you eliminate ISIS in 90 days?” But it’s totally irrelevant who she asked, how it was answered or what the “meaning” of the question is because it’s all so mind-numbingly stupid like every thing else about that debate, namely the candidates.
Months are spent ignoring the swings and upper cuts. Donald Trump skyrockets to the lead in the polls. Your Mexican and Muslim friends complain that he has made open racism acceptable and you listen attentively to their concerns, express real dismay but avoid all news of the political race. Exercise helps, so does avoiding social media and focusing on problems elsewhere in the world, the refugee crisis in Europe, the racist policies of certain European nations, the rise of PEGIDA in Germany. You escape into the problems of the world because it is better than facing the ones festering in your own country.
Physically leaving the continental United States, Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska, even Hawaii or modern colonies Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, you get as far away from everything as possible and one can afford. I chose Ukraine. At least people are seemingly united against Russia and in their relative poverty and in Odessa, the appointment of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili represents “the last hope”. At last, a place of some hope! Even with a civil war raging in the east…
Slowly you begin to focus on American presidential politics again. With physical and intellectual distance, a measure of clarity is achieved in which one can look on the American process with a clearer head and mind. You start reading about what is happening in the election again. You break your vow to yourself to watch nothing when Palin endorses Trump for Sarah, because Sarah is special. And boy was that special.
All the candidates are idiots who are shrill, ignorant or scary on a range of issues. The Republicans vie for who can be the most adamantly pro-torture, who will deport all Muslims and will do so the fastest. You order a “Make America Gay Again” hat that parodies Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The only commentary you read is Ted Cruz’s college roommate Craig Mazin (@clmazin) on Twitter who has been on a months long hilarious redemption-seeking rant against his creepy former roommate. He says most people hate Ted Cruz when they meet him because it just saves time and that he would literally pick anyone from the phone book to be president. His logic is sound, his comments hilarious.
You are grateful Donald Trump lost the Iowa Caucases if only to Ted Cruz because it at least slows his momentum but you realize the era of reasonable wishy-washy politicians are over and that really all options are scary terrible.
Clinton boasts of an endorsement from Kissinger, and Sanders screams about income inequality and student loans while seeking to lead a revolution without ever acknowledging the self-sacrifice required for successful ones or the fact that the same forces that can manipulate the current system are capable of manipulating any new world order. Clinton is consistently on the wrong side of history whereas Sanders answers to predictable foreign policy questions belay such a fundamental lack of curiosity about the world. He always ever only refers to his Iraq War vote. You wonder how many Afghanistans Clinton’s tenure would lead to and ask yourself if Sanders could find it on the map. Stupid memes flood the internet. You remind people that if they continue to post them, you will unfollow them.
Eventually you realize the surge of anti-establishment candidates is based on real grievances and that people are really hurting. Our politics reflects this hurt and little else. Concern for the world takes a backseat to concern for your fellow Americans. You realize Trump supporters are basically living the reality Sanders supporters fear because of economic injustice that has rigged the system against most everyone who isn’t a plutocrat. Your photo agency (or fill in the blank of your company/industry) was sold by one to the Chinese so suddenly, perspective! Trump’s supporters just displace the blame onto religious and ethnic minorities who happen to be brown people and Sanders old, rich, white men. Everyone and everything is terrible but that does not make anyone and anything inhuman, rather all too human.
Steps 4-10 provided for some introspection and wisdom. You recognize that America is not only having the election it has earned but the one it so richly deserves: bombastic reality show hosts, 90s nostalgia, a liberal senator with a fat pension claiming to speak for the left, two Hispanics who hate immigrants, everyone hates women, especially older women who scold younger women (see Madeleine Albright’s hypocritical remarks and Gloria Steinem’s idiotic ones). The world is as it seems and as it should be for no better reason than that is just how it is.
A 92-year old woman asks Marco Rubio at a campaign stop in a diner in New Hampshire if South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham is gay because he is a bachelor. Sexuality becomes a persistent theme for some reason at this Rubio campaign stop as a middle aged gay voter asks why Rubio wants to put him back in the closet. It’s the moment with the 92-year old woman though that really is so irreverent and absurd that you have crossed the threshold from being afraid to learning to laugh. “Gentlemen, no fighting, this is the war room…”