[You’re not feeling too hot tonight, are you?]
No. I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas. It’s usually a lonely, dispiriting time of year—for me, at least. In case you couldn’t tell from the pages of this blog, my mind is usually fixed on unpleasant, complicated things. Sometimes, it’s easy enough to keep focus, to view these subjects in a proper context and to prevent myself from placing any undue emphasis upon them. And yet, the dawn of winter all too often rides upon a sweep, a wave that captures my good sense and nearly drowns me in its pull. Down there, down in the depths of the dour and the dark, you can forget where you are, and you can forget that there is something else.
[What other else? A surface? Something beyond?]
Oh, there’s always something above and beyond the surface; if there weren’t, then there wouldn’t be a surface to break. The trick isn’t to escape to the surface and to breathe the fresh air; the trick is to distinguish, in your own mind, between the fathoms of the deep and the lightness of the air.
[It stays with you, then? It lingers—whatever it is beneath the surface?]
Yes, I’d say it does, especially when you spend as much time down there as I do. I don’t understand how there are so many people who make their entire living assessing the political culture of this country. Actually, I do—what I don’t understand is how those people don’t sign on to suicide pacts by the end of the year.
[May I ask what you find so depressing about the political culture of this country?]
Its hopelessness. Its senseless disappointment. It’s a tragedy without heroes, an opera without one moment’s joy—
[Oh, spare me the melodramatics, please. Nobody is going to be impressed by your report that the stars of the Washington charade are indistinctive ghouls. Something close to half of the population already understands this, which is why voter turnout is so consistently low.]
Yes, but those people don’t immerse themselves in the details of it. They don’t stare the horror in the face—
[And if they did, they would arrive at the same conclusion from which they started, no? I couldn’t imagine any of them becoming as bogged down by it as you, but then again, those people weren’t starting from such a treacherous perch.]
What do you mean?
[The bigger the pride, the harder the fall. You used to believe in political solutions. You supported the Democrats until very recently. You defended them against even their most thoughtful critics. Oh, sure: you reluctantly acknowledged the limitations of the Party. You dreamed of a day when they would be what you wanted them to be, but nevertheless, you were comfortable with them. You were disappointed when Hillary Clinton lost the election, were you not?]
Hmm. It’s funny: that is something I never would have admitted—not because I was afraid to tell the truth, but because I very nearly convinced myself that something else were true.
[If you wanted to believe something other than the truth, then you feared the truth—or maybe you despised the truth so much, you wished to stamp it out, to vanquish it, to negate it. But you and I both know why you wanted to deny this particular truth, don’t we? You would rather admit almost everything else to this audience of yours. You would rather talk about, shall we say, bodily things than admit that, once upon a time, you voted for Hillary Clinton, and without a sense of shame, but with a feeling very closely approximating, what was it? You felt like you had made . . . a rather grown-up decision, didn’t you?]
Yes, I guess I did. Sometimes, I forget about what a good and dogged little liberal I was.
[And yet, is there anything you find half as repulsive today as an apologist for the Democratic Party?]
Why, yes: a Trump apologist. But, as you say, only by half.
[Hmm-hmm. That’s cute. Now, let’s revisit your bygone and forgotten affection for Mrs. Clinton.]
Hold it right there: I was never affectionate towards her. As you suggested a moment ago, I had to find a reason to give her my vote, and my reason was that doing so made me feel adult, as it were.
[Wait a minute: you needed a reason to vote for her?]
Yeah. I’ve never been a fan of Hillary Clinton. I always thought she was arrogant and entitled and all of that—
[Entitled to what?]
To the presidency. I was only in high school when she ran for the first time. She did run originally in 2008, yes? She didn’t run in 2004, did she?
[Not that I recall. Let me check: nope, she didn’t. Some people wanted her to run against Bush, though.]
Eh. It makes sense. Anyway, I remember the way she interacted with Obama when they were both candidates. She was trying to look past him, to convince him to drop out of the race and become her Vice-Presidential nominee when he was leading in the polls. You could tell, even at the time, that she was much less interested in running the country than in placing herself at the forefront of the country. She wants attention. She hungers for it, dreams about it, desires it more than even the most psychotic toddler. I understood that at the age of sixteen, and I didn’t forget it when, eight years later, she was racing past Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nod.
Or, looking past. Whichever you prefer.
[How do you mean?]
Hillary was visibly unhappy with Obama for taking the spotlight in 2008, but by the time the 2016 campaign commenced, she was so impatient as to be all but pacing the floor, muttering to herself and pulling out her hair. She had no desire to debate her opponents on the Democratic side. She couldn’t even stomach the idea of an opponent: very clearly, she considered it blasphemous that any Democrat would even think of running against her. She found this notion—which stated that, just maybe, she was not the perfect person for the job, and that any of us should consider a different person—to be the crudest insult, the most shameful slur, and in her eyes, Bernie Sanders was the living embodiment of this effrontery.
[Boy, talk about body language. Does Hillary, like Algernon, play with wonderful expression?]
The most wonderous expression. You could see it in her eyes as she debated Sanders. She looked indignant and incredulous. She was asking herself, “What the hell am I even doing here? Who is this bozo who thinks he has the right to question my right to the party’s nomination?”
[So, she thought it was her due?]
Oh, absolutely. Hillary Clinton illustrates the problem of divine right of kings: she believes that, because she has spent so many years in government, because she has been in the public eye for so long, that she deserves the final promotion, such promotion being the presidential title. Now, I’m not suggesting that she shouldn’t have run, but her insistence that the Democratic Party bow before her, as if she were, well, entitled to the official nomination, is simply unbecoming. And even if she did believe that she had earned it, she made an unforgivable mistake by evincing, before all the world, her bilious disgust with the democratic process. She had no taste for it, and scarcely any more patience for it, which is she refused to allow Sanders to speak during the debates.
[Was she as bad as that?]
Only so much worse. I remember one moment when she interrupted him, and when he reminded her that he was speaking, she said, “Yes, Trump.” It was sickening. That was the second-most memorable moment of the entire debate season, just behind the night that Trump declared that that one debate, I believe it was in New Hampshire, was falsely advertised as being open to the public, but was, in actuality, reserved for Republican Party donors.
I know! I’ll always remember how the audience erupted into howling boos when he said that. He never let up grinning, though—and in the end, he grinned all the way to the White House.
[But you opposed his progress. Did you vote in one of the New Hampshire presidential primaries?]
No. The night before the vote, both Trump and Sanders led by seemingly insurmountable margins, so I didn’t think there would be any point. And yes, they led by more than Hillary did on the eve of her election. Both led by more than twenty points, I think.
[And yet, not a single delegate from the Granite State supported Sanders at the convention.]
You are correct, although I didn’t hear the details of that until long after the election. In fact, I’ll be honest: I didn’t read up on that story in depth until earlier this year.
[Why are you so reluctant to admit something like that? It isn’t even a present ignorance, so why are you ashamed?]
Because I feel pressured, in this political climate and culture, to be right all the time, to make no mistakes. Do you know how embarrassed I am by the enduring existence of a MySpace account, one that I didn’t even make, but one that my friends set up for me, when I was seventeen years old? I’m terrified that someone will find that account, see me behaving like a normally immature adolescent, and dismiss all of my subsequent work as pseudointellectual dishonesty, or something.
[Didn’t Bill Maher, of all people, say that we spend too much time trying to live as avatars? We want to convince everyone we know that we are this faceless, sexless, joyless representative of a corporate brand. We try to convince others, and ourselves, that we are inhuman, that we don’t feel, or struggle, or drink too much at parties, or make any mistakes.]
Yeah, and that’s very true. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by this pressure to live up to some kind of impossible ideal—an ideal that isn’t even worth pursuing, anyway. What is this ideal of the stainless avatar? It’s a stereotype, isn’t it?
[A lopsided standard. If that represents our highest aspiration, then maybe we should set our sights a little higher.]
Maybe so. But yes, I admit it: at the time of the election, I was unaware of the extent of the sinister conspiracy to deny Sanders the Democratic nomination. I had heard of the story, yes, but because I consumed almost all of my news on the BBC and CNN, I had no idea of the extent of the corruption within the Democratic Party, and I was certainly never told that Hillary Clinton had obviously known what was going on.
[In a sense, that scandal was even worse than what Trump’s associates supposedly coordinated with the Russians, no?]
Thank you! I’ve been saying that for months: if the audacity of Russian collusion is that it negates the integrity of our elections, then weren’t the Democrats’ shenanigans equally opprobrious? You can try to argue that the international aspect of the Russian saga drags them into a different moral terrain, but all the same, if one warrants prosecution, then so does the other.
[I have to agree. But why are we talking about this, when you didn’t even know about it at the time?]
You’re right. I didn’t. I was sadly uninformed. All of my “learning” came through a screen, and it was this screen that directed me towards a reluctant vote for Hillary Clinton. I did strongly consider voting for Trump, though. Not because I agreed with any of his policies—like I said, I’ve always seen myself as a liberal—but because I feared the cultural and social implications of a victory for Clinton.
[What were those cultural and social implications?]
I don’t want to discuss them.
Because, if I do, I will come across as woefully immature and petty.
[Can’t risk your avatar, it seems? Come on. You can do it.]
Okay. I didn’t want the media, or Clinton herself, to depict the contest as women triumphing over men.
[Well, this certainly calls into question the intellectual integrity of everything you said in our last conversation about feminism.]
I know, but give me one chance to explain. I’m not afraid of a woman in the White House. Anyone who is should take a long look in the mirror, seriously. No, my concern was not the abstract concept of a female president, but the popular interpretation of such a reality. It would be misrepresented—by the media, at least—as an epic act of emasculation, as femininity vanquishing masculinity, once and for all.
[Do you realize how ridiculous it sounds when you frame it in such terms?]
Good: that means you see my point. The leftists in the press was eager to define that contest as the climactic battle of the sexes, which is to say: as the irreversible changing of the guard. They would have declared, “Man is dead. Now comes the age of the woman.” Of course, this would have been the epitome of myopia, as there is no reason to believe that a man wouldn’t have become president in 2020, or in 2024, or at any point in the nation’s future.
[Wait a minute. I’m confused: on the one hand, you say you fear this potential misunderstanding, but at the same time, you acknowledge it to be an absurdity, and an impractical absurdity, at that?]
[But how can you fear something that’s so laughable? I think a lot of feminists lose patience with their critics because so much of their critics’ skepticism is based on this ridiculous fantasy that, if women acquire political power, then men will be put into cages and forced to wear chastity belts. You yourself acknowledge that the stated desire of radical feminists, even, cannot be achieved by something as unremarkable as an election, so why would you allow that impossible aim to prevent you from voting for anybody?]
Well, I never feared that women would enslave men, or something. It was more of a reluctance to reward bad behavior, to allow those feminists who do enjoy making hateful statements about men to feel as if their rhetoric won the day.
[As opposed to Trump’s extensive history of inflammatory comments?]
I said I voted for Hillary, didn’t I? I thought about what her victory would mean, or how it would be received, but in the end, I checked off the box next to her name.
[Oh. Would you do it over again, knowing all that you have learned in the two years since?]
No, but not because of any criticisms of feminism. I would decline to vote for her because she was obviously involved in the conspiracy to deny Sanders the nomination, and because of her treatment of Julian Assange.
[Ah. I see. So, those concerns about “sending a message” won’t even come to mind in 2020?]
The same concerns, you mean? No. The last two years have given rise to such intensity of rhetoric that concerns of “message” are probably too ambitious to be taken seriously. However, I can’t vote for candidates who promote suspicion, intolerance, prejudice, and hate—not necessarily because I can envision the consequence of such message-spreading, but because I don’t want to reward bad behavior.
[What do you mean by that?]
Oh, we’ll continue that elsewhere. I can’t go on any further tonight.
[You’re not still feeling depressed, are you?]
Not at all. I actually feel much better than I did at the beginning. Maybe I needed to get some of this stuff off my chest. I’m just tired, is all.