Return to Normalcy

One can’t help reminiscing these days, and lately we keep wandering back to the long ago year of 2016. In retrospect is was a pretty good year. Unemployment was relatively low by historical standards, the economy was growing at a slow but steady pace, and people walked through public spaces to attend sporting events and public festivals and churches and bars without wearing uncomfortable face masks. Yet for some reason it was a very angry year.
Meanwhile, everyone to the left of that certain point was feeling betrayed and disillusioned. Just eight years earlier liberals saw Obama as a messianic figure, a “light giver” whose charisma and brilliance would at long last deliver the socialist utopia that generations o progressive thinkers had so
longed for.
Both sides, of course, overestimated the man. During the first two years he had the support o sizable majorities in Congress, and was able to pass a health care reform law that angered everyone on the right but was far short of the fully socialized health care system that the left wanted. After that he was constrain by the Constitution and a gridlocked government from passing any significant legislation, which of course furthered the anger on both sides.
Which in turn made for a weird presidential election that will surely befuddle historians for centuries.
Despite its many successes in retraining Obama much of the Republican party had come to blame “the establishment” for not destroying an opposition it no, routinely referred to as “satanic.” By “establishment” the party firebrands meant the professionals, and anyone with any claims to expertise in a given area, apparently on the logic that such people had wrought such devastation on America that only complete amateurs with no credentials whatsoever could repair the damage. A reality television show star named Donald Trump, an oft-bankrupt and thrice-married businessman who shared the populist disdain for pointy-headed types seemed the man for the moment.
Somehow all of Trump’s myriad flaws came to be seen as selling points. Yeah, he was a liar and a cheat and bully, but that was what it would take to defeat the damned Democrats, and he’d be lying and cheating and bullying for America. He was crude and vulgar and preferred to answer criticisms with a schoolyard taunt rather than a counterargument, but Senators John McCain and Mitt Romney had been perfect gentleman, and what good did that do? Trump was clearly a racist and sexist, but it turned out that more Republicans than we had suspected had no problem with that, and his supporters argued that any Republican nominee would face the same accusations.
The Democrats had their own sizable “anti-establishment” faction, which wanted to go full-blown socialist with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but the party was more concerned about four years of Republican and placed its bet on the very establishment former First Lady and Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton had the credentials, but those were of little use in 2016, and she also had decades of scandals big and small to explain, and was a uniquely awful campaigner. Between the two, they offered America it’s worst choices in the history of American politics.
Clinton wound up winning the popular vote by some three millions, but razor-thin victories in four states handed the electoral college and the presidency to Trump, Which has done little to diminish the polarization and hatreds of the American people. The upcoming election will surely make it worse.
We’ve largely forgotten all of the dystopian details that the Republicans were sure would come about if Trump weren’t elected –something to do with Christians being rounded up behind barbed wire, we seem to recall — but at this point it’s hard to imagine how four years of Clinton could have wrecked the country more thoroughly.
The right will nonetheless throw around words like “satanic” and paint a Heronymous Boschian portrait of the hellish American landscape if the Democrats aren’t thoroughly vanished. The Democratic ticket of former Vice President and California Sen. Kamala Harris will respond accurate accounts of daily COVID-19 deaths and the number of unemployed and the unprecedented contraction of the economy, and hope that America has gotten over its msg aversion to experience and expertise.

At this point only the most idealistic fool holds out hope for a brave new world in the next four years, and we suspect most Americans will settle for what Warren Harding called a “return to normalcy”..</

— Bud Norman