Why Lift One’s Arms? They’ll Shoot You Anyway — The Election Cycle: 2016’s Home Stretch

Friday, July 22, 2016
Why Lift One’s Arms: They’ll Shoot You Anyway —
THE ELECTION CYCLE: 2016’s Home Stretch

Part One: “not merely a party with little future, but one without any past, either”

The line-up of speakers at next week’s Democratic National Convention is unusually remarkable for its two-term presidential presence. Compared to the just completed RNC, the DNC verges on superfluity. When was the last time that a national political convention had a current two-term president addressing party activists and donors as well as a two-term former president? The GOP has had no such back-to-back figures in its convention’s confabulations for well nigh a century. A combination of scandalous or dismal Republican presidencies in the past half-century led up to the current convention, in which no one who significantly contributed to any of that parties successful campaigns for the White House has had any role. It would seem to be not merely a party with little future, but one without any past, either.

The absence of President George W. Bush from this convention is even more striking than the token role he was consigned to four years ago in Tampa, Florida. For a two-term president to have his nationally broadcast endorsement speech in 2012 limited to a videotaped infomercial is the political equivalent of having to drive an ice cream truck in a neighborhood of the very elderly and having to watch what little ice cream is purchased melt in their hands because they can’t remember what they just bought. Bush had to have felt humiliated. Deservedly so, but still a stinging slight.

George W.’s decision to skip the coronation in Cleveland, therefore, probably has as much to do with his desire to even the score for the 2012 putdown as it does with his distaste for Trump. Jeb Bush cannot, of course, be blamed for absenting himself, either. His father, the former President George H.W. Bush, and his mother, are nearing the end of their lives, and who in either political party would prefer to have your nose rubbed in your rejection by a wealthy, smug prevaricator instead of sharing quiet recollections with your parents?

In contrast, the Democratic Party has a line-up that would be nothing short of the shining envy of political operatives at any point in this perishing republic’s history:

Monday: First Lady Michelle Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders
Tuesday: Former President Bill Clinton
Wednesday: Current President Barack Obama
Thursday: Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton

On oratorical skill and charisma alone, the first three nights will be worth intermittently taking in, and it’s hard to believe that Hillary won’t experience some slight bounce. She will need it: despite having a huge lead in fundraising, HRC is not so much mired in distaste as disbelief. She is without doubt the most experienced and qualified politician running for President right now, and if elected, she will most likely soldier on in the same stolid manner that President Obama has done. Obamacare will continue to have its quirks resolves; abortion rights will be upheld; gay marriage will remain viable; and climate change will receive at least token attention. But the keywords are qualified politician. She is a brilliant bureaucrat with a background as a lawyer, but she sees social problems as being primarily legitimation narratives for her right to power. The problem is that the following questions under her administration have no other outcome than an emphatic negative: Will my life as an aging person significantly change for the better? Will my students really find that their post-degree lives suddenly have more entry-level options? Will I be able to worry less that each time I say hello and goodbye to an African-American acquaintance or friend that this is the last time I will see them alive? She has no actual plan to improve matters on the ground.

The last question, by the way, is not hyperbole. Yes, it has gotten that bad. The open season on African-Americans has reached the point where even a man flat on his back on the ground, completely motionless, with his arms up in the air, fingers like talons of powerlessness spread tautly wide open, is shot by a police officer. With his arms up, I might add, longer than I would be able to hold my arms up.

If voters’ hands are up, raised high in despondency, it is because “power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” and the secret Second Amendment reads: “the rights of a well-regulated police review board shall not be infringed upon by those whose neighborhoods are subject to police assault.” If Clinton wanted to show leadership, she would directly address the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement in her acceptance speech.

Trust me, though, with the following exercise: if you hold up your arms up long enough during her speech this coming week, you’ll not only hear the words better, but the unctuous tepidity of her vision will become slow motion torture, the syllables elongated by her neoliberal blandness. Yes, you should vote for her in November, and I intend to do so. But my heart will be as heavy as my hopelessly lifted arms.

(to be continued on as needed basis)