The past few months have been a slog, a deep depression. A little gloomy at first and worsening as the days, weeks and months progressed. August arrived in cheerless desolation. It’s been a descent with no rise in sight.
Of course the prime suspect would be COVID-19 but it hasn’t been so much the virus itself as the rudderless, drifting, constant course changes in state and local mandates and the reaction by the president and his minions that’s been sad and at the same time sadly slapstick. A pathetic response punctuated by denials, blaming, reliance on Youtube celebrity witch doctors, half-baked theories about mainlining bleach and notions that the virus will “poof” go away.
And then, coronavirus aside, there’s been the three and a half years of Donald Trump and his merry band and their dismantling of America. As election day has gotten closer and closer my apprehension has been rising and at the same time pushed down my spirits. The questions are tormenting. The system is supposed to work but since January 20th 2017 the workings have been gummed up.
Will Trump try to sabotage the election?
What will he do if he loses the election?
It’s almost certain that if Trump wakes up on November 4th in defeat, be it a squeaker or a mandate, he will not go quietly. And what will be the reaction of the staunch supporters that make up a bona fide cult? America has been teetering on a constitutional crisis and events in the days running up to the election and the days following, whether Trump wins or loses, could push America into the abyss.
Things changed slightly this week. A sense that maybe we’ll see some deliverance, an event that ignited a flicker of hope and was not directly related to COVID-19. COVID-19? It won’t go “poof” and I’ve more or less resigned myself to the fact that it’s going to be around for a while, thanks in large part to Trump’s criminal ineptitude. This singular event that showed just a brief shimmer of a silver lining came from the political arena.
On the anniversary of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, an ironic twist, Joe Biden named Kamala Harris, a woman of color, to be his running mate. Let me be clear about Biden’s (still pending) nomination. It’s underwhelming, the typical Democratic Party modus operandi, the comfortable middle of the road option, playing, not to win but going the safe route of playing not to lose. While I would love to be able to vote for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) if she was old enough, or stood a chance to be elected, this year there is no question that I will vote for whomever the Democrats throw out there. Hell, they could exhume 86 year old mediocre Michael Dukakis from retirement and he’d have my vote over Trump.
For months I’ve been hanging my hat on the hope that Biden would pick someone who might inject some verve into the ticket because while I don’t doubt Joe’s sincerity, patriotism and ability he has all the pizzaz of a processed cheese on Wonder Bread sandwich. From the start I was rooting for Harris to be on the ticket. She’s qualified, she’s smart and she can throw a punch in a debate and come off like Muhammad Ali as opposed to Elizabeth Warren who is also qualified but when she throws a punch she looks for all the world like a hockey goon.
Warren was apparently on Biden’s list but after George Floyd the choice of a white woman would have been political suicide. My daughter and I had words about that.
“Why is it that certain boxes have to be checked?”
I don’t necessarily disagree. Candidates should reasonably be the most qualified regardless of any checkboxes; gender, race, religion, age or ethnic background. That said it’s how politics works.
“It’s politics,” I said. “ After the Floyd incident it had to be a woman of color. Black and Hispanic women have been pushing and pulling Democrats over the finish line for decades. They need to get something for it.”
I explained that this isn’t something new and offered the example of JFK choosing Lyndon Johnson as his running mate. There was no love lost between Johnson and the Kennedys but JFK chose Johnson because Johnson, being from Texas, would be able to deliver that state and other states in the south. Just as McKinley chose Teddy Roosevelt in order to gain the western states’ vote. It’s politics.
And so on October 12th, Kamala Harris stepped into the history books, giving her speech as the first woman of color to be on the presidential ticket of a major party. Biden gave an opening introductory speech but it was superfluous. At this moment nobody wanted to hear Joe. On this day, Kamala Harris was the headliner. And she didn’t disappoint.
Cora and I literally sat on the edge of our seats and listened intently to every word, every sentence. We were listening to a voice of liberation; a deliverance from three and half years of incompetence, division, mendacity and gloom.
Harris and Biden took the Trump administration to task for its failure to deal with the pandemic, for Trump’s pandering to racists and for his politics of division. It was the expected political formula. But Harris and Biden brought something that America hasn’t seen lately. They brought a positive message and spoke in statesmanlike terms. There is no concern over whether either of them can “be presidential,” no worry about either of them disgracing their respective offices or the country through crude remarks, ignorance or malfeasance.
It was in the middle of her speech though, that Harris touched me, because she touched on the essence of America, the contract that was sealed in 1788 by THE PEOPLE.
Harris, reflecting on her career said, “Thirty years ago, I stood before a judge for the first time, breathed deep and uttered the phrase that would truly guide my career and the rest of my career, Kamala Harris for the people. The people, that’s who I represented as district attorney, fighting on behalf of victims who needed help. The people, that’s who I fought for as California’s Attorney General when I took on transnational criminal organizations who traffic in guns and drugs and human beings. And it’s the people who I have fought for as the United States Senator where I’ve worked every day to hold Trump officials accountable to the American people. And the people are who Joe and I will fight for every day in the White House.” THE PEOPLE.
THE PEOPLE, the second and the third and most relevant words in the United States Constitution. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
It was refreshing to hear someone talk about THE PEOPLE, in terms that constitutionally resonate. Kamala Harris spoke of ALL of THE PEOPLE, regardless of color, race, gender, religion or belief, rich or poor, as opposed to Trump’s narrow interpretation of the people; the rich, the white, the bankers, the oligarchs and developers and the Nazis and white supremacists who he termed “very fine.” The Constitution read is a relatively simple document because it had to be approved by THE PEOPLE from the yeoman farmer to the shopkeeper to the banker. THE PEOPLE is a concept that’s foreign to Donald Trump who recently boasted in a tweet about yet another of his actions that stigmatizes an unfortunately large segment of America’s PEOPLE, “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.” (Tweeted July 29, 2020). It was another of Trump’s “let them eat cake,” moments.
I’ve no doubt that both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a historical, philosophical and legal understanding of the Constitution. I doubt that can be said of Donald Trump who has consistently shown both ignorance and disregard for the Constitution. The past three and a half years have been rife with examples.
Words are important (a concept that Trump has failed to embrace) and they count along with demeanor.
Early on in her speech I noticed that Kamala Harris smiled, was engaging and even in a COVID required empty auditorium was able to exude an engaging sense of human kindness, benevolence and depth of feeling, reaching out with an emotional touch to an audience she could neither see nor hear. Both Biden and Harris exhibited determination and poise while extending a measure of reassurance. We’ve seen none of this from Donald Trump who excretes a cynical, malignant foulness or from Mike Pence who comes off as prim and supercilious. Biden and Harris speak and present themselves in the tradition of an FDR while Trump’s dark, divisive rhetoric is just short of Hitlerian. In every speech he channels an inner old man Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life.
Am I gushing? Yes. Overly? Probably. Do I see Biden/Harris as a panacea? Hardly. Trump paints Kamala Harris as a Socialist but that’s part of the script. He’d paint Ronald Reagan as a Socialist if he thought it would benefit him. Harris is far from Socialist, not a favorite of progressive Democrats. Biden/Harris is the safe ticket, middle of the road but with a chance to veer to the left. I’d much prefer to be voting for a ticket of Bernie Sanders/Alexandria Ocasio Cortez but Bernie is done. In four years he will be too old and AOC is legally too young and either or both would present an electibility problem at a time when the issue at hand, the future of America’s viability is the rejection of Donald Trump.
During our talk my daughter brought up the Berners, the diehard Sanders followers, almost a cult in itself, but as with Trump populist movements left or right tend to resemble cults. She wondered about the Bernie Bros who will again sit out the election or vote for a third party candidate or even vote for Trump.
I’m usually sympathetic to the notion of voting one’s conscience and belief. It should be the American way but it isn’t. To Jessica I responded, “If they do it this time then they’re just stupid.”