Often my Uncle Buster would be in town during convention time, visiting from Baltimore with my aunt and cousins. Buster would serve as color commentator for what was unfolding on television. A dyed-deep-in-the-wool Republican, he all the same ranted when Richard Nixon named Spiro Agnew to the veep slot in 1968.
"That guy's a crook!" Buster bellowed. "He's our governor in Maryland and he's a crook there too!" (And, as it turned out, Uncle Buster was right.)
The real excitement, however, would be when my Uncle Dawrence would be in town and stop in to watch the convention. A deeply committed Democrat, he loved nothing better than to talk politics with his brother. The two of them would end the evening shouting at one another about the merits and evils of the two major parties, an argument that would always close with Uncle Dawrence saying "Well, hell, I'm voting for Gus Hall [the perennial Communist party candidate] anyway."
Those were the days.
I gradually fell away from watching the conventions. Time got short, children came along: you know, the usual. I cannot remember the last convention I saw more than a few highlights of: maybe the 1988 Democratic convention? Once I gave up television, the decision not to follow the conventions, except by newspaper the next day, became even easier.
This year I do not regret that distance. The Republican convention just finished last night, with Donald Trump triumphing over the Republican establishment by accepting the nomination. I am appalled at the vitriol expressed over the last few days; I am aghast that Trump is the nominee.
(Vitriol expressed over the last few days? How about over the last several months?)
And next week won't be any better. Oh, it'll be different words and different themes, maybe, but I have as much enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton as president as I do for Trump. For different reasons, mind you, but the same conclusion: this person should not be president.
Third party tickets have little traction in this country, and, as deeply divided as we seem to be as a nation, I do not see the Green Party (Jill Stein), Libertarians (Gary Johnson), or any of the other small parties making much headway, except to act, perhaps, as a spoiler to either candidate. (Remember Ralph Nader in 2000?) And the independent candidates (many of whom have no affiliation with anything or anyone other than themselves) have no chance of being sworn in next January.
A coworker, a conservative Republican (for the record, most of my co-workers are conservative Republicans), frequently stops by my office to bemoan the state of politics. "April, we are so screwed this year. We are doomed." His "we" is universal, not "we, the Republicans," but "we, the people." He sent me this quote, from Mike Florio, former director of the NFL referees:
I hope I do not become one of the apathetic. I certainly am one of the alienated, one for whom neither major candidate speaks. This year, this whole bruising political, ugly year, is putting me to the test. All I can do is hunker down, focus on my community, and wait for the storm to hit.Regardless of anyone’s political beliefs, we all should be a little troubled by the article in the New Yorker from George Saunders detailing the face-to-face squabbles of those who support and those who oppose Donald Trump’s presidential run. The red state/blue state divide that first emerged in the 2000 election has become a red country/blue country, with citizens of the two distinct nations living elbow to elbow and, on matters of politics, speaking entirely different languages fueled by the narrow echo chambers from which each side gathers its information and sharpens its opinions. Caught in the middle are those who have grown so weary with the complete lack of common ground and civil discourse that, eventually, apathy will take root.