I Can’t Wait for this Campaign to End

I am dying for the presidential campaign to end so that I can relax; and I’m sure that many of you feel the same.

Most of all, I want to know the outcome.  It needs to be Hillary Clinton. The anticipation is hard, like waiting for your baby to be born.  You can’t wait.  It’s beyond exciting, but you also carry that little bit of dread until you count her fingers, hear her cry, hold her in your arms.

The campaign has held me captive.  Like an addict needing his next fix, I have watched TV news much more than ever before.  I have read the newspapers and online journals like a starving man in search of food.  Often, there’s nothing healthy to eat but I’ll eat anything.  With each passing week, the need grows.  Even as Hillary Clinton’s lead grows, I search everywhere for reassurance that this cruel, narcissistic, unstable man will not assume our nation’s mantle.

Do you recognize me in yourself?  I’ve not only grown addicted and anxious, I feel dirty, fouled by his words, fouled even by looking at him.  He is disgusting.  I can’t stand to see his face.  I can’t stand to hear his voice.  I can’t bear reading his words.  Yet I do.  I read and I watch and I listen until I feel slightly nauseated.  Sometimes, I feel like I can’t catch my breath and my heart starts to pump too quickly.  I want to bring my pulse down.

Is this neurotic?  Maybe.  But the campaign has invaded our consciousness and polluted our minds.  People tell me that they dream about it.  It’s not just how dishonest and nasty he is, how much he speaks in word salad—has he ever spoken a coherent paragraph?—how mocking and preening he is, how dismissive he is of others.  It’s that we are compelled—no, impelled—to watch.  We choose even when it doesn’t entirely feel like it.

We are pulled into a world of misbehaving children.  He responds to criticism as a child does.  If you criticize him, he comes back at you: you do it too; you’re worse than I am.  You are Putin’s puppet, Clinton says.  No, you are, you are, you are, he responds in that whiny, accusing voice of his, trying to obliterate her message.  No matter what you say in criticism, he’s right back at you and he’ll say anything.  We are pulled into a playground with a big, big boy who lacks impulse control.  We are ready to laugh at him or run from him or confront him—all at the same time.  At the very least, he should have a “time out.”  What a relief that would be.

We watch him the way we’d slow to watch a terrible car accident.  It’s awful but we seem compelled to see the wreckage.  There’s also a serious reason: he might win.  The thought of him in the White House parrying childishly with foreign leaders, Democratic politicians, “advisors,”—all potential ‘enemies—is chilling.  But that’s what would happen if he were not the center of attention, when he couldn’t have his way, if people don’t like him.  Treaties and policy would be decided on a simple basis: you like me or you don’t. Hillary Clinton says we can’t trust him with nuclear arms.  True.  But, day by day, we cant trust him to deal decently or intelligently with the business of leadership.

Against our better judgment, we keep watching, as though the very act might stop him.  Unconsciously we feel compelled to watch because we might be the last barrier to his destructive ends.  We are afraid to turn away.  He might say something to offend or endanger people we care about or encourage those who might endanger us.  On the lighter side, he might miss him saying something so awful or stupid that we would miss our opportunity tell our friends.  Gallows humor fills our conversation.

We can’t stop because he says that he won’t abide the peaceful transfer of power, the cornerstone of democratic leadership.  He talks about the end of civilization and rallies his troops to revolt.  He is preaching insurrection.  We are too close to the era of Mussolini and Hitler, who rose precipitously to power by refusing to recognize the legitimacy of constitutional rules and processes, not to take his threats at least a little seriously. We know that insurrection, even in this great nation, is possible.  We can’t stop watching because, however slim the chance of mass insurrection, it is possible. We need to be prepared.  Crazy and paranoid as it may sound, we watch so we can sound the alarm.

He is so frightened of losing and being seen as a loser, that he won’t concede the election even after Clinton wins it fair and square.  He calls on his followers to lift their arms to fight this outcome.  He calls for “watchers” to intimidate voters.  Much of these messages are barely coded are crystal clear to those who heed his call.  The call to arms, the evocation of a Second Amendment army, is treasonous.  It is dangerous.  And I have to admit that I have occasionally wondered whether President Obama has a plan to put down the rebellion, to arrest those who violently oppose the legitimacy of a new president.

Some, maybe most people, believe he’ll calm down after the election.  Or back off because he doesn’t like to work so hard.  But I think he’s bitten Eden’s apple, that his craving for attention has been jacked up exponentially and that he’ll need it as badly as ever. Imagine what he’ll have to say and do to keep the attention focused on him as much as it now is.

In other countries, maybe even at other times in the United States, his treasonous stance would have led to arrest.  It is ironic and it is fortunate that President Obama—and Democrats in general—won’t play the third world game of jailing their opponent.  They won’t fall so low.  They also don’t want to spook the election process which is finally going well.  I would do the same.  But even this kind of restraint is tiring.

Just being mature can be wearing.  Any parent knows that sustaining a quiet, calm, and loving presence in the face of a child’s tantrums can be trying and tiring.  It takes discipline, which we lovingly exercise with children we love.  It takes even more discipline with other people’s children.  And it takes a great deal of effort when the tantrum comes from a child we don’t particularly like.  Like the presidential candidate.  It takes work to remain calm, to remember that we love our country and its democratic values more than we dislike the candidate.  So the discipline is extremely important.

Our vigil is exhausting.  It is exhausting in the way that wears down battered children and wives.  They know to be vigilant, to keep their guard up.  They need to be focused and awake to the potential for danger. There is no rest.

Throughout my life, I have been spared this kind of experience.  I have been spared the experience of sexual assault.  I have not feared deportation and imprisonment.  I have not been afraid.  But I think I can identify just a little better with all of his victims and potential victims.  And I want to be free of this exhausting vigilance.

Last night’s third debate feels like it may be decisive, and I already feel a little relieved.  I find my body a little calmer.  I am obsessing a little less about the campaign and its aftermath.  I hope I’m not premature.  Anything can happen.  And, to show my true colors, I hope I’m not jinxing the campaign.  It needs to conclude well.  I need to be freed from its captivity.  How about you?

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10 thoughts on “I Can’t Wait for this Campaign to End”

  1. I’m not sure whether having a “news fix” is neurotic or not. Like you, a number of my friends can’t seem to stop watching this idiocy. I decided some time ago that I could keep up with what was going on without subjecting myself to feeling compelled to keep watching. In fact, I saw only the first 10 minutes of each of the debates, and read ALL about it in the paper and on NYT, Washington Post and Huffington posts the next day – in WAY less than having to sit through 90 minutes of Donald’s histrionics. And, I’ve had time to go for a walk, ride my bike, read a book, see friends, do volunteer work and not get exhausted by trying to keep up a “constant vigil”. I’m confident that Hillary will win and get more so with each passing day.

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    1. Steve, you always have been a sensible man. It’s true that you can follow up next morning–even the night of the debates–with the newspaper. I hope your confidence in a successful resolution of the campaign pans out. I’ve gained confidence myself.

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  2. Yes, all of the above. Last evening a friend and I went out for a mid-evening drink, under the heading of “Debate Avoidance Behavior”; neither of us could quite stand to watch the last debate in all its unpredictable unpleasantness. We did, however, consult Twitter from time to time, just to make sure Hillary hadn’t stepped on a banana skin. Pathetic, really.

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    1. That’s the point. Hillary could step on a banana skin. Natural disasters could emerge, like the hurricane that probably will limit the voting of poor people of color in the South. She could get sick. Let’s get through this.

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  3. i have become calm ever since i started thinking of the whole thing as a fairy tale. she is the knight/princess with all her flawed armour and he this hulking dragon terrorizing the kingdom. last night she lunged the sword in a few more times and he spewed more bile but the great battle is almost over and the kingdom will be freed soon enough.
    if that does not work for you just think about the democrats taking back the senate which makes Bernie chair of the senate budget committee.

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    1. Thanks for your response, Pat.

      I think a lot about taking back the Senate. And I do see this campaign as a morality tale, with all the medieval flavor–though Hillary is not that pure as the princess. Still, she’s brave and composed and fighting for a worthy cause or three.

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  4. How heartily I agree with your comments. Jean and I watch the debates and yell at Trump and his insane statements. But there is always the fear that voters will think that Hillary is so far ahead that their votes are not required-every vote matters in this election. At least the first 30 minutes of the third debate actually had the candidates state their positions on important issues, but will issues matter to voters? Interviews today with Trump supporters showed no reduction in support for this miserable excuse for a presidential candidate. They are even predicting a civil war to break out if Hillary is elected. What has happened to our country when someone like Trump is taken seriously? Trump brings back all the dark aspects of the Bush/Cheney administration where I think it is an injustice that those two were never tried in an international court for crimes against humanity, and I would still welcome such a trial. It also brings to mind the fact that we are the leading nation when it comes to belief in the existence of angels, have the only museum that shows humans and dinosaurs walking the same path at the same time and the disbelief in evolution. As Gail Collins points out, Trump’s support of an original interpretation of the Constitution would mean that neither Hillary nor Barack would have been able to vote in elections, let alone hold office. Lastly, in this disorganized ramble, Trump’s blithe statements about the spread and use of nuclear weapons brings back thoughts about Chernobyl where even the breakdown of a nuclear power plant had my friends in Austria buying gieger counters to test their food and where the use of even one nuclear weapon would cause such a far worse event. It speaks poorly of our national character that we have the basest of individuals running for our highest office.

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    1. Mitch,

      When we were friends as kids, I don’t think I knew how much we had in common, particularly around political and ethical issues. We were just friends. Though we did cook up a bunch of political scenarios that we solved in near super-human ways. It’s great to revisit after about 60 years.

      Barry

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  5. Barry, I identify with your description of a sort of conflicted fascination. I hoped I would feel better after voting, but in some way I feel even more caught up in the media storm as it’s now up to the “others” out there. There is comfort staying in the bubble with people who agree that he (who shall not be named) is a buffoon, a joke, a narcissist, a child, a snake oil salesman, etc. and that he surely cannot win. But I feel my heart stop every time I see a post or get an email that emphasizes the closeness of the polls in states where I thought cooler heads were finally ready to prevail. And so I click on the buttons to give money and sign letters and like postings. And I hope for another November surprise that will demonstrate to people in a definitive way that he is not only unfit for office, but the very antithesis of the values we stand for. Thank you for describing this experience. I hope that soon it will be only a bad memory.

    P.S. I had a good giggle when I saw this very apt typo above: ” But that’s what would happen id he were not the center of attention, when he couldn’t have his way, if people don’t like him.”

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    1. Hey Jenn,

      Thanks for your note. There are times when I think I’m capturing a widely shared feeling but never really know until people write.

      All of the fearful scenarios are now beginning to play out–or threatening to play out. I have begun to review dystopian novels with the hope that they might anesthetize me to the current possibilities.

      Barry

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