“Pragmatism! Is that all you have to offer?” – Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).
I have always enjoyed presidential campaigns. The first I remember paying attention to was the 1964 race in which Lyndon Johnson, riding a tide of popularity as he succeeded the recently assassinated John Kennedy, resoundingly defeated the radical (by 1964 standards) conservative Barry Goldwater.
Then in 1968, at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, I died in Grant Park along with Phil Ochs, Jerry Rubin, the yippies, and Pigasus. Oh, I was home watching convention and the demonstrations on the tube in Lexington, but I died. I was crushed. It was the last time I failed to vote. Nixon was elected. Lesson learned.
I was avid in following subsequent campaigns. I lived for every daily detail. Of course this was before the cable TV 24/7/365 news cycle (glut) and well before the internet. Daily details had to be gleaned from the evening network news half-hour or the morning newspaper. Smoke signals and tea leaves were a poor plan B.
It was the ultimate reality show before reality shows became a reality. I thrilled to it.
This year…not so much.
I’m looking ahead at the next four-plus months at a campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. TV, newspapers, Twitter, and my Facebook feed will be flooded with pictures, information, pseudo-information, out-and-out lies, pundits, and idiots. Stupefying amounts of money will be spent. Friends and acquaintances will share their opinions and their memes. Too often that sharing will not reflect well on the mental acuity of the sharers. I will be dismayed by that.
To what end?
Do we really think anyone’s mind will be changed?
All that money, all that noise, and all that vituperation…what an ordeal.
May I posit an alternative?
Let’s simply stipulate to the logical outcome of the presidential race, save that campaign money (or use it in races for other important elective offices), and give ourselves a peaceful autumn to enjoy the changing leaves and the resurgence of University of Kentucky football (hey, we can dream).
There are clear realities in this year’s race that I believe make this a pragmatic choice.
- Trump will be the Republican nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a convention miracle. I also know if you ask the population which coin is worth more; a quarter or a dime – 20% will choose the dime. This is willful contrariness – we can move on – nothing to see here.
- Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a mathemagical Sanders miracle. See above.
- Clinton will win the general election. I know 20% of…you know the rest.
I’m not commenting on the rightness, fairness, or wisdom of these realities. They are what they are.
Let’s stipulate the results and spare ourselves…and maybe heal ourselves.