Tales From Work

     What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the White House to be born.
     I have just been asking people at Courthouse News about who they are going to vote for, an extremely informal poll.
     My view here has always been to encourage everyone to vote. Before an election, we hold a group discussion of the ballot measures, compare the background and statements of lesser known candidates, such as those seeking judgeships.
     But I make it clear that the choice is up to each.
     Seeing the surge in numbers for Trump, I asked one of our directors, who earlier said she was going to sit this one out, whether she is now voting for Trump.
     “Yes,” she answered. “America is like the Roman Empire. It’s crumbling.”
     Now there I had to agree with her a bit. A famous first-year required course at Reed College was Humanities 110, a survey course of history and literature, including study of the stages of the empire as reflected in art.
     Before it turned to autocracy, the republic of Rome inspired modern republics such as ours. But, depleted by a 700-year war with the Iranian empire, then attacked by divisions from within and migrating tribes from without, it began breaking up. The Dark Ages followed.
     There are some interesting analogies to the U.S. today, for sure.
     Trump’s appeal is in major part that he presents the image of a strong man, an autocrat, who will shake up a political system that many have come to reject and an economic system that serves a shrinking group of Americans.
     With that as the mood, what is considered objective truth does not really matter.
     For example, the director I was talking to says Clinton is the continuation of Obama and, “Obama wants to take away our guns.”
     Thoughtful and sharp, the director supports background checks, opposes high-capacity magazines and believes that campus security police should be able to carry guns but students should not. Quite sensible.
     As part of our back and forth, we searched online for Obama’s policies on gun control.
     The National Conference of State Legislatures, a states rights group, summarized them: enforcement of background checks, enforcement of existing laws on guns, removal of barriers to reporting requirements, inclusion of limited mental health information in the background check system, prevention of gun trafficking and, finally, gun safety.
     Moderate, limited initiatives.
     But that information did not change her conviction that Obama and Clinton want to take away our guns. Millions of people are and will remain convinced of that central falsehood, regardless of objective truth.
     As someone in the news business, I remain fascinated by how ideas are transmitted, and locked in. So I ask conservative friends where they get their information.
     In her case, it is from ABC local news, hardly a raging pulpit of the right. But with others, the source is, as you might expect, Fox News.
     The network has been a true force in American politics and the life’s blood of the resurgent, anti party-establishment wing of the conservative movement.
     Another woman working here at CNS, who is also smart and thoughtful, told me a story about her father in law who, while visiting from the upper Great Lakes region, insisted on cutting short a family outing so he could get back home to watch “Fox and Friends.”
     Most disconcerting is another responsible and intelligent employee who simply refuses to vote. “It makes no difference,” he says. He liked Bernie Sanders. But he did not vote for him in the primaries because he is not registered.
     We all have different takes on the reasons why, but a deep malaise in the American society has been evident for a long time. There are so many who feel, correctly I think, that opportunity is fading and the politics and the economy now favor the wealthy and powerful to an excessive degree.
     It was clear from early on that Trump the salesman had successfully tapped into that malaise. And equally clear that Hillary Clinton, as sensible and informed as she might be, was seen as part of it.
     But, a few weeks ago, I had concluded that Trump could not survive the shot he took at the Khan family who had lost a son in Afghanistan, combining that with his off-the-cuff hope that the Russians would hack Clinton’s emails.
     I thought his goose was cooked.
     But that cat has at least nine lives.
     So with E-Day approaching, I have moved towards a kind of fatalism. It is like someone who is willing to fall backwards without looking, confident that he will be caught.
     I can only trust that the American electorate will somehow come up with the right result. But it is less a matter of faith than one of faint hope.

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