“Do you like scary movies? – Uh-Huh –
What’s your favorite scary movie?” – Scream (1996)
I admit it. I’m an alarmist. Full born “the sky is falling” when it comes to Trump and his merry bannon of deplorables. Feel like I’m in one of those horrible horror movies where the protagonists keep making one asinine decision after another. The casualties mount as common sense is cast aside for plot convenience. Friends and family suddenly move into the line of fire as each terrible choice ups the tension and gore.
I’m not one who typically looks back but like most legendary horror villains (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and Ghostface) this one didn’t form in a vacuum. He was created over time. A product of an environment created by a prior generation. The sins of the past catching up to the present. To beat it we need to learn those lessons. Understand the beast. Trap it in its own game.
So ask yourself, where did Donald Trump come from? Who created him? How did a social liberal from NY transform into an authoritarian fascist. Amazingly all paths lead back to one man. A lone Dr. Frankenstein so to speak.
Democrats in particular have been reticent to go down this path in recent years. Back in our parent’s day it was our favorite trail. A respite we knew to be lined with beautiful flowers. A safe place we’d return to for comfort. As the years passed we began to go less and less.
In 2008 we cleared the brush from the obscured entrance and once again began that familiar hike. This time the trail seemed more mysterious. Many of the flowers wilted. The path overgrown. The beauty somewhat masked. Behind any given rose a giant thorn seemed to be waiting to deliver an unavoidable prick to anyone who dared to touch it. A sense of danger permeated the air. We still dared pluck a few flowers for old time’s sake but did so believing we may never be back. That rather than tempt fate too long it was time to find a new trail. Choose the road less travelled when we came to the inevitable fork in the road.
Democrats opted for a change of scenery back in 2008 and for eight years we forged a new path. We took some missteps. As all pioneers do. But for the most part it was clear that we had chosen wisely. Moved the party forward. Yet somehow we ended right back to that once again obscured entrance. This time we entered cautiously. Aware we may no longer find it as comforting as we once had. Still we entered hopeful we’d come back to that fork. Make the same choice. Only this time when we arrived there was no choice. The fork was replaced with a giant “one way” sign. We were being forced to confront our demons. To discover what lie at the end of that trail.
Maybe it was a test like the way Yoda made Luke travel to Dagobah. Prove he was capable and ready to fight the dark side. Able to control his base impulses. Defeat it once and for all. It was as if in order to truly embrace the values of a progressive nation, we would first need to reject the Democratic Party of the past.
By now I hope it obvious. The man waiting at the end of that trail. That Dr Frankenstein. His name is William Jefferson Clinton. And the Democratic voters. We failed the test. Proved incapable of true progress.
America never really rejected Hillary. We rejected the Clinton machine. A political apparatus built on quid pro quos and political favors. That all too often prioritized party loyalty over people. That waged phony preemptive wars and did anything but support our troops. That favored corporations and catered to the 1%. That used their fame and access to personally enrich themselves and those around them. For better or worse that’s what Hillary is to many of us. A vestige of a rigged system. This is particularly true for the young progressives who drive enthusiasm and build energy into the base.
Ironically the Republicans were faced with a similar test. Donald Trump was a rejection of the Bush/Romney/McCain GOP. A statement by those on the right that they were tired of politics as usual. Done with the neocons. That the system was broken and needed a disrupter to fix it. Tired of losing they ate it up. They passed the test. Make no mistake Jeb, Cruz, Rubio all would have been slaughtered in a general election, by any Democratic candidate. America had already made that choice. This time the GOP fringe was galvanized and ready to inject energy into a stagnating base.
Those who saw this unfolding rallied for Bernie early on. We’re not talking the Bernie Bros further to the left. We’re talking Obama Dems. Bernie wasn’t the perfect candidate but he was the only one to back. The only one who knew what this election was about. It wasn’t about character, Bill Clinton had already removed that as a job requirement, it was about change.
Pure and simple this election. It was about rejecting a system that allowed for the creation of Donald Trump. The majority of Americans we don’t want that system. Amazingly Trump understood this. He held himself out as Exhibit A. Look at me! I am a monster created by a rigged system. I know it so well that only I can break it.
Of course he’s a con man. Had no intent to do any such thing. That was never the point. This was all about shaping perception. Those early 2008 Obama Dems, we understood that. Jumped off the Bernie train once hope was lost and threw our support behind Hillary this time. Resigned to the status quo but favoring it over narcissistic authoritarian rule. Hoped that the majority would see the emperor wore no clothes. That not all change is good change. We sat dumbfounded as Trump dominated the headlines. Pushed the narratives that reinforced the perceptions of the Clinton machine. Made it a reality in many independent’s minds. Anchored Hillary with the legacy of her husband rather than allow her to ride the coattails of a hugely popular incumbent. Made this an election about change rather than values. The rest as they say is history.
In the words of The Fly, “Be afraid… Be very afraid.”