The Other Side of Life: Totem polls

By : Jason Leclerc
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Jason Leclerc

Who might have imagined that the irrelevance of Hollywood would become a totem to the nation writ large in the age of Trump? When I say totem, of course, I intend to conjure images of poles: the biggest poles, polls that now accurately misstate everything from presidential popularity to Academy Award winners.

We are pole-driven, metaphor-driven partisans who have bought into cults of personality if only for the fleeting moments needed to crush other cults. In 2017, we pit irrelevant reality stars against their replacements as if one were the President of the United States and the other were the former governor of California.

Reagan turns in his grave, contented (at least) that Nancy is again nearby.

Historians and culture warriors needn’t look far to see the hollow cynicism of the left-coast encapsulated in that totem: the golden statuette snatched from one group of woe-is-me elites and handed over to the pandered-to hyper-entitled identity group du jour. If the bestowal and confiscation of the coveted prize doesn’t strike us a revenge-fan-fiction-short of the Democrat nominating process, then the value of activist twenty-first century art is lost on us.

People in the cities cheered as the wrongs of last year were righted, and dramatically so. Two auditors were fired, after all, and the midnight shenanigans on awards shows mattered again. None of this, to be clear, changes the fact that the rigged Democrat nominating process helped put Trump in office. None of this, to be clear, changes the fact that La La Land was thoroughly endearing to old-school gays whose hearts are buoyed by a traditional, romping musical featuring Disneyesque sequences and former Disney stars. If it weren’t so Orwellian, perhaps we’d call it Dickensian. Frankly, Animal Farm is better than 1984. Both, in 2017, are more relevant than Oliver Twist.

Clinton Democrats of 1996 are the Ryan Republicans of 2017. Old school, musical-loving gays are like today’s closeted Republicans who haven’t changed a bit even as the world changed around them.

If it weren’t so sad, it’d be comical. Ruling in 140-character increments, the inarticulate POTUS reduces our attention span to weird abbreviations and condensed post-punctuation spacing. And, yet, Republicans follow the promises of glitter in the form of tax cuts and stimulus as a justification to look the other way on those tweets: odd personal attacks on everybody from Rosie O to Barry O.

So, here’s Republicans’ best kept secret: They are only successful in bringing about prosperity and optimism is when they have a worthy foil in the form of Democrats. Republicans need Democrats to keep them honest, to raise up the issues that need solving so they can solve them: healthcare, unfair brown incarceration, the chasm between the top and bottom one-percents. And yet, the Democrats have reached deep into academia to reinvent the issues that they wish to solve with the same failed policies that have dragged America into a cynical malaise. Like most things academic, they look good on paper and sound good in echo chambers. To the rest of America, outside of Hollywood, Cambridge, Castro, and Orlando – in the great flyover underbelly of heretofore forgotten America – the moving goalposts around race, sexual identity, and gender have rendered rational discourse untenable. We are forced into ridiculous arguments about Oxford commas and urinals.

And we wonder why we have Trump? We wonder why we can’t have a rational discussion about anything. We wonder why we are reduced to hysterical reactions against an inarticulate, petty, obtuse, rabble-rousing, constitutionally illiterate demagogue.

The Democrats haven’t merely failed America. Democrats have failed Republicans who would be far better-serving if they weren’t brow-beaten into submission by a POTUS who disarmingly claims genealogy from Teddy R and Reagan.

One hundred forty gosh darn characters at a time!

The failure of Democrats is not merely in corrupted ideology – putting stock, panderously doubling down, in bankrupted unions’ unvested funds – but in their inability to connect with a group of voters whose demands are few: “Hear us, see us, treat us as equals.”

Democrats: Instead of ridiculing-as-ignorant, patiently educate. Instead of dismissing-as-inhuman, lovingly embrace. Instead of cornering a debate between La La Land and Moonlight, articulate an artistic, sustainable vision that reaches beyond the boundaries of the insulated university and into the opium-riddled, gun-toting, healthcare-deprived, hard-working, Hanes underwear-wearing, politically deprived-now-empowered assholes of America. Democrats, go back to your roots!

The enemy of good is perfect. Democrats have become their own enemy: our own enemy. Republicans are forced to wander, unleashed.

What America needs is a party to inhabit and champion a radical center, a series of increasingly sustainable options. And the polls foretold it all. And, in the old-school announcement, the winner is: bigly winners and small-trigger-fingered-totemly poles. Sad.

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