A Night of Wet Pillows

Javits Center

In a long election year of Uber driving, I heard many things. On occasion, I was asked pointed political questions.

Guess who people wanted to talk about?

Some were eager to let me know how wonderful or terrible Trump was. Others, very furtively, wanted to suss out my views.  It was phrased in terms of gee, what are other people saying? 

Quietly, they were seeking my consent to vote for him.

Lotsa Bernie People in my Uber, too, and they were a very agreeable bunch.  Free college for everybody may not be sound fiscal policy but it galvanized people and you have to give a measure of respect for the enthusiasm of your fellow Angelenos.   Bernie put meat on the table. So did Godzilla.

No one asked about Hillary.  Her name went unmentioned in Hillary-ville, across a span of 1,436 Uber rides.   Jill Stein was mentioned once.

A month ago, I watched her motorcade roll down San Vicente on her way to a fundraiser…black, silent, funereal, an ambulance bringing up the rear.    In Brentwood, no one waved.  In the break room, my Latino co-workers ignored the TV when election coverage was on, which surprised me.

The gulf between moments like these and the smug triumphalism in the media could not have been broader.

Eight years ago, Barack Obama was presented to the world as Jesus Christ in political form.  Once in office, he had nowhere to go but down.  Even competent governance would play as anti-climax.

The Trump election has been presented to us as an extinction-level event for democracy.  If he manages to not burn down the White House while chasing Melania through the East Wing with a cigar in his mouth, he will surprise to the upside.  Imagine all the wet pillows then.

Choose Your Monster

Confident in victory
Confident in victory

The Nostradami of cable news have abandoned predictive analysis in favor of absurdist performance art.

Monday Conventional Wisdom: Trump has no chance of winning New Hampshire. He’s too extreme for any state outside of the Confederacy.  

Tuesday MSNBC:  Maaaaaybe he could, but we’ve spoken to the Clinton camp and they are confident they are up by nine points. 

Wednesday: Too many ballots have already been cast in early voting for him to catch her.  

Thursday, Trump leading by 3: New Hampshire has too many old white people. 

Friday, CNN: “I’m not worried about New Hampshire. All she has to do is win Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia. That’s 269 electoral votes right there. Game, set, match.”  

Saturday, NPR: She’s looking to stabilize Colorado. Just in case. Also, Michigan.

Sunday:  The basic worry in a democracy is you have ignorant voters. They vote their gene pool.

The great and good American people are going to affirm our nations highest ideals by voting Bill Clinton’s wife into office.  And women shall rise and lead them!

Unless crucial counties in the battlegrounds confound pollsters and go the other way, in which case, our destiny was thwarted by a KGB/FBI plot! 

Everyone Who Knows These Things knows she’s safe behind her Blue Wall, it’s all but finished. Somehow Godzilla has managed to slip past the wall, with a subway car of screaming journalists between his jaws,   waving a rally towel.   Oh no, there goes Tokyo….

For 48 more hours, they can both be right.  Then we have to live with the aftermath.

Choose your monster. You’ll regret it either way.

Liar’s Poker

Nabokov, one of the great poker faces
Nabokov, a great poker face

Our private self is most amused and our public self is most circumspect.   We pass each other in the store and reveal nothing. The carnival of snark beckons from every screen and we don’t tip our hand.  We are more ears than feet.

Across the city and to the Eastern shore, half of us are not speaking truth aloud.  We listen to the prognostications on cable TV, and enjoy others guessing at our motivation.  We study the faces of strangers like runes. Is she one? Will he be joining her?

The loudest voices doth protest too much.  They have bad poker faces. The quiet ones are putting the affairs of state into order, or carelessly toppling them into disorder, depending on your view. The Never People can no longer take refuge in never.  Certitude is a masquerade. They lie to themselves as much as to their friends.

The elites would rather burn down their institutions than allow Godzilla to breach the perimeter. All lies are permissible in her service.  Ring the klaxon bell.   All hands on deck. Unless secretly, some of them really wouldn’t mind watching her lose. But they’re not telling.

The peasants are inclined to view “Godzilla” as something altogether different. He speaks their banished language.   He carries their pitchfork over his head like Poseidon’s staff.   Perhaps secretly, they are more admiring of the idea of the man than the man himself.  Oh, the satisfaction of watching him pull it off! Then you’re stuck with the guy, and no one is quite sure what that’s going to mean.   There are private bluffs within public bluffs.

Spouses extract declarations of agreement from one another then part company into separate voting booths, clutching secret ballots and hugging doubts.

Friends and neighbors avoid talking about this Thing That Shall Not Be Named. The firecracker sits in the middle of the dinner table, the fuse slowly burning down, while we seek reassurance in our sense of how things should be. Surely there are more of us than there are of them. Right? Right? I know my country. I’ve lived here my whole life.

Nobody really knows, and most of us aren’t telling. We have dice underneath our leather cup and you can’t see.