I hear hurricanes a’blowin’
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowin’
I hear the voice of rage and ruin
Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise
—John Cameron Fogerty
is is the voice of rage and ruin. That is Donald Trump. No doubt about it. His declaration that “the system is rigged,” which he shouts routinely now, is in the cynic’s tongue.
But the extreme cynicism we see all around us—the utter distrust many people have in our democratic institutions, our politicians, in even ourselves as citizens of an experimental democracy—is not the fault of Donald Trump. He has just given voice to it and will, it is guaranteed, try to make a buck off it.
I have been amazed, like most people, at the success Trump has had. More than four in ten Americans, if we are to believe the polls, prefer this ignorant, bigoted, racist demagogue over the alternative, Hillary Clinton. We can blame a lot of people for this phenomenon, including Mrs. Clinton and her troubles, including journalists who make mountains out of Clinton’s molehills and who make molehills out of Trump’s mountains, and especially including Republicans who have, for more than a generation now, figured out how to wreck the machinery of government and create much of the crippling cynicism we see today.
But really, the fault is ours. We. The. People. Our country really is an experiment in democracy, in self-government. There are no guarantees that the experiment will turn out well. It could go badly. The end could really come one day. What we are really doing when we give up and consider handing our government over to a nasty, divisive figure like Donald Trump is giving up on ourselves, on our ability to make this experiment work. If we don’t vote, or if we vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning, we are really opting for failure. We are throwing in the towel. Quitting. Saying to hell with it.
I see the bad moon rising. The voice of rage and ruin is on our television every day. If we let him win, the country certainly will lose. But it may be that his bone-chilling demagoguery has made it such that even if he loses, the country won’t win. All of the rage-and-ruin bluster that is broadcast seemingly nonstop may have pushed us too far already. Trump, and the cynical politicians on the right who have embraced his hate-spewing, America-rending candidacy, may have made it impossible for anyone to govern this country effectively.
I fear it is so. I hope I’m wrong.