Bad Moon Rising

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

his 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 rage and ruin.jpgClinton’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.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  July 7, 2016

    You so right my Brotha! There is a bad moon rising and I’m afraid that it will coming crashing down on all of us in November! No good! America, wake the **** up!

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  2. You are right to call the American form of government an “experiment”, Duane. Not only is there no assurance that it won’t fail, it has been shaky from the beginning. And yet, it has endured for over 200 years somehow. I have lately been getting a better sense of this from two sources, a book and a TV series.

    The book is Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick. It tells the story of the American Revolution by centering on George Washington and Benedict Arnold. It is the best history of that period I’ve ever read. Complementing this, we are finding the series TurN superbly complementary to this understanding. It is remarkably realistic in depicting life in that conflicted era, the rebels, the stubborn, often ineffective and stingy Continental Congress, the loyalists, the traitors, the spies, and the British.

    Our grand experiment has always been as dependent on luck as design, I think. The genius of it, of course, has been the balance of power among the three departments. The election of 2016 just might be the most severe test of that since the 18th century. The specter of nuclear weapons looms over it, but seems to be discounted in most voters minds. The thought of an unstable and impulsive Trump having that power ought to scare the hell out of everyone.

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    • Launching nukes would ruin all the vacation plans Drumpf has after all the hard work of campaigning is done.

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    • Philbrick’s book sounds like a great read. I checked out some of the reviews and they are mostly as glowing as yours. I haven’t seen TURN but, again, I checked it out online and it looks like a great show. I hope it ends up on Netflix. My problem, generally, with history-based drama is that too often a lot of liberty is taken with the facts and spiced up for dramatic effect. The worst example of that is the movie JFK. I freak out a little bit when I watch a show based on a part of history I don’t know as much about as I should. I never know when I’m being misled or misinformed, although one can always use the experience to search out the discrepancies by, as you are doing, reading people like Philbrick. 

      All of this made me think about just how difficult it is trying to understand historical events, especially one so intriguing as the American Revolution. There are so many ways to tell the story and so many stories to tell. Most of us aren’t professional historians or don’t have the time to read several dozen books on one tiny aspect of history, so we really don’t know if our understanding corresponds to the actual event. That bothers me a lot for some reason. But then I think that maybe it is the case that no one’s understanding corresponds to the actual event, right? Even the people who actually lived through it had various ways of understanding what was happening. Heck, we have a hard time understanding our own personal experiences, right? Makes you wonder just what “truth” might mean. Perhaps the closest we can come to any understanding of both our collective lives and our personal one is a gross approximation. I’m not sure I like that.

      I am sure, though, that I don’t like the words “Trump” and “nuclear weapons” in the same sentence. Scary, indeed.

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  3. “Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” – John Adams

    “History shows that great nations rise and great nations fall, but the autopsy of history is that all great nations commit suicide.” – British historian Arnold Toynbee

    Is Donald Trump going to be the nation’s Dr. Kevorkian?

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    • I have a sense, like I’ve never had before, that there is some serious national disintegration going on. It began some time ago, long before Obama came on the scene, but his election and reelection seems to have energized a nasty, negative, racialized force in our politics that may prove to be our undoing as even a nominally unified political entity. It remains to be seen if there is an equal counter force that can coalesce around Clinton, rather than split itself up into a couple of different alternative candidates. Clinton’s job–and Obama’s too–is to convince people who are tempted to waste their votes on a third party candidate that there is just too much to lose. I don’t know if they can pull it off, though.

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      • Anonymous

         /  July 9, 2016

        I have noticed those Feeling the Bern are finding Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein an attractive alternative, and what’s left of the moderate Republican faction are viewing the Libertarian Party as an appealing voting option. Of the two, I believe the Libertarian Party poses a greater threat to Trump’s chances. My hopes are that Senator Sanders encourages his supporters to get behind the Clinton campaign, while continuing to promote his progressive agenda that has found resonance with younger voters.

        The good news is that Trump is polling behind Clinton in the seven crucial swing states.

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        • I see that the latest Reuters poll with the four candidates, including Stein and Johnson, has Hillary up by 9. And believe it or not that is still too close for my comfort. Overall the RCP average of the four-way race has Clinton only up by 4.2. Now that is really way too close. Bernie can still help in that four-way race because obviously a lot of Stein voters are pretty much Bernie voters. He needs to be forceful, like he hasn’t been before, in explaining to his supporters that a vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton is a vote for Trump.

          As for the battlegrounds, I’m still worried about Florida. Although there hasn’t been a lot of polling there yet, it defies explanation has to how Trump is still competitive there. Ohio and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and New Hampshire and Colorado (not much polling) are ridiculously close, but Michigan and Wisconsin look much better. The biggest surprise continues to be Arizona, where Clinton is doing pretty well so far.

          All in all, I am inclined to worry about the post-Comey polls and what they will show. Any decline in margin will get amplified by a horse-race-driven media. If she maintains, maybe the worst has passed. But Republicans in the House are figuring out how they will get the FBI to go after Clinton for “lying” to Congress. They won’t stop attacking her until election day and then it will only get worse if she wins.

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  4. Duane, I wouldn’t be too worried about the polls this far out from the election. We’ve got the Republican convention coming up and who knows how that will turn out. Then, the next week is the Democrat convention. Then we’ve got to get through August, September and October, not to mention the debates. This is a presidential race like none we’ve ever seen before. So, IMHO, all bets are off. Let’s just hope the country doesn’t commit suicide in the meantime.

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    • Can’t help it. I’m a worrier about these things. Polls were designed to make people like me either a) think things are doomed for our side or b) think things will eventually be doomed for our side no matter what the lead is.

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