At this point, you’ve seen it all except for the requisite October Surprise. (Unless you want to count the “Grab them by the [expletive deleted].”)
You’ve seen Trump and Clinton debate twice, and if you don’t have a fantasy football team to monitor, you may have paid attention.
And you also saw Pence and Kaine go at it.
The operatives — the folks from PACs, from campaigns, and through much of the political media — will tell you there are YUGE differences between the candidates.
If they are pro-Clinton, they’ll tell you about Trump’s horrifying misogyny, about his lack of understanding of traditional American foreign policy, about his adherence to Russia, his tax dodge, his seeming tendency to treat his wife like a business acquaintance and his daughter like a wife, and the rest of the endless parade of horribles.
And — let’s be clear — the operatives will be right on all counts.
Trump is a horrifying individual. Conservatives have swallowed Trumpism with all the alacrity and wisdom of someone doing hemlock shooters at last call. Trump has negated the traditional brand of conservatism and replaced it with a vulgar cult of personality, rooted in inherent contradiction.
But there is an equally appalling case to be made on the other side, about one of the most “vetted” candidates to run for the presidency since Richard Nixon in 1968.
Hillary Clinton has 40 years of BS to rummage through like a HazMat crew in a Hoarders shoot.
From cattle futures and Whitewater to missing emails and Benghazi, with Bushian votes in favor of the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War mixed up in there, Hillary Clinton’s history is known.
Operatives can throw it out there.
And it’s all true.
Trump and Clinton employ very different public rhetoric.
One speaks the language of the interest groups of the center-left, offering rhetorical adhesion for a coalition that jibes better in theory than in practice.
The “Stronger Together” rhetoric contains multitudes. Clinton, once an opponent of same-sex marriage, is now a proponent of LGBT rights. Clinton, whose husband pushed for the 1994 crime bill and who once referred to black youth of that era as “superpredators,” has walked it all back.
Maybe Hillary Clinton has changed. Maybe times have changed. Maybe the calculus that got Bill Clinton through the 1992 primaries, via the avowedly “centrist” rhetoric of the Democratic Leadership Council, lost its purpose sometime between 2008 and Hillary Clinton’s absurdly difficult primary battle against Bernie Sanders — who was considered, at best, a footnote in the campaign before he started winning primaries.
Trump, who seemed to go from New York liberal to birther at some point in Obama’s first term, tries to serve up conservative rhetoric.
But in reality, it’s authoritarian: As if there’s not a problem that can’t be solved when a government officer has a gun pointed at citizens.
From his advocacy of “stop and frisk” going nationwide, to his Muslim ban, to his proposed en masse deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants, to his “pivot” on abortion that took him from a pro-choice position to musing that women perhaps should be punished for terminating a pregnancy, Trump is a nightmare.
Choosing in this election is not like choosing between Coke and Pepsi.
It’s like choosing between Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il.
Like choosing between Monsanto and Union Carbide.
Like choosing between Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Leaf.
These are horrifying options; you can thank the Baby Boomer generation for them.
There’s a reason that watching Clinton and Trump verbally parry is like watching the Ropers squabble on a Three’s Company rerun. They are like matched halves of a pair of apocalyptic bookends. Their rhetoric, their stridency, their absurdity — all of it is of the generation that gave you pan-Asian land war, a $20 trillion debt, a student loan crisis, GMO foods, and a guarandamntee that 9/10 of those reading this will work harder and earn less than their parents.
Those younger than 40 have inherited a toxic ash dump that we still call America. The official rhetoric may be freedom; the reality is a police state, especially for people of color, moored in special interests on the left, crony capitalists in the center, and the tinfoil hat brigade on the right.
Next election likely will be a repudiation of the boomer legacy, which has reached its tragic nadir in this presidential race. As the economic signposts on the road to the Third World become more unmistakable, maybe younger voters will realize the irony: The country has gone bankrupt to secure the entitlements of those chuckling oldsters with the “we’re spending our children’s inheritance” bumper stickers.
This election is a little more whistling in the graveyard.
And while there are third-party candidates, they are unable to make this case for what it is.
Gary Johnson can’t get on a live mic without garbling talking points. And Jill Stein might as well be on a milk carton.
Four more years. Then, one hopes, you kids will learn your lesson and vote accordingly.