One week to election day 2016. This campaign cycle is the main reason it has been so quiet for so long around here. Like millions of Americans I have struggled to make sense of the news and events of the last 6 months or so. Every time I've thought I had figured a few things out the ground has shifted and I've gone back to square one before I could get a blog post out. Other things, good things, have been happening as well, but this extraordinary election has basically bottled up my writing. And truth be told, I've been avoiding some things I need to come to grips with regarding America and some of my fellow citizens.
I have a bad feeling about the next week. I have a bad feeling about the week after that too. Hell, I have a bad feeling about a lot of things and for as far as I can see. But the only thing I am certain about is the bad feeling won't go away after next Tuesday. While it will resolve some important uncertainties, it will create significant others in the process.
Will Trump and his supporters accept the results if Crooked Hillary wins? Will the people who have spent the last year demonizing him as the next coming of Hitler accept the results if Trump wins? Most years I would ask, 'What else are you going to do?" This year I'm afraid of the answer I would get. Too many people are out there itching for not just a fight, but a war, and they are not limited to a handful of nuts in the radical coffee house or the militia woods. No, I don't know any of them personally, but I'm seeing a lot more talk of violence in places that used to be free of such rhetoric. The ugly mood and air of violence are making it into mainstream opinion columns now. At least one columnist is actually stoking things up.
Here's Leonard Pitts, Jr. in his nationally syndicated column last week:
It is written, in other words, on an average day in the pest-ridden, plague-infected swamp of rumor, rancor, conspiracy and flat-out bollocks that now counts as Republican political discourse. More to the point, it is written out of concern over what and how the country will be after next week’s election.
I want it immolated.
I want it razed to the foundation, reduced to a moonscape, left unlivable even for cockroaches, much less newts. I want it treated like boot heels treat ants and furnaces treat ice cubes, treated like a middle school basketball team playing the ’71-’72 Lakers.
Defeat is not enough. Let there be humiliation. Let there be pain.
You can read it in full context at the link, but basically somebody sent him a stupid email and some people behaved badly towards Obama on the internet. Oh, and Trump. This isn't the first time Pitts has penned an outrageous column and it won't be the last. And I might be able to come up with a similar rant by a nationally syndicated columnist on the right. But I think that sort of indulgence is particularly dangerous this year.
I have a bad feeling about the economy and stock markets as well. In fact, I've moved to cash in my IRAs and my dad has too with the exception of some guaranteed return funds he has through TIAA. Neither of us are in the mood to take the hit we took eight years ago and there's too much uncertainty and volatility these days, in the US and around the world. With some caveats, I'm optimistic for the US economy in the long-term. In the short-term I think there is very little upside and lots of potential downside in the markets. Besides the election and terrorist attacks to disrupt it, there is the probable belt tightening in retail spending as some consumers run out of room to avoid health care cost increases, potentially dangerous weakness in the European financial system, Middle East instability and opportunity for miscalculation between the US, Turkey, Russia, and Iran, similar opportunities for miscalculation in Pacific Asia, and doubts about China's economy. I could cite more, but I think that's enough for now. That's why I have moved what I can to cash in the short-term.
Another source of unease to me is the sense that as a society we have tipped into a sort on post-integrity status. Many of our important institutions no longer care about the truth or are run by, frankly, incompetent fools who are not held accountable. I have always had the feeling that no matter what bad thing happened to us as a country, we are rich enough and strong enough, and our institutions are trusted enough, that we can weather the storm. I'm not so sure about that anymore.
But more on that later.