An Ugly End to an Ugly Primary

Hillary Clinton has finally sealed the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. Our long, national nightmare is over. Just kidding, it’s only begun!

If it feels like the 2016 primary season has dragged on forever, that’s because it has. Positioning for this Presidential race was already underway in 2012 and intensified in 2014. Bernie Sanders entered the fray in May of 2015 as the only serious challenger to Hillary Clinton. A few others threw their hats into the ring–Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, Lawrence Lessig–but only Martin O’Malley stuck around long enough to participate in the actual primary elections. He withdrew after extremely poor early performance.

Sanders and Clinton continued and escalated their battle all the way up through yesterday’s primaries, which finally pushed Clinton over the top and mathematically eliminated Sanders’ chances of securing the nomination. In truth, Sanders was statistically defeated months ago. When he failed to win in Southern states, his fate was sealed. There is no path to the Democratic nomination without Southern support. But his campaign dragged–indeed, drags–on. Sanders has vowed to fight all the way to the convention. I think this is a mistake, as even his most ardent supporters have resigned themselves to the fact that Sanders has lost.

My social media pages have been plastered with despair and gnashing of teeth over Sanders’ defeat. I admit that I don’t fully understand the doom-and-gloom attitude. Clinton does not offer a platform as satisfyingly progressive as Sanders’, but she is a much better qualified administrator and executive. Even Sanders’ progressive bona fides are not without their flaws. I also still have reservations about Clinton, but consider her a known quantity in the face of Donald Trump. With Clinton, the most likely case is another four to eight years of policies in the Obama mold. That’s far from perfect, but it’s not the unmitigated disaster that a Trump Presidency would be.

There is no better way to describe the Republican primary season than as a complete shit show. What can be said of a campaign season that began with a massive field–a so-called “deep bench”–and ended with a presumptive nominee whose own party leaders admit is racist but continue to support him anyway? Let us remember the fallen:

  • Ted Cruz — Humorously(?) rumored to be the Zodiac Killer. Ate a booger on live television. Called “Lyin’ Ted” by Trump.
  • John Kasich — A kindly, grandfatherly figure who will relate to you in dulcet tones how very much he’d like to glass the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Marco Rubio — A cheap suit wrapped around a flimsy layer of charisma containing a back-stabbing joke of a candidate. “Little Marco” to the Donald.
  • Ben Carson — A walking book tour who single-handedly torpedoed his own legacy by coming off like a crank on stage.
  • Jeb Bush — After learning what the Bush name is worth nowadays, transformed into a human Eeyore described by Trump as “low energy.”
  • Rand Paul — The broken clock with bad hair. You know the GOP is screwed when this guy looks like the only adult in the room.
  • Mike Huckabee — A heinous monster wearing human skin.
  • Carly Fiorina — Wanted to do to America what she did for Hewlett Packard.
  • Chris Christie — Traded his dignity for… well, not much, it turns out.
  • Rick Santorum — You know it’s bad when one of the most appalling religious zealots of our era is overshadowed by several other people.
  • Jim Gilmore — Who??

Those are just the folks who actually made it to primary season, mind you. Rick “Room Temperature IQ” Perry, Scott “Empty Suit” Walker, Bobby “I Told my Parents I’m Winning” Jindal, Lindsay “Why am I Still in This Party?” Graham, and George “*uncontrollable sobbing*” Pataki all crapped out before the first votes were cast. Let’s give them a hand for getting while the getting was good.

It was a primary of “Berniebros” and “Hillarybots,” full of pejorative nicknames and personal attacks. It was Donald Trump on TV every 15 seconds, calling people “weak” and talking about “deals,” and always how “I’m building a wall.” That godforsaken wall. That such an idea is taken credibly as a talking point only illustrates what a reality show joke our process has become.

It’s not so much that we’ve become less civil, although it would be fair to say that we have. It’s that our civility has always been an illusion, a thin veneer hiding a vicious ugliness. It’s Lee Atwater’s playbook, in reverse. Really, it’s everything turned upside down. A woman being the Presidential nominee of a major party is a historic achievement, and yet it’s greeted either with a yawn or cries of conspiracy, depending on what circles you run in. An old white man, a career politician who styles himself as a champion of the poor, profits from a nuclear waste dump he helped get built next to a poor Latino community and is hailed as “the little guy.” Bernie Sanders might have been the little guy forty years ago, when he was writing articles for alternative newspapers. But having been in Congress since 1990 and in government since 1981, any claim of being a credible anti-establishment candidate should be laughable on its face.

And then we have Hillary Clinton, who considers war criminal Henry Kissinger a close, personal friend–and they have praised each other’s foreign policies. There’s her “superpredator” remark, her support for devastating welfare “reform,” her callous treatment of activists who have confronted her about her record. There is no question that she is competent and eminently qualified to be President. What gives me pause is what she would actually do as President, particularly with regard to economically-entangled social policies and warfare.

But these questions almost don’t matter when the alternative is Donald Trump, who openly rails against a judge hearing a civil case against him, who calls for banning Muslims from entering the country, who praises the brazen brutality of Vladimir Putin, who hurls gendered insults at women who challenge him, who mocks and belittles his political opponents, who encourages his supporters to beat protesters, who wants to throw women in prison for getting abortions–we could be here all night documenting his seemingly endless litany of disgraces and embarrassments. The man has no shame, and the media have spent most of this cycle scrambling to cover his many outrages, drawing clicks and eyeballs to whatever howler he most recently let loose. Recently, journalists have turned more critical, but where were they months ago when he was solidifying his lead? It’s terrible for democracy and terrible for America that this fascist buffoon is going to be the nominee of a major party, and even more abominable that the party is now lining up to kiss the ring. Is there no one so crass, so bigoted, so unpleasant that Republicans will not support him? Apparently not–as long as he’s a winner.

As the primary season draws to a close, I can only shake my head at what a disaster it’s been, and what it has unleashed in people. Will it get worse through the summer when it’s just Clinton vs. Trump? I certainly hope not, but have no reason to believe the tone will improve. Some expected Trump to start acting “Presidential” a few months ago. He hasn’t. It’s evident he’s not going to, because he doesn’t know how. We are moving from an ugly primary season into an ugly general election. And if Trump normalizes this sort of behavior–as he very well might–then that ugliness will be here to stay.

November can’t come soon enough.

Photo by wuestenigel

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James
James runs this blog and likes to write about society, culture, politics, science, technology, social justice, and pretty much anything else. Rumor has it people read his posts sometimes.

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An Ugly End to an Ugly Primary

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