I often think that my writing goes too dark; that the bleakness of modern politics, dominated, as it is, by the grim nihilism and stupendous cretinism of Trump, has withered my political soul to a despairing nothingness — nothing, that is, but cynicism. If a Donald Trump is possible, then anything is possible. His mere presence and morbid prominence on the nation's political stage inflict a personal melancholy that feels more like a personal corruption — of the soul.
I fight this interior rot by reminding myself that the arrestingly sociopathic Donald Trump will lose in November, which he will. Still, there he is, polling competitively (for now), just as he has for months. His approximate moiety in the hearts and minds of my fellow Americans has been a shock to both the system and my system. A burrowing cynicism — which was always there, if nothing else on the surface — has resulted, although, as noted, I do fight it.
I also fight it by reminding myself of American political history and the Oval Office's present occupant. Our Huey Longs and Joe McCarthys have come, and they have gone; we'll always have the blight of bottomless demagoguery. Trump's may be singularly emetic, but it is evanescent, too. Such realities must be recalled. And there is President Obama — still smiling, still enduring, still noble. He is the antidote to political cynicism.
He is to mine, anyway. To Maureen Dowd, Obama is just another punching bag of cynical convenience — of opportunistic cynicism:
An army of idealistic young people had moved to Iowa in 2007 to help Obama beat seemingly impossible odds. But in this election, Bernie Sanders’s idealistic young people were cast as unrealistic dreamers who wanted free stuff…. The same Obama who sparked a revolution has now made it his mission to preserve the establishment for Hillary….
In the end, Obama didn’t overthrow the Clinton machine. He enabled it. It turns out, who we choose is not really about our souls. It’s just politics, man.
Ms. Dowd is 64 years old and it seems that in those 64 years she has learned nothing about politics.
As an undergraduate I studied one of my majors under an influential professor who regularly railed against American voters who disparage politicians for behaving like … politicians. How in God's name are they supposed to behave? he would ask. To belittle a politician for being political is like belittling your plumber for delving into your corroded pipes. Dowd's "It's just politics, man" — aimed at a politician — is indeed a truism of tautological depth. But in Dowd's usage it's meant to convey betrayal.
Obama sold his soul, or rather he bamboozled ours. He is "enabling" one of the wickedly soulless Clintons. And so Dowd picks up where she left off 16 years ago. She reengages the familiar, however, not to belittle Hillary, but to cynically stain perhaps the finest president since 1945. I've had my differences of opinion with President Obama, but I've never doubted his integrity and he sure as hell has never given me reason to believe that his soul, which is so rich in humanity, is divorced from his politics, which is rich in pragmatism.
So is Obama's support of Clinton just politics, man? Well, it is if his politics means preserving the legacies of presidential decency, intelligence, and humanity from the ravages of Trumpism. Conceding that, though, would annihilate the fun of cynically staining an exceptionally fine man.
God help me if I ever become as opportunistically cynical as Maureen Dowd. For now, she at least makes me feel better about myself.