This is the most casually stated and deeply tragic declaration of our time. It is, ironically, the one thing we all agree on, aside from the charms of Chewbacca Mom.
I realize that “politics sucks” is a strange thing to say less than 48 hours after politics brought us our first female candidate for the presidency. Regardless of your thoughts about who should win this thing, that’s history and it’s inspiring. But by now it’s a dying ember in the cold and dark. Look at how quickly politics started to suck again: Donald Trump apparently made a pee-pee joke the night Clinton declared victory. Thomas Frank is already snarling about the cynicism of anyone who’s happy Hillary won. Bernie’s deeply passionate supporters barely had time — seriously, like half an hour — to deal with the finality of a heartbreaking loss before Politico started rubbing salt in the wounds. The Facebook flame wars are all back up and running on my timeline. How about yours?
You can blame a lot of forces — the sensationalist media, the two-party system, Super PAC and lobbyist money, hordes of people who seem hell-bent on doing the wrong thing all the time — but a diagnosis is not a cure, and for the time being, especially this year, politics sucks.
The worst part (aside from the total governmental gridlock that hurts actual people and the corrosive effect of believing that our institutions are terrible) is that, really, politics should be wonderful. They should be the outward representation of our system of elective government — the thing those guys in Hamilton are rapping about.
Politics should be a pitting of our best selves against our greatest challenges. Individuals with contrasting beliefs should be learning from each other, offering up a creative explosion of possible solutions, engaging in great debates, and honoring the decisions made by an engaged electorate. There should be little to no discussion of Donald Trump’s penis.
These things are happening, but in measures smaller than Donald Trump’s micro-hands. For every 25 CNN panels of people yelling past each other, there is one, maybe two, genuinely great examinations of what has brought us to this place, and how we might possibly get out of it.
So we’re putting our shoulder to the wheel, to find and share those pieces in a series we’re calling “America This is Quite Serious.”
This will be a collection of what we wish people were reading and watching in this election season. It will be made up of the same kinds of things we always share — essays, articles, reviews, videos, recommendations — but with the goal of finding pieces that give us a better understanding of what we are doing, and why it is so important. These pieces will come from all over. I am a Hillary supporter. I care most about economic inequality and climate change. You will likely see that reflected in what I share. My hope is that supporters of other candidates and viewpoints will offer pieces they found enlightening, informative, or even, maybe, possibly uplifting. You can share your suggestions in the comments, or with @FictionAdvocate on Twitter, DM us or just put it right out there in the open.
To start things off, I am recommending a recent piece from the New York Times, “Feeling Let Down and Left Behind, With Little Hope for Better.”
You might have guessed, given my declarations above, that I am unpersuaded by the anti-establishment sentiment and populist outrage that has been so prominent in this election cycle. This piece forces me to think twice. I still don’t think that Donald Trump, or even Bernie Sanders, are the best candidates to help, but I can understand why the people profiled here look around and think, “The status quo does not work for me, and incremental change is not going to cut it.”
America, this is quite serious, and that’s why “Feeling Let Down and Left Behind, With Little Hope for Better” is worth a read.