An Election of No Words

By HENRY WILLIAM SAROYAN || November 7, 2016


I have intentionally kept mum about the election for the last few months. I have really hesitated about writing anything publicly about the general election, partly because I had nothing interesting to say (also, because I have enough writing and reading to irrespective of endless Facebook debate).

What else could possibly be said about a race that has seemingly drawn on for an eternity, one that has been saturated with vicious rhetoric (by one candidate alone), untruths (by one candidate alone), and divisiveness that threatens to linger well past November 8th?

Here it goes:

This is the political crisis of our time, where a reasonably adversarial quadrennial process has disintegrated into a circus where the integrity of every fundamental institution in the United States has been excoriated, undermined, and rendered an afterthought at the hands of an undisciplined, manipulative, chiefly self-interested, volatile, brusque, and, above all, repugnantly-mean bully. Where, on Wednesday morning, this country runs the tragic risk of having half of its electorate essentially find the sacrosanct ritual of the American vote as tainted, as rigged – a toxic and pervasive notion perpetuated by the top of the ticket, the de facto leader of the Republican party, the heir of a political duty once triumphed by Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, so on and so forth: Donald Trump. What could I possibly analyze about the three preceding debates other than shining an already exhausted and unremitting light on the clear danger that resides in an everything-forsaken Trump Presidency?

In this time of incertitude, I reflect upon the last presidential election. I remember watching the debates – I was still a freshman in high school.

I actually learned something during those three debates. I witnessed two deeply principled wonks talking shop, foreign policy disagreements. But through it all, through that hard-fought campaign, it remained unequivocally decorous. Respectable. Presidential.

Drawing back on my first experience on being able to cognitively comprehend a serious policy-oriented presidential debate, I only have unqualified sorrow and grief for all of the middle- and high-schoolers – who, like I once did – tuned in to watch a characteristically different, characteristically depressing “anti-debate” happen on three harrowing occasions.

This, eclipsed by even more disgusting revelations of the Republican nominee’s warped and sickening views on women, stories of his decades-long financial manipulation.

This, outshined by his fundamental recalcitrance to all things democratic, to all things republican (lower-case ‘r’). The quintessential and time-tested, the awe-inspiring and historically-unique, Americana that has set us apart from the world – the peaceful transition of power.

Insofar as Trump has refused to honor even this most basic and most intuitive of decencies in a presidential race, insofar as Trump has made a mockery of everything important to this nation, what possibly insightful thing do I, Henry Saroyan, have to add to this paralytic nightmare?

We vote tomorrow. America votes, and I hope She votes well. That we don’t let our lesser and unreconciled fears and anxieties get the better of us. That we don’t fall into the fallacy of false equivalence, that we don’t deny this nation the stewardship of an infinitely more wise, infinitely more prepared, and infinitely more capable President (yes, I am with and talking about her).

I understand the concerns that voters have on Secretary Clinton’s record, the troubling secrecy, the embarrassing email trove. I understand the doubts – they are valid, and they deserved to be raised.

But, we must understand that the disagreements we raise with Secretary Clinton fall into the normal, and rational, realm of American politics.

The danger of Donald Trump is truly existential. This is the most traumatic, unsettling, and farcical election we have ever had. And these sentiments haven’t arisen out of happenstance.

No, they have boiled, festered, and have been brought upon us to bear because of the campaign that the Republican nominee has chosen to run.

This is the point that I hope we all have on the back of our minds as we engage in this centuries-old, awesome process. The challenges are real. Her victory won’t be a panacea. But it will be a start, an attempt at improving upon the reforms and progress we, as Americans, have seen in the past eight years.

A go at the real problems that afflict everyday Americans, grievances of everyday Americans that shouldn’t be ignored or thought away by any party. Tomorrow will be the start of the process of healing that I truly trust both us and the next President-elect, the better angels of our time, to begin. I go to sleep tonight with anxiety, but not despair. Because, I know that this uncertainty, too, shall pass.

That it is a black cloud, and that your and my fundamentally capacity for the good will dispel and extricate it from our political life finally, at long last.

Henry Saroyan is a student in the College at the University of Chicago studying Political Science.

Ethan Gelfer contributed editing. 

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