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article imageOp-Ed: Fear and hope in the American presidential campaign

By Frank Kaufmann     Mar 14, 2016 in Politics
New York - For good or for bad, we are in an exhilarating political moment .
Much informs the intensity and uncertainty of events.
We follow these dramatic events and reports from the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns through the troubled arena that blends of money, media, and politics. But these three parts of life are not all that contribute to this daily drama of presidential twists and turns.
These rumbling affairs in this uproarious primary season result also from life realities like religion, technology, education, arts, culture, entertainment and other carriers of ideology.
This piece is clean of a candidate and party choosing or bashing so that readers can get through it without premature rage or dismissal. Here's a big look for a moment at this fiery season, and then we all can jump back into the mosh pit screeching, swinging, and tsk-tsking.
The wildly unexpected turns of this race grow out of our experience through two or three recent administrations.
Approximately 15 years of ever increasing powerlessness real or perceived has driven the electorate this year to want to sear through falsehood and pretense, and pick with a bit of revolutionary zeal a more raw expression of the ideology we like best.
How did we get to this point?
At the extreme and most basic ends of political philosophy lie what has come to be quantified (caricatured) as "the Left," and "the Right." "The Left" (simplistically described) can be said to regard "compassion" as support for the disenfranchised guaranteed by political (government) instruments of obligation. "The Right" (simplistically described) can be said to envision compassion as support for moral and educational opportunity to result in independent individuals free of want or need. (It is the view of this writer that the corruptibility of people renders each impulse vulnerable to failure, and a middle way and mentality is needed to keep vital and sharp the checks and balances each narrow and one-sided impulse needs to not go off the rails).
These left and right leanings define all and every political contest. But what is unique (and being called extreme) in this particular cycle is that establishment guardians and representatives of these ideologies are in the process of being rejected as untrustworthy. The U.S. is in revolt, and as such, polite discourse is trampled or set ablaze, and instead pure or more extreme ideological forms are sought. The political establishment, anything but pure, holds no attraction for this revolution.
What caused the revolt? What gave rise to this massive sense of powerlessness that lashes back with such force? The deepest reason is the loss of meaning in language. We have reached our breaking point listening to smug, condescending double-speak. Whether it is the Fedex person not answering the simple question "where's my package," or a candidate in a debate. We just never hear anyone simply answer a question. Twenty years ago, we lost "the meaning of is." This is a huge part of the appeal for Mr. Trump (rightly or wrongly).
2. Crony capitalism. The fusion between banks, and the political class. Thus the appeal for Mr. Sanders.
3. The devil's deal between the "commentariat" ("media") and the power-elite. Disdain here more favors leaning to Mr. Trump.
These invisible and enraging barriers built around us and against us fuel the undercurrent in this season's politics that long for clarity and certainty. The obfuscation identified with the establishment is creaking and breaking while the masses seek plain, singular, unvarnished versions of the ideology they prefer, whichever it might be.
Over 15 years of war destabilizing the Middle East are part of the deep, mass insecurity that leads to extreme positions politically. Migration and security, the same. This palpable insecurity intensifies the political divide, as voters lean one way or the other, but with the same intensity and desire for a simple solution to real problems.
The inscrutable and opaque juggernaut of tech, leaves us all at once titillated, but more fundamentally feeling helpless, confused, vulnerable, unstable. Is it really true Whatsapp can turn on my phone camera and tape what I'm doing? Is it really true my TV can watch me? Is it really true the IRS had a data breach losing personal information of half a million US tax-payers including me? People feel helpless, and without access to sufficient understanding to solve this burgeoning black ice around us.
This torrent of uncertainty, persistent opaqueness, lies and obfuscation have turned US voters in search of raw, unvarnished expressions of whichever core ideology each prefers. (Except of course for the Machiavellian political cynics and operatives swimming in the mire of calculations about electability, manipulation of demographics and so forth).
This is a unique political moment. We find ourselves in a near perfect storm of uncertainty, but one equally of promise. As this is so, the best conscientious people can do is reject division and divisiveness, neither in our speaking nor in our ways. Division, belligerence, anger and hardness be they from the left or from the right, is especially harmful now. Regardless of our passions, the more divisive we are the more harmful and dangerous it is for us all. Why not first feel our common uncertainty and humanity together. And then have at it. In the end vote proudly for our own favorite, and then all hope for a way through these great and terrible times.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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