Optimistic or Just Stupid? | How Fragile is The American Experiment?

Optimistic or Just Stupid? | How Fragile is The American Experiment?

By Don Hall

“I’d like to think that I’m an optimist but it may just be that I’m stupid.”
— My mother

The 2016 election was not an anomaly.

We want to believe it was. We were so goddamn certain that Hillary would win. Even Trump didn't really believe his almost impenetrable brand politics was capable of actually taking the Big Chair. It felt, and feels, like a huge step backward. Here we were, planning out our road to Universal Healthcare and Environmental Rollbacks while casually ignoring the drone strikes on civilians and the eight-year refusal to prosecute against those bankers who put us in the Recession—and suddenly, the fucking guy with the orange spray tan, bad hair and loud, unapologetic, insult-laden maw won.

I remember spending a lot of time contesting the 2000 Supreme Court hand-off to George W. Bush long enough to watch him sail into the Oval four years later. I remember watching Trump as the boss in The Apprentice turn the game show concept into the ultimate sadistic vaudeville show where the winner was the most cutthroat, the most capitalist, the most sociopathic, the most Trump-like of the bunch. I remember watching him shill his image in WWE matches and taking all of that to the Republican debates (you know that a huge section of his voter base watches WWE, right?) The cash-soaked media banking on the collective population's desire to see Kevin Kline get put in the White House and hire Charles Grodin to balance the books.

The Literate Ape hears you. And he's here to tell you that the 2016 election was not an anomaly. It was an inevitability.

We're worried about racism. We're worried about homophobia. We're worried about single mothers who, because of work, have to travel long distances and don't have child care. Those sorts of things we care about. This is what charges us up and makes us want to win power. 

But when you're in an election, you're trying to convince someone else to join your effort. It revolves around the voter and where the voter is. It's not about self-expression. It's about persuasion. When you're trying to persuade someone, you try to figure out what will hook them. What we need is a vision that focuses on what we want to build together and our basic principles.


Take a look at your Faceborg feed. Figuring out what all your friends and friend's friends (and random people in your industry and those people who managed to have enough friends in common with you but whom you'll never meet) are against is easy enough.

They're AGAINST:
- police brutality against black men and women
- environmental genocide
- cultural appropriation and the lack of paid POC in the movie and television industries
- man spreading and 'splaining.
- Whypipo (a term that indicates a solid percentage of Faceborg is populated by nine-year olds)
- Nazis

But what are they for? As in, what are they looking to build? What qualities and values do they share and are willing to sacrifice to achieve? The candidate I will follow provides a vision for the future not a promise that my house will be rodent-free. The doctor I will cling to is the doctor who tells me what she sees my life will be like after we chemo out the cancer not just how to kill it.

What do you stand for in the place of what is?


45 percent of the eligible voters in America sat out of the 2016 election. Forty-five percent. Depending on the numbers you believe that's between 90 and 97 million citizens eligible to vote who simply didn't.

Now look at this:

I know. It feels good to digitally yell at that 67 percent. It feels righteous to tell them that they are racists and sexists and responsible for everything Trump does.

It feels good but it accomplishes nothing. Why?

More than half the country says it will never change its opinion on Trump, no matter what 

Digest that for a moment. No matter what. Not your shaming tactics. Not "calling them out." Not losing their jobs. Or their health insurance. Not being called racists. Not being counter-protested. Not Antifa. Not BLM. Not well meaning white people writing essays addressed to other white people, lecturing them on how to best be a compassionate human being.

And Trump is not going away...

Fundamentally, I believe that the American Experiment is far from over. I truly believe that there are far more of those who want nothing more than equal protection and opportunity under our laws for everyone, the government to exist to protect us and aid those most in need, and a solidarity with the many countries devoted to those values globally.

That 45 percent of the country who decided to not vote? Those are who we need to persuade. And persuasion is about demonstrating what we stand for as well as what we stand against.

It's either 45 or the 45 percent

“I’d like to think that I’m an optimist but it may just be that I’m stupid.”

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