We are in the midst of watching two back-to-back presidential elections where “the world is about to change.” After eight years of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, you could feel the tension and joy in the air among progressives. It was a new world. We were now ready to elect the first female president because things had changed. Everyone was quoting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying that the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice… or unicorns and rainbows if you wait around long enough. And in 2016, the world had waited long enough.
Then Donald Trump came along and wrecked everything. We all saw the photos of the formerly exuberant young women carrying their signs in the streets saying, “It’s not rigged. You’re just losing.” But on the evening of the election, the snarky smirking grins turned to tears which quickly filled the goblets of those other deplorable people.
— 💘🇺🇸Humanist Engineer (@AtheistEngineer) October 22, 2016
Now, on the eve of Trump’s first midterms, you can feel the same thing in the air again. These elections are only a pause on the way to what is sure to come. The Me Too Moment has already predicted the outcome in 2020 for us. Surely things can’t go that wrong twice in a row.
Allow me to take you on a brief journey back in time. The year was 1972. I was still in high school and not old enough to vote yet, but my siblings were. The elections were all anyone was talking about. The Summer of Love had come and gone and the world had changed. Everyone could just feel it.
For our younger readers, I would suggest at this point that you take a peek at the work of Hunter S. Thompson. He’s most famously known (for good reason) for his seminal novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But he did a followup book which didn’t achieve quite the same historic longevity. It was called, “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, and it was all about Nixon’s reelection bid.
Much like today, everyone out protesting in the streets knew that there was no way Nixon could defeat George McGovern and win a second term. He was still the face of the disastrous end to the Vietnam War. He was the puppetmaster behind the Kent State shootings which had taken place just before the previous midterms. Rumors were already swirling about Watergate and the President’s possible involvement. He was the embodiment of evil, standing athwart the tidal wave of hope which would launch the hippies of that era into permanent (flower) power and sweeping change.
Then the evening of November 7th came along. Nixon won every state except Massachusetts in what would be among the biggest landslide victories in the nation’s history of presidential politics.
The end of Thompson’s book really said it all. Everyone was screaming about how and why it could have happened. Tears were flowing and that infamous arc of history was nowhere to be seen. The author himself was later quoted as saying that the process had left him, “thoroughly exhausted and burned out on the process of politics.”
Sometimes the world isn’t changing as fast as you think it is. And to put it in 2018 context, it may not be changing as fast as the mainstream media would have you believe. Hillary Clinton wound up being the modern version of George McGovern in Hunter S. Thompson’s tale. And the next Democrat to take up the challenge may not break this pattern either.