ON the morning after Hillary Clinton accepted her party’s nomination for the Presidency, Donald Trump is saying “I watched them last night, and they’re not talking about the Real World,” and Fox News is saying something similar: It was nice, but the world they’re talking about is not Real. Over the last four days, in a myriad of ways, Democrats have said the same thing about the Republicans.
The coming campaign, over the next 100 days, is not going to be about competing policy proposals and plans, but about the nature of Reality. It must only be a matter of time before people begin to pepper their political speeches with references to Plato’s Forms and Kant’s the “thing itself,” and the noumenal world as opposed to phenomenal knowledge.
Or perhaps someone will recover the term Tim Leary coined in the 1970s, “reality tunnel,” to refer to the way each person constructs her or his view of the world according to one’s experiences and beliefs. The idea was developed further by Robert Anton Wilson, who said, Trumpishly, “reality is what you can get away with.” In the book Leary and Wilson wrote together, Neuropolitique, they say: “The gene-pool politics which monitor power struggles among terrestrial humanity are transcended in this info-world, i.e. seen as static, artificial charades. One is neither coercively manipulated into another’s territorial reality or forced to struggle against it with reciprocal game-playing (the usual soap opera dramatics). One simply elects, consciously, whether or not to share the other’s reality tunnel.”
Both parties are currently saying “not.” So the coming election, perhaps more than any other in history, is going to be an ontological referendum. And the two political conventions we have just witnessed have been ontological catalogues, limning two very different views of reality.
Last night in the Wells Fargo arena in Philadelphia, the Democrats framed the conflict as that between Love & Hate, and between Hope & Fear. Bernie Sanders supporters staged one last ditch protest against Hillary’s hawkishness, trying to shout down the assembled Generals with chants of “No More War, No More War,” but their cries were invaded by and dissolved in the competing three-syllable chants of “USA, USA” and“Hillary, Hillary.” If there is to be a Third Way this time, it will be left to the Libertarian and Green candidates to carry it forward.
Conservative commentator David Brooks, who I kept running into in Philadelphia, wrote a brilliant column last night for the New York Times, pointing out that Donald Trump has figured out “an ingenious way to save the Democratic Party,” by abandoning patriotism and allowing Democrats “to seize that ground.” “If you visited the two conventions this year,” he wrote, “you would have come away thinking that the Democrats are the more patriotic of the two parties—and the more socially conservative.”
Brooks concluded that the Democrats had a better convention than the Republicans, with better speeches and a much more substantive and coherent program. “But,” he cautioned, “the normal rules may no longer apply. The Democrats may have just dominated a game we are no longer playing.”
As I watched Hillary on stage last night, resplendent in a glowing white suit before white stars on a blue ground, with the capacity crowd enthusiastically waving their assigned signs and sign-sticks, I thought that the epic change we’re going through, from written and spoken language to the image, and from policy to perception, is making a quantum leap in this campaign, on both sides. Under the old rules, insight and thoughtful policy proposals mattered. In the New World of Tweets and leaks and bombast and bluster, all that matters are the images projected on the walls of your own particular Reality Tunnel.
David Levi Strauss
Friday, July 29, 2016, 11:55 am
[Photograph: Jon Winet. Press Filing Center. July 28, 2016. Click on image to see an enlargement.]
LINK to all David Levi Strauss Power 2016 Dispatches