David Levi Strauss / Dispatch / The Race

Dispatch 35: Year Zero


HELLO. I’m sorry, where were we? Howls of coyotes on the hill, signaling something dire. They usually howl like that after they’ve killed something, but that night they did it to drown out the emergency sirens in the valley. And it worked, for a bit. But then the sirens came back even louder, more of them, building, converging on the conflagration, till the din of emergency overwhelmed the ululation.

It’s the way democracy works, sometimes. If you can get enough people worked up enough at the right time, and make enough noise to drown out all signal, you can take power, and kill something. And it happened that this year, it was enough. The center did not hold. Only a little over half of all eligible voters exercised their principal right in a representative democracy, and a little less than half of that group voted—in the right proportions in the states, according to the rules—to shake things up.

The electorate that Tuesday in November was in a foul and unstable state, and they decided, just barely, to roll the dice and risk the fate of the free world on the brittle promises of a narcissistic huckster from Queens. Some of them had legitimate grievances, but all of them were angry enough to lash out blindly, consequences be damned. You’ll listen to us now.

It was an almost unimaginably destructive act. It will wreak havoc on the environment, target minority groups and immigrants for harassment and worse, discourage our allies and embolden our enemies, and set back the goals of social justice in this country for decades. It will probably threaten American democracy itself before it’s over, and upset the balance of power globally.

The day after the election, it definitely felt like something had died. Half of the population went into mourning, while the other half twittered and chattered its jubilation. We told you we were coming for you, but you didn’t listen. The twenty-four-hour news channels turned on a dime, normalizing the results as if this is the kind of thing that happens every four years in America. Winners win and losers lose and life goes on.

But this is not like those other times. The darkest forces in American politics, that have seethed on the fringes of public life for 240 years, have suddenly grasped the reins of power. We have given power to an autocrat who will move rapidly to curtail rights and overturn all democratic institutions and legal safeguards against tyranny. And he will try to silence all opposition.

We all misread the signs. The Big Data wizards missed it entirely. Seasoned political hands were flummoxed. Our poisoned communications environment failed us. Mourning must happen, but not for long. Now there’s work to be done.

David Levi Strauss
Monday, November 21, 2016, 3:15 pm.

[Photograph by Jon Winet. Convention Floor, GOP Convention, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio. Thursday, July 21, 2016. Click on the images to see an enlargement.]

LINK to all David Levi Strauss Power 2016 Dispatches

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