Radio Free NH: ‘We’re looking in the mirror and we’re shocked by what we see.’

Print More

Michael Davidow

By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire

Ron DeSantis washed up on these shores a few days ago. He soaked up some sun, snapped at a reporter or two, then slithered away. He’s a curious guy built from actual spare parts (the Rock ‘em – Sock ‘em Robot Department) and I don’t pretend to understand him. He picks fights with Mickey Mouse. He pushes around drag queens. He sets off alarm bells in Kiev, Berlin, and London, as Moscow cheers his ignorance.

In his favor, though, he has set himself the hard task of peeling away Donald Trump’s voters, which makes him unique in the Republican list. The others who have declared thus far are asking people to move away from Trump. Though they mouth some of the same fatuities, one nevertheless gathers that they all still favor those quaint things that Trump has so despised: the rule of law, for instance. But not Ron DeSantis. He wants to out-Trump the orange-haired faker himself. He wants to beat the big clown in his own circus. God help us if he wins.

Part of me admires that gumption, but it’s the part that slows down for accidents on the highway and occasionally clicks on news articles about Prince Harry. Most of me is sickened. I am tired of Republican candidates who claim that the world will fall apart if the other team wins, because I always catch myself thinking that the world will fall apart if that other team wins.

Sure, we actually saw it happen the last time: the storming of Capitol Hill, for instance.  But I suppose it’s real for them, too. They see the equivalent of that storming every day of the year. They see gay people being given new rights, they see (or they believe they see) people of color being favored by the government (it always amuses me when Iowa farmers make that argument), they see their jobs and their religions and their own personal take on liberty (for which gun ownership just happens to be one of our country’s most unfortunate proxies) losing, losing, and losing, day in and day out, in every city and college campus around. It’s probably more apocalyptic for them, in fact, because they can’t just imagine saying to hell with it and moving to Canada. Canada doesn’t help them. Canada is full of Canadians. Their only refuge lies in the past, so they are doing their best to drag us backwards in time.

And though I don’t understand a guy like DeSantis, I do understand that urge. Things were always easier in the past. They were certainly easier when I was a kid, because when I was a kid, my parents did all the work. And if I don’t stop and appreciate that simple fact, if I give myself over to nostalgia instead of trying to learn from history, then I might forget that the seventies were an ugly time. 

More fundamentally than that, though: entropy thrives in American politics just like in the laws of physics. Order decays over time; liberty leads to endless complication. It’s one thing to tell people they all have freedom of speech; it’s another when they actually start to talk. It’s one thing to tell people that everyone gets a vote; it’s another when people actually head to the polls. The internet has made it easier than ever before to gather like minds together; but real thought remains a rarity, and the masses of humanity have always been more easily moved by emotion than by reason. The same revolt against the elite which empowered our minorities in our cities, in the 1960’s, has finally empowered the rural poor and led to Donald Trump. It stems from the same impetus and it shares both the same virtues and the same faults. We’re looking in the mirror and we’re shocked by what we see.

With that acknowledgement, however, perhaps we can find a way to cope. We can take steps to channel the changes in our culture, so they are not so stunning. We can concentrate our efforts on problems that affect us all, like global warming, rather than expend so much time and energy on various forms of special pleading. We can reinvigorate our institutions, at the occasional expense of our individualism.

DeSantis won’t support any of that, of course, but maybe some of those other Republicans will.  Let’s hope so, and let’s hope that as the primaries winnow their ranks, those other men and women (all of whom deserve our respect for standing against Trump and Trumpism) will gather together, support one another unconditionally, and lead the Republican party back to the modern world.

Davidow writes Radio Free New Hampshire for He is also the author of Gate City, Split Thirty, and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and advertising which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project,  The Book of Order, and The Hunter of Talyashevka . They are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Davidow’s Chanukah Land can be found here.

Comments are closed.