IT’S CLEAR NOW: America is not buying the loud-mouth real-estate huckster that is Donald Trump, no matter how many primaries he wins by throwing red meat to the Republican base.
Sure there’s still California’s now-meaningless primary next month, but unless Hillary Clinton somehow screws up, the November election and the White House are hers to lose.
But after Trump is dumped, Clinton, the professors, and TV talking heads will have to figure out why so many people are angry about their lives.
Even allowing for the fact that Trump and the other second-string GOP presidential hopefuls beat the drum with sky-is-falling rhetoric, there’s long-suppressed discontent in the hinterlands, shadowed by the glittering skyscrapers where the one percent get richer by the year.
As the New York Times Magazine asked the other day, “Unemployment is at 5 percent, deficits are down and the Obama economy is growing. Why do so many voters feel left behind?”
Why, in what is supposedly the richest nation on earth, are there so many homeless people or those stranded in a stagnant middle class or folks struggling in poverty-ridden inner cities with lousy schools?
Rust Belt residents and low-income whites hear Trump ask why are we exporting jobs and importing immigrants? And they are very angry. Trump, of course has no answers beyond scapegoating hard-working immigrants and rousing his crowds with racist rants.
Most know, or should know, that as president he couldn’t build a high wall along the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it, or deport 11 million people, but many seem to like the sound of it.
The real question behind the Trump phenomena is how can a democracy built on an expectation of rising prosperity, and not the profits of perpetual war, survive the rise of the next demagogue, who may be far smoother and even more dangerous?
It’s Clinton’s task to put together a more fair and more just society, and if she’s not already working on it, she should be. Or else.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES: I’m starting to see those yellow-hair Trump effigies around town, including one piñata battered at a picnic last weekend.
GOING TO D.C.: Even though the hot political action seems to be out in those primary hinterlands, I’ll be stalking the halls of the White House and Capitol next week, drinking with the interns (who know it all) and eavesdropping on the gossip at D.C. insider bars. A full report upon my return.
SIXTIES REVISITED: The turbulent decade’s “let the sunshine in” and dark clouds of Vietnam are played out vividly in Santa Barbara High School’s moving production of the 1960s musical Hair. For someone who saw it in L.A. so many years and tears ago, director Otto Layman’s production seems just as hippie-joyful but also meaningful to today’s issues (war, air pollution), and at the end, even more tragic and heartbreaking.
More than a few tears were shed the night I saw the Santa Barbara “American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.” There are still lessons to be learned, it seems. The student “tribe,” in flowing skirts and headbands, and exuberant with peace, freedom and love, was excellent. (Friday and Saturday, May 6 and 7, at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8, at 2 p.m.)