Unprompted: A Post-Mortem on 2016 

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We are about to give the White House keys to a guy the experts assured us would never become president. But they, like the candidates, were clueless. Hillary Clinton was stunned election night, so was Donald Trump. And Larry Sabato. What the hell!

It was a very good year ... for things that didn’t make sense, in this case American democracy.

We began with roughly 4,613 candidates who imagined themselves destined to become president. Lincoln Chafee was in the early running, billing himself as the only candidate without political baggage. In his mind, even though he was the most geeky candidate in the nonrace, Americans would flock to the polls to support a guy who hadn’t done anything wrong. He was the first to be really wrong.

Then we had Jim Gilmore, another candidate who lacked the ability to see himself as others see him. The former Virginia governor was in it to the end, which in his case came at the beginning.

The field soon was whittled down to a handful of candidates, none of whom we wanted. The Russians suddenly took a liking to democracy and decided to play a role in the American election, yet deny it. It didn’t matter because we were so accustomed to powerful people doing illegal stuff and lying about it that they fit right in. Welcome to America.

The campaign came down to a contest between the two most unpopular of all the candidates. Then Bernie Sanders decided on his 212th birthday to bury the hatchet and support Clinton. She decided to believe the pollsters and pundits and ignore the American people because her election was in the bag.

When it was over, Mitt Romney, who assured us Donald Trump was a “phony and a fraud,” decided that the best thing to do was to go to Trump and grovel for a job. Trump decided to play him for a while, and then send Romney back into oblivion.

Marco Rubio decided to get out of politics, and then almost immediately decided to get back in, despite his big ears. Trump had pointed out that Rubio had really big ears, but apparently that didn’t do much harm because most people were trying to get a better look at the size of Trump’s hands. Gilmore at this point was still considering a write-in campaign, certain that when America found out about his no-car-tax ideas they would overturn the election and put him in the White House.

About this time Trump decided to abandon one of his pledges never to settle a suit and repay the students of Trump University whom he’d been accused of ripping off. The president-elect didn’t want these people hanging around the White House wanting their money back.

By this time Clinton is well out of sight but has enough money stashed away to live well. Chelsea Clinton was worried that her $300,000 salary from the Clinton Foundation might be in jeopardy because of all the fuss. Bill Clinton suddenly was bored again and thinking of sending an email to Paula Jones to see if she’d like to have a drink.

In the background of all this craziness we find the rest of us going about living in what some Republicans call the worst country in the world while Barack Obama was president. They were marshaling their forces to undo everything he did, Obamacare being first.

But they won’t undo everything. General Motors will remain open for business building cars that are every bit as good as Toyotas. The unemployment rate won’t be doubled. The stock market flirting with historic highs won’t be gutted. And Osama bin Laden will remain dead. Reluctantly a few Republicans choose to continue living in the U.S. of A.

So here we are, facing an uncertain future as always. The march of democracy goes on, wounded though it is. It remains to be seen what Vladimir Putin will do with his new friend in the White House. But like the crazy election, it will be interesting to watch.

I predict that we’ll survive this mess because there are still a lot of smart people who understand what’s going on. Some of them are in positions of responsibility. But it doesn’t end there. I have no doubt that when 2017 comes to an end we will look back and say something like, “Are you kidding me?” S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor, who retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.




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