In “Macbeth” Shakespeare wrote that: “Life is a tale told by an idiot…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Now, centuries later, the 2016 political campaign for the presidency of the U.S. is unfolding with the same absurdity as Shakespeare had described in his theater production of “Macbeth.” It has degenerated into a low art form of theater with various characters, besides the two main actors, playing out their various and highly predictable roles on center stage. For example, you have characters such as Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, who heretofore had fairly decent political reputations, but are now forced to pick up Trump’s dry-cleaning by twisting themselves into pretzels in trying to explain away each of Trumps incredibly moronic statements, uttered every time his ego becomes abused. Other players include the political pundits on the various TV news stations who analyze to death, every meaningless piece of drivel uttered by the theater production’s two main actors.
Of course, the highlight of this theater of the absurd is the debate performances between the two staring candidates. The first presidential debates go back to to the campaign of 1860 between Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephan Douglass. The primary topic of the day at that time was slavery. Presidential debates then fell out of favor for a century, until the advent of a television set being common in almost everyone’s home resurrected them in 1960. Now, everyone could watch the candidates perform from the comfort of their living rooms, and theater of the absurd was thus born. In 1960 the contest was between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. Interestingly, those that watched the debate on TV felt that Kennedy had given the stronger performance; while those that listened on the radio believed that Nixon had prevailed. The reason- Kennedy’s handsome, charismatic persona had won out over Nixon’s rather drab looking appearance, while on the radio Nixon’s delivery appeared so much more reasonable than Kennedy’s. Since more people watched the debate on TV than listened to it on the radio, Kennedy won the election by the narrowest of margins. After he was sworn in Kennedy stated that if he accomplished nothing else, he had saved the country from a Richard Nixon. As it turned out, however, he had merely delayed it.
So last week we had the first of three presidential debates, with a mind-boggling 84 million people tuning in to watch this theater performance. As if they would learn anything new that hadn’t been repeated hundreds of previous times. But it was showtime, and the show must go on. Trump started off predictably strong, hurling every malady the Universe has ever known as being caused by the Obama Administration, and Hillary Clinton in particular. But somewhere during Clinton’s other wise drab performance, she managed to toss a few good zingers where it hurt Trump the most- in his ego. Being the supreme narcissist that I’ve previously written about, Trump could not let this effrontery go unanswered, and thus went off script and began to lose it. The debate then degenerated into such pressing issues as to whether Trump had called a former Miss Universe who had gotten fat, Miss Piggy. Certainly one of the most immediate and urgent problems of the day on the minds of most of the American populace. It went downhill for Trump from that point on, and Clinton was generally declared the debate winner in contest where the bar is set exceedingly low. If there is such a thing as a winner when watching the theater of the absurd.
The next day, of course, all the political pundits sallied forth to verbalize their views of what was said that shouldn’t have, and what wasn’t said that should have. There was a general consensus on the Trump side that he should have brought up Bill Clinton’s sexual proclivities, and Trump has promised to do just that for the second debate. Why bother watching when you know in advance what the main characters will pontificate on. And, as if the fact that Bill Clinton couldn’t keep his zipper shut is, in any way, germane to the world we live in in 2016. Nevertheless, the name of the game is how much mud one candidate can sling at the other, and how much of it will stick. By all means, never discuss in the theater of the absurd, the actual problems and issues affecting large numbers of people on a daily basis.
The current polls show that the election is extremely close, almost a dead heat. As I’ve written before, in such cases the outcome is usually decided by the people that don’t bother to vote versus those that do. For example, in 2008 and 2012, large numbers of Democrats were motivated to turn out to elect Barack Obama as president. But in the 2010 and 2014 congressional elections, many Democrats stayed home on election day, and Republicans overwhelmingly swept those contests. So, in the end it all comes down to who will show up at the ballot box. There is one other factor that should also be considered.
Current polls also show that about 5% of eligible voters are still undecided. Hard to believe after all the shenanigans that have already taken place. My theory is that these are the same people that wait until about 11:pm on April 15 to go rushing down to the post office to file their income tax returns. In other words, these are people who, by their very nature, hate making decisions or taking required actions until the bitter end. In the 1980 race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, the polls also showed a virtual tie, until the final week when the undecideds for some inexplicable reason, broke for Reagan and he won in a landslide. A dismal viewer of the current landscape might believe the Universe has the same perverse fate in store, not only for the U.S., but the entire planet, by having the undecideds break for Trump.