He’s Gone, People

Friends, Democrats, Republicans: Lend me your eyes. I’m here to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Sure, I know he’s not dead, but he’s dead to me. So let him be to you.

For some of you, the past five years have been exceedingly traumatic, with the engineered defeat of Bernie Sanders leading to the inevitable loss of Hillary Clinton to this man that even his supporters call a venal blowhard. Vividly do I recall images of stunned supporters, tears streaming down nerveless faces; you expected an easy win, but instead we saw Trump swept to the highest office in the land. Many of you said, “He’s not my president!” and you marched in protest, and you resisted, and you donated vast record-breaking sums to the cause of defeating him.

For others, it’s the past few months that have been equally painful. A few thousand votes in each of four states led to an electoral defeat. Some cry foul; some cry cheat; sure and it’s easy to argue that the rules were changed in a way that historically has always favored Democrats — but the how and the why doesn’t really matter now, not for this: In the end, Donald Trump lost. Some of you are flocking to conspiracies and false teachers who say it’s not true. I hear you shouting: “Trump is still my president!” And you too will donate vast sums for the midterm elections, and so the endless cycle continues.

My friends, the time has come for you to accept that you all share a common bond, a mutual trauma. You became involved in politics for perhaps the first time in a generation; you volunteered; you gave of your time and your money. You can no longer think of My Pillow without becoming inflamed one way or another; it doesn’t matter whether it’s an amazing invention or a massive scam, and most of us will never know. And why is this? Because you were betrayed.

All of us have been betrayed, regardless of our party or which candidate we supported. Every one of us had our hopes raised beyond reason, then dashed by those we had come to trust.

Some of you were betrayed by Bernie Sanders. The Senator ran a dogged campaign not once but twice. Crusty and charismatic, he inspired a generation to rally against the political machine, a populist candidacy ready and willing to face Trump’s demagogic appeal — and both times he was defeated by that same machine he so vocally opposed, the vast funding engine built by the Clintons and Obama funneling Wall Street billions into a war for self-preservation. In the end, his defeat was inevitable both times; that word “Socialist” — and, even worse, “Communist” — was always going to weigh him down more than he could manage. And so his adoptive party played Brutus and killed his candidacy before his nominal enemies could.

Some of you were betrayed by Hillary Clinton. She ran on optimism, all confidence and pantsuits and frozen smiles, the woman whose time had finally come. It was her turn, and it seemed she couldn’t lose. Until loyalists, more eager than principled, cast a shadow of cheating on her campaign; until the party, by its anti-Sanders actions, undermined its own populist groundswell; until her neglect of the flyover states and reliance on antiquated polling models cost her vital swing votes; until Comey and an eleventh-hour revelation of something that turned into nothing rang the death knell on her candidacy.

Some of you were betrayed by Donald Trump. His optimism was based in unreality; he couldn’t comprehend the inevitability of his defeat until it was far too late. Mail-in voting rallied the lukewarm and uncaring middle against him, while the impossibility of holding his trademark rallies in the face of a pandemic cost him that last-minute surge of enthusiasm on which he might have secured a victory against the odds in a game that was fixed against him not by conspiracy or partisan backstabbing but through the workings of fate.

Some of you were betrayed by Joe Biden. He never claimed to be anything other than what he is, a lukewarm perennial candidate and long-time machine politician, a loyal servant of Big Business and the unions because he fervently believes that they, not the individual, generate American prosperity. And yet you supported him, hoping against hope for a victory over the entrenched venality of modern politics, expecting caps on prescription drug prices and marijuana legalization only to have him declare war on Uber and menthol cigarettes.

Whoever it was that planted the dagger in your back, you were all betrayed, Democrat and Republican alike. Which is what happens in presidential politics; what’s unusual right now is that all of us are experiencing the same pain.

When Marc Antony spoke his elegy for Caesar, slain on the Senate steps on the Ides of March, he used emotional appeal to incite passions against Brutus and the conspirators, seizing the bloody toga from Caesar’s body and throwing it to the mob, which then (predictably) rioted in the capitol. Trump is, perhaps, unique in our history for inciting a mob if not actually at his funeral, then certainly following his own political demise. And now, rather than decently staying dead, he’s once again holding political rallies — and Democrats, having failed to convict him twice, now want to put him on trial again, and again, and again, giving him free press beyond a mere politician’s wildest dreams.

His political career is over. He is a proven loser, failing to hold the Oval against Joe Biden, arguably the most insipid contender for the presidency in modern history. If the Republican Party somehow fails to find a credible candidate for 2024 and he, against all wisdom, is permitted to gain the nomination, he cannot win. Granted, it’s possible the Democrats could manage to lose against him; there’s nobody better at robbing themselves of victory — but even that is unlikely in the extreme. They’d need to find a candidate less electable even than Joe Biden, and that’s a task beyond even the D.N.C., preternaturally gifted though they are.

But they would most certainly try.

So, to you who are Republicans, I urge you: Forget about Donald Trump. Put him out of your minds. He can’t lead your party; he can’t protect your interests; he can only lose. If allowed, he will drag your party to impotence and insignificance in the midterms. You must not only ignore him; you must oppose him for the sake of your own political future.

To you who owe your allegiance to the Democratic Party, I urge you too: Forget about Donald Trump. He’s no threat unless you make him one — but by continuing to rail against him, you grant him a pseudo-relevance he has not earned. It is that which propelled him to his improbable victory in 2016; it was fear of Trump that led you to select Biden as your champion. Don’t repeat your mistake.

And to the rest of you: Find someone else to hate, fear, or champion.

Caesar lies dead in his coffin. Let him stay there, along with all he’s done for good or for ill.


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