Sunday, November 13, 2016

The TV President

I continue to hear reactions to the election, and based on what I know of American history, the emotional impact of the election outcome is something not seen since the election of Abraham Lincoln. At that time it was the plantation owners who were convinced the world was coming to an end. It is worth remembering that within their view of the world, their feeling was correct. Well before the end of the presidential term, all the slaves had walked away. The events of that period permanently changed both the form and the self-image of the United States, and it appears more likely than not that something equally complex and consequential will happen in the next five years or so. Plopped into the middle of this tumultuous transition we will have the first U.S. president ever to spend his days watching television. If that seems a bizarre agenda for a president now, imagine how it will seem in a few years when the number of TV viewers has declined by another 25 million. The president will not just be abdicating his responsibilities by wasting his time on television. He will also have lost touch with the direction of U.S. culture. The ancient legend of Nero fiddling comes to mind. The reason this is important to note is that, in the important transitions and crises coming up, the United States will be essentially leaderless. We can expect tirades and racist platitudes from the TV president but no reality-based problem-solving. Solutions will come from all directions, I believe, but few, if any, will come from the White House.