Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Descent into the Hellmouth

"There is a lot of demonic activity in Cleveland." — Rupert Giles
I've been struggling to wrap my mind around the paradigm-breaking election we've been experiencing since it began last summer, when the obvious finally struck me: this presidential contest is the lived experience of a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For longtime Buffy fans, the parallels won't require much explanation. The usual arc of a Buffy season sees a host of vampires, ghouls, zombies, and other supernatural beastiessome more dangerous than othersthreaten Buffy's hometown of Sunnydale week after week only to be dispatched one by one until (as Buffy's friends would say) the Big Bad emerges, a monster of seemingly overwhelming power that will bring about the apocalypse. Buffy, the unlikely female protagonist, possessed of great powers though desperate just to fit in with all the other teenagers, ultimately saves the day when no one else can. It's entertaining, unexpected, campy, and most of all dark. It's the 2016 election.

Why do the monsters keep coming season after season? Because Sunnydale sits on top of a Hellmouth, a supernatural gateway to the Underworld whence all manner of demons spawn. Other Hellmouths exist too, or so we're told, one apparently beneath Cleveland, site of this year's GOP convention now less than a month off. Now, while each season offers a new villain to challenge Buffy, the real narrative problem of the show is how will Buffy & Co. close the Hellmouth and bottle up the source of evil?
A Hellmouth

So, too, is it with Hillary & Co. (And by "Co." I don't just mean Democrats; I mean everyone who rightly fears and despises Donald Trump.) Hillary's job is to defeat Trump, assuredly, but he's just the monster du jour. The Hellmouth, which is to say the nearly 14 million right-wing primary voters who endorsed Trump and all the racism, sexism, xenophobia and incompetence that comes with him, remains an active threat to the republic.

This is important. Trump himself has never looked so vulnerable. His polling is abysmal; he just fired his campaign manager; and he has no money. Betting markets now have the man who won more primary votes than any Republican candidate in history and who "clinched" a clear majority of delegates at 84% to win the nomination. There are mutterings of a coup in Cleveland.

There are probably some Democrats, gleeful at the stunning weakness of the current Trump campaign, becoming anxious at the thought of a sudden elevation of, say, Paul Ryan or even Ted Cruz. It would turn the race upside-down for a few weeks. But it's hard not seeing defeat for the GOP regardless. A lot of those Trump supporters would boycott the race and the Republican nominating process would be forever tainted. Every GOP politician who thinks about 2020, 2024, or 2028 (and, right now, all of them are) would most likely reject such a move or, at least, would not themselves want to be the candidate. Jeet Heer gets it right in The New Republic, making the case that the practical and morally responsible thing to do is to stick with Trump and hope he gets shellacked in November. Trump must lose, yes, but more than that his politics must lose. That requires (among other things) a landslide defeat.

Predictwise has the chances of Hillary winning at 77%. That's probably low, but we'll see how the next month plays out. In the meantime, you should watch some Buffy.

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