Last night, as expected, was an utter embarrassment for the republic. Alexis de Tocqueville and Abraham Lincoln both received shout-outs, but there was approximately zero substance throughout the course of the debate that made proud the now-seemingly quaint historical legacy of Tocquevillian/Lincolnian American exceptionalism.
Eight years later, our post-financial crisis economic recovery still stinks. Ubiquitous clashes between law enforcement and a quasi-anarchical (though also not without some degree of underlying merit, concededly) social movement threaten to systemically tear the country’s civil fabric asunder like no time since the late 1960s. From the Fertile Crescent up through the Levant in the ever-contentious Middle East, the worst terrorist army the world has ever known continues to conquer large swathes of territory, burn people alive, and throw gay people off rooftops.
Amidst this backdrop, of course, the electorates of both major American political parties have seen fit to nominate for President of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump. The Democrats have nominated a brazenly corrupt, decades-long scandalized, quasi-socialistic, national security-undermining, should-be felonious septuagenarian plutocrat. The Republicans, in committing something closely akin to Jonestown-esque mass suicide at their nominating convention in Cleveland, have seen fit to nominate a borderline-deranged, spiteful, grossly uninformed, quasi-fascistic, Kremlin-tainted, anti-American exceptionalism, Mafia-connected, monstrously vulgar, malcontent tangerine buffoon.
Last night, a populace that deserved to hear a substantive debate on the profound challenges facing the nation—as well as the free world—heard a middle school food fight between two absolute jokesters. Instead of debating the finer points of a comprehensive anti-jihad foreign policy approach, we heard a re-litigation of Bill Clinton’s sundry 1990s sexual exploits. Instead of debating whether it ought to be single-payer socialized medicine or a more deregulated, consumer-driven healthcare system that will eventually be needed to replace catastrophically failing Obamacare, we heard an airing of cringeworthy, petty grievances from two of the least popular people to ever receive the nomination of a major American political party.
We should all be ashamed. At least when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams slung infamous mud at one another during the 1800 presidential election, it was still the case that the nation would have been well-served had either candidate ultimately prevailed. Not so in 2016.
The sheer negativity and putridness of the debate’s opening stanza was viscerally appalling. The closest thing last night’s debate had to any “winners” were (1) the global jihad and (2) the U.S. firearms industry, which, despite the presence of
one two gun-grabbers on stage, will surely benefit from many people reacting to last night’s possible symbolic ushering in of a zombie apocalypse by loading up on large guns and voluminous ammunition supplies.
It was in the midst of this cesspool frolic between Nurse Ratched and Mr. Potter, when the viewing audience’s morale was close to its nadir, that the American viewing audience fell in love with its own modern Horatio Alger protagonist: Ken Bone.
Ken Bone is the lovable Midwesterner who asked the candidates last night a question about energy policy: “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job layoffs?” He asked his question, as an undecided voter, because Ken Bone genuinely cares about the pressing issues facing the republic. Bone’s Pollyannaish—perhaps naïve, the more cynical among us might say—question symbolized the frustration of the median American, who wakes up each morning and goes to sleep each night wondering how the heck we ended up at the point we currently are at. Ken Bone did not care for the substance-less, ego-driven race to the bottom he saw unfolding before him. Ken Bone cares about the issues. Ken Bone is an informed patriot.
And arguably most importantly, Ken Bone is a mustachioed patriot who dressed last night in an already-iconic red cardigan, white tie, white shirt, black rectangular glasses-adorning outfit that has captivated the hearts and minds of his nascent, adoring Internet fan base. And, lest we forget, Mr. Bone memorably captured the waning moments of the evening with his disposable camera—because what could possibly be more quintessentially Midwestern, and more self-effacingly “aw shucks” in demeanor, than that?
Ken Bone represents everything that is right with America. He just wants a better life for his family. He just wants a safer future for his nation. And what Ken Bone really wants is an election cycle where American citizens actually care about and discuss the pressing issues facing the republic. Ken Bone truthfully wants nothing to do with either immoral fraudster that the Democrats and Republicans have nominated to lead the free world, but he will show up to vote on Election Day because it is his solemn civic duty and Ken Bone is nothing if not a civically engaged member of the plebiscite.
Both the Democratic and Republican voting electorates could stand to gain much from Ken Bone’s example. Would that we all strived for a substantive debate on the issues facing the nation. Would that we all conducted ourselves with such charmingly Midwestern affability. Would that we all tried our earnest best to rise above the 2016 dumpster fire and encourage our fellow Americans to stay engaged, to stay active, and to retain a semblance of equanimity as we face threatening storm clouds ahead—regardless of which candidate wins.
Thank you, Ken Bone, for reminding us, at one of our lowest moments, who we are as a people. If many people dress up as you for Halloween this year, you should take it as a compliment. You are the soul of this nation, Ken Bone, and, while Hillary and Donald may be letting you down, you are helping to pave the way for an eventual civic restoration once the unmitigated disaster that is 2016 finally leaves us for good.