As we hit the longest day of the year, political days in America are poised to get shorter
This is the weekend of the summer solstice, when (for a lot of us in this hemisphere) the sun stops its arc and holds for a moment before it starts down the hill toward shorter days. The longest day of the year, the start of the summer vacation season, it’s even International Yoga Day, if you’re so inclined. Personally, I think jumping over bonfires in Estonia would be more celebratory.
In the solstice spirit, I thought I would recognize this moment as a perfect opportunity to stand still and take stock of all that is poised to go downhill. We’ve had a long run-up to these moments, now we just have to be patient and wait for things to unravel and come unglued.
With Donald Trump’s entry into the GOP race, and the possible candidacies of Chris Christie and John Kasich and Bobby Jindal still looming out there, it seems the Clown Car of Candidates is full and pretty soon various “contenders” will start to spill over the sides and get left behind. It’s the Full Moon Lunacy of Trump vs. the leftover meatloaf of George Pataki vs. the overheated fervor of Mike Huckabee.
On “our” side, the sun has crested behind the big campaign of Hillary Clinton, as shadows fall on Bernie, Martin and Lincoln. Far from generating an excited, energized buzz, the crowd on the right is making this feel like an overstuffed PATH train on a commuter morning, no more room, no room, to move or breathe, somebody gotta get off soon. Somebody will, just wait it out.
Speaking of stillness and the long downhill slope ahead, what can we say about our President this solstice? His sun has obviously crested as high in the sky as it’s ever going to. From here to the November ’16 elections and the January ’17 inaugural of a new President, Barack Obama is the embodiment of shortened
days and reduced expectations.
These last acts of his Presidency are unlikely to produce any policy triumphs, any executive actions that shake things up, any political positions that rattle the status quo. In fact, if we are honest, the chances are that this Nobel Peace Prize winner will put more “boots on the ground” somewhere in the cauldron of the Middle East. Back to the future.
Putting aside the weirdness of Rachel Dolezal’s saga, our “great national conversation about race” seems to have come to a still point. Without flashpoint events (e.g. shootings), we don’t seem to know how to carry on the conversation. Unless we are reacting to a headline we don’t think there’s any news.
Here are some of the other “issues of our time” that seem to be on a summer solstice pause:
Any movement on gun control? Any break from the relentless shooting and killing? Not so much. The NYPD is bringing in some agents from ATF to help get guns off the streets of the Big Apple, but our mayor’s statements seem to suggest that we knew a spike in gun violence was coming. We did something about it last year and we’ll do something about it this year. No motion, just a nod. [NOTE: I wrote this piece a day before the shootings in Charleston, SC. I long ago gave up the hope that a terrible mass murder would galvanize our “leaders” into some action, get them off the dime. This is one of those moments that used to promise action. I am afraid that now it will prompt nothing much, again.]
Any action on climate change, any new initiative or actions or breakthroughs? I know that many institutions are divesting their investments in coal companies, so maybe that’s a bit of movement. But is anybody pushing to limit our demand for energy? Anybody stepping up to challenge the existing economic infrastructure of oil, natural gas, industry and expansion? Not so much. We’re holding still on that, too.
Iran nuclear talks? We’re reviewing the situation. Untested rape kits (maybe as many as 400,000 nationwide)? We’re looking into it.
It will probably take time for some of these logjams to break apart. It might even require dramatic events and paradigm shifts. This things might happen once the solstice passes and we shake off the torpor of a high summer sun, going nowhere. But we had better be careful of what we wish for.