Posted by Protempore in November's Magazine
I’m pretty sure that most of you will have seen the Wizard of Oz, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s technicolour masterpiece which at times resembles a drug-fuelled nightmare and at others, a winsome, saccharine fairy tale. My own memories of watching the film are of being terrified into a silent stupor and wetting myself at the sight of the flying monkeys and the wicked witch screaming, “Fly my beauties, fly”! And that was when I was seventeen. You may also know that there have been numerous theories expounded on what the film is actually about (the Wall Street Crash/Great Depression being the main contender). That’s how some scholars have viewed it, to the extent that its political and economic reference points have been used to teach university students in the USA.
There have also been numerous theories about the symbolism of its characters – Dorothy is seen as the safe, normal everywoman American: the scarecrow is a farmer; the tin man an industrial worker; and the lion is seen as William Jennings Bryan, a politician who had an economic theory about using “free silver” which, without going into the detail, would have resulted in more money being put into the hands of the common people. And the wizard is more often than not thought to represent American presidents past and future. Taking all of this into account and watching the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton got me thinking. The America people are on the brink of electing their next president and do they really have any clue as to what lies at the end of the yellow brick road?
Before getting in to the detail of the choice facing the American people, let me put this on the record. I detest Donald Trump and I detest Hillary Clinton. There is a small degree of difference in my contempt for them both and if I had to vote, although it would pain me to do so, I would vote for Clinton. But when it comes to electing one of the most powerful people on the planet, what kind of choice is there between an imbecile and a power-hungry liar?
The fact that Donald Trump is even close to the presidency may appear baffling but for anyone who has followed American politics in the past it’s obvious that there are huge numbers of people who continually head to the polls and vote for politicians who will do them the most damage. In order to gain the presidency, Republican candidates have always had to win large numbers of votes from poor, working-poor and disadvantaged voters. For example, the Republicans have always railed against providing any form of state-funded health care for their citizens viewing it as a socialist construction which goes against ‘the American way’, where people are expected to provide for themselves and their families despite being frozen out of the job market by rampant free-market ideology. And yet, since Ulysses S. Grant won the presidency in 1869, the Republicans have won the title 16 times to the Democrats 10.
During this campaign, Donald Trump has consistently stated that, if he wins the presidency, he will immediately, on day one to be precise, take steps to repeal the legislation that brought in the Affordable Care Act brought in by President Obama to provide a safety net for those Americans who have been denied access to the American dream. Trump has promised to bring in reforms which will reassert free market principles to the healthcare system which is double-speak and which actually means that the healthcare system will be run to make a profit thereby putting millions of people at risk of being denied basic healthcare. And yet his popularity amongst ordinary, poor and working poor voters shows no sign of waning. Why?
Because, according to commentators (mostly the repugnant right-wing Fox News channel) “he speaks their language”. He talks about destroying the political establishment, building walls to keep Mexican crooks and rapists out of the country, and he wants schoolteachers to be able to carry guns into classrooms. These are just some of the ‘policies’ that Trump has announced. Given many of his other irrational rants, it’s fair to say that Donald Trump is a misogynistic, racist buffoon. If he really does represent the vast majority of working people, then God help America. As president, Trump will become the chief flying monkey of Oz, setting out to wreak havoc wherever he thinks that havoc needs to be wrought.
And what of Hillary Clinton? It’s always been clear that ever since her philandering, lying husband gave up the presidency she has seen it as her absolute right to succeed him to the highest office in the land. It must have been like a dream come true for her when the Republicans endorsed Trump – coming up against such a maniacal, rambling idiot would surely see her being handed the presidency on a plate. But Hillary is far from the whiter than white good witch from the south, an image that her campaign managers have constantly tried to push up against the misogynist Trump. On that score she has a huge advantage – she is a woman and every time the clown drops his trousers and insults half of the American electorate, she can step in with righteous indignation and slap him down to great effect. While there’s no doubt that Trump is a serial liar, this is one area where Clinton has form and it’s not so easy to land blows on someone when you’re both in the same corner.
There is a pervasive and troubling thread running through much of the American media, which seems to suggest that Republicans lies are bad but Democrat lies are okay. During this campaign, Clinton has tried, very unsuccessfully, to palm off a scandal about her use of a private, family email server. In March 2015 it became publicly known that, during her tenure as United States Secretary of State, she had exclusively used her family’s private email server for official communications, rather than official State Department email accounts maintained on federal servers. Those official communications included thousands of emails that would later be marked classified by the State Department. Clinton has always denied any wrongdoing claiming that she was not “technically sophisticated enough” to understand the difference. A lie if ever there was one.
In many ways her lies about her e-mail server are more troubling and more consequential than Trump’s scattergun dishonesty. You get the sense that Trump lies about things because he’s stupid and can’t think very quickly. Clinton, on the other hand is more duplicitous, lying about her e-mail server because she has most likely compromised American national security, endangered American lives, and wants to avoid going to jail.
So Dorothy and her chums are now faced with a fork in the yellow brick road. They want to pull the curtain back and see what the future holds for them but they don’t know which way to go – to see the man who might play chicken with human history or the woman who will walk all over them to get what she wants. If only Dorothy could click her heels and make it all go away.