Don Rogers: Does it matter who wins?
If my tenure with my company were a child, it would have reached drinking age this week. Good, I could use a drink. Maybe we all could.
That takes in all the presidential elections of this millennium, every crazy one. I remember holding out past 3 a.m., way way way past any deadlines, still hoping for an election night outcome between Bush and Gore. Here was a clue things would be different in this new age, the first and perhaps not the last of “my supreme court trumps yours.” And then being only slightly less hopeful as I held the presses in vain again in 2004 for a victory that wouldn’t be declared for a day or two yet. Ah, W and his squeakers.
So our wait this week hardly lacks precedent. Counting all the votes is not fraud, but routine democracy. This, at least, we’ve done before.
In 2016, I remember sitting at the bar in downtown Grass Valley’s Kane’s, watching and working on my laptop as the upset unfolded. I remember Councilwoman Jan Arbuckle passing by, giddy — just her, me and the bartender in that “where were you when …” moment.
I was more fascinated than anything at how the polls could be so wrong, how the talk early in the evening about just how severe the shellacking might be shifted as each strange turn of reliably blue states became a train of dominoes falling.
That was the first presidential race where I didn’t see a good choice between either candidate. This is the second, though for different reasons, primarily age. I’ve become ageist in my maturity, I guess. I worry about both candidates getting even more loony in their distinctive ways.
Tuesday, I worked in Truckee on one of those glorious Indian summer days, more precious for the cold and snow on the horizon, in the forecast in fact for today. I made sure to get in a good trail run. I invited myself over to friends I’ve known since about when I became old enough to drink legally. Andrea and Steve Batie, maybe you know them, the best. Friends like them make any presidential election a passing thing, a minor squall, compared to what’s most important in our lives.
Outside on their deck, I yammered on, as I have taken to doing lately, about deeper currents than surface politics. What does the election mean in the context of 100 years? Technological innovation, demographic trends, social tides, environmental degradation, global population, market forces — these things weigh in much heavier than which old man wins this race.
Since around 1215, the West and the world have grown ever more liberal over the centuries. What we call conservatives today, even Trumpy ones, are Marxist commie pinkos hopelessly wedded to socialism compared to what was back when. This is like the arrow of time, pointed at an angle up.
Viewed up close, in the moment, we feel all the peaks and valleys, aghast or joyous as our worldview dictates. Step back, though, and the rise comes into focus like a stock market chart. Even in the relatively short ride of America this becomes clear, though today’s right would hold back the tide. Dams are going to creak and break regardless of this week’s breathless results.
My clearest example might concern coal and the Paris Agreement. As with the Kyoto Protocol, the United States opted out and yet still cut carbon emissions by more than nearly all the signees. Despite President Trump flogging coal, it’s flagging fast in favor of cleaner natural gas, which will give way sooner than you might think to solar. Why? Technological advancement runs well ahead of politics.
I think we’re on the cusp of tectonic global shifts. Oakland is allowing a trickle of driver-less cars now. Farm combines and semitrailer big rigs have demonstrated what’s coming. Autonomous vehicles might well become the norm within the decade.
Buckle up for all sorts of change we can’t imagine now, this week, while mulling over who won and what that means over a pint or a glass, socially distant of course. We probably should be wondering more about how much it really matters to a country so divided.
I get the calculus of my friends who factored in their angst at Trump personally in the bigger picture and tipped his way. And I get why other friends went to Biden, seeing that this is much less about him and much more about ending a certain madness. And I can see how each set cannot understand how the other can even think the way they do. On the fence, always, can be a wonderful vantage.
But my mind goes to the title of a novel and movie, perhaps cynically thinking not of the storyline but the thematic gist and the words themselves: “No Country for Old Men,” about free will’s limits, morality, corruption, old ways giving way to new.
Yet here we still are, and I’m not getting any younger myself.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com or 530-477-4299.
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