Twenty-points on how I was wrong about everything in this election cycle
(and one quote from Julian Schnabel)
By Jerry Saltz
- My tribe. My identity politics and feminism electrified me. I was (am) thrilled to support a female candidate. HRC was super-qualified and would have made a great President. I went on about how women are the most hated and feared people on the earth and how this vote was made that much more important.
- My politics also made me want vengeance on a lifetime of fucked Republicanism.
- Also I loathe cynicism. I see Republicanism as grown cynical. My definition of cynicism is: Cynicism thinks it KNOWS things; cynicism KNOWS why this artist got a show; why that artist gets a good review. Cynicism KNOWS. Cynicism is a form of failed emotion. Unlike art, cynicism doesn’t believe in PARADOX. Cynicism has certainty. But I am being knowing now.
- I was CERTAIN the Republicans were doomed by demographics. Their white party spelled doom. This was the election to end their racist, sexist science-denying xenophobic party.
- Trump was so transparently xenophobic, sexist, science-denying and racist that I *KNEW* he was the Messenger of the Death of the Republican Party. I KNEW Trump would lose so big that he’d take down the Republican party with him.
- I openly rooted for Trump in the primaries — as the easiest candidate for Dems to beat. I grew more CERTAIN.
- Elijah spoke and I missed it. My position hardened as watched the Republicans and also got ridiculed by Bernie supporters. (This is not a complaint or blame; just self-reflection; I hardened my position.) Right after Trump announced his candidacy I had a conversation with gallerist Anton Kern, who was born in Germany. He said something to me that still haunts me. When I told Anton about Trump being “easy to beat” he looked at me ruefully and said, “I don’t know man; never fuck around with that stuff.” And he stared off into a German abyss.
- Back to Bernie. Needless to say I loved almost everything he said. All of us are perforce 100-times further left than *any* candidate could ever be. Bernie was a blast of fresh smart air from far LEFT field.
- However, I was *CERTAIN* that America was not prepared to elect a 75-year old self-defined Socialist. A 75-year old Jewish Socialist. (75 IS old, you know.) I KNEW this. And I took my stand.
- I was dead and didn’t even know I was dead.
- My failure of emotion — of not acknowledging in my BODY — that stuff Bernie said was fresh, fulsome, smart, and broke molds; that just like Trump, he was mesmerizing in his way and comfortable in his skin. I didn’t heed that. I loved Hillary and loved that she was a woman.
- I didn’t see that this election was a moment for attempted system-breaking. (Even if electing a woman shatters one of the biggest systems of all.)
- I broke art’s credo of paradox. Instead of going with the impossibility of Bernie I went with the possible and pragmatic. I went with what I *KNEW* would win. We got this thing.
- I can imagine that Bernie *might* have carried all the votes HRC carried. I can imagine he *might* have energized young voters in such a way that he *might* have been able to equalize and beat Trump’s Nationalist White People Party. I doubt it — but now I can imagine it. My failure of imagination was that I couldn’t imagine it *till now.* Even though I still doubt it.
- I don’t regret loving Hillary. She would have been a fabulous President … I imagine.
- Bernie lost the Democratic primary fair and square. The official Democratic Party supported HRC because she was a Democrat; he was not.
- My worldview has changed. I no longer perceive the arc of history bending toward justice. Read Nietzsche’s (sizzling) “The Gay Science”.
- I have been thinking about Tolstoy’s great old fat one-eyed General Kutuzov in War and Peace. The night before he will vacate his troops from Russia’s capital city in his country’s worst defeat he asks himself, “When did I lose Moscow?” He tries to reason it all out. Finally, he understands that no one or two things are cause. These are patterns and structures. He sees the great sea of events and people, down to a lone soldier either picking up or not picking up a flag and leading a failed charge; he gleans that all events are the results of uncountable causes, actions, in-actions; he gleans the mysteries of existence and experience. And he gets on with it.
- All the systems we place any stock in failed: All the news, newspapers, prediction sites, blogs, talking heads, essayists, thinkers, nearly everything. NO one KNEW anything. Except Trump who early-on said, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and I wouldn’t lose any followers.” Me? I have not watched or listened to one news channel or broadcaster since election night; nor have I read one newspaper or blog article since then. Why read the same people who got it all wrong? Listen to the same rhetorical structures. I’ll find my way back to or away from these failed systems; but not now.
- Our side said Trump didn’t know what he was talking about. Trump’s voters didn’t care about what he was talking about. But they knew what he meant.
Trump is like the artist in this Julian Schnabel quote about making art:
“What’s interesting about making art is that you take everything you know about it and you bring it up to that point, and you start making a physical thing that addresses what that is … It’s about not knowing, feeling your way through something, then seeing if it comes out…. But while you’re doing it, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing… Still, you kind of come up to the mound ready to pitch that thing…”