A few years after serving as Bill Clinton's vice president, Al Gore was a guest on "The Daily Show" back when Jon Stewart sat behind the desk.
As Gore reviewed his environmental work, the host was sincerely impressed. Stewart said perhaps he was able to get more done now than if he had won the White House in 2000. Viewers then saw Gore shoot Stewart a look rarely seen on his show: This guy doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.
So even a smart guy like Stewart underestimates just how all-powerful and prestigious it is to command from the Oval Office.
Therein lies perhaps the largest non-viral national conundrum of the coming months and years. On Jan. 20, 2021(a 1-20-2021 palindrome, incidentally) what happens in Trump World?
Bravado of the MAGA multitudes draws fuel from a symbiotic tether with the single most powerful person on earth. So how much oomph stays after he goes? To borrow a well-worn Donald Trump phrase: We'll see what happens.
Sure, there are folks who believe the ex-president will bunker down inside Mar-a-Lago and declare war on those squatting thieves at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They imagine Florida and others seceding, setting off a new War Between the States. However, as many of us know, this time those states would be reality and confusion.
Certainly Trump will find an outlet to continue offering his visions of America. Might there be a whole new network called Trump TV? Will he patch things up with Fox News Channel for nightly prime time appearances? Or will he be relegated to Breitbart or Newsmax, the sorts of outlets with small reach and audience? I suppose at worst he could find himself manning one of those pirate radio stations only able to reach listeners within 1.7 miles of his prison cell.
Still the question for the country is whether xenophobes and others proud to call themselves "deplorables" can keep beating their drums without a presidential echo chamber. It could turn out there never were near as many of them as we thought, somewhat akin to that succinct critique of 1980s' Moral Majority: It was neither. And how many now-loud adherents will fall silent without such a big bully to back them up? To repeat: We'll see what happens.
What we are measuring here in the long view is a last gasp, a last desperate stand by a segment of the U.S. population that fears an end to centuries that put heterosexual white males at the top of every list. The Trump years stemmed the tide of diversity and inclusion. It did so in great part based on an irony. Electing and re-electing a Black man president spurred the fearful to ballot boxes across the land. I was an election judge in 2016. When the tabulator machine kicked back his ballot, I told the white and 60-ish man there were more offices he could vote for. He grinned, declined and said, "No, I'm only here for ol' Trumpy."
I don't pretend to know what happens next. Will Trump and his minions rule the Republican Party (and us) for years to come? Or will they dissolve into that forgotten bin with Betamax and New Coke?
Trump's defeat signaled a change in my life. Every week since that election Tuesday in 2016 I produced a column called "Wednesday Moorings with Moxie." Now put to rest, it had been emailed to several hundred readers. I tried for less screed and more analysis entwined with attempts at humor. Of candidates in that 2016 campaign I wrote: "In Clinton they had a flawed adult. In her opponent they had a perfect adulterer."
While the future is hazy, this month's vote was decisive. Here is a late stanza from my 2018 rewriting of "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe as "The Craven" by Edgar Allen Faux, now more applicable than ever.
"Be that word our sign of parting, fake or fool!" I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back to gilded rat's nest up along Manhattan's shore!
Leave no remnant as a token of the filth thy soul hath spoken!
Leave before our land is broken! -- quit perching o'er our White House door!
Take thy hate from out our center, take thy crew far from our door!"
Quoth the People "We'll have no more!"
Doug Kamholz of Springfield is letting his hair grow long like it was when he was a hippie pig farmer down in Divernon almost 50 years ago. That was before he got a haircut, bought suits, became a reporter and ended up with a book contract. These days he cooks, yearns for college basketball and wears a mask.