To live in Donald Trump’s America is to be burdened with a perpetual sense of anxiety. Its intensity fluctuates with the never-ending roller coaster of bad news; one moment he’s cutting emissions standards, the next he’s firing missiles at Iran.
This week we were riveted to the spectacle of our president on trial, with all the grisly entrails of the Ukraine scandal spilling onto the floor of the United States Senate. At the same time, we kept a worried eye on the presidential race, which in 10 days will see the first votes of the season cast in Iowa.
The election is a world of anxiety unto itself, offering no answer thus far to the question that matters most, which is who can best take on Trump in the fall. Fear of picking the wrong candidate is a malady that Democrats and Never-Trumpers have lived with for the better part of a year, and will likely continue to suffer from for months to come.
Which brings us to Bernie Sanders.
On January 10
Des Moines Register
that Sanders was surging toward the top spot in Iowa, a jolting development that triggered shock and confusion throughout the party and the media. The freakout went to the heart of the electability issue and cut across ideological and even political lines.
“Bernie Sanders’s agenda makes him the definition of unelectable,” ran the headline over a
by liberal think-tankers Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler. “The fact is that the United States has never elected anyone as president who is as far left as Sanders.” They invoked the electoral wipe-outs of Walter Mondale in ’84 and George McGovern in ‘72.
For the Never-Trumpers, it was the prospect that Sanders could
that was unnerving.
“What it comes down to is this: We don’t want Sanders to be elected, so we tell ourselves he can’t,”
Brett Stephens in
. “But wishes aren’t facts. To say Sanders is unelectable is indefensible.”
’s Paul Waldman
“There’s no doubt that Republicans would try to make (the) case that Sanders is a crazy radical who would turn America into a communist hellscape where we will all have our property expropriated and be forced to stand on line in shapeless gray overcoats to get our monthly bread allotment,” he wrote.
“The trouble is, we have no idea whether that kind of attack would work. There hasn’t been a nominee like Sanders in modern history, nor has there been a president like Trump for a nominee like Sanders to run against.”
As the debate raged, a
The Hollywood Reporter,
in which none other than Hillary Clinton emerged from semi-seclusion to lob a grenade at the Sanders campaign. “Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done,” she said of her 2016 rival in an upcoming documentary. “He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it."
Her unburdening didn’t seem to make anyone feel better about the race, with the possible exception of Mrs. (and perhaps Mr.) Clinton. “If interest in Mrs. Clinton is high enough to warrant a documentary, fine,” wrote
. “But in the middle of a presidential campaign, does she need to be so distracting?”
Distractions are actually quite welcome these days, since there will likely be no quick fix for our national anxiety disorder. Let us know when you find one that helps us tune out this nightmare.