Autumn in America

A mild August has given way to a dappled amber September in Washington. Unlike the Lorax, I can’t speak for the trees across the country. But here along the Potomac banks, a touch of ochre is in the leaves. Many have already drifted groundward, weeks ahead of the equinox. The large sycamore in my backyard is shedding its foliage faster than Hunter Biden hiding his nose candy from Secret Service.

Fall feels already here, and America barely mustered the pride to usher it in. The historic heat wave broiling the East Coast isn’t making PSLs especially appetizing.

“Our country is in decline. This decline is not inevitable. It’s a choice,” was the banausic starting line of the first Republican presidential primary debate last month, robotically mouthed by Sunshine State hopeful Ron DeSantis. Half-listening viewers may be forgiven for wondering if the governor was referring to our country or his campaign, which is molting staff and money faster than Donald Trump’s legal team. Whatever grasping ambition the Florida heavy-com-lightweight had for the Oval can be kissed goodbye. The twice-impeached, twice-as-many indicted former president is the foregone concluded nominee.

American voters are voting for exactly what they don’t want: Trump vs. Biden redux. Why? How? Under what influence? What’s causing voters, the crystalline encapsulation of democracy’s moral imperative, to opt for the easiest, laziest, unthinking rematch? Where is the can-do, red-white-blue, whip-the-Nazis-then-the-commies fightin’ spirit of the U.S. of A.?

Maybe it’s fallen gently to the sun-burnt earth, to be shredded and flung back into my Toro’s clippings bag, like so much of the West’s esprit de corps. Gerontocracy is wiser than Rule of the Diapered, but even the crotchetiest among us can’t honestly be keen with a president who regularly lapses into logorrheic lunacy. Yet the best Team Red can do against walking senility is a blustering hunk of nacarat kryptonite to suburban wine moms who hold all national political sway within their Burgundy glasses.

The Republican field is already winnowing, accepting an inevitable anointment. In previous cycles, born-losers like Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum were still hanging on 14 months out from the general. The dream is dying earlier than ever.

Democrats seem genuinely worried their standard-bearer is near hospice age, but they’re only concerned insomuch as they whisper privately and respectably about it. Among friends. Off Twitter. Away from the office breakroom. Between sips of $25 Cab Sauv and nibbles of microwaved lobster rangoon while summering in the Hamptons. Their party’s primary is already decided. Biden brooks no challengers—not from a wacky-headed, homeopathy-peddling, TV-famous corporate scourge, nor from Robert Kennedy.

“There is a deep fatalism to American politics today,” Malcom Kyeyune grimly concludes. Who could disagree? The presidency, and all its awesome power, seems somehow more remote than ever. The election is on auto-drive, the candidates already selected, not elected, and the big November contest promising to be a calamitous and nation-rendering as the last one. And sociologists are puzzled why suicides clocked in a new macabre high. The country feels resigned to the dolorous fate of managed decline.

Sure, some of the old faithful still believe in another “Morning in America.” The hope-hopeless contrast was starkest during the Republican debate when confidence man Vivek Rama..whatever… went toe to rhetorical toe with former vice-president and near-noose victim Mike Pence.

“The problem in our country right now, the reason we have that mental health epidemic, is that people are so hungry for purpose and meaning at a time when family, faith, patriotism, have all disappeared,” is how Vivek described, in verbiage fitting for a College Republican blog post, America’s ongoing torpor. Veep Pence wasn’t having any of it—not after the Reagan Revolution, dammit!

“The American people are the most faith-filled, freedom-loving, idealistic, hard-working people the world has ever known,” preening Pence cried, desperately trying to manifest a zombie back to life. Faith-filled? Fewer Americans go to church than ever. Freedom-loving? Most of our countrymen zealously embraced COVID lockdowns. Idealistic? Mr. Pence clearly isn’t on social media. Hard-working? Please. The average American can’t walk into a McDonald’s anymore without having to dance around empty burger wrappers and sticky cola spills, just to order a Big Mac from a computer then wait twenty minutes for a zonked-out teen to lop in on the counter without so much as a “thank you.”

Vivek might be an oleaginous showman, throwing out crowd-pleasers to clapping softbrains. But even a lemon pusher sometimes sells you a mint mid-’90s Honda Accord. The guy who made millions in our financially fake economy flipping junk stocks can recognize it’s a “dark moment” for our country. The tenebrous tenor is readily apparent to everyone but the most ensconced Washington players.

The days are growing shorter. Temperatures are declining. Reported depression rates are ticking up. Inflation remains high; wages remain stubbornly low. It’s autumn in America, in both meanings of the calendric phrase. Messianic right-wing figures are borrowing from Marx’s pseudoscience, blabbing about the Fourth Turning and how collapse is imminent.

The Strauss–Howe grand cyclical plan is nice and pat, like all encompassing theories of everything. But Governor DeSantis is right about one thing—just not about his ability to become president. The future isn’t deterministic. We aren’t fated to a flop era. Spring always comes eventually. It just seems farther off than normal.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

Taylor Lewis

Taylor Lewis writes from Virginia.

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