Having re-cast the 2016 Republican presidential contenders as their literary counterparts, I’m taking a look at the Democrats.
Let’s keep gender out of this. Gender—like all demographic attributes—neither qualifies nor disqualifies a candidate for my vote. It would be just as sexist to vote for HRC because she is a woman as it would be not to vote for her because is a woman. It is offensive and absurd to suggest, as did another former secretary of state, that women, particularly young women, should vote for HRC because she is a woman. Hillary’s position on this kind of thinking is a most deceitful corruption of the right to choose for oneself, a gross infringement on personal liberty, and proof that she is more Politician than Honest Broker.
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But this is a casting call, not a political rant. The point being to keep gender out of the equation. So I considered casting HRC as a character out of Hemingway. And not one of the hair-shortening ones, but Jake Barnes, with his particular problem, or that cuckold Francis Macomber. But it didn’t seem fair to hang Bill’s sins around Hillary’s neck, and anyway there was this conversation the other day with Scott Pelley of CBS:
PELLEY: You talk about leveling with the American people. Have you always told the truth?CLINTON: I’ve always tried to. Always. Always.
PELLEY: Some people are gonna call that wiggle room that you just gave yourself.
CLINTON: Well, no, I’ve always tried —
Tried to tell the truth? Always always? Tried?
Star Wars fans everywhere know what Yoda would say in response to this equivocation. Try not. Do. Or Do not. There is no try.
For trying, if not outright lying, HRC is cast as Marc Whitacre, the great fabricator from Kurt Eichenwald’s account of a duplicitous cooperating witness in The Informant! Somewhere in his bones, Marc Whitacre just has to lie. And I get a similar feeling about HRC. That whatever comes out of her mouth will be the thing that is most politically expedient at the time—whether its about sniper fire in Yugoslavia or squeamish responses regarding her super duper double top secret personal/work email server—what she says reflects what others want to hear, and not what is most true to her core values.
Which brings us to the last candidate.
Ok, he might be Don Quixote tilting at windmills, or a bit of a madman—Willy Wonka, say. But at his core—and he has a core—he’s an old hippy with New York roots hoping to bring sanity to a grossly lopsided economic model. And that makes him easy to cast. Walt Whitman:
The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land in which there are the most homesteads, freeholds — where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough — a modest living— and no man is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities.
See casting for the Republican cohort
The bottom line
Looking back over the entire field, I see no complete package. No matter what principle you apply to the occasion, no matter what you seek in your next president, be it economic justice at home or sound policy overseas, a sense of humility and service, wisdom and creativity, ability and transparency, it is clear that the literary figures outlined here are lacking in strengths and composed of weakness. It leaves me only to shake my head and wonder that this great nation, 350 million people strong, cannot produce a single one among us who represents the totality of our decency and moral compass. That there are no Yossarians to warn us of encroaching insanity or Randall Patrick McMurphy’s to show us the way out of the madhouse.
The best we can do is vote with our hearts knowing that America deserves much, much better.