The Confidence Man

From that food-fight of an un-presidential debate, the last month of the 2020 campaign is about democracy itself, in danger: reduced now to slanging between “this clown” and that “fool,” as they said of one another. It’s about democracy as E. B. White defined it immortally during World War II: “the line that forms on the right”; “the don’t in don’t shove”; “the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles.” “Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth,” said E. B. White in 1943. In 2020 it’s about the man-made fog around the scoreboard, it’s the game that’s in doubt—the private assurance in the voting booth that every vote must be, will be, counted.

We woke up in a strange country this week—where the businessman/president with multi-millions in income every year is reported to pay $750 dollars (or less, most years) in personal federal taxes. A country where two white guys in their seventies are the last rivals standing—pouting, shouting, mugging, posturing in a contest of body-language and insults, anything to show personal vitality, in one case, physical dominance in the other. It’s a country where the chief of state offers a virtual guarantee that the balloting process will be undone by fraud and the result unresolvable. It’s a country getting a little frantic about itself as the oldest and best model of free, working democracy, anywhere, ever. We’re getting our bearings on our un-presidential last round this hour, with un-pundits—meaning wise heads you don’t meet much in media, who can face the political darkness as an anthropological assignment, a detective story still being written.

Guest List
Tressie McMillan Cottom
Author and professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Joseph O'Neill
Novelist and Bard College professor.
Lewis Hyde
Writer and cultural critic.
Joshua Cohen
Novelist and journalist.
Reading List
The President's Taxes
Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire
Donald Trump refuses to condemn white supremacists at presidential debate
David Smith, Lois Beckett, Maanvi Singh, and Julia Carrie Wong
Trump Renews Fears of Voter Intimidation as G.O.P. Poll Watchers Mobilize
Danny Hakim, Stephanie Saul, Nick Corasaniti, and Michael Wines

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