I have several times on this blog remarked on the ability of some of the greatest thinkers of the past three centuries to forge groundbreaking theories from the most unpromising materials, materials often that their contemporaries considered beneath serious notice: Adam Smith and David Ricardo, fashioning economic theory out of the “higgling and jiggling” of the marketplace, Edward Tyler transmuting travelers’ tales of the South Sea Islands into the discipline of Anthropology, Émile Durkheim discovering Sociology in statistics of suicide, Freud following the trail of dreams, jokes, and slips of the tongue into the depths of the unconscious. I have the very greatest admiration for these theorists and would imitate them if I could, but confronted as I am now by a president of stultifying crudity, banality, cruelty, corruption, and mendacity, I find myself struggling to find anything significant or illuminating to say. The contemplation of Trump makes me feel dull, enervated, appalled. I do not have the capacity of the great satirists of the Western tradition to make art out of disgust.
During my morning walks, I find myself retreating into extended inner monologues explaining the intricacies of Game Theory or rehearsing the elegant arguments of David Hume. Duty requires me to call the office of a Senator, sign an online petition, make yet another token donation, but there is no joy in these small acts, no sense of the beauty of ideas. I fear that I grow stupid.
Across America, indeed throughout the world, Trump and the Republicans are making the world uglier, crueler, harsher, more inhuman and unjust even than it already was.
And now Barack Obama is accepting a Wall Street backed $400,000 fee for a speech in Chicago.