Being First vs. Being Best
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The magical religion of Firstism in America has two regressive, infantile manifestations. For decades, rightwing chauvinism has worshipped America Firstism. Because the US is always the best country ever, a Christian God grants the US divine rights to perpetual world leadership. Reigniting that equally bizarre muddle, "America, right or wrong," Trump's sneering, snarling buffoonery begins and ends with this "self-evident" leap of faith.
Apparently, some 30% of the right is so terrified (bigoted, benighted?) they fall for Trumpian folly that (white) America was once great and, just by elevating an amateur, blustery billionaire, "we can be great again," If we only banish all our stupid leaders, inveighs the Donald, the remainder will be tough, savvy deal makers capable of solving everything. A mystery beyond human ken is how Trump yahoos will magically slice away all the stupids, leaving the path to greatness wide open.
And the fantasy kicks off with bigger Pentagon budgets, fortress walls, and paranoid bans that demonize "outsiders." So much for melting pot ideals. All candidates but Sanders endorse rampant, neocon Yankee Firstism, pushing to activate the Bush Doctrine where even the Monroe Doctrine feared to tread: everywhere.
The other noxious malady -- our obsession with seemingly monumental Firsts -- repeatedly favors token symbolism over true diversity and excellence. Footraces, sports and elections aside, what's so great about being the Big First? How many media-stamped firsts (racial, gender, ethnic, age) empower a tide that lifts similar boats? First is not always best: first into the wartime breach endangers your life. Want to relive your first days at school or first job interviews, let alone first kisses, loves or marriages?
Upfront and personal in the Democratic primary is the latest sham Firstism crusade. When all else fails, when her setbacks, low-achievement boasts or high negatives loom, Hillary intones: "elect me. I own the mandate for the first woman president." This is no trivial desperation, considering how gender, profile and family pitches have lost their oomph this season (Jeb! who?).
Being First or Being Best?
Non-Hillary pundits agree: the Clinton campaign lacks vision, message and focus, forever struggling to overcome bad press, investigations, and perceived self-entitlement. Forget legacy, last names, or identity politics this year, even actual governance experience. Nevertheless, her scattergun, tin-ear campaign leans on this singular default: elect HC for secondary physical attributes over which she had zero control: being born a girl. Is physiology equal to destiny? Does gender (even ethnicity) correlate with greatness, even being the best candidate?
HC's chance gender was offset (and propelled) by a good intentional decision: marriage to a great political prospect (points for prescience) and sticking to him through thick and thin (call it loyalty, denial or ambition). Had she not married Bill, would today's Hillary Rodham go for the gold a second time? Not likely. What a puzzle, like one hand clapping: will the last (name) bring on the first (female president).