• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Dotage Be Damned!

April 2019

Dotage be damned! The age of the aged has arrived and we—purported enthusiasts of youth—couldn’t be happier to receive it. Our hoary history has awakened and the old shall rule again. We’re now living in the dawn of a new day—one still early for us, but late in that of our elderly idol’s lives. In theirs, the old people of the old guard coming once again to the fore, it’s the very twilight of their age, while we youngsters can hardly conceive of the moon. Nevertheless, we find ourselves lurching toward the dark—into the complete embrace of the elderly, a gerontocracy—a government led by the old.

As a group, they only wanted to be remembered and given early-bird specials. They wanted regularity of bowels and familiarity of friends. Now, we make them kings. Their wishes for reverence have been fulfilled. So too have their places in governance been filled.

Clearly, society has changed. Doubtless, all things of man’s construction invariably do (society being not immune to mutability, however much we think it tends to stay as it is), but we take note of this transition from the nubile to the senile, from the attraction of youth to the wisdom of age. We do this with especial interest as it regards the political atmosphere in which we’re subsumed. In both cases, it’s the latter, the elder, that forms the basis of our fascination and it’s to him we turn.

This fascination is no more pronounced than when one observes the unmitigated adoration of the man of the hour (and presumably many hours past) Bernie Sanders. The ostensibly Independent though objectively old Senator from the state of Vermont has formally declared his entrance into the 2020 presidential race. To put it more accurately, he’s made explicit his intention to compete against the dozen or so other Democratic candidates vying for a chance at the highest office in the land. Come 2020, all want their chance in the arena against their inveterate foe: the loutish Leviathan, the uncouth incumbent, the one and only President Donald Trump.

In a Democratic field populated by everything, every whim, and therefore nothing lasting nor substantive at all, Sanders carries an inimitable appeal. I’ll admit, the peculiarity and the strength of his attraction has always left an impression on me. Indeed, more than just me, it’s left an impression on thousands of others, evidenced by the fact that in the mere course of twenty-four hours, Sanders has accumulated in campaign donations over $5.9 million. Not one of other of the candidates, cash cows he or she may be, has come close to so high and consequently auspicious a figure. And while I don’t anticipate myself contributing a dime to this already sizable sum, it’s certainly a pile of cash any observer can appreciate (no less when so massive an amount is funneled to the campaign of an avowed Socialist. Even a man of Marx, it seems, won’t condescend to refuse capital when given without an expectation for anything in return).

Yet amongst all these babbling blades of grass, Sanders stands distinctly tall. That’s not to say erect, as his posture—taking into account the natural burdens that weigh on a man after seven decades of life—is quite bad. He’s horribly hunched over—incorrigibly kyphotic, if you will. That said, he wears the posture of a true progressive—shrunken by reality, but obstinately leaning forward. Instead of grass though, monolithically green and ordinary like the rest, he’s a different species of flower. Like a gangly dandelion, he tempts being picked. He has bristles (promises of free college education, free healthcare, free everything) through which you can blow and make a wish. He’s the man in whom the entirety of the left’s dreams of Democratic Socialism—not the Cuban nor the Venezuelan variety, but the romanticized version of the Nordic states—are kept. In the final analysis, though perhaps not physically, Sanders is by far the most politically imposing of all candidates who’ve occasioned to spring forth.

Sanders, surprisingly, is a candidate for whom there’s universal appeal. And if not appeal outright, he’s a figure for whom many on the left as well as the right have an inexplicable sense of sympathy.

As for the left, considering Sanders in retrospect, it sees him as the candidate of “what if?” Painfully, it must bring itself to the recognition of many a downcast Democrat that had he been given the Party’s nomination in 2016, he might’ve succeeded where Hillary Clinton had failed. Though obviously (and now unabashedly) far less moderate than she, Sanders energized people in a way Clinton never had and never could. It’s for this reason—in the absence of the DNC’s corruption—that Sanders very well may have been the candidate to bring millennials and young idealists to the polls (not to mention blacks and Hispanics as well) and sway those stubborn three states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He, and not she may have been the one to stamp those states blue. Considering Trump’s unfavorability and the narrow margin by which he won in each, it’s completely feasible to think that had Sanders run, he may very well have defeated him there and taken the whole game.

The sympathy with which the left considers Bernie Sanders is readily understood. Less apparent is the attraction, or rather the consideration he provides for the right.

If not his agenda, it was the hand that he was dealt that endeared Sanders to many conservatives. The overt lack of scruple shown by the DNC, the machinations it employed to prevent him from winning its heralded nomination were unseemly, if not blatantly corrupt. Being that they’re the self-professed champions of equal opportunities and fair shakes and lovers of everything invigorated by the competitive spirit, Republicans were chagrined by the manner in which Sanders was treated. To put it mildly, his wings were clipped. He was cudgeled at liftoff, stymied at the very beginning his ascent. For no reason other than the fact that he proved too redoubtable a threat to the DNC’s preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, was this his fate. Instead of providing Sanders’ ideas the necessary space in which they could root themselves and possibly grow (and potentially convert devout Clintonians to his side) the DNC deracinated him in a sweep. Centrists and Republicans, if I might speak on their behalf, felt in their bones this injustice and took to Sanders in an unprecedentedly warm way. Of course, their already deeply-ingrained enmity toward the Clinton political machine helped push them along, but the coup against Sanders was inherently cowardly, anti-competitive, and thus anti-American. Sanders was, however unlikely, a victim behind whom Republicans could rally.

Now, both sides will find catharsis in the knowledge that he again will be making a Presidential run. But in the seventy-seventh year of his age, a literal run would be ill-advised. Perhaps a markedly slower, more salubrious amble with interspersed and constant rest-breaks would better suffice. He might do better (and for that matter, President Trump might as well) if he were to do as the British do and simply sit for this election campaign. In fact, he’d do well to take a lesson from his younger brother Larry, who’s an Anglo-American politician by his own right. The British, as is usually the case, had the program nicely figured out: don’t deign to democratic rabble by running like a hamster on a wheel. Sit like a gentleman and allow the votes to come to you.

Regrettably, nowadays this isn’t how American elections are won. Not since the days of wealthy Virginian aristocrats in the early nineteenth century has that been the case. Instead, Sanders will have to get to work as never before, but one can’t help but concern himself with his age and his health. Resilient he may be (returning to the forefront three short years after his initial primary defeat), he’s undeniably senescent. This is isn’t a political attack, merely a biological truth. As does the dandelion of old who goes unpicked, Sanders has entered into the natural decrepitude to which every one of us is subject. He, regardless of his inimitable passion and political verve, has no way of combatting this mortal and mortifying truth. His supporters are ecstatic, but he’s very nearly—and I say this most respectfully—archaic. In body (if not yet in mind), his faculties are waning, yet the expectations of his overwhelmingly young supporters continue to soar.

But the thought of an octogenarian statesman, the most important in our government, gives me—one of said “youngsters”—considerable pause. Is there, in fact, an age at which one simply is too old to govern in so demanding and stressful a role? Or do we “damn the dotards”, as Admiral Farragut did the torpedoes, and charge into the Sanders candidacy full speed ahead? If the early profitability of his campaign fundraising is any indication, the answer is clear.

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