There is an election tape playing somewhere in the background. I hear it in snippets on the radio or in passing, in newspaper boxes or on elevators. Occasionally, and I mean very occasionally, I may catch people talking about it in line at the grocery store. In such cases, I try very hard to avoid eye contact, so as to avoid recognition, so as to avoid, worst of all, being asked my opinion. Of course I have an opinion. I wrote a book 10 years ago entitled "The Case for Hillary Clinton." It was full of all kinds of good arguments that symbols — even if you dismiss them as that — matter, and that Clinton was much more than a symbol for women. Everything I said then applies tenfold today. I may have some copies in the garage. I went on tour for weeks. I don't know that I convinced a single voter.
These days, most of the time, no one's asked me to try, and I've got plenty to worry about in the tracks playing in the foreground. I'm worried about my brother. Enough said. I am trying to figure out how to help my nephew. And I'm thinking about what's going on with a single mother I love who is struggling with two kids, not to mention all the usual stresses of family and work. I start each day with a prayer of gratitude, as do many people I know. Politics does not figure high on this list.
Of course, it should, in the larger sense. The rule of law, celebrated every four years in the election and inauguration of a president by the antiquated Electoral College, is one of those things whose duplication, if the scientific method is to be applied, attests to the unbelievable difficulty of the task. I've tried doing it, writing about it, talking about it and teaching it, and by far, doing it is the hardest. Everyone is a genius on the sidelines, and everything looks easy in retrospect.
But this year, the gap between what's in focus and what's in the background seems greater than ever, and the fact that one seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the other is rather terrifying.
I don't think we're suffering from the crisis of confidence Jimmy Carter so famously addressed in his "malaise" speech. The Donald Trump collapse that was supposed to happen in the spring just took too long. It was too late by the time Republicans realized that, as in a Frank Capra movie, the demagogue's angry rants were sounding scarier and scarier to more and more people, and their hero had feet of clay. Had that "aha moment" come sooner, we might be facing two reasonable candidates and asking what each would do to address our problems.
As it is, what's the point? It's not a question in which Trump is particularly interested. Why would he want to sit around with a bunch of average nobodies and listen to their problems as if they have something to teach him?
Bill Clinton used to drive his schedulers crazy: "Clinton time," they called it. He was always late because he was always listening. I don't care who it was; he had to have that person's opinion. And he didn't care who it was, either. It is a gift that I hope his wife shares, but that I know Donald Trump does not, and that makes this a non-election before it's begun.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.