This is the 'Seinfeld' presidential campaign, because it's about 'nothing'
- "Seinfeld" is the enduringly popular sitcom that claimed to be about "nothing."
- Even though this election arrives during a pandemic, mass unemployment, and paradigm-shifting social upheaval, the campaign leading into this election is also basically about "nothing."
- We could be talking about what the next administration will do about Iran's nuclear ambitions, pulling troops out of Afghanistan, climate change, healthcare, or criminal justice reform.
- Instead, we're talking about QAnon, Proud Boys, Antifa, and Hunter Biden's laptop.
- Truly, this is the dumbest timeline.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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"Seinfeld" was arguably the biggest TV show of the 1990s, and remains popular to this day. One reason for the sitcom's enduring appeal is the show's unique-for-its-time self-referential nature that created its own lexicon.
"Soup Nazi." "Shrinkage." "Moops." "Festivus." And on and on, yada yada yada.
In Season Four, Jerry Seinfeld (the character, played by Jerry Seinfeld) and George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander) pitched a sitcom to NBC called "Jerry." They sold it to TV executives as a show about "nothing."
"Forget the story," George said. A scene depicting two characters waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant would substitute for plot, just as it had on "Seinfeld" itself. From then on, "Seinfeld" was known as the show about "nothing."
The 2020 presidential campaign is also about "nothing."
Don't get me wrong. Presidential elections are always, obviously, of consequence. And while every four years the contest is declared "the most important election of our times," 2020 stands a good chance of actually living up to the billing.
This Election Day arrives during a pandemic, mass unemployment, and paradigm-shifting social upheaval. And yet, improbably, the campaign leading into this election is basically about "nothing."
This is the dumbest timeline
The 2016 election was not without its frivolity, discussions (however unhinged) about foreign policy and immigration and healthcare were had. The 2020 election discourse is, by contrast, dominated by utter stupidity.
We're not talking about what Trump might do in his second term if the boiling tensions between China and Taiwan erupt in a military confrontation, we're talking about his cryptic messages to the Proud Boys, a far-right LARPing conclave of violent men whose defense of "western civilization" includes a pledge to each other that they won't masturbate.
We're also not talking about how Attorney General Bill Barr is utterly unconcerned with police departments run rampant with brutality complaints. Rather, he thinks the public needs to stop protesting or lose the "protection" of the police.
But we did talk a lot about Barr's designation of several "Democrat" cities as "anarchist jurisdictions." It was more absurdist political theater that will likely be overturned in court, but it gives more oxygen to the Trumpist fever dream that he's the only person capable of keeping antifa — violent far-left LARPers — from coming to a suburb near you.
On the other side of the ballot, there's Joe Biden, wisely keeping his head down while Trump steps on rake after rake.
But besides being A Person Eligible to Run for President Who is Not Donald Trump, there's not much chatter about what he'd actually do as president, or why he'd make a good one.
Do many people have any idea how Joe Biden would handle Iran's nuclear ambitions, now that Trump has withdrawn the US from the multilateral agreement signed by President Obama in 2015? Unlikely. They're more likely to have heard about salacious photos stolen from Hunter Biden's laptop.
We're not talking about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan after almost 20 years. We're not talking about America's future role as a Middle East peace negotiator. And we're not talking about healing our rift with NATO allies, or whether Trump even wants to.
But we are talking about Trump and the GOP's increasing flirtations with QAnon.
To be clear, it's important that we're talking about the president and his party playing footsie with a deranged anti-Semitic conspiracy cult. It's just also incredibly stupid that we have to.
Thankfully, we are still talking about COVID.
Trump very clearly would rather we not talk about his miserable handling of the coronavirus pandemic, he's said as much. But the phrase "220,000 Americans dead from COVID" is too loud for even Trump to drown out with noise.
Not that he hasn't tried.
It was, until recently, unthinkable that the President of the United States would need to even say out loud that they were committed to the peaceful transfer of power should they lose reelection. Now it'd be unthinkable to expect Trump to commit to such a basic tenet of democracy and the rule of law. Instead, acting like someone who thinks they're going to lose, Trump has tried to delegitimize the election results before they're even counted.
That's certainly an effective way to distract from an abject failure of an administration and gin up a culture war base.
Maybe at some point we'll debate healthcare policy, the ever-growing national debt, and what the social safety net should look like in a post-COVID world.
Until then, we'll ride out the waning days of the Trump campaign show, where "nothing" matters.
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