By far the most common assessment I’ve heard of the election is that there’s not much to be excited about, but the choice is clear. Let’s pause and think about excitement for a moment.
In the past 30 years, almost everything has gotten more tailored, local, “curated,” or “bespoke.” The most successful companies that Millennials have grown up with have figured out how to do this at scale: Apple made better design relatively accessible, Google and Amazon can find anything and know just what you like, and Facebook allows you to feel connected to the whole world while also curating your own little bubble. We’ve (re-)learned to eat local; shop small; and emblazon cars, laptops, and t-shirts with symbols of HOME®.
The notable exception to this pattern is the presidency, which still follows the old three-network model. Even as the primaries have exploded to upwards of a dozen candidates per side, the final decision still boils down to NBC or CBS.
For people trained to eat more (local) kale, despise the first president we remember (but couldn’t vote for), and hang all our hopes and dreams on the first president we could vote for, this doesn’t match our expectations of the rest of life. Why shouldn’t we be excited? Even our co-working spaces urged us to “Do What You Love!” — and this is the presidency, for crying out loud.
Two rejoinders should be obvious by now.
First, be careful what you wish for: fringe presidents elected by a tiny, rabidly devoted group aren’t a good pick for a job that involves an awful lot of symbolic leadership of everybody. This isn’t just “I’m a Mac”/”I’m a PC” stuff; this is chat-room conspiracies vs. the New York Times.
Second, what’s the point of (and where’s the excitement in) “burning it all down” if not to be able to build afresh? Heaven knows we haven’t untangled every messed-up system we inherited, but it’s also clear that we’ve burned a lot: reputation, credibility, guardrails on the discourse of the world’s most powerful nuclear state (and, by imitation, a whole lot of wannabes).
There will always be radicals demanding more, faster. And that’s to be welcomed: dreamers and gadflies and prophets have always helped keep people in power honest and accountable, and they’ve pushed the Overton Window open.
And so, now that the choice is clear and we enter the final months of the race — and after five years of existential dread — how much more excited do you really need to get?