Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alienation.
Where everything isn't meant to be okay
If you lead the same kind of exciting social life that I do, you may have found yourself at home on Saturday night, watching the tense final hours of the 2016 campaign unfold at CNN and marveling at a tale of two candidates.
Right here in West Philadelphia, before a sloping lawn packed with about 14,000 8-year-old girls -- who, unless there's been an amendment to the law I don't know about, can't vote on Tuesday -- out to see Katy Perry and their moms who actually can cast ballots, Hillary Clinton did the type of thing that's expected of future presidents. She kept her words brief, didn't criticize Donald Trump by name -- and promised to work to bring people together.
It was a tamer version of the riff she's delivered earlier on Saturday during a torrential rain shower in Florida: " "I want to be the president for everybody, everybody who agrees with me, people who don't agree with me, people who vote for me, people who don't vote for me."
From Philly, CNN abruptly cut to Reno, where Trump was speaking about Clinton and her damned emails. While folks at the Mann Music Center had come to "Roar" with pop star Perry while affirming Hillary, the Trump crowd was busy roaring, "Lock her up! Lock her up!" Trump was soon indulging their bloodlust. She said that the woman vying to be America's first female president shouldn't have been "allowed" to run, that she is "the prime suspect in a far-reaching criminal investigation."
A few quick observations. 1) Hours later, FBI chief James Comey said there was absolutely nothing new regarding Clinton or her emails on that confiscated Anthony Weiner laptop....so much for "the worst scandal since Watergate. 2) Minutes later, there was a frightening scene as Secret Service agents hustled Trump off stage after a scuffle in the crowd caused someone to mistakenly scream out, "Gun!" All of us breathed a sign of relief that neither Trump nor anyone else was injured and that there in fact had been no assassination attempt. But when a campaign thrives on its rallies on the constant cusp of violence, the only real surprise was that this kind of tense misunderstanding hadn't happened sooner. 3) Most importantly, the contrast between the lofty aspirations of Philly and the uptight ugliness of Reno should have been a giant caution flag.
I've seen so many signs the last few days that -- perhaps not surprisingly in a world where most people are actually optimists who wish for the best -- that the silent majority of Americans are praying for a national "kumbaya" moment on or immediately after Nov. 9. That was really the message when my Daily News colleague Ronnie Polaneczky brought together some Trump and Clinton supporters in the Philadelphia area for what proved to be a fascinating conversation. Here's a sample:
Speaking for her group, Kate Williamson reminded us how Abraham Lincoln built a team of rivals and stitched them back together again. This is the perfect time for that, she said.
"But you have to not care about being re-elected. You have to not care about your party getting upset. You have to not care about all the things they seem to care about.
"In the meantime," she continued, "we have a lot more faith in each other than in politicians."
And that would have wrapped up the night. Except then everyone wanted to take selfies with one another, and friend each other on Facebook. And hug.
Yes, there were hugs.
Some pundits jumped even harder on the everything-will-be-just-fine once we get this election nonsense behind us, none more so than conservative columnist Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post who wrote this weekend:
As Nov. 9 dawns, Americans are sure to be mad as hell. Those happy with the victor will be re-angry soon enough when they realize they won't be getting what they were promised. This is the good news. Thanks to the brilliance of our tripartite government, nobody gets to be dictator. And despite what nearly everyone seems to believe, our "broken government" works pretty well most of the time.
If Trump wins, he'll be held more or less in check by the House and Senate because that's the way our system of government is set up. Not even Republicans are eager to follow Trump's lead.
That plea for hope carried over to "Saturday Night Live," where Alec "Trump" Baldwin and Kate "Clinton" McKinnon, after 5 minutes of extreme in-character 2016-style nastiness, broke down "the 4th wall" and hugged well-wishers (some of them presumably actors) and their political opposites in a throng outside 30 Rock.
So, I guess that's the series finale of our 2016 election reality show, then...a long group hug, stolen from the ending of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." OK, then. And look, everyone's for more dialogue between people who don't see eye to eye, a search for the common ground that so often is there when we actually look. But I'm still reminded of Ronald Reagan's famous saying about seeking peace with his adversaries, the Soviets: "Trust, but verify." Next week, maybe it should be, "Hug, but watch your back."
In a world where most of us swim in pursuit of peace, there's way too many sharks circling the water. In politics, a "kumbaya" moment is time to look for a Trojan horse. The bitter memory of 2008 and 2009 -- when the election of a black president was seen as a possible moment of national reconciliation -- is too fresh. In reality, Republicans were having secret meetings from Day One on how to crush Barack Obama's presidency and deny him even mild and reasonable compromise. Which didn't stop Obama and some of his allies from meekly wasting six years begging for those concessions, anyway. The dark forces circling Washington -- no matter who wins Tuesday -- are even scarier now than they were eight years ago.