Tuesday's New York primary was sooo New York — dispiritingly so. Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf summed up the vibe by comparing it to an episode of Dick Wolf's Law & Order — utterly "NY-centric," complete with "overdrawn characters" and "a totally predictable plot." And after landslide Empire State victories for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton caused each to declare the race for the nomination all but over, here's what we're looking at in November: a foreordained Clinton blowout.
There's always the possibility that Trump (or Ted Cruz) could win. Trump, for instance, would be far less constrained politically in the general election than in the primary season. But as it stands, Clinton would stomp a likely Republican challenger just by way of the daunting electoral math facing Republicans. They need to flip Obama states red. And barring a big course correction, they won't.
There are worse things, of course, than a Hillary Clinton presidency. Few Republicans genuinely believe she'd do worse than the current White House occupant. But both the freshness and the aloofness of President Obama would be gone, replaced by Clinton's constant, programmatic presence. The scripted visage, the rehearsed content, the done-to-death tone — no matter how novel and exciting it is to see a woman elected president, Clinton is the opposite of new and exciting.
Whether sober or silly, she's a bore. If we'll soon burn out on Trump's meme-worthy patterns of speech, we've long ago suffered enough of Clinton's: the lawyerly deflection of blame and protestations of legality, the phony folksy affectations shamelessly put on, and yes, the canned affect of That Laugh.
It can be immensely depressing to live with a president you're tired of on Day 1. Every day, for four to eight years of your life, you're stuck having to hear the sound of their voice endlessly played and replayed, and look at their image broadcast ad infinitum on cable, on the internet, in magazines and newspapers. It's their world, and you're just living (or slowly dying) in it.
I'm not just talking about political writers like me. All Americans are subjected to the same torment. In part, that's because the culture war has turned national politics into the front line of an existential moral conflict that extends into every nook and cranny of what used to be private life. Our friends and family see and hear the president every day, too, and have opinions. We all have hot takes now.
In larger part, however, the torturous ubiquity of presidents has to do with the logic of the national media — which plays by imperial New York rules of rewarding stardom. The bigger the star, the bigger the reward — not simply or even primarily in money, but in attention, attention that must (as a result of insurmountable pressure from experts, public opinion, and media outlets themselves) be paid.
So I would rather experience four years of a Ted Cruz or a Bernie Sanders administration than a Clinton administration, even though Clinton's carefully calibrated governance would likely result in few outrages, fumbles, or out-and-out failures. (I suspect, despite or because of the Obama administration's record on foreign policy, she would be especially careful not to err in international relations.)
But my real concern is that a Clinton victory would grievously exacerbate the American experience of increasingly feeling — and actually increasingly being — unable to engage with politics without having a distasteful or divisive president continuously shoved in our faces. The experience of political liberty in America derives from the shared practice of the art of self-government. That practice and that art will be deeply imperiled if we continue to feed the moralization and nationalization of all issues into the star-worshipping media machine that New York created (and, to be fair, that the social media fostered by Silicon Valley has hyped up even more).
Because of this media machine, both a Trump administration and a Clinton administration would bring more despair to our prospects for psychologically peaceful self-government. The main difference is how much more likely a Clinton White House seems than a Trump one. Clinton fatigue would be no big deal if only there were an escape from Clintonworld. But if she wins, there won't be.