It has been interesting around The Observatory recently, what with Junior, now 16, having found his political wings. The Observer's own withered and dropped off some years ago, stunted by our heartfelt belief that Arkansas politics is steadily headed for Lowest Common Denominator Hell in a handbasket (and may well have been there for some time now), and our growing suspicion that if you don't have at least $12 million in your checking account, you're never going to be able to influence the political process anyway. A graying and cynical fart is Junior's Old Man these days.
It has been a joy, however, to watch Junior have his Great Political Awakening, his mother and I shushing him when he's moved to cuss at Trump, playing Devil's Advocate when he wants to discuss the finer points of the Iowa Caucus turnout, listening at the dinner table when he goes on diatribes about the 10,000 ways Mike Huckabee is bad for America, or wanders off into Electoral College Math crystal-gazing.
A passionate son, then, as is his birthright. We remember boring our own Old Man — who was the great originator of our own cynicism about politics — when we were but a lad. Junior, though is much smarter about it than we were; deeper and more informed; a child of the Internet Age, with the vast and limitless knowledge of mankind literally at his speedy fingertips. He knows the ways of Google Fu.
Like a lot of young folks, the majority of Junior's current enthusiasm about politics these days is a result of the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, that kooky-haired septuagenarian from Vermont with all the crazy ideas. You know, ideas like: People in the richest country in the world shouldn't leave college with more debt than if they'd bought a beach house instead of tools to help push the wheel of the American economy.
Junior is nuts about Bernie and his chances, watching the Democratic debates the way most kids his age might watch a Razorback game, doing all but hissing and booing every statement from Hillary Clinton. He has convinced himself Hillary is the Sauron to Bernie's Frodo Baggins, the two of them locked in a struggle to either wield or destroy the One Ring to Rule Them All. To some extent, our young lad has convinced us of that, God help us. He's made his Old Man give a damn about politics for once.
What we haven't had the heart to tell him, of course, is that in a country where it costs literally a half-billion dollars to run for a job that pays $400,000 a year, a guy talking sense about tearing down the growing oligarchy probably doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of winning the presidency, even if he hadn't been calling himself a socialist since LBJ was in the office he hopes to win. And yes, just for the record, The Observer understands the difference between being a socialist and being a democratic socialist. As Junior has explained to us ad infinitum, the vast majority of Americans are democratic socialists as well — lovers of paved highways, public schools, air traffic control and firetrucks. But good luck trying to split that hair with your average voter, so easily swayed by ominous music and TV ad monster shouting.
As much as Junior is feeling the Bern, it's probably going to be Hillary for the nomination, and Hillary taking the oath of office next January, if the Republican Party goes through with its suicide mission of nominating an orange-haired reality TV buffoon whose answer to any question is to talk about the size of his John Thomas and say: "It's going to be GREAT, OK? Fabulous. You'll see." Hillary's going to eat his lunch in the debates, and he will deserve every moment of that ass kicking.
Still, The Observer will be damned if we don't want to believe in Bernie. Junior's enthusiasm for the process and for his candidate has puffed a little breath onto the dim coal of our own belief in the electoral system, managing to push away — at least temporarily — our nagging fear that this country might be doomed to devolving into a theocratic nightmare, overseen by some Mussolini-esque clown and his corporate masters. Turns out all the newest generation of would-be voters needed was someone to believe in. There will be more of those, even if Bernie can't take the White House this November. Maybe that's all the old and cynical hands like Yours Truly need, too.