The Republicans and Democrats have each held their quadrennial conventions and certified their nominees. As tradition would have it, now the American people can sink back into a late-summer torpor, not to fasten their attentions on presidential politics again until Labor Day.
Something tells us this will not be the case in 2016. For one thing, the murderous outrages inflicted on the world by the Islamic State (or, more likely, by copycat amateurs inspired by ISIS) have been happening with such ominous regularity of late that it is hard to imagine the perpetrators humoring the rest of us with a siesta period. And, given both the volume of combustible rhetoric among the Republicans at Cleveland and the resort to something remarkably like jingoism on the Democrats' last day at Philadelphia, any new international incident or act of terror could swing the sentiment of this country's voters in an unexpected direction.
In other words, watch out for sudden volatility and mood swings among the electorate. Whatever the polls are telling us about the probable election outcome at any given time is likely, to use the catchphrase of another not-so-distant political time, to become "inoperative."
Meanwhile, let us take such comfort as we can. There were some silver linings in the storm clouds emanating from the pumped-up oratory of the conventions. The much-vaunted "social issues" that have distorted relations between persons and institutions and classes and tainted our nation's politics for a generation or more may at last be on the way out. Give Donald Trump this: For all the patent demagoguery that has fueled his unexpected rise to political prominence, The Donald deserves some props for a tip of the hat in his acceptance address to a community of fellow citizens hitherto ignored or ostracized by his party (as they still are in the Comstockian language of the Republican platform). However awkward his bingo-call enunciation of the letters LGBTQ was, he crossed a threshold by the straightforwardness of his acknowledgment. The presence on the GOP dais of an openly avowed gay entrepreneur was another welcome move in that direction.
And on the Democratic side, that glass ceiling of gender discrimination has been exploded at last —by a woman whose personal prowess is so undeniable that even her political enemies have to magnify their claims of high crimes and misdemeanors in an effort to neutralize her. As state Representative Raumesh Akbari of Memphis told the Democratic convention proudly, Hillary Clinton, like her or not, is one bad sister!
One last threshold whose crossing is deserving of mention: There was a time when the word "socialist" was as disqualifying as any word in the American political lexicon. Through his steadfast and spot-on criticisms of the economic inequalities afflicting this nation, Senator Bernie Sanders gave the term new legitimacy and made enough converts to come narrowly close to winning his party's nomination. Especially given the youthfulness of the new cadres that felt the Bern this year, the chances are excellent that, in election years to come, the economic facts of life can be faced and discussed squarely, without having to work around outmoded taboos in the political vocabulary.