The dogs bark, the flies scatter, the gasbags at the conventions send enormous clouds of toxic waste to hover over Cleveland and Philadelphia that won't dissipate until Labor Day, and the caravan moves on. Election Day approaches, and rarely have so many been so disappointed with the choice before us.
But there's no point in further weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the nominees, like them or not, and they're the most successful opportunists in anyone's lifetime. Neither will change, even if they could. Damascus Road repentance is rare for men and women approaching their ninth decade. What you see is what you'll get. This is democ¬≠racy at work.
Old men often remember the past through glasses smoked with rosewood and lavender, and imagine that the republic has never had such an unhappy choice of prospective presidents. If this one is not the unhappi¬≠est choice ever, it's certainly close. Where are Chester Alan Arthur and Ulysses S. Grant or Warren Harding when we need them? By November, when the early snow flies in the upper reaches of the republic (cheerful prospect indeed in late July of the most brutal summer in years), there will be no one left whom the Donald has not insulted, no fat cat left from whom Hill¬≠ary has not extracted millions in exchange for a promise to be redeemed in the dead of night.
But it's a choice the nation asked for, a people drunk on entertainment, trivia, sexual excess and indifference to things real, seduced by the cheap illusion of "free¬≠dom" bought by discarding restraint and rules honored through the centuries. Buyer's remorse is only for later. For this year it's no rules, everything will be just right. So now what?
Everyone wants to know now who will win in Novem¬≠ber; everyone would like for this campaign to be over and done with. Donald Trump, who has been left for dead by the legacy media a dozen times since he stepped into the primaries more than a year ago ("a joke!" one prominent pundit screamed), just won't lie down so someone can call the undertaker. Like that famous Energizer bunny of yesteryear, he just keeps plugging. A year later no one in the presentable media seems to know what to make of him, except that he's wicked.
But if he's a wicked joke, as so many of the sage and savant impersonators continue to say he is, the joke is on the pundits. The public-opinion polls, which custom requires us to say they're meaningless now and will melt in the heat of late summer, actually might not be meaning¬≠less after all. The heat of July rivals anything August can throw at us and it's Hillary who took a slide through July. "For the past couple of weeks - and this started before the conventions, so it's not just a convention bounce - there's been a strong trend away from [Mrs.] Clinton and toward [Mr.] Trump," says Nate Silver of Five.Thirty.Eight, a blog that measured polls in 2008 and 2012 with stunning accu¬≠racy. "Although there's always the risk of overreaction, this time our models were ahead of the curve in under¬≠standing the shift. But if [Mrs.] Clinton rebounds next month, our models may be among the first to show that as well."
Beyond the polls, there's a growing belief, nearly always offered with a caveat and a sheepish smile, that Donald Trump may be unique, a force of nature captur¬≠ing momentum from unusual sources and becoming unstoppable. That's why nothing touches him. Some Democrats feel this, too.
Tim Kaine took guff and heat from his party when he committed the gaffe that is not a gaffe, saying that taking the House in November is beyond the reach of the Dem¬≠ocrats. Concern bordering on panic ("what happened to Hillary's slam dunk against the joke candidate"?) is leading respectable Democrats to play the race card and say irresponsible things. Anne Lewis, communications director in Bubba's administration and a senior adviser to Hillary in her 2008 campaign, predicted Thursday that if the Donald wins he would "start looking for Jews."
The Donald "deliberately and consciously" tries to divide, Mrs. Lewis, who is Jewish, told the Democratic Jewish Caucus meeting in Philadelphia. "We know from recent history that when you live in a society where the forces of division look for scapegoats, Jews are next in line. Don't kid ourselves. Wherever they start, if that is the way people amass power, they will start looking for Jews."
Nasty accusation, even by implication, and her rabbi could tell her of the sin of bearing false witness. It's in the book.