OPINION: Countdown to the 3rd: Boats on parade

The boaters are back at it again; Kamala wears some shoes, Whitman bumps up numbers



The boats, they are a’floating — until they aren’t.

JACOB HERSH, Evergreen columnist

“They might have split up or they might have capsized,
They may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and names,
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.”

-Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

What’s better than a parade? Why, boats on parade, of course (cue Rage Against the Machine riff).

Saturday brought Trump-oriented boat parades all around the country, from Texas to San Diego to New Jersey. I shan’t be making any “Titanic” references because that bit’s hack at this point, but the sheer size of these things have to be seen to be believed.

There’s vast swaths, fleets of boats carpeting the surface of these bodies of water, all waving the flag for the T-man. There’s 30-person party boats and 2-man skiffs, and every kind of boat or personal watercraft in between. They’re blasting country music (no Dixie Chicks, of course), and pledging their dedication to “Make Liberals Cry Again.”

The whole thing, if you subtract the rampantly political nature of the event, looks fun as hell. Who doesn’t want to be out on a lake on a hot day with some other people, swilling beer and causing a ruckus?

The apotheosis of human experience, in my own personal experience, is a cold Alaskan Amber, an inflatable kayak and a creek in which to float, suspended between sky and water. Then it gets dark, and you have to pack up and go home, and your entire backside is soaked from some infinitesimal leak in the boat, and the bugs are biting something fierce and — well, you understand my point.

Earlier, I wrote how the right-wing understands spectacle better than any major political party today – there’s no better way to appeal to their voter base and drag some swing-voters over than the essential bigness of an event. The Romans built the Colosseum, the Chinese emperors built the Great Wall, and the Trump dynasty chooses to stake its shot at reelection on the “world’s biggest boat parade.”

Moreover, the alleged grassroots nature of the events seems to indicate, at least to allied onlookers, that the world has gone “back to normal.” Their boy in the red cap has pulled it off – the coronavirus is a thorn in the heel of the American Dream, soon removed when he takes office for a second term. Right?

But every parade has the serial killer clown or drug addict carny running the show, to be unmasked in the dead of night when the circus has left town and a kid has gone missing. Five boats capsized in a Texas boating parade, engines stalling and sinking to the bottom, showing that it isn’t all fun and games on the right – there are consequences.

As we enter month seven of an enforced quarantine, as businesses continue to shutter and close and as our town hits more than 800 positive tests, it’s tough to feel inspired or motivated by the antics of either side.

Whether you’re a pro-Trump “boater” or a Kamala Harris fan ogling her Chuck Taylors, you’ve bought into the idea of the political as consumerism. Campaigns have devolved to the extent that the choices the candidate makes on boats, shoes and even beans have become political choices – you’re doing “activism” by buying Goya or spurning Chick-fil-A.

Given the state of the world right now, it feels an awful lot like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I guess that reference was inevitable after all.