Tom Jackson: A week on the trail to political eternity


It’s said in politics; a week is an eternity. Some weeks, maybe. Not the one just behind us.

The reason I know this for a certainty is that last week was precisely when I took a mind-cleansing break from the day-by-day hubbub that is this year’s precedent-setting, stomach-turning election.

The cause, both recreational and restorative, was joining with several other fellows in an annual breakneck tour of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama.

The Trail, part of the Alabama state pension fund, stretches from Mobile in the south to Florence in the north, boasting 11 sites and 478 mostly breathtaking holes. It is in every way efficient, friendly, well-tended and lovely. In short, there is nothing about any of it that provides the first hint that the RTJ Trail is a government project.

For these reasons and more, the Trail ranks as possibly the most felicitous use of public money since Neil Armstrong put boots on the moon.

We based ourselves in Mobile and bit off the lower portion: Six courses in six days.

We filled in the odd hours involved in team dining and team baseball-playoffs-watching (the organizer is a retired scout). A day to travel there and a day to travel back.

And there it is — eight blissful days disconnected from the various campaigns’ hour-by-hour twitches.

As for how your correspondent played, well, the less said about that, the better. Remember, this was as much about clearing a muddled brain as it was about proficient ball-striking, and after a week among southern Alabama’s comical fox squirrels, abundant bird life, and the pleasant thump of nut trees dropping their wares, the mission is largely accomplished.

As for weeks and eternities, as noted above, the span just behind us seemed to consume no more than its allotted seven days.

My sabbatical ended as it began, with attention at the presidential level focused almost exclusively on how Donald Trump’s pattern of rude behavior makes him unsuitable for the Oval Office, and not at all how Hillary Clinton’s demonstrated manipulations of influence are equally disqualifying.

The race, then, has achieved a sort of stasis that seems immune to outside influence. Never mind that Trump, according to reports, was more formidable, focused and on the attack in the second debate. He remains, in enough voters’ minds to cost him the election, a boor and a reprobate.

Never mind, either, that the more we learn about the FBI’s “investigation” into Clinton’s reckless use of a private email server, the more it looks like Director James Comey decided the outcome before the first evidence was collected. She remains, for enough voters to create a winning plurality, the acceptable lesser of two evils.

Two observations on this from a week that flashed by like the wink of an eye.

First, even as he tanks elsewhere, judging by the number of yard signs and bumper stickers bearing his name, Trump appears to be safe in the Florida Panhandle and in south Alabama.

I saw declarations from Veterans for Trump, Gun Owners for Trump, Pro-Lifers for Trump, Farmers for Trump, Democrats for Trump … pretty much everything but Gumbo Eaters for Trump. Signs and stickers for Clinton were as rare as Boston accents.

This, of course, always was reliable Trump country, even when the GOP field was 17 strong, populated by countless replications of people like “Morning Joe” Scarborough’s brother who, the MSNBC host repeatedly said, heard something refreshing and positive in the celebrity businessman.

And now their guy is saying he’s up against a rigged system. Lordy. Having been fed a the-fix-is-in line in the dying days of the campaign, I can’t help but wonder how these early and steadfast Trump supporters will take the results of Nov. 8. Will they, as usual, hitch up their britches and get back to their civic business? Or will something dark and treacherous sprout from the seeds of suspicion Trump is sowing?

Second, and perhaps even more telling, ordinarily my (right-tilting) golf group does not shy from political discussions.

A year ago, we weighed the merits of the massive Republican field; marveled at the absence of merits among Clinton’s Democratic challengers in the face of Herself’s obvious and abundant shortcomings; argued over which Floridian was more likely to emerge victorious from the GOP scrum; and attempted to set a date for Trump’s inevitable implosion.

This year the subject of politics barely came up. Oh, we extracted plenty of mileage from “That’s just locker room talk,” when someone said something slightly off-color. But we otherwise left the election unremarked upon, as if it were a subject unfit for the company and the surroundings.

Maybe that’s not such an uncommon sensation. Maybe that’s why we want these last three weeks over with already. We’ve made a hash of this election. The only thing left to do is get through it and start preparing for the next one.

You will excuse me if I decide the best way to do that is by playing golf. Lots and lots of golf.

Tom Jackson

Recovering sports columnist and former Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson argues on behalf of thoughtful conservative principles as our best path forward. Fan of the Beach Boys, pulled-pork barbecue and days misspent at golf, Tom lives in New Tampa with his wife, two children and two yappy middle-aged dogs.


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