The Badger and the Cow. The Hedgehog and the Fox. The Big Idea and the Rhythm of Our Times.

The New Yorker talks to economists who tell us the ideas behind Trump’s Wall are at least ten years out of date. Well duh, bruh. Tunnels. Drones. Boats. Missiles. Slingshots. Catapults. There are a million ways to breach the wall. Plus no one really needs or wants to come to the US anymore anyway. 

But what this perspective also reminds us is the nostrum (the chestnut, the truism) that most people only have one Big Idea in their life, they get this Big Idea when they are young, and they noodle the Big Idea to death until they themselves are dead. I’m thinking of the hedgehog and the fox. I’m thinking of the badger who buried the cow and then returned every so often to eat part of it.

The problem with having a lot of really old white dudes in power in 2017 is that they all found their one Big Idea about 50 years ago, when inner cities were dead zones, and violent crime was soaring, and America’s “hard power” was pretty much unquestioned. When men were men, and women were women, and whites were white, and blacks were black, and you could tell which was which by the bathroom they used. When the United States was America, and Latin America was … well … not America. When Mexicans bred with fecund zeal, and ate their chihuahuas, and stayed on their side of the Rio Grande. 

It’s not just Donald Trump and his hapless geriatric crew. Hillary Clinton hasn’t bounced with the times, either. Her defining moment was in 1992, at the Democratic Convention, with Bill and Al and Tipper, dancing to Fleetwood Mac. I have no issues with Fleetwood Mac. But the the rhythm of our times has changed. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s the rhythm that matters in politics. Because it’s the youth that matters in politics. Because it’s the future that matters in politics. And because the portal to the future is the rhythm on the street. 

If it makes sense to subject immigrants and refugees to extreme vetting, it makes even more sense to subject our politicians to extreme vetting (perhaps at Guantanamo). And maybe this extreme vetting, with all of its probing and proctological permutations, should include a rhythm assessment. What is their Big Idea? Does it produce a satisfying, resonant rhythm for our times, one that can carry us into the future?