How Democrats Escape the Ariadne Trap

by Michael Liss

My father hated the Richard Strauss opera Ariadne Auf Naxos. FullSizeRender

Dad obviously had his preferences, and they had a certain strongly expressed idiosyncratic logic to them: He liked "good tunes," so thumbs up to Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Offenbach and Bizet. He didn't like too much recit or harpsichord, which meant Mozart often tested his patience. Wagner was a no—too Wagnerian (I don't think the Hitler thing helped). The Beethoven and Tchaikovsky efforts puzzled him: When you write symphonies and concertos as magnificently as these two, why waste your time with mediocrities like Fidelio and Eugene Onegin?

Dad was more than capable of clearly articulating, at length, the reasons for his dislikes (this was a quality he also applied to the world beyond opera), but he would not get specific about Ariadne Auf Naxos. Ariadne Auf Noxious was not discussable. It did not make his formidable collection of open-reel tapes. He actually walked out of a performance (between acts, of course, but our seats were conspicuous) and never returned. Milton Cross couldn't tempt Dad. If, by some chance, it would appear on his subscription, he would give away the tickets (an act not lightly taken). Because of this, I had absolutely no memory of the opera, not even a wisp of a melody, so, as a public service to the reader, I subjected myself to about 15 minutes of it, and I think I almost blacked out. Dad was right. Very bad.

Yet, as we "celebrate" a year of Donald Trump, I can't stop thinking about this ridiculous, over-the-top, oddball, play-and-opera-within-an-opera as metaphor. The Donald Trump Show is our Democratic Ariadne Auf Naxos (Clockwork Orange version). It's like someone has tied us to our seats in the Trump-Lovers Section, and forced us to watch them leap up, screaming bravo, at his every croak. What's worse is that we (especially those of us in coastal Blue States) had to pay double for the tickets. It's driving us nuts.

One year is enough. Time to get off the feedback loop, because Trump-madness leads to electoral doom. Indulging in it is a fix, blaming it is a crutch, and frankly, with surveys showing more Republicans trust Putin than the FBI, it's our patriotic duty to do better. We have to start thinking with our heads instead of our glands. So, here are my 12 steps to sobriety:

1. Let Trump be Trump. Why fight a hurricane with a five-dollar umbrella? Trust the public to judge. Recognize that there is a large group of bedrock Trumpistas who will never leave him. They really believe the Deep State, Secret Society, Globalist Conspiracy, #fakenews mantra and nothing is ever going to shake that. So, let Trump do his thing, because every time we voice our outrage … his people cheer. They have been waiting for a champion a very long time, and for whatever incomprehensible-to-us but clearly genuine reasons they may have, he's their guy.

2. Learn from the situationally sycophantic. Not the true believers, but the ones we think are hypocrites; the professional preachers, the party apparatchiks and the uber-wealthy—those guys. Take careful notes, because they have much to teach. Of course it's disgusting when Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham trade piety for power. Or when economic titans hold their noses with one hand while the other is palm upstretched. But bear in mind, Trump delivered for them. That's how they judge him. On theocracy and plutocracy, Trump delivered. What are we going to deliver?

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