Three hours before the first presidential “debate” debacle kicked off, as I was blithely sautéing a batch of mushrooms, my kitchen sink inexplicably plunged—with a loud thunk—to the bottom of the cabinet beneath it. Slightly more than a year earlier, the pricey stainless steel sink had been one of the final finishes to a long overdue, professional kitchen renovation. But, somehow, over the course of 12 months, it had worked its way loose from its moorings.
Then I witnessed a much worse disaster: Donald Trump’s off-the-rails performance at the presidential debate. He was unhinged, out of control, unmoored, unglued, unbolted. Just like my kitchen sink. But with vastly more dangerous consequences.
Minutes after the sink sank, I put in a desperate call to the kitchen renovators. They were shocked. This doesn’t happen, they said. We’ll be out to fix it in the morning, they promised. And they were. When they arrived and assessed the situation, they blamed the problem on the original installers, who, they said, didn’t seem to know what they were doing and did a half-assed job.
Again, I was struck by the parallel with Donald Trump’s presidency. Voters apparently didn’t know what they were doing when they installed him. And he has demonstrated repeatedly that he doesn’t know what he is doing as the “leader of the free world.” Also, he’s not a half-ass, he’s the full Monty. (One aspect of this comparison that doesn’t work is that, unlike the minority of the American electorate who voted for Trump, I didn’t buy a product that was obviously damaged goods from the get-go.)
The repair squad showed up as promised, their truck stocked with every tool, part, and adhesive product they needed to re-instate my sink to its proper condition. It took them a while to figure out what had happened (the sink had not been correctly braced). And they had to jerry-rig a solution (shoring up the sink with wooden supports). But they got the job done, and I feel confident that my sink is more stable than it was before.
And despite the emotional hangover I was suffering post-debate, I saw another, convenient metaphorical connection. With Donald Trump as America’s know-nothing, incompetent contractor-in-chief, the underpinnings of our democracy are coming undone, falling apart at the seams.
Can Joe Biden do for American democracy what the repair guys did for my kitchen? I hope so. But he damage is already deep. Trump and his cohort of greedy, corrupt, and anti-democracy cronies have subverted our agencies, our institutions, our traditions and even our hopes and expectations. It’s going to take a lot of work, and more than a metaphorical morning, to shore us back up and restore stability. Even if we manage to elect Biden, take back the Senate, and keep the House majority, we’re going to need a truckload of good ideas and willing workers. We’ll have to throw everything at the job—including the kitchen sink.