What happens next

No, we can’t fix everything with one election. But I wish we were hearing more about how to keep this from ever happening again.

It’s been difficult for any signal about sane, adult, fair policies to make it through the noise of this election, but of course, that’s why the noise exists in the first place. More noise means voters are responding emotionally instead of intellectually, so there’s less opportunity for dissent.

Republicans have made it clear that they don’t care as much for making a case to voters to choose to vote Republican, so much as make them afraid to vote Democrat. (And they’d prefer it if blacks and Latinos didn’t vote at all). That’d be bad enough on its own, but they’ve degraded and dishonored the political process so much that it’s difficult for grown-up moderates and liberals to concentrate on practical policy matters, either.

I admit I haven’t paid that much attention to specifics of Biden’s platform, because the choice is literally, non-hyperbolically, the Democratic candidate, or the end of the United States of America. I believe Biden’s made good-faith attempts to emphasize policy, when he gets the chance. And the campaign is trying its best to make voters enthusiastic about voting for Biden instead of just voting against his opponent. But in practice, that gets lost when his opponent is just flinging his own shit around and it’s the only thing anyone can pay attention to.

Back in 2016, a lot of people believed that the US was essentially “too big to fail.” Even if a corrupt moron took over the executive branch, we had enough institutions in place to prevent it from becoming too catastrophic. I hope everyone has seen now what a huge mistake that was.

So I’m glad to see that the centrist-liberal platform that’s defined the Democratic party for the past couple of decades has been pushed slightly left, and they’re finally making an unequivocal stand for addressing climate change, women’s rights, fair immigration policy, and LGBT rights. And as much as I dislike many progressive politicians, it’d be foolish to deny that it’s only because progressives been so outspoken and so contentious that they’ve managed to push the Democrats away from becoming just “diet Republicans.”

But what I haven’t heard emphasized is a solid plan to keep this bullshit from ever happening again. Which is concerning. Thankfully, the Democrats seem to have gotten over their trepidation over telling it like it is, and they’re acknowledging that not only is this not normal, it’s catastrophic. They’re warning us about increasing authoritarianism. Defiance of checks and balances. Turning the judicial branch into a partisan mockery of justice. Gerrymandering. Voter suppression. Voter intimidation. National security threats. Dismantling and undermining our institutions for health and safety. Undermining and threatening free speech.

The only solution they offer: “vote.” I understand that voter turnout is crucial when voter apathy was the main reason we’re in the disaster we are now. But they’re simultaneously using the language of revolution and the language of peaceful transition. They’re saying the system is being destroyed from the inside, but also that the system is strong enough to stop the damage.

Why should we be content with a system in which the winner of the popular vote doesn’t win the Presidency?

What’s to stop another shithead like Mitch McConnell with no integrity from having an egregiously outsized influence over the entire government, like he has for the past eight years? Why does everyone just shrug and say there’s nothing to be done?

Why do we have a system in which one party can arbitrarily decide the blatantly partisan make-up of the judicial branch? Why aren’t more people actually involved drawing attention to the fact that the confirmation “hearings” were a sham?

We’re being shown all of these things to make us upset and angry, but we’re not given any real sense of a plan to stop them. We’re being assured that the system works, when it’s been painfully obvious from at least the beginning of the Obama administration that the system doesn’t work.1And, we should never forget, that for marginalized people and those living in poverty, the system has never worked. That suggests that the Democratic party doesn’t believe the system is broken, only that the wrong people are currently able to take advantage of it.

After seeing Senator Feinstein’s disgraceful and obsequious praise for Lindsey Graham over his sham confirmation hearings, and Speaker Pelosi’s frequent demonstrations of putting party over policy, I’m inclined to think that’s the case. They want us to be just worried enough for a Democratic sweep, but not worried enough to actually make systemic change.

I used to believe that most adults were more politically aware than I am. I believed that I could trust the people who were interested in politics to follow the day-to-day details, while I educated myself just enough to vote for the right people and then could go on about my business. That’s the promise of a representative democracy, after all. I would still love not to be worried about politics every single day — for instance, not having a shitty, pervy, do-nothing, partisan hack like Clarence Thomas threatening to keep me from being able to get married would be a nice reality to wake up to.

But now I’m convinced that 99% of the people who claim to have real insight into politics have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. If they were as tuned in as they claim to be, then we wouldn’t be in this mess. Pundits and self-described political analysts have spent the last decade marveling at a grifter’s preternatural ability to play 5th-dimensional chess against the media and the Democratic Party, even though it’s been abundantly clear since Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous that he’s a classless moron. They talk about “red states” and “blue states” that don’t actually exist. They make bullshit claims about the “base” of Trump voters, even though we’ve seen repeatedly that his rallies have trouble filling school gymnasiums.

Most galling: they call it “showboating” or “gotcha questions” when people in the highest offices of power are asked the most fundamental of questions about our values as Americans, but are still unable to answer.2Amy Coney Barrett’s refusal to answer the most basic questions about voting rights and the peaceful transition of power were absolutely disgraceful and disqualifying. It’s not damning when a journalist or a representative asks a question about our most basic principles; it’s damning when a candidate or nominee is unable to give the trivially true answer to the question without trying to make it out to be “controversial” or “partisan.” Any pundits our journalists trying to make it sound like these basic questions about our values are irrelevant or naive are actually revealing themselves to be too cynical, too removed from the process, or too shielded from harm, to be competent at their jobs — they’re supposed to be translating the impersonal machinations of politics into a form that the rest of us can relate to, after all.

I’m so very much looking forward to stability and sanity. And I’m just as much looking forward to being able to leave politics to the “grown-ups” until it’s time for me to step up and take a direct role by making an educated vote. But the grown-ups sure as hell better have a plan for making that stability and sanity last for longer than just the next four years.

  • 1
    And, we should never forget, that for marginalized people and those living in poverty, the system has never worked.
  • 2
    Amy Coney Barrett’s refusal to answer the most basic questions about voting rights and the peaceful transition of power were absolutely disgraceful and disqualifying.