Why This Election Is Different – OpEd
Elections, I think most of us can agree, usually bring out the idiocy, superficiality, and illogic in everyone who can muster any. Imagine supporting, as many did, Sanders and then Trump because they were both “outsiders.” On Tuesday, I heard somebody on CNN announce that Sanders and Klobuchar were both “change candidates” (because you’d have to change every bit of the platform of one of them to match that of the other?). Tokenism no longer embarrasses voters or even the candidates who openly campaign on it. When voters are asked on television how they choose a candidate, they talk about temperament, personality, debating skills, and intelligence.
U.S. presidents 43, 44, and 45 have been, respectively, a nitwit, a smart guy, and a dumbfuck. The policies have been variations on the theme of rolling catastrophe regardless. Climate collapse is ever nearer, and nuclear apocalypse is more likely than ever before (according to the Doomsday Clock). By the time we work our way through horrible presidents of every sex, race, sexual orientation, and ethnicity, the idea of humanity surviving on earth will be a sadder joke than Rachel Maddow’s latest Russian revelation. We can elect the very best prom king or queen, the person we’d like to have a beer with, the “outsider,” the “change candidate,” or some other vacuous label, but none of that will steer the world away from the cliff it’s rushing toward.
If representative government is supposed to approximate democracy, then we have to figure out what we want and who will come closest to representing it. Do we want a civilized healthcare system like the rest of the wealthy nations of the world have long had? Or do we want to spend more money for less health but keep our beloved insurance companies or our pathetic union contract privileges? Do we want to put up a serious struggle to stop destroying the earth’s habitability? Or do we want to avoid any radical changes to a planned and consciously pursued disaster? Do we want to make college part of public education as other countries do with great success? Or do we want to stay ignorant and broke enough to never quite become aware of what imbeciles we’re being? Do we want to go on subsidizing fossil fuels, enriching multi-billionaires, and dumping $1.25 trillion a year into wars and preparations for more wars, or do we want to try a wiser approach tested and proven for decades by societies around the world?
The United States is a freak global outlier in its enrichment of the rich, its acceptance of poverty, its military spending, and it’s shunning of basic human rights to housing, education, and healthcare. Bernie Sanders is a moderate candidate promoting popular programs that have been used more and with more success than the policies that he proposes abandoning.
Most people will tell you that voting for a third-party candidate in the United States is a lifestyle choice, an act of purity, the enactment of a worldview. Similarly, donning a clothespin and voting for a lesser-evil two-party candidate is supposedly the outcome of a particular inclination toward reform instead of revolution, or a rational choice based on the short-term options available. The same ideas are widely held about protesting versus lobbying.
But what if you actually want something of a government? What if you actually act as a member of the informed public that a government is supposed to represent? Then, wouldn’t you lobby when something decent was under consideration, but protest when nothing was? Wouldn’t you vote for a third-party candidate when the two parties were clearly headed toward apocalypse, but back a two-party candidate if one appeared who was less enough evil? You can grade the world on a curve only if you have no independent standards, such as sustainability for your species.
That’s the difference in this election. Bernie Sanders is a million miles from perfect. But he is radically superior to who he was four years ago, to the other Democratic candidates, and to the past 45 presidents. A greatly enlarged movement will need to move him and the Congress and the whole society in the right direction, but such a movement will be in a far better place with him than with any of the other candidates. If we must be tokenists, let’s just declare it time to elect a Jew. But if we care about the earth, let’s declare it time to stop being morons.
Why would anyone elect another same-old schmuck? Why is this even a question? A billionaire who buys his way in and lies about his racially targeted sadism? A slimy small-town mayor who backs what billionaires tell him to back? A senator who seems to think Hillary’s only mistake was being too inspiring? A senile former vice president whose bloody fingerprints are on every act of cruelty to come out of Washington for generations? Are you kidding me?
Turn off your televisions! Avoid debates! Read the candidates’ websites. They tell you what they are proposing to do. It’s not secret information. But here’s an important secret that I’ll let you in on. The candidate who excites you and others is, for that very reason, the candidate most likely to win. The idea that the candidate who’s not offering anything people give two damns for is the “electable” candidate is an insidious creation of the corporate media, the people who assured you Trump would never win, the people who swore that Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya and Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen and Syria would be improved by bombing, the people who are now claiming that Bernie has “flat lined in first place” while the “serious” candidates are “surging” into second and third and fourth place.
The revolution will not be televised.