Tag: united states

Understanding the State of the Union

Tumultuous times, indeed.  America’s political parties are both under a heavy state of duress, with non-establishment candidates shaping the narrative of this election cycle.  As of this writing almost eleven million people have voted for Donald J. Trump in the Republican primary, which has resulted in him being the presumptive nominee.  Bernie Sanders, while not appearing to be in a position to win, has created far more noise than anyone had anticipated.  As of this writing around nine million people have voted for him in the Democratic primary.

While the popular vote totals are rarely referenced or brought up in America (since they technically don’t count; that’s another conversation for another time), I feel they are very important in order to provide some context to what is happening in this country right now.

Obviously, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are extremely dissimilar candidates, philosophically.  Sanders self-identifies as a democratic socialist, while Trump is a wild card that appears to be aligning with most traditional Republican positions.  However, one common thread they share, as I’ve discussed here before, is that they’re both anti-establishment.  Their existence and success is based completely on the fact that large portions of their respective parties have had enough of the status quo, for varying reasons.

Now, it’s real easy for people on any side to belittle supporters of either candidate.  In Trump’s case, his nativist slant and acerbic, acidic discourse doesn’t bode well for someone who’s supposed to be considered the Leader of the Free World.  Regarding Sanders, it’s easy to point out that a number of his stated goals are extremely unlikely to occur in an American governmental system that is engineered to resist drastic change, by design.

For supporters of both, there’s a large backlash that is trying to tell them they’re crazy, that they’re supporting a candidate that can’t deliver what they’re promising.  They’re being told that they’re not seeing the bigger picture, that they’re not considering all the issues, that they’re not understanding why they’re wrong.

The point I think we need to understand is this: more than twenty million people have case a primary ballot for a non-establishment candidate, and we’re not finished.  That is a significant number of people; it’s more than 40% of people who cast a primary vote among both parties.

Whether anyone likes it or not, at least twenty million people are fed the fuck up with something.  Whether it’s immigrants, corporate welfare, regressive trade policies, or punitive tuition cost, people are pissed.  More people are pissed than there has been in quite a long time.

All this anger and resentment didn’t come out of nowhere.  There’s a great number of reasons for it, mainly because there are a great number of reasons for the anger and resentment.  Corporate hegemony, an inconsistent and weak economy, the continuing regression of the middle class caused by middling wages and rising costs of living, the overall corruption of our government (and how obvious it is at this point).  Lots of these causes have simmered and boiled over the last few decades, and now we’re at a point where shit happens.

This is the bed we made.  This is the country we live in.  This should not be surprising.

If your national media is allowed to focus its efforts on what’s good for money instead on what’s good for news, what you get is a national media that doesn’t inform the public sufficiently, or at worst misinforms the public with outright lies or out-of-context facts that are meaningless.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We ate it up and asked for more.

If we don’t speak up when the banks are allowed to buy each other and become too big to fail, then we run the risk of those banks making bad deals and needing a bailout.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We gave them that money and hoped they won’t do it again.

If we thought it was wrong for our government to lie to us so they could rationalize a war, we could have said something, demanded an impeachment, demanded to hold those responsible culpable.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We sent our sons and daughters and hoped it would be worth it.

If we thought that politicians and government officials were corrupt, we could have said something.  We could demand term limits, we could disallow corporate donations to campaigns.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We watched our government become bought, and hoped it would work out.

Now, we’re caring.  All this fire and anger is good for us.  There’s arguments about whether the outcome of all this is going to be positive, but I have some faith.  And I don’t have faith in much.

The good news is that throughout history, when people finally get pissed and passionate about politics, things change.  Either we get so angry that we revolt, or the systems will change to serve the new demands.  One thing is certain: something will change.  It’s usually for the better, in the end.

I feel like I need to make a note and underline it here: I am not supporting Trump as President.  My primary vote went to Bernie Sanders, and my general election vote will likely go to Hillary Clinton.  In a lot of contexts though, it won’t matter who’s President.  The principal issues with our country and our economy are beyond the President’s power anyways.  The Senate and the House, however, will react, and whoever the President is will too.  They’ll have to.

The long-standing pillars of our democracy, the Democrat and Republican parties, will change.  To resist it is to invite death; that is a universal truth that cannot be avoided.  People have spoken, they will continue to speak until they are made whole.

As crazy and weird as it looks right now, this is democracy in action.

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It’s everyone’s fault.

I’ve thought and written about the regressing, reductive nature of American social and political conversation a lot.  I think it’s one of the central problems with the country; not only are there many people who don’t vote at all, but there’s a huge lack of research and a large surplus of misinformation.  It’s too easy to get a framed talking point embedded in your brain, to be oblivious to either it’s insignificance in the grand scheme of things or to be straight-up lied to.  It’s a sound-bite society, and when it comes to the important shit, that’s real dangerous.

The recent developments of the Republican party (or what’s left of it) have highlighted this problem.  There have now been enough people who have actually cast votes for Donald Trump where he is the presumptive nominee for the GOP in this upcoming election.  But there’s so much more wrong with this, and it has little to do with Trump himself, in my eyes.

Trump’s not a unique snowflake.  There have been candidates like him before; full of bluster, positioning themselves as the “outsider,” keeping their message basic and easily digestable.  Most of the time, primary voters (who tend to be slightly more discerning than general election voters) will weed these types out long before they start winning states and delegates.  For better or worse, the system is set up that way for that reason; any political party will want guys they like as the main choices, and tenets such as tradition will keep many voters from straying too far off of the reservation.

What has made Trump different is the specific manner in which he is presenting his issues, and the issues he’s presenting in the first place.  He has fostered a political climate that is friendly to xenophobia and nativism.  He has taken the Overton Window and ripped open the side of it.  This has tapped into an anger and resentment that a portion of the GOP has hidden or obfuscated for a long time.  That, coupled with frustration with a black president and the ineffectual status quo of the GOP candidate pool, has allowed this orange monster to manifest itself.

It’s fun to say the GOP made this bed and now has to lie in it, but that’s too easy, and a pretty lazy argument.

It doesn’t take a long look at the other side of party lines to see practically the same thing happening.  There’s a few key differences which will likely make the outcome different, but it’s similarities are striking.

(Disclaimer: I am not comparing Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump; the only two things they have in common are that they’re not establishment candidates and they both share disdain for international trade agreements.  Past that, they’re almost completely opposite.)

Bernard Sanders is a similar anti-establishment candidate, but his campaign has been much more “standard” than Trump’s.  Sanders’ path to victory involved reshaping the Democratic party into one that will accept him.  Trump’s path to victory just involved smashing bugs until there were none left.

The primary difference in the outcomes of their prospective campaigns is Hillary Clinton.  Sanders will not likely win the nomination simply because his opponent is a far more accomplished, experienced, and prepared candidate than anyone Trump had to face.  If there were a long-time Republican stalwart running against Trump, his outcome would likely be far different; instead, he got to slice through a relatively cream-puff schedule of first-timers, has-beens, zealots, and John Kasich.  None of them come close to the name recognition, experience, or party loyalty than HRC.

There’s thousands of words to go around here regarding the possibilities of these races (at least of what’s left of them), but the important factor to take from it all is this: shit’s changing.  Shit’s changing a lot.  Both parties have had enough unrest that establishment-unfriendly candidates went very, very far in these primaries.  One looks like he’ll win, the other has come far closer than anyone would have ever guessed.

People are fucking angry, is what I’m trying to say.  They’re angry enough to leave the cocoons of party politics and find candidates that invigorate them.  They’re angry enough to refuse to look inside the box, because inside the box hasn’t worked for them well enough.  In some cases (the death of the middle class, trade agreements that are good for business/bad for people, questionable foreign policy decisions) these angry masses have a point.  In some cases (xenophobia, nativism) they don’t.  But none of it matters if they remain angry.

If they remain angry and impassioned, shit will change.  It simply has to.  There is nothing more terrifying to a government than a mobilization of angry masses, mainly because that’s what gets them killed/removed from power/otherwise marginalized.  This isn’t conjecture, this is history that has repeated itself forever.

And we can’t just point at the GOP and go “WOW THEY FUCKED THIS UP.”  This became fucked up.  Everyone is involved, everyone is responsible.  Anyone can say what they want about Trump’s racists or Sanders’ comrades, they are people who believe in their action and support for their candidate.  They didn’t wake up and go “fuck the police.”  They feel cheated, they feel abandoned, they feel unrepresented.

Yeah, I gave that word the italics, the bold, and the underline treatment.  That word should evoke the last time people in America felt unrepresented.  We threw a bunch of tea into the ocean, then there was a big war that created our country.