Thoughts On An Election

Before I do anything resembling a deep-dive on this election — or, at least, a drunken flail to try to contextualize events — I figure it’s worth saying up front that fuck yeah FUCK YEAH fuuuuuuck yeah F U C K Y E A H.

Listen, Biden was not my guy in the Main Event, but he got there. And I was wrong to think he couldn’t bring it home. I feared the worst (in part because it’s hard after 2016 not to be a little defensively cynical), and was wrong. He was the guy. He ran a great campaign and showed up with compassion and science and books that had plans in them instead of blank pages and bullshit, and he won. And I know there are some remnants in this country that still want to make a deal of, WELL, IT’S NOT OVER YET, but it really is. There’s not an expert in the house that has found any evidence of fraud or fuckery. In fact, such fuckery helped elect a lot of Republicans down-ballot, soooo — are those not legitimate, either? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that somehow the election is fair for the GOP wins on each ballot but false for the Biden ones? C’mon. Shut up. Be better, do better. ANYWAY. Biden won. I am ecstatic. I’m not saying I got misty-eyed, but I will say there was definitely mist in my eyes. Harris wasn’t my top pick either but I always liked her, and I look forward to her joy and her bringing the hammer down on all manner of shenanigans. I think they’re both deserving and gracious and their speeches the other night as Pres- and VP-elect were great — and maybe I’m grading on a curve, but it was nice to hear full-throated endorsements of all manner of American, of inclusiveness, of compassion, of science. All done in complete sentences that are not sauced with lies. Who knew that was an option? After the last four years, we needed the reminder.

Anyway.

Let’s get our teeth around this election. Not in a way that suggests any expertise on my part — hardly, since I’m mostly a dipshit and can stand to be educated on a lot of things, and please don’t hesitate to head to the comments to course correct on any points I make here. These are just some thoughts, some ideas, some bloggy grappling with what happened then and what happens next.

We can’t not talk about the Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

We can’t not. We can’t! Because it’s hilarious. It’s fucking amazing. Sometimes, in a story of fiction, there’s a thing called on-the-nose, where stuff lines up too nice, too neat, and you disbelieve it because of its perfection — it’s a narrative version of the Uncanny Valley, right? But sometimes reality actually does it, and when it does? It’s glitter and starshine. It’s Skittles and ponies. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: I don’t know how, but instead of lining up the Four Seasons Luxury Hotel for Giuliani’s big “press conference,” they instead secured the lot behind Four Seasons Total Landscaping? Next to a dildo shop and across the street from a crematorium? (“Our neighbors got you coming and going!”) And then Giuliani held the conference and that’s when all the media called the race for Biden? Oh my god it was sublime.

Like I said on Twitter, it’s the perfect capper to all of this. Like a balloon squeak-farting out its air as it does an erratic orbit around the room before finally falling to the floor, limp and airless. It was like a vurp, a little splash of diarrhea, a sad trombone, it’s Bill Murray stepping off the curb in Groundhog Day into a crater of cold slush. It’s so inept! So absurd! So emblematic of this bare-assed clown-show that in order to defend the highest office in all the land, they got Rudy “America’s Mayor Turned Renfield Bat-Boy” Giuliani to stand out back of a landscaping company next to a sex shop to pitch his asinine conspiracy. It’s like you took Veep, Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny, and Curb Your Enthusiasm and blended them up and then dumped it all over reality’s head. It’s the pinnacle of embarrassment comedy, the zenith of douchechills, it’s sighs and winces all the way down. And laughs. I laughed so hard at this. I’m still laughing. I think about it every, I dunno, 30-45 minutes and everything feels like sunshine. It may be proof we’re living in a Simulation, and

I

don’t

care.

Those Numbers Were A Real Good News / Bad News Situation

Biden won, and he won Bigly. Bigly Biden Bulwark of votes. Record-setting votes, and what will likely pan out to 306 electoral college votes. A landslide? No. A strong hand? Yes.

Trump also secured a lotta votes. A whole lot. A big-ass sack of votes, improving on his numbers in many places, and overall. I confess, I’m pretty pessimistic in general, but even I didn’t see that coming — not because of polls, but because I just couldn’t believe he would’ve improved after 2016. Like, four years ago, as much as I hate it, I think there were some voters who didn’t mind the racism and thought that all his bullshit was just part of the show. That he’d still be a capable leader in some capacity and get shit done, even if the shit he got done was horrible. And then in the last four years he didn’t do shit, and was by most sane accounts a huge embarrassment — a shame stain on the ass of America’s underpants. I didn’t think he’d lose many people.

But I was surprised that he gained them.

Not at the same rate that Biden did, obviously — Biden walked away with the popular vote and blessedly the Electoral College, too. But Trump had a strong showing, and you really have to reckon with that.

How? Why? What’s the situation there?

My guess is that we’re dealing with the problem of that side of the electorate narrowing their access to information and education to only a handful of sources: Fox, OANN, Breitbart, Facebook, and the like. Not to mention the empire that is Sinclair Broadcasting (and we’re really not talking about that enough these days). And I know, I know, that liberals are certainly capable of building their own echo chambers, too, but in my anecdotal experience liberals have a more diverse, diffuse media diet. (Cue the eye-rolling from conservatives.) And any time you argue with a conservative on, say, Facebook, they make some outlandish claim, you present them with a goddamn Trapper Keeper full of factual refutation, and then they basically say “nuh-uh, do your own research,” as if that’s not exactly what you just did. The Internet has only made this easier, offering a prismatic shattering of the early-era Limbaugh radio-show style — each broken fragment of that became an analog seed that landed in fertile digital soil, growing its own poisonous plant with a long, deep shadow.

That, and of course, all the racism. Lots and lots of racism. That comes from a place, too — both from the legacy of a country built on the literal backs of African slaves and in house to house, family to family, in people driven by lies and fear. If there’s one characteristic I see the most in conservatives, it’s fear. I remember one time, driving with my father somewhere when I was a kid, and there were what he was sure were a “couple of Mexicans” driving behind us, and they were driving a bit close, which freaked my father out — never mind the fact he was the King of Tail-gaters, always driving up somebody’s ass. But he was sure, sure they were coming for us. Why? Why would they? Who the fuck knows. But he formulated this insane plan — he’d forgotten (!) to put a gun in the car (!!) that day, so the answer was to drive home, and when they followed us into the driveway, he’d take the antlers that were in the back of the truck and use the antlers to fight the two guys while I ran into the house and grabbed the shotgun behind the front door. Of course, minutes after formulating this plan, the guys behind us turned off on a different road. Because they weren’t hunting us.

But he sure thought they were.

That kinda fear comes from some dark place, some intense vulnerability that grows out of whatever his parents taught him, and what all the rich bosses who exploited him told him (while they pointed at The Other, they were picking his pockets), and what he heard and read, and from a place of hamstrung education, and, and, and. They’re scared and ignorant and that bores holes in people’s souls, and it’s easy to fill those holes with blame, and eventually, with hate.

It’s why so many of the narratives about Black Lives Matter are about the fear of that movement and who comprises it — ironically it’s not about the police abuse, which is off-the-charts scary, ohh no. It’s about how Black people might… loot your Wal-Mart? It’s insane, but it’s a fear that can be harnessed by malefactors and ginned up. And then it uses the conservative media pipeline to pump it into people’s brains. Fear, fear, fear. Other, Other, Other. Gonna take your guns, gonna defund your police, gonna take your homes, you’ll have nothing, you’ll be unprotected. And meanwhile the ones saying that are the richie-riches who have grown fat on a legacy of hate.

(It’s not a joke when I say the only people stealing from my father were his rich friends. They used him to do all kinds of work, and they were glad to help point his blame elsewhere.)

Point is, these people? They show up. They vote.

Good news is, we showed up, too. And we got it done. And we got it done in places like PA (home state woo) and Georgia and Arizona. Texas became competitive, holy shit. We’ve seen places like Virginia go from red to purple to bonafide blue, and it’s all proof we can keep doing that if we try. More to the point, if we listen to folks like Stacey Abrams and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. And if we continue to center the concerns of the whole electorate — not just rich white landowners, not just men, but the breadth and depth of America. It’s common sense: if you work to serve everybody, we all get something out of it. It’s candy shared with the whole class. But some assholes just want the bag of candy to themselves, and those people need to learn to fucking share.

On The Trap That Is Forgiveness And Civility

The “lol, die mad, libtard snowflakes gonna cry more, fuck your feelings” crowd is now upset, I guess, because their feelings are hurt by us libs? I don’t really understand it. What I do know is that there’s this sudden demand for civility, and it’s the same kind of thing like where the conservatives don’t give one hot shit about the national debt until a Democrat president steps in, and then it’s time to fix it. They make a mess, then hand us the broom. They’ve spent four years with some of the most vile shit around, and supporting policies that codify those vile insults into law. So without some kind of reckoning, without some manner of them stepping forward and saying they were wrong, there’s really no civility or forgiveness that will fix anything. It’s just a ruse: a way for evil to keep on doing evil, by asking for your complicity. I’m not saying we can’t be forgiving people, but forgiveness is a thing you work for. Bare minimum, you say you’re sorry, and then you go beyond that and do work to overcome the harm you caused. Without that, there’s no reason to even talk about this.

What I mean to say is, shut up, Megyn Kelly.

On Empathy Vs. Sympathy

Empathy’s good, because it helps us understand people. Right or wrong, good or bad, we need to know who a person is and how they got there — and that’s strategic, because it helps us figure out how to maybe help that person be better, or at the very least, stop other people from going down that path. Sympathy is where you go wrong. Sympathy means feeling bad for them. Empathy just means understanding it. We can’t fight it if we can’t understand it. And it’s not simple. It’s a many-headed beast — it’s not just, well, they’re racist, or bad, or uneducated. That can be true, but how that all happens, and what fosters that kind of outlook, what kind of poison gets in them, that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. So it’s important to figure out that path and cut it off. It’s systemic, not individual. I mean, yes, clearly it’s individual as well, but a system is what made that person the way they are. And that’s where we need to shine a light.

Dems In Disarray

I don’t really worry about the Dems-In-Disarray talk. It’s a popular headline, but never really tells the whole story, nor does it understand that the left is strengthened by its variegated nature — it’s a polyculture, not a monoculture, both in the people that fill its ranks as voters, but also in its points-of-view. The GOP is a monoculture — an aging base of white folks who stand, locking arms, even when it doesn’t actually suit them or their needs. They just line up. We don’t just line up and that’s gotta be okay. It does mean we have to do better at the time of voting and getting behind candidates, maybe, but in the run-up to that it should be messy, it should be a lot of jagged edges and mixed ideas and divergent priorities. Progress isn’t in a straight line but in a lot of directions.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t push the party leftward. We should, and must. This AOC interview is an essential read — and not just about a leftward push but also a push for competency and best practices inside the Democratic party. Also a good interview here with Stacey Abrams.

One Lesson: Politics Is Local

The reason we all had to wait like a buncha assholes for PA to tally votes was because the local PA GOP voted to delay counting until Election Day and, in some counties, until after Election Day. They did this to buy time for Trump to mount a challenge, but mostly I think it just irritated people — but it’s a good lesson that what we do locally has huge, national ramifications (in addition to obviously local ones, as well).

With Democrats, I think it’s important too to see that local matters — different races are going to highlight different challenges, and Pelosi can harp on all she wants about trying to stem some leftward tide, but in a lot of places, in more places than you’d think, leftward policies are surprisingly popular. Green New Deal, Medicare-for-All, these are things the GOP hates, but also things some rank-and-file Democrats also push back against. But that favors special interests and ignores, I think, the local people on the ground. Working class people are helped by these policies. Better health? Better world? More jobs? Rich people don’t fucking care. They’re going to the moon or some shit. We’re stuck with Earth, and that means we need to start saving it, and getting our asses some sweet sweet universal healthcare. Like, y’know, the rest of the developed world?

One lesson that didn’t occur to me either until far too late was that, nationally, we get involved in and invested in local races too early, and to the detriment of local choice. We see a candidate like Amy McGrath and right out of the gate are like, YEAH COOL PLEASE KICK THE TURTLE OVER ONTO HIS BACK HERE IS MY MONEY. But that gives her unearned advantage — and when a better candidate like Booker comes along, it’s maybe too late. Better to support these races when their primaries are decided. And also to embrace a holistic view of that support: don’t just support a candidate but their community. A healthy community has more voters and more ability to vote. Even something simple like supporting a food bank in an area where you want to support a candidate can have value. It’s just stuff I wouldn’t have thought about.

Sidenote, don’t forget you can donate to Fair Fight, Stacey Abram’s organization. And look for ways to get involved in the GA Senate run-offs in January — which means empowering Georgia and their voters, not just the candidates.

No Answers, Just Thoughts

Most of this is just me rambling, and I don’t have any real conclusions here of note — nothing firm, certainly nothing that can go unchallenged. Time will reveal more information to us. I think it’s fair to distrust any gory, elbows-deep autopsy of the election this early. Certainty is thin on the ground. I do feel good, not just because Biden won, but the races held surprising strides for LGBT Americans, Native Americans, the Black community, and so on — and I think as always we need to serve those communities, because they show up, get shit done, and then we continue to underserve them as a result. And I think it’s smart too to see that these underserved communities, when strengthened, strengthen us all in return. I think if anything this is all a clear sign that we mustn’t be complacent, the fight goes on. Take a breather today, but get back in it tomorrow. Let’s get control of the Senate and let’s push for holistic policies that serve everybody, not just the few. Let’s get big money out of politics. Let’s protect vulnerable populations. Let’s retrain police and focus on mental health. Let’s keep the fight up for Medicare-for-All, for the Green New Deal, for all of it. Gonna be hard, but nothing worth doing is every easy. Except eating cheesecake. Eating cheesecake is easy, and worth doing. Now I want cheesecake. Fuck.

ANYWAY, see you guys at the Four Seasons Dildo Crematorium And Lawnmower Rodeo.

p.s. buy my book or I die