Thoughts On An Election

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


18 responses to “Thoughts On An Election”

  1. And now I see people from back home in Kentucky saying they are leaving Facebook for Parler because that’s where conservatives can go and not have posts tagged or pulled for false information. That won’t help.

  2. “a shame stain on the ass of America’s underpants”

    Getting that tattooed on me somewhere! Absolutely classic.

    The rest of it was spot on and true and thoughtful and compassionate and I wish I could say this types of things when I’m arguing with someone who says “Joe Biden’s going to make us all communists!” Seriously, talk about an echo chamber. People actually believe this stuff.

    Anyway, you help me make sense of this crazy stuff and I thank you.

  3. The Four Season Total Landscaping is the Christmas gift that keeps giving. Like you, I just keep chuckling about it. What a fitting end to Orangey McFuckStick’s ass-wipe of a presidency!

  4. Yep, what you ranted, Chuck. Righteous rant. Not letting my guard down for a while though, and I don’t mean the virus. I’m afraid the possibility of a pyroclastic flow of abject crazy is still out there.

    On the other hand, thank you guys in PA for the work. Sweet, that.

    (And I’ve maintained a long-standing grudge against anything Hextall – it was that Kent Nilsson thing – but I dearly love me some Gritty. ;-D)

  5. This was good to read after a hot week of coming off of social media arguing with family about voter fraud. It’s been four years of having to fight back misinformation and lies, only for people to fly off the handle and scream that we’re not “respecting opinions” when we mention the most basic, provable facts. Like, your argument isn’t subjective enough to be an opinion and it doesn’t belong to you. It’s an easily disprovable misinformation campaign out of the far right.

    I’ve spent the last four years being shouted down a children’s birthday parties, receiving offensive comments while out to dinner and cold shouldered into silence at Christmas. This is from a group of people who were generically friendly…until the second Trump was elected. Then it was racism, Facebook misinformation and intolerance for four years. Ask them to not say that stuff around you or explain the negative consequences of these beliefs, and then it’s like you said, an instant call to civility and demands to “respect opinions.” Then it’s suddenly, magically a problem with my character.

    I’ve been scrambling to figure out where to go from here. How do you heal the past four years of what has amounted to Trump-inspired abuse? I expect this to go the way of the Jim Jones cult, they’ll kind of wander off and forget this happened. They’ll never understand what even happened to them or why. But at the same time, I worry that there’s no turning back from this. That this level of hate permanently scars people and won’t quite lift its thorny tentacles out of minds. Hopefully it’s the first option, that in a year they won’t remember what they were or did. But fact that they let it happen means there’s the hate, ignorance and intolerance waiting to be germinated again.

    To me, that’s the legacy of the Trump years. I have and see broken family relationships in part because of one old man with a racist Twitter feed.

    • Family – the gift that keeps on *living”. Fortunately I showed mine the door long ago and then outlived them all.

      • I’m worried it’s getting to that point. P.S. Just realized the Jim Jones cult all killed themselves. Insert another cult example into my original post, lol.

  6. As someone who has been *deeply* involved in politics for a long time (even professionally as staff in the background) I can’t see a thing wrong with anything you’ve said here, writer boy. You have definitely Figured. It. Out.

    The one thing I have to say about Biden is that he proves a long story to be seen about The One Born For A Moment In Time. If you look at those people in our politics – I think here specifically of Lincoln and FDR, who each came to power in the darkest of times – you see that before they came to power, they were seen as unsuitable for all the reasons that made them excellent when in power. Lincoln before he was elected was seen by many as a lifetime loser; but what he had learned in that lifetime of losing was perseverance, to pick up, hang on, and move on. Those were exactly the personal qualities needed in a leader who could win the Civil War. FDR before he became president was largely seen as an Upper Class Twit. But having his life upended by polio, and finding the wherewithal to carry on, were exactly the personal qualities needed for a leader to face the Great Depression and World War II. Likewise, Biden has been seen by many (including me) before now as “not the right guy” for any number of reasons. Yet his experiencing terrible, horrific loss in almost the same moment as his greatest success (he would have gotten nowhere else without that first success), a blow so great, so personally devastating, that he came close to resigning before taking office, and finding the strength to hold on and continue regardless, is to me exactly the right personal character qualities needed in a leader for this terrible moment. There’s certainly not been a lot to be optimistic about this year, but as a result of the past week, I am optimistic we will face this and We Shall Overcome.

  7. I laugh like Joker every time Four Seasons is mentioned. The incompetence.

    You were so prescient with WANDERERS. (No spoilers please, on page 543.). Very close to the dystopia we currently find ourselves in, if our current pandemic had been more severe.

    That said, I’m hoping for a happy ending, both in your book and real life. I agree with you about empathy, we have to be willing to understand where this all stems from to fix it.

    In the meantime, thankful for last weekend’s victory.

  8. I’m trying to hold on to optimism. Saturday felt great. But I am deeply worried about the number of republication politicians actively supporting Trump’s claims. At this point, what do they gain? What do they know that I don’t know? I’m trying to hold on here when we are so close, but I don’t know when I will feel like I can accept that Trump will truly, finally be gone. I need someone to say it will be all right. And to believe them.

    • “At this point, what do they gain?”

      If Republican Senators acknowledge Biden’s win, they incur Trump’s ire and risk angering Trump’s voter base. The rabid scum comprising said voter base will label them RINOs and traitors, and may not vote for them next time they’re up for reelection. Or they may even face costly and unpleasant primary challenges from the overtly-white-supremacist wing of the Party.

      If they refuse to acknowledge Biden’s win, Trump gets to throw his baseless tantrum, Biden is President anyway, and GOP Senators get to claim that they stuck with Dear Leader through this most difficult of times. Nothing changes materially, but they save face with the rabid-scum-base. Maybe even pick up an endorsement from Trump somewhere down the line.

      This may not make sense with a sane adult person in the White House. But Trump is already on a rampage, unnecessarily firing officials left and right. The GOP’s Night of the Long Knives is underway, and it’s better to fly under the radar for now.

      • Also don’t forget Trump’s long and well-documented history of fleecing rubes. See also: “Build the Wall” scam. 70+M rubes, times a small contribution to help “fight the stolen election” – that’s nothing to sneeze at.

  9. Have you seen the Four Seasons sticker they’re putting out? Make America Rake Again! Lawn and Order!
    Honestly, I don’t know where satirists are going to go from here. Reality just outdid them.

  10. Excellent, smart, on the money. I’d double-click on a couple of quick things. First, it’s worth noting that when the next Congress is sworn in, it will be the most diverse in history. That is nothing but good news. Second, worth reiterating at little where I think you were going here, Chuck, which is that while Democrats have a broad, often fractured coalition (and thus message), we simply must do a better job of investing in our farm teams, building our bench. We need to be recruiting people to local zoning boards, PTAs, service organizations. Those folks go on to become mayors and city council members, and on to state legislatures, and so on. That’s how you end up with politicians who can take on a guys like McConnell and Graham.

  11. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we as a country got to where we are now – to the level of hatred and disregard for people on the other side of any issue. To the place where objective facts are not used for decision making. To the place where not-quite-50% of our population is willing to re-elect a person who has demonstrated every bad trait our parents warn us against as kids. I think you are dead right when you say it’s fear. More than that, I think it started on 9-11. That event drove fear of “others” into the heart of America in a way that hadn’t happened in half a century. The bigger problem was that conservatives realized they could capitalize on that fear and use it to build their power base. They’ve done it very effectively for nearly 20 years and that’s how we end up here – where people are so angry and terrified of the demonized opposition that they can’t even sit down to a family meal. I’m not sure how we come back from that. The America I knew is dead now, a country that wasn’t perfect but was willing to work on being better. The terrorists accomplished exactly what they hoped with that air strike – they mortally wounded America. But it wouldn’t have been mortal with the diligence and hard work of what is now the Republican party.

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