A wise, veteran blogger who I follow has me sitting back, shaking my head in admiration at his post today. Professor William J. Astore has an almost uncanny ability to discern and extract basic truths which are staring us in the face, but which no one else has yet articulated. His latest observation is that neither of the major Presidential candidates has a vision for the future. Biden’s theme is “restoration” of former political scenarios, while the other guy wants to return us to the 1950s, before those pesky civil rights and women’s issues came to the forefront. Professor Astore’s point is that both men are oriented toward the past, and he posits that the reason for such reactionary fixations is that the likely future is so bleak, they don’t want to go there. I want to riff a bit on Professor Astore’s comments and tie them in with some thoughts of my own.
I confess that, as a dogged optimist, I’m finding it an uphill battle to remain sanguine these days. As I’m also deeply cynical, my mindset is usually, “Hope for the best, but don’t be surprised if that’s not at all what happens.” In the last couple decades, my split personality of an outlook has seen the dark side reinforced much more often than not. And now, as Professor Astore says, no matter how the election is resolved, the country is going to be in the hands of a man who’s only interested in looking backward. His aim will be to return either to the status quo ante of 1980, or to the days of unabashed racism and misogyny. Neither era is an appealing choice; both guarantee further division in our society and no progress on the most pressing issues we face.
In terms of healthcare, Biden has promised to veto Medicare for All (or universal healthcare), in a nod to his insurance industry backers. The Orange One has vowed to destroy the Affordable Care Act, which is all that stands between millions of citizens and disastrous doctor and hospital bills. Biden is lukewarm at best when it comes to the environment and climate change, saying he will refuse to ban fracking, for instance. The Occupant, meanwhile, is doing everything he possibly can to eliminate EPA regulations; knock down prohibitions against drilling and mining in and around national parks, then sell rights to the highest bidders; and destroy endangered species safeguards, among many other travesties. Economic inequality won’t lessen under either of the candidates, as both are beholden to large corporate donors. Biden pays lip service to women’s rights, but has a sketchy history when it comes to walking the walk. Just ask Anita Hill. As for the other candidate, in addition to his having as a top goal the overturning of Roe v. Wade, he is abuse and disrespect personified. From these and many other measures, it’s clear that, regardless which one is sitting in the Oval Office after the election dust clears, our prospects as a nation are dim. Recovering from their retrograde legacies could take half a century of back-breaking effort, if it would even be possible.
Enter Amy Coney Barrett. Although a few pundits believe there’s an outside chance she may not be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice before Election Day, the odds on some sites are listed at 300 to 1 that Mitch McConnell will be able to engineer her appointment. There are one or two procedural moves that the Dems could make to stymie McConnell, at least temporarily, but anyone who’s followed McConnell’s nefarious, relentless scheming and plotting as majority leader has no doubt he will defy all objections. He has nothing to lose, so he doesn’t care about any outcry, and absent a perfect storm of unforeseen events, he will prevail.
Ms. Barrett’s ascension to the highest court in the land could very well be a bigger disaster for the U.S. in the long run than a second term for the Orange One. Aside from her membership in an ultra-conservative religious group (cult?) in which men have sole authority, she pegs the meter when it comes to right-wing thought. The history of her jurisprudence shows a strong bias toward corporations and against workers’ rights; she is a supporter of striking down the Roe v. Wade decision; she would likely oppose the rights of same-sex couples; she is an advocate of gun permitting on a scale the NRA could only dream of. The Voting Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act may fall if Barrett is confirmed in time to join in hearing the cases due to come up in the near future. And of course, if the Occupant disputes the election results, and we have a rerun of Bush v. Gore, we don’t need bookmakers to tell us the odds that Barrett will stand up for the man who nominated her. In an unprecedented debacle, this country would be the recipient of an obscene, circular twofer: the Orange One gets Barrett onto the Supreme Court, upon which she helps get him into the White House for a second term.
Should Biden win in a landslide, any of the half-hearted measures he would succeed in pushing through might be nullified somewhere down the line with Barrett in a justice’s chair, making for a 6-3 conservative majority.
Not only do we have two candidates who are solely occupied with the rearview mirror, then, we have a Supreme Court that is ready to codify the backsliding. After decades of struggle, same-sex marriage could be illegal again; corporations could use ever-expanding loopholes to avoid paying overtime; a living wage could be put beyond reach for years; pre-existing conditions could assure that untold millions of people would lose insurance coverage; national parks could be rendered into wastelands; climate change could be accelerated past all mitigation; thousands of species could be hunted to extinction. In short, the far-reaching effects of the year 2020 will be either horrendously bad or apocalyptic.
The driving, almost-too-fast-to-follow R.E.M. song from which I took the title for this post outlines some of the ills of its time. Back in 1987, the band sang of earthquakes, hurricanes, a tournament of lies, book burning, blood-letting, being locked in uniform, and a government for hire, among other ugly things. Seems we haven’t learned anything in 33 years, after all, and the people in charge still want to haul us backward. My inner optimist has been silenced for the foreseeable future.