I’ve been reading dozens of articles about today’s election, as has the majority of the population, I’d guess. The opinions and analyses I’ve consumed have originated from left-leaning sources, as I quite frankly have given up on the “know your enemy” effort. In any case, the “enemy” has displayed his views with such vehemence and volume that one has no need for research; a few minutes spent watching a few newscasts tells the tale. A constant refrain from the left says, “Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.” While I agree that today’s results could impact a handful of critical issues in this country — the fight against the pandemic; abortion rights; the ACA; and just possibly a few environmental concerns — the daily lives of average citizens won’t see substantial changes regardless which candidate prevails. The stakes would be higher if a genuinely progressive leader were running against the incumbent, but as it is, we’re confronting the options of bad and worse. It’s true that if “bad” wins, the country will at least be quieter, without blow-ups from the Oval Office monopolizing all the air in newsrooms. I think, however, that couching the election in such dire, hyperbolic terms does the challengers all over the country a disservice. (That is, unless the incumbent re-takes the White House, in which case, pandemic casualties will surely continue to increase; only in that instance is today’s voting a life-or-death prospect.) Instead of taking a page from the GOP book and resorting to fear-mongering, then, I’d rather see the liberal pundits stress the difference in tone, attitude, and priorities represented by the two factions. For instance it’s doubtful that Joe Biden would consider it appropriate to enlist the aid of rabid militias to intimidate citizens going to the polls. Still, a “return to reasonableness” doesn’t exactly grab headlines as a strategy these days. Ginning up fear has become the perennial motivator of choice.
That very fear has done its work over the last several presidencies. Bush II specialized in us-versus-them tactics, making him the Divider, not the Decider. In his campaign, Barack Obama embraced a goal of bringing the country together, but Mitch McConnell opposed such a notion, and Obama gave in without much of a fight. The current Occupant espoused a divide-and-conquer mantra from the beginning, and it gained him the White House. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, wasn’t far behind in her derogatory comments about the Orange One’s base, but her efforts were amateurish, compared with the feelings of sheer animosity and smug superiority that the Orange One generated. During the incumbent’s tenure, he has amplified the fear from 20 years ago and has in large part morphed it into anger. His own sense of inferiority, honed over a lifetime into a deep conviction of entitlement, along with anger at not getting his own way, has in turn devolved onto his supporters and has become a self-righteous, self-justifying hostility, even violence.
This attitude of righteousness and anger has made the 2020 contest what it is: a winner-take-all situation, in the words of an anonymous commenter from several days ago. Op-ed columnists have pointed out that, even if the incumbent should lose, his base won’t disappear. Fox News will continue to spread disinformation, the militias will continue to drill, the mainline supporters will still assert the right to tell women what they can do with their bodies, just for starters. In short, there is no middle ground. There’s no uncertainty, no guesswork — the incumbent and his party have put their values out there beyond doubt. As the saying goes, “When someone tells you who he is, believe him.” Even so, absent some Handmaid’s Tale cataclysm, even an Orange win won’t destroy most people’s lives in the next four years. But it would be another incremental step toward right-wing authoritarianism, which is what makes today’s outcome a pivot point.
I have an acquaintance or two who supported Bush II, and who repeated the standard talking points: “We had to invade Iraq so we could fight them over there instead of over here;” “Tax cuts will create jobs,” and so on. I could listen to these pronouncements and, while I loathed hearing them, I could [barely] tolerate them. The war in Iraq was an absolute evil, and the evidence for the invasion was amorphous, but even hitherto trusted sources (e.g., the NY Times,Colin Powell) generally espoused it. Meaning that, in the beginning, it was understandable that some people might be duped.
Now, those same acquaintances are spouting Orange propaganda and appear to believe he can do no wrong, despite the proof afforded by their own eyes: photos of refrigeration trucks parked outside hospitals to hold the bodies of COVID victims, for instance. Pictures of Kyle Rittenhouse with his rifle, followed by approving tweets from the incumbent, with no denial at all of what Rittenhouse did. Recent footage of the pick-up caravan outside Austin, surrounding and imperiling a Biden bus, eliciting an, “I LOVE TEXAS!” kudo from the Resident, with, again, no attempt to mitigate the circumstances of those events. You can’t make this stuff up, and it simply can’t be misconstrued by any rational person. Inescapably, supporting the incumbent means approving, or at least, condoning, the hate he whips up.
So, yes, I’ve ceased tolerating differences of opinion with Orange supporters. Any sentient person with a conscience must disavow the actions of the Monster-in-Chief. It’s no longer a matter of varying outlooks on policies and solutions. We the population of the United States have gone beyond simply bridging the ravines between factions. It truly is a matter of how we wish to go on. Both parties are going to continue to further the interests of Wall Street and the MIC; there’s no question about that. The 90% may be thrown a bone and be marginally better off if Biden takes the Oval Office, but any uptick will be insignificant over four years. Neither can we expect huge strides in combatting climate change if the Presidency turns blue for a term. What we could anticipate from a Biden win, though, is some sanity. No call-outs to galvanize bully boys against the citizenry, no insistence that scientists are clueless. The Orange base would be, temporarily at least, without a spokesman in the highest office. The change in tenor would be unmistakable. There would be hope that the sheer, open viciousness, overt racism and misogyny, vilification of those who don’t strictly adhere to the President’s views, all the ugliness of the last four years would no longer be tolerated. I won’t tolerate such among the people with whom I associate; if they continue to applaud the Orange Menace’s odious actions and prevarications, they have no place in my spectrum. Nor should they have any standing in the country at large. Whichever candidate wins today, an ultimatum will inevitably be laid down. The winner will take all; there won’t be allowances made for opposing viewpoints. Lives won’t necessarily be destroyed if His Orangeness claims victory, but civility and our societal contract might be at an end.