Over the past few weeks, I’ve been closely watching both the RNC and the DNC. It’s a first time experience for me. As the shadow of my thirties begins to loom closer and closer, I feel like it’s about time I start trying to uncover the web that is American politics. I don’t know where the compulsion comes from. Maybe it’s a venture to broaden my perspective, something I’m always trying to do. Maybe it’s an extension of what I call “my masochistic media inklings,” as I often engage with things I dislike more than things I enjoy, and I mean that across the board. Punditry, music, movies, and the like, I’m always looking to understand things that I might assume I’d dislike. It’s an honest endeavor. I’m not looking to feel superior – morally or otherwise. I seek knowledge so that I’ll have the ability to make an actual informed opinion, not a pre-packaged one. Nothing frustrates me more than the death of our individual ability to critically think. Broad stroke collectivism of ideas is the death of intellectual conversation.
The broad stroke collectivism of ideas is the death of intellectual conversation, and that’s what can be mostly found, across the board, when it comes to either major party. Well, at least when it comes to the coverage from almost every news outlet. Of course, there’s descent coming from both sides, but if you’re not doing an incredible amount of internet bound phalanges work, click-clacking through the google machine, you might never really have a good sense of what it is and what’s being said. The news isn’t “the news” anymore, and that’s a real problem, as agendas and party posturing have become the norm. Rather than being outlets for information they’ve become peddlers of division and discontent. Only the most vitriolic and hateful are given a voice. There’s no money in problem solving and change. What would they talk about?
There’s a false paradigm that’s propagated during every election cycle: We are at war with each other; We hate each other. It would be one thing if the population was complicit in drawing their own “lines,” but that’s not the case. The marching orders are being disseminated by self-appointed moralists on all sides of every argument. The vocal minority has become a tool of the most elite people in the country. Promises are made, platitudes have been given and, to one degree or another, we’ve all become useful idiots. I don’t even assign all that much blame to the average person. There’s a real desperation out there and with that comes the desire for a helping hand. For saviors.
Any candidate that says that “they are the answer,” should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. I mean, it literally happens every four years, you’d think we would have gotten it by now, but still, we all act like if we don’t vote correctly the apocalypse will happen. “The very fate of the world is at stake. We’ll be thrown back into the dark ages. Vote out of fear of marginally different politicians.” Both parties use this same rhetoric. The same sweeping statements to combat one another. At what point do we call bullshit? At what point do we step outside of the situation and take an objective view of this landscape? We all know that throughout this process that candidates appeal to whatever the largest social trends are to secure the vote. We all know that once in office they renege on those promises, but we all act like politics is some abstract concept, that it is nothing more than an intellectual pursuit to facilitate “high-minded” conversation. Whenever we’re presented with their dishonesty, via concrete action and reality, we just shrug and say “That’s just politics, party people. What were you expecting?” while we lift a pinky and sip on some cheap wine. How the fuck is it that we care so much during elections and then apathetically just accept everything afterward? Talk is the cheapest commodity.
Both parties are running on a platform built on the notion that they aren’t the other person. However you vote, you’re wrong. Voting your conscience, standing behind your personal principles, is an act of evil to line towing party sycophants. Any vote that isn’t Republican or Democrat is viewed as a wasted vote. Every election cycle it’s the same story. “How dare you not get in line and support the major party candidates? Don’t you care about America?” The sad reality is that most people believe in this narrative. We are made to feel duty bound, made to feel righteous and important. They tell us we’re a part of the process, and it only comes at the cost of your principles. And for what? To propel another professional liar towards their ambition?
It would be different if what we were presented with had any resemblance to the world that we actually live in. Both sides propagate an extreme world view. There’s nothing sensible, there’s nothing pragmatic about what either of them presents. It’s about making you feel good. It’s about making you feel vindicated for your beliefs, whether they are well founded or not. That’s a real problem. It reeks of bad parenting, in a way. If we are never told about the hard truths, about what’s really going on, then our ability to make a decision about who to vote for is nigh impossible. If the foundation is unstable, how can we trust the house?
If there is something that is unique about this election cycle, it’s that the discontent with establishment politics is at an all-time high. People do not trust dynasty politicians, which is well founded. They’ve been failing us for at least the last 30 years. Failed social plans, failed wars, failed education system, millions living with life destroying student debt and not being able to secure employment for their focus’. That’s real shit. That’s the reality, and those factors have a ripple effect that put us to where we are today. I mean, it didn’t just happen. Causality is a real thing, and without practical conversation from our leaders, then nothing will ever really change. The establishment is running out of people to point fingers at and their starting to all look the same.
I’ve never felt comfortable with labeling myself. I think aligning myself under a banner that doesn’t represent me as an individual and really only acts as a way to pat myself on the back, then what’s the point? It doesn’t exactly encourage the free exchange of ideas. In fact, it often stops that dead in its tracks. A label makes a person easy to dismiss. I’ve always thought that parties, etc. should be left to the politicians and that the people should be free to support and vote for whoever they want. What is this obsession with “correct association?” If you don’t say that you’re a democrat, then you hate poor people. If you don’t say that you’re a republican, then you don’t take terrorism seriously. Both of those dichotomies are absurd, I think most people could agree on that, but imagine if that phony moral positioning didn’t exist. We would be forced to engage with each other; we’d be forced outside of our comfortable echo chambers and maybe we’d all realize that our fundamental differences aren’t that high a mountain to climb. When face to face, people are often way more reasonable than when they are firing from across the bow. By constantly sequestering ourselves from one another, we all lose our sense of humanity.
I’ve watched what feels like a lifetime’s worth of hours of both the RNC and the DNC. I think I might have melted my brain, honestly. The big takeaway, for me, has been that they aren’t really all that dissimilar. They both paint a picture of the world that only exists in the minds of the most extreme. Nothing of real substance is said. There’s a lot of grandstanding and self-congratulatory platitudes, lots of taking credit for the good and none of the blame for the bad, sure, but at the end of the day, they’re just infomercials designed to sell you a product. They exist to perpetuate that politicians are a different class, an other, that have more in common with celebrities than the average person, which makes the parading around of celebrity promoters all the more irksome. The amount of irony in having one of the stars from The Hunger Games series, Elizabeth Banks, MC one of the nights at the DNC was not lost on me. The subtext is that they are a different class, and they are the ones who will save us, but as we see an ideological continuity between both parties when it comes to civil liberties, economic ventures, and foreign policy, more and more people are getting hip to the game.
I’ve found both of the conventions largely boring and feckless. Having said that, the DNC has had a lot of drama surrounding it. From the Wikileaks stuff to the uproar in the Bernie Sanders camp, things have actually happened. It’s been more entertaining, at any rate. While the convention and the media try to bully everyone into “unity,” as they simultaneously denigrate anyone that steps out of line, a lot of unhappy convention goers have been trying to make their voices heard. They’ve booed speakers, they’ve held protests, they’ve even decided to have a “stink-in,” wherein everyone that hadn’t had their credentials stripped from them for holding signs literally tried to fart as much as possible during the speeches. That’s not a joke, by the way.
Yeah, delegates that refused to play ball have been ejected from the convention and have been banished to outside the wall. A wall that is almost a mile off site. You know, I probably wouldn’t agree with a lot of what these people believe in. While I’ve always respected Bernie Sanders sincerity, I really think he believes in what he’s saying, and yet I only find myself in agreeance with about a quarter of his rhetoric. When it comes to getting money out of politics, I’m in total agreeance. I’ve been beating that drum for years, but some of the social programs he advocates for seem really unrealistic, and I’ve yet to see an economist that says they’ll work without doing some serious mental gymnastics. There are too many variables and, to be frank, I’m not down with socialism, democratic or otherwise. Also, if you find every level of government corrupt, how exactly is handing over more control to them a good idea? Just a question.
Even with all that, though, I sympathize with his brood. They are anti-establishment and they are sticking to it. They feel slighted and have no interest in capitulating to a candidate that is an anathema to their cause. In Hilary Clinton, they find a demon, who is representative of everything they are against. She’s a war hawk, she seems to be for TPP, she’s very close to Wall-Street and has a sordid political history. If the dream of principled revolution was sold, why would they? I don’t blame them for feeling slightly betrayed by Sanders, but I also sympathize with Sanders himself. Honestly, I can’t help but feel bad for the guy. The uncomfortable nature of his voice and body language made me cringe. Not at him, but for him. As much as I might disagree with a myriad of his plans and prescriptions for the country, I’m a still a person, and I respect sincerity. He believed in what he was doing, so it made it all that much more painful to watch him endorse Hilary Clinton. His voice warbled, and he fell on his sword. He did this in the hopes that he would be able to get more done from the inside than from without, but the real rub, the thing that gets to his more “pure” supporters: He has done so at the cost of his principles, his integrity. And in that, there is a problem. Putting aside all of the actual nuances of what it takes to make any change in government, large or small, but as a monolith to change Bernie Sanders has failed. At the end of the day, that’s all you can really be on the national political level. A symbol for a cause, and without that you’re nothing.
I kind of think Sanders has irrevocably hurt his “revolution” by supporting Clinton. He was the only one that could corral all of the disparate counter-culture elements in the country into something cohesive. They actually had talking points and rhetoric, and could make an argument. For better or worse, they had been made whole, but as soon as Bernie “betrayed” them, the very moment it happened, the fabric began to fray. En masse they walked out of the convention hall and starting protesting in earnest. It was quite the site to see. Well, if you could see it. The only mainstream news outlet, that I saw, that covered it was Fox Business. Yeah, I’m sure they were doing it to capitalize on DNC discontent, but it was part of the show and by being dishonest about what was going on, it made it seem like there was an air of insecurity being breathed into the event. “Unity” was the rallying cry that was being wheezily whispered into the void.
The DNC was a weird showcase. It was nationalism-lite and resembled the RNC of the days of yore. It was all about being “patriotic,” and “American” all of a sudden. These malleable terms were used to bolster support for a candidate that has more in common with George W. Bush than the projected image that the party puts out there. They do this because politics aren’t about “reality.” They’re about perception. They appeal to your emotions, not to what you need to hear. Hilary Clinton is one of the most outwardly hawkish civil servants of the past 20 years and selling her as some sort of maternal presence came off as awkward. Most of the criticisms that were lobbed against the way the government works could be lobbed at her also. She is the most corporate of corporate candidates. The disconnect from reality was palpable.
The RNC wasn’t much better, I suppose. It was a lot more boring, though. It didn’t have the excitement that watching the DNC cannibalize itself did. It was mostly what you would expect. It lived up to Republican stereotypes and focused on the inevitable apocalypse that Hilary Clinton would bring about. The fact that it was so boilerplate makes it hard to come up with things to talk about, honestly. Well, things that are different than what I’ve already said about the DNC. The specifics are different, but the broad stroke reality is largely the same. It was an infomercial. It wasn’t representative of reality and I can’t imagine that it will help move the needle of support either way.
I know I’m young, but this has got to be one of the weirdest presidential cycles ever, right? Has the bull shit of both of these parties ever been more transparent? If anything, I’m glad that the game has had no choice but to reveal itself, and it seems like people are starting to get wise to the whole thing. The false dichotomy at play is so gross, but it kind of always has been. It’s just easier to see now. So when do we, as a populace, stop drinking the Kool-Aid? When do we realize that, as it stands now, no matter which of the major party candidates we choose the results are always the same. The end games often are similar.
Yes, we are told to fight one another on social issues, but the fact that year after year things only change incrementally, if at all, and oscillate back and forth. Doesn’t that expose something in and of itself? If actual substantive conclusions were to be found, if hardened laws were to be passed, then why would we need them? What would we vote for one over the other for? I think that the powers that be are aware of this. That’s why we’ve been arguing the merits of the same social policies for the past 50 years. In all that time a consensus has never been found. It’s ridiculous when you think about it, and both parties are to blame. It’s getting worse, too.
It’s so hard to have an honest discussion in this country. It’s either totally good or totally evil. There is no middle ground, which means that there can never be any compromise. The most extreme ideologues have dominated all facets of social policy conversations and no one will give even an inch. As a result, we have had a lot of civil unrest and domestic violence, which causes both sides to run their respective pulpits and blame the other side. It’s a vicious cycle. We’re all “righteous” to one degree or another, and that gets propagated and used against us. We’re all complicit in our own misery, based on being closed minded. It’s all incredibly disheartening how easily we are swayed one way or another and sometimes based on things that aren’t even real.
The choice here is that there is no choice. Trump hasn’t really said anything of substance and has no political record to judge him against. The worst thing I can say about him is that he’s a populist with a questionable temperament. Hilary, on the other hand, isn’t that much different. She’s a populist, for sure. She just attempts to appeal to a different sect. The major difference with her is the fact that she does have a political record to weigh against her, which people that support her seem to want to brush to the side. She’s is one of the most pro-war politicians, republican or democrat, that has existed in quite some time. The evil that she has been directly responsible for wreaking on the world shouldn’t be forgotten just because she says she’s going to help you pay for college.
Given my discontent with the major parties, I’ve been looking into a third party candidate to support. I’m leaning towards Garry Johnson at this point. People say that I’m “throwing away my vote,” and that it’s unpatriotic to vote for a third party. I say those people can go fuck themselves. Voting based on apathy is why we are where we are today. Every four years we’re told “Yeah, you don’t like our candidate, but surely you’d rather vote for this person. At least they won’t bring us back into the dark ages.” The arguments rarely get more nuanced than that, and this cycle is no different. When the best thing a campaign can come up with is “I’m not the other person,” then maybe we should start to worry.