Well, here we are, friends. The lines are drawn and the contestants are ready. The Democrats and Republicans have chosen their champions.
In the right corner, wearing all the trappings of a tin-pot dictator, is Donald Trump — a seemingly ill-informed, apparently dim-witted man who has somehow convinced enough Republicans he is both a billionaire and a good choice for the presidency. And in the right corner, coming off a victorious and brutal hippie-punching tour at her party’s national convention, is Hillary Clinton. There is no one in the left corner in this election, nor has there been for years now.
Yes, all that’s left now is the tedious spectacle of rallies and debates leading up to November. Then we’ll learn (if we can manage to avoid any repeats of the 2000 election fiasco) which one of these thoroughly unlikable people will, ahem, lead our country for the next four years. Pardon me if I don’t seem thrilled.
There’s really no way to get around the fact that the Democratic Party is now the conservative party in America. Sure, Democrats embrace — if perhaps still somewhat hesitantly — most of the disadvantaged groups in the country, but they are also a party determined not to move forward in any sense of the word. On the other hand, the GOP is now openly celebrating a perverse and dangerous form of authoritarianism that is, to put it mildly, disturbing. In the end, it’s frustrating that the GOP managed to find a candidate so reprehensible that Clinton looks far and away like the better choice.
It’s doubly frustrating because, while it is momentous that a woman is the nominee for the Democratic Party, that woman happens to be Hillary Clinton. To anyone suggesting I should celebrate her nomination, please allow me to ask how loudly they cheered about the selection of Sarah Palin for VP in 2008.
If you read this column regularly, you’ll know that I’m in that group of people, somewhere between 30 and 45 percent of the voting age population, that doesn’t vote in national elections. We’re the apathetic, the lazy, the good-for-nothings. Maybe we’re just picky. I could try to pawn off my choice to not vote as some play toward total journalistic objectivity, but that would be just as much garbage as the idea of journalistic objectivity in the first place.
There are reasons I don’t vote and they mainly have to do with my memories of the Clintons in the ’90s. During that first term, it was confusing to see a Democrat who, frankly, looked and sounded like a Republican, fumble her way through healthcare reform, yet speak so forcefully about law and order and crime and punishment. It was disenchanting.
But maybe I should actually thank the Clintons for being so disenchanting. In 1992, I felt cheated because I was too young to vote for Clinton, who had come to save us from 12 years of Reagan/Bush. By 1996, I was writing in the name of the Socialist Party candidate and likely spoiling my ballot entirely. By 2000, watching Bush and Gore mouth virtually the same platitudes on many issues, I began to feel that the whole thing was a huge charade.
If I’ve come around since then, it’s been in my growing belief that it is ongoing movements of people working every single day who effect real change in this country. If you don’t believe me, look at one of the most active movements of the last decade: the Tea Party and its assorted right-wing elements.
While liberals were busy overemphasizing national politics and making sure they were placating those left inside the Democratic Party, the reactionary right was organizing and overthrowing local GOP officials. They installed themselves in local and state governments in droves. And they’ve largely been successful at enacting some of the most draconian, mean, and spiteful laws aimed at knocking down what they see as threats to America. Now the GOP has nominated a man for whom it frankly isn’t much of a stretch to call a fascist.
We can hate what the GOP did, but we should learn how they did it. So, no, I might not vote this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a voice and it doesn’t mean I won’t find other ways to participate. Regardless of who wins in November, the important thing — especially for all those of you who now feel slightly burned by Bernie — is to take those feelings you had in the last year, mobilize them, and focus on your neighborhoods and towns and states.
That would be a revolution, folks. It’s not just going into a polling place and legitimizing a system that’s brought us the two least-liked presidential candidates in history. It’s not just something you do on Election Day, but every day.
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