Congratulations President Biden. Forgive Me If I Don't Celebrate
Well, it has been a wild couple of months. The headlines have read like an apocalyptic three-ring circus complete with clowns and a dancing bear that gets loose and savages the crowd. All in all, it was Trump doing the one thing that he's really good at, making the world focus on him and nothing but him. And doing it, as he likes to advertise, he did everything, biglier and greatest!
Last night, I watched the coverage of the ceremony honoring the death of the now 400,000 people due to the pandemic. The most common sentiment uttered was how refreshing it was to hear an American president express actual emotion and empathy for the human tragedy unfolding before us. They remarked how touching it was to see the president do something not completely focused on himself.
I imagined getting a new job in a bakery or something. Let's say bakery because it is breakfast time. It's like starting the job and having customers express gleeful admiration about the fact that he uses actual flour to make the muffins instead of live fucking spiders. I imagine having that job and thinking, "Wow, I'm doing literally the minimum requirements of the job. The previous guy they had must have been really, really bad.
As I write this sentence, it is three hours until noon, January 20th. And I feel a collective sigh from the American people.
Let's be clear. Trump was an abomination. He is the worst impulses of, not only this nation, but humankind in general wrapped in a suit and spray tan. For the last four years, I watched with the majority of Americans and wondered how in the hell that other people, some of are intelligent people that I love and respect, could have been taken in so completely and utterly by an obvious con-man.
And those people found me equally incomprehensible. I could see it in their confused stares as I ranted about the flagrant anti-intellectualism of his administration to say nothing of the trolling and abject cruelty. They lived, for all intents and purposes, in a completely different reality. One where a brave and honorable president —the first one in years if not decades— found himself besieged on all sides by a shadowy cabal committed to keeping him and, by extension, his people from ever having a say in how this country is run. They saw a man fighting for their values against —in many cases— the literal forces of evil.
And in that moment of realization, one realizes that Trump was just a symptom. An insect like him could never have burrowed its way into the structure of democracy unless it was already rotting from the inside. In this case, the division of media for profit was his greatest asset. He needed Fox News and the more extreme spin-offs to follow to gorge his followers on exactly what they wanted to hear to get away with what he did.
Maybe the saddest thing I ever had to witness during these four years is former pillars of truth in American society, the New York Times, Washinton Post, and, yes, to a lesser extent CNN, would be screaming about the extraordinary lies coming out of this man's face. They would be firing off fact-checking pieces like bullets from a gun only to disappear into the blob of lies surrounding this president.
The truth is they long since sold their credibility to the highest bidder. And they seemed to realize it as well. It felt like watching a football team that was 100 points behind going into the fourth quarter make a 1st down. I mean... yay... good for them.
I could rant for hours and hours about the sickening decay of American society that allowed this orange slug to get away with the greatest con in modern history, but I won't because it's two hours until noon. This nightmare is officially over. And a new one begins.
One of my worst fears is about to come true. In some ways, even worse than the most egregious abuses of the Trump presidency. I fear that, after four years of chaos, cruelty, and turmoil —and especially two months where all those have been turned to 11— that people will welcome back the status quo. I fear they have forgotten just how bad things had to get for the people to even consider electing Trump to begin with.
As I said in this post, I voted for Joe Biden. Not because I thought he was specifically qualified, he's not. I don't think he will be bad, but he is just another corporate-controlled puppet in a long line of corporate-controlled puppets who have crafted a government the fundamentally does not serve its people.
There's a reason we got Trump. He was, at his core, a kind of electoral temper tantrum. A kind of reminder to the political class that the people still have some power, and we can and will use that.
I just wish that we hadn't used it to put a complete and utter psychopath in the White House; a man so base and disgusting he made the people long for the likes of George W. Bush.
The last time I voted for a Democrat was for President Obama in 2008. I admit, the message of 'Hope and Change' resonated with me at the time. 'Change' was the word of the day back then. The American people watched in horror as Wall Street plundered our economy and ran away without a single consequence. We watched politicians rushed to the podium to declare they were 'Shocked! Just Shocked! That the laws the banks paid to have enacted would be abused so thoroughly.
We were pissed. And both sides, Obama and McCain, both promised change. I respected both men at the time, but the beginning of the anti-science rhetoric was beginning to make itself known among the Republican party.
So I voted for Obama and waited for the new era in American politics that was promised to begin.
On one hand, I shake my head at the stunning naivete of that young man. On the other, I wonder why it is so naive to expect, in what is supposed to be a democracy, that the people get what they were promised.
I hate the lionization of Obama that I've watched over the past four years. Yes, he was an eloquent speaker. Yes, he radiated empathy and concern for his fellow Americans. He also prosecuted whistleblowers to an extent never before seen by any president, including Nixon, actually protected the Wall Street donors they promised to regulate and prosecuted journalists under the Espionage Act, a law so blatantly unconstitutional that it has only really been used by the most infamous names in American history. Names like Nixon, McCarthy, Hoover, and... yeah, Obama. Journalists have been charged under the espionage act 11 times since it was signed into law. Seven of those happened under Obama's watch.
He was not a good president. And the Democrats have no answer for any of that other than to shuffle their feet and mumble something about.. but... but Trump.
Yeah, Trump is bad. I don't think I left any feelings of ambiguity on the table. But let's not pretend we came out of some fantasy golden age right before the entire nation lost its mind and voted for Trump.
Yeah, he was better. He was also just another name in the long list of presidents that history will see as contributing to the eventual crises we find ourselves in now.
That's the status quo we are returning to. You'll have to excuse me if I take the promises of the incoming Biden administration with an entire mountain of salt.
It's now one hour until noon. I should probably end with a little bit of hope.
Over ten years ago, change was the Word. Today it is Unity. We all understand the problem. About 30% of Americans despise and actively want to hurt the other 30% and vice versa. And in the middle, there's 40% who just want to go about their day without stumbling into a shouting match or worse.
I started this piece back in November after the election. A few things kept me from finishing it until just now. First was the absolutely furious pace of the events that followed. It's hard to reflect on a moment in time when it is very much actively in progress.
And the other is the fact that the return to the status quo does nothing to alleviate the anger that got Trump elected in the first place. And if the best we could get is another corporate puppet that, once again, gives way to a Trumpist authoritarian, then why even bother writing about it? Why bother spending valuable time that could be applied to other projects.
So it took a while, but I see a couple of bright spots.
First is the realization that it doesn't matter.
Myself and others that have been arguing for fundamental reform of the system grudgingly voted for Biden as part of a fairly basic contract. Biden, the argument went, was so inoffensive and milquetoast that the seething mass of Republican voters that were disgusted and disenfranchised by the ignorance and cruelty of the Trumpist Republicans would hold their nose and vote for Biden.
So I held up my end of the bargain. But we didn't get a massive refutation of Trumpism. I'm sure there were defections, but it didn't seem to matter. Americans voted en masse for more of the chaos, incompetence, and cruelty more than did four years ago. The right-wing media painted Biden as a dangerous, crazy socialist that was going to single-handedly destroy America.
Biden won, not because of the gross incompetence and idiocy of the last administration, but because more people voted this time.
So the Democrats failed to deliver their end of the bargain. Which says to me that the next time they try to serve up another corporate shit sandwich, we don't have to bite.
We can elect leaders who promise real fundamental reform. And, furthermore, we could conceivable elect leaders that could make it happen. We don't have to buy into the doom and gloom of the corporate-owned democratic party any longer. We see how that works out now.
Here's the second bit of hope: Unity is the word today. How do we bring Americans together? I would argue that Biden has to reform the government so that it serves the people.
And there's a simple way to do that. It has bipartisan support. Biden states on his website that he supports campaign finance reform, including the public financing of elections. You could get Republicans on board with this. You could get Trumpists on board.
Remove the corrupting effect of money in politics, and the people can once again have a real voice in American politics regardless of the size of their bank accounts.
Then, and only then, can we have democracy. And that is the only thing I believe can heal a divided nation. Short of that, we are just sailing toward bigger icebergs.
It is now 12:00 noon on January 20th. Congratulations, President Biden.
There's a saying that goes something like this, "Great hardship produces great leadership." Well, the hardship is here. I'm not seeing anything resembling great leadership ahead.
But, you know, I have been proven wrong before. I hope I am now.