Monday, September 28, 2020

This Is Why We Vote (A Non-Comprehensive List)

Though a stand-alone article, this is the third in a "spiritual succession" of articles.

"But They Won't Care"

Democrats Are Not "Just As Bad"

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I won't reiterate the political situation we're in. It's dire. Even many on the far left, who four years ago insisted they were too pure to vote for a candidate with an imperfect record, who were unwilling to take on their causes (whether or not they were a "third rail" in mainstream politics), who superciliously informed Democrats that they weren't being sufficiently excited by the DNC nominee, who insisted both sides were "really just as bad," who equivocated the harm done to them by all parties of a capitalist government, suddenly have realized how appallingly, ludicrously, order of magnitudinally, they were wrong. Democrats have never been just as bad. However, since 2016 the chasm between them has grown naked and grotesque and more than a little harmful and wildly insulting to continue speaking about as if it doesn't exist.

Now we face down a political landscape of S.C.O.T.U.S. nominations ready to cost millions what little health care coverage the ACA gives them, a slew of LGBTQ+ rights, and probably abortion—if not birth control. The President attempts to secure his own reelection by openly subverting democracy, with foreign actors and his own executive powers, being so naked, transparent and flagrant as to brag to a room of "his people" that his attacks on the post office were to help him win. And leftists must prepare for the very real chance that even speaking their vaunted leftist aims and opinions (which I should be clear that I share, despite my pragmatism) might become criminal offenses. Those "*ahem*" free and fair elections (already in deep jeopardy due to Republican cheats like voter ID laws, registration restrictions, intimidation, claims of fraud, and roll purges as well as gerrymandering and felony disenfranchisement) will be a thing of the past. 

This is exactly, entirely, precisely why you fucking VOTE! 

Even if the nominee isn't exciting. Even if they don't promise you every legislation you wish they would. Even if you don't like them as a person. Even if they're not left enough for you. Even if you wish there were more than two viable parties. Even if they make you feel a little dirty. 

Because it's not just one person you're voting for. It's NEVER just them you're voting for. It’s not just their politics and your protest or purity on the table. It's the shape of every commission they form. It's the philosophy of the entire Cabinet. It's the legislation they'll use their podium to promote or their pen to veto. It's why they declare states of emergency and what they do during them. It's the character of every lifetime appointee they nominate. It's the attorneys general and their prosecutors. It's the heads of agencies they appoint. It's the regulations they gut (or don't). It's the executive orders. It's the way they instruct law enforcement to ignore white supremacy and blame everything on Antifa in a transparent effort to criminalize all those things patronizing leftists assure everyone they ought to be doing "instead of voting" (Why not both?). It's which laws they will enforce and how. It's where there will be overreach and what it will be done to accomplish.

And of course it is the flavor of the judiciary of the highest court. 

There's now a damn fine chance that everything from Roe v. Wade to Obergefell v. Hodges gets overturned and the next THIRTY years of rulings will be so spectacularly pro-business and anti-immigrant/poor/civil rights/body autonomy that we really will be back to fighting for the things we won in the 60s.

It's never just about that one person. Those ripples will echo on for DECADES. Because as true as it might be that a single vote for a single Democrat might not make everything we want better, things can always, always, always get worse. 

And all that is to say nothing of the down-ticket issues and elections.

There are reasons to vote that go well beyond personal distastes and single issues, and some sense of political purity. Personally, I know this falls into a tricky trope this close to the election, but the center is going to vote in droves, and the people that need to hear this are to the left of most mainstream Democrats. So I'm going to say it anyway:

At my absolutely MOST nuanced moments, I hold deeply and powerfully ambivalent feelings about the ticket itself, but frankly, leftists who leave ordinary American working class folks to their fates with no insurance, debilitating tax burdens, a party that openly legislates harm from a position of bigotry, but who then show up for the DNC primaries and expect those same people to rise up and join them in some proletariat uprising or be called "bootlickers" are a little bit revolting. 

This is exactly, entirely, precisely why you fucking VOTE! 

When I started this list, the very first reason was one that no longer applies. I think we were all hoping that we could allow an 87-year-old woman with cancer to retire without losing the next 30 years of Supreme Court rulings. That we forced her to try and grin and bear pancreatic cancer without retiring is bad enough.

Our national federal response to Covid-19 matters. We have, as of this writing, just shy of 210,000 deaths. It didn't have to be this way. In fact most epidemiologists (and the clear example of other countries) show that we could have prevented anywhere between half and 90% of those deaths. But our president covered up what he knew because he was worried about maintaining his personal power after the election. It's more than just that, though. He didn't just leave out the part where he knew what was going on to avoid panic but go on encourage everyone to take precautions. No. He deliberately downplayed it, misled the public, AND PROCEEDED TO THROW HIS HAT IN WITH THE PEOPLE CALLING IT A HOAX.

It's one thing to leave out the part about how bad it is. It's quite another to lend the most powerful podium in the world to the voices of people who are saying things you KNOW are not true. But that's what he did by amplifying anti-shutdown, anti-curve-flattening, and anti-mask behavior. Because the instant politicization of what should have never ever EVER been political by the anti-science, anti-expertise, anti-education, anti-media right wing meant that most people Trump absolutely knew were wrong had a huge overlap with those who loved him. Trump doesn't care if you are spreading a pandemic, are a Nazi, are in a Catholic cult, throw in with people who want to "hunt" half the country, or have no moral compass whatsoever as long as you are loyal. Like The Backstreet Boys, he doesn't care who you are or where you're long as you love him.  

So instead of the return to some tiny semblance of normalcy that we see in so many countries that have been guided by medicine and science in their response, the United States has instead basically decided to live with an entirely preventable 9/11-caliber loss of life twice every week (coming mostly from the most vulnerable populations). Frankly, anyone too good to vote to stop an extension of policies that have killed hundreds of thousands needlessly—because of some idea of a "higher cause"—needs to have their higher cause system recalibrated. 

Because elections have consequences, a single president (who lost the popular vote*) is about to shape a third of S.C.O.T.U.S. for perhaps 30+ years, and he has made being anti-abortion an increasingly important rubric in his decision.

(*Bringing the total number to five—or over HALF the sitting court—who have not been nominated by a president who won a majority of votes. Yay for democracy.)

Now the fight to preserve body autonomy and medical care will reach a fevered pitch. Far from being a single up or down case (as the last forty years of Roe v. Wade challenges illustrate), the moves and countermoves through the honeycombs of federalism will be an ongoing series of battles in which executive allies (and perhaps the next couple of S.C.O.T.U.S. appointments) could make or break the overall war.

Trump supporters are the oozing abscess of white supremacy, hate crimes, literal Nazism, and weaponized bigotry. They have created an uptick in hate crimes. They are showing up to first amendment assemblies with semi-automatic long guns, and are chummy with law enforcement. They are killing people. (A few at a time and in a way that the actions of multiple "lone wolves" can be dismissed, but they are killing people.) These people will not shrug at a single lost election and say, "Welp, we lost the war of ideas. Pack it in, boys." Their infection will remain long after Trump is gone—literally for as long as they experience no real consequences for their perfidious views. 

But the worst of their ACTIONS can be halted. The wound can be stanched. The bleeding can be stopped. The abscess can be drained and bandaged. They can be pressured to settle down instead of blatantly and openly having their violence egged on in Tweet form without consequence by the most powerful person in the country from behind his cloister of political, social, economic, and military power. 

However, this may be our last chance to issue a mandate against the homophobic, xenophobic, racist, transphobic, anti-science, anti-expertise, megalomaniac and his cult army. 

Remember how the concentration camps at the border are absolutely still a thing? The administration backs off every time there's an expose and/or a scandal and then goes right back to it as soon as the news cycle or the attention of activists shift to something else. That situation will only get worse if this administration's policies are given tacit approval. 

Oh hey, I know it's been a minute, but do you also remember the impeachment? Remember how Trump was so spectacularly, breathtakingly, obviously, absurdly guilty that even the best lawyers in the country couldn't come up with anything better for the GOP Senate to say than, "Yeah, he obviously did what he's been accused of and it was TOTALLY illegal, but we're not going to remove him from office because reasons, so let's let the voters decide this election. And with my remaining four minutes, let's talk about this OTHER thing...."

Well, here we are—though it feels like twenty years of Covid ago, this is the election in question. This is the election where, if we don't vote him out, we've essentially said that as long as the party of the President holds 51 seats in Congress, POTUS is above the law. If we give power, or by inaction cede power to someone who flouts the checks and balances of the government (on the rare occasion he even understands them) and demands to be the King of America, we won't get another chance to stop him.

The A.C.A. is not Medicare for All. And health care should be a human right instead of a for-profit industry—a for-profit industry with a spectacularly predatory and exploitive middleman. (For an entire decade I've had to listen to the talking point about government death panels killing grandma, as if no insurance agency ever denied a procedure—or, in fact, denies procedures as a matter of their business model because a certain percentage will give up on the bureaucracy [or die] before filing an appeal.) But if we want to save what little health care millions have (insufficient as it may be), we have to vote in the party who wants to expand Medicare and Medicaid benefits and bolster the reach of the A.C.A. 

And if I'm being totally honest, the leftist tendency to be willing to see millions of people lose access to their healthcare because they can't get the whole MfA in a single election runs a close second on the "Pragmatically-Hugely-Fucked-o-Meter" right under the hundreds of thousands of Coronavirus deaths that are considered less important than "sending a message" to the DNC. (One they've never gotten and never will get from a group as small, capricious, and intentionally uncoupled from mainstream politics as the far left.) 

You know that payroll tax deferment given to people in a laughable moment of pandering?  One party wants to make that permanent and pay for it by terminating Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Do you have any idea how many people's lives become pragmatically, measurably, demonstrably worse if those three social safety nets go away for a payroll tax cut? Tens, maybe HUNDREDS of millions. 

Because our current P.O.T.U.S. has absolutely no concern for how the economy is going other than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which he values to the exclusion of any other bellwether—perhaps because it is a simple concept that up is good and down is bad and doesn't require any further understanding of the subject of economics—we have to vote for the side that has a better sense historically of how to stimulate a robust economy (and has actively pursued more relief funds for people) so that anyone who doesn't own extensive portfolios might actually not be in absolute financial shambles by the end of a pandemic. 

Sadly, when Trump said he would run the country like a business, he meant one of HIS businesses, which have either gone bankrupt (that we already knew about) or done so poorly that he didn't pay taxes in ten years (recently broken by The New York Times). The man couldn't make a casino profitable, and he probably could figure out how to fuck up a machine that just prints out money. And yet his grift fooled the GOP who are now struggling with the sunken cost fallacy in real time. Those of them who are not fully cultish in their insistence that he can do no wrong.

Anthropogenic climate change is the single biggest issue humanity faces. One party isn't doing enough. That is a simple, demonstrable matter of fact. However, the other party still says it's a hoax and does nothing. In fact, they do worse than nothing. They roll back sensible regulations that even the industries tell them not to roll back in a grand gesture of "fuck the environment, fuck any regulations, fuck climate change, and fuck your feelings" to liberals. 

Yeah, the two-party system is balls. These two parties have entrenched themselves and consolidated their power and ensured that no one else can really do anything to stop their dual-hegemony. And that is a tower of bullshit sandwiches being served with cookies and tea. Also, it's all there is. The way to get it to NOT be balls isn't to just keep thinking this time Lucy won't pull the ball away and tossing votes on third-party candidates. (It's to find a candidate that will run on breaking the duopoly and then hold them accountable.) In the meantime, we really only have two choices. And they are nothing alike.

More than that though, a huge contingent of liberals and leftists never vote. 100,000,000 people sat out the 2016 election. Most of them held liberal views. If we would just PARTICIPATE, within just a few years the conversations we have could be about how to institute U.B.I. or what tax structure could pay for universal health care instead of Abortion-Redux and whether or not to just leave the whole country to the tender ministrations of insurance companies. Liberals and leftists could run the table and their biggest arguments would be with each OTHER instead of fascism and cruel libertarianism. 

If votes didn't matter. If they couldn't change real lives in very real ways, the GOP wouldn't be trying so, so, so hard to lie, cheat, and steal the ones from certain people.

Our choice is to not harm, or by inaction allow to be harmed, all the people who will have their lives negatively impacted if we consider ourselves above damage control.

Only one of the two (in any way plausible) choices would consider the diaspora of needs in a pluralistic society over which they govern. Only one would change things if many people demanded it. Would negotiate. Would allow the debate. Would be okay with the Overton window shifting to the left. Would allow liberals to affect him, his platforms, his policies (and has). The other would (and has) shut such conversation down, moved further to the right, surrounded himself with sycophants, and increasingly uses power to "hurt" the half of his own citizens he believes aren't loving him enough. Call in federal armed agents on anyone who complained.

But perhaps the best reason to vote is the most obvious one of all. If we don't stop what's happening right now, we won't get another chance to do so. Not for years. Maybe not in our lifetimes. I want to stress that I already understand the freeness and fairness of our elections are subject to no small amount of cynical laughter.  We've never had truly free or fair elections. We're 25th on the Democracy Index and are rated a "Flawed Democracy." Studies say that no matter what jingoistic pride fills up our chest when we hear the word "democracy,' we are actually an oligarchy.

But what will be left, if Biden doesn't win, will be so so so much worse. Possibly more akin to Russia or South Korea and the dictators that Trump openly praises. We will slide down the chart and be rated "Authoritarian." And you don't get authoritarian despots for one election, and then it's back to normal. Once someone with authoritarian power has a way to make their opposition a criminal act, imprison their political opponents at a whim, and rule rather than govern a pluralistic society, that's the ball game. No more democracy, no matter how "flawed." No more fixing things from within. No more legal recourse when shit goes pear-shaped. No more civil liberties and rights. One by one they'll all be plucked away because the Constitution isn't a document that transforms into a 60-foot-tall armored mecha with particle projection cannons if it senses it is being violated. 

Our president openly and actively subverts democracy. He pushes oft-debunked narratives of fraud to disenfranchise people. He preps his stochastic terrorists to intimidate voters and violently maintain his hold on power. He makes jokes about a third term that are getting more and more serious (in exactly the same way his other "jokes" got serious right before they came to pass). He treats his political opposition as enemies to be imprisoned. He treats the government as an extension of his personal power. He openly admits that he will not commit to a peaceful transition, regardless of the election's outcome. 

It matters. It matters to so many things and in so many ways. It will matter if we give away our power on a protest that will never be noticed. It will matter if we cede that power through our inaction. It will matter to millions—to their lives, livelihoods, health, civil liberties, civil rights, and democratic voice for decades to come.

This is why we vote.

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