Sunday, November 6
I wrote this on Sunday night. I didn’t post it then because it wasn’t finished and I thought I should reword it so it was kinder. I guess it might as well go up as-is.
It’s early in an unseasonably hot November in the Western United States of America. An election day looms. I find myself, in those moments when I can face the news, somewhere between paralyzed with fear and numb with disgust.
I filled out my ballot a few days back. I voted for a single-payer healthcare system I doubt will pass, and an increase in the minimum wage, and some other things that are fairly important in Colorado. I voted essentially party-line for Democratic candidates for state office, though I am registered as an independent and do not much love the Democratic party itself. In some cases I voted that way because I approve of the candidate, but mostly I just view a Democratic majority as the lesser evil in a system too vast and calcified to admit any choices that reflect my theoretical politics more closely.
I didn’t feel any ambiguity about voting for Hillary Clinton. Not really. One of the first things my culture tried to teach me was that I should hate Hillary Clinton. Later on I came to dislike her politics for reasons pretty well removed from the ones that saturate the discourse of the rural Plains. It doesn’t really matter given the options. She’s an establishment politician with a mixed record, but she’s not observably a fascist.
I have told this story a dozen times by now: The other night we sat at the basement bar of the beer joint a few blocks over and watched the last 6 innings of a game where the Cubs won the World Series. During the commercial breaks there were a lot of campaign ads. No one seemed to pay the official Trump ones much mind, but it was laughs and smiles every time a Clinton ad tried to play up Trump’s vicious idiocy.
“That guy’s funny.”
I got scared then. I thought: Jesus Christ, he might win. I haven’t been able to shake it off. I think it could happen, even if the polling says it probably won’t. This idea might have been funny once. I can’t even remember what I thought when it was still a punchline of a candidacy. It’s not funny any more. A lot of bad things are going to happen. Even if he loses, I suspect that white nationalism has a platform now that isn’t going away any time soon. A certain kind of overt, brainsick hate is blooming out again through the culture. It’s hard to turn a failed campaign into a lasting movement, but it’s not impossible.
The people who like Donald Trump, in large part they like him for things that would make me look for the nearest exit if I encountered them from any random dude in a bar. They like him because he’s a crude racist and violent to women. They like him for acting like a highschool bully and not knowing things. They like him for the reasons I wouldn’t leave anyone vulnerable alone in a room with him.
When I was younger, I came home from college and ruined family get-togethers by being angry about the Iraq War and all the other things that kids like me, fresh out of the sticks and turning into hippies, were angry about then. The Bush years taught people my age so much about how corrupt and destructive a thing American power could be in the world. The decisions of power in those years are still teaching us, come to that. So much of the poison of then is the poison of now, one way or another.
I’m sure I know people who are voting for Donald Trump. Some of them are people I love. Maybe you, reading this, are one of them. It’s hard to know exactly what to do with that. You might be wiser and better than me, in much of life: I’m neither wise nor especially good. But I can tell you this is an ugly thing.