Today is Election Day. I wrote this yesterday.
While I talk a lot about politics, and while I’ll always take potshots at J.D. Vance, I haven’t talked or written all that much about the election in the past few weeks. Probably because doing so depresses me. Talking about all elections for the past six years has depressed me, even when more races have gone the way I’ve wanted them to than haven’t.
I think this is because I’ve come to look at America differently than I once did. I’m seeing it from a different vantage point. It’s a vantage point from which the broader shape of things seems far more significant than the outcome of any specific race or any trend which holds for a given election cycle.
Despite everything that has happened these past six years — despite Biden’s win in 2020 and tenuous Democratic control of Congress these past two years — the fact remains that millions upon millions of Americans eagerly voted for Donald Trump twice and, as of tomorrow, millions and millions of them will vote in favor of everything he stands for. They’ll do so once again via their votes for Republican candidates who now, as a matter of party discipline and orthodoxy, are committed to the Trumpist agenda. Many of these voters were merely taking a chance or a gamble when they voted for that crap in 2016, but now, after seeing Trump rule for four years and listening to him and his surrogates and disciples talk for two more, millions have decided that, yes, they like it. They like racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and corruption. They believe that the bodily autonomy of women is unimportant and that the rights — indeed, the very humanity — of LGBTQ+ people are meaningless. They have embraced antisemitism. They are hostile to democracy and democratic norms and will do away with or compromise any aspect of those things if and when it suits their interests.
Oh, sure, when such matters are put to specific polling only, say, 25-30% of the country affirmatively supports the full-on fascist agenda that has emerged as the doctrine of the modern Republican party. But the real problem is that another 25-30% of the electorate is totally cool with fascism as long as their taxes and gas prices stay low, the minorities don’t get too uppity, and no one even suggests that they examine their assumptions about people and about America. Maybe we don’t have a fascist majority in this country but it’s absolutely the fact that fascism is not a dealbreaker for a majority of this country as long as that majority can remain comfortable, both materially and psychically.
The coalition of actual fascists and those who are OK with it as long as they experience no personal hardships is a hard one to beat. And even if it can be beaten in a given election, it is one that tends to endure over time. We’ve seen it over and over again in history. More recently we’ve seen poll after poll which, at their essence, ask people “would you prefer a society in which justice and equality for all people is prioritized, or would you like to avoid personal inconvenience and discomfort no matter what?” These polls, at best, land at a 50/50 split. Usually 47-53 in favor of darkness.
So I sit here, a day before the election, and find myself depressed. Depressed despite the fact that, actually, things could go well. Polls contain a lot of noise right before elections and most of the races which will decide how the 2022 election goes are still pretty close. I saw something the other day which showed that, even with fairly small polling errors, which are common, Congress could be in either firm Republican or Democratic control. My pessimism is such that I have a hard time seeing a polling error which ever truly favors Democrats, but I appreciate that there is at least a rational chance of a good outcome tomorrow.
But as I said above, even if that good outcome comes to pass, we’re still in the same larger, overarching predicament. Nothing that can happen tomorrow will cure the rot that has set in. Nothing will stop a large number of people in this country voting for hateful, retrograde people or policies or voting for their petty personal interests that, in the event, serves to enable those hateful, retrograde policies. There is no one in the Republican Party in a position to push back against the fascists in their ranks who, win or lose, will only grow more powerful than they already are and no one in the Democratic Party who seems able or willing to serve as a uniting force in opposition to it all. There is nothing, it seems, that can convince a very large portion of this country to subordinate a scintilla of their creature comforts and personal wellbeing even if it would take only a modicum of sacrifice to improve the lot of the poor, the needy, and the marginalized. A good chunk of Americans are filled with active evil, hate, and greed. A sufficiently greater number are OK with letting them take the wheel and turn a blind eye to the damage they’re doing. They want this. They like this. And even if they claim they don’t, the fact that they actively allow it to happen makes their performative objections meaningless.
For six years I and others have been saying “we’re better than this,” but we’re not better than this. Not collectively anyway. A bare, occasional majority of us may be, but almost half of America — and certainly the part of it with greater wealth, greater power, and greater influence — want what America has become these past six years or, at the very least, are fine with a morally corrupt exchange that enables it. My gut tells me that, as of tomorrow, they’ll get what they want. And that, on the whole, even if a Democrat wins this or that election, they’ll get what they want more often than not for many years to come.