The view from the brink (or: on the Electoral College)

18 Dec

I have been struggling with writer’s block for quite some time, so it may not be surprising I’ve not had much to say recently. That said, I think the recent version is something a bit different: I keep feeling like I need to say something about politics (what I have called and will continue to call the US national disaster) but can’t get through the shock and horror and disbelief well enough to actually say something coherent. Lots of people have already been saying the things I want to say better than I could say them, which doesn’t help either (I’m not sure if anyone has noticed my continued linkspam in the comments over here but that’s the best I’ve been able to manage thus far).

At the same time, I haven’t been able to look away. I keep reading news stories in horror as they come out. It certainly isn’t good for my mental health, but I can’t stop doing it, and at the same time I can’t imagine it would be better to stop paying attention and bury my head in the sand. I’ve been wrestling with that since 11/9, as I’d been fully expecting the horrorshow to be over (or at least to change forms; I’ve said before that prior to the election I’d naively thought the worst case scenarios involved disappointed deplorables lashing out). (As an aside, I do love that people are referring to this as 11/9; while slower acting, I really do think this is a catastrophe of similar scale to 9/11.)

I can pretty safely say that I do not think I have ever felt such hatred and contempt for anyone as I do now for Donald Trump, his stooges, and the Republican party for abetting them. These people are fucking terrifying. These feelings make me very uncomfortable, but I think in the end they are rational feelings to have, and they’ve more than earned it by this point.

I should say again that while I currently exist in a constant state of anxiety and terror, it’s not really for myself; it may be my depression talking, but I honestly don’t particularly care what happens to me (and at the same time, I belong to enough privileged demographics that the worst consequences aren’t going to fall on me; a lot of my fear is fear for what is going to happen to other people and groups of people). This is bigger than any one person. Rather, I’m concerned about the drastic consequences that will inevitably ensue from having such an incompetent, foolish, narcissistic arsehole in power and from the destructive cabinet appointments he is making. And that’s even disregarding the Russian interference, and the Trump campaign’s possibly-treasonous collusion with it; between this emboldening of Russia and what is looking something like a resumption of the Cold War, and Trump’s irresponsible actions with respect to China and the Middle East, I am beginning to seriously think this might be leading up to a World War Three. The odds of humanity surviving such an event do not seem favourable.

In a time where everyone should be seriously concerned with trying to curtail climate change in any way possible (if it is not already too late) instead Trump and stooges seem to be threatening to remove anyone who agrees with the scientific consensus from their positions in the EPA, promoting climate-change deniers and oil executives to high positions and encouraging more environmentally destructive drilling and reliance on fossil fuels. There are multiple ways in which the worldwide consequences of a Trump presidency might be irrecoverable. This is not histrionics; it is brute fact. We cannot afford to play games.

And that is disregarding the smaller effects that a Trump (and Pence) administration will have on the everyday lives of people, especially people with marginalised identities. I am not the biggest fan of ‘Obamacare’, but it is undeniable that many people will suffer and die if it is repealed.

To frame things a bit flippantly: I do not ever want to see another fiction story about time-travellers trying to prevent the rise of Hitler, when people in our time couldn’t even do anything to prevent Trump and at best looked the other way while it happened. Let’s note the parallels in how journalists downplayed that threat too. While I don’t want to make excuses for ignorance, in the case of Hitler it could at least be argued that such a thing had not happened before; today we have the benefit of history, the benefit of hindsight, and the parallels are all too obvious. Americans like to think that our national ideals and supposed values make us immune to facism, but it has become all too clear over the past two years that if anything it makes us more vulnerable, because that very tendency to think ourselves immune caused us to stop looking for the warning signs. We elected (for some definition of that word at least) a candidate whose only noteworthy newspaper endorsement came from the Ku Klux Klan. We cannot afford to minimise that either.

I could go on. I could try to list off every single thing Trump, his children (who thanks to nepotism and corruption will have outsized influence in his administration), and his cabinet appointees have said which makes it utterly obvious what a disaster they will be for America and the world, but if you are reading this post you probably already know.

The Electoral College meet tomorrow to cast their votes. This may well be the last opportunity we have as a nation to legally put the brakes on this tragedy, though I’m afraid I don’t think the odds of the electors miraculously opting to spare us are very high. Nevertheless, I can’t help hoping they will do something (even without the intelligence briefing they’ve requested and been denied). It’s unfortunate that many of them have received harassment and threats (and from both sides of the issue; so much for the moral high ground. I really do not envy the electors their position, as they may well feel unsafe no matter what they do), but I hope some of them will find their consciences in spite of that. It may sound melodramatic, but our future really is in their hands right now. If I were a praying person (or even thought there were the slightest possibility of benevolent supernatural entities), I would fucking pray. But that won’t help us, so instead let us pray to the potential better nature of the electors.

I should add, because I’ve just been reminded: this is not about “poor sportsmanship” and Democrats being “sore losers”. This is not about “sour grapes”. Donald Trump is the single most unqualified person ever “elected” to the presidency (in point of fact negatively qualified, nearly everything about him should have been disqualifying), and beyond that the election was “won” by suspiciously slim margins in a few “swing states” while having the largest gap between popular and (projected) electoral vote we have ever had. When we consider this is also in the context of interference by a hostile foreign power (via propaganda there is no doubt; whether voting machines and vote counts were actually meddled with seems an open question but is unproven at best), it becomes even more troubling (and I find it troubling even to discuss), because so much of this sounds like conspiracist nonsense. I should like to think that Democrats would be equally troubled if it was our own favoured candidate who “won” an election under such circumstances (I am not sure this is true, sadly, but at the very least I think they/we would be more troubled than the gloating deplorable Republican “sore winners”). This is about an international crisis and preventing catastrophe. Don’t be blindsided by accusations of partisanship. This is a crisis that should transcend party affiliation.

Honestly, we don’t even know how long it will take us to find out if they’ve done anything, and I suspect that will cause a great deal of anxiety for quite some time.

I don’t expect it to accomplish much, but there will be protests outside every state capitol tomorrow and I will be participating. It took me a long time to make up my mind, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t go; I’m not at all optimistic that it will make a difference (especially in Pennsylvania) but I feel like I have to do something more than just signing petitions…

I don’t know that I’ve made any coherent point here, but I’ve been quiet for too long and I needed to say something.


Posted by on December 18, 2016 in mitchell


Tags: , , , , ,

11 responses to “The view from the brink (or: on the Electoral College)

  1. mcbender

    December 20, 2016 at 12:06 am

    We fought. We lost. We’re fucked.

    Not that I was expecting much else, but it’s depressing nonetheless. It was still worth doing and I’m glad I was there.

  2. Derived Absurdity

    December 20, 2016 at 2:03 am

    Well, there’s always impeachment.

    And failing that, there’s… well… you know…

    I mean, as a last resort…

    • janach

      December 20, 2016 at 2:51 am

      That “last resort” needs to be done by a specific sort of person: a white male whose parents and grandparents were born in the US; whose name is something like “Smith” or “Johnson” or “Parker”; who has a wife or girlfriend; who comes from the South, the Midwest, or the Intermountain West (but not Utah); and who does it because Jesus told him to.

      Obviously it’s won’t be me.

      • mcbender

        December 20, 2016 at 3:35 am

        Sadly, that thought has crossed my mind too. I feel guilty hoping someone might do it, because I don’t like being the sort of person that thinks like that, but on some level it does seem like the best possible outcome now. At the same time, while it might be an improvement, I don’t even think it would be much of one: there’s still Pence (who at times I wonder if they chose as impeachment/assassination insurance, that’s how vile he is) and every last goddamn one of Trump’s cabinet picks (tell us again how you’re going to “drain the swamp”, you douchetastic swine).

        …I’m scaring myself talking about this.

  3. mcbender

    December 20, 2016 at 3:47 am

    A couple of quick addenda and links:

    This one has a good rundown of what actually happened, in the electoral votes. There were some surprising anomalies, not all good, and certainly not enough to make much of a difference (except, maybe, increasing the likelihood people will press for electoral reform now?).

    I’m seriously disappointed and furious with the Democratic electors who wrote in bloody BERNIE, and not much happier about the ones in Washington who wrote in Colin Powell and Faith Spotted Eagle. I know there was some talk of a group calling themselves “Hamilton Electors” (I know I saw this at Daily Kos, I’m not sure if it went beyond there) who were agitating for a bipartisan compromise candidate, suggesting Clinton electors change their vote to some “moderate” Republican in the hope of sending the election to the House (who would have had to choose between the top three). I thought this was even more of a long shot, to be honest, but after seeing the actual result I also have to wonder if they were just looking for excuses to feel better about voting “anyone but Clinton”. If so, they can go fuck themselves. If not, well, it’s perhaps revealing to see just how far that plan got them: nothing but embarrassment.

    And after all the talk of Republican electors possibly finding a conscience, only two in Texas followed through. (Which, in fairness, is I suppose a possible improvement; as far as I know, only one had come out publicly saying he refused to vote Trump previously.)

    This was a decent article about the protest itself, and the larger context:

  4. Derived Absurdity

    December 20, 2016 at 3:59 am

    That thought has crossed my mind since the first month he started campaigning, and I don’t know why anyone would feel guilty about it. When fascism rears its head, you’re supposed to eliminate it, not debate it. That’s what history says.

    I would never do it because I personally can’t stomach violence, even for good causes, but I would fully support someone who would. Fascists aren’t human; they’re monsters who need to be ended before they can cause harm.

    Unfortunately, it’s probably too late now, and even if it wasn’t, he would be replaced by someone worse. Right now Trump is, horrifically, our best option; he’s a monster, but Pence is Lucifer wearing a human suit.

    There is really no potential ray of hope here.

  5. mcbender

    December 20, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    This is a message to the drive-by troll commenting here to gloat under the name “Make America Great Again”: fuck you. You are not welcome in my space and I will not be hosting your content-free, spiteful gloating.

    That said, I would like to take the opportunity to offer a challenge to any such people (I know you’re too thin-skinned to go away). If you can explain to me, in plain terms. what “make America great again” actually means, I would commend you for being the first person to actually do so. Convince me it’s not just a hollow bullshit slogan meant to appeal to the unthinking jingoistic nationalism that masquerades as patriotism on the far right. Convince me it means something other than “make the white man ascendant again”, convince me it isn’t just a cry for white supremacist patriarchal dominance. Convince me you fuckers actually have something substantive to say, and I might be willing to engage with you.

    Otherwise, in the spirit of cordiality, I refer you to the reply given in Arkell v. Pressdram.

    • Isa

      January 10, 2017 at 5:24 am

      I have a devoted Trump fan in my family, so have had extended conversations on that. For them, it meant about providing decent opportunities (rather than wage slave service jobs) to people who frankly aren’t bright enough to make it in an information economy, and especially without requiring crushing student loan debt that can never be paid of with aforementioned wage slave jobs. Now of course the president cannot effect any of these changes, so I think the slogan doesn’t in the end mean much, and people read into it whatever they want.

      Now, “America First”? That is either completely ignorant or racist. I suspect both.

      • janach

        January 11, 2017 at 2:23 am

        “America First” is nationalist or tribalist, but not necessarily racist. There are many forms of bigotry. Racism is a specific kind; the term should not be used as a general stand-in for all of them.

      • mcbender

        January 11, 2017 at 7:48 pm

        I think nationalism is tied to racism/ethnic bigotry but they aren’t precisely identical, yeah.

        That said, I suppose I can see your relative’s interpretation being what people were getting out of it. The only other thing I’ve seen people come up with is that they think Trump meant it militarily, as in “make America (militarily) great again” given the reckless jingoistic rhetoric he kept coming out with, which is particularly troubling in the context of his love affair with nuclear weapons and his complete lack of understanding of anything to do with them.

        I don’t know. Everything to do with Trump is terrifying.

        I have Trump voters in my family too, including people I really thought knew better. I don’t think any of them were enthusiastic supporters, nor did any of them spout MAGA etc; what it came down to with them was some combination of believing Republican propaganda about Clinton, even down to that bloody Comey letter, Republican loyalism (because politics is like sports teams, naturally, facepalm), and concern about taxes (which is again a whole lot of Republican propaganda). A lot of these misconceptions are so thoroughly ingrained in the public consciousness now that I don’t know how best to fight them. Congratulations to Fox News and all the rest of the reactionary disinformation purveyors, I guess, and the mainstream media outlets’ inability or unwillingness to counteract them. The blame for all the fallout of this election should be placed squarely on their shoulders.

      • Isa

        January 12, 2017 at 8:44 am

        Ah, “America First” was the Nazi party’s slogan in the US in the 30’s. So the resonance was quite strong for me, and 100% not in a good way.

        Chauvanism (in the French sense) is rather necessary to a country, as why else ought you defend it, work for it etc. without an overlying sense of national purpose. It doesn’t necessarily have racist overtones, but it can easily be coopted. See Le Penn.

        I had the luck to spend the election surrounded by people of interesting visa status, and I am still trying to allay their fears, as Trump in the past hasn’t cared one whit about using workers without papers or marrying women in similar situations. I can only hope his past behavior is a better predictor than the current rhetoric.

        As for the family member, she attended rallies, bought all the books, had cnn/fox/msnbc on at all hours, AND had yard signs, although thankfully relagated to the garage. Most others though were quite unenthusiastic about either candidate, so it came down to a pet policy supported by one party or the other. The decisive factor for many in the Trump or 3rd party direction was the leaked DNC emails about Sanders and the casual racism, sexism, and anti Catholic rhetoric inside them, depending on the voter of course.

        I firmly blame the media for the whole mess as well, all outlets and channels, liberal or conservative. If anyone would bother to pay for and do independent, investigative reporting (see Theranos), we could have an informed populace. Instead it is lurid, populist garbage intent on ginning up fear and hysteria. They also gave a huge platform, for free, to the Cheetos God. Helps the ratings you know! Shareholders are just so happy! And now they can cover all the protests and unhappy people! Win win win!!!!


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