FEB, 2017: I wrote this opinion piece exactly a year ago. It expresses the fears I had then, that were realized during the course of 2016, that Trump would gain the Republican nomination, and (less clearly articulated) that Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders would be stymied in his attempt to shift the Democratic Party to a much needed progressive, more populist position in its campaign for the White House.
If I was going to re-write it today, I’d be worried less about the entitled, privileged few who don’t bother to vote because they find politics unpleasant, and start asking why (as it turned out) 43 percent of registered voters failed to even cast a vote in the US general election in November 2016. I am inclined to hold them more responsible for the result than those who cast a ballot for the Republican nominee. And, as it played out, the ongoing assault on voting rights and REDMAP gerrymandering both had a huge role in the outcome of the election, but those factors are subjects for another piece. Despite the obvious hyperbole, I stand by my conclusion that likens a Trump Presidency to the ending of a Hollywood explosion film. It’s the metaphoric bombs of bad appointments and retrograde policy that Republicans keep dropping which are, sadly, making my apocalyptic vision seem closer to becoming a reality than it should have been. My question about whether reason would hold sway despite an onslaught of selective ‘facts’ and negative campaigning from the right, was answered.
Trump v Sanders: from Feb 2016
“It’s pure entertainment! It’s hilarious!” friends say about the very public battle to choose a Republican Presidential candidate. Yet I can barely muster a smile — to me this ‘sideshow’ is deadly serious. As a green card holder and resident alien of the USA, I cannot legally vote, however I care about this contest as though my life depended on it. I’ve lived here for six years and I love the USA but I haven’t forgotten how much damage can be done by a bad president.
Along with my husband and our then two-year-old son, I emigrated from Australia in 2010, thanks to the green card lottery. We were selling our house at the same time as President Obama was moving into his new (White) house. Now the Obama years are coming to a close, and I’m considering my future here.
Coming from Australia, which has compulsory voting, people who don’t vote are fined, and generally held in low regard. Here in the USA, for those who actually have a choice about whether or not to use their democratic right, it seems to be some warped point of pride for some to withhold their vote — an assertion that their personal distaste for politicians outweighs any duty to their democracy. Opting out of voting strikes me as the most dangerous and self-indulgent choice one could make. I’m similarly baffled at how the process by which the direction of the most powerful nation on earth is decided could be a mere sideshow, or humorous diversion.
I truly care about who is chosen as the Republican candidate, and who becomes the Democratic one; the vision of the country, and the world, that various candidates are proposing is incredibly important, for all of us. Most people can’t just leave if they don’t like the government they (didn’t) vote for.
On a par with this laziness about voting, is the lazy comparison, often made in this primary race, between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who is campaigning to become the Democratic candidate.
As if a man who has devoted his career to self-aggrandizement, largely by putting his name on big things, such as real estate developments, can be compared with a man who has devoted his life to public service.
As if a nihilistic billionaire who lusts for his own daughter, who says things like “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” can be compared with a man who says things like “A job should lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it.”
On the one hand we have man whose way of relating to others is the use of insults, ridicule and bullying and whose public and private conversations are peppered with casual sexism, racism and elitism. On the other hand we have a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who cares about people who don’t look like him, who has a progressive vision for this country and who spends his energy debating the issues, instead of attacking the person presenting them.
Yes, both candidates are from outside of the entrenched party system, yes they are both appealing to those disengaged from the political process, and yes, they are both white males of a certain age. But that’s where it starts and ends.
Sanders doesn’t come from money, or privilege, and lives a frugal life. He’s lived by his values for decades, with an admirable track record of voting, governing and enacting reforms. Sanders pays his taxes.
Trump is made of money, as he frequently crows, and his lifestyle is one of gauche grandiosity and excess.
This is not a reality show; this is reality.
There’s been a lot made of ‘nervous’ Democrats who fear that having Bernie Sanders as the candidate would mean he would be unable to cope with the negativity the Republicans would throw at him, and he’d lose the general election. We should go with Hillary Clinton, they say, because she’s a more realistic option, even if she fails to excite with her bland vision.
There is a section of this country that already blames President Obama for the societal and economic problems that (mostly) Republican leaders and policies have brought about. These voters will continue to believe what they believe, regardless of facts.
Will undecided, independent voters be cowed by the onslaught from the right? Or will reason, and a calm, measured examination of the facts, hold sway?
I wish I could tell you; but I’ve not yet lost faith in the ability of Americans to do what needs to be done at a critical time. Despite so much apathy, suffering and despair across the country, there is also a powerful grassroots awakening, evidenced in the wave of support that Sanders is currently enjoying, and the fact that four million people have individually donated to his campaign. And despite being unable to vote, I am one of those four million.
A Sanders Presidency would look like an Obama Presidency, with a principled, disciplined, intelligent adult in charge of the highest office in the land, but perhaps with less capitulation in the name of bipartisanship and hopefully with more real, lasting, progressive reform.
A Trump Presidency would look like the final 10 minutes of a Hollywood blockbuster film, where the explosions are set to a classical score, and angry, chunky white men in uniforms are helicoptered into and out of the chaos, wreckage and debris.
The Republican party is like an abusive husband. As a country, we have to get away from this toxic relationship, because anyone can tell you that there’s no appeasing a bully — if we give in to them, they have won, and we’ve lost everything that matters in the process.