Tiring–Bittersweet, 2016

July 23, 2016

This election’s been exhausting. I quickly became obvious this year wouldn’t be hilarious like the last few. It’s just been bothersome, really. I’ve been trying to ignore it.

I figured from the get-go that Hillary would be the Democratic nominee and Rubio the Republican, an empty-suit rubber stamp Democrat versus an empty-suit Republican Obama.

What initially exhausted me wasn’t the initial vulgarities of the Republican field. I understood that. There were a bunch of people running and they all needed to stand out. The Republican party’s been a party of convenience for a while now, between free marketers, limited governmenters, and evangelicals, so any candidate would need to combine those factors while also harnessing Tea Party angst.

What really began to exhaust me was the Democratic campaign, particularly that surrounding Sanders, and not all of it the Sanders camp’s fault. The social media Bern-outs trying to learn the difference between social democracy, democratic socialism, socialism, and communism, like an American trying to learn the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, so they could explain it to others while saying “Social Security and libraries are socialist programs and don’t you like those programs,” were annoying but easily ignored. If only they realized their overly broad definition of socialism includes the concept of a common-stock corporation, used by Dow Chemical, Monsanto, ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, or whichever corporation is the liberal boogeyman of the month, or that there’s no difference between a group of people acting politically as individuals or through a singular corporate entity, be it a union or super PAC.

What really got tiring was the falling in line behind Hillary and the manufactured victimization of Hillary supporters by evil misogynist Sanders strawmen. I try not to follow popular news media, all of which is crap, but I felt Democratic media personalities across the board were all being dishonest.

For example, Robert Reich somehow became a standard bearer of the Sanders campaign. You would think that, of anyone, an economics guy would recognize Sanders’ financial illiteracy. I couldn’t help but think, ultimately, Reich was just marketing himself to a new audience he could sell books to, his website covered in book covers and buy-now buttons, Sanders supporters constantly buzzing about his film.

There’s a reason Sanders is the poorest member of Congress. There’s a reason he, despite his high pay, has a bunch of credit card debt. There’s a reason he and his wife both drained the treasuries of their former jobs. Sanders doesn’t understand money. But at least he realized he would need to increase taxes on everyone across the board to do what he wanted, instead of just campaigning off promises of free soda and pizza like most candidates. I respect Sanders, despite his financial illiteracy, because he was one of the few running whose beliefs felt genuine, even if he was a one-trick pony. But his misunderstandings about money don’t really matter. The President gives a budget to Congress, then Congress adds or removes and ratifies whatever they want, which the President then signs or vetos. Check, balance, check.

On the other side you had people like Paul Krugman just fall in line behind Hillary without much stated reasoning. His blog just became a vehicle to belittle those who didn’t support Hillary. I guess that plays into the joke “friends don’t let friends read Krugman.” Hillary launched and gained instant support both among her party and among liberal media personalities without laying forth any stances, unlike Sanders, O’Malley, Chafee, Lessig, or literally anyone else in the Democratic line up. She only started outlining positions when she needed to demonstrate to Sanders supporters she agreed with some of his positions, using the public’s reaction to other candidates’ stances like a focus group.

Now that it’s obvious the choices are Hillary or Trump, all the folks I know who never talk politics are chiming in. A lot of it pro-Hillary smugness, or fawning over something she said in some speech, or now the personal background of her running mate and his wife. I find it repulsive. I’ll freely admit I don’t like Hillary. All I see are her continued embellishments of the truth, from Bosnia to today, her flipping of convictions over the years to whatever’s most politically expedient, not based off new information, the cattle futures trading debacle from forever ago, the questionable financing practices of her family foundation, her anti-Wall Street façade while her daughter worked at both a consultancy and hedge fund while her son-in-law worked at Goldman Sachs, a leveraged buyout firm, and now runs a hedge fund. You aren’t supposed to know those things, though, I guess. And now from this election cycle, add in the embarrassing youth pandering, “express your student debt in three emojis,” “twelve ways Hillary is just like your abuela,” “I carry hot sauce in my bag,” “Chillary,” and so on, and the snuggling up with the fraud Elizabeth Holmes at Theranos for party fundraising.

I didn’t dislike Bill Clinton. I generally agree with Third Way policies. I dislike his wife’s approach to politics, though. And I’m happy Obama stood in the way of our Presidential line-up becoming Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton in 2008, like Russia and its Putin, Medvedev, Putin, or the Soviet Union in its hair, bald, hair cycles. Hillary is little different from O’Malley. They’re both story candidates. The truth doesn’t matter, just the current retelling of their story.

I take some perverse joy in how much this cycle’s damaged the two major parties. The Republican party’s establishment candidates were all destroyed by a Tea Party candidate created in the fires they stoked after Obama’s inauguration, while Occupy Wall Street voters and a new generation of Democratic voters rallying behind Sanders were themselves both alienated by the most transparent rubber-stamp non-nomination I’ve seen in my short time on this Earth.

I understand why the Democratic party rallied behind Hillary. Sanders was not a Democrat and only ran on the ticket so he’d appear on the ballot in states where only major-party candidates are allowed. Other candidates like Webb and Chafee were Republicans until recently. People like Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg didn’t want to run against Hillary because they knew how it was going to go. Hillary’s husband was a former President, had major in-roads with the party, and probably gave a few of them their jobs. Still, why even waste everyone’s limited time, energy, and attention on this Earth by running a for-show nomination with the only possible result being Hillary. Formalities and image, I guess. What definitely doesn’t help the party’s image is the email leak, the firing of Debbie Wasserman Schultz over the lack of impartiality in the nominating process, and the subsequent and immediate rehiring of Schultz by Hillary’s campaign minutes later. It’s not like Sanders supporters can objectively claim Hillary stole the election. The populists didn’t even win the popular vote. But maybe that would have been different, or the current protesting lessened, if the Democratic establishment didn’t fall so transparently in line behind the establishment candidate, and then have their plausible deniability disappear when their private communications were exposed.

On the other side of the aisle, I love the mental rigmarole Republican die-hards are going through to justify voting for Trump. I can see it not just in the media I unfortunately come across but also in the people I know. Most everyone I knew disliked Trump and preferred literally everyone else: Paul the free market choice, Rubio the establishment choice, Kasich the establishment evangelical choice, Carson the evangelical choice, even Johnson the former Republican running Libertarian free market plus weed choice. A number of the establishmentarians didn’t like Trump solely because he was previously a Democrat that supported Democrats. Politics is a team sport after all.

Trump is an exaggerating, vain, thin-skinned narcissist with no policies, and more and more each day I think he will win the Presidency. Trump excites people. Hillary does not. The Democratic media and commentariat’s pitch is a guilt-trip vote against Trump. A number of the Hispanics Hillary’s banking on were grossly put off by her pandering during the Nevada leg of the campaign. And what continues to surprise many Democrats I know is that many legal immigrants support stronger illegal immigration controls, something Trump talks about, with many Hispanic and Middle Eastern immigrants in particular registered and voting as Republicans, assuming Trump didn’t alienate too many with his continuously racist rhetoric.

The Republican base will vote for Trump to vote against Hillary, with the establishment rallying behind Trump due to the team-sport nature of their political game. The Tea Partiers will vote for Trump because he’s one of them. The Rust Belt, Trump’s current campaign focus, might just vote for him since he’s painting himself a protectionist. Run the electoral math, and the South, Midwest, and Rust Belt are all he needs.

What’s the Democratic strategy? To convince people Hillary’s saner than Trump, and that she will continue the course set by Obama, unlike Trump. Everyone at this point knows everything about Trump. Everyone knows. It’s like cigarettes or junk food. Everyone knows they’re bad for your health, but who cares. What’s freedom if not the freedom to fail, the freedom to be self destructive, the freedom to make poor decisions. People have known Hillary for decades, too. And I imagine the angling to continue Obama’s policies won’t help her much among people who have had their disposable income reduced by being required to buy overpriced health insurance or face penalty taxes, insurance that still requires them to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket before coverage kicks in, should they actually need to use it. Health insurance has been the largest growing familial expense since the passing of the Affordable Care Act. And all this Democratic urgency for Sanders’ supporters to rally behind the nominee is hilarious given Hillary’s supporters in 2008’s unwillingness to rally behind the nominee.

Flyover States didn’t recover from the recession like the coastal states did. Each day they’re left further behind. Each day liberal activists tell them their suffering doesn’t matter because it’s not as old as the suffering of other demographics. Each day popular conservative media fans and milks their biases for advertising revenue. Each day their best and brightest find jobs in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Austin. The smugness inherent to the term ‘Flyover States’ embodies everything I’m talking about. And Trump appeals to them. Trump stirs things up. He’s shaking up the establishment of both of the parties that left them behind. He’s finally the promised Washington Outsider the Republican Party and conservative media have been prophesying about for decades. They just want something different, not a continuation of the last eight years.

It’s all so bittersweet. Tiring, but bittersweet.