Voting for Nothing For the Last Time
I voted for Joe Biden because of Donald Trump. There was no other reason and in any other election, he wouldn’t get a vote from me. So now he will be our next President, with some vague expectation of a return to “normalcy.” This is a relative normalcy, of course. One I’ve never embraced. It is, in fact, a normalcy of nothing. Nothing is what he promised. And I think this is a campaign promise that he will likely keep. For the past 3 decades, the Democratic Party has done little or nothing, promised nothing, and delivered nothing. The irony is, that many are quite satisfied with this. It is effectively a status quo party, interrupted by a more passionate and often reckless Republican Party, with the effect being an occasionally interrupted voyage to the bottom of the sea. There will be no vision. There will be no change. The hopes of those on the left who bit the bullet and voted for Biden will be dashed as they always are.
It wasn’t always like this. We had FDR and JFK and RFK and MLK, men of vision and initials. There were ideas and ideals and a sense of progress. Now we have a corporate trough, feeding spineless politicians who will double-speak their way out of anything that their donors don’t want. A health care system run by insurance companies; An environmental policy controlled by oil companies; an economy run by banks and corporations; and what we get from the Democrats is just a not-so-polite “no,” with a hint of self-righteous anger and condescension, when we dare demand better from them.
We can go back in time a bit and watch it all unfold. There was the Carter Administration, which was a last breath of idealism, but with poor execution, and the left was crushed, hiding in the bushes during the Reagan years, when “liberal” became a dirty word. Michael Dukakis was beaten by the mere hyperbole, the liberal bogeyman. Then came Bill Clinton, and what we didn’t know, was just how far off the rails it would go. His wife was going to give us a national health care system and then it got crushed or it was all a hoax and, from what I gather, Clinton just cynically moved to the right, sold out to corporations and won a second term. At least that’s how I remember it. But we were winning, was the argument, so suck it up, even if you don’t like the guy and even while he makes a spectacle of himself.
By the time he left office, we were left with little more than a competing brand of neo-liberalism and a Democratic Party that was unrecognizable. We were going to teach these corporate democrats a lesson, though, by voting Green Party rather than endure four years of Al Gore. “They’re the same as the Republicans,” we decided and what’s the difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush? Well, as it turned out, there was probably a hell of a lot of difference and Al Gore now seems like the victim of bad timing and his predecessor’s sexual proclivities. I have a lot of regret, perhaps more so retrospectively only because the later, bearded, philosophical Al Gore who had a plan to save the environment suggests that perhaps he might have done more than we gave him credit for, whether or not he invented the internet.
By this time, the left had no power in the Democratic Party and was never going to be forgiven for George W. Bush. These same centrist haters could all cheer on the war created by their villain, and put up the least interesting candidate imaginable to oppose him, and what could we do? Vote Green again? No, we held our noses and voted for John Kerry, who was going to “fight a smarter war,” but it was still somehow the fault of the left when Bush won his second term. The bankruptcy of the Democratic Party seemed complete, with no way out.
Then, we thought maybe a miracle was happening. That perceived miracle was Barack Obama, who had had the audacity to oppose the Iraq War and could lead the Party back where it belonged. We were too giddy to read the fine print, though, until after he was elected and said he was going to “reach across the aisle,” inexplicably unaware that there would be no one to reach, as he tempered his approach to appease the unappeasable and created basically the kind of health care plan that Republicans had been espousing for years, surprised when it was then demonized and reviled by them. Meanwhile, we on the left had hated it more, and when they couldn’t even throw us the “public option” bone, the love affair was over and we were back to holding our noses with low expectations that were certainly met, and wondered whether his war opposition was anything more than political theater.
Here we had another chance, though, because the Republicans had lost their sanity and were about to nominate a carnival barker and there before us stood Bernie Sanders. Here was a bona fide leftist who took no prisoners. The guy was the real deal and everyone knew it. That, of course, was not welcome news for the Democrats who pulled the strings. The centrist air proved to be too thick, though, and the fix was in for Hillary Clinton, the one person who seemed most likely to lose to the carnival barker. And lose, she did. If you are following along, you probably know exactly who got the blame for this and it wasn’t Hillary Clinton or the brain trust that ran her failed campaign. It was the left, of course. That Bernie and his “followers” would dare question the candidate and put her on her heels was apparently why she was too tarnished to beat Trump, who had been attacked viciously by every other Republican running and somehow was unscathed. Again, all you can do is hold your nose and make your vote and live to fight another day.
By 2020, the centrist grip on the wheels of power seemed arthritic, and they were unable to field a viable candidate who could beat Bernie in the primary. This time we were going to make Bernie happen. Again, we underestimated the resolve of the centrists, who seemed more determined to get rid of Bernie than to beat Trump. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the centrists had one last dollar tucked in Obama’s shoe and he pulled it out at just the right time, to give us his old buddy, Joe Biden. There was a week there, though, where it looked like it was going to be Bernie and the political swagger of that week is something I will always cherish. I will go to my grave wondering what might have been, and I doubt any such opportunity will come again in my lifetime.
“Sleepy Joe,” as his opponent aptly nicknamed him, has lost most of his nasty edge to the ravages of age, fading to a lethargic, grandfatherly aura that was conveniently the perfect foil for those who had had enough of the Trump chaos. Sadly, Sleepy Joe didn’t have much else to offer and wasn’t much of an inspiration for the down ballots, so we are probably left with a Republican Senate that will surely block anything left of Ronald Reagan, and serve as the perfect excuse for the Democrats who aspire to do nothing. And, again, the left is being blamed for this predicament, what with their scary BLM, police defunding and “socialized” medicine.
Now we can watch the next sequel in a played-out series, while Republicans attack, and Democrats respond to a knife fight with an outstretched hand, looking for some mythical, shared vision.
They will throw not a bone to the left. They will likely get a temporary boost and diversion from a Covid vaccine, with a frenzy akin to the end of a war and a whole crop of “Covid Boomers.” But that will no doubt fade and it will be business as usual, or no business, as usual. The midterms will be a “crushing rebuke” or a “red wave,” and we will be set up for whatever insanity has been cooked up by the right, as Sleepy Joe fades into one-term obscurity, only to get his name in the history books, and we are told, again, that we need to move the party further to the right, towards the “Never-Cottoners,” with the failure again blamed on the left.
Well, this is the last time for me. I won’t vote for another centrist hack. I care not what villain is put up to oppose him. I probably won’t vote for the villain, either, but I won’t participate in this circus any more.