I Now Have a Motto for the Election

It’s Fine to Feel Like Sh%$ About Joe Biden and the DNC

—David Sirota on Jacobin

This pretty much typifies my feeling about this election.

The choice is between Trump, and the people who, through their venality, corruption and incompetence, made Trump possible.

It is always hard to get back from some time away — the email backlog, the pile of bills, the untended to-do list, and the inevitable aggravation from the home appliance that somehow no longer works, even though it was running smoothly before you left.


I’m wondering, because this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I’m told I should be bouncing up in the morning, uplifted by the Democratic convention and its promise of a new era soon — seventy-five days. But at least for me, watching the cable TV snippets, the convention speeches, and the celebratory Twitter dunks has left me with that feeling you get after eating junk food — full but not nourished; bloated, tired, and vaguely nauseous.

I’ve worked on a lot of Democratic campaigns, wins and losses. I’m literally married to a Democratic elected official. Over twenty years, I’ve put in an almost embarrassing amount of time working to support the Democratic Party. So these feelings are somewhat new for me, and I don’t think I’m having them just because Democratic officials decided to turn this year’s convention into a promotional platform for Republican icons who attacked unions, laid off thousands of workers, promoted climate denial, endangered 9/11 survivors, and lied us into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people.


I think the despair is deeper — and it has something to do with the now-yawning gap between social expectation and reality.


But pretense is the necessary ingredient for authentic enthusiasm, and there is no pretense anymore. Everyone, on all sides of this situation — and I mean literally everyone — knows that politics today is pantomime. You may not say it out loud, you may not like thinking about it — but I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, because somewhere deep down in there, everyone senses the fraudulence at hand.

This is a moment of apolitical crises — that is, crises that aren’t just manufactured by and confined to the political soundstage, but instead life-and-death, out-here-in-the-real-world emergencies in the realms of money, biology, and ecology. We’re facing an economic and environmental collapse in the midst of a lethal pandemic. And we’re going through this cataclysm with a legislative branch controlled by right-wing senators, a court system that rubber stamps corporate demands, and an authoritarian president whose major crisis-management experience was firing people on the Apprentice.

Democrats have turned Iraq War criminals into #Resistance heroes, Wall Street thieves into economic gurus & the governor of Mount Covid into a hunky mancrush.

If you’re not psyched about that, you’re not crazy — you’re refusing to self-lobotomize. https://t.co/IxuIh1NoJe

— David Sirota (@davidsirota) August 19, 2020

Not ready for the home lobotomy kit

And yet, in the middle of this five-alarm garbage fire, we’re asked to white-knuckle it and feign excitement for an opposition party machine run by insiders, lobbyists, and careerists who keep letting us know that they think campaign promises are distinct from policy. In so many ways, they keep telling us over and again that the most we can hope for is, in the words of the nominee himself, that “nothing would fundamentally change.”


The worst part is that dispassionately recounting any of these facts obviously proves you love Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — at least, that’s what you’ll be told if you dare even whisper this. In our tribalized politics, war is peace, freedom is slavery, and dissent is disloyalty. Failure to match the rah-rah spirit of the Blue Team, refusal to get psyched for the charade, asking questions about inconvenient facts — it all means you must be on the Red Team and are being paid in rubles, comrade.


Either way, the constant, incessant demand to be happy about fraudulence — the insistence that we put on a smile and insinuate that the New Deal is on the ballot — is shamefully dishonest. It helps make the whole process into exactly what Ohio state senator Nina Turner described: “It’s like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still shit.”

This is demoralizing for obvious reasons, but to feel demoralized is to feel like you’re crazy and alone — because it requires you to deviate from the norm of blissful and willful ignorance. It requires you to pay attention and reject a culture that tries to turn you into a goldfish, forgetting your entire world every fifteen minutes.


If we forget how bad the old “normal” was and just have to go back to a Wall Street–run White House championing incrementalism in the face of existential crises, what is to stop another Trump from emerging afterward?

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