If you are looking for another “both sides” political analysis you are in the wrong place. You will have to look elsewhere to find that b.s. While it is perfectly true that all of the players on the field of American politics play a role in how the game is being played and who the scoreboard shows is winning, the roles and the teams could not be more different. Just because all men are created equal does not mean all blame is created equal. Until we get real about that, then nothing will change. And we are in desperate need of change right now. Even more than in 2008 when the problems America faced were more grounded in competence than in culture. In 2020, our raging crisis in leadership encompasses both and because of it there is no place for any of us to hide anymore. There is no more sideline to watch from. We are all in the game and have to choose a side, whether we like it or not.
Everybody in America is angry right now- and I mean everybody. That has to tell us something. And whatever any of us thinks the appropriate corrective response is to that anger, I am willing to bet the house that all of us realize that this simply cannot go on. Another moment of truth has come for America and objectively speaking it is not looking good. The anger is wearing us down and wearing us out- and it shows. America has to look in the mirror and decide what it wants to be for the next 100 years- a nation of escalating anger or a nation of increasing the peace.
It cannot be both and that choice is being made in six months. Make no mistake abou it, the 2020 election will be that consequential. Four years under a lame duck Donald Trump will make the last four years look like your boring company picnic by comparison. It will be a wild ride that many of us will not survive.
Trump enablers are angry because he will never have the validation, respect and legitimacy that he so desperately craves. Trump assailants are angry because he has the privilege to control the most powerful government in the world DESPITE his lack of validation, respect or legitimacy. Look up ‘Mexican standoff’ in the dictionary and you will find a perfect description of where American politics stand in the run-up to the general election. Spoiler alert: Nobody wins in a Mexican standoff.
We are a long way from the days when the politics of hope and change were lighting the way for our country. The light shining on America under the Trump Administration came from the tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia. There was certainly no hope living in that crowd of proud white supremacists and the only change they wanted was for POTUS #45 to completely erase the legacy of POTUS #44. To put our political decline in a common context, what America looked like twelve years ago is as relevant today as whatever your weight may have been back in college. You may have had a beach body back then but years of neglect and self-delusion have taken a toll that can be neither denied nor rationalized.
Right now, our reflection in the mirror is not just less attractive than it was in 2008. It has become ugly, hostile and to the world we still claim to lead, unrecognizable.
There is just enough time for us to ask ourselves: are we really going to go out like this? Before we can reverse course and give ourselves another chance to experience the victory we felt just twelve years ago we have to face the truth about that reflection in the mirror today.
The hard truth is that in American politics today, NOBODY is a winner. We are all losers. Undeniable proof can be found at your average Trump rally. Look at the faces and listen to the voices that fill the room- from the man in the back of the crowd to the man on stage behind the microphone. The anger is palpable. The bitterness bites. The rhetorical tone vascilates between caustic and manic. And these are the people rallying as the WINNERS in the last general election.
They got what they wanted and they got it in dramatic fashion. And judging by the force of emotion they so often express, it is what they have been thirsting for for a very long time. Every now and then I have gotten something I desperately wanted and I hope to God I NEVER looked like these people look when I got it. They are perpetually pissed-off and that has to really suck.
Even in the moments when they are smiling, the smiles are almost always a reflection of gleeful mockery of some person being tormented or some entity being attacked.
It is a clear reflection of the failing health of the entire body politic when the ethos of the winning team is so undeniably dark and negative. Being on the other side- the losing side- is far worse. I can report from personal experience that being a progressive during this harrowing political season is an unguided tour through all nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno.
The peculiar feature of this broad circumstance is this: people on the ‘Liberal’ side are experiencing chronic anger because we hate what is actually happening in the country while people on the ‘Conservative’ side suffer from chronic anger because they hate what they have imagined has happened in the country. The rub is that there is equal force of conviction in both camps. That is not both-sideism. That is just a fact.
At bottom, ‘Conservatives’ are incensed because they have imagined that ‘Liberals’ stole center stage in America with an elaborate nation-wide con-job and criminal conspiracy that resulted in the installation of an illegitimate, foreign born, black, illegal alien into the presidency. To ‘Conservatives’ that was an insult and offense that can never be forgotten and the conspirators must never be forgiven. To the contrary, they must be punished forever. The fact that Barack Obama rescued the American auto-industry, restored the American economy, killed Osama Bin Laden and never made any attempt to seize their guns is besides the point. That tan suit wearing, Al Green singing, slick-talking, pimp-walking, Chicago socialist had no business sitting his black ass at the Lincoln Desk where the sainted Ronald Reagan used to sit.
‘Conservatives’ have proven that they will employ any means necessary, fair and unfair, legal and illegal, privately or publicly, to exact retribution- not just on ‘Liberals’ for perpetrating the fraud, but on the entire country for going along for the ride.
At bottom, ‘Liberals’ are angry because the facts are that the American government has never done enough to bring about equality for all citizens, combat poverty, conserve the environment and advance the noble goals of national health and global peace. And of course, liberals are plenty pissed off about the legislative and judicial conspiracy to block ballot access for millions of Americans, encarcerate millions more Americans, and fascilitate the concentration of wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer Americans. That covers a lot of ground- but its all true. So in the words of the late, great Richard Pryor, the ‘Liberal’ phrase that pays is ‘I got a RIGHT to be hostile, man, my people bein’ persecuted!‘ And that hostility that Richard cracked-wise about has escalated on the ‘Liberal’ side during this presidency. It has risen in direct correlation with the flagrancy of the corruption of Trump’s administration and its transparent efforts to raid the treasury, ruin the courts and solidify a political version of American Apartheid.
This is why ‘Mexican standoff’ is the best of all descriptions of current American politics. Nothing in this world can bring these two sides to a place where either one of them can lay their weapon down. Of course the ‘Liberals’ are right and the ‘Conservatives’ are wrong but what the hell difference does that make now? Our political hostility (some scholars prefer the delicate term ‘polarization’) is more reliable than the Post Office. We stand in angry opposition through rain, sleet, or snow; or in this case, through foreign election interference, serial public deception or obstruction of justice. And we will ride that angry opposition straight into the ground- taking America with us.
But there IS a way out of this Mexican standoff. ‘Liberals’ and ‘Conservatives’ cannot put their guns down and cannot be expected to change. But what if there were three or four more formidable players to account for? What if those players had their own agendas to advocate for just as forcefully? What if they had their own guns to brandish? With that many players in the game, zero-sum politics makes absolutely no sense. Then the capacity to compromise earns respect rather than scorn. Then we could all win a little because nobody has to be a total loser.