(This piece was written from just after the Iowa Caucus on 2/3/2020 through Super Tuesday a full month later. An enormous amount has happened over this stretch of time, and not just politically. And while this commentary will be mostly reserved to political discussion, as well as parallels from history and literature, many unexpected and, frankly terrifying circumstances have arisen that makes discussions such as this both far more meaningless and significantly more important than I, with my writerly arrogance, had presumed them before.)
Something momentous has been happening, a changing of the guard, a whole new vision of the universe. I understand that this is primarily political piece, but it seems important to begin by discussing the, at least for me, unexpected demolition of now former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder on February 22, 2020. Bear with me, if you please, because this should have a rather striking parallel to the rise and fall of Bernie Sanders, as well as Michael Bloomberg (who just withdrew from the race moments before this chunk of editing and rewrites), and the initial general collapse of former Vice President Joe Biden, a man that had been mostly forgotten as front runner in the Democratic primary race, before his resurrection of South Carolina, and continuing rise to a likely nomination
As a parallel, Deontay Wilder (who’s promotional roar of “Bomb Squad!” serves as the subtitle of this piece) has been a genuine force of nature since he became a professional boxer, until recently undefeated in forty-one fights, with a startling record of 41-0-1 with 40 knockouts. His lone draw came against Tyson Fury, a curiously fascinating man who very recently beat the hell out of Wilder to claim the title. Fury, a personable Brit, entered the rematch with a very specific game plan, and with a game plan that baffled the wild slugger Wilder long before the two of them entered the ring. What it amounted to was not so much talent or physical abilities (if it were that, Wilder would certainly have won), but because strategy, and the ability to out think the opposition, gave Fury the opportunity to succeed as he did. Here, take a look at some of the results:
(Yes, Tyson Fury actually licked some of the blood out of Wilder’s busted eardrum, articulating just how badly he defeated the champion.)
On the other hand, their previous fight saw quite a bit of this, regardless of the draw:
Yet that first decision was fair, and while I might have had Wilder winning by a narrow margin (he lost more rounds, but knocked Fury down twice), the turnaround was pretty stunning. And do not take Fury as some sort of wild underdog, the sort of Rocky Balboa clone (or maybe James “Buster” Douglas if we insist on reality) who comes out of nowhere to shock the world. By the time the second fight began, Fury was a slight favorite with the gamblers.
But how is this relevant to the Democratic Primary, leading up to the let’s call it “Intercontinental championship” on Super Tuesday? Well, that’s what this sports reporter would like to lay out for you, something about shifting tides of public opinion and the devastating changes that can overtake a champion as they coast their way to a title match. And it all really began with Michael Bloomberg’s first debate appearance, an event less than a mile away from where Fury took out Wilder in Las Vegas. The changing of the tide, the energizing of the few, and the unexpected collapse of others who looked to be gaining ground.
Let’s go a little further back to see what the blood sport of election season has become this year and try to gauge the urgency of the candidates as President Trump struts around rain dancing in the aftermath of not being kicked out of office after being impeached.
The debates grow increasingly contentious, increasingly vicious as the end game begins. This is no longer about a simple, traditional fight for delegates, but about a true stamp of ideology versus ideology; it is about whose vision of the nation, and therefore the world, is the one worth following against the cruel anarchy of Donald Trump and his corporate religion. Super Tuesday (which will be discussed later, after the results are in) is the divisional championship regardless of the remaining votes. This does not mean that further chaos may not erupt should Sanders win, and the coming convention perhaps decides to promote an even more wild agenda complete with a candidate who had no intention of running (Oprah? Michelle Obama?) All it means is that the otherwise corporate leaders of partisan politics have decided to betray the citizens of the nation who have declared the person they wish to take on Trump, and told them that they are all wild children who don’t know what is best for them.
So the question remains: can Bernie Sanders defeat Trump? All of his opponents claim that he cannot, despite the fact that he is defeating all of them, mostly. And as a full disclosure on my part, Sanders is not my first choice as candidate. But one does not need to fully support any of the candidates to believe that Donald Trump is a ruinous monster who has somehow convinced a large group of Americans that his destruction is what the nation truly needs.
Michael Bloomberg has never had even the remotest chance of winning the election. If we break him down we will find someone slightly more humane than the President, running only with the intention of humiliating him. “I’m richer than you,” all of his endless adds declare. And of course this is true. It seems that the only refrain the former unpopular mayor of New York City has is that he is better than Trump because he has been financially far more successful, that he has worked harder and is smarter. But is he truly more successful than the President of the United States? If we talk business, with the chaotic collapses that Trump has caused to his own reality, of course he is. Bloomberg is clearly a much harder worker than the lazy, petty, childish man whom our nation has elected to lead us. But he is not President. Success is not only about wealth (as this mega-billionaire wants to convince us versus an ordinary, run-of-the-mill singular billionaire). It is, after all, about accomplishment too. President versus Mayor. A place in history versus a soon-to-be-forgotten also ran. This is worth considering as we watch Bloomberg stammer and try his best to push his superiority. Two assholes having a pissing contest does not an improved nation make.
But back to fighting.
I’m sure you can see my point. This has all become a game. Ranting lunatics shrieking their righteousness to crowds of hypnotized supporters, people finally only comfortable with absolute worshipful agreement. And these are two of the leading presidential candidates.
I wonder how the November election would fare as a pay-per-view card–make it the same $79.99 that I paid to watch the Wilder v. Fury match. There could be an undercard of Congressional and Senatorial races, with the decisions announced prior to the main event, the question marks, doubt, and corruption of modern elections keeping the decision in check until a few days later. There will be the cries from the loser full of excuses (Wilder, for what it’s worth, keeps coming up with reasons other than that Fury thoroughly defeated him, such as blaming his ring walk costume and vague “personal issues.”) Trump, on the losing end, would no doubt blame some sort of corruption, maybe the same style of corruption he is guilty of, and, as President, perhaps declare the whole thing invalid. Maybe he will use his lackeys in high places and order them to announce something mysteriously vague about “irregularities,” blaming his ring walk for the end result.
Of course one can hardly imagine Sanders (or at least his own handful of angry, radical supporters, that only group of people capable of resembling Trump’s followers, cultish and barking irrational rage) declaring himself the loser, backing up the duel-sided populism of his fans, and demanding a recount, or a judgment, or perhaps even a whole new election. And this is the mess we find ourselves in with the far and away favorite to challenge Donald Trump (until the tides turned on Super Tuesday).
I actually believe that Sanders would defeat Trump, and handily at that. Those smug followers of the President seem not to realize that they have become the arrogant Hillary absolutists of 2016, now on the side of their condescension, utterly convinced that their candidate cannot possibly lose. And who is it that Hillary lost to? A candidate who tapped into the dissatisfied rage of the public, the no longer buried hatred of those they disagree with, rampaging beyond the perceived same old same old.
Nowadays that ambitious fanaticism has reversed unto the other side, slapping down the comfortable masses and imposing an entirely new vision of the world upon them. It’s like a childhood game taken far too seriously, the sort of meaningless contest that leaves the loser in tears.
So what about the other Democratic candidates? How might they do versus Trump?
It would be wrong to claim that none of them could win. All of them might win versus Donald Trump. That reactionary fury would mostly support anyone, the disgust with Trump running parallel to the disgust of Hillary Clinton that created such an upset in 2016. Many of those radicals who refused to vote for Clinton back them (some of whom even voted for Trump in protest) would choose anyone other than the current President. Plenty of disappointed and halfhearted supporters of Trump will also abandon the clown car and blindly choose anyone other than what they’ve had to endure for the past four years. Trump is speeding towards a train wreck, not so much of being kicked out of office, but into a seismic collapse of a nation that since JFK was killed and Watergate imploded our ability to trust, has been slowly drowning us all.
Conspiracy theories seem to provide much of the political charge these days, both right and left, a study that requires some deeper thought. It was during the Great Depression that this doubtful religion started trumpeting itself as the new form of truth. Right wing fanatics, concerned only about their own profit margins as they watched their bank accounts dwindling, began to see FDR as a Communist stooge. How else to explain his apparent friendship with Joseph Stalin? Why, it was actually asked, if the President of the United States had to side with a tyrant, why was it not Adolph Hitler, whose policies might be questionable, but who at least saw the weakness of the state as something worthy of overthrowing? Quit the handouts! they barked. Hands off my money! How dare you come after me, one of the very few who are still liquid as all those lazy failures wait on bread lines to keep themselves and their families alive! After all, weakness must be wiped out if America can still thrive in the face of a world going to war with itself.
The right wing conspiracy theorists saw humanity–all of humanity–as merely greedy, seeking whatever handout they could get in order to exploit the compassionate illness of fools, pretending that saving people’s lives was worthwhile. Instead of that, why not end taxes altogether? Why not stay out of the war and reap the benefits of the aftermath? Sure, it was sad that some of the Jews who agreed with their corporate religion might be killed, but that was the way life worked anyway, right? Good people had to die to make the world a better place for the winners.
The implied selfishness of all mankind, while in many cases onto something, was really just a reflection of those wishing for an established hierarchy’s agendas–their own! It was the definition of the philosophy of Social Darwinism that had been growing since just after the Civil War. Everyone was selfish because I am selfish. It must be that way because otherwise I must be a scoundrel.
Of course there were actual American Communists seeking to undermine and overthrow the US government wandering around, pretending they were spies by passing encoded notes to one another in coffee houses and poor man’s restaurants–even in the bars that Roosevelt reopened, discarding that moralizing nonsense the Leninist crowd imposed on the nation for fourteen years. That was FDR’s one redeeming grace, allowing the free market to flow once again, ending the criminality over what the financial elitists were doing anyway. Now it was open season. Now public schools could be put in the hands of industrialists, teaching the corporate gospel to those children with enough money to attend. As for the rest? Let’s restore slavery, not so much on a racial basis, but purely economic. Let us discard a minimum wage, labor unions, the government’s interference with the zillionaire owners who had convinced themselves that they were the only ones who understood the true nature of America.
Let us get rid of public consent, these barons demanded. Poor people were stupid. And, being selfish, all they wanted was a piece of the pie the rich folks rightly earned through the labor of those complaining. Let us ban health insurance as part of the working man’s salary. Let us unravel this insane socialist fantasy of social security, protecting the injured and the elderly from starvation and death. It is every man for himself–just like me, having generally inherited millions from my crooked father who taught me how to control the little guy, how to treat them, and how long to employ them.
As World War II got underway, before Pearl Harbor these people simply nodded their heads–fuck Poland, to hell with all of Europe. How does that impact me? Let all those useless people die. The world will be a better place without them.
Pearl Harbor gave them new ideas. Roosevelt did it! He is responsible! He is using this to force Communism down our throats! He wants to take all our money and give it to stupid things like public housing and equal rights. How dare he take a small portion of my millions and millions of dollars! Does he think we’re in some story by Charles Dickens? Listen to them all asking for more and more and more and more! We need a secret society to purge these criminals, to destroy the government as it exists, and to reform it under our command, telling the poor what to do and reaping all the benefits for ourselves!
The 1950s watched the spread of conspiracy theories spill over into the far left, their own silly version of reality now on the attack. Of course the Cold War gave the right the upper hand, the imposed fear of Communist infiltration becoming the spark to help the movement find its way into the hearts of those who would never benefit from it. On the left their aims were hardly any different, their own control over everyone, everything, and all the money too, organized by its own set of elites out to screw the world.
Conspiracy theories, then, exploded into our popular beliefs in the nature of how the world (sometimes the universe) is run. From the assassination of JFK and through the vague window of UFO suggestions, we, as a nation, bilked ourselves through the trauma of potential nuclear annihilation and the reality of the flailing Vietnam war, and then those fears of political corruption were cemented by Watergate and everything thereafter that followed.
Ronald Reagan, deep down a decent man, managed to parrot the views of numerous conspiracy-minded business people (including Donald Trump), who sought to unburden the nation of Democratic choice, wishing to instill the–there is no other term for it– the fascism of big business deregulation. Smugly promoted as something that would be good for the nation, all it amounted to was an attempt to claim unrestricted profits by–and this term was used by some of the hardest right-wing money hording scum with influence in those days–by “any means necessary,” they jocularly told their colleagues in closed door meetings (the only reason I can quote these lines is because a handful of appalled whistle-blowers made this horror known to the world at large). It was claimed that “we can be the big business version of Malcolm X!” Yes, white multi-millionaires looking to end minimum wage and make public education a for profit industry, they proved every bit as radical as Minister X in their attempt to steamroll over the very idea of Democracy in order to get their way. And when things didn’t go exactly as they planned it? It was a conspiracy. There must be a secret plot to get us. It’s a conspiracy. We must fight for our version of justice.
By the time Bill Clinton reached office (and Clinton was, other than his political party, every bit as profit obsessed as his opponents on the right, only with a trace of compassion for the poor people who would be, nevertheless, left out in the cold to starve, as well as a charming penchant for corruption in his own right), the conspiracy culture had overtaken any discussion of rational facts. And why shouldn’t it? After all, the coming generation, weened on their parents’ paranoid beliefs, had come into their own doubting everything, never knowing what it meant to trust. And Clinton, clearly a crook, managed to become the poster boy for everything that had gone wrong in America, not since the 1950s, like those indifferent to history like to consider the “good old days,” but really straight out of the 1890s, when the United States graduated into a purely consumer culture, all the new fads taking the people through the new century and into the commercialization of brand new cars. This was the age they wanted to return to, although their ignorance of history gave them only the bells and whistles of free economy, and not the grotesque greed and eventual failure of the 1930s. Consequences for greed were eliminated in those broiling days of rage of the 1990s, and everything not going exactly as planned could be blamed on another, everyone but the self and our sometimes stupid decisions, and we could be free and clear to hate whomever we wanted for whatever reason we chose.
Yet the conspiracies continued to spiral–George W. Bush winning the presidency questionably, not really winning the election, yet earning enough delegate votes anyway (repeated in 2016). Then September 11, 2001, the fear of trust giving the Muslim fanatics a victory, terrorizing the nation into irrational hunger and rage. 9/11 overwhelmed our conspiratorial minds and planted the partisan seeds that overflowed into the years of Obama and now, into the nightmare of Donald Trump.
Trump is a conspiracy theorist, first and foremost. Yes, he is a rich man, and yes his wealth has allowed him to do nearly whatever he’s wanted for the entirety of his life. He likes to boast about this yet somehow deny the implicit criminality such a life entails. He has convinced his followers than any number of the awful things he has done (and plenty of them are on record, are publicly on tape, have been stated directly into a camera, or are easily brought up in his own words on a simple web search)–that any of these horrible, life-in-jail forever felonies were somehow committed by his not-yet-even opponents. He has mastered the game of refusing to take responsibility for anything, then blaming the sometimes baffled opposition who have no idea what he is talking about. It makes one wonder, in all three of his marriages, every time he has been caught cheating on his wives, do you think he might have denied it and then blamed them for cheating on him?
But the conspiracy mindfulness of today is only a small part of the larger issue leading up to election day. All it means is that everything can be transformed into a heroic act or violent crime if the followers can only hear one side. This is something to keep in mind as we continue on the path to the title match, after the divisional title that is Super Tuesday (or if not that, the chaotic riot that might explode at a brokered convention when the Democratic party refuses to accept a winner as the winner). This enraged disbelief has been haunting us for many years, and ground zero might just be upon us, rumbling beneath our feet.
There are too many things happening on the lead up to the most significant primary election, far too many other things. We have a potential plague infecting the whole world, not just with the virus, but with even more terror for ourselves. We areclosing borders not in a Trumpian bigoted way (although certainly bigoted leaders can take advantage of mortal fear), but in a quarantine out of apocalyptic novels. This has lead to the beginning of worldwide economic collapse. And yet our president, true-to-form, blames his immediate political rivals and the public voices that report on the horrors, for the collapse.
Donald Trump only cares about money, you see. I’m am quite certain that he has never looked at the numbers of the living and the dead, of the inflicted and the medical records of best and worst case scenarios. He does not care who ,lives or who dies. He has his eyes on the stock market numbers exclusively, seeing the one thing that has kept him politically afloat all this time crashing long before he’d planned to leave this mess to whomever followed him to the white house. No, he needs to blame the Democrats for “scaring people” or “fake news;” for “exaggerating the danger” in order to hurt him. These are the ravings of a sociopathic madman, ignoring the reality that the whole world economy is interlocked in this flatland of greedy speculation. And the fact that elsewhere in the world people are also terrified of the erosion of life this Coronavirus is reaping, somehow there are many selfish Americans unable to comprehend the fact that business fears elsewhere, damaging their speculation games, bleeds into everything, all over the world, including us, here in the once declared ‘land of the free.’ And so we cannot blame the Democrats or the mass media, if we want to be honest with ourselves. We can simply laugh at the horrible comments by right-wing pundits on how the illness is an “invention of the socialist left.” We can hardly even blame Donald Trump for this particular stock market and economic collapse. No, there is only mortal fear to blame. That’s all.
Of course there are other crazy issues that have scattered concern over these past few weeks. There is more that troubles us beyond financial worries and the smoky rings of virulent death. There are the simple, basic, human-to-human transactions that conflate mild disagreements into the edge of civil war. There is a string of hopelessness people wish to pass onto others in order to keep themselves sane.
Joe Biden has suddenly made himself relevant again, winning a dominate victory in the South Carolina primary. He won by such a substantial margin that two of his opponents for the nomination, Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg, withdrew from the contest. Buttigieg is a surprise, considering how well he had been doing, although I suppose his minimal showing in this particular race proved to him that he is going to have some trouble with black folks, who barely know him and have likely overheard some of the murky rumors about racial problems in South Bend, Indiana he confronted. Nevertheless, as I have said before, I have no doubt that Mayor Pete will be President someday. Perhaps he will run for Vice-President shortly.
These two gentlemen leaving the race presents a rather large hole. Who will get the majority of suddenly thunderstruck supporters? Unlike the righteously narrow Sanders fanatics (and I do not believe this is anywhere near the majority of those supporting Bernie), the left over group must find a new person to root on. Steyer–who’s following was pretty small, still had managed to grow his following over time. Who will get them?
Now Tom Steyer is not the moderate that the dismissive media painted him as. Were you to listen to what he had to say (and I doubt too many people bothered), one would see an extremely socially liberal candidate, with a touch more fiscal moderation. He came across as something in between Sanders and Biden (who is probably the farthest to the right of the liberals running for office remaining). His following I expect to be split pretty evenly. These folks, of course, are the much lauded group of Democrats who would vote for whomever the nominee is in a unified effort to defeat Trump.
Buttigieg is the real question here. Again, his following grew drastically after his surprise victory in Iowa, and his strong second place finish in New Hampshire. His personal charm, good looks, eloquence and obvious intelligence slammed him into the upper echelon of candidates. But he is, regardless of the broader appeal he may have had as a candidate, a fundamentally moderate politician, filled with the logic that implies, along with the unexciting rigidness that usually accompanies it. So where do his voters go?
Now if we were clocking the figures here, seeing who he most resembles, the obvious choice would be Amy Klobuchar. As much as the two of them clearly dislike one another, their values, ideas and candidacies were almost mirror images. Both fought hard, both can kill at debates, and both are genuinely very likable. Those votes should go to Klobuchar, but she has also decided to quit. The Senator had been dwindling since her one fine showing in New Hampshire, and her hovering presence throttling the validity of many of the others on stage. Buttigieg’s relatively large group of supporters might have felt nervous voting for her, regardless of the fact that she would otherwise have been their top choice.
This can only leave Joe Biden to benefit. Michael Bloomberg, who would have really liked a boost, wouldn’t get much. He had been a terrible candidate and he never improved. And so the Buttigieg support will mostly go to Biden, with the remainder going to Sanders, those borderline progressives who simply cannot stomach the former Vice President. And this will create even more doubt-filled chaos.
With Biden on the rise and Super Tuesday just around the corner (from the time I write this), the contest between him and Bernie Sanders will reach some flaming heights, uncomfortably reminiscent of 2016 when Hillary Clinton nudged him out, much to the horror of his legion of followers, those folks who today, mostly unfairly, have been labelled “Bernie Bros,” a write-off implying that they are dangerous revolutionaries who will tear the nation down should their messiah not reach the cross.
The true threat to the Democrats over this likely ensuing mess comes not from inside, but from the toxic cynicism that has been overwhelming politics for years, and that Donald Trump has transformed into his greatest strength. “Do not trust the government,” the President of the United States preaches. He latches onto his cartoonish insults– “Crazy Bernie,” and “Sleepy Joe” (I wonder what he will come up with next), and then comes around to preach that the Democratic party is seeking to box the old white man out in favor of another old white man, who will take on yet another old white man in the race for the White House. And Trump has already planted the seeds to destroy Biden, regardless of the nonsense that his implied conspiracy clearly is. It is not about believing his lies so much as it is about believing no one at all. Remember Trump’s cynical statement to a group of African-American voters, “What have you got to lose?” Even that was less about voting for him than about telling them there is no one at all worth voting for.
The handful of radical Sanders supporters will refuse to vote for anyone other than their man and see, should this happen, his loss at most likely the convention, as yet another sleazy power grab by the traditional Democratic Party, and they will probably have a valid point inside the end result to protest. And this would lead, I have absolutely no doubt, to the re-election of a chest thumping Donald Trump, receiving the smallest popular vote, based on percentage and not actual people due to our massive population growth through the years, in Presidential history. He would score even lower than himself last time, or than Rutherford B. Hayes (also involved in a contested election),, or Bill Clinton and Bush v Gore, all those who win without a plurality, proving even further that US democracy is a sham and that the vicious folks discussed above, with their vindictive historical plan (which included, even going back to 1950s with the advent of television), imposed doubt upon a “biased” and “corrupt” media, and the suggested meaninglessness of whomever might be in office, that sullen shook headed mantra that “they are all the same.”
At this moment, truly, democracy in the United States is probably in its greatest danger of disappearing in the history of the nation. Even during the Civil War because, regardless of the fact that one side of the battle are the most notorious traitors in our national history (forcibly removing themselves from the United States itself)–even at that fractured moment at the very least both sides believed they were fighting a patriotic battle for the soul of the nation. Now, today, patriotism has little meaning to Americans. Oh, sure–sure, sure, sure, people both left and right brag about how patriotic they believe themselves to be, and how treasonous their rivals are, but all this is meaningless too. It is all a series of fed lies, of unverifiable opinions that dismiss anyone unlike themselves, and paint them into the worst corner of humanity each individual can conceive. Such patriotism is false, it is a civil social war which has already erupted, and if some leader cannot come along to at least moderately mend our broken ties with one another, like many other nations throughout the world, we will see our government fall, taken over by some sort of coup that instills a new way of thinking, holding up our national bible, the Constitution, and making the necessary changes to ensure that they stay in power as long as the people are exhausted and lulled to sleep by hopelessness.
Donald Trump offers no hope to anyone, and this is his intention. He is a purely destructive force and he is very good at it. When people start denouncing Sanders–and this from the people who should support him at least more than Trump–saying things like “now is not the time for a revolution,” I wonder just how closely these people are paying attention to the clawing brutality that erupts every single day, all the natural disasters, the hate filled gun play, the sneering pettiness that consumes social media in snipe hunting cruelty, far more interested in upsetting a rival than making any valid point.
I have been trying to get an answer to something throughout numerous social media platforms for more than a year now. I ask, as politely and genuinely as possible, a serious question, I say “Please, because I really want to know. Can you name one thing that Donald Trump has done that has made America better than it was before? Just one thing. Something non-partisan, something not renouncing or denouncing an opposing point of view. Something not about destroying consensus, but about bringing the nation together in our hour of need, this holy war between individuals that is proving the direst warnings of our founding fathers to be grim modern reality. Something, anything! Something that has made “America great again.”
Know how they answer? They don’t answer, although they are hardly silent. Some of them merely offer bold, oft-repeated slogans–#Trump2020, or #MAGA2020, or some other flaccid hashtag that does not answer the question. Others go for direct personal attacks, ranging from smears that I must be some sort of “Commie-Socialist,” tweeting bird calls about how I am going to lose without explaining how, or what they mean, or what’s the game, or even what they are actually rooting for. Even more simply they attack the flaws of the opposition candidates, shrieking about both real and exhaustively invented nonsense they read from some conspiracy site (or are perhaps quoting directly from the President’s twitter feed itself). They say nothing about their hero, offer me no accomplishments other than smugly defeating others and upsetting people they disagree with. I have never received an actual answer to my, I believe, rather urgent question. They never explain what he has done other than make them more cynical, more angry, more arrogant, and more hopelessly lost, convincing themselves they are one thing when in reality they are frankly nothing at all. I have never received an answer to this question, although I have gotten hundreds (by now certainly thousands) of replies. It makes me wonder if they simply cannot think of anything worthwhile about the man they will vote for again, with his complete lack of ideas about moving the nation forward. It is a terrifying reality.
So it is the night before Super Tuesday as I write this. There is a lot of movement, a narrowing of conference, leading to what almost has to be a single remaining candidate for the title (of course the mire of US politics will certainly keep that from being reality). There are numerous candidates who have “suspended” their campaigns (and why do they use the term “suspended?” Does this mean that should an opening present itself they might return to the fold? What happens then? What happens if the returning hero somehow wins?) And, with all these names gone, both Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg have endorsed Joe Biden for President (so has the long gone Beto O’Rourke, for some reason newsworthy again. I suppose Joe might get more than half of the 57 voters still wishing he would return). Even Bloomberg, in his colossal arrogance, has claimed that Biden is now his man.
It seems odd to me, after all the bloodthirsty animus of the campaign, that anyone would listen to these suggestions. Didn’t the two of them try their damnedest to prove why Biden wasn’t right for the job? Does all that go away now? I mean, all of them seem really enthusiastic about the prospect of President Biden now, regardless of whatever bitterness still simmers inside of them. They support Joe Biden. They see an almost finished politician, a man who less than two weeks ago was not considered viable, now as the salvation of their versions of America. And I stand by my earlier comments: Joe Biden will lose to Donald Trump. It is not something to yearn for; this is not what I personally desire. It is just the likely reality of our crushed and broken society of mocking laughter and sideline howling about who and what anyone has to say.
Yet how does this impact the larger story in the world in the present moment, the rapidly spreading Coronavirus, now (for the moment) having claimed nine lives in our nation, and killing well more than 3,000 worldwide. It is important to include this larger problem in the comparatively tiny discussion of yet another crooked presidential election. For just one example, Israel is undertaking their third in eleven months, the previous two still contested between the supporters of a proven criminal who has been in office for quite some time, and his loud-mouthed opposition, desperately trying to turn some of Benjamin Netanyahu’s blind followers away from their own moral corruption and into the realm of another version of deviated truth.
Of course the virus is a serious issue, regardless of the many conspiracy theories that have inevitably cropped up by people waiting to challenge anything so long as they don’t personally know anyone who is suffering (I have a pretty close friend who does not believe that it is real at all, claiming that every two years or so a new apocalyptic disease crops up, influencing elections being their goal. He believes in nothing other than his own truth. In this he even dismisses the death and suffering of people, boasting about all the other illnesses he has survived.) There are, of course, many different ideas on how well Donald Trump, for example, has handled the crisis. Yet I see something even darker coming out of this tragedy. I see one of Trump’s most brutal promises potentially being fulfilled in a way that was never intended.
Remember ‘the wall,’ that absurd fantasy of a child who would build something so strong and so high that no one could ever possibly get past it? Remember how even the most fervent followers forgot about this, or blamed Democrats or anybody else because, clearly, this was never going to happen? Well, the coronavirus can help it to happen.
Bear me out. It would be very easy for the President to close the borders, attempting to mitigate the threat of a disease being brought in by people from outside the nation (yet one wonders, are natural born citizens also kept out if they have been travelling over seas? I suspect such a thing gets voted on in Congress, gets rejected or barely passed in the Senate, then vetoed by the President, ultimately blaming the Democrats for anything further.) And what happens after that, after the disease does inevitably wane? Can’t you just see President Trump declaring an ongoing national emergency? Tell me that at least some portion of your mind believes that this might actually happen. The borders are now closed. Foreigners are banned from entering the nation. And people here, those of us still in America, well, we’re not allowed to leave unless we have special clearances that only party loyalists can get, those going off into the blank outside world to reset international policy into something none of us can know once the TV cameras are shut off, only the scripted propaganda. Isn’t this the wall, only more effective? There is an endless imminent danger from outside, national emergency after national emergency and this eventually sinks into all of our minds, infects all our beliefs, spreading like a virus into every corner of the earth. After that how easy would it be to simply ‘suspend’ elections until the crisis is over?
Just something to wonder about as we go into the play-off rounds of primary season.
Before we sign off to count the numbers on Super Tuesday, I would like to offer just one more brief discussion of US history. What were those warnings the founding fathers offered that seem particularly relevant today as their gospel-like ideas get misquoted, or even painted as outright treason in themselves, no longer attributed to Washington or Adams or Jefferson or Madison, but re-branded under the negative rubric of some modern-day hack politician. Let’s see:
These warnings are stark, and I have no doubt that, whichever political gang you side with, you can feel some of the terrifying recognition in modern times, much in the way that former generations have seen it. But the nature of the closed discussions, the profound truth of one of John Adams’ statements above (again:),
this is something no one can argue we are experiencing.
But, of course, there were the true radicals who were involved in our first revolution, and it might offer both hope as well as the horrible notion of what direction a new revolution may go. Here, take Thomas Paine:
He was talking about the overthrow of monarchy. How would you apply this today in overcoming whichever political rival you might deem a tyrant, and how could they respond with their own revolutionary movement? The French revolution very quickly turned into a bloodbath that spread all throughout Europe, as numerous revolutionary sects went to war not just with the monarchy they were overthrowing, but also with themselves, arguing about the purity of their causes. Are we that far away from this today? Must there be a purity test for patriotism? How does one pass if there is a shift in leadership? How can one possibly be regarded a citizen if the tyrant then at the head of their party outlaws opposing political beliefs?
I will let this go, for now, as I need some sleep before the 24+ hours of Super Tuesday will offer me, scribbling down notes and listening to the various biases different news reports offer, as well as the speeches, the attacks, the concessions and the overwhelming rage from the public when one thing or another does not go exactly its way. I just want to leave you with a recommendation, the perusal of an American novel from 1935 that has been lost in the dystopian genre led by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780060929879&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used) and George Orwell’s 1984 (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780451524935&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used).
The book I refer to is by Sinclair Lewis, the US’s first Nobel Prize winner for literature. His story is far less science-fiction that the first two. No, it is about a slow crawl towards fascism in America, almost unnoticed by the citizenry, caught up as they are in consumed by controversies and doubt over the accuracy of the news, being fed conflicting versions of truth by those in power. It tells the story of a Senator who quietly admires Hitler and Mussolini, not so much over their social policies of group oppression, but over how strongly they had taken control of their nations. People in the book even make aloof remarks like “Maybe we need a little fascism here,” while wining and dining at cocktail parties or Sunday picnics, waiting to listen to the next broadcast of some bombastic political/religious creep promoting which ever controversy or conspiracy theory as the main thing people should be worried about. I repeat, this novel was published in 1935, featuring militaristic students taking over their school because they cannot wait to fight in the next war. It is a school where even questioning the validity of such extreme movements is outlawed, offering expulsion for students and termination for staff. Those who snitch on people’s negative comments on the policy are granted additional credits for classes or a small cash bonus.
The book is It Can’t Happen Here (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9780451465641&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used), and the most frightening thing about this 85 year old vision is how accurate it seems to the rising chaos of today.
The voting is underway in 14 States (as well as American Samoa, an island I adore; for more please look back to my series Elsewhere from last year. One whole piece discusses the history and development of this wondrous place.) On television, where the bulk of us watching are getting our news, there is a blubbering of video effects and jarring noises, offering us momentary updates that shift to another side two minutes later after another 300 votes have been counted. It is pandemonium across the networks, each voice trying to nudge their way in before the big boss anchor interrupts with yet another urgent update.
As we await more substantial results (which, by the time you read this, should be thoroughly chiseled in stone), perhaps it is worthwhile to discuss the man each are vying to challenge in a way a little different than smug worshipfulness, or vicious, paranoid, hate-filled scorn. I’d like to offer this editorial, written several weeks before this unfinished commentary on the nature of religious belief related to populist politicians in general. Of course some of their followers see them as Messiah, while others, well, those also on the side of organized faith, they see things a little differently:
It has been a curious week. One so hopeful on one end, an almost desperate justification for their plans gone so deadly wrong, then weakly slinging back what-a-bouts. The aggressors are absolutely brutal–a villain in professional wrestling, or some other stereotype of absolute good versus absolute evil, being jeered like any partisan fan in the stands. Sometimes the good guy loses.
Then there is the argument about who or what make a ‘good guy,’ and what about all those assholes who believe that their way is somehow salvation? It is blasphemy we squeak, snuffling in to swallow all the negativity and doubt so many of us are consumed with, the regular snot of life.
Ideas of good versus evil are the foundation of every religion, clarifying which side the followers should be fighting on. The true believers of the other sect, which we see as destructive monstrosities, they are the heroes of their own versions of truth. This battle, finally, is the essence of partisanship. There, I said it: true dedication to a political party, profound belief in a very specific ideology, or merely fanatical hero-worship, is enough form a crusade, the worshipers following their pope to fight their holy crusade.
Now it is very easy in this particular moment to think other people are blaming us for everything. And it isn’t right, it isn’t fair, and maybe everything’s their fault after all, and what? Who? Is someone else saying it is everybody else’s fault other than me?–
–Yes, it is very easy to paint the villain in this age as Donald Trump, for example, some type of serious threat to not just us personally, but everywhere in the world. If you really want to play a game we can also compare Trump to the biblical ‘false prophet’ in the Book of Revelations. Join me, won’t you?
Let’s start with Matthew, 7:15-20:
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Who are you presently relating this figure to? Come on, you don’t have to be like me and see nearly every figure of power this way, too exhausted by fear to care any longer. It doesn’t have to be Trump. Or Obama. Hillary? Saudi “Boom-Boom” Muhammad and his gang of roving terrorists? What about the Mexicans? Drug cartels. The Chinese, with their sneaky ways that we learned about in movies (some of it, clearly, based on fact). What about the Russians? I’m pretty sure they say the same thing about us in an equally jocular manner. Blacks? We all have heard some motherfucker say something childishly racist, not even meant to offend anyone, desperately expressing their crude, nervous sense of humor.
Of course it’s easy to bust on white people too. They sure have a long, bloody history making this a worthwhile pursuit. One thing that many minorities have thought, in angry, self-conscious moments, is how if they could only get together with more of their kind and start a war, those monsters don’t have a chance! And yet, consistently–and especially when fighting among themselves, white people have conquered the world over and over again, with a far more savage inclination than most people from anywhere else. They have been warmongers ever since that pale ape man staggered out of a cave and bashed the king’s head in with a mammoth bone. Just another thing to consider when reflecting on the curious fear that some white people have about possibly being driven extinct.
Of course we could go on with the list endlessly without even bothering to mention the longest and most frequent enemy since even before the birth of Christianity: the Jews. Lest you forget, the Nazi holocaust was not the only genocidal campaign against the Jews. All sorts of pogroms have been tacked to the door of the Jew’s place. And the Jew is treated as monolithic, as a single alien entity that all act and think alike. The Jew is a very easy target because, without their first monotheism, we would never have this organized religion or partisan politics or any of the other horrible things caused by religion, including every war throughout monotheistic history.
Here’s another gem from Matthew, 24:24, before we move on to the primary source comparison:
“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.“
And now, Revelation:
3:9: Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
So here we have an early description of “the enemy,” being condemned–certain to avoid a specific ethnicity–but declaring everything they might have to say a lie. There is a threat to them, commanding they come to worship by force. This somehow proves to the loyal followers that there is love in such actions.
4:11: Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.
The worship of God, alighted on the throne. God is everything to man, the creator and bringer of all value to life.
6:10: How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
6:15-6:17: And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand?
Oh boy, we can’t wait for God to come and get them! Come on! Wipe those heretics off the face of the earth! Please oh please oh please, my Lord. Find those dirty fake leaders and show ‘um who’s boss!
7:14-7:17: These are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat: for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.
And God will give us prizes, bless them, and give them everything we need so that we, too, can be successful like God. Look at all the great things It will give us! We’ll be clean, well feed, and have plenty of whatever we want to drink! It can fix the environment (easy to do! A hoax that our God alone can fix!) And there will be no more struggle, no frustration, even no more hatred once those horrible people that we hate are wiped from the face of the earth (or at least from our nation)!
9:5-9:6: And it was given them that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when it striketh a man. And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it; and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them.
9:20-9:21: the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk: and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Oh, let them suffer, oh Lord! Let them feel the sting of (ha ha!) how wrong they were and how right we are! They’ll want to die every second because our true Lord reigns (ha ha!), and they will still sit and worship their lies! The Lord told them not to, but they didn’t listen, so let them pay!
11:5-11:6: fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed. These have the power to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire.
I mean, God can shut those fools up with a handful of words–but don’t hurt them, the Lord tells us! No, let them do their evil until everything turns to shit, and then only the true believers will be saved.
13:1-13:18: And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns, and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as though it had been smitten unto death; and his death-stroke was healed: and the whole earth wondered after the beast; and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority unto the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? And who is able to war with him? and there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given to him authority to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in the heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and there was given to him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain. If any man hath an ear, let him hear. If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goeth: if any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like unto lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he maketh the earth and them dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed. And he doeth great signs, that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men. And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who hath the stroke of the sword and lived. And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image to the breast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead; and that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom . . .
Yeah! That’s right! I mean . . . wait, who are we talking about? This lying beast who controls all the people, all the money, and won’t stand for anybody damning It’s name. War, fire from the sky . . . is this good? Is it to make the world better than the ruptured anarchy that It’s elevation has caused for the sinners, the demons, the greedy fools who must be punished severely? It must be true. The Lord says it . . .
Such are the holy beliefs in leaders going all the way back to the peak of the Roman empire–or really much later than the time of Christ, who plays a pretty prominent roll in the early parts of the story that are not quoted. The Book of Revelation was written at least 100 years after the events depicted in the narrative, in a preliterate time with no understanding of history beyond the same campfire stories that formed the foundation of every religion know to man, going all the way back to the earliest polytheism. And yet this story has maintained its power up to the modern day, a frightening vision of eventual salvation, with plenty of war and bloodshed. It is an entertaining narrative and the suggestion of the end of the world seems to have always had an appeal to our imagination. I do not wish so much to come across as against religion entirely, but logical facts seem a better way to understand something that I have no doubt will eventually be transformed into a huge budget remake of a movie no one watches anymore.
Since Bernie Sanders underwhelmed Tuesday, inevitably those who radically support(ed?) him are going to cry foul. “It’s the system trying to take our man down!” and “They don’t want Bernie to be President, so they’re all crooks! They’re no better than Trump!” And of course, at least to a certain degree, there is cause for such alarm and outrage.
Conspiracies have a certain validity of course, dastardly schemes worked out and implemented by shadowy people seeking to force their visions upon the world. But in the age of Trump . . . the shriek about how Bernie is being screwed is really a product of Trump himself than any balking reality. I mean, sure, the Democratic Party does not want Sanders to be their nominee, but there is a deeper feeling, it seems, within the opposition to Trump itself, that only a moderate like Joe Biden could get the votes needed to win. After all, Bernie’s dominance in the early races still only amounted to twenty-some percent of the voting public, and, while likely, it is wrong to assume that with all the moderate candidates dropping out (goodbye, Senator Klobuchar and Mayor Pete. Ehh, Bloomberg. You will be missed for your clarity and clear-mindedness in the raucous insanity to come), that Sanders would in any way have the majority of anything. But it is the radical, singular followers, the bad losers, who will drop out of Democracy and simply stand there protesting.
I have asked numerous people over at least the past year, after the shocking results of Texas, and numerous times today (I expected Sanders to win by much more than Biden actually did), “What happens if Biden actually and sincerely wins the votes and is declared the nominee at the convention because there are many more people supporting him?” I mention that I believe that Sanders would actually defeat Trump, and that about Biden I am not so sure, but that reality must maintain Democracy else we sink into the tyranny that Donald Trump is gradually imposing. I ask them this question and, other than the cliched mantra of “I’m voting Blue no matter who!” some of them dismissively offer, I get a refusal to even consider the possibility. I am told that the DNC are “gangsters” (which I do not really disagree with), and hear talk of protests that will probably never congeal, and crazed rushing the stage and threats of violence all over the nation, and this leaves me to wonder: how is this different from Trump’s people? I mean really. I am not in any way comparing Sanders to Donald Trump. Sanders appears to have some genuine decency about him. But the Trumpian conspiratorial mindset has been so pervasive since even before he was elected (I have also wondered “If the actual truth–the real, honest truth–were released about who was responsible for the death of JFK, would it merely be written off as just another theory?”) People simply cannot stand when their hopes, dreams and desires are deferred, forcing them to face disappointment. They are like children not getting what they wanted for Christmas (or whatever secular version they celebrate.) It is a tantrum on par with Donald Trump’s tantrums, brats not being given everything.
So this is what we have learned from yet another election, the tragic refusal of rivals to accept what has happened. We can hear the faint chirps about Texas being stolen, which might grow into a violent explosion should Bernie continue to falter. One can even see a similar circumstance to the 2016 election (although Biden will do much better than Clinton in the South, and perhaps win enough there to win the electoral college as well as the inevitable popular vote), losing despise winning the race. One can see plenty of young Sanders supporters, not accustomed to the slurry disappointment of electoral politics (not really accustomed to disappointment whatsoever, being spoiled children regardless of their background, distracted by social media, disinterested in anything other than what they want, just like a selfish Trump supporter allowing their leader to think for them).
Everything is uncertain confusion, once again, and maybe for always. There are so many other issues invading the planet at this time, a perfect storm of rage, catastrophe, violence, plague, paranoia, and ecological disaster that makes this increasingly dangerous political situation just one of the normal events we have to endure day after day after day.
We will return following the primaries of 3/17/2020, which include Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Arizona, as well as the additional territorial elections over the next two weeks. And now, a commercial break . . .