Why This Year’s Presidential Election Is So Depressing

I’d vote for Imperator Furiosa before Hillary and Trump

W.J. Astore

This year’s presidential election is depressing.  I suppose Trump and Hillary supporters are fired up.  They want to see “their” candidate win.  But for me, I wish a pox on both their houses, even as I hope the eventual winner is not as bad as he or she appears to be.

With respect to foreign policy, neither candidate comes close to representing my views.  Instead of American exceptionalism, instead of global reach and global power, I believe the U.S. needs to learn the merits of minding its own business.  I want a country that is not imperial, not militaristic, and not intent on waging forever wars against inchoate forces (terror) and with a changing roster of enemies (Al Qaeda/ISIS/radical Islam, North Korea, Iran, and now possibly Russia and China, and who knows who or what else next).  I want active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to end.  I want U.S. troops to be brought home.

We don’t need a new Cold War, America.  Nor should we be elevating terrorism, a containable threat, to an existential threat.  The true existential threat is incessant greed-wars, which will bankrupt our country even as they administer the death blow to our democracy.

The main candidates, Trump and Clinton, are committed to feeding the national security state.  Both promise more wars, especially war-hawk Clinton.  With Trump, honestly, I have no idea what to expect from him.  Trump has all the makings of a Nero.  He’ll fiddle (or Tweet) while the world burns.  And Hillary?  She’s a self-styled Imperator Furiosa (from the latest Mad Max movie) but without her heart.

So much of U.S. foreign policy nowadays is about selling weaponry.  We sell billions and billions to the Israelis and Saudis (among others), and the peoples of Palestine and Yemen suffer and die as a result.  Are U.S. hands clean merely because we made the weapons (and in some cases subsidized their purchase)?  What kind of “democracy” dominates the world’s arms trade?  In more enlightened days, the U.S. excoriated European countries and their “merchants of death” (this was in the 1920s and 1930s).  Now we are the merchants of death, boasting of all the money we’re making.  We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Trump and Hillary: one a Nero, one an Imperator.  Both American exceptionalists, both believers in the military, both willing to wield big sticks while never speaking softly.  Yes, I find that depressing.

On domestic policy, Hillary hews closer to what I believe, at least in theory.  But in practice who knows with Hillary?  She speaks with forked tongue on so many important issues.  I think liberals/progressives can count on her to be pro-choice, to be pro-LGBTQ, to be (or appear to be) sensitive to racism, to be inclusive (compared to Republicans), to be pro-immigration (again, compared to Republicans).  For many liberals/progressives/democrats, Hillary’s predictability on these issues is enough, especially compared to the hard right positions embraced by Trump/Pence.  And indeed more than a few of my Democratic friends are voting for Hillary based on these positions, together with their faith (fingers crossed) that her Supreme Court nominees will be somewhere to the left of Antonin Scalia.

Is that enough?  Not for me.  Again, it’s Hillary’s opportunism, the way she slips in and out of positions as if they’re so many interchangeable pantsuits, that I find so depressing.  Whether it’s the TPP or fracking or the $15 minimum wage or health care reform or bank reform or what have you, she changes her tune, much like a piper responding to requests.  Yes, he who pays the piper calls the tune, and I can’t pay the piper what Goldman Sachs can.  So I’ll never hear my tune played; only theirs.  And I know how that song ends: with even greater inequality followed by another financial meltdown, and this time maybe the middle class will die.

I can’t vote for more of the same (Hillary) only with more fury.  I can’t vote for random acts of caprice and belligerence guided by ignorance (Trump).  Honestly, you know what I want to do?  Write in “Bernie Sanders.”  He’s not perfect (who is?), but he has character and integrity, and that’s what this country really needs.  I know: Bernie told me to vote for Hillary.  But dammit, Bernie, I can’t do it.

Did I say I was depressed?  After I write in Bernie’s name on November 8th, I’ll walk away from the voting booth with a smile.  And to me that’s not a “wasted” vote.

7 thoughts on “Why This Year’s Presidential Election Is So Depressing

  1. I already voted for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party which qualifed for the ballot in 47 states. Senator Bernie Sanders’ name doesn’t appear on any state ballots and the voting machines don’t count write-in votes. I discovered this when I wrote in Ralph Nader’s name on the California ballot in 2004. I never saw any counts for him until weeks after the election, and I seriously doubted the veracity of those. Jill Stein offered to step aside and let Bernie lead the Green Party ticket, but he chose to do what I always knew he would: namely, tuck tail and join with You-Know-Her in screwing the people who voted for him in the primaries. As Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy, Inc.:

    “While the Republican Party is ever vigilant about the care and feeding of its zealots, the Democratic Party is equally concerned to discourage its democrats.”

    Senator Sanders had a scripted role to play in the Democratic Party primary: namely, discourage the anti-war, anti-neoliberal, pro-labor base of the party by first getting their hopes up only to dash them when it really counted. As Professor Wolin went on to add:

    “The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that, for the poor, minorities, the working class, anticorporatists, pro-environmentalists, and anti-imperialists, there is no opposition party working actively on their behalf. And this despite the fact that these elements are recognized as the loyal base of the party. By ignoring dissent and by assuming that the dissenters have no alternative, the party serves as an important, if ironical, stabilizing function and in effect marginalizes any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.

    I strongly support Dr Jill Stein’s domestic and foreign policy positions, which she has clearly enunciated and which compare favorably to those few that Senator Sander’s managed to mention. Unfortunately, he gave You-Know-Her an early pass on her long and bloody war-slut record and never managed to get much beyond vapid rhetoric about some sort of “revolution.” You-Know-Her embodies and personifies those “corporate allies of the Republicans” and now Senator Sanders wants to help her “marginalize any possible threat” to them. Way to go “Mr Revolutionary.” I would never vote for You-Know-Her and I would never vote for anyone who advised me to do so. I want to see a real alternative political party built from the bottom up. I’ve changed my political profile to Green and will now devote whatever political energies I have left to helping develelp that party. It’s leading candidates will change over time, naturally, but I like the policies and philosophy. Those should endure. A write-in vote, while legitimate and satisfying, will not (in my opinion) help build the alternative political structures that America desperately needs. Senator Sanders could have made a significant contribution to such a development, but he chose instead to help discourage the Democratic Party’s [small-d] democrats. Too bad.

    Anyway, I’ve already done my citizen-voter thing and now have only a pale and passing curiosity about what the rest of my countrymen will do.


    1. I like the thought of building an alternative political structure with the Green Party. Stein speaks to my values and sentiments on every issue she addresses. Also noteworthy is the fact that she does, in fact, address important issues. How refreshing that a balloted candidate for President is able to hold an adult conversation without condescension, stupidity, or prevarication!
      I appreciate some of what Sanders brought to the conversation, but his stated understandings (or lack thereof) with regard to Russia and foreign policy in general was a turnoff. His sellout to Clinton and meek slippage into the background was disgraceful and a slap in the face to his supporters.


    2. I hear you, Mike. Having followed Bernie and having read his words and listened to his speeches, I feel like he represents my beliefs the best. I’m much less familiar with Jill Stein; from what I’ve seen of her, I have less of a feeling of affinity.

      Yes, I know. “Feeling” is an emotional word. I simply like Bernie better. It’s truly a shame he didn’t run as a third-party, though of course he’d be pilloried as the spoiler who allowed the Evil Trump to win, assuming that came to pass.


  2. No Bill, U.S. hands are not clean whatsoever. The outright murder in Yemen (note the recent Saudi shelling of a funeral in the capital city) stinks to high heaven. The sanctions and blockade are criminal. The sanctions against Syria are criminal. The dirty war against Syria using vile mercenaries is criminal. The U.S. is not involved in a war on terrorism, it is an enabler and user of terrorism for vile purposes. The sooner Americans begin to see the truth of such matters, the better. If we survive and can do something about it.


    1. Yes. The rank, self-serving hypocrisy of the hyper-militarized U.S. government today nearly beggars description in terms palatable to the humane mind. Still, some have tried:

      “War and violence, as intruments of virtue, are a contradiction in terms.” — Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class

      “Beware a nation announcing its innocence en route to war.” — James Carroll, Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War

      Hard to do much better than that.


  3. Thanks for your NADER vote …Not…In the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Nader won 97,488 votes, while Al Gore lost the state (and, therefore, the presidency) by 537 votes to Mr. Bush. Imagine the Pax Americana and the health of the climate had only 1% of those Nader voters took a sanity pill before voting. OMG – no Gw Bush – no Cheney- no …. The President makes 4,000 appointments… Under Trump say goodbye to EPA and say hello to your grandchildren breathing diesel air and drinking water laced with toxic chemicals and sewage. Imagine the NRA and military industrial complex with a permanent “advisory” desk in the West Wing. Have you not seen the photos of Eric trump meeting with the manufacturer of the assault weapon used to kill the people in Orlando? Bite your tongue, put a clothespin on your nose, vote Hillary Clinton, and pray Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and other sane people inevitably linked to Clinton’s coattails will inevitably help Empress Clinton throttle back her military inclinations. You trust Bernie, right? You said so. He has more insider information than you do. What would Bernie do?


  4. I didn’t vote for Nader in 2000, but had I, to consider my vote to be blameworthy for either Bush’s “election” or for what transpired during his two terms is wrong. Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, the Supreme Court, and Gore himself had much more to do with his “loss” than the people in Florida who had every right to choose to vote for Nader. Blame Bush voters for electing Bush…Nader voters certainly didn’t.
    It should also be noted that proper citizenship requires more than showing up at a voting booth every two or four years. I noticed a lot of rah rah sis boom bah for Shock and Awe…did you?
    Gore was a mediocre candidate at best who couldn’t win his home state of Tennessee. It is debatable whether his presidency would have stopped environmental degradation or led to social sanity or “better” gun “control”. Certainly, the “liberal” Obama has been highly ineffective in terms of safe drinking water, education, and a whole host of domestic concerns. Gore was a DLC “New” Democrat just like the treacherous Clinton. But feel free to think that if only Gore had been elected, all would be well. But that ship has sailed regardless of any fairy tale musings about what might have been.
    I would not vote for Hilligula in any case. I would not vote for Trump In any case. My vote for Stein has nothing to do with other choices, because the other choices aren’t viable to me. Deal with it.
    As to Sanders and Warren “checking” Clinton…now that is a fairy tale!


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