The Election Without a Future

Their vision for the future is stuck in the past

W.J. Astore

Isn’t it remarkable that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have no compelling vision of a future America?

Both Biden and Trump are retrograde candidates. Biden talks of restoration. He wants to restore comity and decency. To turn the clock back to a mythical time of bipartisan accord. A time when Americans sought to help other Americans. Trump, of course, is about division and carnage but he has his own vision of restoration. Trumps appeals to the America of the 1950s, before the Civil Rights movement, before the Vietnam War protests, before the Women’s Liberation movement, before Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, and (taking it back even further, to the Roaring Twenties, perhaps), before FDR’s New Deal.

It tells us something that Biden and Trump are so past-oriented. It suggests our best days are behind us, that we know, on some level, the future is in the crapper, what with extreme weather, anti-social technologies, forever wars, pandemics, exploding deficits, and the ever-growing gap between the richest few and poorest many.

The America I grew up in was future-oriented. Space travel would be routine. We’d have a moonbase; we’d have journeyed to Mars and Jupiter; we’d have flying cars; we’d have rewarding work, with more leisure time; we’d live longer, healthier, richer lives. That was a vision of the new millennium, but here we are, twenty years into it, and our political candidates look desperately (Biden) or maniacally (Trump) to pasts that never really existed.

A saying attributed to Yogi Berra is that the future ain’t what it used to be. Now it seems we have no future. Just one day after another, chasing our tails and calling it “progress.”

Why is this? Perhaps it’s because certain powerful forces in American society like things just the way they are. They’d rather have us fighting over which past is more comfortable to us than have us reaching for a new future without them in charge. That’s one big reason we have two presidential candidates in their seventies with their gear shifts locked permanently in reverse.

Biden and Trump both want us peering closely into the rear view mirror (even as Trump’s is more distorted) when we should be looking ahead through the windshield. Put differently, Biden is comity without change, and Trump is American carnage on steroids. Considering both, it’s an election without a future.

69 thoughts on “The Election Without a Future

  1. I agree and disagree.

    Trump presents a clear view of the US without a republic and with no trace of democracy. It will be an oligarchical regime not unlike that of the National Socialists in Germany in a time past.

    I didn’t like the candidates in the last election and I don’t like the candidates in this one, either. Bu t at least Joe’s vision or a more civil place to live perhaps offers a more palatable vision than just the end of the American democracy.

    I’ll take a chance on that rather than no chance with Trump.

    If you really want progressive change, find a compelling candidate for the future who will stand fast and is strong enough to not get drowned out by all the backbiting noise.

    So far no one has appeared. Mores the pity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Understand your point. Yet Biden’s vision of the future is, apparently, four more years of Obama policies with more bipartisanship, i.e. even more compromises with the Republicans, since the Republicans weren’t known for civility and compromise in the Obama years.

      Bold ideas are out. Green New Deal? No way. Allegedly can’t afford it, even as Joe and Kamala defend fracking. What next: more talk of “clean” coal? Some future!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Considering very sadly there is no choice, either it is Biden with lack of vision OR trump who has destroyed many of country’s institutions ( which will take a long time to rebuild ) and which he will continue to destroy and there will be nothing to rebuild…
        AND, the country could end up with THIS……..

        People have to choose…. carefully.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My view is to give me more choices–Our 2 party system is bringing us down. Too much money in the big policical parties. All owe their political lives to big money, and not to the people. It is hard when each election you have to vote for who you think is the least (in your view) desirable of 2 candidates.
        So, in my case I always vote against (almost always) the incumbent as my way to try to enforce term limits.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s not just a question of finding a strong candidate. Sanders, Warren, and Gabbard would all have been effective in working toward a future we could live with. Jill Stein was, also, for that matter. The DNC will always quash any strong progressive candidate.

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      1. (Sorry—accidentally posted before I finished my comment.) A strong candidate is necessary, but not sufficient. To secure a bright future for this country, the entire political system needs to change. Ideally, there would be at least a VIABLE third party, maybe more, so that the DNC could no longer knock out any candidate who won’t bow to its corporate masters.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I agree about the Third party HOWEVER what one wishes for is not going to happen in the near future and the REALITY is, either NO FUTURE to build on OR possibility of changing the direction in which the country is headed, salvage what is remaining and build on it.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yes….we have to deal with the reality in front of us.

            I was responding to Mr. Woodbury’s comment that we need compelling candidates to break the current reactionary stalemate. My point is that such candidates aren’t enough, if they’re continually undermined by their own party.

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  2. Your comment: “The America I grew up in was future-oriented.” The “space race” had the clouds of the Cold War looming over head. Yet, there was an optimism in the air. There seemed to be a real technology leap in spirit.

    We decided that rivers on fire from toxic wastes were bad.

    Back to Biden, his talk in so many words of reaching across the aisle reminds me of the days when a Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond and Byrd could glad hand each other.

    Bill Clinton gave Wall Street and the GOP almost everything they wanted: Nafta, more trade with China, deregulation, tough on crime, etc. Investigating White Water may have been a legitimate effort. I say may have, how do you go from White Water to Monica’s dress???

    Obama should have and Biden by simple osmosis should have learned from the Clinton years there is segment of the GOP that takes no prisoners. Extend the hand across the aisle and the GOP will hack it off. The Trumpet has escalated and brought into the open the take no prisoners approach. The Trump Cult cheers him on.

    It is laughable but sad the way the Media and Biden keep trying to find a “Moderate Republican”. The “Moderate Republican” species is either extinct or has “joined” the “Centrist” Democratic Party. Biden is looking like someone from King Arthur’s day on the quest for the Holy Grail – in this case it is a white suburban housewife and/or Paul the Plumber.

    Retrograde is a good way to describe Biden and The Trumpet, each trying to find that mythical past. Kamala has proved to be an adapt chameleon moving from mild Left to firm center and leaning a bit more to the Right these days.

    My hope would be a smashing Biden win, with the Democrats taking over the Senate and maintaining a strong grip on the House. Obama had this same scenario in 2008 and he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Is it wishful thinking on my part, just maybe The Squad can stimulate resistance to Bidinism???? The Corporate Democrats know how to deal with revolts.

    The Occupy Movement was out in the streets all over the country demanding change. The GOP as expected attacked Occupy, the Democrats ignored Occupy at best – Mainly the Democrats treated Occupy as radioactive waste something that needed to be buried and sealed up. There would be Change and No Hope.

    The Occupy Movement did not die, it was waiting and in 2015 along came Bernie. However, it was Hillary’s turn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ML – good point about Obama’s ‘caving’, even when he initially had a Democratic majority in the House as I recall. But then all I remember hearing from ‘O’ and the Dems was ‘Oh, we can’t do anything because we don’t have a veto-proof 2/3’s majority’..?? Huh? Why not at least make the R’s USE their vetoing majority, and then you’ll be able to throw it in their face at election time. And as you alluded to, Obama and the Dems feigning shock at how combative and intransigent the R’s were — WTF, were they sleeping during the Clinton administration?? The R’s have essentially been that way since 1980, and especially since the early 90’s and the Newt Gingrich government-shutdown era. My pessimistic perception is that the Dems grew relatively progressive in the late 60’s/early 70’s, the zeitgeist changed in the mid- 70’s (end of Vietnam War, OPEC oil ‘shocks’, etc) and they retreated (somewhat out of political necessity (ie; McGovern got trounced in 72 by Nixon, so unfortunately that sent a clear message to the Dems).

      Your comment about cleaning up the burning river was obviously a reference to the Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 that was one of the ‘sparks’ for the environmental movement of the early 1970’s. However, even that was not as ‘enlightened’ as it might appear at first glance, since that was at least the 13th fire on the Cuyahoga since 1868*, so it took 100 years for the city/country to finally do something about a burning river… not exactly an encouraging precedent when looking at the possibility of the US doing anything significant about climate change/global warming.

      * https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuyahoga_River

      Liked by 1 person

        1. My understanding was that it was volatile pollutants, probably largely from Sherwin-Williams, that caught fire. “Trash” implies solid material. “Cover the Earth” is S-W’s corporate motto. But with what have they been covering it?? [That said, I have always found their paint to be of very high quality. Seems like that comes with a cost, though.]

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          1. Not sure about the S-W angle. Their HQ is near the river, but I don’t know how long it’s been since their plant there was operational. You could be right about the water pollutants, I’ve lived in the city 32 years, and I’ve often heard the correction that the river itself did not burn. This calls for further research!

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      1. Pence’s claim in the VP “debate” that the environment has never been better than on his boss’s watch went unchallenged by Sen. Harris. I thought on the whole she came off pretty well, but she sure missed a lot of opportunities. I wished I could have been feeding her ideas in real time, via one of those infamous “ear pieces.” She should have said: “The only reason pollution is down temporarily is the huge sag in economic activity resulting from the pandemic. And your boss, Donald J. Trump, has seized every opportunity he could to ROLL BACK what environmental protections were in place.” It has long been my position that the “Environmental Protection Agency” has existed from the beginning only to somewhat regulate the RATE of destruction of the environment, not to HALT IT. After all, it was on Nixon’s watch that the agency was birthed.

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  3. Brilliant observations, Professor Astore. Your comment about the past being the only refuge because the future is inevitably in the crapper is….stunning. That’s EXACTLY what’s going on in this election. Going forward is a losing proposition, so Biden wants to go back to Happy Days (despite all the thinly-veiled toxicity of that era), and the Dumpster just wants a regression to 1930s Germany.

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  4. Makes sense since The United States *is* the past. You cannot articulate a positive version for a future that does not exist. The country is rotten to the core and only now are people who were born here and lived in relative comfort for so long learning that the “American Dream” was just that: a dream. It never existed. When people got serious about asking, “where’s mine?” they were finally faced with the harsh truth of an economy based on war-making and a complete disregard for the majority of the population. This is as true today as it was decades ago. People are just waking up about it now.

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  5. I can’t agree with you here, Mr. Astore. We know Biden goes out of his way to reassure “Middle America” that he’s NOT a Progressive. If Joe wins, we won’t get anything like THE Green New Deal proposed by AOC and her like-minded Members of Congress (and bless them!). But turning back the clock to Obama-ville is the very minimal change we desperately NEED!! Climate Change CANNOT be reversed, solid Science tells us that. But trying to slow it to extent possible is better than intentionally accelerating it, which is Trump’s environmental policy in a nutshell. I’m somewhat surprised you didn’t post about last night’s Pence-Harris affair, so I’ll just say one thing for now: I laughed my head off when Mr. Pence claimed the GOP had facts and Science on THEIR side! Oh, and we should nominate that housefly for an EMMY Award for Best Cameo Performance.

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    1. In listening to Dore’s video, I was struck by his comments about getting screwed every time one engages with the system. Also about being intentionally uninformed. And it occurs to me that if one is struggling to make it from day to day, week to week, maybe there’s simply no time or desire to hear a raft of policies about the abstract future. People want to know what’s in store for tomorrow, and if someone promises it’ll be back to the good ol’ days, maybe that’s enough. Not saying that’s a productive way to think, but as Dore says, if it’s a choice between buying food and paying rent, there isn’t room for much else. Meaning that getting progressive candidates elected is even harder than it first appears.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I “hear” you, Denise, and doubtless many folks are too busy scrambling to barely get by to engage in a lot of “political analysis.” Of course, worst thing of all is how much BS is flooding their brain cells to divert them from the real issues of the day. But Federal law provides for every worker to be given time off to vote if their shift is during polling place hours. It’s practically a scandal that, what, 50% of us vote? “The Greatest Democracy in the World,” are we? Ha-ha!! One thing the GOP “promised for tomorrow” these past few days is that it’s highly unlikely we’ll receive another “relief check” this calendar year.

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        1. Dore succinctly lays out the reasons for voter apathy, and I think he’s absolutely right. Also, in no company where I’ve ever worked did we get time off to vote. It would appear that pretty much zero employers abide by that regulation.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I have no time for Jimmy Dore videos. Any workplace is required to have Federal laws posted regarding overtime pay, time off to vote, etc. A Trump-loving employer, I could see lacking enthusiasm for such a thing. If workers don’t stand up for their rights, their bosses just walk all over them more vigorously. It’s true, of course, that not many people work a daily shift that would prevent them getting to the polls for the full hours of 6 AM to 8 PM (typical polling place hours, though surely it varies from state to state). LEOs and medical personnel would be likeliest to potentially be on such a schedule.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes. It’s difficult to think about the future when you’re scrambling to stay afloat in the present. Meanwhile, our scheming politicians refuse to throw us a life preserver. Keep treading water, America, and maybe someday your ship will come in.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I thought $5 lottery tickets were outrageous, but now $20 ones are routine in my state. I see Florida has a $30 scratch ticket. Talk about regressive taxation! Once again, the poor are taxed heavily but it’s disguised as a “game.”

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I should add my state has embraced the $30 scratch ticket in a bigly way. Surely a $50 ticket is on its way in a few short years. How can you lose?

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          2. I’ve tried my hand at lottery here where I live an average of once or twice a year recently, “just for kicks.” I won seven bucks on a $3 ticket but never collected! Instructions said I had to write my Social Security number on back of the ticket–you know, for income tax purposes! Like I’m really gonna hand my SSN to a convenience store clerk!!

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          3. A $30 lottery ticket, eh? Well, states are hurting severely for their own income, with businesses going under and workers tossed on the scrap heap. Gotta raise state revenues somehow! In the end, we the people will be handed a combo of tax increases AND severe austerity-type cuts in social services. The good old double whammy! This is absolutely baked in the cake, and an unappetizing one it is.

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          4. Bought a 20 dol. Lottery Scratch Ticket back in the day won a puny couple of dollars on it. Wouldn’t you think the lowest Win would be the “20” on a Twenty Cost Ticket!? Not in the “Uncommonwealth of Taxachusetts” Ma. That was the End of my Scratch Ticket Lottery Playing Period…! :o), :/

            Liked by 1 person

          1. But, all that ever comes in is the dismal tide… And.., instead of treasures we have the flotsam & jetsam! :/

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          2. We need to jettison Trump over the rail and have him float away to sea, a 300-pound chunk of jetsam! My Army buddy, who’s a “big guy” himself, estimates Trump tips the scales in excess of 300! I think that’s a bit of an overestimate, frankly.

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  6. Jimmy Dore had a pretty good live stream show recently which he has edited into several shorter videos. In addition to the video referenced by Bill Astore above, I would mention two more.

    The first features Michelle Obama who — like her platitude-spewing grifter husband — got a 30 million dollar payout (i.e., “book advance”) on leaving the White House (after eight years) in 2017. The former “first lady” pulls several grotesque faces trying to look “really genuinely concerned and stuff” as she proceeds to voter shame unenthusiastic voters into not “wasting” their votes on “protest candidates” like those who might actually offer them something. See: “Michelle Obama Can’t Make Case for Candidate Offering NOTHING!”, The Jimmy Dore Show (October 9, 2020).

    The second — and one of my favorites — shows the kind of humiliating treatment a so-called “progressive” (let alone a self-styled “revolutionary”) can look forward to once he or she gives away their political leverage and betrays their “leftist” followers for a “position” inside the ruling oligarchy’s corporate Democratic faction. See: “Nobody Wants To See BERNIE Campaign For BIDEN!”, The Jimmy Dore Show (October 9, 2020). The show pretty much consists of two cruelly juxtaposed images that tell the sorry tale better than words ever could. Still, for those who might want to see the accompanying commentary, I’ve done a transcript here.

    We sometimes hear that “Two’s company and three’s a crowd.” Well, now we can observe Bernie Sanders (technically) addressing two “crowds” (totalling six people) in a nearly empty Michigan parking lot. This shows you what Bernie’s “friend” Joe Biden really thinks of him, not to mention the engaged young voters who helped elect Barack and Michelle Obama (the vapid dark-skinned rhetoric reciters) and actually expected them to deliver on all that “hope and change” bullshit. You know: the voters Rahm Emmanuel — President Obama’s chief of staff — sneeringly called “fucking retards.” Mustn’t “waste” your vote on someone other than those cynical frauds who despise you for your clueless gullibility.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the Jimmy Dore links, Mike.

      Why was Bernie shouting a speech into a microphone for a few people? And he couldn’t handle one woman holding a Trump flag in front of his face?

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  7. here on the north coast of mindoro island in the philippines, everyone is ‘struggling’… as they always have, everyday, courageously launching their wee fishing ‘banqas’ to face the open sea. labouring, w/ backs bent, from dawn to dusk, in the tropical heat on their tiny plots of land. their determination to feed their families is inexorable, and their devotion to those families, even their extensive ‘extended’ families is unimpeachable. if their neighbours are in need, they give whatever exiguous usufruct they have available, no matter how desperate they are themselves. it is a transcendent zeitgeist we expat pensioners in balatero bear witness to on a daily basis, and it is transformative. if such eleemosynary attitudes could be embraced by americans, particularly those aligned to the trumpetting-trump cult and those locked into the credit-card debt that their esurient lifestyles demand, the ‘disunited’ states of acquisition and acquisitiveness could begin to heal. yes, it is a vision of a prelapsarian past that is perhaps a chimera, but w/out a dramatic attitudinal change, the ‘future’ will unfold in ways over which americans will have no control, nor will their politicians [now a dirty pejorative, no longer a respectable word] nor will their corporate bosses and their myrmidons. mother nature will inevitably redress outré imbalances… but the inequities will begin anew.

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    1. Self-induced EXTINCTION will be the cure for the avarice humans have “evolved” to embrace. Mother Nature will surely have the last laugh, but unfortunately she will be gravely wounded herself before The End arrives for the arrogant anthropoid ape called Man. She is already hurting dreadfully. I know these things for certain, but “strangely” the knowledge brings me no comfort or joy!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. as you exhort, that is precisely the seismic sea-change this beleaguered planet needs… our extinction, the sooner the better. i just hope most of the increscent shock waves occur after our bantlings and grand bantlings are already dead. i used to care about our verminous species, but that was in my puerile, callow youth.

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        1. Ha-ha! Because, naturally, “callow” people care most about others, right?? Heck, that should make Trump a super-caring individual!

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          1. Thought-provoking ramifications there. Just watched a movie about global apocalypse, and the premise was that arks had been built to save X number of people. Some, as in heads of state and certain scientists, were automatically included, while the remainder of passengers bought their way in. There was no official preference at all given to young people. While younger women would obviously be necessary for repopulation, perhaps it’s more effective for long-term survival to have a high number of older and wiser heads? OTOH, in real life, it was the Old Guard who got us into this mess, albeit with a few notable exceptions.

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          2. Sounds a bit like 1951’s “When Worlds Collide,” only young folks were not left out of the equation in that story. Nor were sheep, cattle, etc. The uber-wealthy primary backer of the project, however, was given a rude surprise when blast-off time arrived!

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          3. The movie I watched was “2012,” which was made in 2011. There were some kinda cool shots of giraffes, elephants, hippos, and other animals being air-lifted to the arks. Then it turned out that Africa was almost untouched by the cataclysm. But young people were there only if their parents had bought them passage, at 1 billion Euros per person.

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          4. A billion Euros here, a billion Euros there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money! I’m sure Mr. Trump would have to hit up his billionaire buddies for loans to cover such a fare for himself. But they’d all be scrambling for seats themselves, so…”Sorry, Donald!”

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          5. Speaking of “buddies,” I have serious doubts as to whether Trump actually has any friends! Billionaires stand together in solidarity with one another, but once the photo-op is over, behind closed doors, they can sometimes display intense dislikes of one another. In 1907, J. Pierpont Morgan personally (or so the story goes) tamped down a financial crisis in this country by helping bail out some of his rival banksters. (Cue the violins!)

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          6. am too dense to comprehend your comment as naught but facetious sir laxer. as a ‘callow’ [immature] youth, i cared less about the perils and dashed dreams of others than i did about my next conquest or triumph in whatever ambit i found myself floundering about like a whirling dervish.

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          7. “Ambit,” you say? I think Mr. Trump deals more in armpits! As in the ol’ American putdown of a city, state, what have you, as being “the armpit of America.” The Donald is making USA “the armpit of the world.” And with fulsome glee at that!

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          8. i was the one being facetious, not you, sir laxer… i did not become unsettled about the direction our species was boot-stomping toward until the bairns started popping out, straight into the choking smog and befouled broth. i was too dim-witted and prideful to realize i was wasting my time rattling around, ranting about, caged inside a proactive advocacy that sputtered into oblivion. the dim-wittedness remains, but the hubris has been shed into the trash-tip of time. as denise decried, sanguinity no longer prevails among too many of us.

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          9. Facetiousness is one of life’s essentials, methinks, as we grope our way toward individual and collective oblivion. It’s nihilism for which I have no use!

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        1. me too, denise. as the daughter of a veterinarian growing up in an animal hospital, and myself, a marine biologist, i prefer non-human animals to most of our fellow and fallow human dipstix.

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  8. I agree with you — but for now, I am happy to stop the bleeding. A Biden candidacy is all we have for that. Also, we have wonderful young and savvy progressive leaders who have picked up the torch. So that buoys me, but make no mistake, we face a dismal future, and it won’t be easy.

    Liked by 1 person

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