Biden-Trump, The Final Debate

No inspiration, no vision

W.J. Astore

I didn’t fall asleep easily last night.

Neither candidate, Donald Trump nor Joe Biden, inspires confidence, and their final debate performance highlighted their flaws.

First, Donald Trump. He remains the narcissist-in-chief, in which everything is about him except when it reflects poorly on him, in which case scapegoats are found. Trump talks about Covid-19 deaths always in the abstract, except when he talks about himself getting the virus. Then he boasts about his quick recovery and how he’s now immune to it. Trump is always the best at everything. He’s the best president that Black people have ever had, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. He’s the least racist man in America. The usual BS.

Muted microphones kept Trump’s worst impulses in check. You could see him wanting to butt in, to interrupt, and then he would check himself. It’s rather amazing that the only way America could have the semblance of a debate was through muted microphones and repeated warnings from the moderator.

What strikes me still is Trump’s laziness and lack of discipline. He really should dominate Biden quite easily. When Trump focused on Biden’s record, when he called him out for not doing anything of note in his eight years of being Obama’s VP, when he attacked him as another promise-breaking politician, Trump scored points. But Trump couldn’t focus his attack. He kept returning to Hunter Biden and the kind of Washington in-fighting that turns most people off.

For an America in despair, Trump simply promised more jobs, cheaper gas, and higher Wall Street profits. There was no vision, no hope, and most certainly no solace offered by this president. There’s no poetry to Trump, and only martial music. Even in militarist America, the Trump drumbeat is growing tiresome.

Turning to Joe Biden, he had a good night for Joe Biden. Good as in he remained vertical and mostly on target throughout the debate. Biden was strongest when he addressed the American people directly: when he showed empathy and talked about the pain and despair Americans are feeling. I did catch Biden looking at his watch once, but I’ll cut him some slack because I wanted the debate to be over as well. Overall, I don’t think Biden’s performance in this debate moved the needle in this election.

With regards to national security, naturally there were no questions about ending our wars, or reducing the Pentagon budget, or downsizing nuclear arsenals, or anything like that. “National security” focused on alleged Russian and Iranian interference in our elections and the small nuclear arsenal of North Korea. Of course, the best people at mucking up our elections aren’t Russian or Iranian, they’re American. From gerrymandering to voter intimidation to closed polling sites and lengthy lines in disadvantaged neighborhoods, Americans need no help from foreigners to interfere with our “democracy.”

For a country in despair, a country suffering from a pandemic and from a loss in confidence, neither candidate offered a clear vision for a better tomorrow. Perhaps it simply doesn’t exist in their minds. They are both remarkably limited and flawed men. One is almost certainly a sociopath in which all human relations are transactional, the other is a muddled functionary who’s been wrong more often than he’s been right.

More than microphones were muted in this final debate. Fresh thinking was muted. Inspiration was muted. Generosity was muted. And, dare I use the word, grace was muted.

Small wonder I had trouble sleeping.

Trump: Loser?

Truly shameless

W.J. Astore

I’ve been thinking that Donald Trump is going to lose on November 3rd.

Why? It’s just a feeling, but I think enough Americans are tiring of his act to tip the scales to Joe Biden, which in my view is not a lot to celebrate.

Senator Joseph McCarthy had his run of malicious lies and denunciations in the alleged cause of anti-communism, but the American people tired of him. They came to reject a man with no sense of decency — a man of no shame. Trump is also indecent and shameless — and reckless with his accusations. These qualities endear him to his closest followers, but over time they lose their appeal to those who aren’t as enamored with the man-child.

Today we learned Trump released his own video of his interview on “60 Minutes.” I chuckled when I read his description of his performance:

“Watch [Stahl’s] constant interruptions [and] anger. Compare my full, flowing and ‘magnificently brilliant’ answers,” Trump tweeted along with the link to the interview.

“Magnificently brilliant”: you have to hand it to Trump. What modesty! The “very stable genius” strikes again.

Readers of Bracing Views know I like to cite my father and one of his favorite sayings: An empty barrel makes the most noise. I think enough Americans are tiring of that noise, and enough have recognized the emptiness of the man, to throw the election to Biden. Which, again, is not a lot to celebrate.

Readers, what do you think on this eve before the last debate? Any predictions?

Censorship and America’s Culture of Treachery

Joe and Hunter Biden in 2010

T.J. Osteen.  Introduction by W.J. Astore

Treachery and politics fit like hand-in-glove in today’s America.  Donald Trump is now calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden in the next two weeks. Along with blanket support of corporations, big finance, the military-industrial complex, and other privileged elites, the Republican and Democratic parties share a predilection for treachery.  But is such treachery more common today among liberal elites than conservative ones?  Such is the provocative question raised by Tom Osteen in this essay, his first for Bracing Views.  W.J. Astore

T.J. Osteen on Treachery in America

The recent Biden corruption bombshells are not surprising. That Hunter is alleged to have peddled influence on behalf of Burisma, a Ukrainian company, in return for a no-show “job” that paid $50,000 a month, implicating his father, who was then America’s vice president, is disturbing on its face, but it has also served up collateral damage, putting on full display the alarming problem of censorship by the media.

Censorship by the media has increased dramatically in recent years, whether it be by Facebook, Twitter, or the mainstream media. In this case, Twitter and Facebook initially worked to limit the Biden corruption story; other mainstream outlets ignored it or dismissed it as part of a Russian disinformation campaign. This is more than censorship: it is election interference — in a word, cheating. Other examples arrive daily, including (even more recently than the Biden fiasco) Amazon’s rejection of the Who Killed Michael Brown documentary. Per the Wall Street Journal, this was because the documentary did not fit the dominant narrative of White police officers killing young Black men because of systemic racism.

Why the increase in censorship? Because it is a symptom of something even more ominous. Rather than splitting hairs over the definition of censorship, or what Freedom of Speech means, let’s look at the root cause: the new Culture of Treachery in America.

American culture has evolved from honor-based to dignity-based, and more recently to victim-based. Some quick background on those concepts, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“Honour cultures, often called honour-shame cultures are cultures like that of the American West or Europe in the era when dueling was common. In such cultures, honour is paramount and when it is infringed upon the offended party retaliates directly.”

“A dignity culture, according to Campbell and Manning, has moral values and behavioral norms that promote the value of every human life, encouraging achievement in its children while teaching that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’”

“According to Campbell and Manning, victim-based culture engenders ‘competitive victimhood,’ incentivizing even privileged people to claim that they are the victims of, for example, reverse discrimination.  According to Claire Lehmann, Manning and Campbell’s culture of victimhood sees moral worth as largely defined by skin color and membership in a fixed identity group.”

Just like the rapid news cycle that we now live with, we are already starting to move into a new cultural phase: the American culture of treachery is upon us. The culture of treachery promulgates a “succeed at all costs” mentality and celebrates the destruction of perceived enemies through power. Traditional values have no place in a culture of treachery. Likewise for liberty and justice. The only value is power: the ability to impose one’s will on another, by any means necessary.

Censorship is just one of the many aspects of a culture of treachery. Others include intolerance, deception, manipulation, and hate. The evidence is all around us now, whether it be “cancel culture” or the Russia hoax embraced by the Democrats in their failed attempt to overturn a presidential election.

So where is the source of the treachery in our society? Often the media focuses on Donald Trump and his circle, but we need look no further than who is doing the censoring. Big Tech, the mainstream media, academia, and Hollywood.

But why? These groups have several things in common. They all lean left, they all deal in power, and they all believe they have the answers. So here is the rub: Treachery arises here because liberals are just as likely to act unethically than conservatives to gain or preserve power. When presented with the opportunity to modify a search algorithm or filter information, a liberal (again in general) will do it just as readily as – or even more eagerly than – a conservative.

A so-called liberal value set makes it acceptable to manipulate search results, indoctrinate young minds toward personal political views, cancel those who have different views, or spin news stories while ignoring the truth. Far too often, it is Fox News and other conservative outlets that are condemned for malfeasance and malpractice when it’s liberal sites and power centers that are the true masters of manipulation.

So it comes down to values. Censorship is cheating. Cheating is treachery. Treachery has become as much a “value” of the Left as it is of the Right, and indeed more so as election day approaches.

The coming election and the divide in our country is not solely about policy and differing points of view. At its core, it is about whether we are going to become a Culture of Treachery or whether we are not. Culture comes from the heart. Only an across-the-board rejection of treachery will allow us to enter a productive new era of American culture and restore America to something approaching greatness.

Tom Osteen is a career technology executive and former military officer.  He holds degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of Southern California.  An avid surfer, Tom also writes/speaks on Leading with Honor and Honor in the Workplace.

Four Big Reasons Not to Vote for Trump

Trump, keeping his promise about American carnage

W.J. Astore

Back in May of 2016, I wrote an article on two big reasons not to vote for Donald Trump. Those reasons, his denial of climate change and his cavalier approach to nuclear weapons, remain valid. But I’d like to add two more that we were unaware of in 2016: his total inability to bring people together, i.e. his divide and rule approach to everything; and his murderously incompetent response to Covid-19.

If there are any lukewarm Trump supporters reading this, I hope you join me in voting your conscience, which in my case meant rejecting both Trump and Biden for candidates I believe in (in my case, Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders).

Don’t vote for a man-child, Donald Trump, who’s golfing and tweeting while the planet burns; who has no idea what nuclear weapons can do, but who threatens to use them while bragging about the size of his nuclear button; who dismisses Covid-19 as just another virus that will magically disappear; and who is so eager to divide us in the cause of enriching himself and his family.

Here’s what I wrote in May of 2016:

Nuclear proliferation and global warming are two big issues that Donald Trump is wrong about.  They’re also the two biggest threats to our planet. Nuclear war followed by nuclear winter could end most life on earth within a matter of weeks or months.  Global warming/climate change, though not as immediate a threat as nuclear war and its fallout, is inexorably leading to a more dangerous and less hospitable planet for our children and their children.

What does “The Donald” believe?  On nuclear proliferation, which only makes nuclear war more likely, Trump is essentially agnostic and even in favor of other nations joining the nuclear club, nations like Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia.  When all countries should be earnestly working to reduce and then eliminate nuclear stockpiles, Trump is advocating their expansion.  (An aside: recall in a previous debate that Trump had no idea what America’s nuclear triad is; add intellectual sloth to his many sins.)

On global warming, Trump is essentially a skeptic on whether it exists (“hoax” and “con job” are expressions of choice), even as he seeks to protect his resorts from its effects. Along with this rank hypocrisy, Trump is advocating an energy plan that is vintage 1980, calling for more burning of fossil fuels, more drilling and digging, more pipelines, as if fossil fuel consumption was totally benign to the environment and to human health.

Along with his tyrannical and fascist tendencies, Trump is wrong on two of the biggest issues facing our planet today.  His ignorance and recklessness render him totally unfit to be president.

Monday Musings, October Surprise Edition

My vote for 2020 is in …

W.J. Astore

The real October surprise is that there is no surprise. Trump or Biden will win, meaning Wall Street, Big Finance, and the Military-Industrial Complex win. (Biden is on record as saying he would increase defense spending!) All you “little people,” whether you’re for Trump or Biden: you lose.

My dad, born in 1917 and a survivor of the Great Depression, used to remind me you need three things in life: A roof over your head, three square meals, and clothes to keep you warm. (Nowadays, given the high cost of getting sick, I’d add health care coverage.) How sad is it that America may soon face a massive eviction crisis, and is already seeing people hungry in the streets, even as Wall Street booms? (Yes, I know America has had trouble housing and feeding people for decades — and it’s only getting worse.)

Amy Coney Barrett was picked for one reason, and one reason alone: Her mentors and handlers know how she will vote in the future. So much for judicial independence.

When you think about it, there shouldn’t be “liberal” or “conservative” justices. Each justice should interpret the law based on her understanding of it informed by her conscience. If this were true, justices would be more or less unpredictable in their rulings. But the justices are hopelessly politicized, rendering “justice” politicized as well.

Speaking of justice, Amy Coney Barrett is a friend of corporations; she’s also uncertain whether global warming even exists. Does this sound like a person with a strong conscience, someone who will fight for equality under the law?

What does it mean that the U.S. military is still at war in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but that few Members of Congress even attempt to exercise oversight of the same, let alone make an attempt to end these wars?

I got my ballot this weekend. Faced with a choice of voting for Biden and Harris versus Trump and Pence, I wrote in Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders, in that order. It’s the only way I couldn’t waste my vote.

Tulsi would make a great president. Young, insightful, smart, she’s taken a critical stance against the military-industrial complex and wants to end America’s awful regime-change wars. Bernie would make a terrific vice president. Seasoned, dedicated, he could focus on domestic policy while Tulsi remakes U.S. foreign policy. Imagine if Bernie really could advance his essential policies: Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, free college education, relief of student debt, and so on. Gabbard and Sanders are the closest candidates to my positions, so I voted for them.

There are still plenty of good people in the USA, but callousness and cruelty are on the rise. Who knew that as the Covid-19 death toll soars past 200,000 to approach possibly as high as 400,000 by the new year, so many people would just shrug collectively and then consider voting for a man who so disastrously mismanaged the pandemic response? Trump — what a loser!

Speaking of Trump, is he even our president? As near as I can tell, he’s spent most of his presidential days golfing, tweeting, attending rallies, signing statements and holding them up like a child, and traveling to and from his various resorts. America’s next authoritarian autocrat will be far less lazy and spoiled — and far more dangerous to the world.

What is Biden’s Worldview?

W.J. Astore

Joe Biden’s worldview, it’s safe to say, poses no threat to big business and high finance. If this weren’t true, he would have been stomped on just like Bernie Sanders was stomped on during the primaries. And who did the stomping? Establishment tools like Barack Obama.

Back in January 2011, I wrote about my reaction to Obama’s state of the union address. His speech was all about competition and consumerism and making America great again. Great not as in good or moral or just, but great as in economically competitive. If Biden is elected on November 3rd, you can count on hearing this message again in January 2021.

They say Trump is a servant of Wall Street. It’s true that he’s a creature of it, but Biden is arguably more servile toward it. As Don Henley sang: “Now it’s take and take takeover, takeover/ It’s all take and never give.” The makers are the takers, and you know who serves the makers.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote in 2011:

Obama: It’s a Darwinian World, So Work Harder!

01/26/2011

Last night’s State of the Union address boils down to one point: In a cutthroat world, America has lost its edge. We’re dull, and the Chinese are sharp. They have faster computers and high-speed rail. Their students work harder and score higher on math and science tests. It’s Sputnik all over again. The only way to defeat them is to out-compete them.

It seems President Obama concluded that we as Americans can only understand the rhetoric of competition (and the related rhetoric of consumption). Look closely at his speech, and you’ll see no mention of conservation (whether of energy or any other natural resource). You’ll see precious few references to cooperation. Instead, it’s all about restoring America’s greatness while at the same time keeping America safe from terrorists.

We can’t solve future problems with the government of the past, Obama said. But I would argue that we can’t meet future challenges with the rhetoric of the past. For Obama, America is still the exceptional country, the light on the hill, though we may shine less brilliantly today. His solution is not to rethink our belief in our greatness, but to rekindle our competitive fire: to rededicate ourselves to being Number One, irrespective of the cost to others.

In an era of globalization and of shrinking natural resources, Obama continues to think in terms of nations in relentless competition. And to compete successfully, we must struggle, produce, innovate, all in the name of greater economic power and military prowess.

We must, Obama exclaims, remain exceptional: Exceptional, that is, in our profligate consumption of the world’s resources and our prodigious expenditures on weaponry.

And with a State of the Union like that, who needs a Republican rejoinder?

Professor Astore writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and can be reached at wjastore@gmail.com.

Struggling to Vote in Trump Land

Long lines for early voting in Georgia. A few voters waited up to ten hours to cast a ballot

M. Davout

Whenever I teach Introduction to American Government, a course for freshman, I give a lecture on the notorious Bush v. Gore 2000 presidential election and use the Florida recount story to teach a basic lesson about U.S. politics: elections are not an exact science because vote totals in any given election are always only approximations. In the period leading up to the 2000 fiasco, in typical nationwide elections upwards of a million votes were tossed as uncountable for various reasons.

The reasons for the imprecision of election tallies are several but the three that I highlight to my students are: (1) the wide variation across jurisdictions in the kind, quality and age of voting technology and in the reliable application of procedures and standards (as evidenced in 2000 in the faulty punch hole devices in South Florida that resulted in many thousands of uncounted ballots); (2) the amateur status of poll workers (an hour or two of “training” qualified me to serve at a polling station during my graduate school days); and (3) the partisanship of election officials (as notoriously exemplified in 2018 by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s contested “oversight” of the close election that resulted in his election as Georgia governor). Since 2000, many states adopted computerized voting systems in what turned out to be the false expectation that precision in voting tallies could be achieved through digitization.

We have gotten past presidential elections only approximately right and we can expect this upcoming one to be no more than approximately right. And given the unprecedented number of requests for absentee ballots, state and county switches to mail-in balloting systems during this pandemic, slow-downs in mail delivery engineered by Trump’s postmaster general, and Trump’s unrelenting campaign to de-legitimize absentee and mail-in ballots, the likelihood is that the tally of uncounted ballots will be higher than ever this November. As a longtime absentee ballot voter, my recent experience with both the local election board and local mail delivery service does not give me confidence.

I mailed my absentee ballot request for the November 3 election in mid-August and was still waiting for a ballot in late September. I emailed the local election board and was told that they couldn’t find my paper ballot request (curiously, my wife’s request, which had been dropped off in a separate envelope with mine, was processed). I was instructed to file another request, this time electronically, which I immediately did. Notified by email that my absentee ballot was mailed October 1, I am still waiting for its arrival two weeks later. Meanwhile, I did receive an absentee ballot by mail but it was my neighbor’s and this botched delivery only increased my unease.        

When I think of the many voters across the country who might encounter similar problems and have less time and energy than I have to follow up on undelivered or delayed absentee ballots, I begin to wonder if the imprecision of November’s tallies will be on such a scale as to change the outcome. And, if not change it, then leave it open to dispute, a dispute to be settled by a Supreme Court with justices who are increasingly conservative and in three cases beholden to the man who nominated them.  It’s what Trump is counting on for “victory.”

M. Davout, a professor of political science, teaches in the Deep South.

Even the Law is Dead in America

Amy Coney Barrett (the one not clapping)

W.J. Astore

This snippet just showed up in my email (courtesy of the Boston Globe):

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett declared Monday that Americans “deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our Constitution and laws as they are written,” encapsulating her conservative approach to the law that has Republicans excited about the prospect of her taking the place of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day.

Now, I know this is coded talk. The idea of a close and literal reading of the U.S. Constitution and related laws is meant to tell conservatives that she is not an activist, that she is not liberal in any way. But it also means that she’s mainly, in a bizarre way, a clerk rather than a judge — if her statement was meant to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But it isn’t.

Barrett is spouting half-truths, since conservative judges are just as activist as their liberal counterparts on the bench. They simply disguise their activism using terms like literalism, which is “strict” and “conservative” and allegedly in keeping with what the Founders intended, as if we can be mind-readers. And even if we could be mind-readers, hasn’t the world changed a lot in roughly 250 years?

Look, I’m a historian, not a lawyer. I’m no expert on judging the law, but I can view the law in historical terms. And in those terms the law is organic, not static, as is our understanding of it. Put differently, the law should be made and remade for us, not we for the law. Because we’re human, we’re imperfect, the societies we create are imperfect, and so too are the laws we create.

Our goal should always be to form a more perfect union, to grow in understanding and compassion. Such is also true of the law. If all these judges do is to issue rulings simply on what is written in the documents before them, why do we even need a Supreme Court?

A static system of laws based on the writings of men who lived 250 years ago is not only unwise: it’s inhuman. Even the law is dead in America.

Update (10/13/20):

I used “literalist” when “textualist” and “originalist” seem to be the preferred terms for this judicial approach.

But judicial literalism echoes the Biblical literalism that is consistent with this judicial approach: the idea the Bible, like the law, should be read plainly, literally, based on the text, with no changes based on new scholarship.

It’s a mindset, an alleged quest for certainty through “simple” readings, but what it’s really all about is a deference to authority figures in the here-and-now who claim to know how to make these “simple” readings. And when they do, these readings are always in their favor.

Surprise! God favors a conservative patriarchy, just as the law does. Who knew?

Update 2 (10/14/20)

It beggars belief that an educated adult in America would have no firm opinion on climate change. Heck, even Trump has admitted there’s a human component to the same. But Amy Coney Barrett says she has no “firm views” on climate change; meanwhile, her father has been a lawyer with Shell Oil for decades. And a major case involving Shell on climate change is pending before the Supreme Court. Coincidence? See this article by David Sirota & Co.

https://www.dailyposter.com/p/upcoming-scotus-climate-case-involves

What’s sad about these sham senate hearings is how nominees like Kavanaugh and Barrett end up effectively perjuring themselves with their answers. I know: I’m not a lawyer and technically it’s probably not perjury. But they essentially answer questions dishonestly in their quest to be confirmed. Here’s an example:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/oct/13/kamala-harris-amy-coney-barrett-senate-hearing

Finally, a friend made two fine points about Barrett. The first is she’s smart with the law; the second is she’s a person of faith. But what kind of smarts, and what kind of faith? Smarts that are limited, uninformed by compassion and an appreciation for the human condition, can be sterile. Faith that is rigid and shaped by a patriarchal church can be hidebound, conveying certainty and a holier-than-thou attitude.

The Failure of Our “Free” Press

For all the talk of a “free” press that has the guts to tackle the powerful, the truth is our press is mainly a for-profit operation that is largely owned by the powerful. We get a lapdog press instead of a watchdog; we certainly don’t get an attack dog. I wrote about this in January of 2012; what I didn’t foresee is how that press would facilitate the rise of a petty demagogue like Donald Trump, mainly because he’s good for ratings and serves the needs of the powerful, but also because so many Americans have lost faith in the media, so much so that they buy the lies of a con man and serial liar like Trump. In short, if you’re tired of the corporate-friendly lies at CNN, why not turn to the entertaining conspiracy theories and lies of a manipulator like Trump?

If America truly had a watchdog press that protected the people, a serial liar like Trump should never have gained such a powerful purchase on our national narrative. Even now, as Trump continues to endanger our national health during a pandemic, the press largely treats him as a “normal” president.

The Failure of Our “Free” Press

01/13/2012

W,J. Astore

Do we have a truly free press, one that is willing to challenge the powerful and to serve the people?

A recent editorial by Arthur S. Brisbane at the New York Times suggests that our press is more lapdog than watchdog.

A truly free press needs guts. It needs to be willing to say, “I accuse.” Yet as Glenn Greenwald points out, our mainstream media today willingly acts as “stenographers” to the high and mighty, as if established elites need more support and more privileges.

The other day I ran across a passage in Arthur Schopenhauer’s Essays and Aphorisms that has much to say about freedom of the press as well as the perils of source anonymity. In full it reads:

“Freedom of the press is to the machinery of the state what the safety-valve is to the steam engine: every discontent is by means of it immediately relieved in words—indeed, unless this discontent is very considerable, it exhausts itself in this way. If, however, it is very considerable, it is as well to know of it in time, so as to redress it. — On the other hand, however, freedom of the press must be regarded as a permit to sell poison: poison of the mind and poison of the heart. For what cannot be put into the heads of the ignorant and credulous masses? — especially if you hold before them the prospect of gain and advantages. And of what misdeeds is man not capable once something has been put into his head? I very much fear, therefore, that the dangers of press freedom outweigh its usefulness, especially where there are legal remedies available for all grievances. In any event, however, freedom of the press should be conditional upon the strictest prohibition of any kind of anonymity.”

That last statement is the kicker. The media’s stenographer-types market the “poison” of the elites, whether governmental or corporate, and they often do so under the cover of source anonymity. As a result, the “credulous” masses have no way to track the poisoners, and few avenues to find an antidote.

Schopenhauer’s statement also condemns our press for its failure to serve as a “safety-valve” for democracy. Indeed, because our mainstream press is so sycophantic, it fails in its democratic duty to relieve the people’s discontent, notably in its failure to empower the people to redress the abuses of power by established elites.

When our “free” press agonizes over whether it should challenge the “facts” of societal elites, is it any wonder why so many people have lost faith in it?

Hence the rise of the various “occupy” movements. They know that the mainstream press is in thrall to power and is therefore compromised, thus they’re seeking a new path to redress their grievances — and new antidotes to the poison spread by the powerful to intoxicate the minds and hearts of the powerless.

Our press, as Schopenhauer notes, has much power to spread poison, but it also has the ability to serve as an antidote to the poison spread by others.

The ideal of freedom of the press, so crucial to democracy, is upheld only when its practitioners willingly challenge the so-called “facts” of the powerful.

Give us a watchdog press willing to bite the hand that feeds it, not a lapdog that snaps up all the little treats fed to it by its masters.

Professor Astore writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and can be reached at wjastore@gmail.com.

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.