Why This Year’s Presidential Election Is So Depressing

furiosa_2015
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.