Bernie and Trump: Redux

This essay was written the the fall of 2016 slightly before the general election. We know the outcome. And we mostly know the criminal activities of the authoritarian president who whipped his party into a Fascist frenzy. His malignant narcissism led to the big lie, rejecting the results of the legitimate 2020 election of Joe Biden. He imbued his rabid followers with the idea that the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power in America, once inviolate, were irreparably broken. It gave rise to a normalization of the idea that violent revolution would ostensibly right the sinful ways of the Democrat’s government and forge a reign by the savior, Trump, and his army of ‘patriots’. 

The Covid pandemic, somewhat unexpected, had a dramatic effect on the nation during the Trump presidency and led to significant economic and societal issues. These largely unavoidable circumstances added to our existent severe partisanship. Now, as we analyze the existentially critical 2022 midterm elections we find that many of the observed issues in this 2016 essay remain in play today, perhaps even more so.

. One caveat, Gen Z was not included in the original essay with the Millennials as potential saviors of America. They were added, through an edit of the last part of the essay that brought some of the text up to date. As I revisit this idea I find that Millennials, while very capable and evolved, have largely become disillusioned with a disintegrating America and the Boomers who refuse to hand over the reins of that damaged society to those who might rejuvenate it. It is Gen Z who will lead the charge to bring light into the darkness that has shrouded America and the planet since the latter part of the 20th Century. They will “woke” many millennials from their angst and despair. Together they can be a great force for good.

.The edited 2016 essay follows. It bears a touch of prescience. 

A continuum is a line. A line extends through space, through the universe. The universe is curved. Therefore a line will eventually meet itself in space to form, in essence, a circle. A circle with one point missing is considered a line. There can be an infinite number of points between any two points. Thus, speaking from the standpoint of nuclear physics we have established a paradox whereby a line can also be considered a circle based on the observers point of view.

Why am I starting off with all of this gobbledygook? Because it provides a mathematical basis for my hypothesis, indicating it is based in science. Using this information, continuums, which are nearly always portrayed as lines, are actually circles. The far ends of continuums, rather than being opposites, as is commonly perceived, are very nearly the same thing. One example is the fact that on a hot/cold continuum both extreme heat and extreme cold will burn the flesh. And obviously, the continuum of the changing of the seasons does not have polar opposite ends but ends that run smoothly into each other.

So to get to the point, finally, it has always been my contention that radical right wingers and radical left wingers have more in common than they have in contention. It is our tendency as humans, these days strongly influenced by the media, to want to see dualities, black and white, in order to simplify life and our perception of it. This dualism causes us to see the ends of a continuum as opposites and encourages us to see extreme liberals and extreme conservatives as complete opposites. This is just not true. This year’s presidential campaigns provide us with good evidence of that fact.

Conventional wisdom would consider Bernie Sanders and his followers to be polar opposites of Donald Trump and his followers. However while they disagree on a number of policies they share many of the more visceral and esoteric ideas about issues and politics in general. I have experienced a large number of people who say they have been Democrats all their lives who will be voting for Trump as well as life long Republicans that will be voting for Sec. Clinton. Many of these folks go so far as to say they are changing parties permanently. Why is this?

Most of these switchers are Sanders supporters angry at the nomination process and appalled that the Democrats would nominate such a dangerous person who is not a real progressive. There are also traditional Republicans angry at the nomination process and appalled the the GOP would nominate such a dangerous person who is not a real conservative. What do these people have in common? A general mistrust of government and how it operates. Their main goal is to throw out all the mainstream politicians, who they feel are all corrupt sell outs, and replace them with outsiders who are not politicians but are ideologically pure. Most of these disillusioned Americans have never been involved in politics before because of their strong mistrust of the process and a belief there is no difference between the traditional parties. They want to throw away government as we know it and start over, based on their interpretation of the constitution and their idea of personal liberty.

But these two factions, as they are considered to be, are generally looked upon as opposites, especially by the press. Now this is true of of much of their overall reasoning, specific complaints, interpretations of the constitution, intentions of the founding fathers, and most importantly who they blame for all of it. But the bottom line is they both believe America is going to hell in a hand basket and the only way to save it is to return to government of, by and for the people. And I believe that in essence they are right about a lot of this.

However, this is where I think things go off the rails. People want all of this change but for a number of reasons most of them aren’t really ready to do the work necessary to make it happen, especially in the way they imagine it to work. There are a large number of folks, lovingly referred to as low information voters, who have little to no knowledge of how America works, what our major issues really are, and what impact proposed policy will have on them, the nation, and the world. These people are easily manipulated by appeals to strong emotions and will believe lies if they are told loudly and often enough. They feel uneasy about the direction of the nation but know little about how to change it or actively work for change except to vote for the radical political influencers they have been told about.

Then there are voters who know a little civics and have opinions on things but who are just too busy to participate in the process. Some are simply disinterested in participating, for various reasons ranging from laziness to feeling that government never changes anything for anyone, ever. These citizens only care about elections the last two weeks before election day. Which is why most campaigns bombard the broadcast media with ad after unfair and prevaricating ad during those final two weeks  So right when voters are looking for facts, after months of ignoring the campaigns, all they get is innuendo, half truths, and actual bald faced lies.

These two groups make up a very large segment of voters, most certainly comprising a majority. And what they have in common is a need to hand over power and responsibility to those they elect and then forget about politics until the next election. Unfortunately this ennui and ignorance is most apparent when they vote for president  Many of us want and expect the president to solve every problem, and right away. They want a savior, a messiah to lead them figuratively out of Egypt, up to and including parting the Red Sea. This phenomenon is one factor that has made President of the United States the hardest job in the world. Everyone expects redemption by the president in ways that are impossible for them to do, either because of the limits of presidential power or external factors beyond their control.

The next and most normal faction, if there is such a thing as normal in politics, is the well informed voter who keeps up with the issues and gets their information from multiple sources. Rather than considering the other party a pack of baby eating demons, enemies to be destroyed, they have some respect for their opponents, who are, in truth, opponents and not enemies. These people are what are often referred to in the media as traditional republicans and democrats or center left and center right voters, centrists, or moderates They for the most part make informed decisions and often subscribe to the mantra ‘I don’t vote for the party i vote for the candidate”. These people respond to parts of both liberal and conservative narratives and what they call “voting for the  candidate” is often more like voting for which of those narratives a candidate activates in their conscious mind.

The final demographic, who also need a savior, and to me the most dangerous, are the radical activists. They are extremely aware of what is happening in politics and society, both domestic and international. They have a clear idea of what they think will save us and they know that to make it happen they need one strong leader who can get the job done in the face of adversity. It must be somebody who displays supreme confidence and the charisma to sell themself, even to the most opinionated of the activists, who will then follow them fervently and bring along their own followers.

There are many societies who have such a strongman at the top of their government. controlling virtually every aspect of government and society. Some of these leaders are benevolent but most are authoritarian and dictatorial. I believe the US has avoided such a regime primarily because it’s two party system keeps both parties from straying too far into uncharted authoritarian waters. They have never felt confident that taking such a dramatic stance could be successful, not with a majority of Americans having basically center left or center right views. But things have changed. I’m willing to guess that the change is, in large part, the responsibility of the rise of the political purist, brought on by frightened parties that felt the need to pander to extremists to gain power. The extremists eventually gained enough power (This happened in both parties but primarily in the GOP) to require a purity test for candidates. This has led to a bloc of candidates who are safe in their districts because  of gerrymandering to become legislators who refused to make compromises and thus ground the business of the legislative branch to a halt. 

This paralysis has been the last straw for those who have become progressively more and more disillusioned with government and it’s failed ability to serve the people. They have come out of the woodwork to strongly influence the current presidential race. They were able to get Donald Trump nominated as a Republican, much to the chagrin of many prominent Republicans who know he is far from being one. And they nearly succeeded in nominating a Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders, as the Democratic nominee. What transpired then is a victory in the Democratic Party of the establishment. This after a more heavily contested primary than they ever imagined. And their candidate, justifiably or not, had an extremely low likability rating. And the GOP nominee, a loose cannon strongman, had an even lower rating.

This has brought us to a place where we had the most disconcerting race is recent US history. The hold your nose, lesser of two evils factor is off the charts. People are tired of having to elect this kind of President. They want someone they can admire. They want big change and they want it now. This frenetic anger has left us vulnerable to an authoritarian strongman being elected President. They will most likely break their promises to make the country a better place for the people, and institute policies that oppress us even more so than we already are. But in the event we can stop this very real danger, the alternative does not inspire much hope that she would ever institute many of the progressive policies this country needs.

This took us round robin to the longtime democrats and republicans, plus the disillusioned radicals or traditionalists who are abandoning their ostensible party’s nominee. What affect did this dynamic have on the outcome of the election? I doubt any of the mainstream pundits know even now. This is out of their comfort zone.

We are entering a new era of American politics, one which may result in a system with multiple viable parties, and a more parliamentary type of governmental creation. Right now the re-evolution is in it’s infancy and as in any revolution heads will fall. It is a critical, crucial time to be an American, even more so an educated and aware American. The arc of our future was forged in November like never before. 

Our Millennial and  Gen Z generations are the only ones who can save us, in my estimation. But their hope for the future is being systematically eroded by overwhelming student debt and impeded by a lack of career advancement opportunities. This is intentional. They are being squeezed by a shrinking job market and reduced public services across the board. They are being distracted by any number of petty playthings designed to numb them from their pain. We boomers, as our last redeeming gift, should protect them, and open the door to empowerment and economic growth. We must run interference for them and exert ourselves to keep them from getting picked off one by one into despair. We must keep the light shining so they have something in the distance to aspire to. 

A dictatorship will make that nearly impossible.

But we have defeated dictatorships before.

There is a reason both love and courage come from the heart.

And there is also a reason evil, cowardice, and hate come from the ego.

Love has always overcome hate.

There is hope.