Every four years America is presented with a false choice, each one essentially a continuation of the status quo by different means, politically and economically related, but optically opposed. Biden had already said that nothing will fundamentally change if he is elected president, so why should any American bother to vote for this specific lesser of two evils?
A lesser evil is still an evil. One way to understand the moral panic circling the election is precisely in understanding the Democratic platform, which is essentially “We are not Trump,” though in every other way they are the same, touting strange notions like bipartisanship.
What seems to bother most Democrat-leaning Americans is that Donald Trump acts like a mirror for what the entire electorate engages in, namely American exceptionalism. Both parties are guilty of this, though the Democrats pretend that their “fight” is of a higher purpose, a nebulous and abstract identity politics that serves up corrupt authoritarian corporate-backed politicians and attempts to whitewash them in identitarian rhetorical navel gazing.
The Trumpian “opposition” consists of directly associating itself and engaging in American exceptionalism, no lip service, no shadow acting, just pure raw cynical absolutism. And this is the crux of the problem. The fight isn’t over policy (the Democratic platform is a clear indication of this) but over image.
Americans don’t want to “look like” Donald Trump, but they’ll vote for many of his policies. They will happily engage in all the tropism, suicidal foreign policy, corporate propaganda, and patriotic rah rah shopping sprees, just as long as Trump isn’t the one facing them on their smartphone screens.
Trump is not the cliché existential threat, both parties are, and this is why it is so surprising that also every four years Americans attempt to reinvent the wheel by setting up third party choices that are dead-on-arrival and doomed to fail, instead of offering their support to already existing projects that are closely aligned with their beliefs. The Green Party platform is just like Bernie’s once was, except more so. The question is, why aren’t millions of disaffected Bernie voters moving their votes en masse toward the Greens?
Instead we get the same threat of those votes going to Donald Trump as they did four years ago. Sanders attempted to give the U.S. a revolution without revolution. Now the Democratic National Convention is giving us a spectacle without spectacle.
The alternative of not voting is presenting itself as a viable tactic, because it, just like a vote for a third party, is a vote of no confidence in either the Republicans or the Democrats. However, a massive vote for a third party actually demonstrates that tactic in real time and does not simply play into Republican hands.
If the problem is visibility, then why are the Zoomheads playing Mystery Science Theater with the DNC and not looking into the political platforms of parties like the Greens and the Pirates? What they’ll find is that the Green Party is running candidates that actually align with what they want to see, a non-watered-down Green New Deal, a UBI, universal health care, a jobs mandate, environmental protection and so on.
It seems that the U.S. still has some ways before it hits the proverbial bottom, but even at a time such as this, in which Donald Trump can still be the best at something (at being the worst), American exceptionalism is at an all-time high, trailing the stock market in hubris and exuberance and baffling lay people and experts alike.
The possibility of a total social, political and economic breakdown and the continuation of extend-and-pretend policies is very real no matter which way the vote swings in November (will it actually be in November?). Yet as so many times before, we are told that voting either Dem or Rep is the properly American thing to do.
Never mind looking to European parliamentary politics for ideas (that’s neocolonialism), because what we’d see is that the Pirate Party, a strange success story in places like Czech Republic, offers not only the social democratic policies that many U.S. liberals seem to want, it also has a platform and successfully argues and governs on issues of transparency, anti-corruption and internet autonomy.
The Pirates are a centrist party, which makes them uniquely fringe and radical in an era when the neoliberal left is the new neoconservative right and the right is, well, extremely right, while the extreme left is bizarrely engaged in politics of suicide-by-cop and a thousand cuts by the mainstream media.
Each American political variant, left and right, is currently a dead end. Neither side is capable of addressing any real political or social issues stemming from four decades of neo-totalitarian duopoly tactics and legislation. If after 40 years neither party was able to come up with a solution, what makes Americans think they can do it now?
Tom Pazderka is a commentary writer and artist.