Hello, and welcome to Year 37 of the 2020 US General Election. I’ve grown a beard and have arthritis now. Excited about getting the senior discount at restaurants, if I can ever go inside of one safely again. I’m hopeful that in another decade I’ll be nodding off during the coronation of our new wizard king, Gandalf Robinette Biden, Jr.
The contest is fairly close, which according to Twitter and a handful of hastily published magazine thinkpieces is apparently shocking to a whole bunch of pearl clutching liberals. I wish I lived a cushy enough life to think that gavones like Donald Trump are just aberrations in the regularly scheduled neoliberal programming, demon imps who appear in a vacuum and are in no way the predictible offshoot of 400 years of white supremacy and capitalism.
Alas, my dream was to be a writer. Thus, my life will never be cushy, but it will probably be deeply embarrassing. Especially this chapter, where I had to vote Democrat to help stave off the creeping fascism.
As I write this, a judge has thrown out yet another specious lawsuit brought by the king baby attempting to suppress the counting of lawfully cast ballots. So far this kind of groundless greivance filing has been tossed by judges in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and now Michigan. There’s a petty part of me that absolutely loves seeing an old white guy who’s dodged accountability his whole life by dint of pernicious litigation finally encounter a situation he can’t sue his way out of.
Like most people, I haven’t had a lot of sleep in the last 72 hours—I mean, uh, 37 years. Only once Michigan flipped did I put the sparkling wine in the icebox, but I won’t be cracking it until those 270 electoral nods are solidly in the rearview mirror.
And then what? Then like everyone else, I strap myself back in the roller coaster for the winter.
I put my Christmas tree up on Monday, not because I feel especially jolly, but because the cumulative existential despair of an election on top of a plague on top of the economic depression on top of all the police violence on top of all the racism required me to take some desperate mental health measures. Forcible cheer, the kind of thing teenage me would have absolutely sneered at. I’m sitting next to that bles’t tannenbaum right now with a cup of coffee and some Big Daddy Kane on the stereo, thinking about a pair of moments in my own political history as I fervently click “refresh” over and over on the state of Georgia’s live returns.
The first is the night Obama won officially won his first term in 2008, when I felt a kind of euphoria about the future that’s specific to the early aughties, when we thought making radical change was as simple as electing a cool dude with a crispy message. The second is a morning in 2010 when I formed a human chain with a few hundred other people as we protested a very shitty decision Barry made about the environment. “FUCK YOU, OBAMA!” I remember screaming, but not in any truly aggrieved sense—I screamed it in that way a teenager feels safe slamming their door after a contentious argument about curfew with their dad. I voted for him because I believed in him, and I protested him because I felt some naive civic responsibility to be as engaged a citizen as he was a politician.
I don’t feel that way anymore. I’m older, for one thing. I’ve learned being a good human is a lot more important than being a good citizen. My involvement in organizing is less about principle and more about survival, it’s more local and practical; less human chains, more direct mutual aid. (For the record: you need both.)
Obama’s older, too. His fervent campaigning for Biden this fall felt less like a reawakening of his youthful idealism and more like the farewell tour of a celebrity determined to keep the tarnish off his rep as he glides off into the sunset. Obama making wisecracks about Trump envying COVID-19’s press coverage as we approached a hundred thousand new cases a day reminded me that Biden losing would cost Obama something much different than it would cost the rest of us.
We’re all a lot more cynical than we used to be. This interminable year, which peaks with this interminable election, is a revelation for some and a confirmation for others, but we’ve all run up against our principles in ways we might never have had to if 2020 didn’t turn into a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
Biden was never my guy; this country barely feels like my country. Living through history is terrifying, but it’s also a privilege. I’ve stopped yearning for the idealism of a time that never really was. Oddly, it’s sort of wonderful to see the world for what it is. You find more things in it worth fighting for when your eyes are open.
But that could also just be the coffee and the Big Daddy Kane talking. The right mix of dark materials can make any little shrimp feel like a badass. And they still haven’t called this race yet.
I really need a nap, but I’m also starting to make real peace with the idea of sleeping when I’m dead, is what I’m saying.