Monday, November 09, 2020

In which I talk about politics (when I should probably stick to weather)

Saturday morning while Andrew was out grocery shopping, the election was called in favour of the Biden/Harris ticket. Rachel, who had been voluntarily cleaning the kitchen so she could bake another batch of cookies, came running upstairs to me with her phone. 

"Pennsylvania went to Biden!" she squealed.

"What?" I said. 

"He won! Biden won!"

"Biden won?!" Zoë and Benjamin called from the bathroom they were busy cleaning together. 

"Yes!" Rachel said. 

Zoë and Benjamin danced around screaming and yelling for a few minutes before I convinced them to finish cleaning the bathroom. Andrew arrived home soon after. He walked in the door, we looked at each other and sighed, one of those deep body-relaxing sighs, and we haven't really stopped sighing since. Every time we walk past each other we stop and sigh. Every time we make eye contact, we sigh. 

The kids are starting to wonder what's wrong with us. 

It's like we're young and in love again, only we're not (young, I mean (we're still in love)). We're just so very relieved. 

Sean Illing posits that "America exists in...perpetual tension between liberal democracy and reactionary fascism," and according to Jason Stanley we have been sliding rapidly toward the fascist side of things (see here and here and, for a little more nuance, here). I'm not convinced that today fixes anything. The country is fractured and clearly needs some time to heal, which is why I'm happy we'll have a president that at least claims to be the president for the nation, rather than only for those who support him. And I'm thrilled to have a woman in a position of power as well (took you long enough, America). 

While I'm feeling relief, I can understand, I suppose, the feeling of dread others might be having. Like, intellectually I realize that they might be experiencing something like dread, though I've honestly no idea why (and I'm not sure they are really sure, either). When Trump was elected I felt rather concretely that things weren't going to be good. He didn't seem to have a plan for anything, his arguments were always divisive, and I already knew I didn't want him running the country as he had run any of his businesses. His platform had issues listed with bullet points of Big Ideas, but seeing a plan for any of those Big Ideas seems incredibly rare. 

For example, let's examine Trump's plan for eradicating COVID:

  • Develop a Vaccine by The End Of 2020
  • Return to Normal in 2021
  • Make All Critical Medicines and Supplies for Healthcare Workers in The United States
  • Refill Stockpiles and Prepare for Future Pandemics

Sounds pretty simple, but there's no path to attaining these goals. How can we develop a vaccine by the end of this year (this year is closing fast)? What does returning to normal even mean? 

I agree that making our own PPE supplies is a good idea, but how are we going to go about doing that?

Biden/Harris, on the other hand, have a "seven point plan" to "beat COVID." It's approximately 1000 words long. Like Trump, Biden proposes making more of our own PPE within the United States. Unlike Trump, Biden states how he might go about actually doing this: "Fully use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of masks, face shields, and other PPE so that the national supply of personal protective equipment exceeds demand and our stores and stockpiles — especially in hard-hit areas that serve disproportionately vulnerable populations — are fully replenished." 

How about Trump's educational plan? (Same link as above since all of Trump's goals can be found on a single page).

  • Provide School Choice to Every Child in America
  • Teach American Exceptionalism

That's it?! Provide school choice and brainwash children? Those are the only two bullet points they could think of for education? Those are the two things they think are important and/or problematic in education? And do they even explain their plan for obtaining these goals? No. They do not. 

Biden has much more to say about education than Trump does. Is his plan perfect? Surely not. But it exists and I can get behind that (or, should I wish to, I can criticize that). I can't support or criticize an invisible plan.

I thought this line from Stanley Payne was pretty telling: "This inquiry [of whether or not Trump is a fascist] made a little sense four years ago, when Trump was still an unknown quantity, but now he has a record. Well — that’s pretty thin gruel. Nothing much to work with here." While Payne feels it's rather "trivial" to compare Trump to Hitler (fair), he also feels that Trump has done little with his time in the White House. I feel like it's a little bit both—Trump somehow managed to create a personality cult while simultaneously failing to execute any policies of significant substance (but at the same time laying the groundwork for autocracy, dividing the nation, fueling hatred for "the other," and so forth).

The last few years have been perplexing at best. So I'm trying to understand the emotions of his supporters, but I'm having trouble truly understanding their panic. One friend (rather vaguely) said, 

"I can't celebrate policies that are extreme and would devastate our country."

I don't find any of Biden's policies extreme or devastating. For example, he plans to "Mobilize American manufacturing and innovation to ensure that the future is made in America, and in all of America." This seems like a pretty moderate plan that Republicans could get behind. Perhaps if my friend could identify which policies she finds extreme and/or devastating we could discuss.

"I can't celebrate the killing of babies."

Wonderful. This is, I guess, a policy, and I'm happy to discuss it. I know of literally no one that celebrates the killing of babies. However, abortion restrictions tend to not decrease abortion rates. So why do we keep trying that route when we could try things that might actually help do just that? 

"I can't celebrate that which would undermine our constitution."

This seems a little too vague to comment on, frankly. I think most American are against undermining the constitution. Could be wrong though. 

"I can't celebrate the push towards socialistic policy and so many other unreasonable ideas."

I, personally, can celebrate a push towards socialistic policies, though I suppose I'm also against unreasonable ideas as well. That's why I've spent the past four years pulling my hair and saying, "Make it make sense!" I haven't seen much reason in many things lately. But, I do think that capitalism and socialism can—and frequently do—coexist. I realize that many conservatives don't think that way. But I think the vast majority of the world does because social democracies (with capitalist economies) exist. I think that Americans deserve the same rights that many people around the world enjoy: "Take Norway for example. According to the World Bank, Norway and the United States have nearly identical GDP per capita. Yet Norway, unlike the United States, enjoys universal health care, child care, and elder care, as well as tuition-free universities, around 12 months of paid parental leave, and a robust social safety net." It's okay to take care of people (and I know nothing is ever free, but also I'd rather spend my taxes on a safety net like this than on, for example, big guns). 

Being afraid of the United States slipping into socialism is...interesting. I feel we have a long way to go before we'd allow ourselves to go so far as, say, Venezuela. But, I'll admit it's a slippery slope. Still, there are many other more socialist countries to hold up as examples (like Norway, above). And there's a slippery slope on the other side of the aisle as well and I fear that we've been on it (with the rest of the world). I really would like to see our freedoms maintained. That's why I couldn't vote for Trump.

"I can't celebrate much of what the candidates voted in have done up to now in their political roles."

Again, this is so vague that there's no possible response, but I do have to admit that I'm with you there. I was, frankly, surprised by this ticket, but I understand why Biden may be the man for the job (not that it had to be a man, because I was kind of hoping for Elizabeth Warren). He's much more moderate than other candidates were and I think his experience will mean less of a "learning curve" in the pilot's seat.

So, that's more about politics than I probably ever should have said, but I also felt that I really needed to say it. Or at least some of it. Probably a lot of it was superfluous. I'm just so tired of the bombastic leadership we've had with this presidency. And I'm so looking forward to some a more level-headed leadership. *sigh*