Civil War in The Ballot Box
If constantly fighting with my distant relatives on Facebook has taught me anything, it's this: There are always people willing to vote against the things that would directly benefit them. It's also shown me how much more divided we are in this election than we were in previous ones. While elections are always divisive, we've never had two outsider candidates put up this kind of fight on both sides of the party line, and we've never seen the kind of full-scale and open violence at political rallies that we do now. This is uncharted territory in modern American politics.
A trip home for me is like conducting a survey on Cruz and Trump's misinformed voter base. They probably think the same of me. “We need to pray for our poor cousin. May God take all of the socialist thoughts out of his mind. May he understand that some people don't get food and housing, and corporate financial gains are a blessing from heaven for us all, just as Jesus did. Amen.”
These all-too-frequent interactions with people I haven't seen in years have really gotten me thinking about what their point of view must be. There has to be a reason that they want to keep a healthcare system that they can't afford because of the obscenely low pay they're getting at a job with no maternity leave for the underlings. But what is it?
The early argument always feigns a noble sense of public concern. The comments section of political feeds are inundated with statements like “Well, smart ass, who's gonna pay for all this free shit?” or “We can't afford to pay all of these entitled little bastards $15 an hour!” The truth is there's no “free shit” to worry about. We know it'll cost money to catch up to the rest of the developed world. But way back when, in the days of arguing in person, I don't remember these same people saying “Who's gonna pay for all of this military intervention in the Middle East, you lefty dickhead?!”
The reason that very few people are concerned about the cost of war, is the same reason that people won't vote for politicians who actually want what's best for them. The answer to mind boggling questions like “How is Trump a serious candidate?” “Why do people think that every Muslim is a terrorist, when it's really a tiny fraction of a percent?” or “Why doesn't anyone tell Oprah that breakfast tacos are better than bread?” is fear. People are scared shitless of standing up to tyrants.
Fear is at the heart of this battle. But rather than shoot our relatives with muskets, we just bitch at each other online. I'm sure that our ancestors would have loved this option. Bickering on social media is a lot butter than a lead projectile to the nads.
The two biggest items on the list of collective American fears at the moment are terrorists and massive political change. The irony of this, is that the latter could massively decrease the number of participants in the former. If we had the balls to elect someone who wasn't personally invested in the financial interests of major defense contractors, war might be looked at like the serious thing that it is, and not a frenzied cash grab. If this were the case, then we wouldn't be so quick to launch massive drone strikes that kill way more civilians than they do terrorists. Now, and stay with me here, if we kill less civilians, we create less of a base of rabid enemies hell-bent on our complete destruction. See? Simple.
As for paying for all of the 'free shit,' if we destroyed off-shore tax shelters, made the wealthy pay at least the same tax rate as the rest of us, and didn't spend so much money 'defending' ourselves against all of these oil-rich countries, we'd have plenty of money to handle these beneficial initiatives. We're the richest country in the history of mankind for fuck's sake. Educating our children, cutting our almost 15% poverty rate down, and making sure that poor people don't die in a building full of medicine because they can't afford it, shouldn't be wedge issues.
The recently released Panama Papers have revealed the realities of the kind of sick corporate greed that we've always joked about. The money is there. Not here, but definitely 'there.' None of the family that I mentioned my squabbles with earlier are wealthy. They're just scared of the 'other,' and they think that their tax rates would go up if we tried to cover matters of public interest. And why not? That's always been the case. Whenever the upper echelon in this country talks about hiking taxes, they never mean their taxes. But if we had these extremely wealthy people cover their dues, we wouldn't feel the fiscal rumble. We don't need to cripple them with taxes, we just need to get them to actually pay them.
However, when you have an intensely deranged pack of low-information, mad-dog lunatics like the Trump base running rampant in this country, you find that rational discussions about proposed tax plans and benefits for the poor really fall on deaf ears. We're in a new Civil War that's being fought in the voter booths. Both sides seem to see the need for radical changes in our political structures, but the two camps have very different ideas about how these changes should be made. While Trump supporters are ready to “Make America great again,” (you know, like when we had twice as many drinking fountains) Sanders base wants to quit shouldering the financial burden created by Trump and his dinner guests.
Hopefully the blush isn't off the rose just yet, but history has a way of repeating itself. Especially when it's steeped in 240 years of political tradition. While Sanders unbelievable collection of victories is an encouraging sign, the American voter has a way of completely fucking everything up after the initial hazes of enthusiasm have cleared. Let's hope this isn't the case this time around.