The Next High-Water Mark in Elections

2016 will be the high-water mark of target-rich environments for anyone desiring to point out the dysfunction of our current political system. Comedians will be hard pressed to top the daily sound bites that pour from the various campaigns. John Michael Greer likens it to that tiny car that pulls out into the center of the Big Top, disgorging more than a dozen clowns who then vie for your attention.
Comedy aside, we see a fascist at the top of the Republican candidate polls. This echoes Germany in the early 1930s: *We are destined to rule the world because we are exceptional people; the only thing in our way are those people over there…*, and Trump at various times points to immigrants or women or those of a different religion; all are fair game to those of this ilk. Some people have asked, *why didn’t the Germans stop Hitler from coming to power?* We might get to find out, here at home. At this point, Trump is polling as if more than a quarter of voters would choose him in the general election. It also echoes Germany that so many are so dissatisfied with our current situation that they will turn to someone who is, however offensive or incompetent, at least outside the normal political class. An explosion must be close….
He appears to be countered by the blessed, appointed, *liberal* successor to Obama: the continuation of the Bush/Clinton multi-generational lock on nominal power, this time named Hillary. If she loses her destiny to scandal it will hardly remove any corruption or rot from the system, although voters will likely think otherwise. But those voters are in denial about most things political already; what’s one more? Name one substantial thing that Hillary has said she will radically change; you can’t. She’s not running an issue campaign; she’s planning her inauguration and trying to look good on camera while not answering the hard questions about her past. She’s campaigned many times before; she’ll go through the motions and be swept into office as the other party self-destructs like in 2012. I won’t fail to mention Bernie, although all I will say is this: if you didn’t learn in 2008 how incapable one person is of changing the direction of capital and its beneficiaries then you will continue to waste your time and energy and will allow yourself to be distracted from the approaching extinction cliff by the charade of *choice* as if it matters. Sanders is no panacea for what ails us now.
Dmitry Orlov compares the US today with the USSR in the late-1980s: an expensive, daily less effective, international imperial presence, using nuclear threats to backstop an arsenal and troops that are incapable of winning against an insurgent force, while defending an ever-louder proclamation of exceptionalism atop the cracked and crumbling foundation formed from economic corruption and moral abandonment. When did you last think about the amorality of drone assassination or of market front-running or currency and interest rate manipulation? Or question what is causing our younger generations’ future to dim so quickly? All politicians walk a tightrope dedicated to more of the same because any massive change in course will topple this whole house of cards. Any talk of change by any bona fide candidate can only be propaganda now, as useless as a promise to your ten-year old that Santa Claus still lives at the rapidly disappearing North Pole.
It is telling that unlike America’s other three major existential crises: Revolutionary War (1780), Civil War (1861), and the Great Depression (1932) ; the left today is bereft of visionary solutions that will lead us out the mess that has arisen from the unforeseen consequences of our last batch of solutions. The right inherently wants to go back to some past *glory*, not evolve into something new, fresh, and for at least another 50 years or so, sustainable. They won’t have answers, they will only ever oppose or negate. I take that first statement back: the left does offer two competing visions: collapse and extinction. Neither is a solution, only an outcome. Increasingly, people from both the left and right are becoming depressed and frozen in place as they ponder what science is under-predicting when it comes to climate change and ecosystem collapse, and economists are under-predicting about economic collapse. But one doesn’t win a battle by pointing out the opponents faults and asking that they change; one wins by taking the initiative, and forcing them to change their plans to adapt to your strategy. Don’t get in front of a car trying to run you over and then push against the hood to make it stop; get off the road and go on a path where the car can’t follow you!
Unfortunately, today’s American liberals are part of the global 3% and cannot imagine or bear to see that status change in any meaningful way even in the face of collapse. A majority of adults do not vote; and before you get outraged at that statistic, know that they gave up when it became apparent it was a useless charade anyway. There are a few emotion-filled issues over which the two parties pretend to disagree; but regarding the important issues: war, nuclear weapons and power, poverty, toxic contamination, amorality, incarceration, inequality or scarcity, bank regulation, oil extraction as cheap as possible and damn the environment for failing us as a result, on all these important questions of this system every winning candidate does what they are told by the corporations who paid for the campaign. Of course, those who don’t vote then serve as admirable and useful targets that candidates can use to blame or ostracize. Liberals fighting against the *conservative agenda*, and its opposite, are just the ways by which the status quo maintains itself.
We can hardly get white settlers, descendants of those who conquered the peoples already living on Turtle Island, upset about damage to ecosystems caused by logging, *resource* extraction, dams, fracking, or just plain vanilla *development*; this is all completely out of their sight and incomprehensible as a result. It is white privilege, that which sustains and grows white supremacy, that ignores the impacts these travesties have on both Nature and human communities: forced relocation, loss of health and even life itself, loss of jobs, lack of safety, lower income, and shattered family structures. Just as it is problematic for an all-white activist group to protest a small, traditional, tribal hunt as harming an ecosystem while ignoring industrial *harvesting* of food animals, it is also problematic for a white person to hold up a sign reading, *All Lives Matter* at a Black Lives Matter protest. Sometimes effective struggle means stepping quietly aside and letting the heretofore silenced people finally have a turn at the microphone. Sometimes it means allowing these voices to be heard at times, like during a candidate’s speech, that seem inconvenient to you, the white person who wants to have things go on as they always have. You may be too comfortable with the old order to see the need for a new one.
One of the biggest differences between liberals and conservatives in 2016 is climate change. And although you might claim that voting for the Democrat is the only sane thing to do (which it is not) if this is a critical issue (which it is), keep in mind that no Democrat has yet done anything about defending the Earth that has had any meaningful long-term effect (other than maintaining corporate profits at the expense of our planet); nothing that is, except talk about it. It is possible that 2016 will be a watershed year, and having the first election in 8 years where there is not a black candidate running, and having experienced 8 years of having a black President that allowed white supremacy to become more openly violent than the days of unpunished lynchings, one of the Democrat’s most cohesive voting blocs might decide to sit this one out. And likewise, with immigration being one of the Republicans’ most popular talking points, even as the sitting Democratic President deported more undocumented workers and broke up more families through incarceration in extra-judicial detention facilities than any other President ever, the Latino voting bloc that is also traditionally Democratic might also sit this one out, too.
This is an incredible void: no true vision of a sustainable future that solves war, corruption, patriarchy, white supremacy, and overall oppression of the poor; all in the service of capital and profit. Most of us can’t envision how we could manifest this future without voting for a Democrat or Republican; or we can’t see how to bring this about with voting, period. This then, is our true challenge: finding the path forward, that lies on the other side of the swamp we call democracy. Clearly, the first step is to not get mired in the swamp, spending time and energy fighting the muck and the snakes. Bypassing the swamp of democracy altogether is the only clear path to take now.
Viable alternatives to arrest society’s death and destruction include organizing that calls forth natural mutual aid tenets that feed, cultivate, and grow a new culture of resistance. In other words: deep ecology, social ecology, and localization; EarthFirst!, Idle No More, and Black Panthers are some of the more well-known, but hardly the only, groups who have done or are doing this work.

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