Notes From the Progressive Abyss
I believed that Bernie’s movement was the real deal. I should have known better.
I’m too old to be this naive. Donald Trump has been president for over three years now. There’s a virus rampaging across the globe and my countrymen are stupid enough to think it’s all a prank. Trump’s solution to the crisis is to hold hands with billionaire shale tyrants. And my phone still thinks that an emoji sticker counts as a new text message. Everything is decidedly fucked, so I dunno why I had any hope of it becoming unfucked.
But I did. The primary season began and I thought that Democrats had a certified panoply of choices to run against Trump and finally END this goddamn nightmare. I switched loyalties from Elizabeth Warren to Bernie Sanders in part because Warren fumbled her Medicare For All plan rollout (Oh no! A woman made the absolute slightest error!), but mostly because I felt that real and true change in America could not come from shrewd policy jiujitsu, but from a candidate who can arouse a popular uprising — an equal and opposite uprising to Trump’s national goon squad — and keep that uproar loud and vital. I, like Boots Riley, believed Bernie Sanders was that kinda candidate.
I got overinvested. Not literally, mind you. I didn’t donate to Bernie—because OBJECTIVITY. But I rode hard for him in other, more ethical ways. I said he was gonna win. I said to the Democratic establishment GUESS WHAT BUCKOS, YOUR TIME IS UP. I followed the Bern on Twitter and every time he popped up on the feed saying something sensible, it made me a little bit happier. Things could get better. Things would get better.
Bernie beat the shit out of Trump in head-to-head polls, which proved that I only believe in polls when they tell me when I want to hear.
I believed that. What’s more, I felt like I had sound backing to believe that. Bernie was at the top of the leaderboard on 538 for a long time. He beat the shit out of Trump in head-to-head polls, which proved that I only believe in polls when they tell me when I want to hear. When my friends said he couldn’t win, I got demonstrably irritated. I believed — and I still DO believe — that the fatalism of “lol nothing matters” Twitter is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you spend all day saying everything is shitty, everything WILL be shitty. I was ready to try on a different, more Stanley Motss-esque outlook. I was sick to DEATH of every pundit and random dipshit going, “Welp, you just handed the election to Trump!” anytime they thought Bernie was going to win, or any time they thought Democrats made a false move. Those people suck and should be pushed out to sea.
Even when Super Tuesday came around, I stayed optimistic. The rest of the field — minus Warren — had consolidated around Joe Biden in a collective action that you can describe as either remarkably efficient or repulsively craven, depending on your outlook. My outlook is the latter, but I still hoped that all those moves had come too late, and that Biden was too pathetic of a candidate to capitalize on them. I believed that Bernie’s movement was the real deal.
As you know by now, my hope was misplaced. I watched the early returns come in on Super Tuesday and experienced a zero-calorie version of the slow-developing horror I felt on Election Night 2016. Biden kicked the shit out of Bernie that night, and he did it again last night in a handful of states that represented, in spirit, Bernie’s last stand. Now when I look at Bernie’s tweets and he says he’s got a movement behind him, it stings because I know that whatever small movement he did have behind him wasn’t anywhere near enough to beat the machine. Maybe he didn’t have a movement at all. Maybe I just wanted there to be a movement where none existed.
I should have known better. I should have realized that voters out there wanted the electoral and mental equivalent of an old shoe. I should have realized that they prioritized beating Trump above all else, and that they believe Joe was the best man to accomplish the task. I don’t necessarily believe the latter, but then again turnout for Biden has been so large as to be undeniable. I’m sure that the goodwill he earned from serving as veep to Obama — who himself has been an absentee ex-president throughout all this and thus a historically crushing disappointment of his own kind — played into it, despite the fact that Joe Biden embodies the worst failures of that administration. People like Obama, so they like Biden. Perhaps they like him enough to vote for him over Trump. I guess I can be optimistic about that.
But it’s not as fun of a brand of optimism as the optimism I mainlined over the past few months. The Bernie optimism was primo, uncut shit: The hope that Americans would use Trump’s potential ouster to fix problems that went BEYOND Trump’s presence itself. Voting for Joe Biden is submitting to the kind of forced pragmatism that makes James Carville’s dick hard. Biden stands for nothing and will do nothing as president. That’s better than what Trump IS doing as we speak, but it’s still a victory for complacent nihilism over aggressive nihilism.
Alas, that’s the best I can hope for at this point. I should’ve known that Democrats would look at the current political landscape — which is tragically skewed to amplify and aid the BillyJoeJimBobs of this country — and decide that the easiest way to defeat Republicans was to simply become them. I should’ve known that there’s only one political party in this country, and that its only goal is to profit off your misery and then gloat about it. I also should have known that me saying such things wasn’t gonna make a goddamn speck of difference. No wonder Biden thinks Republicans will magically work with him once he’s elected. He IS one. If you think Bernie Bros are obnoxious online, wait till you get a load of the Biden Hive. They’re somehow worse than Biden himself.
I should’ve known that we are a nation of deaf ears, and that voters could agree with everything Bernie had to say while simultaneously refusing to vote for him. I should’ve known that the loudest voices in the room would be people who are like, “I’m more of a moderate… there are SOME things I like about a suicide pact.” I should’ve known all of that because I am an American, and this is how America works. It’s a land of false hopes, and the horrible irony is that those false hopes are the only thing around to keep a lot of us going.