Fear and Loathing on Election Day 2020

Matthew John
Nov 4, 2020 · 6 min read

Frustration overwhelmed me as I feverishly searched the Uber Eats driver app on my phone, attempting to figure out why I couldn’t transfer the money I had earned. What was the point of doing these deliveries if I couldn’t access the funds when I needed them? The fact that my family was struggling financially merely days before the election was an apt microcosm of the material conditions in the world’s most “exceptional” nation. We knew the presidential election wouldn’t result in substantial change to said conditions, regardless of which old, white conservative ended up winning. Beyond the basic observations about bourgeois “democracy” generally being a sham, there was more to worry about this time around.

Nevertheless, November 2 was relatively normal. My wife and I went to pick up food from a local restaurant, we walked the dogs, I scrolled through social media, and I called Navient to postpone my student loan payments again (as I’ve had to do every month since I became unemployed due to Covid-19). Later, I took a nap, made some vegan fish sticks, and Googled where our polling place would be. My anxiety, which was a side effect of my chronic allergies, was severe — it was difficult to focus on writing.

I thought about Trump’s cult of goons that would be roaming around the next day, you know, “making America great again” by threatening and intimidating voters. Of course, regardless of their actions, they would be unconditionally exonerated by their tribe. The situation seemed more volatile due to the well-documented phenomenon of white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement agencies. To be blunt, it was a strange feeling to wonder if cops were coordinating with right-wing, domestic terrorists on the eve of an American presidential election.

My wife and I searched online and found a polling place within walking distance. I quipped that it would probably be “safe.” She asked what I meant and I briefly mentioned the knuckle-dragging fascists that would likely be milling around the polls. This upset her and she wanted to stop talking about it. I retired to my study to continue writing my thoughts on the eve of this seemingly important, historic event. I wondered how many liberals and leftists were prepared to defend themselves and their communities prior to this ominous occasion. I wondered if it was too late.

The next morning, I ate breakfast, made coffee, and took the dogs out. Once again, it was a normal day. Around 9:30 a.m. we walked to the polling place, which was full of cheerful volunteers, and we quickly voted. It seemed we were the only voters there at the time. I wrote in socialist candidate Gloria La Riva for president and looked through a list I had written and brought with me to fill in the boxes for other local propositions and candidates. The plan went off without a hitch. Thankfully, we did not encounter any bellicose Trump supporters. As Noam Chomsky recently and annoyingly repeated over and over again in an interview, the process took about ten minutes (this is rare for unprivileged folks). Now it seemed we just had to wait — a process that basically involved scrolling through social media, lounging around, and trying out various methods of “self-care”.

The day proceeded as normal. I argued with an “anarcho-capitalist” on Instagram. Giving into my vestigial Halloween-related sweet tooth, I walked to the corner store and spent $7 on candy. I then drove to the grocery store to pick up our “curbside” order. My ADHD was bad. All I could seem to do was argue on social media and post seemingly philosophical thoughts like, “Whatever happens today, just remember that reactionaries are paper tigers.”

My wife and I decided to relax, eat some dinner, and watch a new show on Amazon Prime. Ignoring the impending electoral shit-storm seemed to be the best strategy. I began glancing at my phone again around 10 p.m. The progressive Gravel Institute was tweeting things like, “It is an absolute disgrace that it is this close,” and, “The Democratic Party is the most incompetent institution imaginable.” Things looked bad. But, as I mentioned, things would be bad either way and it is impossible to quantify which outcome might be worse. Both candidates are war criminals, pro-austerity conservatives, imperialists, liars, and sexual predators. Furthermore, both represent the interests of the oligarchy over the poor and working class.

Something that is often overlooked is that both Trump and Biden are “tough on crime” authoritarians. Most people know that Trump has these qualities after witnessing four years of tyranny, including sending militarized police to brutalize and kidnap peaceful protesters. But when we think about Biden, let’s remember he didn’t just support the 1994 crime bill; he was its main author. Joe Biden has always been a conservative politician. If you look back to the War on Drugs, it’s clear the overarching policy was based on racism (a Nixon aide later admitted this). Not only has Biden consistently used the racist dog whistle rhetoric of the War on Drugs (or the “New Jim Crow”), but he has been a leader in passing the accompanying legislation.

In addition, Biden has called for anarchists to be arrested, referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as “riots,” and suggested cops should shoot people in the legs rather than the chest or head. He also wrote a predecessor to the PATRIOT Act and bragged that his crime bill did “everything but hang people for jaywalking.” The crime bill also expanded the death penalty to more than 50 additional crimes. And, speaking of militarized police, look back at the militarized responses to protests in Baltimore, Ferguson, and Standing Rock on Biden’s watch as VP during the Obama years. Just as foreign civilians can’t distinguish between bombs dropped by Republicans and bombs dropped by Democrats, Americans involved in class struggle and anti-racist activism don’t experience less harm when a Democratic administration has its boot on their neck.

There I was at 1:00 p.m. the day after the election, still waiting to see which conservative rapist had won. I thought back to my theory that the Democratic Party was primarily concerned with protecting its class interests by defeating Bernie Sanders in the primaries and was then willing to lose the general election due to the lack of enthusiasm for its corporate-backed nominee. After the Rick Snyder endorsement, the bullying of voters, the “you ain’t black” gaffe, the promise to veto Medicare for All, the clarifications that he would not ban fracking or legalize marijuana, and the plan to appoint Republicans to his administration, I found it extremely difficult to believe Biden and the Democratic Party were trying to defeat Trump. Not to mention they used essentially the same failed strategy from 2016 once again. I wondered if voter shaming and “lesser evilism” would die with the Democratic Party.

I still wondered who would win the election, while simultaneously realizing it didn’t matter. One of the overarching issues people were thinking about was the Electoral College. This inherently undemocratic institution is a microcosm of the overall framework of our specific brand of bourgeois “democracy.” In the U.S. we have the Senate, the Supreme Court, gerrymandering, privately owned electronic voting machines, corporate Super PACs, superdelegates, racist voter ID laws, and the disenfranchisement of the formerly incarcerated. There is no national holiday on election day, no ranked-choice voting, no automatic voter registration, and the list goes on.

The political system in the “land of the free” is flagrantly anti-democratic. It’s no wonder a significant portion of eligible voters stay home. I hoped that even mildly progressive Americans realized it was time to recognize the intentional failures of the Democratic Party but also the built-in mechanisms that exist to ensure elite rule; intrinsic features of the political system in this decaying neoliberal, colonial empire. The desolate material conditions in this “exceptional” nation are an emergency to millions on a daily basis. I hoped more Americans would realize we can’t vote our way out of this catastrophe.

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Matthew John

Written by

Socialist. Herbivore. Husband. I usually write about politics, current events, and history. My work has also been published by The Hampton Institute.

Fourth Wave

Changing the world for the better, one story at a time, with a focus on women and other disempowered groups

Matthew John

Written by

Socialist. Herbivore. Husband. I usually write about politics, current events, and history. My work has also been published by The Hampton Institute.

Fourth Wave

Changing the world for the better, one story at a time, with a focus on women and other disempowered groups

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