As the general election draws nearer, my relationship with US politics is becoming increasingly fraught. The incessant chatter on social media networks, TV shows and news outlets serves to create a mass feeling of anxiety — a palpable sensation that the country is hurtling towards an unknown climax that could make or break the country. It is times like this that I question my love for political journalism, and secretly wish it would all just go away.
Having lived in the United States for 12 years, the sense of dread I feel now over the prospect of a dangerous sociopath becoming President is the exact same feeling I had in 2004 when John Kerry attempted to unseat George Bush and his toxic government of neoconservative warmongers. Kerry was attempting to pull the country back from the disastrous course Bush had set, and at the time, I felt the stakes could not be higher. That feeling proved right after Bush won the election and continued to dismantle the welfare state, gut environmental regulation, exacerbate violence in the Middle East and allow Wall Street to ransack the country through its predatory lending. With Trump’s proposed policies of discrimination against Muslims, extending tax cuts to the wealthy, starting trade wars with China, committing war crimes in the Middle East, and allowing hedge fund managers to run the economy, one can only imagine what the next 4-8 years would look like.
However, whatever happens in the general election, and however much I or anyone else may tire of the toxicity of American politics, the fight against the forces of Republicanism must go on. Because this is not just an American domestic political issue, but a deadly disease that has far reaching global consequences.
Anyone who has a vague understanding of global politics knows how important America is. It is the greatest military and economic power in the history of humanity, the most technologically advanced, and the most influential. It operates as the world’s largest lender, sets trade policy for much of the world, is the biggest polluter, and acts as the arbiter of global conflicts. The United States created the United Nations, has the biggest nuclear arsenal by far, and is responsible for more foreign aid than any other country. In short, the US is — for better or worse — the most important nation on earth, and its future affects pretty much everyone.
Conservatism in America is unlike anywhere else on the planet. While there are right wing fascist movements in Europe, they generally represent a small fraction of European society and are widely rejected by mainstream society. American conservatives aren’t quite fascist, but they are not far off — and are in some cases more deranged than their European counterparts. European fascists are usually just racist, whereas today’s American conservatives not only display highly questionable views about race, but also believe in some truly insane conspiracy theories that include President Obama being a Marxist Muslim, the nearing of The Rapture, and global warming being a giant hoax created by liberals for political gain. And the most troubling aspect is that mainstream society accepts it as a valid political movement and an equivalent to the Democratic party. Paul Krugman wrote about the media’s complicity in all of this over 15 years ago, saying that: “If a presidential candidate were to declare that the earth is flat, you would be sure to see a news analysis under the headline ”Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.”
Of course both sides do not have a point. One does, and the other is simply batshit crazy. And sadly, the batshit crazy side also controls two thirds of the United States government.
While I often dread waking up in the morning and reading about the latest nonsense being circulated by Fox News at the behest of their Republican masters, it won’t go away if we simply ignore it. As Bob Cesca has argued consistently: “Ignoring Trump and the other crazies is not unlike ignoring a suspicious mole. It might make you feel better to not worry about it for a while, but it won’t keep it from ballooning into something serious.”
The dynamics of American politics and the nature of the Republican Party is almost impossible to understand for those living outside of the country. I have lost count of the conversations I have had with friends abroad who have asked me what the hell is going on in this election cycle. The general consensus is that America needs to get its act together and put an end to the clown show before it gets too serious. As I try to explain though, the clown show is American politics, and for a good portion of the country, completely normal.
As any good doctor understands, a disease can only be treated with an acute understanding of the patient and their personal history. This toxic political culture then, can only be treated and defeated by those who understand it properly.
This means American liberals need to get smarter about how they deal with their political enemy and develop more sophisticated strategies to nullify the damage they cause. There may be a never ending stream of nonsense that can never be completely defeated, but with enough coordinated effort, contained and diffused to reduce its impact.
On top of the Democratic Party doing its part to provide an alternative narrative to potential voters, when the Right lies, there must also be organized ground movements to get out votes, awareness campaigns created to inform citizens about how issues affect them, and a swift response from responsible media outlets when conservatives trot out new myths about rampaging migrants and evil Muslims. This all exists of course, but the current structures in place clearly are not doing a good enough job given the power the Republicans still wield over the electorate.
While this larger, more thoughtful strategy needs to be put into place to undermine the tenants of the Republican’s destructive nihilism, there is an immediate and present danger in the form of Donald Trump, and all efforts must be directed towards bringing him down by any means necessary. This means emergency responders must be ready to fight at a moment’s notice, and react to each and every wound created.
Alongside other outlets and activists who are up for the fight, this is going to be our job here at The Daily Banter. As unpleasant as it is to mine through and expose the poison of this election cycle, the infection is too deep and the threat too great to ignore.
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.