It’s election season in the USA – a nightmarish convulsion of the electorate shall indeed soon take place, keeping one old man in the White House or launching another one into it

Election without voice

d'Lëtzebuerger Land vom 09.10.2020

Well, it’s election season in the USA. Several Luxembourgers have asked me how I feel about it, which is a fair question for an American. But my answer, and I think any answer, will not be satisfying.

A nightmarish convulsion of the electorate shall indeed soon take place, keeping one old man in the White House or launching another one into it. Despite the urgency of the contest, inasmuch as the incumbent has an unusually dastardly platform and is unusually shameless about it, from his disavowal of science to his self-acknowledged white supremacy to his cheery complicity in the destruction of our only habitable spacefaring rock, the campaigns themselves have nevertheless lacked the ferocity, the drama, the hutzpah of elections past. Is that just me? Sure, there is a hullaballoo over Trump, a cataclysmic fury lasered on the imperativeness of his ousting, yet the nation has reached a fever pitch so intense that, for once, the voices of the candidates have become nearly superfluous in the battle. In my thirty-something years as an American, I have never seen anything like it.

For four years, Trump has publicly espoused many, if not all, of the apparently immortal toxic mentalities in the USA, presidentially legitimizing the views of racists, xenophobes, sexists, and a real smorgasbord of other charming characters. Invigorated, this conservative subset of society has been binging on a righteous attitude and articulating, with newfound clarity, the warlike, powerful, white, Christian country they tragically wish they lived in. This was all alarming enough at the get-go, but after years of enduring it many goodly people, i.e. anybody with at least an old scrap of morals lying around somewhere, have made a surge of effort to publicize and challenge and take down some of this poisonous rhetoric, which has been institutionalized since long before Trump. Where better to start (or really continue) than with the perversely normalized practice whereby cops with giant masculinity complexes dress up in expensive combat gear and murder Black Americans in the name of public peace? Of course, a little global pandemic has made its way into the nation too, setting fire to what was already on fire, resulting in a surreal kind of double fire that has not only burnt California down to a stump but has also got everyone, with perfect reason, losing their goddamn minds. Indeed, Covid-19 gave Trump a whole new type of science to politicize, which he jumped at the chance to do, even – as I write this he is reportedly sick with the virus – if it kills him. I can almost understand why the voices seem not to matter in this election, because what’s left to say?

The Democrats’ answer to the atomic bleakness of the situation is an aged and somewhat sickly albatross called Joe Biden whom you can watch, if you want to, flying meekly out of the mist. Biden’s campaign strategy, as far as I can make out, has consisted of doing and saying as little as possible. While I am certainly disappointed in him for that, you cannot deny that probably no strategy would have been safer, considering how simple Trump and his deadly antics have made the question on the ballot. He is either beatable or he isn’t, no matter who faces him. Right? I suppose that is the logic. I suppose that is why we don’t deserve a candidate capable of imagining a change in, rather than a return to, the status quo.

I don’t like watching or hearing Trump. Partly this is because I’m a misery-averse weakling, yes, but it is also because he long ago (like, the instant he took the political stage) crossed the threshold of sense, and any serious engagement with him thus feels like a wrongful and self-degrading acknowledgement that he remains on that spectrum. He doesn’t. So why bother to look or listen? Is there a reason? Perhaps there is, perhaps my belief that the undecideds in the USA do not outnumber my fingers is proof of my brainwashing and my being trapped in a bubble of likeminded people. Regardless, my attention is stunted. And I think I’m not alone. A huge movement of alienated Americans can only make nihilistic jokes about the situation, a desperate counternarrative to that of the “serious” commentators trying to intellectually undermine Trump. You cannot intellectually undermine what is not based on thought. I still deeply appreciate the journalists fighting him, but this election, as evidenced by the lack of serious debate – nothing is seriously debatable if one side rejects truth and sense – comes down to a wordless referendum on what pain is. People and planet are hurting, so the answer is more obvious than obvious, more life-and-death important than any in my lifetime. Yet we are worried, Luxembourgers too since the world is too globalized to ignore any far corner of it, because last time we underestimated how wishful nostalgia packaged in a trolling figurehead could so totally mask that pain, and nobody seems able to change how that population feels. So we can only feel our way towards the future in November, which, to the extent that feeling precludes thinking, makes this the stupidest election in living memory. Anyway, all I can feel is nervous, and all I can do, which I have already done, is send my vote and my hopes to the USA.

Jeffrey Palms
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