My Take on 2020 and This Wild Election
This is not what you’re expecting. In other years at this time I’ve sent you extensive breakdowns of every important race, measure, and proposition Northern Californians are voting on.
This year is different. Politics have turned topsy-turvy, I haven’t had time to research more than a handful of races, and I’m spending what little free time I have writing a book about media distortion, propaganda, and fake news. It’s a fascinating topic. But a number of you have reached out recently and asked for my take on current events and the election. Rather than one long post, I’m covering the election in this post, and my thoughts on the craziness in the media in another post.
This 2020 Election
Yes there is this race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden and some never-mentioned third-party candidates. I watched the debates, and I’ve been watching American presidential politics closely for over 20 years, and I can honestly say I’ve never been less excited about the candidates. This must be rock bottom. Even the Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins, isn’t particularly good. The Libertarian, Jo Jorgensen, might just be the best of the bunch, which is saying very little. But you’re probably not reading this far to learn about my weak preference for Jo Jorgensen. Perhaps you’ve already voted anyway. Or perhaps you believe in QAnon or Russiagate and your mind is already made up. Our brutally rigged political process means only Trump and Biden have a chance of winning. We all know that. And they’re both very, very bad candidates to lead this country, so bad that the infuriating and surprising truth is… I don’t have a strong preference between them. That’s right. Maybe this isn’t what you expected, maybe this even enrages you; this country is so divided right now that both sides see the other side as an existential threat to everything sacred about life. So, before you shame me or others who don’t see it the way you do, before I lay out the nearly infinite reasons each man is unfit to lead, I’ll let you know I do see reasons for supporting both Biden and Trump, and I’ll list them so that maybe, just maybe, we can all understand each other a bit more and rage and fear a little less. I hope you’ll consider that there are reasons to support that other old, white, corrupt, racist, rapist — the one that you don’t support.
REASONS TO VOTE TRUMP
– No new wars. This is a remarkable blessing to an American nonpartisan or a citizen of another country. If we can briefly ignore Bolivia and Venezuela and Yemen and some other godawful situations we’re still playing a harmful role in, we can say that for the first four-year term in my lifetime the US has started no new wars. He did not “bring the troops home,” as he promised, and the assasination of Soleimani was insane and even bloodthirsty, but nevertheless avoiding new wars has reduced suffering on earth.
– Allows divergent voices to be heard. Though he’ll never be given credit for it by the NYT or NPR, Trump has not insisted on uniformity of opinion in his cabinet the way a fascist might. For instance, he’s put both Tony Fauci and Steve Atlas on his coronavirus taskforce in a plausibly honest attempt to arrive at the best science. I think the “Warp Speed” virus plan is stupid and dangerous, but I acknowledge that allowing divergent voices is a sign of confident leadership.
– Disliked by the corporate media. Whatever one thinks about Trump, there is no doubt that the elite media in New York and DC hate him. Something about him makes their skin crawl, and they’ve done their damndest to make your skin crawl too at the mention of his name. From my vantage, researching the devious and longstanding ways the corporate media has lied and manipulated Americans into voting, feeling, and thinking against their own interests, I can say he might just be doing something right somewhere.
– “Don’t be afraid.” Whatever you thought about Trump contracting the coronavirus and recovering, his comments after returning to the White House were unusual for an American president, and in a good way. In this video he says to the American people, “Don’t be afraid, don’t let it dominate your life.” In an era where every president ever has told us to be afraid — fear the terrorists, fear the drug lords, fear the child abductors, fear the superpredators, fear the Muslims, fear the virus — this moment was an almost spiritual respite. Fear shuts down critical thinking and makes people more obedient to authority. When without fear, people are more generous, tolerant, and creative. Leadership that doesn’t manipulate through fear is better leadership.
– Less Lockdowns – While no one can be sure in this topsy turvy political era, it seems Trump is less prone to authoritarian one-size-fits-all general lockdowns than Biden. Lockdowns are crushing this country’s economy, working class, and sense of community, and as I mentioned above they are neither justified nor based in science.
– Not Biden. And of course he’s not Joe Biden.
REASONS TO VOTE BIDEN
– More in tune on healthcare. Although Biden opposes it, we need Medicare for All, and he’s slightly better on this. This need has never been more extreme than during these lockdowns, which force people to go without basic medical attention in our so-called civilized country. The ability to get medical attention should never be tied to one’s employment status. A universal plan, like Medicare for All which Bernie Sanders of course demands, is ethically and economically necessary for this country. And while Biden has acted like another Republican in this race and promised to veto Medicare for All, he does at least acknowledge that healthcare is a right, and so on this critical issue he is slightly better.
– Better on renewable energy. Biden is relatively strong here, calling for much more renewable energy investment, which will generate more jobs, enhance our environmental responsibility, energy flexibility, and maybe, just maybe, prevent worsening climate change.
– Comes from a historically liberal party. Although the Democratic Party has now become the party of the suburban rich, its roots lie with working class people, and Joe still at least pays lip service to unions and a minimum wage even if he never advocates for more modern progressive economic reforms, like Medicare for All or Universal Basic Income. Unfortunately by choosing Kamala Harris, the DNC once and for all killed their claim to being a working class party and instead doubled-down on identity politics, which might keep establishment liberals and urban black people on board for another cycle or two but spells the final end of the Sanders-led progressive revolution that was reviving the party’s working class traditions and would have won the support of a generation of young people as well as weaned the party off of corporate money. That’s a tragic loss for this country, but all that said, Biden will bring with him a few progressives into the White House, if we’re lucky, so these roots are a plus.
– Stimulus Package. It’s unconscionable and disgusting that neither party has demanded Medicare for All during this pandemic. It’s also unconscionable and disgusting that there has been no additional relief package for everyday Americans since the bailout for billionaires and the early packages in the spring. No doubt Nancy Pelosi held up a stimulus package that would have gone through earlier this month because she wanted the country hurting and craving change on November 3. It’s almost as if both parties want the people of this country to be destitute, sick, and lonely right now. That said, Biden is more likely to put through a larger stimulus package early in 2021 (or even demand something in late 2020), and that just might make up for an unjust expansion of mask mandates.
– Not Trump. And of course he’s not Donald Trump.
So there you have it. Vote for the one you prefer, and try to understand (rather than hate) those who might vote the other way.
Or vote for Jo Jorgensen. Or join the growing Movement for a People’s Party.
A brief look at some propositions on the ballot. This is direct democracy, and your vote matters here more than in the presidential election.
Proposition 14 – NO. $5.5 Billion in bonds for stem cell research. Let the pharma corporations fund this rather than rob state coffers, since the letter of the law allows them (and they’ll do it undoubtedly) to transfer to themselves and profit from any intellectual property generated from the research.
Proposition 15 – YES. Reforms the historic Prop 13 but only for commercial properties. This will expand the tax base for schools and local governments by fairly taxing large commercial properties.
Proposition 16 – YES. Support Affirmative Action and repeal Prop. 209. I’ve always believed that affirmative action is a necessary evil and that ideally we would give no preferential treatment to anyone merely for skin color, gender, or other superficial reasons, but obviously because of centuries of racism and sexism, it remains essential and just to use for a (hopefully short) period of time remedial preferences when choosing between equally qualifiedcandidates.
Proposition 17 – YES. Restores the right to vote after a prison term is complete but before parole period is complete. Typically a three-year period here during which parole is completed, and the benefits of increasing participatory democracy outweigh small risk of recidivism by candidates.
Proposition 18 – YES. Another modest extension of voting rights here: Primary voting for 17-year-olds who will be 18 for the general election.
Proposition 19 – YES. Minor changes to property tax rules. No strong feeling here as it would help some elderly and disabled homeowners but also some wealthy realtors.
Proposition 20 – NO. Restrict parole, reauthorize felonies, force DNA tracking of prisoners. More money for prisons is a negative; increasing surveillance without any privacy controls is another negative.
Proposition 21 – YES. Expand rent control to older homes, with some exceptions.
Proposition 22 – NO. Enable app-based companies like Uber to pay drivers as contractors rather than as employees.
Proposition 23 – YES. Expand requirements for kidney dialysis clinics.
Proposition 24 – YES. Slightly, weakly, insufficiently increase enforcement of online privacy. Online privacy is becoming one of the biggest issues of our era, particularly with the tracking and targeting done, on the one hand, by social media like Facebook, and on the other hand by track-and-trace coronavirus apps. Anyone who understands the reason for the 4th Amendment, and that there is no freedom without privacy knows that this issue is only going to get bigger. This little proposition does so little to help, but it does do a little. Support this and demand much more.
Proposition 25 – NO. Replaces unjust money bail with a different but also unjust algorithm that determines bail based on place of residence and prior convictions. We need to do better here.
Measure Z – NO. This would scrap the primary housing guidelines in the city which have prevented highrises and too many nondescript apartment buildings from being built. The case for this measure sounds good — claiming to redress racial discrimination in local housing — but it doesn’t follow that actually passing measure Z would do anyting to increase diversity. All it would do for sure would be greenlight more market rate housing and turn some classic single-family homes into apartment buildings.
Measure AA – YES. Reform city charter to hopefully prevent the Oddie/Vella shenanigans.
City Council – After the Oddie/Vella shenanigans, vote for integrity candidates, Trisch Spencer and Gig Codiga. I also like Amos White but haven’t seen him around enough yet.
Balance Your Media Diet
Although I put my thoughts on this in the other post, it’s worth calling out here too that I think this is the most important thing to do right now. Broadening one’s media diet doesn’t just expand one’s awareness about the world, it triggers the part of the brain that wants to know and not just to believe. I’m writing a bit about this in my book: The corporate mainstream media focuses on getting us to believe things, which can be done effectively via propaganda techniques and repetition. The act of reading independent media on the other hand — taking on the responsibility of becoming informed oneself — awakens the part of the brain that wants to know, that wants to learn, that can take a small mental adventure for the sake of knowledge. This second kind of informing oneself happens through eyewitness experience and encounters with primary sources. Independent media is wrong too about things, of course, but the important difference is that you know it is just one perspective and it doesn’t present itself as The Truth.