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This Is What An Election Should Be

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FARMINGTON, New York- I shot out of bed this morning with a sense of purpose. I was going to go out and do my part to drain the swamp. I then stopped short and checked myself, feeling kind of foolish: Drain the swamp? What are you doing? You don’t care about politics — you never even voted before! I shook my head and laughed. This year is different.

I walked down stairs and my mother joked with me for not having enough red on. She pointed to her bright red sweater and exclaimed, “Trump!”

While she generally leans Republican, she’s also not usually one for politics, regarding all politicians as the same ilk of crook. I would define her political leanings as being a get-off-my-lawn type of libertarian, but she doesn’t care enough to bother labeling herself. She despises things like forced vaccination and the government requiring Americans to give their money to multinational corporations for health insurance, but she’d rather stay huddled within the confines of her property … while the world burns around her.

But something interesting has happened recently. For four and a half years she couldn’t stand Trump, finding him pompous and mean — that thing where he picked on the guy with the wooby arm did him in. But as the election race heated up something began changing. She started noticing how much the media was against him and how they weren’t even trying to be unbiased anymore. This bothered her. She thought it was unfair and an affront against the American people, who she felt deserved to be told the truth about their president — the good as well as the bad.

The American people are generally not as stupid as CNN, NBC, and the New York Times believes them to be. They know when they’re being lied to.

She then became open to other sources of information, watched how BLM rioters attacked restaurants and burned minority owned businesses in her city, thought about how the three years before the pandemic really weren’t all that bad, learned about the overtly racist critical race theory, and felt a similar shudder from Biden’s free trade rhetoric that she did when many of the adult members of my family — including my father — lost their livelihoods in the Clinton era due to globalization initiatives like NAFTA. Slowly, her feelings on Trump began to soften … but not enough for her to walk down the road and actually vote for him.

Last night we gathered around my laptop in the kitchen and watched Trump speak in Kenosha — his sixth rally of the day. We laughed as he smacked the mic when it didn’t worked, made jokes, swore, and picked on his opponent. You get the impression that this guy really believes what he says, and while I wouldn’t go as far to say that it’s always the truth there is something starkly honest about him. At the very least, you know where he stands.

“How did I get here?” I asked myself this morning.

I haven’t gave a thought towards politics since my early twenties when I realized that my anarcho-punk comrades and I were doing little more than trying to enforce the same types of moral codes on other people as “the system” was trying to do to us.

So for fifteen years I treated the US presidential election as an event that really had little to do with me, and my rooting interests were so muted as to often not even register a real opinion. “I don’t like any of them,” I’d say, outlining the optimal position for a journalist. For Obama’s first election I kind of preferred him. I don’t even know where I was for his second one. In 2016 I leaned towards Trump, but ultimately determined that disdain for a wicked hag was not a good enough reason to cast a ballot.

But this year things are different.

For one, I’m in the USA. I’m usually abroad and America usually seems very far away to me — its politics more or less irrelevant to my day to day existence. But this year I found myself in the path of politics. I went to different parts of the country and found that they way they were dealing with Covid was starkly different — people’s livelihoods were left in tact or destroyed based on who the most people voted for. Politics suddenly became very real to me.

The Covid lockdowns triggered me in a way that I probably never have been before. While I’ve been in authoritarian states like China and Syria, I have never been in a place where people were forced to stay in their homes and the streets were patrolled by cops on horseback on the lookout for transgressors. I could not believe how flimsy things like the US Bill of Rights have become. It showed me that the government here had powers that I, perhaps naively, didn’t believe it had. I thought America was immune to the authoritarian tendencies of the rest of the world. I was wrong.

So I began looking at the raw Covid data and I became aware that it didn’t match what was being pushed in publications like the NY Times, the Washington Post, as well as the platforms of the tech monopolies. Certain studies were being promoted while other, just as authoritative, studies were being discredited. The only difference between the two was that one matched the narrative that the media was looking to push and the other went against it. Since when do journalists and tech companies have the right to silence Ivy League academics and doctors?

A journalist with a cause is an activist.

I became more aware that the dire media situation here extended far beyond Covid. I soon began looking at what they were publishing about Trump and found that a huge amount of that was also untrue. Many of the big media sources in the USA were essentially serving as mouthpieces for the Democratic Party, doing whatever they could to get Biden elected.

Election 2020 became Donald Trump vs. the media.

Joe Biden — a candidate who in other years would have been deemed unfit for office — just had to sit back and let CNN, MSNBC, and their ilk do his bidding, defending him whenever he would stumble over his words or forget what he was talking about, whitewashing his scandals as “Russian misinformation” when they actually proved legit, and forgetting their usual critical stance on the guy and his touchy-feely ways and legacy of corruption.

As a journalist, I found this vertigo inducing. There was no longer any professional handholds for me to grab onto. Ethics were gone. Journalistic scrutiny a thing better enjoyed in black and white Bogart movies. Media became a game where the biggest lie wins, and I wanted to vote against all of it.

By the time the time the riots began I was already entrenched in my position, which I outlined a couple of days ago. No, I don’t believe that someone has the right to destroy other people’s property, tear down statues, or attack people with different opinions — no matter how good their cause is. Yes, I want to vote against political parties who support this destruction and violence.

It’s not in my character to be one of those shy Trump voters who will take their vote for the man to their graves out of fear of being estranged from their family and friends and fired from their jobs. This really happens now.

My previous two blog posts brought in a wave of donations … and unsubscribes. Lines have been drawn, and few of us seem to want anything to do with anyone on the other side of the chasm. Most of my friends are voting Biden, but I don’t care about this. I like it when they tell me their opinions and argue with me. That’s the sport of politics for the laobaixing. But I have to recognize that many out there aren’t so sporting. I’ve lost friends over this … and that’s some pretty sick shit.

That said, I care about this election more than what I usually do, but I wouldn’t say that I’m betting my psychological and emotional well being on it. I feel as if Donald Trump would be better for the country, but I know that Joe Biden would probably be better for me professionally. A media climate where “Orange man bad” no longer takes up 90% of the news slots means more opportunities for stories about other things … and critical race theory policies, socialist equalizer statutes, mass job loss, continued violent protests, Covid lockdowns, and a corrupt, corporate shrilling, blabbering president is a wellspring of hot topics for the counter-media.

Election 2020 is what elections should be: two sides with fundamentally different positions, different ideas, and different cultures that the society can argue over out come up with what what the most people want.

My usual voter ambivalence stemmed from the fact that both candidates always seemed the same to be: Obama was little more than a better speaking, swaggier version of George W. Bush; his policies mirroring that of his predecessor.

But this year … man, this year we have something different.

While I don’t necessarily like the current slate of potential policies and the ideology shift of the Democrats, I do like the fact that they are injecting new debates into the ether. They have shifted farther left as the Republicans filled the void in the center. We are just not arguing over personalities this year. No, we’re arguing over ideas. One way of life and worldview is smashing headfirst into another. This is everything an election should be.

Enjoy the show.

Filed under: Politics, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3623 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

2 comments… add one

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  • Jack November 8, 2020, 1:45 am

    The show after the election is the real show. I never in my life would think I would see people dancing and celebrating in the streets because someone like Biden was seemingly elected.

    The great thing is that I don’t have to be a part of it and I can choose. The world is a big place.

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    • VBJ November 9, 2020, 7:49 am

      Yes, it’s nuts. I’m in NYC and walked through throngs of people celebrating. When they would walk by me they’d seem to look for eye contact so they could cheer with me or give a high five. My lack of reciprocation seemed to cue them that I wasn’t one of them. It oddly felt a little dangerous. I never felt like more of an outsider anywhere in the world.

      It was all very strange to me, as I’m not sure they really understand what they voted for. This was largely the same crowd that would protest war and free trade during the George W years and participated in the Occupy movement of the Obama years. Do they get that the “normal” they are so happy to get back to means bombing people, giving banks free reign to do what they want, and corporations their usual influence over the top levels of government. Aren’t these all things they oppose? But I guess they prefer kids being blown to pieces in some foreign desert to reading Tweets they don’t like. I guess these are the priorities of our time.

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