So, on your way to the camps, I want you to know that I just couldn’t get myself to vote for that woman because I hated everything about her. I’m sorry you’re going to have to live in a detention center for a while, but her voice, you’ll have to agree, is really irritating. Hopefully they let you out in two to three years when we figure this all out, like he promised.
That’s an excerpt from “On Your Way To The Camps, I Just Want You To Know…,” Aaron Loeb’s stunning modernization and twist on the famous poem that ends “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” You should absolutely read the entire piece.
Loeb said eloquently something that I’d like to now be more direct about.
Yes, I’m an old man. Well, I’ll be 40 in November…so, you know, I’m not a millennial. I’ve striven these last nine months to not spend every waking moment screaming the political equivalent of “Get the fuck off my lawn you stupid fucking douchebag kids!” (Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent some time doing just that, but I’ve tried to restrict myself to select private Facebook arguments.)
It’s time to embrace the curmudgeon who lives inside of me.
Look, anyone who has a lot of time on their hands could (privacy settings permitting) go back through my personal Facebook page and see that I’ve been nothing short of a blisteringly loud-and-proud, socialist-atheist, far-left liberal nut for all of my adult life. I’ve been particularly loquacious around the issues of wealth inequality, systemic racism, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. My positions on other issues are every bit as libtardy as Sean Hannity would expect.
I am also a voracious consumer of information. My liberal beliefs were not inculcated in me during my childhood; I came by them honestly—after 13 years of Catholic education—through books and newspapers and periodicals and conversations and speeches. I’m not a genius, but I am very well informed.
I am also, as the title of this blog suggests, exceedingly and virulently rational. It is the rationalist in me that knows the following things:
At the macro level, there are two ways to change the things we don’t like about our society—politics and revolution. Politics and revolution are not compatible; revolution is practically the opposite of politics.
Revolution only happens if and when a critical mass of people in a society determine that things are so bad that they’re ready to sacrifice everything they have to go out in the streets and fight for a better future for those who will come after them. The things they might have to give up include but are not limited to jobs, possessions, time, blood, sweat, tears, money, regular showers, regular meals, family, friends, their lives, and maybe—just maybe—even Netflix.
Not voting is not a revolution.
Voting for a third party candidate is not a revolution.
Saying you’ll reluctantly vote for the “lesser of two evils” is not a revolution.
For reference, anything that might rightfully be called revolution probably involves you breaking a sweat.
Short of revolution, we have politics. Politics is a big, cumbersome, frustrating thing that requires cumulatively more sustained attention and effort over a longer period of time, but far less dramatic and immediate sacrifice. It requires patience and cooperation and compromise. Politics frees us up to pursue our lives while devoting as much or as little extracirricular time and energy as we so choose to the work of shaping our society through activism, speech, volunteerism, donating and voting.
Politics requires a capacity for delayed gratification. Now I get that you want to jizz in this particular sock right this very second, but unless you’re ready for actual revolution you’re going to have to slow your fucking roll and wait a minute.
I know…Bernie didn’t win so you want a third party and/or the Democratic establishment to learn a lesson and/or Hillary to coddle your delicate, fragile fucking ego by pandering to every boutique issue you’ve cared about for the last three minutes and/or whatever it takes to validate your newfound rage against a system you had precious little interest in or knowledge of until a bird landed on a podium and you saw Jesus—but again, unless you’re so angry that you’re ready to get off Facebook and go be an unwashed hippie in the streets, those are ridiculous requests that you can shove.
Politics is fundamentally a struggle between two poles that correspond to the the extent to which we think government should play a role in the lives of its citizens—i.e. liberalism argues for a robust role for government, conservatism for a minimal one—and at any given point in time the question is essentially whether we want to inch to the left or the right. (Please see this fantastic Twitter thread from @SheWhoVotes for more on this subject.)
The question is not whether we want to leap to the left or the right; politics simply doesn’t allow for leaps. In fact, our system was specifically designed to prevent such leaps so that we would not be susceptible to waves of reckless and shortsighted populism. It is called incrementalism and it is what has made our system incredibly stable over time. It’s why you have a tiny computer in your pocket that will find you someone within a one-mile radius who wants to fuck.
There’s just one small but important thing we have to do to keep the system stable: not elect an ignorant psychopath.
If an ignorant psychopath had secured the Democratic nomination (unlikely given the rules governing the Democratic primary process), I would be arguing that it would be better to inch to the right than elect that person to the highest office in the land—and that’s essentially what principled, intelligent Republicans are saying right now. They’ve done the cost-benefit analysis and determined that they’d rather lose a little ground to the left than hand the nuclear codes to a deranged clown with Tiny Penis Overcompensation Syndrome.
More importantly, they’ve determined that they have a better chance of reaching their long-term goals by working to elect someone they have despised for decades and with whom they disagree on just about every issue you can think of. And make no mistake, they’re counting on you to minimize the leftward inching by depressing voter turnout and ensuring that Clinton doesn’t have the mandate or the votes in Congress to get much of anything done.
It’s time for you to do the math and realize that you have an even better chance of reaching your long-term goals by working to elect someone you’ve hated for whatever short span of time you’ve been paying attention to politics but who agrees with you on at least 90% of the issues you care about—and that you have the ability to maximize the leftward inching based on the extent to which you rally support and drive voter turnout in this and every other election.
It’s time for you to quit the pathetic fucking pity party over Bernie and act like a grown ass person who understands that sometimes we have to make choices that don’t boil down to a) the best thing ever and b) the worst thing ever.
If you actually care about the things you say you care about, it’s time to start acting like it.