Think beyond the presidential election

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A passerby stops to take a selfie with foam sculpture depictions of President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden along Dixie Highway in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. Photo by Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

Today in the United States we are seeing a continuity of four months of daily protests against police brutality and systemic, foundational racism within American society. The racial and class-based antagonisms in this country are being entrenched by COVID-19 as the inhumanity of all our most basic institutions is laid bare. In such an important time, we must think beyond the approaching presidential election. 

The reality is that the choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden is no meaningful choice at all. It’s between two elderly, dementiatic, racist, white males with a list of rape allegations who agree far more than they disagree. They both want key human rights such as food, water, shelter and healthcare to remain commodities. They both want the U.S. to continue destroying the environment through the proliferating consumption of fossil fuels. They both want to retain the fundamental racism and classism within the criminal “justice” system, the “war on drugs” and the entirety of the carceral state. More important than their opinions, they’re beholden to the many similar corporations and billionaires who’ve contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to their campaigns in exchange for business-friendly policies.

If we did consider the choice between these two very similar candidates meaningful, thankfully the electoral college exists to override our choice as it did in 2016 when it gave Trump four years as president without winning a majority of American votes. Far too many well-meaning American spectators repeatedly fall into the illusion that they can determine the results of an undemocratic election by convincing more voters to participate. 

However, this right gives no one license to shame and gaslight the communities which the Democratic and Republican parties have manipulated, neglected and hurt for centuries into supporting another of their candidates. It’s disrespectful and inhumane. 

 

Of course, none of this is to say that we should not vote. November third will also elect all members of the House of Representatives, half of the Senate and many local offices, not all of which are between identical candidates. And, if someone is convinced that either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be significantly preferable, they should feel empowered to voice that opinion at the ballot box. It’s their right. 

However, this right gives no one license to shame and gaslight the communities which the Democratic and Republican parties have manipulated, neglected and hurt for centuries into supporting another of their candidates. It’s disrespectful and inhumane. 

On the topic, let’s think critically about why so many Americans are disinterested in the 2020 general election. Regardless of whether Trump or Biden leads the nation, if their accusers are to be believed, the president will continue raping women after Janurary without justice. The executive branch will provide more resources to the gargantuan military industrial complex and continue pursuing foreign wars of aggression. Undocumented people will continue being deported in record numbers. The executive branch will continue empowering police forces to violently repress historic protests against brutality and racism. Millions will continue suffering and dying without access to basic necessities, and with more fossil fuels we will continue racing toward the destruction of a habitable earth beyond the 21st century.  

This is the main idea: Whether Biden or Trump is elected, they will preside over a government fundamentally opposed to our wellbeing and liberation. So how can our politics reach for survival and not simply “harm reduction?” 

Right now, we have the opportunity to stand with the millions protesting hundreds of years of structural racism and police repression. We can organize community defense forces against incipient fascism and mutual aid networks to support our most struggling communities. We can create independent workers’ institutions to advocate for us politically, provide for us materially and create solidarity between all struggling people, which is painfully lacking in the United States today. 

These are long-term goals, far more complicated than a simple vote. But none of the difficulties they pose change their essential relationship to our survival. The presidential election will leave undisturbed American racism, capitalism, imperialism and settler colonialism that continues stripping millions of their autonomy and destroying prospects of organized human life beyond this century. It’s time for us to create politics that looks beyond. 

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