It's been months, I think, since we've directly engaged with politics–and luckily enough, nothing has happened on that front since! Let's all go eat ice cream.
But no. It's all awful. From the lack of courage in Republican candidates to put distance between themselves and Trump at the last debate, to Vivek Ramaswamy's open embrace of a Twitter-troll rhetorical style and all the garbage that comes with it, to a recent actual, real-life book burning, shit has sucked. So this week, as much as I don't want to, let's take a moment to catch up.
What the GOP Debates Mean
Briefly: Trump wins the primary.
Less briefly: the GOP is still an absolute shambles, with nobody willing or able to actually stand up and attempt to be a real candidate, instead using the stage and our democratic processes themselves as a means of enrichment. No one can honestly believe they have a chance against Trump, making this primary season an empty exercise anyway–so the fact that no one is willing to position themselves in real contrast to him lays bare just how insipid all the other candidates are. As Trump has chosen not to attend the debates so far, the most criticism that has been leveled at him is that he's not participating. The winner of the night of the first debate, Ramaswamy, won by being a boisterous far-right prig, willing to lie and showboat his way onto headlines, where he will languish until at least 2028, if not longer. The winner of the second debate, Nikki Haley (ostensibly? maybe nobody "won") has received flak from Trump for existing, which maybe means something, I suppose? This is all quite silly.
Ron DeSantis, surprising only a handful of people, has made a meme of himself but not much else, having forgotten, as he tends, to act human. We are lucky in this respect and this respect alone: that mythic, canny, clean-cut fascist who blows past Trump's scandals and ego to actually rid this country of democracy and everything non-cis-het-white, has not yet slouched onto the scene. So far they're all as goofy as he is, and that's good.
On the Other Hand
With Trump the only candidate on the right, he's got a lot of time to consolidate his base and build momentum. Current polling shows him just ahead of Biden in a general election–though to be sure polls don't mean anything this far out. If I were asked who's going to win the election at this point, I'd probably just run screaming into the distance rather than consider the possibilities further. The idea of Trump getting back in the White House–the Trump we know and despise–is bad enough. But his rhetoric has not been tempered by his time away, and even the few common sense things he did to his paltry credit, like Operation Warp Speed, he has backpedaled on.
Trump in 2024 is going to be a despot who knows more about what the hell he's doing and how to do it, who knows what his audience wants, and cares not a whit who it hurts. He will allow the more fanatical elements on the right to push for the persecution–and public elimination–of Trans people. He will likely go back to the old saw of a border wall, and take notes from Texas' Governor Abbott, putting razors and shit wherever he can. We can count on denial of aid to Ukraine, plenty of chaos in international relations, and maybe even some light invasion of Mexico.
As bad as all this is, I want to be clear that Trump just goes where the stage light goes. If he thought fighting climate change would get him elected he'd cover Trump Tower in solar panels. This is not to excuse his behavior; I want to point out that its source is deeper than him. It's rungs below him, all the way to the ground, rooted, ultimately, in the white supremacy and patriarchy at the heart of this country. In some regard, 2024 is a distraction from that. We did not, after all, enter into a land of sunshine and rainbows on the election of Joe Biden, and that won't occur with his potential re-election, either.
Voting is a Distraction
I still vacillate on this issue. I think that following the general movement of politics is a waste of time, and participation is too, mostly. If we can get in and get out of a voting booth quick enough to give some fascists a middle finger, I think that's fine, and I did that last month, to prove it. But I want to reiterate that whatever your feelings about our democracy, it's not where the fight is. We live in a country that is bound to fail–like most of the world if we don't make some remarkable changes soon–and our problems will cease to be related to national elections pretty quickly when there ceases to be a nation. Now, collapse is not a solution. State governments might not fall apart, or local governments–and many of those tend to be redder than we'd prefer. Theocratic militias may try to step in and govern. And an absence of government does not a fantasy world necessarily make. But I digress–we're not there yet.
Where we are is focusing our energy on our communities, preparing ourselves and our loved ones for these hard times to come. Strengthen your bonds with folks around you, render aid to those in need, build up your skills, your reserves, and your knowledge base. While I can't really predict what will happen with elections, or to what sub-basement the far right will stoop, we can be certain that the climate collapse is here, and I promise you rain doesn't care which way you voted.
On a lighter note: in a couple days it will be When/If's third birthday, which feels like the equivalent of forever. If you find this work valuable and you have some disposable income, why not dispose of it here? This project takes a fair bit of my time, and a fair bit of my sanity. I'll never paywall any of my content, but I am just barely above water on maintaining the website, let alone any kind of accounting of my time. If you can't pitch in monetarily, maybe just share my work, send a tweet or a blueskie or whatever we're calling those?