Opinion

Home of the Depraved: the misery of the US election

TW: sexual references

Displaying all the grace and decorum of two geriatrics competing over the youngest seventy-something at a Floridian retirement village, Donald Trump and Joe Biden have successfully constructed one of the bleakest election contests in the history of the United States. 

On Tuesday, the American people will pick between two candidates. Although different in appearance, demeanour, rhetoric and political experience, Trump and Biden share one overwhelming characteristic: being embarrassingly unfit for office. 

It seems almost futile to say anything about Donald Trump. He is perhaps most effectively represented by his eponymous tower: vulgar, leering, brutish, and gaudy. A decaying jack-o’-lantern fit for certain Charlottesville porches this Halloween. 

Naturally, Trump’s personal repulsiveness has bled into his presidential behaviour. He has actively chosen to appease white supremacists, declaring that there are ‘very fine people on both sides,’ and appointing far-right nationalists like Steve Bannon as senior advisors. Notwithstanding the ethical nightmare of the Trump presidency, his reign has also quite simply been defined by instability: facing impeachment, accusations of election fraud, and going through political aides faster than Miss USA hopefuls. More topically, his poor coronavirus leadership has been undeniable, endorsing anti-maskers and pro-bleachers; a super spreader of lies and misinformation. 

However, at the same time, I will admit to not being entirely disheartened when Trump was granted power in 2016. I suppose my response was more based on naïve ideological optimism than any practical concern for the twitter-dictatorship of a sexually aggressive reality TV host. 

It was no doubt comforting to entertain the idea of a reaction from the Left – something akin to Bernie Sanders’ recent grassroots election campaign. However, as Sanders’ failed movement has shown, the machinery of the Democratic Party, and indeed its national audience, did not desire such a reaction. The progressive ‘multigenerational, multiracial’ majority that the likes of Sanders and Elizabeth Warren prayed for turned out to simply not exist. And so, at the spritely age of seventy-seven, Biden shuffled unopposed towards the Democratic throne, and, in turn, shattered the possibility of meaningful change. 

In a similar vein to John McCain’s curious behaviour during his presidential bid against Barack Obama, Biden appears to be suffering from a significant cognitive deficit. Of course, this characterisation has been furthered by the repeated attacks of the Trump campaign and bolstered by the abundance of videos pulled out of context (or ‘deep-faked’) by his army of xenophobic basement-dwellers. Last week, ‘Sleepy Joe’ was widely reported to have stated that he was running against George Bush. In reality, he was referencing George Lopez, the man interviewing him.  

This does not, however, discount the fact that Biden undeniably prefers disconcerting stumbling to Obama-esque fluidity; jagged phrasing to complete sentences. At his very worst, he seems almost entirely unaware of his surroundings; a hollow shell of skin and bone- a sloth floating in a vacuum. 

Even without the charges of senility, a Biden at peak condition would not transform him into a heartening prospect. During this rare time of national reflection on inequality, racism and justice, his historical views and actions are cause for serious concern. From supporting segregationists by opposing court-ordered busing in the 1970s, to his involvement in crime bills during the 1990s that expanded mass incarceration of black men, the Biden of old seems painfully incompatible with the requirements of the current moment. His declaration earlier this year that “You ain’t black!” if you don’t vote for him, doing little to refute this case.   

Of course, there are positives. He is supposedly committed to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and building business support for minorities through a $30 billion investment fund. However, it is difficult to view such proposals as anything but half-hearted; a feeble attempt to fight serious and systemic issues with one hand tied behind your back. Biden epitomises a failure to embody what America desperately needs in its time of identity-crisis and spiralling discontent: dramatic reform.

Thus, due to the absence of yet another truly encouraging alternative, a small fragment of me still sees promise in the utter misery of Trumpism; a disgusting yet necessary prelude to the triumph of progressivism over populism. But, admittedly, this voice has grown weaker, less confident, more apologetic. Irrespective of the other option, it now seems impossible not to lean towards it.  

In the same breath, for all Trump’s rampant vulgarity, he is, regrettably, right about Biden – a man who would seem more comfortable falling asleep in the forgiving pillow of his Thanksgiving mashed potatoes than delivering a convincing message of hope in this time of global crisis. 

We have before us a wretched scenario. Two men who, irrespective of one’s political beliefs, cannot be considered capable of running the race, let alone breaking the seal of the finishing line. The outcome will either be the continuation of ignorance, lies and chauvinism, or the return to the depressing dynasty of placatory politics. 

Idiot or dullard?

Jingoist or quisling?

Grand collusion or utter confusion? 

We are our choices.