After 2016, I asked a rhetorical question any time I engaged in just about any discussion about politics: “Why on earth would anyone in their right mind vote for Donald Trump, especially if they were female?!” I never expected anyone to answer, and I never paused to listen after I asked the question anyway.
I felt I was being witty. At the time, I also felt that Donald Trump was a crude, unintelligent, misogynistic, spoiled rich boy with racist tendencies.
I still feel this way. But I no longer ask that stock, patronizing question, because I started getting smart, non-rhetorical, absolutely compassionate answers from a wide variety of people, including female ones. (And yes, we all know that some people aren’t smart nor compassionate, but I actually believe these are a real minority of people; I am not concerning myself with extremists here, since they exist in every stressed society on the planet as a symptom of something Bad that’s Bigger, and that buck definitely did not begin nor end with Trump.)
We’ll call her Alice, a middle-aged white woman who has serious health problems that prevented her from working for over a year. Back in 2018, Alice was the first to answer my question by explaining first how she loves tarot cards. I didn’t understand the connection, but I’ve never really understood tarot cards. Anyway, Alice became a dyed in the wool progressive after a lifetime of being fairly apolitical, when Obama was nominated to run for President. She dropped everything to campaign for him. “He was the real deal!” she thought. “And if anyone can make things better, he can!”
“When he got elected, I cried with happiness.” However, Alice explained, she then began to wait. And wait. And wait. She was waiting for ANY changes at all to filter down to the poor and working class in the community where she lived. Remember Flint, Michigan? Remember middle America? Remember the “middle class,” trying to live and raise families on wages that haven’t functionally increased in many decades (40 hours per week at $10/hour equals $20,000 per year, barely enough for one person to live on, let alone a family)?
“Nothing happened at ALL while Obama was President. All those promises he made, about how he cared about the middle class, and he just went to war like the rest of them. No change at all in corruption or power.” She waited eight years, and that was enough for her. There are only so many eight-years that one gets in ones life.
In addition to spending big on the military, handouts for corporations (otherwise known as “subsidies”; otherwise know as massive and enormous free lunches totaling nearly the entire cost of Big Military) have grown steadily during Every Single Administration since Jimmy Carter. This makes corporate influence in public life arguably the most powerful and fourth unofficial branch of government (no pesky voting required!).
Over the course of eight years, it became clear to Alice that the color of Obama’s skin, and the content of his stated liberal views, were not bringing anything new to the White House specifically or the Ruling Class in general, and therefore the conditions for the working class didn’t improve either. Drug abuse, chronic illness, deteriorating health, fractured families and communities: just the same old usual, getting worse.
Anyway, since Alice was done campaigning (her health was declining and she needed to work, to earn money), and voting was the only other political avenue available to her, she analyzed her two options. Clean-cut, black, well-spoken, and educated: Obama checked all the boxes, but didn’t come through. So, Orange, white, crude, and unpleasant was the only other potential winner on the ballot, and so she voted for Trump. He was no good, but at least you could see the corruption and excessive wealth for what it was. She wasn’t sorry about her vote. She’d given the other side a real college try.
It’s all happening again, right now, the right-left pendulum swing, only it’s picking up speed and carelessness, even while the swing itself becomes so minimal it might be barely more than an unnoticeable blip. It would seem that even when a decent person attempts to get into the upper echelons of the political corporate sleepover, they will be corrupted forever by the ring of power, and thus the system is perfectly self perpetuating.
On the morning of the 21st of December, 1989, Romanian General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu was in a foul mood. The Berlin Wall had fallen, and Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush had recently announced the end of the Cold War, making the end of Ceaușescu’s rule inevitable, though he couldn’t see this yet. Worse, his security leaders had just failed to violently put down protests in the city of Timisoara, a fact that enraged his wife Elena.
“You should have fired on them, and had they fallen, you should have taken them and shoved them into a cellar,” she said. “Weren’t you told that?”
Long one of the world’s most vicious dictators, Ceaușescu’s most recent plan for winning over the heartland was forcing half the country’s villagers to destroy their own homes — with pick-axes and hammers, if they couldn’t afford a bulldozer — and packing them into project apartments in new “agro-industrial towns,” for a “better future.” Despite this, and his long history of murder, terror, and spying, Ceaușescu to the end did not grasp that his unpopularity had an organic character. He was convinced ethnically Hungarian “terrorists” were behind the latest trouble.
After reaching the balcony of Bucharest’s Central Committee building to give a speech that December day, he’s genuinely surprised when the crowd turns on him. When he tells them to be quiet, he’s befuddled by their refusal, saying, “What, you can’t hear?” Elena jumps in and yells, “Silence!”, to which Ceaușescu, hilariously, replies, “Shut up!” The crowd listens to neither of them.
Paul Kenyon’s Children of the Night describes the morbid black comedy that ensued. The Ceaușescus and a motley gang of undead apparatchiks that included the “morbidly obese Prime Minister, Emil Bobu” later tried to load into a single helicopter — Bobu “waddled, walrus-like, to the rear” Kenyon writes — but there were too many of them, and the copter barely got off the ground. “Where to?” asked the pilot, and nobody knew, because there was no plan, since none of them had ever considered the possibility of this happening.
The sky was full of stuff, including other helicopters, which were dropping leaflets on the crowd giving what Kenyon described as a Marie Antoinette-like order to ignore “imperialist conspiracies” and return home “to a Christmas feast.” Four days later, a firing squad put the Ceaușescus against a wall and gave them their final, solid lead Christmas presents.
Ceaușescu’s balcony will forever be a symbol of elite cluelessness. Even in the face of the gravest danger, a certain kind of ruler will never be able to see the last salvo coming, if doing so requires any self-examination. The neoliberal political establishment in most of the Western world, the subject of repeat populist revolts of rising intensity in recent years, seems to suffer from the same disability.
I have only one real disagreement with Alice’s logic, the Trumper I told you about at the beginning, which is: I can barely imagine, these days, that any politician or president from one of only two political parties can make a lick of difference within our inflamed system, unless the broken system itself gets acknowledged, overhauled, and rebooted. Which will likely be violent and awful if it happens more quickly than slowly and organically, and positive change that slow isn’t likely to make a difference during our lifetimes, let alone one presidential term, in my humble opinion.
So what is the point? Why even rally for a rollback of vaccine mandates that, if rescinded, will land us right back in the shitty spot where we were two years ago, just infinitely more battered and bruised and non-trusting and socially damaged than before?
I kept asking myself, today, if I were to drive to Ottawa and hang signs on our van in solidarity with the convoy, what would they even say?
I live in downtown Ottawa, within view of Parliament Hill, and have spent the past 10 days or so bundled up and walking around the protests. I have spoken to close to 100 protesters, truckers and other folks, and not one of them sounded like an insurrectionist, white supremacist, racist or misogynist.
Ostensibly, the truckers are against a new rule mandating that, when they re-enter Canada from the United States, they have to be vaccinated. But that’s not really it. The mandate is a moot point: The Americans have a similar requirement, and, anyway, “the vast majority” of Canadian truckers, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, are vaccinated. (The CTA represents about 4,500 truckers nationwide.)
So it’s about something else. Or many things: a sense that things will never go back to normal, a sense that they are being ganged up on by the government, the media, Big Tech, Big Pharma.
One thing was indisputable: There was this electricity coursing through the streets, and it felt like it could get out of control. It didn’t help when a handful of protesters sported swastikas and Confederate flags. Or when GoFundMe shut down the convoy’s fundraiser, announcing that donors had two weeks to reclaim their money before it was sent to “established charities” chosen by Freedom Convoy organizers. Or when the cops started arresting locals, including the elderly.
It is hard to capture how thoroughly Trudeau has misjudged the moment. “This pandemic has sucked for all Canadians,” he said Monday. As for the protest? “It has to stop,” declared the prime minister.
If he sauntered down to the mess of rigs on Wellington Street, across from the Parliament building, opposite the mall and the war memorial, if he talked to these people for a few minutes, he would understand: It will not stop.
What’s happening in Canada right now is bigger than the mandates.
The convoy is spearheaded by truckers, but its message of opposition to life under government control has brought onto the icy streets countless, once-voiceless people declaring that they are done being ignored. That the elites—the people who have Zoomed their way through the pandemic—had better start paying attention to the fentanyl overdoses, the suicides, the crime, the despair. Or else.
It is easy to point fingers at the “other side” in our two party system, and it reminds me of the saying: would you rather be right, or would you rather be free? And the corollary: someone is ALWAYS wrong on the internet.
I think that my van signs would say things like:
“Get corporations off welfare!”
“Practice democracy. Corporations are NOT people too.”
“Our collective wealth is our collective health: shut down Big Agriculture, Big Food, and Big Pharma!”
“Mandate kindness, not injected drugs.”
“Kids need their parents more than the economy does.”
“Kindness and compassion, not scapegoating!”
“Grow and cook nutritious food from scratch!”
“Stay-at-home Moms and Dads + small farms + eliminating corporate subsidies = healthy families and a healthy society, plus taking back ALL the jobs from Big Ag, Big Food, and Big Pharma!”
“A radical humanist idea: ‘women’s work’ is worth just as many pieces of paper as any other important job.”
I think the point of my van signs is: humans are being pushed to the limit by a society that values the wrong things. You know The Limit when you see it, this pornography of a globalist dream.
Do you know how many billionaires were spawned during the past two years? And do you know how many people were plunged into food insecurity during that same period of time?
The coverage of the truckers’ convoy is staggeringly awful.
And is it surprising to the ruling class when there is opposition to such an insanely massive push - amidst all the criminal activities around us, and all the tragic desecration - to spend giant enormous chunks of our tax dollars to ensure that even people who don’t want to will be patronized, coerced, marketed to, and finally forced by threat of job loss to get vaccinated for a virus that is proving endemic, is mild for most people, and kills mostly those with comorbidities?
Did The NY Times mention that 90% of Canadian truckers are fully vaccinated, as compared with approximately 73% of Canadians overall? Hmmm…guess they just forgot while they were busy misinforming.
When I imagine the Manhattan project style mobilization for good work and better health that could have come from all of this Ronamania…. I could cry, except I seem to be out of tears.
We could ban processed foods, subsidize organic farming and regenerative ranching, encourage people to grow food and build community and raise and teach their children and care for each other! Oh wait, I forgot. We’re supposed to call my crazy idea “communism” and ban it outright, because the Great Reset is where it’s at, Baby, and wealthy people are people too.
What would you ask for, if the Trudeaus and Trumps of our age would listen? What can we do with a political system that is seemingly deadlocked, with the needs of the people on one side and those of global corporate interests on the other?
It seems likely to me that no amount of political posturing on either of two “sides” is going to yield the massive changes needed for dramatic restructuring of our health and wealth and environmental priorities. So the issue of who to vote for for president…might make little difference anyway?
One tiny hope is that some among the wealthy elite ruling class may hear the populist cry from those protesting the unreasonable vaccine mandates, and make the small leap of intelligence that is so possible for those with an open mind: this isn’t only about vaccines.
I think the biggest sign I will hang on our van, if I join the convoy:
Ask New Questions. Be Quiet. Listen. Repeat.
I’ll keep looking at it myself, to see if my own advice will hold. It seems like just about the only chance we have.