A couple of years ago I began to get involved in the Reddit community, joining subreddits and becoming the pedantic man breather that so many people loathe and yet love to argue with. It was an exhilarating time, finally getting in touch with other people who under the mask of anonymity were allowed to freely express their thoughts. This is what the Internet was supposed to bring!
I remember one subreddit discussing the then state of the Detroit water scandal, in which the city was shutting of its water services to a large percentage of its population due to failure of its citizens to pay their bills. It was devastating news, one met with outcry and leading to the ACLU pleading with the United Nations to step in. The writing on the wall was clear then. As I wrote of the situation, “Let them eat cake.”
Mary Antoinette is infamous for possibly uttering that despicable and damning phrase. As French citizens suffered under increasing bread prices, the elites of her class sat in their castles and dined on the world’s finest cuisine, lavishing in the world’s mightiest treasures that only royalty could provide.
Consequently, this led to the French Revolution, a devastating turn of events for her majesty that led to her head being lopped off by that ever present symbol of law and order, the guillotine. Let them eat cake she said. The message was loud and clear.
Fast forward to this 2016 presidential American election, and the people have spoken. They will no longer tolerate the Washington establishment, whatever that implies. As someone who worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign here in the important state Ohio, the writing was on the wall. Trump was grabbing the zeitgeist of this nation by the throat and running with it. Hillary was busy telling people her brain had short circuited. Why should I have been surprised by his stunning victory?
My heart has been low these past few days since the election. I’ve never been a Clinton fan, going back to her first news conference surrounding her email accusations. It was clear she was on the defense, and lying, but I swallowed my own misgivings because dammit, all politicians lie and this should be accepted. I regret not following my own gut in that instant and supporting Bernie Sanders in the primaries. I volunteered for his campaign, but gave my vote to Clinton in the primary. My vote wouldn’t have made a difference, and I’m not entirely convinced he would have fared any better against Trump, but damn if my conscious would have felt cleared.
The weirdness of the election is its own parallels to the French Revolution. Poverty is real. People are hurting. Washington is telling us it’s getting better, but tell that to the person paying 500 dollars in healthcare premiums who isn’t seeing a net return on their part. Tell that to a family struggling to pay their mortgage and a gently used car payment while balancing a traditional nuclear family. Yes, these are rural Americans, and they felt betrayed and left out by the system which has slowly begun to favor the elite and educated. Their choice in the election was a “self-made” businessman or a lawyer who was giving speeches to Wall Street 2 years leading up to this election. At least one had made his living creating business and not pandering to the upper crusts of American society. I’m not sure how true the first part of that sentence is tho. But that doesn’t matter, this is the choice these people faced. A conman or a conwoman. At least one was speaking to them.
That Trump used racism and xenophobia to stranglehold their affections is a travesty to social mores. After electing a black president, we were supposed to be moving past these issues and into real progress. Instead we’re repeating pre-Jim Crow law levels of behavior. To sit watching the news and seeing his supporters punch black people and shout “Lock her up!” is terrifying. I don’t want to associate with these people.
And yet here we are now, wondering how this happened. “Let them eat cake” Antoinette said. She might as well have called herself Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure if that statement is fair, but there’s no denying this is how the American public, at least the white uneducated demographic, felt. She doesn’t speak for them. And that’s a shame.
The Democratic Party has built its modern reputation off fighting for the average Joe, the middle class, protecting workers rights and famously ending the Great Depression. We were supposed to be for those rural Americans hurting because of this recession. Instead we were busy pandering to the educated and people of color, as if we truly spoke for them. Instead of fighting to lift all of us out of poverty, we masked our own candidates questionable history in faux feminism and against racism. We treated POC as a given vote, as if expecting a whole racial block of the population to just fall in line and vote for our platform isn’t fucked up on its own. Just as those rural Americans have every right to wonder what the fuck Hillary was going to do for them, I have suspicions many other racial groups of Americans felt the same way. As one black man asked me while I was registering voters in his neighborhood leading up to the election, “What has Hillary Clinton ever done for the hood?” Touche.
It’s a strange time now. I’ve grown weary over the democratic party these last two days, and ever more angry at what we call the modern liberal. We’ve turned fighting for social and economic justice into authoritarianism and censorship. We spent a decade mocking George W. Bush for having speech difficulties, as if he was no better than a monkey, and then tell people Trump is the bad guy for mocking those with disabilities. How my own glass house has shattered. Theirs will soon if it hasn’t already.
I no longer identify as what we would dub a democratic liberal. My own views have shifted towards the traditional sense of the word, now described as the “classic liberal.” I can no longer vote blue in national elections. I’d rather waste my vote as a libertarian. I recognize that many may scorn me for this, because don’t you know, libertarians are stupid and crazy. I’m not so convinced anymore.
I owned an eBay business last year, and as I began to learn about profit margins and return on investments my interests began to shift towards economics. I began to listen to an economic podcast called “EconTalk” hosted by the noted libertarian Russ Roberts. It can be a bit of slog, a little dry and too academic at times, to the point where it can be difficult to follow without having any education in the field. And yet hearing the libertarian case be made for how a free market and limited government can promote an unintended social equality has been fascinating. I may be reaching when I say this, and yet I’m starting to become more convinced this is where our country must head.
There’s no other way of saying it. Modern liberalism has become the snake that eats it own tail, becoming the new party of conservatives fighting for social issues that were relevant back in the 50s and 70s. Every four years I hear the same garbage. “This is the most election in our lifetimes!” “We must fight to uphold Roe vs. Wade!” “They’re going to take away social security!” Enough. If our only fight is to protect what has withstood countless Republican presidents over for the past 40 years, then I want no part. I’d rather look for new frontiers and fights. I believe the libertarian platform is equipped to handle this. I can only speak for how I feel. Feel free to disagree.
And yet I must now realize throwing my support behind a very minor voice in the political spectrum may also mean I might have to witness candidates like Trump take politics into realms of racism and misogyny and actually win. What happens next? Am I doomed now to watch history repeat itself, well aware of how these things turn out? I digress.
The beauty of all this, however, is that unlike France in the 1700s, the American political system is built to withstand these storms. We have the freedom to overthrow our leaders every four years, at least at the executive level, without resorting to beheadings and riots. Instead of starving in the streets, we have the ability to vote and tell these mutherfuckers we’ll find someone new to screw us over (I’m only half kidding).
And so I remain optimistic. Things will get better, tho I must ask, for who? This is easy to ponder as a white male who has never and will never have to face the draft. I will be fine. I also realize I will be the minority soon in this country. We are becoming a more diverse and saturated nation, with 800,000 new Latino voters alone being brought into the system every year. The masses have spoken, and our country has been divided both economically as well as racially. It won’t last. We will be too spread out.
Tho I must repeat, who will benefit from all of this?. Black people have been getting fucked over by both parties for too long. Nixon and Reagan implemented the war on drugs, Bill Clinton made it easier for them to get arrested. Will we stop taking them for granted and see that welfare has provided them a base for support while at the same time keeping them trapped in poverty. The time is now that we must provide the ladder for economic mobility. I can’t speak for them because to say I have lived the black experience in America would be dishonest. Tho I must say my own life has paralleled their own journey in many ways.
And what of the uneducated white folks? They’ve had to sit for 16 years now and see themselves made fun of and mocked and scorned by so called socially minded liberals. When did fighting for justice become a mark of elitism? The notions of the smug liberal has only further alienated a margin of people who have seen their jobs shipped overseas and/or automated, and they have been left now with a divided political system that seems to hurl insults and avoid addressing their actual plight. Let them eat cake, it was said. Now it’s become let them buy cheap shit at WalMart.
Let the beheadings begin.