I had, essentially, one thought about that debate.
We can all agree it was a hot mess. But the question of who lost or won wasn’t necessarily the takeaway for me (I don’t think debates are supposed to be about winning…?), nor am I convinced it should be anyone’s. What hit me like a star-spangled truck to the face was the fact that this debate was even allowed to spiral into that mess in the first place, and it says a lot about the kind of power structure we’ve built into our society.
I’m not saying it just got this bad; this system has always allowed for those at the top to recklessly tamper with the lives of the (often majority) marginalized. And I’m not saying it just happens in the United States because this dynamic is evidenced on a global scale. If we can imagine the U.S. hierarchy as a pyramid, all of the power is consolidated in the peak. That includes the wealth, resources, social status, privileges. It takes many forms — fascism, authoritarianism, capitalism–but its basic structure is predicated on grossly disproportionate power.
This isn’t some “liberal SJW bullshit” or whatever buzzphrase the right will use to decry these terms. Existing in any society with power dynamics at play means acknowledging that all of those things must inherently exist, especially one where the gap has grown so wide.
Because, if the U.S. were a pyramid, it’s more a Transamerica Pyramid than a Pyramid of Giza, where those at the proverbial pyramidion are far-removed from those at the base. It is the fact that those few have the ability to figuratively distance themselves that lends them such great leeway in the form of Donald Trump and those like him. It is the only type of power structure that would allow a man with a whole Wikipedia page on his sexual assault allegations, who openly mocked a reporter with arthrogryposis for…having arthrogryposis, who not-so-openly avoided giving back to his community in the most basic manner, who has another Wikipedia page detailing blatantly hateful and racist sentiments, who condones the most dangerous domestic terrorist group in his country, to stand at its helm.
But, through it all, what stuck out to me most was the post-debate analysis, how the general consensus was that neither Trump nor Biden emerged victorious. I previously said that, to me, victory didn’t matter, but it’s the fact that people essentially equated Biden calling Trump a clown to a “neither here nor there.”
Look, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Clinton, nor did I ever think I’d use half a breath to defend Joe Biden, but are we really going to pretend that they were as bad as Trump? Again? Moreover, are we going to continue to give Trump more passes? Are we about to give him a second chance without considering that even entertaining that thought for a femtosecond should not be on the table?
When it happened to Clinton in 2016, a lot of folks chalked it up to pure misogyny, that the U.S. wasn’t ready for a female president. That idea is, obviously, a lot more nuanced than at face value, but on some level, there was something to be said about old patriarchal habits dying hard (if we ever tried to kill them, that is). But four years later, we have two old cis-gendered heterosexual white men at the plate, and still we are allowing Trump that leeway while shifting the goal posts for Biden. If it were up to me, we’d examine Trump with the exact same level as critique as Biden, which should be a lot. Perhaps a lot more for both, but I digress.
But, no. Trump and Biden both lost, some will say. The only reason I could fathom people even reaching such a ridiculous outcome, besides overly righteous ideas of nonpartisanship from the apolitical population, is because of that same power structure. To many, Biden challenges it this hierarchy. Trump does not.
Biden, obviously, also does not challenge that structure. But watching the debate tonight reminded me of how absolutely out-of-touch Trump’s cult-like rhetoric is and why people could believe that old Joe is as radical as they come. As Trump spewed about ballots being tossed in rivers and radical leftist racial sensitivity classes, it took a long time for me to realize, Wow, people still think he’s telling the truth. His overall trajectory, though, makes sense. He began his political career by empathizing with and championing pretty common bigoted frustrations many Americans felt (see: his disgusting remarks on Mexican people, women, queer people) back in his first campaign, which, after a combination of then-recent events and age-old U.S. colonialist ideologies, landed him in the Oval Office.
In four years, he’s planted the seeds of distrust for the system — ironically, the system he’s literally in charge of and benefits from. He’s the man who can shout “antifa!” and point at literally nothing, but his followers will hallucinate a raging beast. He’s the man who can break the rules of a debate, talk over his opponent, and talk over the facilitator but still be placed on the same level as Mr. Joe-Apple-Fritter-Biden. Where advocates for, say, racial justice might argue that the system hasn’t gone far enough, his common thread is that the system has gone too far. We’ve allowed too many imposters into our little pyramid, he’ll say, and they’re the reason ballots float downstream and why we need the national guard in all the cities.
But, ironically, Trump is the best proof that his opponents were right. The system hasn’t gone far enough because we, as a collective, still allow way too much leeway for those like him. We can start going that distance by openly acknowledging that, while both were bad, Trump was, by all accounts, much, much worse. We can start by questioning the system that forces us to write off his serious crimes against humanity as mere Trumpian antics. And, I write this through clenched teeth, we can start by just letting Biden have this one. Over Trump. Please.
I want to get to a point where it won’t be “Vote blue, no matter who.” That gives the Democrats way too much virtue while bludgeoning any sense of political complexity this nation could imagine having. But right now, as we stand on the precipice of a worsening climate, further violence against marginalized peoples, a global pandemic, and, God help us, two more debates, we can’t keep pretending that they’re both equally bad, and we can’t keep pretending that we have more realistic options.
The system that enables — no, empowers– Trump is dangerous; unfortunately, that same system is rooted in the birth of this nation. My hope, my desperate hope, is that we put Biden in office and radicalize him as much as humanly possible. He might uphold this system, but at the very least, he, unlike his opponent, doesn’t constantly brag about it.
That is my one, single, lone, and probably very sad thought about this debate.
…ok so does biden support the green new deal or not