It’s November 3, 2020. Election Day.
Or maybe Election Week. We don’t know how it will go yet.
I am nervous to write this article - right before an election that could render the whole thing moot.
But I’d like to capture my feelings today, so that I can revisit this in the future and see how things turned out.
Here, without much editing or craft, are some thoughts I’ve thought today.
I’ll keep this section brief.
All I ever hear is that Americans need rifles in order to rise up against a tyrannical government.
All I ever see is that Americans buy rifles because they believe “the other side” wants to kill them too.
Despite high-minded justifications for weapon ownership, it seems like Americans mostly use their guns to shoot their fellow citizens.
It’s one thing to say “Hey, you know what, that guy sucks, but that’s the party/policy that I vote for, and that’s that.”
Naked partisanship isn’t sexy, but it makes sense. Raw power matters in politics.
I can’t ignore the realpolitik dynamics that powered the Republican party’s shift to orient itself behind Mr. Trump.
It is totally reasonable and logical that, despite misgivings about the President, the Republican party would obviously welcome the power and influence afforded to it.
It could have been just that. A Republican candidate/president who was personally distasteful, sure - but you just can’t argue with those results! (and to be clear: a lot of people still say this! and that’s fine)
Instead, we’ve been treated to a deluge of red hats and flags. Boat parades. Trump trains.
There’s something more visceral here, more primal. I think Trump supporters feel it too.
I’ve seen a lot of comments in the conservative sphere that amount to “How could Biden be ahead in the polls? Have you seen the rallies? Have you seen the enthusiasm?”
To which I would say: Yes, I see it. And it’s pretty freaking weird. Chill out, my dudes.
I’m seeing a trend in referring to “the other side” as “animals.” I am seeing lots of comments assuming that “the others” are sub-human and need to be stopped. I’ve seen quite a few comments talking (fantasizing?) about shooting protestors.
A lot of the rise in violent rhetoric is probably inorganic - it is probably being distributed by bots and online disinformation factories.
I see a lot of comments about how “the other side” is arming themselves, so “we” need to arm ourselves too. That worries me, because we’ve seen that before.
We know from Facebook’s misadventures in Myanmar that opposition forces have used Facebook to stir cultural violence.
One of the most dangerous campaigns came in 2017, when the military’s intelligence arm spread rumors on Facebook to both Muslim and Buddhist groups that an attack from the other side[emphasis mine]was imminent, said two people. Making use of the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, it spread warnings on Facebook Messenger via widely followed accounts masquerading as news sites and celebrity fan pages that "jihad attacks" would be carried out. To Muslim groups it spread a separate message that nationalist Buddhist monks were organizing anti-Muslim protests.
I am now seeing similar patterns of messaging emerge in America.
Over the summer, fake “antifa” pages popped up on Facebook. An “Antifa Pride” page announced that they’d be holding flag burnings (for children too!).
Alt-right groups showed up heavily armed in small towns in the middle of nowhere, ready to inflict violence on their opposition. They wandered aimlessly before returning home.
This sort of thing happened a lot over the summer. Right-wing militias were activated by false Facebook posts. Armed, tense men were showing up to “defend” towns from imaginary aggressors.
A 17 year old brought a rifle to a protest and ended his night by shooting two people in the head. He is now a hero to some on the far right fringe.
Americans are scared. So scared that guns are flying off the shelves at record rates.
Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year
Advertising for guns has historically always been easy. The gun industry is the only marketing campaign on earth that will tell you “Your wife will get raped if you don’t buy our product.”
Americans have made the case for guns even easier by convincing themselves, en masse, that “the other side” is going to shoot them first.
There isn’t an easy solution to this.
It is difficult to have a normal conversation with people who are too deeply invested in Fox News and Facebook at this point.
It is difficult to watch friends and family share fabricated stories on social media that are trivially disprovable with a quick Google.
I was encouraged by Facebook’s fact-checking program at first, as I began to see more and more posts marked as false or misleading.
But late in 2020, it is clear that the fact-check program is not enough to contain the deluge of false information.
The false posts are not removed quickly enough. They spread and propagate within seconds of being posted, and they are often removed days later, long after their deletion is relevant.
And more troubling, the people that share such falsehoods do not believe they are wrong, even when their post is removed. If anything, they grow more bold when their posts are frequently marked as untrue.
They begin sharing things with the tagline “Read this quick before Facebook/YouTube/Google takes it down…” and “THEY don’t want you to see this!”.
Speaking of (((THEY))), I have learned in 2020 that many people still really, really, really hate Jews.
That’s not very cool, people.
I do not watch cable news (or any form of video news). I do not use Facebook or Twitter for politics.
I check the following sites for most of my news:
I occasionally check in on Al-Jazeera, Drudge Report, the American Spectator, and CNN to collect more of the fringe opinions.
Every publication is different. They all have their quirks and biases and blind spots. That’s why I try to read the full spread of them to form a sort of conglomeration of events.
If you read from enough sources, you can start to piece together a sort of rough “trunk” of reality. Opinions would diverge around the “branches” of reality, but everyone was in agreement about the core “trunk.”
I used to check Fox News, American Spectator, and Drudge Report to get a read on how different “branches” were coming off of the trunk. Sometimes the same shared “trunk” could result in wildly different branches. That didn’t mean that any particular branches were wrong, per se. It was just interesting to see how a core event could be interpreted differently.
What I have noticed more recently (probably around 2015-2016) is that the conservative media-sphere has begun maintaining a parallel trunk of reality. (In software, we call this forking the main branch.)
At this point, I think roughly 80% of Americans are still on the original “trunk” of reality. They are discussing political and cultural events in a normal fashion - oh, Person X did this, Group Y said this, should Legislation Z be approved? It can be mighty partisan and draining, but there’s a sense of shared reality.
We all agree that 2 + 2 = 4. We may think 4 * 1 is more elegant, or maybe 3 + 1 is a better solution, or maybe we should try 6 - 2, or hell, how about the square root of 16?
But we all agree on 2 + 2 = 4.
But what if 2 + 2 didn’t have to equal 4? What if I told you that the mathematicians of the world were in a pedophilic cabal?
What if the truth really is that 2 + 2 = 5? What if there’s a Zionist conspiracy to stop you from knowing the truth?
What if I told you that liberals want to destroy America by perpetuating the myth of 2 + 2 = 4?
What if the President of the United States was sending encoded message to his followers by drinking, one-handed, a glass of water? What if the First Lady’s choice of dress for the evening was indicative of a coming plot to overthrow the one world government and arrest and execute world leaders?
What if the Clintons, Obamas, etc have already been tried and executed by a secret military tribunal for treason, and we’re just watching their body doubles?
What if all those “fact checks” on 2 + 2 = 4 were really funded by George Soros? What if I told you that the real truth was originating on 8chan and Twitter, where alternative mathematicians discussed the possibility of 6 + 3 = 4, and 15 + 3 = 230,000?
The remaining 20% of the American electorate seem to occupy this alternative world.
It’s a world moated and walled by Facebook, Fox News, OAN, Tucker Carlson, and QAnon.
It has become nearly impossible to even understand the storylines of this alternate reality without constant submersion. The people in this bubble are becoming very strange to speak with.
They are merely a short conversational pause away from telling you:
It is very difficult to talk to people who have reside in this universe.
If you attempt to pierce the bubble by pointing out things that simply aren’t true, you’re just one of “them.” A sheep. A useful idiot.
I don’t know how to bring these people back, and they feel further away every year.
In a rare event, the Democratic party mostly avoided huge gaffes in 2020. It seemed clear that they realized that the best weapon against Mr. Trump was Mr. Trump, and they allowed him to bury himself.
In no particular order, Democrats benefitted majorly from:
Of course, there are always scandals and issues and failure in the course of a year, for either political party. I think it’s fairly safe to say that this year hasn’t been particularly devastating for Democrats.
They did stumble quite a few times this year. I felt that the Democrats suffered from unforced errors on three issues in particular.
First, the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett. Faced with an unwinnable situation (there was never any chance they could delay her appointment), they began to whine loudly about fairness and norms (perhaps it would have been more convincing if it were not transparently obvious that they would do the exact same thing).
This came off as the whining of a sore loser, frankly, and it was embarrassing to watch professional power brokers complain like this.
I think that instead of throwing a party-wide temper tantrum and sulking around for two weeks, the Democrats could have used this appointment as an opportunity to conduct themselves professionally.
They should have come to the hearings armed with fair questions.
They should have at least given the appearance that they were interested in appointing a quality justice.
This was a great chance to latch on to the coattails of a Supreme Court appointment - and the Democrats threw it away.
“Bipartisanship support as ACB is confirmed” is a hell of a lot better headline than “ACB Confirmed by Powerful Nigh-Unstoppable Republican Party, Democrats Nowhere In Sight”
Second, the “scandalous” revelations that Mr. Trump had… um… perhaps he had seen or heard a report that Russians were targeting American troops by offering bounties.
So, our former Cold War opponents, with whom we are eternally locked in proxy battles for regional control across the world, reportedly offered bounties to their proxy forces to target Americans? And the scandal is that Mr. Trump may have heard about it and didn’t bring it to public light?
I think that such an issue is not surprising in the least, and I do not know if America benefitted from infighting about this.
I can only imagine the tortured moans about the need for diplomacy and restraint if Mr. Trump had instead unceremoniously announced on Twitter “RUSSIA PAYING FOR USa SOLDIER KILLS? NOT GOOD.”
If anything, the existence of such programs seems like it would be best resolved in backchannels and through diplomacy, not by bringing it to the American public as a political wedge issue.
A clear alternative to Mr. Trump’s actions was never offered by Democrats, and it’s hard to imagine one.
Lastly, I was surprised by the unpopularity of the impeachment hearings. It’s amazing how they are not mentioned in November, at all.
Except by the President, who keeps reminding voters that he was impeached. On that note, let’s move on to the other side of the aisle.
In a world without COVID-19, I do not think Democrats would have had a chance of beating Mr. Trump in this year’s presidential election.
For that matter, in a world with COVID-19, I do not think Democrats would have had a chance of beating Mr. Trump in this year’s presidential election.
But Mr. Trump has squandered his incumbency advantage by absolutely failing as a leader throughout 2020.
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
I think his chances at re-election should have been doomed around the time of this tweet.
But I think that Mr. Trump had multiple chances to salvage his messaging on COVID-19.
I genuinely think that in all of these parallel universes, Mr. Trump has a fighting chance in today’s election.
Instead, he seems almost determined to get out of office and back to private life.
Enough about Mr. Trump. What about the rest of the Republican party?
Mr. Pence, my hat is off to you. You may have had the world’s worst job this year.
I think that many Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Pence. He remained professional and displayed leadership. I am sure he is eyeing a future presidential run, and he would have a great case.
I believe that if Mr. Pence was President during 2020, the death toll from COVID-19 would not have been as high.
It is a shame about his boss.
A bright light, especially early in the pandemic. He treated it seriously early. I would gladly support his presidential run in the future.
Set himself up for an interesting 2024 campaign pitch - the only Republican with the stones to openly counter Trump. It will be interesting to see if he can regain mainstream Republican support.
There used to be a time where I could say “Well, he is holding up the Senate purely as a partisan power play, but you gotta respect the game.”
I am more firmly in the “Holy smokes, can we try governing?” camp now.
It was pretty bad. His positions in 2020 could be loosely described as pro-coronavirus, anti-civil-rights, anti-voting, and pro-Confederate.
He can’t stop bringing up his impeachment. His biggest political attack at the moment tries to tie Hunter Biden to corruption in Ukraine - unfortunately, corruption in the Ukraine is exactly what Mr. Trump was impeached for. It has been difficult for him to maintain a parallel storyline without reminding voters that, unlike the Bidens, Mr. Trump was investigated and summarily impeached.
Side note: I still can’t believe this guy suggested we leave fucking NATO. That was way back in 2016, I know, but holy shit!
I used to write conservative political fundraising emails (some of it for the Tea Party and the Trump campaign). That may surprise you, but a paycheck is a paycheck, and there are plenty of jobs to be had in the cash-infused world of PACs.
In fact, I wrote an entire application to help send millions of emails, mostly for conservative political groups.
That’s right, if you were getting conservative political fundraising emails in your inbox in 2014-2016, there’s a chance I was writing it. I was decent at it! I mostly just said “Obama” a lot and that seemed to help the click rate.
When you’re crafting your fundraising email, the first thing you have to figure out is a Call To Action. What do you want your reader to do?
Your reader probably already agrees with you that [Political Figure X] is bad, for example. So how do you further entice that user to take action, rather than just nodding in agreement and closing your email?
[Political Figure X]is coming for your
I would typically structure an email like so:
[Political Figure X]has done.
[Battle X]and it may end America as we know it - and it seems to be unstoppable
[donate|sign a petition]
[Battle X]is going to be a big one.
[Political Figure X]has been planning this for years, and they will stop at nothing.
[donation|signature], we can take down
[Political Figure X]and their cronies, once and for all!
[Reader Name], so I implore you, please Click Here and help us in the fight!
For Obama, the narrative was simple, and highly motivating: Whatever action the reader took would help stop Obama from taking guns.
The reason I wrote all that is because I’ve never seen a self-destructive candidate like Mr. Trump.
He has, without prompting, told the entire electorate exactly how to hurt him - by voting against him.
He has spent a great deal of time during the 2020 elections peddling lies and sowing distrust in the election process. He has made it plain to observers that he is, first and foremost, a man governed by ego. He has spent a great deal of time fixated on votes, and those who would vote against them. He has agitated and excited his opponents by attacking the very concept of the legitimacy of their votes.
Mr. Trump has, in essence, run a get-out-the-vote campaign on Mr. Biden’s behalf.
Without Mr. Trump’s assistance, Mr. Biden would have to spend a significant amount of time connecting the dots for voters.
He would have been pleading with voters - “Please, the best thing you can do to stop Donald Trump is to get out there and vote.”
Mr. Biden would have needed laser focus to directly tie Mr. Trump’s misdeeds and misadventures into a concrete call to action - VOTE!
Instead, Mr. Trump has very clearly told the electorate how to get his goat. Vote him out. He obviously cannot bear it.
The fundraising emails write themselves.
I hope Mr. Biden wins this election.
He is an unspectacular, uninspiring candidate. He is not someone that excites me, either rhetorically or politically.
But he brings with him a wealth of experience in navigating bureaucracy and administrative politics. He has proven himself a steady steward of the nation under Obama. He has taken COVID-19 seriously, and he will deploy the full might of the United States Federal Government to get it under control during his term.
He stands in marked contrast to his opponent.
There is a time and place for “burn it down” candidates like Mr. Trump. But not now - especially when he is burning down the very things we need as a nation. He has outlived his welcome. Let us say good riddance.
That’s all. Let’s see how tonight goes :)