And so, it’s come to this: God’s Own Country on the edge of a cliff; the self-proclaimed greatest democracy on earth openly suppressing the vote with the support of a majority of its elected officials. A country hanging onto the fraying safety rope by its bleeding fingertips, the canyon below littered with black bodies and Latino children with scant hope of ever seeing their parents again, and – important to say because it is not said enough – a white working class made up of individuals who feel cornered and trapped, and continually lash out in questioning who they are, intent on causing hurt instead of pausing to self-reflect, a fact seen even in responses to these pages of late.
So many cuts in the rope that preventing a collective fall is now impossible, so shouting and blaming the other guy in ever-heightened terms is the norm. Who wins in this race to the bottom? Go figure.
Whatever the result, a significant portion of the population will emerge from Tuesday livid, seething, feeling betrayed. Some may even take up arms – perhaps not on the first day or week, but quietly, in backwaters, planning alternative futures.
The standard narrative argues that this is the most important election of our lifetimes, but really that was the last time, because like it or not, everything has already changed. Politicians have always been loose with facts, in all countries everywhere, but in the last four years full-frontal lying has become so brazenly present – and made mainstream by its palpable success; it works, goddammit! – that this methodology will not disappear overnight should the incumbent lose.
Because this is not an election in which the left and the right are at odds, but an election in which demagogic, brakes-off, careering-down-the-mountain-without-a-safety-net is pre-established as a functioning methodology.
There is a place for this behavior, but the national government is not it.
Left v Right seems so quaint now; something we look back at and recall warmly, as if a Christmas at which we received a surprisingly thoughtful gift from a cousin we had previously barely noticed.
The box is open – bigly – and Pandora is four miles down the road.
The last four years have emboldened ego-charged wannabes the world over. Bolsonaro; Duterte; Boris Johnson; Victor Orbán et al have shown us into this future, before we even realized it was a possibility, and history generally tells us that things have to get a lot worse before they get any better. On the whole, humanity ascends when deep in the pit, not from one step below the top of the ladder.
Which is not to say that Tuesday is not important – it is impossible to overstate quite how central it is for the USA and a wider world which largely continues to follow its emotional lead. The United States prides itself on the checks and balances established by its mythically wise founding fathers, but what is unspoken in these safety nets of state is that unless people with backbone, and some kind of relationship with moral discourse, occupy positions of power, the finest checks and balances ever conceived matter not a jot. Unless we all buy into a shared vision of who we are, and agree to certain values and rules which uphold these, the safety net evaporates.
Winning at all costs cannot be the goal – the integrity of the process must be the only, overriding focus and measure of success.
Remarkably, the question being asked this election is not political – it’s not about ideas or beliefs – but a full-body examination of the collective project we like to call democracy.
Cross your fingers, and dream of living in less interesting times.
For Times Media Mexico
Jonathan Bonfiglio in Mexico City
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