Happy New Year, everyone. If I have one wish for the New Year, across the board, I sincerely hope that everyone works hard to understand how our government structures work, as well as what they prevent.
Why do I say this? I am on social media (Twitter, mostly) far too much. And while it gives me access to people’s opinions whom I’d often have to wait for, sometimes it’s simply TMI – too much information.
Case in point – one of my heroes, Robert Reich. Reich is a professor at Berkeley and one of the progressive voices I’ve always sought out in understanding and reflecting on my own thoughts of governmental policy. He served in the Clinton administration as labor secretary, as well as an economic policy advisor during the Obama years.
But every time you’ve got a hero, you’ve got to be prepared for a fall. Reich, along with many other progressives, was backing the noxious refrain of “72 million voted for Trump, and those people are the damned.”
Look – I voted for Biden, not surprisingly, and voted pretty much straight ticket, as anyone might suspect of a lifelong Democrat. And Trump as a person is certainly one of the most crippled individuals we’ve ever had as a president. I was appalled by the migrant children in cages, the border wall, the constant call-out with racist dog whistles, the pathetic response to the COVID pandemic.
But when it comes to tallying the score, Trump, by the numbers of inhumane acts, is really just a man of his time. Compare to Obama’s escalation of foreign conflicts, extrajudicial renditions and such. Black lives didn’t really seem to matter that much during Obama’s eight years either. Trump is just another step in a long line of hegemons. Lately, the left has taken to remediating George W. Bush, whose destruction of Iraq gave us, besides a destroyed country with close to a million dead, ISIS and the Caliphate. Someone might ask the enslaved Yazidi children how they felt about all of this.
What is Reich missing in his condemnation of Trump voters? The point of elections is not some yardstick of moral equivalence. The real point of elections is to prevent violence, by giving us a way of supporting a candidate that we think, for whatever reason, will help us be more prosperous in the future, without need for forgiveness. Elections are a collective intelligence exercise, and the government created is a representation of our national id.
It’s worth remembering why these systems came into place. Where are the answers? Look back to Athens and the ancient Greeks. In the Oresteia, Aeschylus’ famous play, you had a wife kill her husband, the king, then kill his lover, then is followed by his son killing his mother. That’s a simplification, but basically, the gods all had to come down and set up a system so that everyone would simply stop killing each other. Everyone in the plays were convinced they were in the right, by the way.
And so we have elections. People have the right to vote any damn way they want, folks — like it or not. The alternative, which both extremes of the political spectrum are dog-whistling for, is civil war.
Who will die in that civil war? I am positive this newspaper is a representation of an older demographic in our community. You might be one of the people killed. But far more likely, it will be your children. Having nearly drowned four times, I can tell you my own death terrifies me not at all. But my children? I still grieve for my few friends who have lost a child. It is unthinkable.
So, all you oldsters out there, including Robert Reich – stop the demonization of others, with your chronic moral catcalls, on whatever issue is your greatest fear. That’s why we have elections. They are the profound alternative to civil war.
And let’s move forward into the New Year with a pragmatic spirit of problem-solving. Together.
Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical andmaterials engineering at Washington State University.