Walking up the empty ramp into my polling place in an off-year election this morning, i was struck by how different it was from last year, and how it yet acutely reminded me of Election Day in 2016. Normal life existed before then, normal life where you didn’t (even as a straight white male), feel like you had to be fighting all the time, and when you didn’t check news websites every morning and use their font size as a proxy for how bad the first news of the morning was.
Life before Election Day a year ago was nuts, sure, but the direction it was headed in was more or less the same direction it had been. Everything basically sucked, and was likely to keep sucking unless you were a rich straight white male, but it was a gradual suck for most of us. Things were going to cost more, you were going to get sick, your employer probably could give two shits about you, and your governments were never going to be able to do enough for any of us. But it wasn’t getting worse, and it wasn’t getting worse by-design.
It’s this last part that makes us really feel like we’re in a bad movie, or a prestige cable drama that’s maybe just a little too grim for its own good. The fact of it is, while there remain groups of people that have been unfairly targeted yet again, these assholes have basically come for all of us, too many times in the last year. On Election Day last year, even before you factor in what it must be like for minorities of one kind or another, we were all doomed to be materially hurt by our government. Even/especially people who voted for the motherfucker. A switch was flipped, and each and every one of our futures was dimmed.
We’ve had to struggle to keep the harm to our health insurance merely serious and costly rather than fatal and astronomically expensive. We’re in a battle to prevent our taxes from going up to pay for nothing that benefits us. We’re all going to breathe dirtier air and more of us will watch our homes flood sooner. We’re all in greater danger of being shot by some asshole who shouldn’t have a gun. And every last one of us is in line to get fucked harder and more often and in ways we can’t defend by increasingly unaccountable corporations. And that’s before we think about the increased possibility of shooting, even nuclear war. A switch was flipped and everything sucked.
And beyond the use of our country’s machinery to make everything terrible, they’re going and breaking the machine. Firing career public servants, leaving countless more offices dark and gathering dust. Perverting institutions that should be protecting citizens. Hiding information from us at every turn. And taking every step to ensure each subsequent election will be more engineered for unfairness than the last.
Escapes from this bleak reality remain tempting in substantial ways. Mueller’s investigation feels real, feels like the work of the sorts of ferociously competent people we used to have in our government. The burgeoning farm team of young progressives running for stuff everywhere might start bearing fruit in time to displace these monsters. But what if he fires Mueller? What if Mueller has the goods and no one cares? What if he’s voted out and won’t go. What if the part of the country that’s been told that everybody’s conspiring against them and their guns doesn’t take losing well? Like nuclear war, this is a thing we have to think about now.
This doesn’t mean i’m giving up. After all, i’m still sticking up signs and rage-donating and ready to go fight to undo this next year. But a day like today is a reminder that we’re at the bottom of the hill, looking a long way up. It’s not fine.