I always try to blog about the election before it happens. It’s partially a coping mechanism and partially my need to document what’s happening. Elections are a very strange tipping point in time where everything changes, so it seems key to capture your thoughts before they’re influenced by the change.
In previous elections, I’ve blogged about candidate and made endorsements and tried to help people sort through all the confusion. I didn’t do much of that this year, mostly because of my work with West St. Paul Reader and my attempt at a non-endorsement policy there (which I broke; I endorsed Lisa Eng-Sarne for ward 3 city council). In 2018 I even blogged my entire ballot (and all my picks won). I also didn’t go that route because of my Better Politics, Please book. Not that better politics means you can’t support anyone, but it just gets awkward to go after candidates hard while also trumpeting this better approach. There’s a bit of friction there.
Sometimes blogging is freeing and helps me get thoughts out of my head so I can make sense of them. But other times it just feels like too much work. That’s a little of how it feels now.
And honestly, that’s what the last four years have felt like—unending exhaustion.
So let’s talk about it—briefly, cuz exhaustion—and then we’ll see what happens on Election Day.
The Era of Trump
Part of what feels so exhausting is that we’ve moved far beyond facts and reasonable debate. We like to pin this all on Trump, but it’s been happening for a while now by all sides. You can argue Republicans are worse, and with Trump’s unending lies there’s certainly truth to that, but no politician is immune.
It’s also clearly been happening since before 2016. Trump encouraged birtherism long before the 2016 election, and that’s perhaps the best example of conspiracy theory embraced at large.
But pre-2016 election it was easy to dismiss those kinds of things as fringe and conspiracy. But after 2016, they had taken up residence in the White House. Now it’s not just fringe, but the center of political power.
So not only is the 2020 election is saddled with all the weight of fringe conspiracy as mainstream politics, but we also have the trauma of 2016. Everyone thought Clinton was going to win. Everyone thought there was just no way that Trump could be president. And yet.
As we head into the 2020 election, all our hopes and fears and hunches have 2016 sitting on our shoulder saying ‘not so fast.’ It’s hard to believe anything.
Here’s how I feel about things:
Joe Biden is going to win. Probably big. Democrats will likely take the Senate. No idea by what margin. Here in Minnesota, I think the DFL takes the Senate.
That’s what I think. It’s also what I hope. But part of me has that sinking 2016 fear that I’m wrong, that the polls are wrong, that Trump will win an extremely close election.
Every time I have that thought, I think ‘Yeah, but…’ and rattle off reasons why that’s not going to happen. There are so many Republicans who have embraced Biden, all the independents who gave Trump a chance last time have been thoroughly burned and want him out of there, the wide-spread Trump signs are just a few really vocal people not evidence of a deep well of support, etc.
There are also all the stories about a contested election, how Trump is going to call the flood of absentee ballots fraud and draw this whole thing out. Ug, that exhaustion? Turning into anxiety.
So you can see how I swing back and forth. I have no idea.
I will say this: If Trump wins again, democracy is in trouble. That sounds over-the-top ridiculous, like when people whine about socialism. But there has been such a steady degrading of norms over the last four years I don’t know how you deny it. (The same clearly did not happen with Obama and socialism.) And if we can’t pull it together and defeat someone as negative as Trump, then what are we doing? If Democrats can’t manage that, then I don’t know what’s next.
Of course even if Democrats win, the era of Trump isn’t over. Things won’t be magically better. The purpose behind my better politics book seems even more important.
Why I’m Voting for Biden
Do I even have to spell it out (see: exhaustion)? No, Biden wasn’t my first choice, but he’s thoroughly good enough. And to be honest, seeing him on the campaign trail (the weird, COVID-19 version of a campaign trail), I’m struck by his call to bring the country together. He’s a man of compassion and empathy (something we didn’t exactly see in the primary), and that’s what the country needs.
I could go through all the issues, but again, exhaustion. When I went door knocking (back when we could do that), they talked about the importance of giving a single reason why you want to vote for someone.
My single reason for voting for Biden: He’s a compassionate, genuine person. He’s literally the opposite of Trump in every way imaginable. That’s it.
There are, of course, tons of other races on the ballot.
- Senate: I’m hopeful Tina Smith will defeat Jason Lewis. This is a tough race because Smith isn’t exactly a household name (um, “Smith”?!). She doesn’t draw the same star attention as other senators. But Lewis is a train wreck.
- House: My House race is all goofy thanks to the death of a third-party candidate and a state law that was supposed to trigger a special election but got challenged and overturned. So, um, now what? I’m hopeful Angie Craig pulls through. She’s been pretty moderate, which I know ruffles progressive feathers, but I think she’s walked that difficult line in a divided district. It’s a good way not to be liked, but it gets the job done.
- State legislators: I’ve heartily endorsed Matt Klein for Minnesota Senate and Rick Hansen for Minnesota House in the past, and I will again. I know them (and they know me!) and appreciate where they’re coming from. Plus, the challengers are, well, painful to watch.
- City Council & Mayor: Our city races are fascinating this year, and except for endorsing Eng-Sarne, I’m staying out of these.
- Judges: Thissen for State Supreme Court, Carter for District Court. These should be easy races, but who knows.
There you have it, I guessed I blogged the ballot anyway.
More than anything, I can’t wait for the 2020 election to be over. COVID-19 gave us the term ‘doom scrolling,’ but I think it’s always been embodied in election coverage. That’s what you do, waiting for some kind of update, terrified at all the half-baked nothing to report stories.
It’s been such a long wait. Can we just have one good thing in 2020?