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Your Responsibility for the American Election

2016 November 6
by Ian Welsh

My friends, and the people who read me because they love to hate me:

There are a few hundred people in America who have noticeable individual influence over America’s elections and political system.

You aren’t one of them.

Responsibility is proportionate to power. As an individual American, your individual responsibility is miniscule.

It’s not your fault.

Now, as a group, Americans have great responsibility; Americans are responsible for America.

Americans are responsible, but most individuals have so little responsibility that they might as well have none.

I bring this up because I am seeing people in vast amounts of stress, guilt, anger, and fear over the election.

Don’t.

Also, even if you think that a particular result will be bad for you personally, the same rule applies: There is so little you can do about it, worrying about it is worrying about something over which you have no control.

This, my friends and haters, is a great way to be fantastically unhappy all the time.

Now, it’s easier said than done to stop a lifetime of worrying about stuff you can’t control, but the first step is understanding the pointlessness of it.

The food is still good, the world still holds plenty of beauty, and there is still happiness to be found.

But not if you are tying yourself in knots of guilt or worry over events over which you have no control.

Go do something nice for yourself, or someone else (doing something nice for someone else is one of the best things you can do for yourself), and let it all go.


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9 Responses
  1. Ghostwheel permalink
    November 6, 2016

    Hello, Ian:

    You can count me among your friends, btw.

    This articles describes me perfectly. My psyche has mutated into a fear-factory of Lovecraftian proportions. Add in the Syrian situation with nuclear-armed Russia, a potential market crash, followed by a new great depression that lasts forever and ever, followed by the Arctic ice not refreezing properly and the thermal gradient of the planet changing….

    Well, you get the idea. All that’s missing is the voice of Cthulhu whispering to me in the night.

    I tell myself that Frank Herbert was correct, that “The unclouded eye is better, no matter what it sees.” But I also understand that denial is a defense mechanism. A psyche can be too exposed. Can’t reject the truth, can’t move forward; it’s an internal spiritual and psychological shitstorm.

    Sorry for the existential rant, guys.

    Good luck everybody, and stay safe.

  2. November 7, 2016

    I’m your friend, too, Ian.

    And I happily voted for Jill Stein on the 2nd. As well as W.V. Mountain Party candidate for Governor, Charlotte Pritt.

    (Obviously, I’m one of them lady-hating Bernie Bros. one reads about.)
    ~

  3. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    November 7, 2016

    You can’t be opposed to deporting illegal aliens and also hold “Americans” responsible for their elective representatives. The two are fundamentally incompatible.

    If anyone who scurries across the border is an “American”, then the concept of an American is meaningless. If a corrupt establishment wins elections by importing dependent foreign populations as a voting bloc (against the will of current citizens), then there is no constitutional republic.

    Hold Americans responsible for their government, or oppose Americans’ right to a sovereign nation — to hold both positions is nonsensical.

  4. kuanyinguy permalink
    November 7, 2016

    Dear Ian,
    I have been enjoying you words here for several months, especially in regard to Corbin and his travails. But I think I have to write to you for the following counter thoughts to your interesting posts on the US election.

    I have to say that one of the problems I find in our US democracy is not that the choices are necessarily bad (and in this election, for me it is clear which is the much worse choice) but there is no follow through by the left once the choice is made. Generally, it is as if the voting public is like a absentee owner of a business who comes around every four years to see how the business is going and gets shocked by what they see. Then they, the voters without doing much research and not having paid much attention for the past four years, get manipulated by competing interests and often come to the wrong conclusion, based on popular appeal and fear at the moment.Once a Democrat comes into power the elected democrat has to be pushed by progressives to do the right things or the power and money that naturally (in our system at present) come with the position will easily turn the elected democrat into a weak Republican.

    However, the voters, think tanks, and policy makers on the right are far more patient and never give up. An example: It’s been since 1973 that the right and religious right have been fighting a supreme court decision in Roe vs. Wade but they will still not accept the outcome and continue to fight this decision with more and more creative but insidious methods. I have no doubt that the same will happen with same sex marriage and many other social issues. But the left may not get very motivated to even show up for a midterm election and we get tea party fanatics in charge because the right is more dependable as voters, if less educated about the issues.

    In regard to the choices the voters have, since you seem to basically be saying that both Trump and Clinton are bad but in different ways, and maybe a Trump presidency will be less horrible for foreigners abroad. To me this seems very like the both-siderism of the political punditry. Perhaps someone has reminded you of Trump’s own words about Isis: “I would bomb the shit out of them” and have Exxon come in “… and take their oil.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCW0GskdRl0

    He has also said “I don’t want to rule out anything” and “Why do we make them?” and “I want to be unpredictable” in regard to making and using nuclear weapons. He also has said countries are going to have to defend themselves when he was talking about Asian nuclear proliferation. https://thinkprogress.org/9-terrifying-things-donald-trump-has-publicly-said-about-nuclear-weapons-99f6290bc32a#.ikvtqdrso

    He also seems to think it’s fine if the US lets Russia invade Europe unless NATO pays up. This strikes me as a direct lesson in the protection racket he’s learned from his gangster friends (nice little country you have here, it would be a shame if anything happened to it). http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/07/trump-nato/492341/

    It is these attitudes and words of Trump that made my choice much easier.

    In addition, Trump seems to know little about the US Constitution, has a love of foreign dictators, and says things that are cult-like with “I alone can fix it” when talking about America and the problems he sees. The cult of personality is a dangerous component in fascist dictatorships. It is also indicative of Trump’s failure of knowledge in basic democracy.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/trump-rnc-speech-alone-fix-it/492557/

    And although certainly not last, perhaps more importantly it has not been ignored that Trump could simply quit out of boredom or his realization that being president is hard work. He apparently offered Kasick the job of running foreign and domestic policy. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/07/20/trump_reportedly_wanted_kasich_as_vp_to_be_in_charge_of_domestic_and_foreign.html

    Kasick, thinking about 2020, refused but I have little doubt that Pence was offered the same deal and took the job knowing that Trump would be unable to do the job and that he, Pence, would be the virtual President, like Cheney. I fear Pence’s action and history of governing more than the bumbling know-nothing run on sentences of Trump.
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/4-reasons-mike-pence-is-the-absolute-worst-20160714

    But Trump and Pence are merely the latest wannabe kings of the US, at least since Nixon.
    Nixon: “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
    Reagan had many episodes of power grabbing and the illegal actions resulting from them, with the Iran Contra affair just one of them.
    Bush senior is relatively mild in comparison to the lawless presidency of his spawn, Bush The Lesser. In G.W. Bush the theory of the Unitary Executive was pushed by his henchman Cheney, the de-facto president.
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2009/0114/p11s01-usgn.html

    People that got in the way of the Bush (Cheney) presidency were called traitors. Let’s go down the memory hole and revisit the Dixie Chicks, Phil Donahue, and Valerie Plame and her husband. They should all be looked at as heroic canaries in the coal mine.

    The problem in Republicanism is Authoritarianism. Philosophically all these Republican presidents basically subscribed to the main idea in Hobb’s Leviathan: Let the King rule absolutely to have peace.

    So it is really no surprise to me that Trump thinks he can rule by decree.

    It is this history and basic philosophy of Republicanism that made my decision very easy. I say Republicanism because it is more a religion than a philosophy. With their dislike of facts, unscrewing of polls, disbelief in climate change and evolution, they follow a belief system not unlike Isis struggling with a changing world. Indeed, many of the followers of Trump espouse violence as an answer, terrorism as a tactic, and civil war as a desired outcome of the election.

    The most difficult thing during a Hillary Clinton presidency for me has been the warring aristocracies of Bush vs Clinton and the never-ending spurious investigations a Clinton presidency will inspire among the treasonous and hypocritical GOP. But these concerns will never be to the same degree or kind of concern that a Trump/Pence rehash of Bush/Cheney would.

    Thank your for your continued writing and inspiring me to focus my thoughts.

  5. MojaveWolf permalink
    November 7, 2016

    Dropped my ballot in the library on Saturday. Had been planning to vote Stein/Green Party, but after Bernie/Tulsi qualified as an official write-in candidate (i.e. the vote will be counted and tallied), decided to go w/them as their positions are more in sync with mine than the Green Party’s is.

    Cali is lopsided in favor of Hillary, so I had no need to make a strategic vote for who I perceived to be the less deplorable lesser evil. I *would* have made a strategic vote for Stein if the Greens were even close to getting 5% nationally, to help them for future elections, but that does not appear to be an issue.

    Oh, count me as a friend. I mean, we don’t know each other, and might or might not get along if we were stuck in the same room, but you have one of my favorite blogs.

    FWIW my view of the greater, more deplorable evil is Ms Cheat2Win, primarily because of her foreign policy (not JUST Syria, but I really didn’t miss the Cold War and am unhappy that our MIC has brought it back, and that she seems to be one of the most hawkish, “let’s see if we can get a contained hot war going” members, secondarily because she represents a corporate political/media establishment that has deliberately unmoored most political and issue discussion from actual facts, so if I’d had to vote for one of the main party candidates I woulda voted Trump (and because of the potential war with Russia issue I probably would’ve voted Trump in a swing state)

    I always considered global warming (followed by overpollution, overconsumption of resources, and overpopulation in general) to be the existential crisis of our time, and thought possible nuclear war between the US and Russia was long off the table. I do not thank our fearless leaders in DC for bringing it back as an issue. Or for refusing to make massive large scale cheating difficult by returning to handcounted paper ballots everywhere.

    That said, I will not be happy if Trump wins; I don’t think he will do a good job either (nor do I think he will win; HRC will probably win legitimately, and I have little doubt that our powers that be will be weighting vote counts if she looks in danger; I’m surprised the polls have it so close; speaks to how sick everyone is of our corporate establishment). But I will be rolling in schadenfreude.

  6. cripes permalink
    November 8, 2016

    On one hand we have the culturally indentitarian pro-war, Wall Street party, on the other hand we have the anti-“PC” pro-war, Wall Street party.

    In either case, they will do their best to smash the poor and drag the dwindling muddle class further into privation and penury in order to fill the coffers of people who have more money than can be spent in a lifetime.

    I see no reason to agonize over which party claims the titular crown, since the result will be largely the same for me, everyone I know, and most everyone else. With some fiddling around the edges.

    The sooner we all come to the understanding that elections, especially for president, are a massive marketing spectacle designed to promote the idea the population has a voice, and a RESPONSIBILITY, in the policies and power distribution of the empire, although that is certainly not the reality, the better. Our elections are not democracy in any sense of the term.

    Like Obama, by their cabinet picks shall the winning candidate be known.

    I see Ian is gradually coming around to the idea that the voters really do not have any influence or responsibility over the policies. As voters. As citizens, well, that’s another topic.

  7. November 8, 2016

    “This, my friends and haters, is a great way to be fantastically unhappy all the time.”

    🙂 This is a keeper!

    “Go do something nice for yourself, or someone else (doing something nice for someone else is one of the best things you can do for yourself), and let it all go.”

    We could do worse than watching the terribly funny, botched dispersal of the cremated ashes, “let’s go bowling” scene from “The Big Lebowski”. And then going bowling, or something similarly diverting.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHh5_vEIMhU

  8. Richard McGee permalink
    November 9, 2016

    It’s near midnight here, election day. Forwarding this essay to my friends. Lots of dread everywhere.

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