7 Thoughts on the 2020 Election: Delineating Ideology

(1) That we defeated President Trump is good. That 72.9 million people voted for President Trump is really not good. That President-elect Biden won with just 5.7 million more popular votes than Trump is reflective of something really, really bad. And we should all put our heads together to figure how Trump’s defeat wasn’t even more resounding.

(2) When I was first getting started in my career back in 2013, I situated the Left and the Right in two separate categories in my mind — the Left within a sort of moralism, and the Right within a sort of ideology. The Left was saying stuff like, “I don’t care if the civil disobedience bothers you. Black Lives Matter has a right to take over these freeways. When our civil institutions have failed us — as they clearly have, black men are being shot and killed by racist police — human life is more important than property or civil discourse. These morals transcend your bourgeois ideological conception of American democracy.” The Right was saying stuff like, “If your political discourse is not channeled ‘properly,’ no matter how correct you believe you are in your intentions toward racial equity, your morality is irrelevant,” and thereby upholding their ideological conception of American democracy. Importantly, I want to note here that I’m not in any way disparaging the concept of democracy — I’m simply noting that the Right’s conception of “American democracy” has always been ideological, that this conception is in no way neutral, and that this conception has allowed the Right’s ideological imaginations to ignore the fundamental truth of human life for a fantastic fiction.

Within the last seven years, I think there has been a fundamental shift in these underlying categories. I now situate the Left within ideology and the Right within this very weird, very dangerous “post-ideology.”

Never before have I seen so many Leftists uphold the “beauty of American democracy” — and importantly, never before have I seen so many Leftists fall into the specific ideological trap of what was the Right’s former ideological conception of American democracy, calling on the specifically white-washed fictional narrative of the ‘sacred tradition’ of this country. Meanwhile, the Right has abandoned all pretense of their ideological conception of American democracy. Yes, there are idiots who simply believe Trump when he says that Trump won the election. But I think the majority of the protestors contesting Trump’s obvious and clear defeat in this election — and certainly this is the case with the people who work for him — know that Trump lost, and they just don’t care. I saw evidence of this on election night when pro-Trump protesters were shouting “Stop the Count” in Michigan, while their counterpart pro-Trump protestors were shouting “Count the Votes” in Arizona. These chants, although veiled in their ideological fiction of American democracy, were not about American democracy at all. The Pro-Trump protestors were simply chanting whatever they needed to in order to try to get Trump re-elected.

In other words, they revealed to us, in their contradictory chants, that THEY THEMSELVES do not believe in the fiction that they created about American democracy. Meanwhile, the Left has fallen precisely into the Right’s ideological frame, abandoning the Left’s former foundational moralism of even just seven years ago, while the Right has at this point moved far past ideology.

(3) I wouldn’t be spending so much time trying to delineate what is happening with our nation’s political ideology here if I didn’t believe it was so dangerous — because it is so dangerous. I think this is precisely what the Right is doing constantly: the Right creates obvious fictional conceptions, the Left falls into the frame of the Right’s ideological traps, and then the Right completely ignores for themselves their own constructed ideology to just do whatever the hell they want to. But it’s in this precise process that the Right gets stuff done, while the Left is bickering over fictions that were never meant to serve us in the first place. Simply ask: is this not the game that Trump has played with us his entire presidency? Say outrageous obvious fictions — the Left bickering over the nonsense, while the Right fully ignores the nonsense to just do what they actually wanted to do all along?

I think this is precisely how political ideology functions today in the United States. And it is only dangerous because it is working and being weaponized against us.

(4) I don’t think a move from ideology back to moralism will do the Left any good. The foundation has shifted fundamentally. Does it not feel that, in these times, sincerity has itself become the postmodern joke? While the postmodern jokesters — exemplified by Donald Trump — are the ones actually getting their agenda done?

What then is the answer, I don’t know. But I do think we have to think very critically and talk with one another about this problem I’ve tried to delineate here.

(5) I think we need to be critically thinking and talking with one another way more, and all the time — a return to philosophy.

One of the most shocking facts of this election is that Trump has seemingly DECREASED racial partisan polarization in this election. Specifically — looking at aggregate data — Trump lost support among whites, especially educated whites, and he gained support among POC, especially Hispanics and Latinos.

How this — after all Trump’s racist speech, policies, and actions (like, I don’t know, locking kids up in cages) — is possible, I can’t say for sure. Does this speak to the mainstream ideological conceptions of racial justice and identity, in many ways, being subsumed within neoliberal capitalism? Does this speak to many POC buying into the specifically white-washed fictional narrative of the ‘sacred tradition’ of this country? Etc. Lots of possible theories, I truly don’t know.

What I do know is that the Right has created this postmodern mess. Again, we need a return to philosophy to figure this out — and we must think and act quickly.

Somehow — f*cking miraculously — the Right is now at the vanguard of cultural ideological politics.

(6) Thought experiment: It occurs to me that the most subversive, biggest “f*ck you” move Donald Trump could do at this point would be to offer a sincere, calm, heartfelt, and highly congrulatory concession speech.

Like, could you imagine? This post-ideological “the monster was an act that, in its acting, became an even more real, more pure than ‘pure’ monster.”

Trump won’t do that. But perhaps — big perhaps — one avenue for the Left to consider is to beat what Trump represents at his own meta-tactic: to create compelling archetypical stories about the Left, but then to make those archetypical stories Real? To not only tell the story of a mass movement of the working class — but to actually create it?

(7) We have a lot of work ahead of us, even with a Biden presidency. Let’s make our resistance Real.

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