I follow American politics for a living and have a pretty good grip of how the game works. It is messy, corrupt and merciless, and those who survive it at the highest levels truly are a different breed of human being.
Generally speaking, this means the majority are at least partially corrupt. They understand the system, know what to say, when to say it and to whom. They’ll take money from those they disagree with and make promises they know they can’t keep. While it would be easy to dismiss every politician in Washington as amoral careerists and say we’d be better off without them, the truth is that we wouldn’t. In a technologically advanced, highly industrialized nation like the United States, we need a government to ensure the system doesn’t collapse. While you may disagree with the system itself (and I certainly do), no one with any understanding of what political revolutions actually look like wants it to implode. And that means you must be open to compromise and voting for candidates who are not perfect, but will work within the system to a) help change it for the better, and b) create better outcomes.
When I judge a politician, I am not looking for ideological purity, and I am not interested in their radical vision of a new society (these changes often happen organically, and from society itself). I am looking for competence, an awareness of the problems we are facing as society, and a coherent plan to tackle them. You will find a great deal of agreement on this position with others who follow politics closely, and for good reason — we understand the system quite well, and we understand what happens when you attempt to tear it apart.
In a sobering article in The Atlantic, Yoni Applebaum explains why the media and anyone working close to government are almost unanimously in favor of electing Hillary Clinton as president on November 8th, and why they are petrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency:
Those who pay the most attention to the actual functioning of American government and political institutions—elected officials of both parties, career civil servants, foreign service officers, political scientists, journalists—have been most vocal, often breaking with precedent, in their opposition to the Republican nominee. They denounce his violations of established norms, worry about the corrosive effects of his rhetoric on institutions, and profess concern for his cavalier disregard for truth. They tend not to see this election as a partisan contest, but rather, as a battle between a flawed candidate who operates within the system, and one who would jeopardize American security, prosperity, and democracy.
Applebaum compares this to the general perception of the candidates by public, who see it as an ordinary presidential battle between a Left and Right candidate:
The great majority of voters, by contrast, seem to be approaching this election as a fairly ordinary partisan battle, with the two parties exchanging allegations of misconduct and incompetence. And they’re lining up very much as they usually do. (There are real shifts in particular subgroups, but overwhelming majorities of those who voted Republican or Democrat in 2012 will vote the same way in 2016.) If the near unanimity of newspaper endorsements is making a difference, it’s hard to discern in the polling.
This alarming disconnect is without a doubt the fault of the corporate news media that has done a frankly appalling job of reporting on this election. The fact that it is only now kicking into gear and attempting to stop a potential Trump presidency is an indictment of just how pointless it has become, and those responsible for not putting this election into its proper perspective should be truly ashamed of themselves.
At the Banter, we have done our best to report on this election and warn readers why it really is different this year. Thankfully, this consensus is growing and it looks like the country is finally waking up to the horrors of a potential Trump presidency. It has been an almighty battle though, and I am completely exhausted hammering home the same point over and over and over again. It has been enormously taxing trying to explain what seems obvious to me, and I can’t help but feel dismayed that intelligent people still seem to believe that “both sides are just as bad”.
Just as I wouldn’t attempt to take apart an airplane and make it better, those who don’t understand how the political system works shouldn’t be so eager to take apart government and create a whole new system, particularly if it’s headed by a man who believes we don’t need an Environmental Protection Agency during the greatest climate crisis we’ve ever seen.
Just as you’d listen to a mechanic who tells you your car could explode if you continue driving it, perhaps it’s a good idea to start listening to those who understand politics and say the same will happen to America should Donald Trump get in on November 8th.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.