Updated: Jul 6
1. That was not as satisfying as I hoped
After enduring years of campaigning, we’re finally on the other side of Nov. 3. I’ll be the first to admit that I expected Biden to easily win that night, despite liberal fears of Trump plotting a coup, refusing to concede, or the destruction of the Postal Service.
Reality, as it often does, disagreed with me.
Tragically, the reality of the situation ended up much more boring than fantastical musings of a coup or revolution. It was simple: Biden underperformed dramatically, and wouldn’t you know it, he underperformed in the exact same places Hillary Clinton underperformed back in 2016. History truly does rhyme!
But you, my dear reader, are all too familiar with the events of Nov. 3, 2020. They’re burnt into your brain; tattooed on the insides of your eyelids. You can’t help but see visions of Nevada and Pennsylvania shifting between shades of blue whenever you look up into the sky.
Maybe you find yourself sighing great and mighty sighs of anguish in spite of the victory that Biden narrowly escaped with, all just because you had deeply ruminated on the statistical likelihood that Texas would go blue this year.
And unfortunately for you — and me, I won’t lie — this Super Bowl night of political entertainment amounted to nothing more than a ruined orgasm. There was no solace to be found in victory. And that’s what we were all hoping for, whether we admitted it or not.
Whether you call yourself a liberal, a socialist, a Marxist or any of the other four-thousand different left-wing tendencies that I’m far too lazy to type out here, we all had a hope at our core that Biden could just win this thing and we could let out a sigh of relief, at least for a moment. Whether that victory marked the end of your personal role in political activism is a topic that has answers allegiant to the identities aforementioned, but I do think it’s genuinely important to acknowledge that even those of us who didn’t vote for Biden had at least the slightest amount of desire for him to win, if only because it could give us the slightest amount of hope that things can go back to “normal” for at least 4 years.
Life as an activist is exhausting, and I don’t think anyone should necessarily feel ashamed — or, for my leftist friends, feel like a lib — for the reality that (and this was made especially clear by reactions across the political spectrum to the week-long election result shenanigans) we are all tired of having to pay so much attention to the twenty-four hour news cycle of death and destruction and despair.
Nobody thought Biden would be the harbinger of a new era of peace and prosperity, but on some level, his victory had to amount to at least the most microscopic of steps forward, right?
2. The material–electoral dichotomy
The big takeaway from the 2020 presidential election is this: politics, as understood by the American voting population, is completely detached from material reality.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, per se, but when we look at the circumstances surrounding this election — impending economic collapse, rampant police murders of innocent Black Americans, a global pandemic that our federal leadership completely dropped the ball on —there were more reasons than ever for Americans to vote with a unified material and class interest. But we didn’t.
People vote against their class interests all the time. This is something that confused me for the longest of times, but the way this election unfolded has opened a door of enlightenment for me. Poor whites and marginalized minority groups do not vote against their class interests because they’re uneducated, uninformed, or dumb, but because electoral politics in the United States is nothing but a spectacle.
This, precisely, is the reason that nothing changes from presidential election to presidential election. As alluded to previously, national-level electoral politics is a sports game to most voting Americans, and the presidential election is the Super Bowl. Without a material root in politics, people will vote against their class interests. Voting red or blue is effectively just cheering for your preferred sports team.
Yes, the superstructure of American political culture has dire effects on the base material conditions of all Americans, largely upholding a status quo that keeps the ruling class on top while the working class continues to decline. But no longer does the base shape the superstructure in the eyes of the American voter.
The only takeaway from the fact that Donald Trump almost won this election despite the horrific mishandling of the pandemic under his administration (not to mention countless other reasons, but the pandemic alone is enough to emphasize my point here) shows that the words coming out of either candidate’s mouths do not matter. Trump was completely correct when he said he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and still have all of his support. Presidential candidates in contemporary American culture do not represent policies, but attitudes and personalities.
The great challenge of our movement is to defy this perception of politics. The first step in that regard is to acknowledge that voting, on a fundamental level, upholds the political spectacle. Voting has a psychic hold on the average American, thus they vest all their political agency into bubbling in a name on a ballot. In an America where material conditions play no role in the political culture, voting is no longer sufficient as meaningful political expression.
3. Who is to blame?
Who do we blame for this severance from material reality? The first instinct of many, regardless of their political orientation, is to blame individual voters. This is but a scapegoat, sacrificed wittingly or not in a desperate attempt to explain away reality as if the failings of our system are fixable and within arm’s reach.
We must defy this delusion, and recognize that individual voters are not to blame, whether they voted for Biden, a 3rd party candidate,or even for Trump. The blame must be pinned on a very specific segment of the ruling class: the blame must fall on the Democratic Party.
The truth is, the Democratic Party didn’t need to win the election. Why would anyone want to have their party be in power during a global pandemic and economic collapse? But besides these factors, the Democratic Party didn’t need the election because their victory was elsewhere: The Democratic Party won in March, when Barack Obama made phone calls to Pete Buttegieg and Amy Klobuchar, catalyzing the Democratic primary process and using his influence to convince the party to coalesce around Joe Biden.
This was the only way they could stop Bernie Sanders, an outsider candidate and a genuine threat to the status quo, from winning the nomination. This is the function of the Democratic Party as it exists in the bipolar American electoral system: to prevent actual leftist candidates from arising. Do not be mad at individuals for falling victim to this practice; be mad at the Democratic Party for masquerading as a party that cares about the class interests of the majority.
If you are obsessed with being a proud Democrat, you need to come to terms with the fact that the Democratic Party does not care about you. They proudly parade around their distaste for the idea of banning fracking, and laugh in the face of anyone who thinks Medicare for All is a good idea. This is not the behavior of a party that represents the interests of the majority.
4. What do I post about now?
Hark, ye posters! The era of posting must end with the presidency of that infernal Cheeto!
But the posting must go on, right folks? It’s the only way to cope with the hellish reality that we’ve just laid out. There’s no way to turn off the faucet, really. Posting must go on, not by demand, but by necessity. Posting is not unlike the temporal in this regard: it’s a force that we must come to terms with the existence of, and we must accept that it cannot be stopped.
What we can do, however, is understand and modify our relationship with social media activism and posting. The reason people take to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to express their political identity is because it is easy.
Even those of us who claim to recognize the futility of posting as a meaningful expression of politics still cling to a belief, on some level, that we’re doing something valuable by posting yet another joke about that dang Cheeto in the White House.
The Democratic Party needs to be taken down and destroyed. This won’t happen by posting. Unless there’s a drastic shift in the American understanding of politics, we’re going to be stuck with Joe Bidens and 2020 elections forever.
What we need to do is get the material back into the political. The first step to living material politics is to acknowledge that real political action happens outside the ballot booth, and outside the timeline. Real politics is much harder than voting or posting, which is why we desperately want to believe that those activities are meaningful.
Real politics involves organizing: canvassing, phonebanking, protesting and lots of uncomfortable in-person interactions that are a lot tougher than simply voting or making a tweet.
My point here is not to present to you a manifesto against the act of voting. Voting has value, especially in local elections. Voting a “progressive Democrat” to a Congressional seat is valuable to the left’s agenda, as much as many self-proclaimed leftists may disagree with me in that regard. Instead, my message here is that voting is the 4th or 5th most important thing you can do politically, especially the specific act of voting for president.
By practicing socialism in our daily lives — within our workplaces, hobbies and families — we can begin to seed culture with our tenets. But the sad reality of this is that even organizing unions at our workplaces is not going to immediately bring about the revolution.
5. It will be election day for the rest of your life
The burden of embracing Marxist ideals is that we must truly accept that all humans are equal. Almost anyone, regardless of political identity, will claim to believe this to be true, but there is no deeper thought on the meaning behind such a claim from the liberal perspective.
We must recognize that all human life is equal, including past, present and future people. This means accepting that your life is equally as important as someone to be born 10, 50, or 100 years from now.
That means we must accept that we will almost certainly not live to see the fruits of our labor. The revolution will not happen in our lifetimes, and that’s okay.
Despite the human mind’s inability to grasp the inevitability of our mortality and the difficulty in picturing the world continuing without us, the world does continue without us. Which is why we need to live as though we will see the revolution within our lifetime.
We have to fight like we will reap the benefits of it, else those in the future will not have the footing to actually achieve our goals. And in a collective sense, it’s not delusional to think this way, since we are a collective human race.
The next generation of people are just as important as we are in our present, so by fighting like we will win, we enable them to win. The project of humanity must be to continue turning the wheels of history in the favor of the majority, so that we may finally embrace our collective oneness and reach a point where we can understand ourselves as not just individuals, but as a collective, powered by love and solidarity and equality amongst all people.
Mikey DeDona (CAS '22) is from Bradenton, Fla. He majors in political science.