The Joseph Conrad novel of 2020: Heart of Niceliberalwithbigegoness
We turn, indeed, to the deepest darkest Common Dreams website, where the liberal egos are given their daily injections of growth hormone, for a drama that will be profoundly underwhelming. And, once there, we discover that thirteen days ago we were told:
It's not about fundamental change—it’s about saving lives and the planet.
Note here that the Left, the agency entrusted with civilizing the world, is not being goaded to enact fundamental change next week. We of the Left, after all, did not succeed in nominating Bernie Sanders as a Democrat. And of course Joe Biden is not about fundamental change -- he, after all, thinks that Amy Coney Barrett is a "very fine person." Oh well. We didn't need those abortion rights anyway. But we can save lives and the planet, which is pretty groovy. Ignore those voices in your heads, we are told, telling us that fundamental change is a prerequisite to saving lives and the planet. See, electing Biden is really important, like the really important reasons Kurtz and Marlow and the imperialists of Conrad's short novel Heart of Darkness were in Africa in the first place. Oh, that's right, they were there to make a profit, just as Biden is about someone's bottom line.
This is not your typical “lesser of evils” election. We’re dealing with a president who empowers white supremacists; enriches the wealthy; eviscerates healthcare; destroys protections for workers and the environment; and enables a deadly pandemic to kill nearly 210,000 Americans (even imperiling himself and many of his staff).
The whole thing seems pretty standard to me, especially when one looks at Biden's record, and especially since the events of George W.'s term, though perhaps this year's Republicanism is staggering in its honesty, the primary characteristic marking Trump off as "savage." Moreover, the decrepitude of both candidates appears as a weird revisiting at this late date, like we were seeing two versions of late-second-term Ronald Reagan here, one belligerent, the other folksy. Christopher D. Cook's point, like that of most nice liberals with big egos, is that we must venture to that dark place on the map where Republicans are praised and appointed, in order to... where were we?
Skipping down, we see:
This election is not about corporate power or neoliberalism, or fundamental change. We are in a profoundly different moment, and the simple act of emergency-room triage, of stanching the hemorrhaging saving the patient’s life, and giving us a chance to survive, could not be more critical.
One of the prerequisites of being a nice liberal with a big ego is to imagine that a Left vote for Joe Biden is the equivalent of saving a life. It is, in short, an act of heroism, the sort of heroism that (within the bounds of this mythology) only the Left can perform. Never mind that the election will be arbitrated in the swing states. Cook is arguing: this election is not about corporate power or neoliberalism, which nobody is doing anything to challenge, but rather about lesser-evilism as a heroic principle which must be claimed for the Left. The honesty is appreciated.
This election is about something more concrete and specific: how government functions, and for whom, on a daily basis. It’s about whether those agencies do their job and save and improve lives or undermine their very existence.
So if Donald Trump abolishes the EPA before leaving office, what makes the nice liberals with big egos think Joe Biden is going to put it back? (Maybe austerity will deal with it.) And why do they think it will disappear forever? Nixon created the EPA from nothing; some future President can do it too. We continue:
The tragic reality is that corporate power, vast inequality, poverty and hunger, and our plethora of crises (climate, healthcare, racism, etc.) will persist no matter who prevails in this crazy-scary election. But that doesn’t mean that nothing will change. That’s far too simplistic. A vote for Biden is about mitigating harm, reducing human and planetary suffering. That should matter to everyone.
The nice liberals with big egos, then, think they are mitigating suffering. But whose suffering are they mitigating? Those who suffer under Dick Cheney's war on the world, which will no doubt continue under Biden? It's really hard to tell absent any actual liberation from suffering. Are the (D) imperialists who are exterminating the brutes more politely actually exterminating fewer brutes than the (R) imperialists? Maybe. What does the body count reveal?
Finally we will get to Christopher D. Cook's in-way-of-passing explanation of why the Left is his audience:
As one who has voted Green for president many times (albeit in electorally safe California), and who was a passionately dedicated Bernie Sanders delegate, I get it: we must build an alternative political party with real power—a party that rejects all corporate money, that fights for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal and so much more. On November 4, like many other progressives, I will return wholeheartedly to building those essential. Like millions on the left, I’ll be out protesting Biden, pushing his administration hard to pursue the utterly vital and widely popular policies urgently needed by people and the planet.
Cook, then, wants to persuade the Left because, well, because he so deeply identifies with it. "Pushing his administration hard" will predictably collapse before the rejoinder, "what are you going to do, vote for Republicans?" What the nice liberals with big egos want is for everyone to take just one last big drink at the Fountain of Lesser-Evil Voting (after having claimed lesser-evilism as a principle for the Left), because.. well actually because Trump is trolling them. And we just might take that last drink, because Trump is so fun to hate. But the nice liberals with big egos promise us all that, as soon as possible, they'll get back to the real task at hand, after having failed to complete said task for the last forty years or so, and just as soon as everyone's voted and so it doesn't count for anything for another two or four years.
(apologies to the ghost of Joseph Conrad)