United Divided

It’s no secret that in the 2016 election that many people did not vote for a presidential candidate because the candidate choices were not someone they agreed with. Not only this, but that non-vote was a pure rejection because the candidate was forced upon them. Hillary Clinton not only didn’t represent a large number of voters on the political left, but voters felt spurned by the Democratic party for pushing her through.

So here it is, a little over a week since the presidential election here in the United States. And I have to say, I’ve spent the majority of my time this past week wondering how much our votes actually matter. Some of the reasons that I wonder this are because of: the establishment of a party not listening to its electorate demographic; the effect of the manipulation of a narrative from the media; the lack of accountability towards politicians who lie, steal, and cheat the system to boost themselves or their party; the ability of the president himself to blatantly abuse the office and incite violence across the nation; and with 72 million voters voting party over common sense, what good is my vote doing towards peace and a sense of security I want my country to have for all people? What is my individual contribution towards a United States when our choices are manipulated to be something we wouldn’t choose and don’t prefer?

The vote as a representation of the people

In one hand, it seems apparent that our votes do actually matter. President-elect Joe Biden won in key battleground states by a narrow margin. And an even better example of an individual’s votes mattering may be the electoral college votes that were split up in Nebraska, in particular. Those votes mattered.

But at the same time, it seems like our votes don’t mean a goddamn thing. After all, 72 million people still voted with their party and keeping Donald Trump in office.

Donald Trump, a man who was every reason that someone should not be considered for the highest office in the country, is also the most divisive figure in American politics debatably since the Civil War. And 72 million people wanted to keep him in office. Sure, maybe it was because they didn’t want the opposing candidate in office. But we have to ask, who would have been a choice from the opposing party (either side) that we would all agree on?

No one. That’s the answer. No one.

149 million people voted for one of two candidates. A ratio of 2:149m sounds like we are all semi-united enough to choose one out of two options to run our country.

But the overall attitude of a large constituency for the past two presidential elections is more about choosing the candidate who was the lesser of two evils than choosing anything even close to the ideal candidate.*

Any candidate chosen by either political party would not be a candidate chosen by the people. The party would impose a viable choice by pushing their candidate through any number of means necessary, including through the media or through a coalition with other candidates in the party. The Democratic establishment is how and why we were given Biden as the sole realistic choice for the left to defeat Donald Trump. And it worked. Additionally, the media itself bares its own responsibility for choosing a candidate. As much as I loathe admitting it, Trump’s “fake news” is the closest thing to a valid talking point that he has. The media manipulates. That is how it perpetuates its own existence.

I understand that the country is large and we will never be on the same page. Government, of course, is the reason for that. People with the power and the money and the means to control communication and media- they’re the ones responsible for the country not being on the same page. But, in all fairness, it is a natural progression of history. It’s a flawed system whose destiny even the early empire builders didn’t have control over.

149 million people voted for one of two candidates. The overall attitude of a large constituency for the past two presidential elections is that they chose the candidate who was the lesser of two evils. …There is no real unity in a bipartisan country.

So we are bound to one of two choices as a realistic candidate and in this, at this moment in history, we are powerless.

Sure, there are other candidates from the third party alternative. But the power of the two parties effectively nullifies any viability of a third party candidate. (Third party voters, I am truly sorry for you. I would be among you myself, honestly, considering myself an independent. But on an election by election basis for the top office(s) in the nation, your votes seems to not matter towards winning. Your game is the down ballot game. And that’s where magic and real change happens.)

The two alternatives we end up having for a president, before and after they are elected, are bashed and demonized by the other party. At times this sound bite grabbing, a sad excuse for constructive critique, is not only justified but necessary. But this is what shapes the narrative of a president’s administration and legacy right now. This is how one side or the other thinks about that president, enabling the constant back and forth of party badminton from administration to administration. This is why we don’t have any progress. This is why our government is only merely seen as reliable because it’s an existing institution and not because it seems competent to be for and by, and represent the people as a collective whole.

The point is, there is no real unity in a bipartisan country.

When it comes to political ideologies, if we are united at all, then it is in and by the fact that we are divided.

No, none of what I’m saying is revelatory. Of course there are other factors involved. But think about it. How crazy is it that there is no such thing as a presidential candidate that we can all agree on? SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS.

The people as a representation of a narrative

During the current transition period, we are either witnessing the worst case scenario of a lame duck president in the history of the country or a legitimate coup d’etat where a television reality show host will, with the support of the Republican party, make himself an autocratic dictator.

Now, there are assurances that both of those things are happening; that Trump is just lame duck bombing us and that he is going to pull off (or at least is staging) a coup. The lame ducking has happened. It’s already started and clear. The coup d’etat fear is strengthened daily by both the actions of his lame ducking and the GOP supporting Trump, while already back lashing the Democratic party. And, naturally, there are assurances being given that these things are not happening. “Trump is moving on with cleaning house for his next four years,” and, “We believe in the system we have in place to protect voters and ensure that the election process is done correctly.”

Those two statements are being told to people on both sides of the aisle, by the way. The interpretation of the messaging is just slanted towards party ideologies. Anyone who has seen the polar opposites of CNN and Fox News talk about the party opposite the one they represent knows that a narrative needs to be manufactured and beaten into the ground for the sake of keeping viewers fed. So much so that even the things you know are true you find that you can’t bring yourself trust.

And, conveniently, a byproduct of late stage capitalism is short term memory. Especially with Donald Trump as president. Every day had to be a headline day for him. That is his game, as we know. Mueller prepares to testify to congress about Russian collusion. “Fake news.” Immigrant children are separated from their parents and thrown into cages. “Obama built the cages.” It is a manipulation strategy described by Noam Chomsky when he wrote, “Keep the adult public attention diverted away from the real social issues, and captivated by matters of no real importance.” He describes it as something capitalist elites do. And, Trump is the amalgamation of the worst of capitalism.

When we really consider the extent our knowledge and beliefs are shaped by media, we find that even we are agents – willing or unwilling – of mass media

But Trump is also just an agent of that machine. He is just one of innumerable symptoms of the disease of mass media. When we really consider the extent our knowledge and beliefs are shaped by media, we find that even we are agents – willing or unwilling – of mass media.

All of what has happened from the 2016 presidential election up through now, with this seeming threat of Trump not leaving office despite having lost the election, it has just stripped from me the feeling I’ve always had that I could make a large scale difference. I knew it was an impossible thing, in most ways. But at the same time we see that some individuals can become the best at something and make a big difference. And it’s unrealistic to say that “anyone can do it,” if we are being honest. We see people who are in the spotlight, at some level, for some reason, and we think “that could be me.” Or we believe that a single person, with hard work, the right kind of smarts and leadership abilities, and by being a model citizen, can get to the highest position in the country. After all, an out of touch multimillionaire who is absolutely the dross of capitalism in human form can do it, so “Why not me?” And you think, “I don’t even want all of that. But I’d at least like to make a difference to lots of people and future generations. And I even want to do it in ways where my ego is removed and it’s purely about helping people; giving them all an equal place to enjoy life from.”

But government, and by extension society, just feels like it is out of our control.

Why give myself to something, why should you give yourself to something that, as much as you believe otherwise, you don’t have control over? Control not the right word? Okay. Well, why give yourself to something that even your smallest contribution really isn’t a part of the larger whole? Because what the government looks like after this election, after we have supposedly defeated evil, it’s not something I think we have actually contributed to at all. Not because we didn’t vote good people down ballot. Not because there aren’t good people in government. Not even because slow change can’t happen. It can and it does. But because when all is said and done, the powers that be are really the ones who call the shots.

Elected officials will get to a place of being elected because of money. They stay in office, despite not even performing well, because of money. And we are trapped in a bipartisan system because of capitalism. It is all out of our control. That is why, for the past two major elections, we have had a choice of “which one of these is not the one I hate?”

Yes, by all means, VOTE in every election. Make informed choices in every election (despite the fact that the argument from the other side is going to be that you voted for your party (and, for all intents and purposes, and in your mind rightly so, you did)).

The one thing we want for ourselves and our friends and family and our neighbor, is peace and happiness.

But as I type this, that sense of being able to affect large scale change the traditional way, by voting, feels if not like a flickering and uncertain flame, then completely nonexistent.

In a time when we are being manipulated by the machine of media and government, both functioning in such a way as a result of (at least rampant) capitalism, we must bypass these to find truth. We must strip away all the narrative that we have been convinced of by these two institutions and look to the fundamental shared truths. These will unite us.

I can tell you right now, the one thing we want for ourselves and our friends and family and our neighbor, is peace and happiness.

The goal of this blog is to focus on the relationship of design and society. My ongoing interest is in foundations for the designer in society with a long range goal of developing material towards a curriculum for the responsible designer. This discussion will include not only the history of design, but the philosophical approach as it pertains to the designer.

*This is actually a hint to the fact that we are more united than not. Additionally, the promise of the Biden/Harris administration is one of a true coalition of the left, and a decent chance of cooperation with the right. The hope in this is a closer sense of unity than the previous administration. Despite it being such a low bar.

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