Eight Years at a Time

2000

I sat at the back of the bus. These were the days of wearing a school uniform to avoid gang-related colors, and playing with Pokemon cards.

I was in 5th grade.

The presidential candidates were George W. Bush and Al Gore. They represented the red team and the blue team. My parents were and always had been supporters of the red team, and as such I was in the minority at a school filled with minority — mostly hispanic — kids. Even though none of us knew a damn thing about politics, I was the one out of ten whose parents supported Bush.

So I was proud when Al Gore was defeated, and when the guy my parents wanted to win… won. I think I was extra proud because he wasn’t expected to win, and it was an upset.

I watched the results on election night with my mom, but the official decision wouldn’t come until a week later, when the state of Florida was declared red. The electoral map looked like this:

electoral-2000-s

Bush presided over, notably, 9/11, the war in Iraq (2003), the stock market crash (2007) and the beginning of the great recession shortly thereafter. Time will look back on his presidency, and indeed already has, as one of the worst in the history of the United States.

Meanwhile, I graduated elementary school and went on to two different middle schools, then to high school, then to graduate from high school to arrive at Virginia Tech for the last handful of months Bush was in office.

2008

I took the bus from Virginia Tech to a church in a neighboring city. It was very cold, I remember, as I was interviewed by some newspaper guy. He asked what issues were important to me, and I made some bullshit point about the future or some such nonsense. My vote went to Barack Obama in the first ever election I could vote in.

It was a landslide victory for the Democrats. On election night kids from my dorm kept pulling the fire alarm, so all the students convened outside for about 20 minutes at a time. Then we returned back to our dorms and someone else would pull it, and we’d go outside and do the same thing all over again. This happened probably five times that night.

This electoral college map looked like this:

2008-electoral-college-results1-1

As opposed to California, which is a blue state, I felt like my vote mattered in Virginia. I helped it turn blue for the first time since 1964.

In the meantime, we learned the country was more left-leaning than we originally thought. While Republicans were still grappling with whether or not abortion should be legal, or immigration, or worrying about gay people getting married, the Democrats were acting like the grownups. And the American people made Barack Obama, a black man, president.

In his final days, Mr. Obama’s approval rating sits at 53%.

George W. Bush’s final approval rating was 22%.

In 2008 I graduated from high school and went off and attended Virginia Tech. In 2009 I left Virginia Tech. After fucking around and taking some writing classes at a couple community colleges, working where my mom worked for a few years, and navigating through general confusion and unhappiness, in 2013 I became a dealer in the casino. Eight years goes by fast.

2016

It began as a plea to millennial voters, and somewhere it turned into a moment of self-reflection.

This is Bill Maher, from the November 4th episode of Realtime:

I’ve been doing this for 23 years on TV. I’ve seen a lot. I know politics. This is different.

I promise you this will not make your life better. And also, once fascists get power, they don’t give it up. You’ve got president Trump for life. I know liberals made a big mistake, because we attacked your boy [George W.] Bush like he was the end of the world, and he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much, or yours. Or John McCain. They were honorable men we disagreed with, and we should have kept it that way.

So we cried wolf, and that was wrong. But this is real. This is going to be way different. Like we’ll never get it back.

Before committing genocide on six million Jews during The Holocaust, Hitler was not taken seriously by the media or general public.

With Donald Trump, in the last year they first said it was all a publicity stunt. Then they said he would never actually get on the debate stage. Then they said he would never actually win a primary. Then they said he would never actually win the nomination. And finally they said he could never win a general election.

The media have downplayed his hate speeches and turned the other cheek for interviews and access, all in an attempt to make a reality show out of this cycle so people will tune in on election night.

And here we are, two days away, and he has a legitimate chance of winning.

I’m not one of those people who thinks, or says, at least, that we are fucked either way. That we have two equally bad candidates. False equivalency is the term of this election. I agree that both candidates are bad, but Hillary Clinton is bad in terms of policies and her history of corruption.

Donald Trump is bad morally, has ideas that would create a ton of unrest, both racially in America and economically, and on a global level. With Clinton I fear for the economy, her ties to the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street. With Trump I fear for human civilization, and our ability to survive nuclear annihilation.

For my whole life I’ve generally agreed among friends that my vote doesn’t matter and that, more or less, my life wouldn’t be affected no matter who the president is. And generally I think that’s true.

With Donald Trump, the calculus would change. Once an insecure authoritarian gets control, he doesn’t give it up. Like Maher said. He is a threat to intellectualism, free speech, he’s anti-science, anti-women, and a conspiracy theorist.

In a large way he is the reflection of the worst America has to offer. Should he win, and right now there’s a 35% or so chance he does win, there will be mass protests nationwide. It will be something the United States has never seen.

But what’s worse, potentially, is what would happen if he loses. For weeks he’s been telling his supporters the election is rigged for Hillary Clinton, and dog whistling white supremacists to “keep an eye” on certain polling locations — notably in heavily black areas. Should Clinton win there is a real threat for white people with guns taking matters into their own hands and having a protest of their own.

What other outcome could there be? Should we expect the tens of millions of people Trump has inspired through his many lies and conspiracy theories to just sit back and take it? I don’t know.

From an outside perspective, this is an extremely embarrassing time to be an American. Should Trump win the presidency, how does that make the world leader look?

I don’t know how the electoral map is going to look this year, but it’s certain to be closer than Obama’s landslide in 2008. What I’m more concerned about, personally, are how the next eight years of my life are going to go. I survived Bush’s run, Obama’s is coming to a close, and I have a hard time thinking it will be much different if Hillary becomes madam president.

But Donald Trump presents a threat, and not just to me or you. For everyone. Many people, and many people in my life, don’t give a damn about politics either way, because they — like you or I — are going to keep doing what we do, anyway. And in a way it’s kind of great living in America, having the ability to take for granted all of the liberties that have been given to us.

On the other hand, I have to at least put in my effort to give a shit. I’m not out campaigning for any candidate, or standing on street corners with cardboard signs in protest of anything. I am no activist.

But I do pay attention. If absolutely nothing else, there is that.

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