Here is the spot I’m in: Trump supporters believe I am anti-Trump, and liberals believe I am somewhat for Trump.
I was at work the other day standing on a dead blackjack game, and at one of the tables adjacent to me had some middle-aged schmuck talking about politics. He was your typical uninformed white guy who probably watches Fox News at all hours of the day. On and on he went about Nancy Pelosi this and Dianne Feinstein that, saying all the usual things about what is wrong with California and how it’s the fault of “liberals.”
I had nothing better to do, clearly, so I listened in, rolling my eyes and scoffing to myself after every dipshit statement he made. The funny part is, I don’t even like Nancy Pelosi or Dianne Feinstein. Both are bad at their jobs, and both have done a good amount of harm to the Democratic Party as a whole. I am one of the last people who would ever defend them. I believe that, and yet I feel comfortable admitting that the guy running his mouth was a complete dumbass.
Then my floor supervisor came up to me, apparently disgusted by the player’s constant drivel. “I have to walk away or else I’m going to say something I shouldn’t,” she told me. I laughed and said what we both already knew: “He doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.”
Summertime in the California desert is slow season. The snowbirds return home to Canada, Washington, and Minnesota, the heat regularly hovers between 105 and 120 degrees, and the heavy winds and sandstorms make it uncomfortably annoying just to be outside. When outsiders imagine California it’s always beaches and good weather, and I am here to say the place I am describing is not that. As a result there are fewer people playing tables in the casino, meaning there is more downtime to bullshit with coworkers about sports (mostly) and politics (occasionally).
My supervisor hadn’t been on day shift for very long, so she didn’t know where I stood on the political spectrum. When she asked, I said with some trepidation — since I tend to sound almost apologetic whenever I say I’m on the side of ordinary people — that I am “extremely Left.” With a sigh of relief she told me, “Good. I’m also extremely left.” Suddenly, I had found myself another ally.
Here’s the thing, though: she ain’t all that Left. I mean, she thinks she is. But she’s not. Right after she told me she was, she went straight into the latest MSNBC rhetoric about Stormy Daniels and Russia. She said she wasn’t a fan of Bernie Sanders because he was “too divisive,” and that she wants to see “new blood” in the Democratic Party to compete against Trump in 2020.
The reason I still watch the mainstream news — and by “news” I mean CNN, MSNBC and Fox — is not to learn about what is happening in the United States, or the world. It’s just so I know what other people are going to say whenever politics get brought up in discussion. This floor supervisor of mine, she seems like a nice person. She is professional at her job. I imagine if I lined up every specific policy idea I believe in — from single-payer, to raising the minimum wage, to free public higher education, to expanding Social Security, to rebuilding America’s infrastructure, to reimplementing Glass-Steagall, to breaking up the banks, to ending the wars — I assume she would be on board with me 80% or 90% of the time. It’s hard for anyone who doesn’t have seven or eight figures in the bank to be against any of those ideas.
The only problem is, she watches the mainstream news.
And what the mainstream news tells her are that the only things that are important in the country right now are Russia, a porn star who took a $130,000 kickback from Trump’s lawyer, and some investigation that’s been ongoing for almost two years that has yet to produce any hard evidence. I’m not saying these items of “news” don’t matter. I am just wondering why I am supposed to care.
When my supervisor told me she couldn’t believe something like 60% of Americans were unaware of however many people have been indicted during the Russia Probe, I tried to bring it back to reality. I told her what I oftentimes say on this blog: that I don’t think workers who are making poverty wages, who struggle just to pay their bills every month, particularly give a shit about news stories that don’t affect their lives even in the slightest. Once I offered that, she couldn’t help but admit, “Yeah, that makes sense.”
People like me tend to shit on Fox News with some regularity. We criticize it for being the closest thing to pure propaganda that exists in American media. We point to all the blatant hypocrisy and shameless lies. We talk about its audience as if they all live in a bubble.
But tell me how those who watch only MSNBC, or only CNN, aren’t in their own bubble. Tell me how they are not brainwashed in a similar type of way, only with a vastly different ideology and set of talking points. I don’t think you can.
It’s easy to see which news outlet someone pays attention to strictly by the things they say. If they watch Fox, they are against the Iran Nuclear Deal, they are against Colin Kaepernick’s protest, they believe the Russia investigation is a non-issue. If they watch CNN or MSNBC, they believe in the Russia story all the way, they can tell you about Stormy Daniels, and they believe in opposing Donald Trump across the board.
Shouldn’t it mean something that none of these networks bat an eyelash at all the bombing America is doing around the world? Doesn’t it say something that none of the teacher’s strikes have received any meaningful coverage? Shouldn’t some red flags be thrown up that they don’t honestly talk about climate change, or the minimum wage, or healthcare?
Corporate news caters to eyeballs, and attracting as many of them as possible. That’s why Donald Trump has been such a godsend for places like MSNBC and CNN, because it constantly gives them something to talk about without ever having to say anything that’s newsworthy. In the age of 24-hour news cycles, Trump is like a brick of cocaine in a big cup of coffee.
In the meantime, worker issues continually get ignored. Regular people are struggling like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression, and none of the multimillion dollar anchors have the guts to cry out for them. That would be real news. Fox, CNN, and MSNBC are not in that business. Their business is making money. And as long as they are in it to make money, they will not say anything bad about the corporations that advertise on their networks — meaning they will remain silent about issues that would benefit the lives of workers (i.e. poor people).
I have argued before that Democratic Party leadership would rather see Trump win a second term than see a Progressive like Bernie Sanders in office. The further we get from the 2016 general election, and the closer we are to the 2020 general election, the more I am convinced of this. Because while Trump offers himself as a worthwhile punching bag, he allows for the Democrats to oppose him without actually having to stand for anything. That is why Bernie is such a tough pill for them to swallow: He is the most popular politician in the country by a mile, so they can’t ignore him, but he forces the Party to take clear positions on issues. And up to this point, it’s at best questionable how serious any of his corporate challengers will be about implementing Medicare For All, increasing the minimum wage, or overturning Citizens United.
Over the last couple years, since Trump took office, I have stopped caring whether or not people support him. It used to be an easy way to judge in a snapshot how someone felt about the world; inherently, supporting Trump was supposed to be a bad thing. Opposing him was supposed to be a good thing.
The problem with that line of thinking, though, is that there are plenty of good people that I know who love Donald Trump. And there are a lot of other good people, like my lady floor supervisor, who have decent enough reasons for their contempt of him.
But this is why I am on neither side. It’s because politics have stopped being about real policies, and it’s become a fucking personality contest. Whether I am talking to a Trump supporter, or someone who hates his guts, I always bring it back to the issues — the things that most Americans can agree on — because those are the things that affect us. Being pro-Trump doesn’t automatically make someone a bad person. And being anti-Trump doesn’t automatically make someone a good person. Either way, it doesn’t really say anything about you. It’s how someone feels about policy that reveals who they really are. And when it comes to policies, talking about them, at least, I’ve found that the vast majority of people feel the same way I do.
For example: If you ask someone if they think it’s fair that half the working population makes $30,000 per year or less and has to pay taxes, but the owner of Amazon is worth $130 billion and pays nothing in federal taxes, what do you think their answer is going to be?
If you ask someone if they think it’s fair that 60% of our taxes go to Defense spending, while only a sliver goes to healthcare, education, or Social Security, what do you think their answer is going to be?
If you ask someone if they think it’s fair that massive corporations are allowed to contribute unlimited sums of campaign donations to politicians, and thus 90-plus percent of the policies written turn out (shockingly!) to favor those same corporations, what do you think their answer is going to be?
I am not mad at the Fox News-watching Trump supporter. And I am not mad at the CNN- or MSNBC-watching floor supervisor of mine for being anti-Trump. What I am mad at is the corporate news has made it virtually impossible to reach these people, to inform them of the issues that actually affect them. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, people are not stupid. Most just don’t know where to go for the truth.
I am on the far left in American politics, but I can get Republicans and centrist Democrats to agree with me when I talk about issues. It’s only when we turn it into a personality contest — where you are either pro-Trump or anti-Trump with nothing in between — that creates division. Which, unsurprisingly, is exactly what the corporations want, and have always wanted: to ensure that poor people are perpetually fighting amongst themselves, rather than punching up at the powers that be.
My aim is not to fight. It’s to keep the discussion going, and to make an attempt at penetrating all these goddamn bubbles. It obviously isn’t easy. When one side is basically ready to get down on its knees and anoint Donald Trump the Dear Leader, while the other is actively pretending that America only got fucked up in 2016 when he became President, suffice to say there is a long way to go. The goal posts are so far removed from any normal playing field that I may as well sound as if I am introducing an entirely different sport.