I’m Not Convinced

‘Count every legal vote’

Something does not feel quite right.. each time I read a headline referring to Joe Biden, who will be president, I am more dubious, more skeptical..

I listened to right-wing radio (Sean Hannity) for about twenty minutes yesterday. The mood there was defiant, aggressive—quite different than what one might glean from the New York Times’ coverage, which as an avatar for institutional media seems determined to take control of the moment—(this time, definitively, they seem to say—not like those last times, with Russiagate, with impeachment, with the 2016 election, when it slipped away from us).

We shall see. Despite the general mood of this moment I frankly will not be convinced until power actually changes hands. One wonders. Trump has been counted down, out, DOA, so many times before—when his businesses collapsed after the 80s, when Ted Cruz ‘won’ Iowa, when the Access Hollywood tape came out, when the impeachment inquiry began, on and on. Will this time be different? The idea that it won’t seems largely premised on the assumption that this is an election—an election is definitive in some way that these other events were not. Perhaps. Or, perhaps we are about to stress test this most sacred institution in the midst of an exploding pandemic. Or maybe the refusal to concede is all just a gag, or a meaningless fit—though isn’t that how this all started?

Perhaps essential to these questions is the debate over whether or not Trump is a fascist. Is he? The question struck me as absurd in 2016 and even more so now. That the answer should be an obvious yes is in no way meant to legitimize a certain liberal fixation on and trivialization of that question, nor to minimize the fascistic architecture that preceded DT. Yes, Trumpism pretty neatly checks the boxes on Umberto Eco’s definition of Ur-Fascism—though honestly, I find the academic explanations mostly marginal. Listen to how he speaks, watch his rallies, look at what has happened and think about what might. So some ask: can a fascist be peacefully elected out of office? I suppose we’ll find out.

Twice, in 2020, I have had the sense of the veil of reality—the thin membrane allowing day-to-day mundanity to continue amidst all the absurd contradictions underlying the present—rupturing. In both cases this occurred in an explosive, immediate, visceral manner for which we were unprepared—it started seemingly spontaneously, and the media was unequipped to immediately narrativize our new reality—we were truly in something new. I refer to the start of the Covid crisis in the United States, as it first began to spread widely in late winter/early spring, and to the uprisings that began en masse after George Floyd’s murder. Two times this has happened in the last nine months—and so histrionics aside, I’m skeptical of anyone who has a definitive prediction of what the rest of the year will look like.

Indeed, to the (perhaps unwitting) relief of those to the left of liberals, I do not think we will go back to the spell of the Obama years. We remain in something new and regardless of what the next three months bring, we have to contend with the increasingly visible instability and non-sustainability of the present—Covid, climate breakdown, economic depression, a violent and organized far-right. I don’t think anyone knows what’s coming.

Will Solomon writes a newsletter, Nor’easter, on climate and environment in the Northeast US. He can be found on Twitter and elsewhere at @wsolol.