What an embarrassment the United States of America has become during the last four years. The Hill reported on a poll released by Georgetown University that voters believe the U.S. is two-thirds of the way to the edge of civil war. While I certainly don’t think everyone will be hiding in their bunkers anytime soon, the days leading up to the election and afterward will certainly be the most toxic and partisan yet.
Domestically, the U.S. has faced the worst race relations since the 1970s, the resurgence of extremist organizations from the fringes of the political spectrum, and a plummeting confidence in government, as well as the ability to tolerate different beliefs from our own neighbors.
Internationally, the U.S. has gone from leader of the free world to a selfish laughingstock, chastising our allies and bludgeoning our treaties and alliances that have kept large scale war at bay since 1945.
At Bates, where do conservatives and libertarians go from here? Do we accept the new reality of Trump, break ranks and begrudgingly back Biden like the progressives, or turn our backs on both parties and vote third party? Maybe the best option is to not vote at all.
The title of this article comes from a quote by my home state’s senior Senator Lindsey Graham. When Lindsey Graham ran a short campaign for president, he remarked that Trump was “the most unelectable Republican I’ve seen in my lifetime” and even called his party “batshit crazy…how you make American great again is you tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”
Those Republican moderates and conservatives like Maine’s Susan Collins, Arizona’s John McCain, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ben Shapiro, and yes, even the aforementioned Lindsey Graham, all did not back President Trump in 2016.
While it is true that President Trump presided over a roaring economy, helped Israel restore diplomatic ties in the Middle East, and treats the Chinese government like the threat they truly are, none of those accomplishments matter now. The economic gains made before COVID-19 have been completely reversed and the damage to the labor market, especially with unskilled workers, has resulted in a record low GDP growth; levels of economic growth have varied wildly since the pandemic began. Attacking the scientists, local government officials, and health workers that are actually having to carry out government policy only compounds the chaos that the virus has caused.
The massive layoffs and economic downturn, coupled with the deaths of several Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, has led to massive protests across the country, with some turning violent. Through all this summer, I was wondering where my supposedly tough president was. Considering I voted for Senator Graham, I thought I’d see President Trump step up and lead the country out of the violence. What I got was a stunt that mocked my and millions of others’ Christian faith, reducing “the Bible to a prop, a church to a photo op, and God to a plaything,” according to Reverend James Martin.
To top it all off, we even have to worry about Nazis and Anarchists again. I can almost hear the old World War II veterans I met in Washington D.C. this past summer cackle with sarcastic amusement and a great deal of worry at the notion. Extremist groups continue to be on the rise, leading multiple communities to take precautions to deter potential post-election violence.
The lack of leadership from the White House, along with the now-plummeting trust in government and civil institutions has led many voters to take foreign vacations or move to rural areas. Overall, the perception that freedom of expression has shrunk has led many to become more intolerant of groups they dislike. Those that continue to express themselves dump politics into every facet of daily life, be it commercials, social media posts, discussions, or otherwise. Being bombarded with politics every waking moment of your day would make even the most docile student a curmudgeon.
Internationally, we all have witnessed what four years of U.S. isolationism has wrought on the world: a still unending Syrian and Libyan war, skirmishes in the South Caucasus’ region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and dictators openly flouting international law to continue to violate other nations’ sovereignty in order to carry on their strategy of undermining democracy. Ask yourself, is the world in a better place than it was four years ago? The international institutions like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, NATO, and others may seem to be hollowed out bodies that exercise no real authority, but they play a fundamental role in preventing countries from clashing.
Look at the last five hundred years of human history. Even going past the last five hundred years, can we honestly say that the trend of humanity is towards peace? The international structures that were forged out of the destruction of World War II have prevented massive conflicts between modern nations with modern weapons that have the ability to wipe out thousands of lives. Over the previous hundreds of years, empires have expanded, clashed, and fallen, while countries used to annex huge swathes of territory, with diplomacy and negotiation taking a back seat to expansionism.
The United States, along with its crucial partners, has managed to prevent this return to chaos since the end of World War II, specifically because we have bodies in which countries can settle their differences peacefully. Taking a sledgehammer to international institutions does not make the U.S. strong – it makes us weak. We cannot shut ourselves off from the world by building walls or putting America first, because the world’s problems will eventually become our problem. The pandemic itself is evidence of this.
Despite all these massive international and nationwide changes, all politics is local at the end of the day. So what will change at Bates? Will the Bates administration continue to bring us conservatives out every four years for their diversity photoshoot, then go back to ignoring us the rest of the time? Most likely, yes. Will we still be spat on, harassed, and threatened whenever we voice an opinion like I was during the past four years? Of course, after all we came to Bates so “we were asking for it,” in the words of one student.
So, why bother voting blue again as I did in 2016? I’m certain that Bates’ culture of illiberalism and the treatment of people like me won’t change, regardless if I were to vote blue for a second time. It’s very amusing to see the endless lampooning of conservatives by Bates students and then to still be treated like garbage if we vote blue anyway. The last four years have been anathema to conservatives, yet Bates’ left-wing fanaticism and intolerance of other views shows that they’re closer to MAGA hatters than they think they are. This year I’ll be voting third party. As for the GOP, I didn’t leave the party, the party left me. So go vote, but cast a vote for your candidate, not whatever candidate your friends are all voting for.