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Politics of the gutter

| Tuesday, October 29, 2019

There’s something off about U.S. politics today. A smelly je ne sais quoi floating around in the air. You take a whiff. Then another. But you still can’t quite put your finger on what stinks.

Maybe the problem is that the stench is coming from many directions. One, we can say, is impeachment. Did President Trump withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine to get them to investigate Joe Biden’s son? Seems like it, given last week’s explosive testimony from a top U.S. diplomat.

Was Hunter Biden seeking to cash in on his status as a member of a prominent political family? Probably. But that wouldn’t make the Bidens much different from other politicos, like the Trumps, the Clintons and the much lionized Barack Obama, who, we should remember, beelined from the Oval Office to a cushy $400,000 speaking fee at a Wall Street brokerage firm.

Most importantly, is impeachment the right way to dethrone Trump? Hard to tell. The fact is Democrats wouldn’t be able to do the deed in the Senate given their numbers. And national polls show a public that barely supports impeachment and removal — about 48% in favor compared to 44% against, according to an average of surveys calculated by CNN. In Wisconsin and five other swing states, a majority — about 53% to 43% — are against impeachment and removal. Democrats, take note.

There’s also the hardcore fanaticism of parts of the Trump base to consider. Not even the World Series was safe from the stench of impeachment, as a longtime umpire by the name of Rob Drake made headlines after publishing a Twitter creed in which he vowed to get an AR-15 and wage civil war if Trump was impeached. The MLB is investigating the incident, and Drake has since apologized, but you can bet there’s more where that came from.

Another stink-up: the Democratic primaries. Despite the tell-tale signs that Trump would wipe the floor with Joe Biden in a general election, much of the mainstream media and the Democratic establishment continue to cheerlead for him. Thankfully, Joe has lost some steam as voters figure out that he has nothing to offer beyond a middle-of-the-road politicking that doesn’t jive in the Trump era.

It also doesn’t help that the Biden name is being linked to the financial shenanigans at the center of the impeachment probe. As if progressive voters didn’t have enough to dislike about him besides his support for defacto school segregation in the 1970s, his push for draconian crime policies in the 1990s and the money from corporate donors that have lined his pockets throughout his political career. And let’s not forget those creepy images of him too close for comfort with women and girls.

Last week, though, the Biden campaign added the cherry on top. They reversed an earlier pledge to spur money from super PACs, opening the floodgates for elite and corporate donors to pour unlimited amounts of cash into Biden 2020. They can even hide the true origin of their donation if they so wish, a phenomenon that journalist Jane Mayer calls “dark money.” Same old, same old from Joe.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get some Febreze up in here.

Until recently, I was fully pulling for Elizabeth Warren over Bernie Sanders. In part because I think Bernie’s heart attack scare would be an Achilles heel in a Trump-Sanders matchup. In part because Warren is a woman, and I could see her drumming up more female votes — it would also be nice to shake things up in the Oval Office, gender-wise.

In part because she’s an avowed capitalist who our billionaire overlords might be more open to working with. That is to say, she could get things done for working-class people and the overall economy without shaking the boat too much and scaring the rich folks into giving us another Trump. Or something worse. She’s also hella smart. Did I mention my dream ticket would be Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? The campaign theme song: Cardi B’s “She Bad.”

I admit, seeing Bernie, AOC and 26,000 Sanders supporters light up Queens, New York, in the largest campaign rally of the primary season so far pulled at my heartstrings. But if you were to ask me right now, I’d still tell you I’m on that Warren train. Not by much, though.

At the end of the day, we can hope and pine all we want. Trump is a wild card. So is the Democratic National Committee, the body in charge of overseeing the primary election process. The DNC could very well circumvent the will of the voters and put forth some crap candidate, setting us on the path of another four years in Trumplandia, sort of like they did in 2016. Or Bloomberg could come in as a third party candidate like he’s been threatening to do for years, and who knows what will happen then? It could spell the end of jumbo drinks at 7-Eleven.

What we can say for sure is that corruption in U.S. politics runs deep, but things are extra nasty now. When have you ever had a U.S. president call an opponent a kiss-ass in front of thousands of raucous supporters? When have you had a president accused of sexually assaulting over two dozen women? The old playbook is out the window. It’s all a waiting game now. A scary-as-hell waiting game.


Oliver Ortega is a Ph.D. student specializing in Latinx literature and politics. Originally from Queens, New York, he has called the Midwest home for almost a decade. Through boundless cynicism he keeps trying. Reach him at [email protected] or @ByOliverOrtega on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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