High Expectations

All your problems will be instantly solved.

Voter turnout looks like it’ll be pretty incredible this year. Typically, that bodes well for Democrats. So let’s go out on a limb and talk about a Biden victory.

Let’s imagine it’s a big win. Biden wins the popular vote by a couple million, the electoral college by a couple dozen, and Trump miraculously leaves office without too much of a fight. Biden has the reins.

What does a strong victory mean? In the past, it’s been claimed that big wins are a mandate to govern. The popular support for the candidate and his policies is strong enough that the opposition should defer, at least initially, to the popular will. (This… doesn’t actually happen.)

Is it a good idea to excite an entire voting bloc on behalf of someone who will only disappoint them?

Even if there’s no mandate to govern, there are symbolic elements to a big victory. It can be a simple rejection of the less-liked candidate. The either/or nature of the system means a big win can come solely from hatred of the Other Guy; it doesn’t necessarily say anything about the person who won.

Both of these are positives, or at the least, they don’t present risks to Biden. But if we widen our scope from just the night of the election, we find some. The election over, Biden will have to try to live up to his voters’ expectations. Electoral victories come with expectations that the candidate will follow through on their campaign promises, explicit or implied.

The entire campaign has been a pledge to return to normal. “Nothing” will “fundamentally change”, we just need to get Trump out of there and things will be fine. But by limiting all blame to the events of the past four years, Biden makes an impossible promise. (There’s an obvious reason for this; looking back would remind us that it was the actions and inactions of the Obama/Biden administration that left America ready to elect Trump.)

In other words, is it a good idea to excite an entire voting bloc on behalf of someone who will only disappoint them? People often argue that there is no drawback to voting, that voting even under an irreparably corrupt regime, in a rigged system, built on regressive representation, is inherently GOOD.

Let’s think about that for a second.

If I wanted to doom the Democrats to another several cycles of low enthusiasm, here’s what I’d do:

  • Spend every waking moment telling people that Trump is SO bad, we have to elect the Blue guy NO. MATTER. WHAT.
  • Promise the moon, even as you explicitly reject every way of getting there. Use incredible platitudes like “get back to normal.”
  • Refuse to acknowledge any criticism of the nominee. Attack people for even **pointing out** undesirable aspects of the candidacy.
  • Emphasize that voting is the only way to make change, so people put all their hopes on it.
  • Ignore the factors that led to Trump’s election. Repeat ad nauseum that America’s problems started with Trump and will end with him. Create the expectation that Everything Will Be Fine as soon as we replace Trump.

The stage is set. And then in 2024, after nothing has fundamentally changed, the DNC will be aghast at the fact no one is excited to vote for them. They’ll continue attacking anyone left of Hillary, they’ll blame third party voters, they’ll scream about Bernie while rejecting his policies, etc. They’ll coordinate to defeat the next progressive and pick another corporate centrist. People will tune out. The cycle repeats.

So no, voting in itself is not a categorical good. If it perpetuates the circumstances that lead to increasing fascism, voting is not helping anything. And it prevents us from considering that we may have to tear things down to move forward.

If we never expand our view— namely, reject the twin myopias of this is the most important election” and just get a democrat in there and worry about the rest later”— we will remain stuck in the same trap, blind to the effects of our actions.

So when people make the case for Biden without acknowledging he’s a terrible politician and a fucking awful human being, they’re shooting themselves in the foot. This rhetoric sets up voters to be crushed in the future, when they realize that they’ve just endured another four years of regressive, neoliberal politics, and for what? Nothing, really. It’s not unfair to use the achievements of the Obama administration to predict those of a Biden regime. If you’re concerned about wealth inequality, ending US imperialism, or preventing the death of the entire ecology, it’s imperative to realize these are fundamental changes that will never be permitted by the current system.

To someone who favors replacing the current system with a socialist economy, this disaffection for capitalist politics is only half-helpful. Yes, every round of alienated voters is a fresh crop of potential radicals, but at the same time it would be so much easier to deal with these false hopes before they crash violently into reality. And that starts with everyone — from liberals to anarchists — being as honest as possible about our situation. The sooner we dispense with our illusions about the Democratic Party — chiefly, “That Side Bad, Therefore Our Side Good!” — the sooner we can begin to build something worthwhile.


Working to elect Biden? Check out A Moderate Proposal.

Don’t like your choices? Yes, It’s Okay To Not Vote For Either Rapist.




logophile, leftist, lover of learning.

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Pyotr Malatesta

Pyotr Malatesta

logophile, leftist, lover of learning.

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