On Behalf of Self-Employed People Everywhere, Can the US Hold the Election Tomorrow?
Like many people around the world, I find the multi-car pileup that is the 2016 American presidential election at least as addictive as the gif where the cat falls in the bathtub with the lizard and at times as hilarious as the video where the German guy tries to jump into a frozen pond.
Fortunately, these videos only take a few seconds to watch. The election, on the other hand, is a 24/7 multimedia shitshow. If you spend any time on the internet at all, it’s impossible to look away.
And if earning your living involves working online, it’s taking a major, major chunk out of the working day. For self-employed people the world over, this timesuck of an election is an absolute catastrophe. 8 November cannot come soon enough.
Just an Every-Day Republican WTF?
For me, as for many people, it started slowly. Notwithstanding the prior existence in European politics of pervy, orange billionaires – hello, Silvio Berlusconi! – it was almost impossible to take Donald Trump seriously. The hair! The word salad! The absence of any political positions! The bizarrely cheap-looking suits!
Surely, surely, the religious right had to object to a three-times married modeliser with a history of leching to Howard Stern? And why the fuck would ANYONE believe a self-proclaimed billionare who goes to the White House Correspondents Association Dinner and the Met Gala and invited the Clintons to his wedding is an anti-establishment candidate on the side of the poor folk? How could a man whose ex-model wife has a heavy accent – and whose model agency appears to have broken immigration laws – go out there and rant about immigration? It just didn’t make any sense.
Further, doesn’t everyone know that “reality shows” aren’t real? That they’re heavily edited and typically scripted to provide satisfying character arcs? (Unedited, Trump was “a disaster”, say his editors, and that’s not counting the bits where he used racist and ablist epithets.) Apparently not.
And so, like self-employed people around the world, I watched, with mild bemusement, as he hurled schoolyard insults at an apparently identikit parade of climate-change-denying, pregnancy-enforcing white guys with more-or-less decorative wives – not forgetting, of course, Ben “insert your own brain surgery joke here” Carson, and the lady whose face didn’t meet Trump’s exacting political standards.
Back then, though, the election wasn’t taking up too much time. It was mildly amusing, occasionally addictive. More than cat video level, in terms of distractions from the daily grind. When Trump and Cruz were really getting into it, it was up there with the day that allegations emerged that our then Prime Minister had had sexual relations with the hog roast during a university drinking society dinner. Or maybe with a good fail video. Anyway, it was easily possible to get work done.
Clinton versus Sanders was engaging, but far from hypnotic. It was politics, not soap opera.
Then It Got Frightening
And then it gradually became clear. Donald Trump, this bizarre, volatile orange buffoon, was actually going to win the nomination. He could REALLY HAVE HIS FINGER ON THE NUCLEAR BUTTON.
That was when it got scary. Really scary. At one moment it looked like we might have Sanders versus Trump for the presidency, and that Trump could then actually win. And I say “we”, despite being a foreigner, because having a narcissistic ignoramus with zero impulse control in sole charge of America’s nuclear arsenal is a problem for every single person in the world.
Donald Trump – Donald Trump! – could get annoyed by some tediously predictable disrespect from, let’s say, Kim Jong Un, for whom Death to America is something of a theme, and decide to nuke North Korea, starting World War Three with China and therefore blowing up the earth. I’m not going to get started on the wisdom of giving Saudi Arabia, a nation where women are not even allowed to drive and that probably backed 9/11, their own nukes, but here’s a nice letter from a bunch of guys who used to look after the nuclear button for a living.
This period was genuinely terrifying, the only vague consolation a hope that surely somebody, some tentacle of the giant global conspiracy we’re just now starting to hear about, would grassy knoll Trump before he blew up the globe. It also made for a lot of nervous phone-checking.
For a Moment, It Looked Like an Election
Next came a brief period of calm, when this farce vaguely represented a normal election. In the red corner, you had Donald Trump. In the blue corner, you had Hillary Clinton, a machine politician who is by no means ever going to have a giant tantrum and start a nuclear war. This is a low bar for leader of the world’s second-largest democracy and dominant power, I admit, but an important one, nonetheless.
If I may digress, Clinton also believes in all sorts of things that most Europeans consider fundamental building blocks of any civilised society and a not-insignificant portion of Americans consider a full-frontal assault on some woollily defined notion of freedom. You know. Everyone should have health care, even if they’re poor; rich people should pay more tax than poor people; women have the right to choose whether to have a baby or not; it’s probably a good idea to check someone’s not about to go on a murderous rampage before selling them a gun; etcetera.
So when she got pneumonia, soldiered on past doctor’s orders and collapsed – RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A RIGHTWING SCARE CAMPAIGN ABOUT HER HEALTH – it wasn’t a good moment. Particularly for those of us who are self-employed, need to use the internet for a living, and find it hard not to get sucked down rabbit holes at the best of times.
I apologise, by the way, if I’m not taking this seriously enough. I’m British, so my nation officially entered clown country status with Brexit and is now an international joke. Even before that, we never really treated our leaders with the reverence attached to the “First Family”, meaning most of the population found the Cameron-swine imbroglio more hilarious than distressing. Further, it’s not my country that’s going to have to somehow glue itself back together once the yelling stops: fun fact, we’re still tearing ourselves apart over Brexit.
The Full Soap Opera
Right now, however, the US election seems to be past scary and into full-blown telenovela territory. And, for those of us who usually start our working day with a quick skim of Twitter and a glance at the news headlines, it’s an absolute catastrophe. It’s extremely hard to look away from this Game of Thrones boxset of a rolling news saga and get on with any work at all.
I use the phrase ‘past scary’ loosely, of course. That 40% of Trump voters in Florida believe his opponent to be, not metaphorically but literally, a demon, as in a creature from the pits of hell with horns and a tail, is objectively really fucking frightening. Although 77% of the country believes in angels, so there’s that.
But, seriously, this election is the news equivalent of crack cocaine. There was the bit when we all learned that Donald Trump had a) personally lost almost a billion dollars in a single year and b) used that loss not to pay any federal income tax at all for ages. That was quite exciting.
Now we’re entering pussygate. Or locker-room gate (because doesn’t every man boast about sexual assault in the gym changing room? No? Really? You’ve been in the wrong locker rooms!). And that is CAR CRASH addictive.
In case you’ve been in a coma, a behind-the-scenes video emerged of Donald Trump bragging that he liked to kiss women without their consent and even “grab them by the pussy”, which he could do because he was a star. The video alone was bad enough for Trump’s partner in what he calls his “locker-room remarks”, a scion of the Bush dynasty, to be fired from TV. Weirdly, it failed to significantly dent Trump’s position as the flag-bearer of the family values party and candidate for fucking President. Go figure.
Since then, a steady stream of women have bravely gone public with allegations that Trump did, well, pretty much what he boasted about doing in the video. This convincing series of accounts of petty, pervy, enraging assaults stretching back decades have been met by accusations that they’re part of a vast global conspiracy (in rightwing rhetoric, just fyi, that usually means The Jews), or, of course, that they are, in the words of Twitter trolls across the globe, “too ugly to rape”.
A couple of Howard Stern clips are also doing the rounds. There’s the one where Donald Trump laughingly cops to being a sexual predator. There’s the other one where he brags about going into the changing rooms of the pageants he ran and ogling often very young women. In this instance too, a number of women are accusing him of doing something HE IS ON TAPE ACTUALLY BOASTING ABOUT DOING, and his campaign is calling them liars.
Best of all, this all happened within virtual nano-seconds of Trump holding a press conference with women who accuse Hillary Clinton’s husband of sexually assaulting them, although one of them literally signed an affidavit saying it never happened. (And, no, Bill Clinton is not running for president. And, yes, he’s probably no angel either.)
It’s like the OJ Simpson car chase, except spread out over 25 days and the full glories of the internet. It’s mesmerising. What should be a discussion of the future of America seems to be devolving into a competition about who’s the rapiest, Bill or Don.
And the Award for Best Supporting Actress Goes To…
Even the bit-part players in this election are fascinating. There’s Gloria Allred, the go-to lawyer for victims of misbehaving celebrities in search of tabloid payouts, in full empathetic hand-holding mode. There’s Kellyanne Conway, the very smooth and extremely blonde political operative who seemed able to defend literally anything but has gone strangely silent since the allegations surfaced.
There’s Ben Carson, the man who has singlehandedly killed the cliché “I’m no brain surgeon but…”, and Rudy Giuliani, last seen denying Hillary Clinton was in New York for the Twin Towers when he’s actually in a goddamn photo with her.
There’s the fair Melania, no doubt currently reviewing her ironclad prenup with a sense of deep regret and the hardass lawyer that hubby funded to sue the Daily Mail over retracted allegations she was an escort. There’s Michelle Obama who almost – but almost! – managed to bring some class to proceedings. And, of course, there’s Vladimir Putin, lurking in the background like some sinister puppet-master.
But Think of the Self-Employed!
And it goes on, and will go on, and will go on, making it harder and harder for the poor, procrastinating self-employed to get anything done at all. There’s another debate to come. There will, no doubt, be more video and audio of Trump saying vile and take-your-pick-ist things. There will, no doubt, be more emails revealing Clinton and her team to be machine politicians, doing what machine politicians do.
There will be more accusers. There will be more out-of-left-field segues such as Donald Trump accusing Clinton of being on drugs – quite frankly, I wouldn’t put it past him to openly call for armed revolution. While it’s currently hard to see how much lower this election could go, I can guarantee it will find new, horrific depths, and plumb them.
How long before the sex video, really? We’ve already had a couple of soft porns.
And until someone finally invents a self-control app that blocks not just certain websites but pages containing certain terms, the outlook for the self-employed economy looks grim. So, on behalf of the self-employed and procrastinators everywhere, please, America, can you just get this election over with? Tomorrow sounds good to me. Thanks.
Picture credit: Flag by Julian Carvajal on Flickr’s Creative Commons.