Cliff Notes USA

‘The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip on each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.’ 

Hunter S. Thompson wrote this back in 1972 while covering a presidential campaign that temporarily re-elected Richard Nixon. As true today as ever, America is careening toward 2020’s election with a dizzying array of Democratic candidates yowling across the airwaves, each trying to convince the masses they’re better than Donald Trump.

Modern American politics are the kind of hot mess that would normally make you go ‘Whoooaaa‘ in your best Spiccoli drawl except it’s all way too real because, well, it is real and we have to live here with it. So instead you wind up burning with fear and rage until your insides are forged into the chalky antimatter of spent coal and you drink yourself to sleep every night crying over the latest news while scheduling a vasectomy.

But enough about me.

So, yeah. Big election coming in the States. Here’s what you need to know to appreciate the idiocracy as it unravels.

The candidates. The Democrats appear to have a crowded field, but really it just boils down to a few. The current frontrunner is former Obama VP and lifelong politician Joe Biden. This is his third run for president, the first of which ended with a plagiarism scandal back in 1987. Biden recently caught flack for touching women creepily and has been hated on for decades for allowing Anita Hill to be questioned after she famously accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment back in 1991. Still, Biden is a recognizable name, represents the good-ol’-days of pre-Trump middle-of-the-road status quo, and an old white man, which many feel make him the best challenger to Trump’s reelection. If you see Democrats on a scale of ‘a little left of center’ to ‘total socialist politically correct lunatics,’ Biden is pretty dead center.

After Biden, it’s a little more competitive for second place. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been holding steady, but thus far is failing to ride the wave of passion he had in 2016, likely because many of his then-revolutionary far-left ideas—including, among other things, free public college, universal healthcare, fierce oversite of the financial sector, and a much higher minimum wage—have been normalized and adopted by other progressive candidates, such as fellow close-second Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren is a harsh critic of Wall Street who favors forgiving student dept, and is also frequently lambasted on Twitter by Trump, who calls her ‘Pocahontas,’ due to her claims (mostly disproven via DNA test) that she was of Native American descent.

Third behind Warren and Sanders is another woman, California senator and former state attorney general Kamala Harris. Harris is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica and has drawn flack from fellow Dems as being ‘tough on crime’ while AG. She supports the Green New Deal, federal legalization of marijuana, and tax credits for the middle class. Other names worth noting, though all far behind Harris at the time of this story, include South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay presidential candidate, New Jersey senator Corey Booker, and former Texas state rep Beto O’Rourke, who famously gave Ted Cruz a run for his money in their monolithically conservative home state.

Hot Button Issues. Despite what it may look like, presidential elections in the United States aren’t all just name-calling and finger-pointing. Issues matter, and the 2020 election has some real triggers. Chief amongst these will be immigration. Many claim Trump is ‘openly racist,’ and he certainly has riled up white supremacist movements across the country. He also consistently lies about crime and immigration statistics and has dispersed thousands of illegal immigrant families into ramshackle prison camps. Democrats are hoping to interject on behalf of what they see as a human rights issue. Gun control will be widely debated amidst the current plague of mass shootings in the United States. Then there’s climate change. With monster storms, record-setting heat, and various other climate disasters ramping up globally, the Trump administration’s disregard for any and all climate caution will become fiercely contested. It’s an issue closely tied to regulating big business, something Trump et al have proven they intend to do almost none of, but which Democrats mostly see as a prudent path to a stronger overall economy and safer environmental stance.

One thing to be aware of as you take all this in is where you get your news.

You’ve by now heard plenty of ravings about ‘fake news’ from the current administration and their booster club of once-fringe conspiracy theorists. But is fake news really a problem? Well, yes. Sort of. It just depends on how capable you are of fact-checking what you’re consuming, and how well you think for yourself.

Should you get your news from social media sites, like Facebook? No. Absolutely not. Not only are these platforms rife with trolls, news site imitators, and an entire ecosystem bent around bending your mind, when you’re amongst your ‘friends’ on social media you’re in an echo chamber of like-minded people, which is a terrible way to form independent, fact-based opinions.

So, if not social media, how? Can you trust accredited news websites? Yes, though it depends on how you define the phrase ‘accredited.’ Fox News is accredited, and is so slanted as to be essentially a propaganda channel for the Republican party. There are similar examples on the left. But if you stick with time-honored names such as the New York Times, CNN, and USA Today, you’re going to get a more honest, less biased perspective. Better still are outlets from outside the United States, such as the BBC. Personally, I go straight to the Associated Press news feed, which is like eating honey out of a beehive before anyone has a chance to add anything weird to it.

No matter how you take it in, 2020 is gonna be a doozy, and a very telling year for the future of both democracy and humanity. Try not to let it drive you over the edge, get out and vote, and remember, as Robin Williams once said: ‘Politics: “Poli” a Latin word meaning ‘many’ and “tics” meaning “bloodsucking creatures”.’

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