The absurdly long run-up to the US election has begun. This will be the first presidential election fought since further limits were lifted on campaign funding: a change brought in on the grounds of “free speech”, when the supreme court decided that the Koch brothers not being able to say, “We own the president,” infringed their rights under the first amendment. Personally, I think Obama will be quite lonely once it’s all over, not least because he has allowed the police to kill most of the other black people.
Differences between the candidates are usually so slight that what the Democratic frontrunner thinks is pretty much just what the Republican frontrunner thinks on the days that he remembers to take his meds. But in something of a format twist, Bernie Sanders – an old-school socialist – has crowdfunded himself into a credible position for the Democratic nomination. I sincerely hope he wins, if only so that we see the first inauguration speech made from inside a giant, bulletproof hamster ball. The Democratic frontrunner is Hillary Clinton, a ruthless, steel-haired troll doll. Hers is the face that would haunt a lot of Libyans’ nightmares, if they were still alive. Unfortunately for her election prospects, Hillary has never quite learned to introduce humour or compassion into her speaking voice and on a good day sounds like an android trying to trick the last human out of a bunker.
At last week’s Republican debate, the candidates accused CNBC of displaying liberal bias. One reading would be that the GOP candidates are now so rightwing that they make a giant media conglomerate look liberal. Let’s not forget that the essential message of a Republican candidate is a tricky sell. That you love America, but hate all the groups that make up America. That you love democracy, but hate people. Donald Trump, who at best looks like a plughole in an orangutan sanctuary, is probably only running for president because this dimension doesn’t have a Superman he can give a hard time to. His hair, looking like a slovenly, postcoital cat, is actually one of the least weird things about him. He is lacking in charm or wit and is almost ferociously inarticulate. The US public has identified with him strongly. It seems that the electorate, possibly bored with rational thought, is toying with the idea of cutting out the middleman and just electing one of the business class through sheer force of Stockholm syndrome.
The old politics is dull, and what could be more exciting than electing a man who might declare war on the sea? His plans to build a giant wall sealing the US border with Mexico are entertaining, not least because it would be interesting to see a nation as heavily armed as America go into cocaine withdrawal. Somehow, I always imagine that Trump spends the evenings with his forehead pressed against the cold glass of an aquarium, talking telepathically to the tormented albino squid in which he has hidden his soul.
Indeed, the whole Republican field offers a bracing challenge to conventional notions of sanity. The current poll leader is Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who happens to be a Seventh Day Adventist and creationist. Creationists have often made me doubt evolution, but probably not in the way they think. His taxation policy is based on Biblical tithing, taking economic pointers from people who had a GDP of one golden calf.
Why do both parties rage against bias in what is actually a laughably servile media? Maybe it’s because the political class have an instinctive contempt for asking the public to decide anything meaningful, such as policy. So their campaigns have to be largely symbolic affairs about hope or hard work or whatever flavour of horseshit is polling well. Most campaign spending goes on advertising (65% of Obama’s “grassroots” campaign of 2012 was media spend) and advertising speaks in symbolism. Thus the parties may actually distrust any kind of rational inquiry, as what they’re saying doesn’t, and can’t, make any sense. Or maybe the reality of what they’re voting on is something nobody dare express. They’re voting on the exact speed of the drift toward a future of armies run by corporations corralling permanently travelling communities of cooks, cleaners and sex workers, as they underbid each other outside the entrances to gated communities to ensure they’re the ones let inside to service the fortunate. A future where the pursuit of happiness will make about as much sense as mounting an expedition to reach the horizon.
Of course it could be that the whole election is a bit like The X Factor, and they put a few lunatics in the early rounds to lure us into something we promised we’d never engage with again. By the end we’ll be back to two corporate glove puppets belting out the same tired standards. And no matter how bad the choice is, we’ll always have a preference. Clinton will be offering an expanded kill list of official enemies, secret corporate courts, and her first speech about Palestine will sound like it was written by the Hulk. A lot of otherwise rational minds will be praying for her to win.