Austin at Large: If We Make It ’Til November
How noisy, chaotic, incoherent, and unpleasant can this election cycle get?
At the beginning of August, I used this space to encourage y'all to chill out and not freak out about the prospect of Trumpageddon and instead be buoyed by the good and improving chances of a cleansing Bluenami. Two WTF months later, that advice no longer seems so comforting, even to me. Not that next month's contests have shifted that much – Democratic odds from Biden on down have, if anything, improved. But the prospect of four more weeks, let alone four more years, of President Apesh*t and his scat-flinging fans and stans is enough to make one convulse, especially when those four weeks include the tragic travesty of saying farewell to not just one of the icons of American jurisprudence, but to a disturbingly large part of her legacy.
Yes, our lives and rights and planet are all on the line, and you are right to be disgusted by our current circumstance. I hope that makes it easier for most of us to do what's necessary to change the regime, but anxiety, depression, trauma – it's all real. Take care of yourselves so we can take care of business. (Lots of good advice here in the Stress Issue!)
Drop It Like It's Hot
This is the earliest we've run our endorsements that I can remember; we usually time them for the beginning of early voting, which is itself a week earlier than normal this year under Gov. Greg Abbott's COVID-related election orders. But with tens of thousands of mail ballots being requested, many of you may have yours already, and the earlier you return them, the better. We'll keep you informed on the latest election shenanigans in case things change, which they might.
But to be honest, you probably didn't need to wait for us anyway, because our endorsements are in line with others this cycle and with our long-standing priorities. We want City Hall to stay the course, because we support the work it's doing. We want Austin ISD to completely change direction, because it is at a historic low point of credibility, trust, and influence, and our young people deserve better. We have always wanted the region to invest more in mobility alternatives to driving alone. And we think voting Democratic in partisan races is the only real option, given the scope of GOP failure and perfidy, although we fully intend to hold our new blue leaders accountable.
This all seems inevitable to me, given the intense pressure the body politic is under from all sides. The status quo is a hot mess and the future it augurs is a nightmare. The City Council has stretched itself toward big structural change because they are currently the only exponent of Austinites' aspirations and energies, and thus incumbents who've taken positions that were radioactive back in 2014, when we debuted the 10-1 council, are now running for reelection with not much sweat. The likelihood of major Democratic gains at the state level is near 100% – it's just a question of how far they go – because other Texans want some of that change for themselves. None of this is all that speculative.
But we still need to get across the finish line in November, and the only thing passing as "strategy" from those who oppose us is to make these last four weeks as noisy, chaotic, incoherent, and unpleasant as possible. That's not a bad strategic position to take when you're the challenger – harassment, asymmetrical warfare, guerrilla action, whatever you want to call it, are classically the province of the Rebel Alliance, not the evil Empire. For it to be the de facto campaign plan of the people in power is very unusual and instructive.
Why Are You Yelling?
I mean more here than the usual disinformation and clumsy, though sadly often effective, deployment of the weapons of voter suppression. Those are old news, and none of it is taking anybody by surprise. And our president is, well, apesh*t, so him acting as he did in this week's "debate" is also unsurprising. His goal is to project dominance and force everyone to pay attention to him, and it worked.
Or it would have worked, if the race were closer and he hadn't overcooked everyone's grits about three years ago. The striking thing about anti-progressive messaging in this cycle is how completely over-the-top it has become. Sure, we know how it evolved that way – Fox News, talk radio, Trump's Twitter, closed Facebook loops, and other machines that generate lots of heat and not much light. The tenor of political dialogue has been set on "fulminate" and cranked up to 11 for a while.
But that all evolved when the MAGAs and their kin were in opposition to the Black President, and the Democrat before him, and their Nasty Women friends and relations. They're in charge now! Why are they yelling? Do they not have anything they can say about their tenure in office, or their plans for the future, that isn't saturated in performative anger? I thought it was the left that, in their view, was unreasonable and made people uncomfortable. If Donald Trump or Sid Miller or Allan West sat next to you on the bus, you would change seats.
By contrast, the Texas Democrats who gathered at their annual (now virtual, of course) Johnson-Jordan Dinner were anything but somber and fearful, even amid the frightening and heartbreaking news of every day. That news tells its own story; nobody needs to be educated on why 2020 is terrible, and things can only get better. So the speakers – including Hillary Clinton and Pete Buttigieg, along with Hasan Minhaj (ironically, the comedian was the most downbeat of all who spoke) – didn't need to linger on the disaster porn. Instead, they got to talk about all the improvements on the way if we keep up the hard work and make it through November. It worked to cheer me up, at least; I guess that means my advice from August still holds true. We can do this.