Democrats Unveil the Most Cynical Campaign in American History

With the Democratic convention history and the Republican one lurching toward ending, excitement among voters ranges from lukewarm to semi-lukewarm. Political cynicism scrapes at the nation like a sleeping man being shaved by a drunk barber.

Both conventions make one thing clear as a slug trail — the Democratic candidate is Not Trump. Just vote for the one named “Trump” or the one named “Not Trump.” It’s easy. In fact 60 percent of Biden voters say their support is more against Trump than for Joe. It’s easy to imagine most of the rest will vote Biden confused after the convention, thinking Obama is running again.

Meanwhile Trump is Trump is Trump. Seriously, if any one is not sure what they think of the guy by now they need to be exposed to 24 hours of Twitter with their eyes pegged open like the dude in A Clockwork Orange. If you liked the last four years, here comes more of it.

It gets more complicated on the other side. See, the Not Trump candidate is an old white man, but don’t pay attention to age, gender, or race even though he’s the same as Trump. The Democratic vice presidential candidate is younger, blacker, and less male so in her case age, gender, and race are very important. Kamala Harris exists as a lure to get a few depressed prog voters to bite on Ole’ Man Not Trump. That primary voters rejected her and five other decent women candidates illustrates the cynicism: it didn’t matter, any black woman without too much political baggage as VP would have done.

For four years Trump delivered daily steaming piles of exactly what he said he would. You got what you voted for, no better no worse, like the all-you-can-eat buffet that’s mostly carbs. The base figured out early most of it was just rhetoric to inflame the libs, while the liberals took the bait every time.

Democrats on the other hand chummed the water with talk about progressive issues like free healthcare, free college, college loan forgiveness, you know, the Bernie stuff. Despite Bernie coming in second place twice in two primary campaigns his ideas are going to have as much influence on Biden as they are on Trump. Same for all the others hyped along the way to keep everyone’s attention, Beto, Pete, Stacey Adams, AOC, and Warren. Nothing new; the sideshow acts always were used to bring the rubes into the tent and once they paid their money it didn’t matter if the Bearded Lady was a fraud.

That the Democrats featured John “I Lost the Primary, Too” Kasich, the abandoned Colin “Liar” Powell, John “Sell Out” Kerry, and the ghostly Widow McCain at the convention made it clear how little the party really cares about the POC and young people it purported to groom for the last years. They ran out of old Democrats to feature and had to resort to bringing in old Republicans. Viewers might have expected the whole thing to shift into an infomercial for reverse mortgages at some point featuring hologrammed spokesman John McCain himself. Nonetheless, you better vote Not Trump even knowing you’re being played for the sucker.

The Republicans on the other hand crafted raised middle finger performance art from their speakers. You got BLM? We got the ultimate angry white people, Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who aimed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis.

As for election strategy, both campaigns seem to center on… the post office. Dems need you to believe the greatest election conspiracy in the history of democracy is unfolding inside the place. Yes, that post office, where grandpa buys those things he calls stamps. That place will likely end democracy because this election will have so many mail-in ballots and Democrats believe all those mail-in ballots will be for them and each requires its own blue corner mailbox. So Trump wins because Republicans will vote by magic laser beam or something. Diabolical plans which can be thwarted simply by voting early, or in person, are kinda weak. Kinda like Hillary in her convention speech cynically telling people winning the Electoral College was some kind of sneaky trick on Trump’s part.

What neither side will be talking about is President Bone Spurs. Yep, his pug faced rich daddy got a doctor to pretend little Donny had bone spurs and so was exempt from dying in Vietnam. Well, fuggedaboutit.

See when Uncle Joey was younger he too did not go to Vietnam. Joey got five student draft deferments during the Vietnam War, same as Trump. And in 1968, when his Joe’s student status was wrapping up, he was medically reclassified as “not available” due to asthma. Asthma can be nasty stuff or it can be a bone spur. In his autobiography Joe described his active youth as a lifeguard and high school football player, and lied (note to fact-checkers doing their research: Biden lies are called gaffes) about being on the University of Delaware football team. His vice presidential physicals mention multiple aneurysms. Asthma, no.

#MeToo was fun for awhile too, but Biden’s hands-on treatment of women means it’s now a no-touch zone. Google “Anita Hill.” Same for Tara Reade, who has been telling people since the 1990’s Biden stuck his fingers in her private place unwanted, which is the same as Trump “grabbing them by the pussy.” This will all get a little harder to pretend away when CNN spends the autumn replaying Kamala being fierce and nasty pounding #BelieveWomen into Americans’ skulls and tearing into Brett Kavanaugh for being a high school kid but Dems pulled it off with Bill Clinton and can do it again.

Corruption used to be a safe one to use against Trump. Unfortunately, after leaving the Obama White House, Joe and his wife made more than $15 million, mostly via sweetheart book deals. In fact, they made nearly twice as much in 2017 as they did in the previous 19 years combined. The University of Pennsylvania gave Joe $775,000 to teach, and then was nice enough to offer him indefinite leave of absence from actually teaching. And sure, Biden charges the Secret Service $2,200 a month rent for a cottage on his property so they can protect him which sounds like Trump. And there’s all that business with Joe and his son in Ukraine, and Joe and his son in China. Best to talk about Beau, the dead soldier son.

And even though it was individual state governors, mostly Democrats, who overreacted and closed your schools, threw you out of work, closed the bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, stores, beaches, gyms, and churches, and banned football, graduations, funerals, last visits with terminally ill loved ones, fathers at their child’s birth, and interstate travel while allowing BLM protests, the Dems need everyone to blame Trump.

In contrast to the shoulder shrug stance of yeah, it’s me, suck on it, presented by Trump, the 2020 Democratic vision is the most cynical of any in American history. It says “we have no vision” but you all need to square up and vote for a mediocre candidate with a AI-chosen running mate anyway. No real details of betterment through policy, no hope and change, no American dream, but a threat. As Michelle Obama said at the convention “If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can.” Her hubby echoed the dark theme the next evening, claiming democracy itself is imperiled. In other words, vote for us or else. Strange Trump is ending democracy but we can somehow just vote no on that and it’s over. Whatever.

We’re about to really find out whether anyone would be better than Trump. The Dems dangled Bernie and Warren then delivered a candidate from when Luke married Laura in the same voice a waitress uses to say “Um, sorry, out of Coke. Diet Mr. Pibb OK?” Joe Biden is so old he’s lost the race for president twice already and comes off like grandpa putting himself out there for one last fling after Grandma Obama passed away. But think how hard this all was; the Democrats only had four years and couldn’t even get rid of Hillary in that time.

But stay positive, Democrats. Despite the many challenges, Not Trump holds four clean aces: 1) maybe Obama will come back for policy cameos; 2) Joe will probably die in office and Democrats will finally check the box with a backdoored first woman president; 3) Despite drooling on his tie, Joe’s cognitive decline is no worse than Trump’s and 4) all together now, he’s Not Trump. The question is will Not be enough?

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.

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Peter Van Buren

Author of Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan and WE MEANT WELL: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts + Minds of the Iraqi People