Aesthetic Drift #13 by Brett Pribble
Young Kid in a Voting Booth
Alone in my college apartment, satirical versions of Al Gore and George Bush reenacted the first debate of the 2000 election on Saturday Night Live. Will Farrell played Bush as a clueless redneck, and Darrel Hammond’s take on Gore was rude and robotic.
This didn’t seem like satire because both politicians seemed like total douchebags in real life as well. I agreed with Gore on many issues, but I didn’t like him. Voting for such an establishment politician felt like a betrayal of myself, of democracy itself. The thought of voting for him unnerved me.
I wasn’t going to compromise my values. It was the system’s fault for putting me in an impossible situation, for providing me with only bad options.
Bush frightened me, but I wondered if his presidency would really be so much worse than Gore’s. They both answered to corporate masters. The difference in their tenure would be minor, and it would certainly be minor compared to me alienating myself from myself by compromising my values and voting for someone I didn’t believe in one hundred percent, or even 65 percent.
It wasn’t long before I discovered Ralph Nader. Now, here was a dude I could get behind. I agreed with him on every issue, and he wasn’t beholden to corporate money.
I knew that he wouldn’t win, but if America was ever going to develop a third party it had to start somewhere. Shaking from anxiety as I entered the voting booth, I marked my vote next to his name.
That evening Bush declared victory. Gore’s campaign contested the results but would ultimately be rebuffed when the Supreme Court ended the election with the Bush vs. Gore decision. Somehow that outcome already felt inevitable, though. I watched a Bush rally on TV in horror as his supporters pumped their hands in victory. It was surreal to see crowds of people cheering for Bush, so surreal that everything seemed to lose color, and I felt like I was watching the German acolytes in Triumph of the Will. My stomach swirled and my heart ached. Something horrible was to come. I could feel it.
In the coming years, President Bush exceeded my darkest fears. We invaded Iraq without any real evidence, killed thousands of Iraqi civilians, and created a civil war that would not only wreck havoc on that nation but the entire Middle East. Bush doled out massive tax cuts to billionaires and created massive income inequality. Eventually, the economy plunged into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
I was ashamed to call myself an American, and I loathed the way the rest of the world viewed Americans: idiot cowboys full of greed and guns. It didn’t occur to me when I voted for president that I was also voting for our chief ambassador of American Democracy. When my trip to Europe in 2008 felt like an apology tour. Anytime I told people I was from the states, they’d ask, “Why Americans love Bush?”
When Bush pushed for a constitutional amendment declaring marriage between one man and one woman, it stung to watch my gay friends vilified. Would such a disgraceful law ever have been voted on had Gore won the election? I was angry with Bush, but I was angrier with myself.
I’ve never regretted a decision in my life more than my decision to vote for Nader. The silver lining to me has been the belief that Americans would never make this idealistic mistake again. Just because a democrat was part of a political machine wouldn’t mean we would allow our country to be destroyed by a half-witted lunatic. The presidency was bigger than me feeling pure. It was old people getting their social security checks and maintaining a positive image to our allies abroad. It was a lot of things that at twenty years of age I didn’t understand:
- Supreme Court Appointments
- Unemployment benefits
- Women’s reproductive rights
- The environment
We’d learned our lesson from what happened sixteen years ago, though, or so I thought. We would never let such a reckless person run our country again just to maintain idealistic purity. We wouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. I believed this. But now, months away from the November election, I hear my fellow liberals saying they aren’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton. I thought we’d learned our lesson after Nader, but just as I was wrong about not voting for Gore, I was apparently wrong about our collective memory. I also thought I’d never see a politician as terrible as Bush again in my life time, but Trump makes him look like a competent saint.
I’d take a ride in a van with someone who just escaped from a mental hospital just for kicks, swim with sharks on a dare. Hell, I wrote a positive review for a Satanic coloring book for children. But I’d never vote for Trump. For the right amount of money, I’d even suck his tiny fingers, but I would never vote for him, either directly or indirectly (by not voting for Clinton).
We can’t let Incompetent Asshole Part 2 play in theaters across the country. We suffered through this movie for eight long years under Bush. Don’t let the previews fool you. The first film was awful and the sequel is going to be much worse. Vote for Hillary, and help start the next revolution by voting for real liberal in House, Senate, and local races. You can’t fix the system by starting with the top. There needs to be reliable politicians in place for the President to govern. Bernie is gonna have a big voice in 2017, and Hillary might actually list to him. Trump only listens to the sound of himself tweeting out racist bullshit.
When he’s not looking for his keys, Brett Pribble teaches creative writing in Orlando, Florida. His work has previously appeared in Stirring: A Literary Collection, Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, and 10,000 Tons of Black Ink. He spends his nights trying to understand the divinity of his third nipple.