Election Anxiety and American Polarization: Why It Feels Like the Future Hangs in the Balance

Trump, like others before him, has incessantly echoed calls for a return to a mythic past. This rhetoric is only effective if enough people are ignorant of both American history and the present reality. But this predisposition to alternative realities is not purely a result of a lack of education, it also requires that people have already been mentally conditioned into believing particular political narratives.

Thankfully for Trump and many Republicans, this feat was achieved with the advent of Fox News and right wing media bubbles. Unfortunately, for the rest of us this meant that political rhetoric was being eroded down into baseless claims and emotional appeals rather than substantive discourse.

The damage Fox News and the alt-right has inflicted on the United States is literally marching down the streets, in two very different and distinct ways.

On one hand you have those who have been protesting peacefully against police brutality and the execution of American citizens denied due process at the hands of poorly trained, militarized, and racist law enforcement officers. The walls of moms and veterans in Portland that just wanted to protect their fellow citizens from police brutality and excessive force. The millions of young people who have organized and made their voices heard.

The other group that has taken to the streets have been Trump supporters, right-wing extremists, and hate groups such as the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Boys, Oath Keepers, 3%’ers, and others. Many of the members that belong to the groups listed above are exceedingly violent, antigovernment, and heavily armed. The rest are ordinary folk who have been mentally conditioned that they live in an alternate reality from right wing radio and television bubbles for the past 30+ years.

At the apex of this right wing bubble came Donald J. Trump and his timely bid for the presidency. The bulk of his political campaign and administration was based solely on the slogan: “Make America Great Again” aka the infamous “MAGA.” At its heart this rhetorical dog-whistle is a fascist movement. The authoritarian aspects of some people’s personalities combined with the ready scapegoats offered by Trump and his demagoguery has led people to fall into supporting authoritarian, fascist rhetoric, behavior, and ideology.

The dog-whistling has turned into conspiracy and disdain for our most crucial institutions, such as higher education, the free press, and the scientific community. Trump’s reliance on white supremacy and authoritarian rhetoric to rile up his base has coaxed ordinary people into a blind rage based on literal propaganda and fake news that is peddled not only by their own media of choice, but their president as well.

Not only does President Trump continue to push baseless conspiracy theories, propaganda, and fake news, he encourages other Republican representatives and appointees to do the same. Congressman Matt Gaetz from Florida, one of Trump’s most fervent supporters, has blown dog-whistles of his own.

We have extremists who value self above community, bullying above truth, and ego over expertise. The people that are actively obstructing democracy simultaneously hold the warped belief that their actions are somehow patriotic. The blame again goes back to the rhetoric from right wing media that has normalized such paradoxical ideology.

This election is a choice between a world where facts matter and a world where they don’t.

It’s entirely okay to not be okay right now, but please remember that worrying about something will not change the outcome. Take direct action instead, start organizing now for your next local elections. If you want to run for office, great, start working on your platform. Support your friends in their passions and small business.

If you want to continue arguing with bots and morons on social media, have at it. Just know that it probably isn’t helping the cause or your own mental health.

Do the things that are delightful to you in this time of uncertainty and chaos.

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