You ought to know before we get started: This time, I’m taking sides.
The last time I did one of these, it was in a spirit of optimism and play. Politics is a serious business — and political engagement a solemn duty — and the differences between the two parties are and always have been substantive. But whatever the disagreements on policy, there was always a tacit accord on adherence to social and political norms.
And in making my appeal to get out and vote your conscience, I had the luxury of being nonpartisan; I may not have liked your guy, but no matter the outcome — no matter who ended up in the White House — we could at least be pretty sure that our Republic would endure.
That is no longer the case.
And that is a frankly terrifying state of affairs.
It would be unfair to say that this election has unleashed a new ugliness in American public life. It has always been there, simmering beneath the surface; but we have had the restraint, or the common decency, to keep it tamped down — at least publicly; to act as if we are better than we are, to pitch our campaigns toward what Lincoln called ”the better Angels of our nature” rather than to our lizard-brain fears and hates. But in this election cycle, the lid has come off our national Id, fully exposing the toxic brew of resentment, clannishness, denial, and outright nihilism bubbling there.
Millions of Americans have lined up behind a candidate who is not just a political nightmare, but a genuinely awful human being; whose policies will actively harm many millions of other Americans — the marginalized, the poor, racial and religious minorities, women, LGBT people; whose profound ignorance or disinterest will make him a puppet for the worst elements of a frankly predatory political class; whose candidacy has emboldened the worst, fringiest elements of the American political scene — your Birchers, your Klansmen, your actual fucking Nazis — to scuttle forth from the spider-holes to which they had so righteously been banished and totter into the spotlight, ready for their close-ups; who lies as easily as breathing, so frequently and pervasively that the very concept of objective truth seems to lose meaning in his presence; who has whipped up a frenzy in his supporters that has already spilled over into acts of violence and harassment against journalists, against immigrants, against women, against Jews, against people of color; who has normalized behaviors and rhetoric that were once kept out of our mainstream political discourse, and for damned good reason.
This is how fascism comes to America.
And that’s when I — and you, and all of us — have to choose a side.
We have reached a point where politics is no longer a subject on which we can agree to disagree. A pluralistic society cannot, must not tolerate fascism, because fascism is inherently anti-pluralistic. You can’t give a fascist a seat at the table, because they don’t want a seat at the table — they want the table, and all the furniture, and the house, too. We don’t give equal time to white nationalism because we know where white nationalism leads. We’ve seen this movie.
America has very real problems. But we will not solve them by making a deal with the Devil. Because deals with the Devil never, ever end the way you think they will, the way you want them to, with you holding the Devil’s leash.
So no, this is not a nonpartisan mixtape. Because this election is not just a political choice. It is, in a very real sense, a moral test.
Look, I’m not changing anyone’s mind here. I know that. No one’s going to flip at the last minute, no matter how passionately I argue my case. They’ve stood by their guy even as the revelations have piled up about his repellent personal history, his grotesque misogyny, his ignorance of even the basic functions of government, his paranoia and vindictiveness and megalomania, his manifest unfitness for elected office. The sunk-cost fallacy is going to keep most of them from changing their votes; they’re in deep, and to claw their way back to reason would be too traumatic now. They’re on this train until the inevitable trainwreck. And the trainwreck is inevitable for them, one way or another, even if they win.
But a whole lot of other people will get hurt in that wreck. And we can’t let that happen.
Thing is, they know they haven’t got the numbers. That’s why they’re trying to suppress the vote, ginning up narratives about election fraud, putting in place new restrictions on the state level that are laser-targeted to affect poor people, black people, marginalized people. That’s why they’re mobilizing with disinformation and intimidation to keep us away from the polls.
Don’t let them stop you. Don’t let them scare you.
Our fathers and grandfathers had their chance to beat back fascism.
And now it’s our turn.
And a squeaker won’t do it. We need a landslide. We need a mandate. We need a clear message that this is not who we are as a nation. We need a repudiation of a toxic ideology, one that sends the alt-right scurrying back into their dark corners to impotently nurse their grievances.
We need, in short, to make racists afraid again.
If America is to be saved in this election, it will be so saved by the Black women who are the organizers, the rabble-rousers, the conscience of our nation, the backbone of the Democratic party. This mix is for them, with love and gratitude. And for all of us, with hope and courage.
It’s not about Right or Left.
It’s about right and wrong.
Be brave; be strong; be safe. And maybe on Wednesday, when this is over, we can recommence the work of making this a nation fit for all people of good will.
Download the full 2016 mix (1:18:37)
Download the full 2012 mix (1:20:51)
Read the 2012 essay here.
White Funeral — Pray For Rain
Talkin’ bout a Revolution — Tracy Chapman
Elected — Alice Cooper
Right and Wrong — Joe Jackson
Free To Decide (edit) — Cranberries
Freedom Overspill — Steve Winwood
(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing (edit) — Heaven 17
America (Second Amendment) — The Nice
Freewill — Rush
America Is Waiting — Brian Eno and David Byrne
Why We Build the Wall — AnaÁ¯s Mitchell featuring Greg Brown
White & Lazy — The Replacements
Your Racist Friend — They Might Be Giants
Blk Girl Soldier — Jamila Woods
Left of Center — Suzanne Vega
Rob the Prez-o-Dent — That Handsome Devil
Blinded by the Darkness — T Bone Burnett
A Few Words in Defense of Our Country — Randy Newman
Choose You — The Deadbeats
My Country — Midnight Oil
No More Stalins, No More Hitlers — William S. Burroughs with John Cale
The Trouble With Normal (homebrew edit) — Bruce Cockburn