The American presidential primary system is approaching a time/space paradox by doubling in length every election season, so even though it’s well underway, we still have like 4 or maybe 17 months until the two sides actually pick their candidates. But that doesn’t mean you can’t choose yours.
In fact, that is a highly recommended first step:
Make an immediate, angry, intractable choice.
I’m not talking about that thing where you acknowledge that one or more candidates on your side are good but you really like this one in particular. That’s no way to conduct yourself in an American primary season. You need to be furious about it.
For Democrats Who Have Made Their Choice:
This is fun, because it means you get to try out right-wing thinking for a while.
If you’re a Hillary supporter, it’s important to adopt the idea that there is such a thing as one’s turn to be President in a democracy. You should also immediately let go of any distaste for dynasty presidencies. This will be a tricky one if you have a well-earned distaste for the Bushes, but you can avoid troubling cognitive dissonance by flicking your disapproval of dynasty politics on and off as needed. While it requires a lot of mental energy, it does sometimes produce an entertaining strobe effect.
It’s also a good idea to adopt the position that Bernie supporters are just being naive. Essentially, you should take the position that they’re all basically 16-year-olds, and there is literally never any way we will free ourselves from the worst parts of our political system.
For bonus points, even though you would use your eyeballs to melt the face off of someone who suggested to you that one shouldn’t vote for a particular candidate just because she’s a woman, try at least floating the idea that “because she’s a woman and it’s time to have a woman president” is an acceptable reason to vote for Hillary.
If you’re a Bernie supporter, holy biscuits, do you ever get to try out hard-right thinking. First off, you should immediately adopt every last smear the Republicans have ever floated about Hillary’s massive, self-obvious corruption. If you haven’t at least hinted that Clinton murdered Vince Foster with her own hands, you aren’t going hard enough.
But of course the real way you get to go right is by announcing, at full volume and as often as possible, that if Bernie doesn’t win the election you’re either voting Republican or staying home. There’s no better way to get that right-wing rush than to declare that your concerns as a white male (and, let’s be honest, if you’re declaring this, odds are you are a white male) are simply more important than the concerns of people who will need to endure life as a queer person, a woman, a Muslim, a person of color, or heaven forbid some combination of those under Trump, Cruz, or Kasich and a coattail Congress. If you’re really being honest, your issues are just plain smarter than those people who are worried about getting shot by the police or being forced to carry their rapists’ babies to term, right? Yeaaaah, being a conservative feels sweet, doesn’t it? Admit it: Wouldn’t it be fun to talk about this with a group of white men who agree with you while drinking aged scotch at a country club?
For bonus points, spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook telling people that if they aren’t voting for Bernie, the only explanation is that they are fucking idiots who don’t understand the facts and are sheeple who are completely controlled by The Establishment. Because the Ron Paul guys and the Glenn Beck guys certainly were convincing when they tried that argument on you, right?
For Republicans Who Have Made Their Choice
If you’re a white supremacist Trump fan, well, hell, you just could not be having a better year, could you? Sure, Fox News and the GOP have been insinuating that white Christians are under attack by everybody else for years, but it’s been a long time since anyone came right out and said it the way Trump does. It’s nice to not have to figure things out from context clues, isn’t it? Just remember that even though odds are good that you will be able to sucker-punch a guy at a rally and he’ll be the one to get arrested, they aren’t perfect. So try to stick to cheering Mr. Trump’s refreshing directness about wanting to get America back to Klan-style open racism and maybe give a little thought to covering up the “88” tattoos and Stormfront t-shirts. Though not too much thought, because God knows the Media will be bending over backwards to give you fair and balanced treatment. After all, maybe you’re just a huge fan of 1988’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and rainy weather.
If you’re a Trump fan who doesn’t identify as a white supremacist, you’re in a bit of a pickle. Because you certainly don’t want to be called a racist — I’m guessing that you’ve at least once had the thought that being called a racist is the most oppressive form of discrimination — and yet people keep calling Trump supporters racists just because he’s making an open appeal to naked racism. And just because people of color keep getting violently ejected from Trump rallies. And just because people of color are now getting blocked from entering Trump rallies at all just because they’re obviously there to cause trouble. Not that anyone is assuming that because of their race.
Anyway, you need to be on the defensive. You’re going to have to spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook virtual shouting about how you’re not a racist and the Trump campaign is not racist and everyone is welcome as long as they’re not Mexican or Muslim or, um, there to make trouble. A good idea would be to have one of Trump’s other policies to talk about, and I’m going to go ahead and suggest that it should not be the magical 300-foot wall he’ll be building on the border and then declaring bankruptcy when he can’t get Mexico to pay for it.
Also maybe don’t rough up people at the rallies.
But that’s when you’re dealing with liberals. You would think that you don’t have to worry about other Republicans, because Trump is simply saying explicitly what they’ve been hinting at and you’re guy is spanking their guys so hard it’s making steam come out of their ears like opponents of Bugs Bunny. But those right there are the problems. Trump is making people notice how slyly racist GOP/Fox rhetoric has been, which means he’s blowing the game. And he’s spanking their guys so hard that they’re considering Ted Cruz, and Republicans fucking hate Ted Cruz. I wish a pacifist abortionist lesbian mom would jump into GOP nomination race, because right now she’d have a real shot.
You have a lot to worry about at the convention because the establishment Republicans will try to kneecap Trump and give someone else the nomination, so in Cleveland you have to look numerous and you have to look mad enough to never vote again. But for now, Trump is spanking the other guys, so really all you have to do is chant his name and repeat his hat and, for real, try not to beat up so many people at the rallies.
Which is going to be hard, because more and more people are going to be showing up to those rallies kinnnnnd of hoping to beat someone up.
Not that they’re racists.
If you support Ted Cruz, you probably don’t feel like you need advice on how to behave right now. Or ever. You know he’s the only True Conservative, maybe the only True Conservative in the world, maybe in all of history and also something about Jesus and maybe being supported by the SupernaturalPAC of God, so there you are.
But you know, if you’ve been doing the math, that Cruz is not actually winning enough delegates to just take the nomination. Cruz has to either form a coalition with Trump to throw all the outsider votes to just one of them — If that happens, do you really think Trump will back down into running for Vice President? — or pick up the support of establishment Republicans who have grown to fear Trump more than they, no offense, turboloathe Ted Cruz.
To pick up the establishment guys, Cruz needs to look like a reasonable, electable candidate. And that means you’re going to have to help, and it won’t be fun for you. Because the minute Cruz has to start answering questions that aren’t the same 15 he got asked over and over during the debates, he’s going to look a tad… Westborobaptian to the rest of the country.
As you’re so fond of lamenting, a majority of the country is OK with The Gay now, and Cruz doesn’t want to just roll back gay marriage. He has attended a conference organized by Kevin Swanson, who advocates executing gay people. Even people who have a problem with LGBT folks mostly just want them to pretend for the space of Thanksgiving dinner, you know? And most people in the U.S. like Planned Parenthood and tend to feel like what a woman decides about a pregnancy that results from a rape is her own damned business. So you’re going to either have to learn to shut up about that stuff or you are going to have to act like you support Ted as a guy who is into reasonable compromise and, let’s be honest, that is not really in either of your skill sets.
My advice would be to start small: Practice saying “I would be OK with it if Ted Cruz didn’t personally execute gay people” with reasonable sincerity and work your way up from there. Try not to get distracted by the fact that if Ted doesn’t kill people with his own two hands, he’d need to create some sort of government job to take care of — hey. HEY. Stop screaming. This is exactly what I’m talking about.
If you support John Kasich, you’re probably feeling pretty pleased with yourself. You get to seem like a moderate, controlled, and dignified guy — Again, let’s face it: You’re probably a guy — and tut-tut about how degraded our political system has become for some people.
You can also feel pretty happy about your man being in the catbird seat. If the establishment Republicans choose being rat bastards over being chickenshits at the convention, Kasich is an obvious choice at a brokered convention.
So what you have to do right now is shut up. For real, shut up. Because you’ll get to watch Trump and Cruz put on peacock outfits and claw at each other while almost everyone else in the country fails to notice that your man had a plan to beam Judeo-Christian programming to other countries, signed a gag order for rape crisis centers into law, quietly de-funded Planned Parenthood, and has shepherded in some of the most extreme anti-choice legislation in the country. No, not in the north, in the entire country.
But as long as you can keep your yap shut, low-information voters who don’t care for Cruz or Trump and think Sanders is a Bolshevik and Clinton is scary and a woman and probably guilty of something, because why else would they throw all that mud at her, will proudly and stupidly vote for Kasich as The Reasonable Choice. You may want to dive in and argue against any of the other four, but I promise you your absolute best course of action is to shut up. Kasich is not a reasonable Republican. The only person who even came close to being a reasonable Republican in the 2016 race was Jim Webb, who ran as a Democrat and still made sure that everyone knew he’d killed a guy.
What To Consider If You Have Not Made Your Choice
Let’s say you’ve made a key tactical error for American politics and have failed to jump into an immediate choice and are instead watching the debates and primaries and news and speeches. How can you possibly decide? Heaven knows no one will be talking about the candidates’ positions in any real depth. There are a few basic criteria for candidates in the U.S.:
Shouty or Non-Shouty?
It does seem like this is the year for shouty candidates. But that is in part because genuinely shouty candidates tend to force the non-shouty to become shouty. That’s the main thing that happens during the debate process, and it is demoralizing. This election season, only Carson and Kasich succeeded in remaining non-shouty. Carson wasn’t real candidate and Kasich took stock of the extensive shoutiness and decided to hang back and let several of them eat each other, which is the same strategy one might use in a movie that features a rage virus.
Actually, the rage virus analogy holds through a lot of the debate process. You have to watch in horror as person after person gets turned, and, yes, the person who hides in the shed the whole time might emerge to do a triumphant clean-up, but he also might end up impaled on a spear gun or something, so it’s a little risky.
And there’s always a sequel.
Juggernaut or Underdog?
This is really just a matter of personal preference. No matter who your candidate is or how well he or she is doing, you can always spend at least 75% of your time screaming that nobody in the media ever treats your candidate fairly.
Crazy Hair or Boring Hair?
This is one to really look at. Obviously boring hair is the safe political choice, but there’s no denying that the right kind of crazy hair — be it Prom Queen, Mad Scientist, or Giant Flesh-Colored Lip on the Side of One’s Head — can endow a candidate with almost supernatural polling performance. It’s not a thing that science can explain yet, and we still haven’t figured out how Ted Cruz’s bold-yet-boring back-to-Brylcreem look will fall on the scale. But it’s an important thing to think about.
Robot or Gaffer?
Obviously a robotic candidate is going to have a more polished (heh) presentational style, but don’t count out the sheer joy of a gaffe-machine candidate. (Robots that start glitching out and issuing gaffes can be pretty fun too.) It used to be that robotically rehearsed candidates were considered to have a distinct, almost inevitable advantage, but recent events have shown that candidates that speak in nothing but gaffes may be the most powerful of all.
Ordinary Person or Sorcerer?
One of the 2016 candidates is a sorcerer. No, it’s not that one. But you should definitely think about all the implications and make your choice.