There were various subjects we covered but once I had expressed that I was decidedly in the Obama camp, but my sister and mother pushed back to ask why I wanted to vote FOR Obama for any reason other than "He's not Hillary."* And the French man we were with, Pat, was similarly interested.
Where I eventually went, in an unprepared and messy live dialog sort of way, came down to a conviction I had at the time that Obama could solve one major problem for me:
After 8 years of a President who regularly stumbled over words and sounded like a damn fool, one thing Obama could do was repair our image and relationship with the rest of the world. He had already gotten remarkable coverage for his measured behavior, thoughtful speeches, and ability to sit and listen to various groups within and without his usual 'constituency.' This was a prestige Clinton was never able to overcome -- the impression that she 'listened.'**
That moment solidified for me a political expectation, as any argument does. When you speak, you're merely re-enforcing your own biases. In a large way one of my major motivations as a United States citizen is to sell the concept to the rest of the world that we're not just an evil empire, but a collaborator, colleague, teammate. That our leadership pays off dividends to the stability and prosperity of the globe.
Obama did a stellar job with that expectation. He wasn't without faults even there; by the time he left, Israel was pretty frustrated with him, Russia wouldn't talk to him, and there were other little kerfuffles. But these things all existed within the realm of what you would expect from any sort of organizational behavior and its inherent conflicts, especially such a large and uncontrolled / uncommanded organization as THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD ORDER.
Meanwhile yeah, okay, he pissed off the increasingly rightwing Israeli government, but look at what he did with Cuba, Iran, and even Pakistan. Mission accomplished in my view, without the banners that Bush prematurely unfurled on a flight deck signifying the end of a quagmire we're still stuck in a decade after he called it fait accompli.
Also, to be perfectly honest, your country usually looks and feels respectful and dignified when it's run by people who can speak in complete, complex sentences with correct grammar and usage.
But for all the politics and debate, values and expectations, opinions and ideologies, admittedly one of the hardest things for me about the fact of people actually putting pen to paper to fill in the bubble next to the names of people like Dubya and The Donald is that issue with the whole 'speaking in full sentences' thing. For Dubya, I can admit, I sort of grokked the, "This guy sounds like someone I could have a beer with." But please, watch any consecutive three minutes straight of Cheetoh Mussolini speak and tell me, would YOU have a beer with a guy talking like that? The person who drinks and sounds like that is the person who does it on the street at 11am and has a smell that sticks to the air, not the dude who hangs at a mahogany interior and discusses sports.
A loss of prestige and dignity, however, is repairable. The hope, at the very least, was that even as the rent-seeker administration continually gutted domestic services in the name of 'small government', at least 'conscientious' Republicans in Congress would keep the motherfucker from ruining our fucking alliances.
But then the motherfucker dropped the TPP. I know left-of-center people are fine with that -- because the left can have it's dumbassery, too -- but it was literally decades of work worth trillions of dollars of value that the United States just up and left in return for fuck all. FUCK. ALL. That value and that deal still exists -- it's being recrafted as we speak, with other parties engaged, now with new leverage and new opportunities. For all the problems of the TPP left and rightwing populists like to complain about, any actually professional review of the 'deal' indicates that like usual, the United States got the best part of it: the cheapest costs, the most leverage, and the biggest gains. And the reason why the United States USED to always get away with murder in these deals is because the United States is big, vast, powerful, and in control.
The thing is that dropping something like the TPP isn't just a temporary setback. It has cascade effects. Further trade deals with basically anyone will have the additional wariness of, "Well, maybe today the United States government is with us, but next year they might elect a leader suffering from narcissist personality disorder and the entire fucking thing will just vanish overnight." It's in fact that dependability of the United States to be a consistent, careful steward of complex dealmaking which is why 'populists' don't, or at least didn't, and definitely in either case shouldn't, have control of things. And that is their main complaint: "Nobody asked me!" Yeah, but nobody asked you because you're a FUCKING. MORON. The reason why the federal government sometimes does things the 'people' doesn't like is because the federal government is run by people in the profession known as 'government.' Are you in that profession? Then you're not a professional. Fuck off. These people are voted in to represent your interests -- not meet your demands.
Anyway, dropping the TPP happened too fast. It was before Congress even had time to work with the dumbass, and Congress still hasn't gotten its footing on, "So how far do we let homeboy go before he starts threatening our very livelihood?" I don't foresee any movement there unless a massive and disruptive sweep of Congress happens in the 2018 elections -- not guaranteed to happen, but a possibility. Such a possibility isn't just about Democrats taking control and now heading operations; it also may get Republicans to break their silence once they realize their job is at risk.
However, putting the 'Republicans' to the side for a moment, it doesn't matter anymore. The last two weeks means it's too late. Donald J. Trump, con-artist billionaire from Queens, NY, has officially vetoed Pax Americana.
When he traveled to Europe and acted like a dick to EU leadership, that was fodder for the press, but what wasn't talked about was what was talked about. While the press was sharing gifs of 45 shouldering aside Filip Vujanović, what wasn't reported was all the actual stateshood talk that came beforehand. He did his trip and looked every much the fool Americans should know to expect, having had to look at the clown visage of the fucker's face for TWO GODDAMNED YEARS NOW, but the real news was how, immediately after he left, Merkel went straight to Germany and said, "Yeah we're gonna have to stop relying on the US now." France quick to follow afterward. And the cascade of various world leaders since.
That damage is irreparable. But then idiotmonger turns around and announces in the Rose Garden, Thursday, that he's also going to drop the Paris Accord -- against all the advice of pretty much every head of an industry with a market cap worth considering and any evidence of future growth, the admonishment of pretty much literally every single head of state he met, the fucking POPE, and even his technically more urbane and wary family members. From what I can glean, the people he listened to in this decision is a group of maybe a half dozen assholes none of which provide any measurable value to any industry, country, or culture.
Whether the Paris Accord is meaningful for confronting climate change is a more complicated discussion than I can fit into this area. Fundamentally, it's mostly the first stop in dismantling the tragedy of the commons. There's also interesting debate to be had regarding how his step away from the Paris Accord reduces the influence of the federal government in general and executive branch in particular, and enables cities, states, and local interest groups to take up the mantel of change without dependence on government. The Paris Accord can't even be walked out on until 20-fucking-20, turning that year's election into a referendum in addition to the shitshow it promises to be; and time will tell whether the US's exit will have any effect on other countries bailing. Certainly the most concrete issue I see not being met by municipalities and Bloomberg-style billionaire philanthropists are the US's agreements to fund and support green tech developments in third world countries, due to a tune of $2billion.
To be clear, the environment is a much stronger existential threat to our livelihoods than Pax Americana. Nevertheless, the environment is SUCH an existential threat that the dominoes are falling pretty quickly right now with regard to humanity getting its shit together. I'm ... pessimistic. I think we're going to see the loss of billions of human lives before we stabilize. But I'm not pessimistic to think that humanity will be wiped out entirely. I don't have any good reason why. It's just that we tend to be really smart when necessary.
But the end of Pax Americana is devastating to me. It will never be reclaimed, particularly because it is, like any sort of 'world order', as much a fiction countries tell themselves than anything. Pax Americana is currency: everyone followed it because they agreed to, believed it because they wanted to, and in the end knew it could end whenever. And now it has. There's no reason for countries to depend on us anymore. We not only elected a fucking dumbass who can't speak in complete sentences, we've shown a HABIT of it; and we've not only created a habit of it, but we allow that clown to undo years, decades of hard work done by millions of people for no rational reason, in order to serve literally zero tangible benefit to us.
There is not one single thing whatsoever that the United States gains from dropping TPP, pissing off EU leadership, and exiting the Paris Accord. There is NOTHING the US tangibly gains. There's little to nothing the US intangibly gains. There's no 'better deal', in any case. We always got the best deals. Now we will never have that leverage again. It's gone. He threw it in the fucking dumpster fire that is his shithole ego.***
But the things we lose are innumerable. We lose our place at several tables. We lose leverage at the tables we remain. We lose trust. We lose influence. And we cede to other countries influence that only sounds nice and responsible if you're an unskilled, undereducated coal miner in West Virginia -- why NOT let China and Russia take charge of things if they're so willing? It's, you know, not like they have particularly harrowing examples of modern day human rights violations.
We still have the largest economy and the largest military. The economy will fall behind China soon. The military is barely more effective than an Internet connection and a few rogue coders at this point. The US had already fallen behind as 'number one' in most social and quality of life measures. There's little left to be leaders in anymore.
There was a joke that passed around the Social Networks in November of 2016: "Well we had Dubya and got our first black president, so imagine what we'll get after 45!" The problem is that there will be no Obama to repair the damage because it's no longer about any individual leadership. What 45 has done is not about the one man but the role of the United States in the world stage as a whole.
* At the time I did, in fact, have a Never Hillary sort of perspective. My belief at the time was that it is bad symbolism for American democracy as a whole to go Bush Clinton Bush Clinton. When I mentioned such, Pat's face lit up and he got more passionate than any other point during the discussion and said, "I agree!" However my stance is not the same today.
My belief today is that you should always vote FOR the best candidate, not AGAINST candidates you don't like. People voting AGAINST Clinton is how we ended up with Trump: if they voted FOR the best candidate, swing voters in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would have voted for actually capable and intelligent leadership such as Evan McMullin and, arguably, silly but non-threatening candidates like Gary Johnson and Bernie Sanders.
Also, at the time, the stakes were a LOT lower. Any three major candidates that year, Clinton, Obama, and McCain, were all perfectly reasonable candidates for the highest office. It wasn't until McCain took on Palin that voting took on the patina of threat.
** I want to state for the record I was wrong. 25 years of anti-Clinton propaganda had caused me to accept lies. It wasn't until I read about Clinton's colleagues in the Congress and everywhere else that I learned that she has a stellar reputation for listening -- she just has a tendency to not play ball with the media in general, which ultimately sank her, and the rightwing media in particular, which heightened the narrative of her dismissiveness to pure ideological requisite to hate her.
*** "But it's Obama's fault because he joined the Paris Accord without the consent of Congress! If Congress had joined by rule of law the executive branch couldn't make that decision!" Memo to fucktards: Obama and 'consent of Congress' never belonged in the same sentence together because of this little issue regarding rampant racism and unprecedented obstruction.