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Are We a Shithole Country?

On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Toure discuss Bob Woodward’s bombshell interview with Trump, voter apathy and the decline of American leadership in the world.

  • This week, Bob Woodward dropped audio of an interview he conducted with Trump for his new book, “Rage.” It was, well, enraging –– for several reasons.

  • About 100 million eligible voters didn’t show up to polls in 2016. WTF?

  • In the absence of meaningful leadership on the world stage, is America regressing to third-world country status?

As if 2020 couldn’t get more absurd, on Wednesday Donald Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

To be clear, the Nobel committee accepts nominations from any Norwegian head of state, national politicians, university professors, and directors of foreign policy institutes as well as past award winners. Trump’s nominator was, unsurprisingly, a far-right politician.

“The hatred, the divide, the racism, the xenophobia –– this man stands for everything that’s the opposite of the Nobel Peace Prize. To even think of him being nominated for this award, which has meant something throughout history––”

Danielle cuts in: “So did the presidency, until fucking recently.”

What happens when America loses its status in the world? As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country and the rest of the world moves on, we’re looking at it. And it’s terrifying.

Episode Highlights –– Vote or Die

Lordy, there were tapes

If the depth of Trump’s depravity wasn’t already apparent, it was thrown into stark relief this week with the release of audio recordings Bob Woodward made of interviews with the president for his new book, “Rage.”

“Aptly titled after me,” Danielle says.

“On tape, Trump explicitly says that he knew just how dangerous the coronavirus was, he knew it can kill old people as well as young people, that it’s fucking airborne ... and a national security threat paramount to the 1918 Spanish fucking flu. But Woodward decided to hold on to that fucking information, so he could sell a book.”

She points out that when Woodward interviewed Trump in February, a few thousand Americans had died. Now, the death toll is nearly 200,000.

Toure wonders why Danielle is critiquing a journalist and not Trump.

“Because the media is the reason we are here in the first fucking place,” she replies. “Had they done their job in 2015 and not cared about ratings and saw that Hitler was on his way, we wouldn't be.”

The unmasked and uninformed 40%

Toure thinks that if Bob Woodward had released his tapes in March or April, it wouldn’t have changed the trajectory of how the government responded to COVID.

“Are you insane?” asks Danielle. “Trump had told us during that time to inject bleach, to take hydroxychloroquine, to not wear a mask.”

“And we knew better,” Toure responds.

Democrats knew,” Danielle clarifies, pointing out that the rest of the country was colossally misinformed, if they were paying attention at all.

That’s what happens when 40% of the country is in a right-wing bubble, trained to disregard or disbelieve anything that doesn’t come from Fox News or One America News Network, Toure points out.

“All these Karen's we see arguing in stores about their right to not wear masks –– they cannot be saved. They don't want to listen to facts, science, media. Fuck them. The problem is, they vote.”

That’s not the only problem, though.

“I'd rather pretend that they don't exist,” says Danielle. “But that's not how a virus works.”

Could we get down (under) with compulsory voting?

Another problem, as our hosts see it: the 100 million eligible voters who didn't cast a ballot in 2016. That’s about 55 to 60% participation.

“I find their inaction to be fairly disgusting,” says Toure. “Unpatriotic and Un-American.”

He thinks we should adopt Australia's system of mandatory voting. Unless you have a medical waiver, you must cast a ballot or face a fine. That means they’re incentivized to do it –– and it works.

“They get, like, 99% participation,” he says. “It would be revolutionary for American politics. Now, the edges on the left and right are driving the political conversation.”

But most of the U.S. is made up of folks who land somewhere in the middle.

“They’d come into the process much more and it would be a much more honest snapshot of the country,” Toure adds.

Such rampant civic apathy is “sickening to me,” says Danielle. “I wish that we would adopt the Australian system. But we know good goddamn well Republicans would never go for that because they don't want you to vote.”

And yet if our votes weren’t valuable, they wouldn't try to suppress them or steal elections, she notes.

“Why don't you understand the power of your voice?”

A ‘sacred opportunity’

Toure is pretty certain democracy-ish listeners are engaged in the political process.

“But there are a significant number of Black people who aren’t voting out of an almost conspiracy-theorist sense that it doesn't matter. That it doesn't change our lives.”

That faulty logic is disrespectful, says Danielle. “Not for the country –– fuck the country, as it has been built by us, without us in mind. But the people who died, were bloodied, beaten, jailed, to get us further down the arc.”

Toure feels the same way.

“So much of my life and the choices I’ve made have come from knowing people fought and sacrificed so that I can be here,” says Toure. “As a child of affirmative action, to get into private school and college and have a media career. I owe so much to my father, my mother and my spiritual and political fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers who had less opportunity.”

He thinks appearing on TV, and on this show, are “sacred opportunities.” So is voting.

Right before the show, Danielle meditated (“I tried not to have the level of rage I have”) and thought: Among Black people, “who got to sit and have quiet space with their thoughts a generation ago? No one.”

America’s the ‘shithole country’ now

Our foremothers and fathers never could have guessed that what they worked so hard to build could be torn down so easily.

“We ceded our American exceptionalism and our leadership over the last four years. You don't get that back,” says Danielle.

“We're a shithole country,” says Toure. “I mean, if America was not America, we’d be wanting to invade America to save America from Trump and corona and police attacking Black people in the streets. We’d need to install democracy, because that country is fucking up the rest of the world.”

Danielle gets mad when people claim America is the greatest country in the world compared to other countries. The real measure should be: Is America as great as it could be?

“It’s as though that we compare ourselves to others to show just how much better we are,” she says.

But when we travel, “we begin to unlearn the lies that we've been told. We’re presented with the history of America through a different lens and understand that it’s completely skewed.”

“Of course, we can't travel anywhere now,” she adds. “Our passports are toilet paper, which is good because the country doesn't have toilet paper or fucking paper towels.”

Suckers, losers and sociopaths

At least the U.S. probably won’t be invading anyplace else anytime soon.

“Trump has pissed off everybody in the military by calling them suckers and losers,” Danielle says. “And says people who have dedicated their life to public service are idiots because they should have gone after money.”

The mere concept of service is foreign to Trump, says Toure.

“You shouldn't be a leader if caring about others is an idea that cannot take root in your fucking head.”

Danielle didn't realize until recently that character is so crucial to the office of president.

“We just assumed that presidents would have empathy. That they would not be compulsive liars. Of course, politicians say they’ll provide you things they don't always do. But they don't set out to gaslight you.”

That’s generally true, but Trump isn’t a politician. And he’s “a complete and total sociopath … What is compassion, what is service, to somebody who has only ever been served?”

Suit up and cast on

While Danielle works on her rage, we’ll probably be back next week.

“Who the fuck knows? All I can tell people is continue to pray. Wear a mask, social distance, bring a snack and some water. And go fucking vote.”

Toure agrees.

“Hazmat-suit it up and cast your fucking vote.”

Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Toure as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle — together!

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