The 2020 election is nearly over. We don’t yet know what the outcome will be in terms of which candidates will win or lose. Nor do we know if Donald Trump will accept a likely defeat or if there will be political violence if he loses. We do know that the election is supposed to mark a conclusion. An unalterable decision has been made which the American people must accept as an objective fact.
Indeed, it’s the main purpose of our political institutions to present the people with things they can’t change. The institutions decide and the people ratify. This point has been made more bluntly in 2020 than in most years. Reactionaries have been given control of the Supreme Court by Senators who represent only a small fraction of the populace. Senator Mike Lee of Utah helpfully tweeted “We’re not a democracy,” pointing to the US Constitution for support. The clear implication is that in the contest between democracy and the Constitution, the Constitution is expected to win. Precedent is on Lee’s side–public expressions of support for the constitutional system are common and genuine, resignation to its inequities are widespread. But precedent merely articulates the habit of obedience, and neither habit nor obedience are eternal.
The Democratic Party accepts the Supreme Court, the presidency, the Senate. These institutions, along with the media, say what’s possible and work to place limits on our aspirations. DSA San Diego is not the Democratic Party. Some of us in DSA are committed to engaging with the electoral process as a terrain of power that we have to contest. Others are committed to building working class organizations outside the state. Many believe in doing both. However, all of us recognize that this country’s institutional arrangements frustrate democracy more than they facilitate it and that politics doesn’t begin or end with elections. We don’t look to the Constitution to legitimize our fight for a better world.
We don’t claim that there is no difference between Trump and Biden. But what matters most about the election is that the moment of political decision is subordinated to the past and then closed off. Against this closure of politics we insist that the future is open and that the most important decisions remain to be made. To paraphrase Marx, the poetry of our revolution will be created not out of the past, but out of the future.