Putin is losing in Ukraine, but he’s not losing his mandate. Among those Russians who remain in the country, and who feel free to express an opinion, his support remains strong.
Xi Jinping is losing his economy, but he’s not losing his mandate either. Stocks are falling, real estate is collapsing, manufacturing jobs are running off to East Asia and his best minds are fleeing Hong Kong. But his rule faces no threat.
Americans may prefer that strength to reality as well. Our economy remains strong, although our markets are weak. Our relative strength, compared to anywhere else on the planet, is enormous. Yet millions are ready to throw it over for a fascist ideology and militant religion, the two forces our strength had just mastered in the Cold War and War on Terror.
If we saw how our adversaries are suffering, we’d see these imminent victories clearly. We don’t. The lies about crime, caused by Republican gun policy, and inflation, caused by Republican climate policy, hold more appeal than any truth. The truth is that we’re winning, that democracy will march forward if we only get behind it.
The appeal of lies is the appeal of tyrants. It always has been. I have spent my life believing that increased communication, and education, could overcome lies. But it seems communication only lets lies spread more rapidly. It appears the simplicity of ideology is more appealing than the reality of complexity.
This is a time when I am tempted to give in to despair.
Then I remember the last time I felt this way. It was two years ago.
Democracy won that battle, although it was a close run thing.
Whether it wins this time is not up to me. That uncertainty can easily lead to hopelessness. Hopelessness is also a tyrant’s friend.
It’s so appealing to lock yourself into an ideological box, maybe with the promise of God and heaven inside it, and blindly trust others to lead. But as the examples of China and Russia show today, as those of Iran and Iraq showed before, that’s a blind alley.
My guess is we’re headed for another long night November 8. Last time, I stayed away from all news until Saturday, around noon. At that time the strangest thing happened, spontaneous cheering from all around my neighborhood. Biden had won, and people were celebrating in ways I had never seen before. We’d all kept our thoughts to ourselves, we’d all hidden ourselves away, but the relief in that moment was palpable. It was a turning point.
We can’t turn back. Can we?