Caricature of white lady with glasses and brown hair

An amazing amount of progress has been made over the past month or so. America has catapulted itself all the way from the 1990s to 2016. The furthest-right elements of both major parties were again successful in the primaries. Another woman is seeking a powerful job on the back of behaving like the worst men. North Korea continues to consume headlines. Not even two years of an irredeemable president and declining enthusiasm on the left could convince our national leaders to change.

Four states held primary elections last week. Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana went to the polls to select who will battle for office in November. There were no results to excite or inspire genuine progressives. As in the year of the Donald, Republicans competed to be the most disgraceful candidate, and, in many cases, the worst-of-the-worst won. The Democratic Party forced out progressives before the primaries and went medieval on those who dared to stay in the race.

Although the incumbent Republican Party is extremely conservative, outsiders were running against a Washington machine they saw as too soft on their issues. In North Carolina, Robert Pittenger, a three-term congressman, lost to a Southern Baptist preacher who supported Cruz then Trump in 2016. The race was decided on the issues of fiscal responsibility and blind, double-digit IQ faith. America, let alone the world, needs another religious zealot in power like a hole in the head. A Southern Baptist no less is guaranteed to embolden more bigots and prohibit social progress. Pittenger’s loss mirrors Rubio’s defeat at the hands of Trump two years ago: a right-wing bigot losing to an incredibly far-right idiot.

In Indiana, multimillionaire Mike Braun beat two congressmen to challenge Democrat Joe Donnelly for his senate seat. All three candidates boasted of close ties to the Trump agenda, but Braun edged it with both money and an outsider reputation. As always, money wins elections and, somehow, many rural conservative voters still believe Trump is in DC to “drain the swamp.”

Republican Jim Renacci was selected to take on Ohio’s Sherrod Brown in the general election. Support for him was somewhat soft so Brown’s seat is one the Democrats should be confident of keeping. Conservatives love to dumb down the country via the courts so they are usually enthusiastic about controlling the United States Senate and its ability to confirm judges. A tepid turnout for Renacci could be a sign of him not being fascist enough for primary voters, or the RNC putting its resources into what it views as more winnable races.

On the Democratic side, the usual small-picture, centrist-corporate candidates won the primaries. Joe Manchin will be on the ballot to remain as Senator for West Virginia, guaranteeing the Republican leadership two votes from West Virginia next year. Richard Cordray, a man who loves gun violence and debt-ridden hospital patients, bested Dennis Kucinich and will face-off against Mike DeWine to become Ohio’s next governor. On a more positive note, of twenty open races that had female candidates, seventeen were won by women. It is a more encouraging number than in previous years, but we should not get too excited just yet. We need and want more women in office to bring compassion and sanity to politics. If those women are typical Democrats and work for huge corporations while selling out people of color and the poor, their gender doesn’t matter. A new generation of Heidi Heitkamps and Debbie Wasserman Schultzes won’t be progress. On that front, we just have to hold out and see if the Democratic Party really is making any moves out to the left.

This November you will have two, sometimes three, options. Your first will be a racist, homophobic, science-ignoring, money worshipping Trump Republican. The next choice will be a Democrat who isn’t racist but will do nothing to combat racism. They will say climate change is real but will do very little about it. They will say everyone deserves healthcare but will refuse to provide it to them. Then in some races you will be able to vote for a Green who just about managed to drag themselves onto the ballot. If you are progressive, you need to wake up to the fact electoral politics is a waste of time, and that grassroots activism and citizens’ initiatives are what deserve your time and money.

Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA Director is on shaky ground. John McCain told his colleagues to reject her and a few purple state senators are still on the fence. There have been far too many individuals who have said it is time for a woman to run the agency. However, Director Haspel would be no better than the men who have preceded her, just as a President Hillary would have been just as bad as every other overcompensating male president. Haspel ran a torture site so clearly has no problem with extrajudicial actions (anyone remember “We came, we saw, he died?”). We are way past the due date for female leaders who are chosen for their positions on issues instead of what’s between their thighs.

Three more American prisoners were released from North Korea. It provided a huge boost to all sides before the upcoming summit between the US and North Korea. Trump can tout a diplomatic victory, South Korea has enhanced its international reputation, and North Korea has shown it is becoming more trustworthy. The story deservedly received plenty of media coverage, but there is still more discussing the possible pitfalls of negotiating with Kim Jong-un and how the meeting may not even go ahead. No different to a couple of years ago, North Korea is being sold as a dangerous rogue nation that needs to be dealt with immediately. Some positive American press could go a long way in producing successful results from all diplomatic efforts. A handshake and a signing ceremony wouldn’t sell as many newspapers or ad slots as war, but they would create a hell of a lot more peace.

Another faux enemy has also remained in the news. Iran was a focus of national security debates and discussions during the 2016 elections and is again grabbing Trump’s attention. Last week, he confirmed the United States’ position to pull out of the nuclear deal. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be a catastrophic decision. The other signatories have already guaranteed their continuing support for the deal and America’s involvement isn’t needed for every single international action. Other countries are more than capable of monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. They do not need America to be the world’s policeman and are headed for disaster if they wait for it to take action. The US government can’t even fix small domestic issues so how can it possibly be expected to single-handedly create world peace and end climate change? We should just see this episode as yet another petty decision of a thoroughly inept administration.

The lessons of 2016 have not been learned. Pathetic incumbents are running on the same platforms and new candidates are trying to drag their parties out to the right. Progressives have almost nobody to vote for and their issues are going to disappear for at least another two years. Those who want to stay active and make real progress happen for their communities should stop volunteering for politicians and go work for existing groups or start their own. They should donate to food banks or green energy enterprises rather than sellouts who will take the money and create cringeworthy attack ads. It would be better to knock on doors and deliver much-needed supplies than knock on doors and regurgitate tiresome talking points. This week has proven establishment politicians have not earned progressive support.