Musk had said, “Or you could be the first to test my time machine.” I had landed right in the middle of the 2024 presidential campaign.
It had been a hard run for the Democrats. After a harrowing primary season featuring several hundred candidates left voters confused, the party simply started listing potential presidents on the ballots as: the black one, the gender-ambiguous one, Beto, the guy who looks like Beto but is from Ohio, and no-chance governors I, II, and III.
Mayor Pete (who, like Elvis and Bono, had simply abandoned any surname) had a brief surge of popularity after unveiling his new campaign slogan, “Don’t Forget I’m Gay!” His SNL hosting gig was a failure, however, after a vicious Bowen Yang skit dismissing him as a has been. “Go home, Dad, and listen to Madonna,” briefly became a national catchphrase.
In the end, exhausted Democrats just nominated a visibly intubated Joe Biden for a second term.
There was no attempt to hide the fact that Joe might be technically dead, with various medical devices animating him. Doctor Jill was always at his side and catching her lips moving while Joe “talked” was a popular Tik-Tok meme, for a while. Kamala was listed for legal purposes as the Veep but made no public appearances. Amid rumors she had had plastic surgery and legally changed her name, it was unclear whether she still lived in North America.
Biden’s problems had accumulated over the last three years like a bad Sunday night snowfall. The Biden infrastructure plan, once called Build Back Better and priced at $3.5 trillion, had been ground down after years of debate to just offering free parking at some sporting events. A Dem plan suggesting America’s next aircraft carrier be named the USS Brandon proved embarrassing. Boys actually named Brandon began calling themselves Biden to avoid being beaten up on the playground.
After the Great 2022 Midterm Massacre, the Democrats gave up on actual legislation and stuck entirely to removing Civil War memorials. The final blow to Democratic power came when the Republican majority beat up the last Democratic senators in the Capitol cafeteria and stole their lunch money (“An attempted coup,” reported Maddow).
In terms of foreign policy, Biden was further embarrassed when the Taliban legalized casino gambling and turned Afghanistan into a global celebrity mecca. The last Americans were finally evacuated on George Clooney’s private jet. Desperate, the Biden administration sought to pick a fight with China.
Things got hot after a Chinese warship supposedly rammed an American one in the Gulf of Tonkin, but the nascent war was stopped by Jeff Bezos. Bezos, through quiet acquisitions, had secretly become the world’s largest arms dealer, and ended the fight before it really began by canceling both sides’ Prime accounts.
By summer 2024 the only thing left for Democrats to run on was the slogan “Red, White, Blue, Not Orange” and rumors Trump had plans for a new hotel-casino in Kabul. An exasperated Vladimir Putin, weary of dealing with non-starters like Trump and Biden, briefly campaigned for a range of third-party candidates in key states.
Candidate Trump had not yet chosen his running mate. Instead of the usual nominating convention setting, Trump planned an Apprentice: V.P. Edition live TV special. After vetting multiple candidates by blood type (“The 25th Amendment may require him to donate organs to me,” Trump tweeted. Yeah, that’s back, too) the candidate planned what the MSM dubbed “political-style Squid Games” to make the final decision.
Behind his new signature slogan, “I Won’t Tell Your Wife You Voted for Me,” Trump filled stadiums. CNN focused increasingly on videos of its reporters punching Trump voters in the stomach. Chris Cuomo joined the WWE.
The real news from 2024 was that the actual voting process had changed so much no one was sure how a winner would be chosen. Championed by California, actual “mail-in” voting began a year before election day and allowed anyone to vote via Twitter retweet for Democrats, while requiring Republican voters to solve a series of increasingly complex mathematical puzzles to reveal the one polling place open to them.
Texas, on the other hand, passed new legislation allowing citizens to sue anyone who voted Democrat. As the country approached November 2024, there were 51 distinct and radically different systems. Afghanistan, which had applied for U.S. statehood, was being allowed to vote in 2024 after Jeff Bezos’s personal intervention following his acquisition of 98 percent of its arable land.
Bezos’s earlier suggestion, that all voting be done via Prime Points, was pushed forward to 2028. The Amazon owner is so powerful that when loading new software on his phone, the software must accept his terms and conditions.
The once robust rumble-tumble political system had reached the point where the only viable candidates were two geriatric lab experiments. For the first time in history the sum of both candidates’ disapproval rating was over 100 percent. The voting process itself had devolved into something so crooked and complex the only thing left for the final fall from democracy would be to replace it with actual gladiatorial combat (“A national townhall event”) among Red and Blue voters. That is scheduled for next January 6 as a trial run. Chris Cuomo will host.
The absolute only thing Americans agreed on in 2024 was that no one believed any election results. The other thing generally understood was that, in the end, who was elected president did not really matter much. No matter who was being kept alive in the Oval Office-ICU, nothing of substance was going to change. The real decisions were being made for sport and profit by the oligarchs.
Or it may be that we just became ungovernable. Seeing the future made the future look hazier than ever before.
As for the rest of 2024, I need to be careful about what I disclose, as no one should know too much about their future. But…the new iPhone costs more than the last one. Mick Jagger’s pact with Satan for eternal life seems intact. And don’t throw away those Covid masks, you’ll still be wearing them.
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.