vote blue no matter…what?

A couple of things bother me. Well, a million things bother me, but right now I’m going to focus on just a couple that have to do with the Democratic primary. First thing that bothers me is…hold on, let me turn it over to Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. He wrote: “For Democrats, electability is the whole ballgame.”

Robinson is usually reliable. And he’s right about this. Sorta kinda right. Not entirely right, mind you. But more right than wrong. But he’s not right right now.

It’s February, for fuck’s sake. We’ve only had two contests — the Iowa clusterfuck and the slightly less absurd primary in New Hampshire (which, c’mon, is basically Iowa but with mountains instead of cornfields). So in effect, we’ve really had one stretched-out contest in which predominantly rural white people had their say.

It’s WAY too soon to be focused on ‘electability’. Whatever that is. At this point in the election season, folks should stop listening to pundits talk about the most ‘electable’ candidate and start listening to the candidates themselves. Right now, folks should vote for the candidate they think will give them the government they want.

Do that, and guess what. The person who gets the most votes in all the various primaries and caucuses will become…that’s right…electable. It’s like magic.

The problem with trying to figure out who is most ‘electable’ is that it’s fear-based. It’s not about finding the candidate we want the most, or the candidate who inspires us to become the sort of nation we want to be. It’s about finding the candidate who is safest. The most popular of the least offensive candidates. The most ‘electable’ candidate is basically the candidate who’ll appeal to a broad spectrum of…well, white folks.

And that brings me to the other thing that bothers me. Vote blue no matter who. Let me first say this — I believe in that idea. I will absolutely vote for the Democratic candidate even if that person is my least favorite. And then let me say this — vote blue no matter who carries the stink of racism.

Here’s the thing: white voters can afford to be picky. We can say stuff like, “I won’t vote for the lesser of two evils” because we’re largely immune from most of the evils. Not entirely immune, of course, but no matter who gets elected, it’s exceedingly improbable there’ll be an increase in random violence against white folks. There won’t be a rash of white folks being harassed by police, or denied medical care, or blocked from voting, or followed by security at the mall, or being accosted by random citizens and asked to prove we have the right to barbecue in the park or eat a sandwich in the subway or enter an apartment building or hang out on the sidewalk. White folks can be genuinely angry and alarmed at the degradation of democracy under Comrade Trump, but we don’t have to fret as much about our kids being shot by police officers during a routine traffic stop.

Black folks understand that the lesser of two evils is the LESSER EVIL, and Jesus suffering fuck do we really need to do the math here? When we say ‘Vote blue no matter who’ we’re basically saying it to white folks who can afford NOT to vote blue. We’re not saying it to black folks because we take it for granted that black folks will vote Democratic (or not vote at all). What’s really sad is we actually CAN take it for granted, because the quality of their lives is more directly and dramatically affected by the results of an election. 

At this point in the process, focusing on the most ‘electable’ candidate and telling folks to vote blue no matter who is a recipe for picking the least offensive white guy. The process has weeded out all the candidates of color because it was decided (through polling and fund-raising) that they weren’t ‘electable’. Now we’re weeding out the women. Amy Klobuchar is as moderate as Buttigieg and Biden, has a better record of accomplishments, has more experience than Pete and is younger than Joe — but she’s not ‘electable’. Elizabeth Warren is as progressive as Bernie, has a better record of accomplishments, has a broader life experience, and a massive list of detailed plans of action, but she’s not ‘electable’.

Stop that ‘electability’ shit. Just stop it. When we get to the general election we can shout “Vote blue no matter who” but at this point in the process just vote your passion. Don’t be a coward. Vote with your heart.

Editorial Note: Personally, I’d ask you to vote for a woman. It’s way past time we had a woman president. I’d ask you to vote for the most progressive woman. I’d ask you to vote for Elizabeth Warren. But when it’s your turn to vote in your state primary or caucus, don’t listen to anybody or anything but your heart.

escapes?

I’m old enough to remember when you could trust The New York Times. And, to be fair, you can still trust most of their reportage; they have some exceptional reporters. But the opinion page of NYT has become pretty sketchy — not because I sometimes disagree with their op-eds, but because the editorial leadership apparently decided they need to give a voice to conspiracy theorists and conservative propagandists. And the headline writers for NYT are…well, they’re rubbish.

Here, look at this headline from this morning’s NYT:

Andrew McCabe Escapes Charges While Barr Tightens Control on Flynn Case.

Escapes. Andrew McCabe escapes charges. That makes it sound like the charges were justified, but McCabe somehow managed to dodge or sidestep them. In fact, the accusations against him were total bullshit. They grew out of Comrade Trump’s hatred of FBI Director James Comey, who was seen as insufficiently loyal. Trump had Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire Comey; he saw McCabe as a Comey loyalist and was angry with Sessions for not firing McCabe as well.

McCabe became a target of Trump’s rage-tweeting. He focused his rage on two things. First, McCabe had overseen the FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation, which found no criminal activity. That pissed off Trump. Second, McCabe’s wife had run an unsuccessful campaign to become a Democratic state legislator in Virginia. She got a campaign contribution from a political action committee run by the Virginia Democratic Party and Terry McAuliffe, who was the governor of Virginia. McAuliffe was a friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton.

In TrumpWorld it’s inconceivable that McCabe could possibly conduct an unbiased investigation of the Clinton Foundation when his wife was a Democrat who was given a contribution by a PAC associated with somebody who was a friend of Hillary Clinton. In TrumpWorld, everybody is assumed to have corrupt motivations. Probably because everybody in TrumpWorld actually HAS corrupt motivations.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story suggesting it was possible McCabe had slowed the FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe authorized the FBI press office to speak to the WSJ reporter to correct the story. McCabe had in fact worked to protect that investigation. Trump and his cadre of loons referred to McCabe having the press office speak to a reporter as a ‘leak’. 

It’s not clear if the WSJ report by itself sparked an FBI Inspector General investigation into McCabe’s role in the Clinton investigation or if there was some political pressure involved. In any event, the Office of Inspector General started an investigation. The OIG found that McCabe, as Deputy Director of the FBI, had the authority to have the press office speak to that reporter. The question became whether he had them speak to the reporter in the interest of the FBI or in his own personal interest. Did McCabe authorize the ‘leak’ in order to make the FBI look good or to make himself look good.

Seriously, that’s it. The OIG found that McCabe had violated FBI policy in that the press release seemed more in McCabe’s interest than in the public interest. They also found McCabe “lacked candor” when interviewed by OIG investigators. And that’s why he was fired in March of 2018 — 26 hours before his scheduled retirement, denying him full retirement benefits. A classic TrumpWorld act of vengeance.

After he was fired, Trump’s Department of Justice continued to investigate McCabe for a year and a half, trying to find something to charge him with. They took their ‘case’ to the grand jury in September of 2019. It’s been said that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor has even a shred of a case. The McCabe grand jury refused to indict him. Normally, when a grand jury refuses to indict, a criminal investigation is ended.

Not for McCabe. The DOJ kept the case alive until yesterday when, as the New York Times reported, he ‘escaped’ charges. This is a guy who devoted his life to the FBI. He served on the FBI SWAT team, he was part of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force (which was not a walk in the garden), he served in the Counterintelligence Unit, he helped revise the rules for high value detainee interrogations (the FBI refused to engage in waterboarding), he was part of the Boston Marathon bomb investigation, he took part in the investigation and arrest of the guys behind the Benghazi attacks. The FBI can be pretty fucked up, but this guy repeatedly put himself on the line — which is something nobody named Trump has ever done.

And the New York Times says he ‘escaped’ charges.

Andrew McCabe — even his glasses look like they’re FBI issue.

It’s bullshit like this by NYT and other news sources that boost Trump’s insane ‘Deep State’ conspiracy theories. It’s bad enough to have a criminal enterprise operating out of the White House, it’s bad enough to have a POTUS who is a narcissistic vengeance demon enabled and encouraged by sycophants in Congress, it’s bad enough to have a Department of Justice that acts as an arm of TrumpWorld rather than in the public interest. It’s bad enough to have all that without NYT adding an aura of legitimacy to this bullshit.

I remember when you could trust the New York Times. I suppose you still can, if you ignore the headlines and much of the opinion page. But is it worth the effort? And why would you bother?

the stank of trump

Did you see this headline? It’s from The Atlantic, which is generally a reliable source of news and information. When I read this astonishing piece of…wait. I forgot to include the headline. Here it is:

John Kelly Finally Lets Loose on Trump

It has the following subtitle: The former chief of staff explained, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump’s behavior regarding North Korea, immigration, and Ukraine. Jesus suffering fuck…seriously? He finally lets loose? And he explains his misgivings? This guy…this fucking guy…wait. Hold on while I contain my outrage.

Okay, this guy was a working class guy. His daddy was a postal worker. When he was 16 years old, he hitchhiked from Brighton, MA to Seattle then freighthopped trains back home. He did a year in the Merchant Marine before signing up for the US Marine Corps. He rose through the ranks to become a four-star general running the entire Southern Command. John Kelly has been around the block more than once. He knows when something stinks.

Kelly could smell the stank. He stayed anyway.

But he agreed to be Comrade Trump’s Director of Homeland Security. After six months, Trump made him his second Chief of Staff. He lasted a year and a half before Trump did what he always does and fired him. John Kelly had two whole years to evaluate Trump’s fitness to be president. He had two years in which to speak up about the stank that inhabits the White House. He had three years, really, counting the year after Trump fired him.

Now Kelly finally lets loose? Now, after Trump’s impeachment acquittal? Fuck him. You don’t get to put your integrity and decency in a closet for three years, then pull them out, shake off the dust, and wear them again in public in the hope that they’ll somehow mask the Trump stank that’s attached to you.

John Kelly, Kirstjen Nielsen, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks — they’ve all got the stank on them.

How many times has this happened? How many people have agreed to work with Trump, apparently under the impression they can somehow avoid the stank that has attached to every other person who has ever worked with Trump? They all get betrayed and fired and stank-covered. How many of them make some raggedy-ass attempt to recover some last tattered unstanked shred of dignity and integrity?

The Trump stank is all-encompassing. You can’t escape it. It corrupts and infuses everything and everybody it touches. Every person who has willfully served Trump has the stank on them, and it’ll never go away. John Kelly has the stank on him forever. Republicans in Congress have the stank on them forever. The stank will never entirely leave the White House. The United States of America will forever be tainted with the stank of the Trump administration.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

headline writers and pundits

Why Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign Flopped. That’s an actual headline of an article on Slate. Trump’s War Against ‘the Deep State’ Enters a New Stage. That’s a New York Times headline. And this from Politico: How Bernie’s triumph in New Hampshire exposed his vulnerabilities.

Headline writers and pundits — they’re a major part of the problem. You write a headline stating Kamala Harris is having difficulty raising funds, and readers become hesitant to donate to her. You write a headline saying Cory Booker isn’t connecting with ordinary Americans, and folks who consider themselves ordinary Americans begin to wonder why Booker isn’t connecting with them. You write a headline saying Warren’s campaign has flopped, and some Warren supporters start looking for another candidate. You write a headline referring to ‘the Deep State’ and that legitimizes a conspiracy theory based on Russian disinformation.

Much of the time, people don’t read beyond the headline. Any nuanced discussion or argument gets lost. Cut and paste those headlines into posts on Facebook and Twitter, and the effect is amplified. Promising candidates get prematurely axed, campaigns stumble and fail.

“Maybe change ‘Warren On to Nevada’ to ‘Warren Flopped’.”

Why? Because pundits and headline writers operate on the premise that there MUST be drama in a presidential contest. There MUST be tension and excitement. Anybody in the lead cannot be allowed to gain too much of a lead, because it drains the drama from the contest. There must be turmoil and spectacle, there must be tragedy and sensation. There must be a plucky underdog. There must be an obvious protagonist beset by unexpected problems. There must be a villain. There must be at least one character who experiences a sudden change of fortune. The presidential campaign must follow the Aristotelian notion that the end of the narrative should be both surprising but inevitable.

The public suffers because headline writers and pundits need a narrative. And they need a narrative because a good narrative draws readers and viewers, and readers and viewers generate revenue through advertising. The result is that the public suffers so the mass media can sell shit.

I want to kick all the headline writers and pundits squarely in the balls.

a terrible week for the democrats

This morning — just now, in fact — a dear friend said this on Facebook:

[W]here the fuck are the Iowa caucus results? This has been a terrible week for Democrats.

I have thoughts about this. I mean, she’s absolutely right. It’s been a terrible week for Democrats. Yeah, the Iowa caucus is a shitshow. The whole mobile app thing was a colossal fuck-up. But let me remind folks that for years everybody (including me) has made the argument that Iowa doesn’t matter — that it’s not in the least representative of the nation as a whole, that the caucus process is wildly out of date and inherently undemocratic, and that it’s a massive waste of time and money to devote so much attention to a state with only a few electoral votes. I agree with all of that.

And yet, at the same time, folks are saying that the Iowa debacle is going to ruin the election for Democrats. We are doomed. C’mon, people — either Iowa is important or it’s not. (SPOILER: it’s not.) This is just an early own-goal, as we say in futbol. But it’s not the game. Chill the fuck out. Remember that every single week — hell, often every single day — Republicans, with the help of Comrade Trump his ownself, say and do shit that in ordinary times would cause the government to collapse in on itself.

Some folks are worried that Trump will use the Iowa debacle to suggest the entire electoral system is rigged and unfair. But we all know — we all KNOW — he’s going to say that anyway. It’s not as if he’s concerned with evidence. The fact that the caucus results (whenever they’re released) are reliant on rigorous double and triple-checking of paper ballots (well, voter preference cards — same thing, really) won’t matter. If the Iowa caucus was run by saints and actual winged angels counted the votes and marked each with a golden sigil, Trump would still claim it was rigged and his followers would believe him. These are people who defended Trump when he tweeted about the Kansas City Chiefs being based in Kansas. Evidence isn’t necessary.

Comrade-President Donald J. Trump making a nuanced, evidence-based argument.

Here’s a really sad and shameful thing to say: the Iowa debacle will dissipate soon and will carry no more political weight (and this is really sad and shameful) than the fact that there’s still no clean water in Flint, Michigan. That’s the ugly truth about politics in the US right now. The most horrible, awful, appalling things are soon relegated to footnotes and asterisks.

Has it been a terrible week for the Democrats? Yes, without argument. And it’s not over yet. Today the Senate will vote to acquit Comrade Trump of crimes they admit he committed. It’s as terrible a week as we’ve had. Not just for Democrats, but for all of representative democracy.

And in a couple of weeks, it won’t make a lick of difference. We have a long, savage primary season ahead of us, followed by an equally savage election. This week won’t be remembered because the Iowa DNC decided to rely on a poorly-designed app and delivered results late; it’ll be remembered as the week Trump lied through the State of the Union speech, gave the Medal of Freedom to a racist radio show host, and was given a free pass by Republicans despite having committed impeachable crimes.

Democrats need to calm down and focus.

just kill it already

Okay, first thing — stop predicting the Death of the Democratic Party because the Iowa DNC shit the bed. What happened is still happening in Iowa isn’t because of a flaw in the national party; it’s a problem with the Iowa DNC. But the Iowa caucus system should die.

Second thing — stop with the conspiracy theories, already. This didn’t happen isn’t happening because the Russians or Chinese (and certainly not the Ukrainians) hacked the system. It’s not because of the coronavirus, or aliens from outer space, or some barbarian invasion (although, Jason Momoa WAS raised in Iowa, so…never mind). It was apparently some sort of an app fuck-up, which shouldn’t surprise anybody who’s ever downloaded an app. I’m confident we did it to ourselves. We’re Democrats; we don’t need help fucking things up. Even so, the Iowa caucus should die.

Third thing — if we’re lucky, this will be the very last Iowa caucus. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Iowa caucus system as performance art. It’s messy, it’s archaic, it’s often frustrating, but sporadically entertaining. Participating in the Iowa caucus is like being in an old movie where Mickey Rooney says, “C’mon gang, let’s put on a show!” And every four years, we do. But this should end, and the caucus should be put out of its misery.

Actual scene from the 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus

It’s politics by amateurs. Dedicated amateurs. Seriously. Everybody I’ve met who runs, helps, or participates in the Iowa caucus is willing to put in a LOT of effort to make it work. At least in their own precinct. Last night, I help set up tables for signing in voters. I was one of eight or so volunteers who signed in the voters, making sure they were registered as Democrats, showing them where/how to register that night if they weren’t. After the doors were closed, I joined the rest of the caucus-goers and participated in the actual voting. When it was over, a lot of folks stayed behind to help clean up, put away the chairs, and fold up the tables before going home. Nobody got paid to do any of that.

And that’s one of the reasons this eccentric practice should die out. It should be run by professionals, not enthusiastic amateurs. Professionals can also fuck things up, of course. I mean, it looks like the problem this year is because of the app used to improve things, which was designed by professionals. But professionals fuck things up in a professional way. Putting a professional fuck-up in the hands of amateurs only compounds the fucked-upedness. The current caucus system should be smothered in its sleep.

Actual scene from the 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus

You may be asking, “Greg, old sock, how does this caucus thing actually work?” Good question. Also, stop calling me ‘old sock’. It works like this:

  1. Everybody gathers in the middle of the room. Our precinct had about 240 people sitting in folding chairs.
  2. We count off. “One! Two! Three!” and so on. The total number is compared to the number of folks who signed in. If the numbers agree, we move on.
  3. We split into candidate groups. Warren supporters here, Bernie supporters there, Amy supporters over there, and so on.
  4. We count off again, this time within the group. The group totals are added together and compared to the number of folks who signed in. If the numbers agree, we move on.
  5. If a candidate doesn’t get at least 15% of the number of voters who signed in, that candidate is non-viable. Supporters of non-viable candidates can either choose to stay uncommitted or join a viable group.
  6. After this realignment, we count off one more time. The new group totals are again compared to the number of voters signed in. If the numbers agree, that’s it. We can all go home.

I’ve left out a few minor procedural steps, but that’s basically the process. It never goes entirely smoothly. Never. It’s remarkable how people can screw up the simple process of counting off, but it happens every time. Somehow, in some group, somebody will call out the wrong number and we have to count off all over again. Without fail, every time. It’s hilarious. It’s maddening. It’s an effective 19th century process that was quaint by the 1970s. It should have died with Elvis.

Actual scene from the 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus

Actual results? In our precinct, the first preference alignment was almost evenly split between five viable candidates — Warren, Biden, Sanders, Pete, and Klobuchar each had about 40 supporters, which left about 40 supporters of non-viable candidates. After the realignment Pete took a big lead, followed by a tie between Biden and Amy, closely followed by Warren, with Bernie in last place.

That’s one out of nearly 1700 precincts. It took us about an hour and a half to do that. Considering most of the folks arrived a bit early, and several of them stayed late, the average caucus-goer in my precinct probably spent 2-2.5 hours out of their evening. Not every voter can — or is willing to — piss away that much time. Another reason the caucus system should be strangled with piano wire.

The current caucus system should be relegated to historic re-enactments, like Civil War enthusiasts engage in. It should be nothing more than an eccentric form of political cosplay. I can see it being gamed out in high school civics classes for extra credit. There should be a movie made in which a caucus goer is murdered and everybody who attended the event is a suspect. Jason Momoa could star in it. But the actual living system should be held underwater until it gives up and dies.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Iowa doesn’t actually represent the nation in terms of demography. Or that its coveted ‘first in the nation’ status should be shifted to some other more representative state. I haven’t mentioned those things because they’re not specific reasons to kill off the caucus system. But as long as we’re plotting to murder the caucus system, we might as well hide the body by dumping it in the middle of the primary season and hope it’ll go unnoticed.

Again, I really enjoy the Iowa caucus. I really do. But the fact is it’s just too stupid to let live. Democracy is too important for this to be the showcase. The Iowa caucus system needs to die. We need to kill it.

lies, head fakes, stunts, naked self-interest & the stink of corruption

A few months ago I referred to the Republican Party as ‘the trash party‘. I called them that because they’ve basically abandoned everything that made them a legitimate political party. A coherent ideology, a consistent approach to governance, a concern for the common good, applied principles — that’s all gone. The GOP is now a party of lies, head fakes, stunts, and naked self-interest.

And everybody seems to know it and accept it. It’s a given, though most folks refrain from actually saying it out loud. This is how far the ‘Grand Old Party’ has fallen: Republicans in the Senate who are considering — just considering, mind you — the idea of asking for new witnesses — witnesses with direct information about the alleged crimes of the President of the United States, witnesses who are willing and eager to testify — in the ongoing impeachment trial are being described as ‘brave’.

Think about that. Brave? These are elected representatives getting paid a very healthy salary by taxpayers; their only job is to serve the public who elected them. They swore an oath to do that, to defend the Constitution. They’ve sworn a second oath to act as impartial triers of fact in the impeachment of the president. This is one of the critical, fundamental tasks they agreed to accept when they’re sworn in. But Republicans have lost their way so badly that it’s considered courageous for some of them to consider meeting the most basic, minimal expectation of their job.

And let’s face it, very few of us expect those few ‘brave’ Republicans to actually follow through. We expect almost nothing from them anymore — nothing except lies and head fakes and stunts and naked self-interest. They’re hollow, an empty shell of what once was a political party. All the principled Republicans have either left the party or abandoned public office, leaving nothing behind but the trash and the stink of corruption.