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?

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.

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.

this is what scares me

I’m not particularly concerned that Trump will skate on this impeachment trial. I think we all expect he will. Senate Republicans, after all, are all gutless Quislings completely devoid of honor or integrity. So yeah, Trump will almost certainly walk. I don’t like it, but I expect it — and there it is.

What scares me is this: what comes next? If Comrade Trump gets away with this — if he’s acquitted in the Senate despite all the evidence against him — what will stop him from doing it again? What’s will prevent him from allowing — or flat out encouraging — a hostile nation to attack his Democratic opponent? And what could we do about it?

He’s capable of doing that. You know he is.

What’s going to stop him from doing something even worse? What if, say, he declares a national emergency — what if he announces there’s been a threat to certain polling districts and ‘for the safety of the citizens’ orders those polling places closed? What if he says the voters should go to different polling sites, sorry for the inconvenience? What could we do about it? 

Do you think Trump isn’t capable of doing that?

What if the 2020 election goes against him? What if he loses and claims the election was rigged/hacked/manipulated/fraudulent? What if he refuses to honor the result? What if he just refuses to relinquish power? What if he tells his followers to resist his removal from office? What if he tries to declare martial law? What then?

Do you think that’s impossible? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it. It sounds ridiculous. Because it IS crazy and ridiculous — or it would be if anybody else were president. But do you really think Trump wouldn’t try to pull something like that if he thought he might get away with it? What would stop him? Patriotism? Decency? Respect for the Constitution?

That’s what scares me. Not one more year of Trump, as horrible as that would be. What scares me is this: IF Trump gets away with it this time — and right now that seems a foregone conclusion — what’s going to stop him from thinking he can get away with it again? The answer scares me.

Nothing.

a thin sheet of hate

It was explained to me, in very polite terms I should note, that I was completely wrong when I said modern evangelicals supporting Trump were promoting “a gospel of white supremacist rage and victimhood.” The evidence that I was wrong?

If you look at the Evangelicals For Trump website, you’ll see a number of African-American and Latino models sporting Trump products specifically designed for African-American and Latino supporters.

I’m willing to be convinced that I might be wrong. I’ve been wrong a LOT in my long, semi-wicked life, so I’m open to the possibility that I might be wrong about this. I did as I was asked to do. I looked at the Evangelicals for Trump website.

Okay, granted, the landing page (is that what it’s called?) shows a sea of white faces with one singularly Aryan-looking kid. But that’s just one photo. And besides, the proof I was told I’d find was about the products being sold. And hey, right there in the upper right hand corner is a ‘SHOP’ button. So I clicked on it.

Sure enough, a couple of pages in you can find black and Latinx models dressed in Trumpwear with slogans like ‘Black Voices for Trump’ or ‘Latinos for Trump’. There were also Trump straws (pack of 10 for US$15) and ‘Get Over It’ t-shirts and camouflage dog bandanas and Trump/Pence snowflake wrapping paper and ‘Women for Trump’ ball caps and Trump/Pence playing cards and Space Force bumper stickers and…

Wait. Snowflake wrapping paper? Space Force bumper stickers? How does any of that fit into evangelism? Trump plastic straws? I don’t get the religious angle here. So I went back to the landing page and read this description of the site:

Evangelicals for Trump will engage the Christian community to help re-elect President Donald J. Trump in 2020. Through re-affirming support for President Trump, evangelicals across the country will work to deliver a second term – ensuring that pro-life initiatives, religious freedom, and the appointment of conservative judges are kept as a top priority for four more years.

Well, okay. I know that ‘pro-life’ is code for ‘anti-abortion’ so I can see the religious angle in that, even if I don’t agree with it and think it’s hypocritical. I’m also aware that ‘religious freedom’ as it’s commonly used by evangelicals means the promotion of a specific style of Christianity along with the quiet, indirect suppression of non-Christian religions. I don’t think that’s very Christian, but it’s certainly ‘religious’. But conservative judges? That’s entirely political.

Why, on a website devoted to evangelical supporters, isn’t there any mention of more traditional Christian values? Why don’t we see anything about “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “If a man strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek” or “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Those are pretty fundamental tenets of Christianity.

Evangelical Christians claim they are called to spread the gospel — the teachings of a person who called on them to care about the poor, the suffering, and the outcast. Yet there’s no mention of the poor, the suffering and the outcast here. There’s no mention of morality or civic virtue. There’s only merchandise to be moved.

Why is this site promoting Trump rather than evangelicalism or Christianity? The answer is found in the small print.

This website, mobile application or other digital or online application or service is operated by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

Evangelicals for Trump isn’t a religious site; it’s a political site. It’s got nothing to do with Christianity or evangelicalism; it’s only about raising campaign money. Yes, there are black and Latino models wearing Trumpwear, just as my critic claimed. But they’re not included because modern evangelism supports diversity. They’re included because Trump will sell anything to anybody if he can make a profit off it.

Here’s a sad, ugly truth: Donald Trump corrupts everything he touches. He’s corrupted the Republican Party; he’s corrupted the Christian evangelist movement. There’s no better metaphor for that than Trump/Pence Snowflake wrapping paper.

Trump claims he made it safe for Christians to say ‘merry Christmas’ which is a lie on a massive scale. His followers insult liberals by calling them ‘snowflakes’ to suggest they’re delicate. The only reason this wrapping paper exists is so Trump supporters can believe in the illusion that they’re somehow ‘winning’ by insulting liberals. That’s about as far from the spirit of Christmas as you can possibly get — which makes it perfectly on brand for both Trump and modern evangelicalism.

Wrap religion in a thin sheet of hate and sell it to the gullible. There it is.