Category Archives: Elections

Journalism: A shitty job in a nuclear winter

One of my former students became a science reporter a few years out of school and once found himself on a trip to Chernobyl. A group of researchers were collecting stool samples from people who lived adjacent to the old Russian nuclear reactor, trying to see if they were suffering from any radioactive poisoning nearly three decades after the meltdown.

He sent me a post card from the area with a final line I still love:

“Journalism. It’s a shitty job but somebody has to do it.”

I thought about him and that trip today when I was trying to read anything in my social media feed that wasn’t about Trump’s press conference. When all I was left with was if Steve Kerr was going to play Russell Westbrook alongside his four Warriors in the All-Star Game and Draymond Green clarifying his “slave-owner mentality” statements, I gave up.

Trump’s hour-plus screed was a brick of uncut alternative facts, packaged in a wrapper of vulgar abuse and denigration. The word “rambling” might be overused at this point and I don’t think it goes far enough. It was like he took every topic of interest or a point of pride he has, wrote them on bingo balls and then had the machine spit them out to determine the order of his talking points.

The biggest problem came when he started taking questions from the press, one of his favorite targets of abuse. A reporter from Ami Magazine, a conservative orthodox Jewish publication, offered Trump the olive branch he was desperately seeking, a pass on personal anti-Semitism. However, as Jake Turx tried to ask Trump to explain how he planned to fight this problem, Trump just stepped all over himself, assuming Turx was calling him anti-Semitic and then told him to sit down and shut up.

When a reporter refuted Trump’s claim that his 306 (actually 304) electoral votes was the most since Ronald Reagan, he dodged with “I meant Republican victory.” He then was told Bush 41 had way more, which led Trump to blame his staff for the information.

Perhaps the worst moment is the one most people are noting: Trump’s clash with April Ryan, a long-time member of the White House press corps. Ryan, who is African-American, asked about Trump’s plans to improve urban areas that he often referred to as terrible hell holes and wondered if he’d reach out to the CBC and Hispanic caucus in congress. Trump seemed unaware of what CBC stood for, but upon learning it stood for Congressional Black Caucus, asked Ryan if she’d set up the meeting for him.

“Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?” Trump asked her in what could only be described as a confrontational tone.

At this point, I had two thoughts:

  • Based on his “you all know each other, right?” approach, I was amazed Trump didn’t start off with, “Hey, I loved you in ‘Hidden Figures!’ What’s your question?”
  • If you believe that Sean Spicer isn’t getting fired, buy stock in Orbitz. This guy is going to put a dent in our national supply by Saturday.

This press conference, naturally, scared the living shit out of me as a citizen, but my one saving grace is that I can turn off the TV or ignore the news. The journalists who have to work in this environment are like the people at Chernobyl in 1986, going shirtless and using some Windex to clean up the mess.

Journalism has always been a shitty job and it takes a weird breed of person to do it. If you don’t believe me, you should have been in our student newspaper’s newsroom this week. Conversations regarding a dead squirrel, double entendres about a professor “coming” and whether Meatloaf’s “I would do anything for love (but I won’t do that)” was about anal were among the most acceptable for public consumption.

The kids do this for almost no money, which will get them ready for a career in a field where cutting positions and salaries is an annual ritual. They talk to people who don’t want to talk to them about things everyone wants to know but no one who knows is willing to disclose. (A student told me an administrator offered him about a three-minute “No Comment” on a topic we had been covering. My first response, “Did you record it so we can use it as a quote?” The answer, of course, was “yes.”)

Abuse in this field is common. I’ve been called scum, an asshole, a weasel, a vulture and worse. One lady told me my mother didn’t raise me right. I’m sure there are worse ones that I’ve just blacked out of my memory. It got so bad that I used to have a recorder attached to my phone so I could record the abuse. That way, when the person on the other end became sweet as pie to my boss and accused me of random shit, I could just play him the tape.

The thing that amazes me about all of this is that we keep having more and more kids entering this field with the idea that each one of them probably has (at the very least) one Cousin Carl who believes everything not on Breitbart is fake news. Many of the kids I teach come from the Rural Red areas of the state where family members at Thanksgiving ask things like why they aren’t earning an “honest living” like “Gene the Retard” down the way who sells dachshunds out of his trailer.

One kid who recently changed majors to journalism sat with me after I mentioned that a long time ago, when I was changing from pre-law to something or other, Dad told me I needed to find a field where I could get a job.

“As long as you aren’t majoring in English or something else stupid like that, I don’t care,” he said. “You just need to be able to get a job.” (Incidentally, English was going to be my major right up to that moment…)

The kid’s dad had said something similar when he made the change to journalism and he wondered what was out there for him. I explained about the various ways the skills he picked up in journalism would make him a fine hire for a ton of great jobs. He relaxed and then asked, “Can you tell my dad that? He runs his own business and he thinks this is a stupid move.”

Of course it’s a stupid move, if you enjoy low-stress jobs with good benefits and career security. It’s also a stupid move if you enjoy being liked and you don’t want your illusion shattered when it comes to thinking the best of people. It’s a really stupid move for 1,001 other reasons that undercut sanity and longevity. Still, the kid felt like he found the right major, so like a moth to a flame, he decided to stick with it.

I was glad for that and I’m looking for more just like him because we need those guys and gals to fill in the ranks of reporters, editors and other journalists who push back every day against the tide of bullshit. Talking to kids who want to be the next reporter to be told, “Sit down! You’re fake news” really energizes me and makes me want to get them ready to go in the corner and fight for the puck. That’s why this weekend finds me at a journalism convention in Minnesota where kids from a lot of small-college Midwestern schools will show up and learn how to write, report, dig, challenge and fight better.

Best of all? The person running the convention told me the number of attendees this year is higher than it has been for the past several mid-winter conferences.

And, like any other decent journalist, I’ll make sure to check it out before I believe it.

Wingnut Mailbag: On Wisconsin Edition

Clarke

For some reason, I’m on Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s email list. I’m not quite sure why. It shouldn’t have anything to do with my making fun of Clarke last fall, but it might. All publicity is good publicity to the likes of Clarke. Trumpers love to be trumpeted.

I’m getting a perverse thrill at poaching on Scout, Doc, and A’s turf but I suspect they don’t mind. I’d rather not be getting wingnut email from the Clarkites but I am. So it goes.

Sheriff Clarke is looking to 2018. He could run for re-election but his approval rating is even lower than Trump’s: an abysmal 31%. Milwaukee County is a Democratic stronghold, which is why he’s nominally a Democrat. Clarke is even less popular among Democrats at home: only 13% of Dems want him re-elected. That’s why he’s likely to change parties and challenge Senator Tammy Baldwin.

The aforementioned  fundraising emails combine homophobia, sexism, and wingnut lunacy. On January 30th, Team Clarke sent an email entitled Arrest Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Hey, at least they used her title. Here’s a sample of the ravings therein:

Liberal lesbian Tammy Baldwin is aiding and abetting ISIS. She is working to stop President Donald Trump’s ban on terrorist refugees. Tammy Baldwin is more concerned about protecting the safety of ISIS members than she is about the security of the United States. It is clear that Tammy Baldwin doesn’t care that many of the refugees have plans to attack America. Tammy Baldwin belongs in prison! She is a traitor to our country!

Fun fact: a group called Restore American Liberty sent the email. It’s located in Denver, Colorado. Clarke might call it federalism, I call it carpetbaggery.

The ironically named Restore American Liberty has sent me the same email three days in a row. You’d think they’d get tired of repeating themselves, but wingnuts are simple people. Here’s another passage:

Sheriff David Clarke can win! He can defeat leftist lesbian Tammy Baldwin in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race! If elected, he will work to secure the borders and ban Muslim immigration. Unlike Tammy Baldwin, Sheriff David Clarke supports balancing the budget, protecting the Second Amendment, and defending the right to life. 

Liberal lesbian Tammy Baldwin needs to be defeated! She is a radical pro-abortion, open borders Democrat. She supports higher taxes, gun control, and expanding ObamaCare. America needs Sheriff David Clarke to defeat her!

Wealthly LGBT donors from Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York are going to spend millions in support of Tammy Baldwin. It is crucial that grassroots conservatives fight back!

Wealthly? Don’t these bozos spell check? Of course, their target audience is knuckledraggers who read about as much as the Insult Comedian. Trump, of course, would say that Sheriff Clarke is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice. If you think I’m obsessed with that gobsmacker of a sentence, check out N Todd’s joint, Dohiyi Mir.

My unsolicited advice to Wisconsinites: get over the Packers loss and go to work supporting “leftist liberal lesbian” Tammy Baldwin. The helots are coming for her. If it’s not David Clarke, they’ll find another challenger. It’s an example of why our voters need to turn out for EVERY ELECTION. The country you save may be your own.

The Word Of The Day Is Salacious

Unless you live under a rock in an isolated part of Siberia, you’ve heard about the raw intelligence file posted by BuzzFeed. Many reputable news organizations, including Mother Jones, refused to publish it because it’s unverifiable. Slate’s Will Oremus describes how it finally came out after months of teasing:

The dossier was not new. Buzz Feed and multiple other news organizations had obtained it well before Tuesday and had been investigating its various claims. Mother Jones wrote about it prior to the election, on Oct. 31, and published a handful of quotes from it. Key figures in Congress had also seen it and even publicly alluded to it, and the Guardian reported on Tuesday that Sen. John McCain had passed it to FBI Director James Comey last month. But no one had published its entire, stunning contents before Tuesday—partly because, as my colleague Joshua Keating put it, “nothing in the memos has been confirmed, and even their provenance is murky.”

<SNIP>

Smith didn’t address why BuzzFeed waited until now to publish the document, and he declined to comment further for this article. But the move came almost immediately after CNN reported Tuesday that top U.S. intelligence officials had shown Trump and President Obama a two-page synopsis of the dossier. The synopsis was presented as an unofficial appendage to the classified security briefings they gave Obama and Trump about Russian interference in the presidential election, CNN reported. Sources also told CNN that the “Gang of Eight” Congressional leaders had been provided a synopsis of the dossier as well.

In short, the timing was driven by media momentum. It turns out that our old friend FBI Director James Comey has been sitting on the information. He apparently only publicizes unverifiable information about Hillary Clinton.

Twitter was agog last night over the ickiest part of the dossier: Trump’s use of golden showers as a soggy revenge mechanism.  While amusing that was NOT the most important passage of the dossier:

In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years [see more below]. This was confirmed by Source a close associate of TRUMP who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow, and who reported, also in Tune 2016, that this Russian intelligence had been “very helpful”. The Kremlln’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business  deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ [compromising material] on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and OBAMA {whom he hated] had stayed on one other official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSE control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

I don’t do terlet humor: it’s low-hanging fruit for low-brows. The jokes missed the ominous point of the memo: that the KGB’s successor agency, the FSE, has allegedly been blackmailing Trump because he was stupid and arrogant enough to have hookers pee on a bed the Obamas slept in. Both claims are plausible if disgusting. Trump *is* stupid and arrogant and blackmail has long been used by Russian intelligence as a means of gaining leverage over people. Anyone who has read John LeCarre or watched The Americans knows that. Of course, Trump doesn’t read books and is incapable of sitting still long enough to marvel over Philip’s wigs on the FX show.

I never thought I’d be writing about a President-elect, and peeing Russian hookers. This is the level to which Trump has dragged our national dialogue. I am, however, worried that the publication of the dossier will backfire and make people feel sorry for Trump. He deserves only scorn, not sympathy.

Last night I tweeted this out:

The NYT called the dossier salacious hence the post title. As of this writing, Trump’s first full-blown post-election press conference is still on. I’m skipping it. I’d rather read about it than watch it on the electric teevee machine. Why? After reading the raw intelligence file, I feel like I need delousing. I don’t want to go through that more than once.

What Are You Looking At?

I cannot tell you how exhausted I am of the Democratic Party pretending there’s only one race that matters: 

Still, the party’s expectations about Clinton demonstrated just how bad parties are at analyzing what they need to fix to win. Next year, while it is not what they boast about, Democrats are expecting mistakes by Trump — the most unpopular incoming president in decades — to create opportunities for them. Their debate about winning a new majority is not about a savior from red America, or even a change in policy. It is about better organizing, and how to win back voters who were Democrats until the party was branded as neoliberal and pro-trade.

 

Democrats can’t just organize at the national level and run for president and lose every House and Senate seat and every state house and expect those losses not to eventually bite them in the ass at the national level too. Let the blue states become seething roiling pits of anti-everything sentiment, from Scott Walker’s rageaholic anti-education Wisconsin to Bruce Rauner’s union-bashing Illinois, and those feelings reach a critical mass.

If every voice from every leader is an authoritarian Republican one, how do you expect them to listen to what Democrats are saying? Where are they supposed to read your 5-point plan? Twitter?

When we look at the future, what are we looking at? National numbers on Trump’s unpopularity? If that shit mattered John Kerry would be opening his presidential library and Hillary would be having Bill measure the Oval for new curtains. State numbers are all that matters, and maybe this more than anything: How far down the Republican rabbit hole have the state legislature and the house races gone?

If those have all been won by tea-freak bigots, I don’t care what it did in the last election, that’s not a blue state.

What are we expecting otherwise? “Well, on a local level I approve of drug testing for welfare and repealing worker protections and gutting public schools and bashing professors and throwing the entire economy into a tailspin so I can regulate where transgender people pee, but nationally? I’m all for fairness, sharing, kindness, gay people, single mothers and the idea of a representative democracy!”

Forget a 50-State Strategy. We need a 50-State Legislature Strategy.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best Of Adrastos 2016

Nighthawks

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

It’s time to take a look back at 2016. It may be an exercise in egotism but it’s mine, all mine. Last year’s best of Adrastos was a top thirty list, this year we have a plus-one. Sounds like a dinner party, doesn’t it? It’s time to belly-up to the buffet…

2016 was a good year for satire, but a terrible year for the country. And I was a better pundit than prognosticator. So it goes.

Here’s this year’s crop of posts in chronological order:

January 7, 2016: The Fog Of History: The Wallace Factor.

January 16, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: Black Tie White Noise.

February 27, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: All The Things You Are.

March 28, 2016: The Fog Of Historical Pictures: Grace Coolidge’s Pet Raccoon.

March 28, 2016: Charles Foster Kane Meets Donald Trump.

March 31, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: John Milkovich (Not Malkovich)

April, 18, 2016: Oy, Such A Mentor

April 21, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: Jeff Weaver.

May 7, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: They All Laughed.

May 18, 2016: Speaking In Dudebromides.

June 3, 2016: Trump Violates The First Rule Of Litigation.

June 13, 2016: Still Comfortably Numb Revisited.

June 29, 2016: A Fatal Lack Of Cunning & Guile.

July 11, 2016: Jill Stein: Crunchy Granola Machiavelli.

July 29, 2016 DNC Wrap Up Finale: She Won’t Stay Throwed.

August 18, 2016: Heckuva Job, Advocate.

August 18, 2016: The Insult Comedian’s Not For Turning.

August 22, 2016: Every Flim-Flam Man Needs A Sucker.

September 8, 2016: Is Trump Really Running For Grand Nagus?

September 17, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: Birdland.

October 4, 2016: Instant Analysis: The Debate As Altman Film.

October 6, 2016: Absence Of Malice.

October 10, 2016: Breitbart-Bannon-Bossie Man.  Bloggers Note: This post was included by Batocchio in the Jon Swift Roundup 2016. 

October 17, 2016: Moe’s Wife Blames Larry.

November 2, 2016: Out Of Control FBI Playing By The Clinton Rules.

November 10, 2016: Sitting Political Shiva.

November 11, 2016: Confessions Of A Keyboard Maquis.

November 16, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: New Orleans Baby Cakes.

November 17, 2016: The Most Dangerous Game. 

December 1, 2016: Louisiana Politics: A Terrible Candidate For Terrible Times.

December 12, 2016: Hayes/Smith: Only Victims.

That’s it for 2016. It’s been a tough year but we’re still alive and kicking. I’ll give the last word to two guys we’re really going to miss:

obama-kerry-meme

 

 

Tweet Of The Day: Devil-Eyed MSM Edition

I’m an aficionado of devil-eyed cat pictures. Della Street’s glow in the dark demon eyes have given us all a great deal of pleasure over the years. Last night, Keith Olbermann retweeted a picture from ex-Politico honcho Mike Allen who was partying with the Insult Comedian at Mar-a-Largo:

It’s the courtier press at its worst. They appear to have made a deal with the devil in exchange for fleeting access. Thumbs down:  it’s a bad deal for them. The Insult Comedian will denounce them soon enough if they even mildly criticize him. It’s the way of the electoral college winner.

Speaking of the electoral college. Today is end of delusion day. There’s no chance that there will be enough faithless electors to throw the election to the House where Trump would win anyway. I haven’t said much about the so-called “Hamilton elector movement” because I don’t believe in waking sleepwalkers. (If I’m wrong about this, I will drink vodka, eat cauliflower, listen to thrash metal, watch The Sound of Music, and do other things I dislike in penance. End of my own personal parade of horrors.)

I, too, believe that Trump will be an illegitimate President, elected by suspect means, aided by the dictator of a hostile foreign power. I can also count. People should be organizing to resist Trump and his marauding gang of Billionaires, generals, and white nationalists instead of hoping for deliverance from Republican electors.

We should take the same position the GOP took after the elections of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. You all remember what Mitch McConnell said in 2009, but after Clinton was elected, then Senate GOP leader Bob Dole told the country that he planned to represent those who did NOT vote for Clinton. The delegitimization campaign paid off in the 1994 contract on America election. It worked again in the Tea Party election of 2010. It’s how Democrats at all levels should approach the incoming administration: massive resistance with an eye on 2018. Some former congressional staffers have already posted a manifesto online. Read it, learn from it.

Vive les Maquis.

It Hurts to Take the Story Apart. Do It Anyway.

There’s a story we’ve been telling ourselves for a long time now, about how democracy works, about how it has to work in order for us all to get up in the morning. It involves how campaigns operate, how elections take place, how power is handed from one person to another and what is done with that power and to whom.

The story’s called America. It’s a few years old now. Maybe you’ve heard it: We are free, and we choose who leads us, and we have chance after chance to make things better. We’re in charge, you and me, for good and ill and sometimes both together.

It’s always been partly fiction. In our finest hours it’s always been a little frayed. But we’ve been able to tell ourselves the story while it’s still more knit than mend.

Can we do that right now?

The Russian state took an interest in our elections and tried to influence them. To what extent, with what effect, and for what purpose, those in power know and aren’t saying.

And over the past couple of days during discussion of that, and discussion of the popular vote imbalance, and discussion of voter suppression in formerly swing states, I’ve been hearing lots of variations on IT’S TOO HARD AND OMG MEEN. That political blowback would be intense for anyone who said hey, hold on, let’s figure this shit out. That we don’t have time between now and the inauguration (I guess there are too many Christmas parties?) and can’t we just put our heads down and power through this?

The vast majority of the GOP, of course, is hedging its bets as they have been since the primaries ended. Maybe this will all die down and they can get back to gutting the social safety net which is what they’re really here for. Maybe Donald Trump will just fuck up normally, like Dan Quayle or something, accidentally hit on a few prime ministers’ wives, do some blow in the Oval, and leave the hard work to them. That was their overarching rationale for endorsing his skeezy ass and they are desperately clinging to it.

It’s gross, of course, like a 15-year-old who still wants to bring his blankie to school, but we always underestimate how attached people are to their security objects.

But Obama and the Democrats? The purported grownups in the GOP in Congress and statehouses who either actively avoided mentioning Trump or flat-out said he was garbage? Those people? I don’t want to hear from THEM how difficult it is to take the story of America apart and put it back together again.

I don’t want to hear about concerns that they’d be perceived as helping Hillary, or that TV commentators would say things in that deep concerned voice they affect, or that frogs would yell shit online. THOSE AREN’T REAL CONSEQUENCES for people who are elected to do a job.

They aren’t elected to serve just to rename official state animals and pass continuing resolutions to hold up how much everything sucks right now. They are elected to fix what is broken even if that something is EVERYTHING.

Things have been breaking down for a while now. Redistricting to weight state legislatures overwhelmingly against Democrats and third parties, ballot initiatives designed to turn out opponents of one candidate or another, tax caps and institutional neglect and voting restrictions, and all of it leading to a campaign in which one candidate won the popular vote by 2.6 million and the other candidate — a racist sex predator — is president.

Things have been breaking down and politicians have been desperately pretending they are okay because, frankly, taking all this apart is hard. It takes time. It takes study and most of all it takes attention we don’t have because the decent public servants are trying to keep their constituents out of hock to the mob.

Which is a deliberate thing also, in case we didn’t have enough to deal with. I get ragey when modern American voters are described as being distracted by TV and video games; the club of the most of us is distracted by the trivial need to EAT, and I can’t imagine the calls district offices get asking for help with the few social programs we have left.

Still. Still and all. There have to be things big enough that we make room for them. The question of foreign interference in an election has got to be one of those things.

Winter breaks can be cancelled. Everybody can work late. We can stop talking about Twitter and we can take out a yellow legal pad and a box of black pens and a box of red pens and we can figure out how to investigate this and, if necessary, prosecute it. It’s not false and it’s not trivial and it’s certainly not too much for us.

We’ve built bigger than this. We can tear this down. We can take this story apart and figure out which parts are true and which are false.

Sack up, hos. Get to work.

A.

Louisiana Politics: A Terrible Candidate For Terrible Times

foster-foghorn-meme

I swore I wouldn’t write about the Gret Stet Senate run-off since I prefer not to take shots at my own side. BUT a pro-Foster Campbell super PAC ran an ad that can be interpreted as flipping off part of the Democratic base. Here’s how Tyler Bridges described it in the Advocate:

A super PAC supporting Foster Campbell, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, is airing an unlikely television ad on the highly-charged issue of abortion.

The pro-Campbell ad attacks John N. Kennedy, his Republican opponent, from the right — even though Kennedy has the endorsement of National Right to Life, a prominent anti-abortion group.

The ad alleges that Kennedy supported abortion from 1988 to 2004 and, as viewers hear a beating heart, posts the number 22,581,040 on the screen.

 “That’s how many children were aborted during John Kennedy’s career as a pro-choice politician,” the announcer says, citing figures from National Right to Life.

“Foster Campbell worked with us to protect the unborn,” the announcer adds.

I understand that one reason for the ad is to accurately paint John Neely Kennedy as an opportunistic weasel. But the sub-text for people like me is that we have nowhere else to go, so they don’t care what we think. So much for this run-off tag line: Straight Talk with Foster Campbell.

Here’s the deal. I have voted many times for Blue Dog Democrats and I’m sure I will in the future, but Foster’s populist pose really riles me up as they say in the piney woods. He’s also running an ad wherein he states that he will work with Trump when he’s right; not exactly an uplifting message for a blogger whose slogan is Vive les Maquis. He has said he’d oppose Trump on Social Security and Medicare, which is why I’m holding my nose and voting for Foster.

I realize that the Insult Comedian got 58% while winning Louisiana but if Foster were a genuine populist he’d run against all the wealthy plutocrats appointed to the Trump cabinet. The DeVos, Mnuchin, and Ross appointments clearly establish Trump as the phony populist 49% of the people believe him to be. Instead of indulging in me-tooism, Campbell should indict Trump as a lying fake populist who appointed the “foreclosure king” as Treasury Secretary while forgetting the forgotten man. I’d also like to point out that Huey Long, the patron saint of Gret Stet populism, was willing to attack a popular President of his own party. And Trump ain’t no FDR.

Running a scorched earth campaign would also allow the doomed candidate to lose with some dignity instead of trying to out hick Neely. I considered calling this post Hick vs. Hick but I’m sick of the hick shtick so I didn’t. In the end, Foster is a candidate who reminds me of Foghorn Leghorn. I say, I say.

My dislike of Foster Campbell dates to the 2007 Gret Stet Goober Race. He was allegedly the leading Democratic candidate in a race that Bobby Jindal was destined to win. Foster barely had a pulse during that election. He ended up with 12.45% finishing in fourth place behind a guy who had been a Democrat for five minutes and independent John Georges, the dullest Greek tycoon in recorded history. I have a friend who told Campbell he could build a name for himself even in defeat if he ran a spirited campaign. He did not and he lost. Badly.

Campbell *is* running a better campaign than in 2007. His team includes many of the same people who helped elect John Bel Edwards Governor in 2015. The problem is that Edwards was a better candidate than Foster and Bitter Vitter was a weaker candidate than Neely. That race featured a West Pointer versus Diaper Dave. The 2016 Senate race is more like Foghorn Leghorn versus Colonel Corpone. In the end, Senate races are a different beast altogether: they’re about national, not state politics. If the opposite were true, Mary Landrieu would have won a fourth term in 2014,

I am planning to vote for Foster Campbell in the run-off. It will be a clothes pin vote. There’s been some debate among my friends as to what kind of clothes pin it should be. One friend advocates a strong spring clamp, another a cast iron clothes pin. I’m sticking with the old-fashioned pinewood clothes pin since we’re having a hick vs. hick run-off. Or perhaps I should go Claes Oldenburg on their asses:

clothespin

Foster closes one of his teevee spots by shooting a shotgun, Joe Manchin-style. At least he isn’t running an ad with this closing line: “I believe that love is the answer but you oughta own a handgun just in case.”

As an antidote to that Neelyism, I’ll give Todd Rundgren and Utopia the last word:

Trump’s Thanksgiving Toddler Tantrum

Trump Turkey Tweet

In confronting the biggest liar in American political history, I claim the right to dramatic license, especially when alliteration is involved. At least that claim isn’t false like this one:

It turns out that the only “news site” that’s pushing this ludicrous story about “illegal aliens” voting is Alex Jones’ Info Wars:

Donald Trump’s campaign has yet to provide any evidence for the President-elect’s new claim that “millions” of votes cast by undocumented immigrants cost him the popular vote.

While elections officials and fact-checking websites have adamantly denied that any such widespread voter fraud occurred, one national news site has pushed this myth: conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars.

A widely-shared November 14 article from the site that alleged that “Trump may have won the popular vote” claims that “more than three million” votes were cast by non-citizens. As PolitiFact documented, the story is based off tweets from Gregg Phillips, a GOP operative who claims to be the founder of VoteStand.org, a voter fraud reporting app. It also cites a report from VoteFraud.org, though no such report exists.

Phillips told PolitiFact he was still analyzing and verifying data and refused to offer any additional information about how he arrived at the three million figure.

The whole thing is based on some tweets and a big lie, just like the Trump campaign itself. The problem is that some people believe this shit; in part, because the MSM continues to treat Trump as if  he occasionally tells the truth when he NEVER does so.

The latest twitter tantrum started as a way to divert attention from stories of conflicts of interest and internal staff strife. The claim that he won the popular vote turned a phony controversy into a real one over phony numbers. Autocrats love phony numbers.

In other Big Lie news, it looks like the Trumpers are setting up Willard Mittbot Romney for a fall. I was always skeptical that he was a serious contender for Secretary of State absent humiliating terms. I agree with Josh Marshall’s take on this:

But the current drama over Mitt Romney’s possible nomination to be Secretary of State points to something quite different: the ritual humiliation of opponents, critics and all who have resisted that Trump yoke that is central to the Trump world. We saw it repeatedly during the campaign and it continues into the transition.

If you haven’t kept up on this little sub-drama in the Trump mega-drama, Trump staffers have been floating word for days that Trump will require Romney to publicly apologize if he wants to be Secretary of State – almost literally a ritual humiliation to enter the Trump inner circle. More pointedly, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway – now some sort of senior advisor to the transition – has repeatedly said in public that if Trump chooses Romney it would be a betrayal of Trump’s supporters. She said this most recently and floridly this morning on the CNN Sunday morning show.

<SNIP>

Dignity is the kryptonite of the Trump world. The dignity wraiths who have bowed down to Trump and given him their all instinctively look to destroy anyone who hasn’t. Like a mob capos who appear more eager to defend the boss’s honor and power than the boss himself but this mystery is beside the point.

A willingness to accept humiliation is part of the deal made by anyone who enters Trump World. Total submission is required, especially for those like Romney who have told the truth about the Insult Comedian in the past. I suspect he’s trying to convince himself that taking on this job would be an act of selfless patriotism instead of a journey into humiliation. I’m convinced he’s being set up for a different form of humiliation: being bypassed for a Trump loyalist. Willard should not take the bait. Instead, he should tell the world he does not want the job. Will he do it? Beats the hell out of me, but if he wants to keep his dignity he will. Look what happened to Chris Christie. He was demoted from butler to footman after the election.

I cannot believe I just gave sincere advice to a man I’ve mocked for years. It’s another example of what Trump hath wrought and why I will continue to treat the electoral college winner with the same respect that Republicans showed Barack Obama: NONE.

Vive les Maquis.

Abandon All Hope of Trump’s Improvement

Peggy Noonan still thinks someone is coming to save her: 

The press does not believe, not for a second, and Democrats do not believe, not for a second, that Mr. Trump will be able to change the habits of a lifetime. They are relying on it.

Mr. Trump shocked them by winning. He should shock them now with rectitude.

HE’S NOT GOING TO DO THAT. God, everyone with a functioning keyboard told you a hundred thousand times he was like this, and HE told you he was like this, and you said over and over that maybe he wasn’t going to be like this, and you’re still counting on salvation from above?

Grow the fuck up, Pegs, there is no Easter Bunny. I know it hurts your head to think filthy hippies might have a point here, but the pivot’s not coming.

I keep reading these stories: 

What happens next to the American republic will depend on whether Trump chooses to abide by, or can be restrained within, legal and bureaucratic limits—or whether his fellow partisans, seeking their own immediate political objectives, instead empower and enable him.

Yeah, this is in doubt. Whether the Republican establishment is going to restrain Trump.

The same Republican establishment that threw everything it had at him during the primaries and barely mussed his stupid muppet fur.

The same Republican establishment that spent the general election dithering and hedging and trying to figure out how to kiss HALF of Trump’s ass, in case this whole thing went south or in case it didn’t.

The same Republican establishment that was so enamored of small-d democratic principles that it shut down the government in protest of giving people health care? That spent eight years screaming about seekrit Muslims and gay marriage and refusing to confirm a goddamn Supreme Court nominee?

That’s the institution you’re thinking is going to grow a pair? That’s what you’re counting on? You might as well be praying to the Tooth Fairy. It would be just as effective and slightly less embarrassing.

Just stop it.

Nobody’s coming to save us from Trump.

Not the politicians who are trying to figure out how to cooperate with him while still yelling at him enough to make money. Not the news hairdos already running stories about what the Trump family Thanksgiving looked like. Not the electoral college or Jill Stein’s recount or Hillary contesting the results of the election.

Certainly not the Republican party which faced so few consequences for nominating a SERIAL SEX PREDATOR that they won the entire White House and larger majorities in Congress.

Why should they save the country from Trump? Why are we asking them to do what is not in their interest?

I said it right after the election and I’ll keep saying it: All we do now is save as many as we can. Keep giving me your suggestions for how we do that because that’s all that’s important now.

Nobody’s coming to save us. Certainly not from the GOP side of the aisle.

A.

Electoral College Blues

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has been crunching the numbers and it looks as if Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by 2.5 million votes. That margin is greater than the following post-World War II popular vote/electoral college winners:

1976: Carter beat Ford by 1,683, 247 votes.

1968: Nixon beat Humphrey by 511,944 votes.

1960: Kennedy beat Nixon by 112,827 votes.

1948: Truman beat Dewey by 2,188,055 votes.

Our 19th Century electoral system has bitten us in the ass for the second time in five elections. Unfortunately, it’s how we elect Presidents. The only way to change the system is for a party that wins the electoral college to propose its abolition. Otherwise it sounds like sour grapes or sore loserdom. It’s terrible when, as in 2000 and 2016, the stakes are so high. In 2000, the electoral college elected a genial simpleton. In 2016, they elected a nasty sociopath. Calling the situation worrisome is a grotesque understatement, but hyperbole got us into this mess so a bit of understatement is not a bad idea.

There are some novel electoral college ideas floating around the internet. I wish I thought any of them could reverse the election but, as of this writing, I do not. There are some faithless electors who hope to blow up the system. I have my doubts there are enough of them to throw the election into the House. That’s not a happy solution either since Republicans control it and Ryan is on the verge of realizing his dream of destroying medicare. Why that should be anyone’s dream is beyond me but it’s his. Hence Charlie Pierce’s nickname for him: the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver. Much of our effort should be focused on stiffening the spines of Senate Democrats to prevent this calamity. F is for filibuster.

The disparity between the popular and electoral vote is troublesome, especially given the allegations about Russian hackers and spooks. Oh my. A voting machine audit is a capital idea BUT it’s unlikely to reverse the results. I think it *should* be done if only to lessen doubts on our side. Given HRC’s margin in the popular vote, there will *always* be doubts about the 2016 election. I harbor them myself but we’re more likely than not stuck with the Insult Comedian as our next President. Having said that, I will never accept his legitimacy. I plan to resist in whatever way that I can. Vive les Maquis.

A more promising reason to challenge the results is contained in a piece by New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. I’m squeezing it in here because this piece was 95.4% finished.

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

Deadlines are looming so Team Clinton needs to decide before cutting the turkey. I have no idea what will come of this but it means that Trump’s legitimacy is zip, zilch, and zero. Here’s a Yiddish word to annoy Bannon and the B3 Brownshirts: Bupkis.

(UPDATE: Data nerds Nates Cohn and Silver are skeptical of the claims made in Sherman’s piece. So it goes.)

The most thought-provoking piece I’ve seen about the Electoral College mess is by the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart. Here’s the money passage:

It is “desirable,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, “that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of” president. But is “equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” These “men”—the electors––would be “most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.” And because of their discernment—because they possessed wisdom that the people as a whole might not—“the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

As Michael Signer explains, the framers were particularly afraid of the people choosing a demagogue. The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming president. And they would combat “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” They would prevent America’s adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump.

It’s hard to argue that point. This situation is unprecedented. Like all Democrats, I wanted the Florida recount to continue in 2000. When it ended, I was all like: He’s Poppy Bush’s son, how bad can it be? We know how that turned out.

In 2016, we are confronted with an electoral college winner who is stupid, mentally unstable, and has authoritarian tendencies. His claim that he alone can decide not to prosecute his opponent is how dictators talk. I wish I had a clear idea of how to deal with this menace by legal, political means but I don’t. Pointing out problems is easy, coming up with solutions is hard.

Where do we go from here? I wish I knew. Resistance, in ways both small and large, to the new order is in order. It is still possible that Trump’s incompetence will save the Republic but we cannot count on it. Team Trump were somehow able to win the electoral vote.

In 2018, Democrats need to show up at the polls to express our disapproval at the ballot box. The obsession with the White House at the expense of down ballot races has become an unhealthy addiction. We need to kick it and focus on organizing at the state and local level. That’s how a party is rebuilt and how autocracy is prevented.

2016 really sucks the big one. Happy Fucking Thanksgiving.

I hate to end on such a hopeless note, so let’s play the ultimate Yes song:

It’s your move. Vive les Maquis.

Love at First Spite or, An Offer to Trump Supporters in the Spirit of the Season

In the spirit of the holidays, I have a proposition for our Trump-supporting friends.

Go ahead.

Say it.

Say, “Fuck you.” Say it to my face.

Say it to my liberal, city-dwelling, higher-educated, Democratic-Party-voting, Starbucks-swilling, Whole-Foods-shopping, Heather-Has-Two-Mommies-reading face.

Say it morning, noon and night.

Say it as often as you want. As loud as you want. Say it in front of my husband, my daughter, and all my friends. Say it over and over and over again.

Get it out of your system. So that the rest of us can GO BACK TO WORK.

That’s my present. That’s my gift to you, Trump supporters. That’s my extension of empathy and generosity and understanding, based on everything I’ve heard and everything I’ve read about you since the election.

You see, I understand you have been left behind by the economy. I understand you have been struggling for a while, even before the dot-com boom and bust, before the 2008 crash, before the anemic “recovery” that didn’t help you recover from anything.

But I understand something else, too.

The very smart Kathy Cramer, who I’m proud to have briefly shared an office with at one time, explained it for people who, unlike me, didn’t grow up next door to you: 

Racism is certainly a part of the story when these people make calculations about deservingness and who is or is not working hard. People would talk about opposing social programs because the recipients were lazy and not hardworking like themselves; those were often dog-whistle racist claims. But, at times, they were also talking about the laziness of desk-job white professionals like me.

So racism is a part of this resentment, but we are failing to fully understand these perspectives when we assume that racism is more fundamental than calculations of injustice. The two elements are intertwined. The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected. They were doing what they perceived good Americans ought to do to have the good life. And the good life seemed to be passing them by.

It’s worth noticing that Trump’s appeal to these folks is not about facts or particular policies. It is instead the act of delivering a message that resoundingly resonates with the perspective of someone identifying proudly as a resident of a type of place that the dominant urban society does not care about or respect.

I can’t do much about the location of the state capitals or the legislative schedule. I can’t make people’s representatives listen to them or interact with them, nor can I make people show up to the community meetings their reps might have. I can’t make anyone feel more comfortable in his or her skin any more than I can give anybody a job right now.

But maybe I can do something about the deep, abiding, burning need to tell someone who exemplifies what you hate to go straight to hell.

You want to prove you’re an underdog who tells the libtards who don’t respect you to go straight to hell, people?

You want to give the middle finger to everything that bugs you, including Happy Holidays at Macy’s, someone speaking Spanish on her cell phone at the restaurant, an ethnic scholarship at your high school, a gay storyline in your favorite police procedural?

Do it.

Make that stupid Hillary “KFC” joke ten times. Tell me the story about Michelle Obama putting crack pipes on the Christmas tree at the White House. Talk about how Bill Clinton is the biggest sex offender the world has ever known. Offer your opinion that “we” have “banned” God from “the schools.”

Ooh, call me a babykiller. That one never gets old.

Send me a hundred memes just like this one:

trumpsantajesus

I’ll post them on my Facebook timeline. I’ll nod and agree with anything you say. I’ll feel very, very bad about myself and everything I stand for. I may even cry, if that’s what it takes.

 

I am more than willing to take one for the team.

If.

IF.

In exchange, you vote for health insurance for your sick neighbors. You expand Medicaid for your state’s poorest residents. You don’t fight about food stamps and subsidized housing, in fact, you support them.

In exchange, you vote for punishment for companies that poison your water. You support jury awards of damages for corporations convicted of harm to the environment and the people who live in it.

In exchange, you vote for lowering the Social Security retirement age. You vote for increased funding for public education. You vote for restoring the Voting Rights Act and you vote for expanding it to every state in the union: No one gets to fuck with anyone’s vote without review or check.

You vote for honest-to-God campaign finance reform, and consideration of judicial appointees in a timely manner so that the fucking courts can do their job.

You vote for all that shit, and you can tell me to my face that I’m a lazy liberal who doesn’t understand the real world, and I will agree with you.

You make your life better, you make my life better, you make our country better, and you GET WHAT YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING, which is to say fuck you.

I mean it. I’m sick of people I love suffering because you want to make a statement. Because you want to have feelings about your place in the world. Because deep down you get mad and sad that you are not being given a parade for showing up every day. Because you resent.

I’m offering you a way out. Go ahead.

Take it.

A.

 

Okay, What’s Next?

In Chicago, here’s what we’re doing: 

“This is the moment to really be organized and really be loving, hold everyone in love and bring people in,” said Luna White of the Chicago-based Black Youth Project 100.

University of Chicago political scientist Cathy Cohen said the country could do well to employ Chicago’s brand of movement-based organizing.

The city has a history of rallying around marginalized groups through the time-honored tradition of community organizing. Some recent successes involving young activists include a reopened trauma center at the University of Chicago, city council’s approvals of reparations for police torture and new policies focused on police accountability.

“Chicago’s a very, very good example for waiting for the right moment and being very, very organized about what kind of actions we do and when we do them and why and with who,” said White, who moved from Los Angeles to Chicago because of the city’s strong community organizing.

I’m personally not going to wait for 2020 to get anything done politically. In 2018 our garbage governor in Illinois is going to be up for election and I’m gonna be knocking on doors for whoever or whatever gets the nomination to run against him. Because in addition to starving social services and demonizing teachers, he stayed away from Trump until it was convenient not to: 

“I talked with the president-elect last Friday afternoon. We talked abut working together. It was a good, good, positive conversation. I had never spoken with him before,” Rauner said. “Two of his most senior folks in his administration are good personal friends of mine, and allies of mine in politics, so we’re going to have a voice and good relations.”

I’m not overly fond of Republicans but I really hate cowards and bullies, and Rauner refused to say Trump’s name when it looked like Trump was going to be liability. You can’t pretend to be principled and then give it right up the minute it’s no longer good for you.

You? What are your planned actions?

A.

Normalizing, Comforting, and Why It’s NOT YOUR FUCKING JOB RIGHT NOW

They can’t help themselves:

Is there a keyboard macro or something?

Here’s some truly cowardly shit:

There’s also this:

And this:

Look. It’s hard covering something that’s never happened before.

Everybody has a script for stuff. Things usually go the way they go. And you can write and talk in the expected ways, and it will be fine.

AND THEN THE US GOES AND ELECTS AS PRESIDENT A RACIST SERIAL SEX PREDATOR.

What do you do then?

We want consensus. We want to go along to get along. We want everything to be okay.

So what do we have to do to make things okay? Well, first of all, clearly WE have to make things okay, because Donald Trump is not going to make things okay. He’s not going to be presidential. He’s not going to act normal. He’s not going to rescind a single insane misogynist bullying thing he said on the campaign trail or in his victory speech. So if things are going to be okay with a guy like this WE have to force them to be okay.

How do you make that happen?

You use the words you’ve always used. You talk about unity and respect for the office. You attribute uncomfortable truths to “critics” and make with cutesy headline puns and find a picture of Trump where he doesn’t look like a chickenfried fuckmuppet, and you plug that picture into the same cover you’ve used for every single president since the beginning of time.

You keep pretending the quicksand beneath you is bedrock and always has been. You keep saying both sides. You keep saying transition of power.

That way, everything sounds okay.

Everything looks okay.

Story after story comes out about Trump, about his kids getting security clearances, about his appointing a violent racist to his staff, about the collections of fools and ten-a-penny fascisti with which he’s surrounding himself, and what do you do?

Keep saying it. Critics say. Rhetoric on both sides. The election was negative. Everyone wants to move on. Give him a chance.

On the part of the politicians, this is laziness and cynicism and maybe for some of them abject terror: If they don’t work with this guy the way they worked with the last guy and the last 43 guys before that, then they have to come up with a whole new way of doing stuff which is hard, potentially costly to them politically, and maybe not even possible because he doesn’t recognize their humanity. I would not want to be Barbara Boxer or Tammy Baldwin alone in the East Room with that prick.

On the part of journalists, though, this comforting routine? This familiarity? It’s a goddamn betrayal.

You talk all day long at me about how you are the last guardians of American democracy, about how you hold us back from oblivion, about how you shine a light in dark places for all the country to see and are the watchers on the wall and all that shit.

Yet in the face of an actual threat to democracy, in the face of an actual world-shaking event the likes of which comes along once in a generation you cower in the corner and you say “critics say” and you cling to your keyboard macros that say “both sides” and “he doesn’t really mean it” and “provocateur” and “softening” and “the gravity of the office.” You cover this as if it’s normal.

I don’t even think half this shit is conscious. I think half of it is just … fucking DUMB, okay, like you can’t stop yourself long enough to tear the whole thing apart and do it differently.

The urge to conformity is a powerful one, maybe the most powerful force in the world. A lot of us have been on autopilot for a long fucking time, expecting the stories to write themselves, with maybe a minor variation here or there. So we meet the new challenge primarily with a whine about what else we’re supposed to do.

It’s HAAARRRRDDD MOM.

It’s not an easy thing, I’ll grant, to discover that what you thought would be good enough is utterly useless, but challenge yourselves, please, because actual lives are at risk. Sack up. Do it anyway. Figure out what you need to say and find a way with your institutional voice to say it. Cover every outrage as the outrage that it is. Trump doesn’t deserve one normal thing. He isn’t normal. He shouldn’t get normal in return.

That sinking feeling you didn’t do everything you could to stop this from happening? LISTEN TO IT. Change now before it’s too late and that feeling becomes your life.

A.

 

Pardon me, I’m stuck between alts

I know I said I was back but now I can’t find the words. But that was a sentence.  Given my one word vocabulary (fuck) on Wednesday and 2 word vocabulary (fuck me) on Thursday, I am making progress. I wrote a to do list today. 1) Read as much as possible to understand what happened. 2) Get your passport renewed just in case. That’s as far as I got.

I combed Twitter and did find links to interesting analysis articles. Well a few at least. Twitter is a mess for the most part. That is except for the alt-R and alt-L. I gleaned the alt-R won it for Trump and alt-L could have won, but Hillary. Such certainty. I don’t have it. I’m somewhere stuck between alts just left to suck on it.

And surprisingly I’m ok with that. I know I’m not alone. In fact I think I’m in the good company of people working very hard to try to understand what happened and what to do next. I do know this. There is not one answer, or 2 or 3. We have some tough work ahead. We will have to deal with the most regressive legislation we’ve probably seen in our lifetimes. We must stand up for and support those under attack. And here I am not just talking about writing. Or tweeting. There are people being verbally and physically assaulted. My body, your body may be the only thing standing in their  defense from assault.

Be Strong. Be gentle.

Get up

(Seriously hit that link. That’s Strong. That’s Gentle)

Where “Goddammit you fuckin’ guys” got us…

“You’re listening to me but you’re not understanding me.”
“No I’m disagreeing with you. That doesn’t mean that I’m listening to you or understanding what you’re saying. I’m doing all three at the same time.
– West Wing, In This White House

 

If we are going to get anywhere in this post, we need to start with a few basic understandings:

  • I do not like Donald Trump as a person, a candidate, a businessman, a leader or a human.
  • I voted for Hillary Clinton and it would be a cold day in Hell before I ever vote for Trump.
  • Anything said from this point forward should not be in any way construed as support, excuses, justification or approval for Trump or any action he has ever taken, including, but not limited to his sexist rants, his racist comments, his proclivities for sexual assault, his borderline-incest fascination with his daughter, his financial horrors or his moral compass.
  • Anything said from this point forward should not be construed as support, excuses, justification or approval for anyone who voted for him.

 

I spent the past few days trying to wrap my head around this election outcome and I figured out that I can’t. That bothers me because a) I’m an intellectual so I like knowing things and b) I’m a tinkerer, so I like solving problems.

Everyone who has written every concern about Donald J. Trump and the potential he has to fuck up every single institution in this country and turn us into Wolfenstein: The New Order is right. As far as journalism goes, these people have done everything perfectly in terms of explaining the Who, What, When, Where and How. What I’m trying to dig into is the “Why” aspect of this.

The problem with looking at “Why” is that it can be interpreted as agreement with or justification for choices.

I will be doing neither.

That said, if you don’t understand why something broke, you can’t figure out how to fix it. If you don’t take a look at the underlying aspects of something, you won’t understand its nature. Since most of the analysis has tried to look at the rural vote, I’m going to spend a lot of time picking at that.

And just like we would tell people who spent the last 19 months chanting “Lock Her Up,” we can’t get by with slogans or bumper-sticker answers.

This is going to hurt.

 

“I’m sure that’s important but I don’t want to tell some 8-year-old kid he has to sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their car. Do you want to tell him that?”
– Dave

 

John Scalzi did a fantastic post titled, “The Cinemax Theory of Racism.” In it, he explains the fact that even people who say, “I’m not racist, but I voted for Trump” were essentially aiding and abetting racism anyway. The analogy is outlined here, but here’s the short-course version of it:

 

You want HBO, but the cable company says you can’t get it without buying Cinemax as well. You decide to purchase HBO and then you’re upset when people say you are also a Cinemax subscriber.

You can make all the arguments you want that you don’t plan to watch Cinemax, that you didn’t want Cinemax and that you have no love for Cinemax, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re a Cinemax subscriber.

Same deal with Trump: You may have bought him for the supposed economic policies and Making Greatness for Beloved State of America, but you also are a racism subscriber.

 

He’s right in both the analogy and the outcome: People who bought Trump have to live with being called out for it, no matter how unpleasant the word “racist” is to them. I wouldn’t like being called a lot of “ists” out there either. However, in looking at the rural vote that came out for Trump, it might be more instructive to try a second analogy along those same lines:

 

You are trapped on an island for 10 days with no outside help or system of support. On this island is a single bird that is the only source of sustenance that will allow you to survive.

Unfortunately for you, this is a rare bird, a one-of-a-kind, and by killing and eating it, you will be causing the extinction of this species and will be helping to destroy an ecosystem.

So, you eat the bird and live.

For the rest of time after your rescue, people tell you that you destroyed the environment.

But I was just trying to survive, you say.

The others say back, Uh huh… but you killed off a species. You destroyed an ecosystem.

But I didn’t have a choice, you say.

The others say back, I understand you feel that way, but you still eliminated the animal from our world and we’ll never see it again. Our world will never be the same again.

But it was do this or die, you say.

The others say back, well, you still made that choice. You better own it.

 

This is rural America. They feel isolated from the broader whole. They feel desperate to survive. They are trying to weigh out an immediate, real need against what they perceive to be an ethereal broader consequence. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that starvation is going to trump higher-order thinking every day of the week.
I see three basic reasons for this:

  • Loss of local media: You can make the argument that the people in rural America get their information from Fox News and that assholes like Bill O’Reilly and Rudy Giuliani have fed them lies, distortions and false narratives. However the problem isn’t in what the national media is feeding them, but rather what local media isn’t anymore.
    Local newspapers are dying as paper costs more, journalism people don’t want to go out there and education is being shredded. You see buyouts, consolidation and other things that are eliminating newspapers throughout the rural areas. Those that remain are understaffed and overworked, leading to “easy” coverage on things like school plays and local parades.
    When local media in these towns meant something, people there learned from “people like them” what was going on with the local government, the school district and other similar things. They found out where their money was going and they could read about how things were in their area. That was all stuff they could get behind and at least understand: “My money will build a new school or buy a new fire truck. My kids can get a better education and my home won’t burn to the ground.”
    Now, these places get grouped into a larger “metro market” and get whatever Gannett paper is out there. None of the local news matters to them and the national news sucks, what little there is of it. So they turn to Fox or whatever Facebook feed their friends find interesting and, bam, you get a sense that nothing good is happening out there.
  • Realistic Conflict Theory and intergroup relations: Both analogies above (as well as thousands of others) create a dichotomy: You get X or Y. You buy the whole meal, no substitutions. In a broader view of this, it basically becomes a function of Realistic Conflict Theory: If you and I want the same cookie and either I get it or you get it, one of us is going to get something and the other isn’t. Trump did a brilliant job (and I hope to God that’s the last time I ever use the words “Trump” and “brilliant” in the same sentence…) of putting this out there for the voters who live in the rural areas. Kathy Cramer’s work on the rural people of Wisconsin makes this clear: People in the smaller towns and villages all over this state feel like all the good stuff goes to the Madisons and Milwaukees of the state while they get shit on. Can you make that argument? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Not at all. However, when you paint an “us versus them” picture, people will always close ranks with the “us folks” and research for generations has demonstrated that perfectly.
  • The lack of broader privilege: When we discuss privilege at the broader level, we talk about things like “white privilege” or “male privilege” and I’m not discounting or dismissing either of those. However, here’s an example of what I’m talking about:On a ballot a few elections ago, there was a referendum to raise property taxes locally for repairs and additions to the local high school. My child doesn’t attend the local school. None of her friends attend the local school. Nobody I know teaches or works at the local school.
    I voted for it anyway.
    My way of thinking was not about the $10 a year per thousand dollars of assessed value or whatever meant to my pocketbook. I saw value in the project, knew it would help people and just said yes. That’s a privilege I possess that a lot of people don’t.

    I would never cast my grandmothers into the “basket of deplorables,” but I know for sure they voted against helping schools, improving the library, paving some streets and a dozen other things that would have benefitted their small cities. They were fucking destitute, living on a tiny fraction of what I spend on car parts and furniture for the year.
    Every time I vote, I look at my vote in two ways: “How does it help me personally/my close family network?” And “How does this impact the bigger picture?” If I’m lucky, there’s a lot of overlap between the two and the vote is easy. In some cases, the Venn Diagram doesn’t really provide a lot of AB crossover, so I have to think about what I should do. I have that privilege. I can say, “Sure, Hillary might fuck me over a little here and there, but I can’t put a racist, sexist, homophobic asshole in charge of a hot dog cart, let alone the goddamned country.”
    Not everyone can look past immediate self-interest and buy the bigger picture.
    And Trump found a lot of those people.

 

 

“Don’t press your luck, funny man. And stop thinking everyone between Fifth Avenue and the Hollywood Bowl just stepped barefoot out of the cast of ‘Hee Haw.’ Tell your friends about it.”
– Studio 60, Nevada Day, Part II

 

Kathy Cramer has done some incredible work in Wisconsin as a political scientist, digging into the rural communities throughout the state and doing something that most of the pollsters and data crunchers don’t: She talked to people.

Researchers will argue that they talk to people all the time. So will journalists. Here’s the problem: They tend to parachute in, ask a bunch of questions, get some answers that support their ideas and evac out.

Cramer kept going back and going back and going back. She was like the Jane Goodall of the farming community in places that have fewer people than my high school.

This interview with her is spellbinding in so many ways, but the part that sticks with me right away is this quote:

“People felt that they weren’t getting respect. They would say: The real kicker is that people in the city don’t understand us. They don’t understand what rural life is like, what’s important to us and what challenges that we’re facing. They think we’re a bunch of redneck racists.”

Most of the talking heads spent the 48 hours after the election trying to parse one issue: Was this racism or classism? If you were on the Left, it was usually racism. If you were on the Right, it was usually classism.

Cramer’s research says it’s probably neither, but more of tribalism.

City Mouse versus Country Mouse.

Cramer talked at length about how her naiveté allowed her to start her work because had she known of the chasm of this divide, she probably would have been too scared to go to these places. Even as a white, Midwestern woman, she said there was a sense of “other” that emerged when she explained what she was doing and why:

They’re asking questions like, how often do I teach, what am I doing driving around the state Wisconsin when I’m supposed to be working full time in Madison, like, what kind of a job is that, right?

It’s not just resentment toward people of color. It’s resentment toward elites, city people. …

Part of where that comes from is just the overarching story that we tell ourselves in the U.S. One of the key stories in our political culture has been the American Dream — the sense that if you work hard, you will get ahead.

Well, holy cow, the people I encountered seem to me to be working extremely hard. I’m with them when they’re getting their coffee before they start their workday at 5:30 a.m. I can see the fatigue in their eyes. And I think the notion that they are not getting what they deserve, it comes from them feeling like they’re struggling. They feel like they’re doing what they were told they needed to do to get ahead. And somehow it’s not enough.

Oftentimes in some of these smaller communities, people are in the occupations their parents were in, they’re farmers and loggers. They say, it used to be the case that my dad could do this job and retire at a relatively decent age, and make a decent wage. We had a pretty good quality of life, the community was thriving. Now I’m doing what he did, but my life is really much more difficult.

I’m doing what I was told I should do in order to be a good American and get ahead, but I’m not getting what I was told I would get.

 

At one point, I was forced to calculate how many hours a day I “worked” as part of my job here at the U. Counting the newspaper, night-time grading, emails to kids off hours and other things like that, it came to something like 60-65 hours per week. Maybe it was a little more or less, but that was what I was coming up with for a month worth of counting.

Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t trade that for anything the people I live near do, no matter what.

I get to wear what I want to work. I can’t remember the last time I had to wear a uniform.

I can eat or pee whenever I feel like it. I don’t need to ask permission or have someone approve it.

I don’t have to punch in or punch out. As long as the work gets done, nobody gives a shit.

The biggest thing, though, is that I don’t come home dirty. Some days I feel mentally shot or brain dead, but I can sit on the couch right away without hearing, “Change your pants before you sit on the good sofa!”

When I worked in the garage, Mom used to make me strip in the yard and march my clothes down to the basement every day. They had to run my clothes through the wash without anyone else’s and we had to run an extra rinse cycle before we did the next load, for fear of damaging the rest of the laundry. I can’t tell you how many days I scarfed down my night meal in the kitchen in my skivvies and socks with clean hands, dirty arms and a naked torso.

When I go into the Kwik Trip in town for gas or a snack on the way to work, I see a lot of people I know do the same thing. The guys with dirt-caked boots, grease-stained Dickies and a worn-out baseball cap. The difference is, this is their life, not a summer job.

The other difference? I probably make three or four times what those guys make and the only surgery I’ve had to endure because of it was bilateral carpal tunnel.

I have friends with fused necks, fake knees and mangled fingers, courtesy of a life on a farm or in a garage.

This election, they came out for the promise of a better personal experience, even as those of us who make our livings on keyboards and televisions told them that Trump wasn’t their guy.

The Country Mouse roared.

 

 

“Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”
– Gene Krantz, Apollo 13

 

I had a chance to sit down Thursday with one of the most insightful and emotionally worldly students I ever taught. She ticks almost all the boxes of things Trump has pissed on this election: She’s black, she’s gay, she’s from a large city, she’s been poor, she has relied on government assistance and she “doesn’t know her place.”

She is my fucking hero. She’s also on the verge of a mental breakdown.

We talked about all sorts of things today in hopes of getting her untracked as she comes ever closer to a December graduation.

Things got better for her at the end of the talk and so I said this:

“I want to ask you a question because you have a better sense of the world than I could ever hope to. If you don’t want to answer it, don’t. And don’t worry about it ever coming up again, but I need to know something if you can tell it to me.”

“Go ahead,” she said, not even flinching for a second.

“OK.” Deep breath. “In your lifetime, have you ever dealt with a straight-up moment or attack from an “ist?”

“Yes. Many times.”

“So here’s the question: How does that compare to how you felt Tuesday watching the election results?”

“A thousand times worse.”

That was exactly how I felt, a sense of betrayal. A sense that I thought I knew all these people who ended up perpetrating the one unforgivable sin.

The truth is, we didn’t.

The reason she felt worse, she told me, was because that old-fashioned, straight-up racism was at least honest. When you saw the guy with the Confederate Flag belt buckle, the “Go back to Africa” shirt and the words “White Power” tattooed down the backs of his arms, you knew that guy was an asshole. You could pick him out, and you stayed away from him. You had no expectations.

This election, we looked at people who we thought were “good people” and found out they cast a vote for someone who embodies everything that guy with the belt buckle displays.

Trump wasn’t a con in that regard. He didn’t hide it. It wasn’t like a JFK-like rumor about Marilyn Monroe or Angie Dickenson.

He told you he was going to grab your pussy before those Mexican rapists got to it.

No ambiguity there.

As Cramer noted, these people weren’t “hoodwinked” into a vote they didn’t understand.

So that’s the problem. How do we solve it?

No fucking clue.

That said, here are a few thoughts to consider before 2020:

 

  • The thing that hurt my student and me (and probably a lot of you) is that these people who voted for Trump were always here. They lived among us. It wasn’t like Trump took a container ship some place and imported 50 million voters from Asshole-istan and took over the country. These people shop with you, eat with you and work with you. Your kids go to the same schools (I found that out when the mother of one of my kid’s friends turned up on a Ron Johnson commercial, bitching about Feingold and Obama.) and you probably wave to each other when you pass on the road.
    They’re not going anywhere. We just figured there weren’t as many of them out there as there turned out to be.
    Let’s assume for a minute that Hillary Clinton was right when she made her “basket of deplorables” comment: Half of Trump voters are racists, sexists, homophobes and other horrible, vile things. That leaves us with slightly more than 30 million Trump voters outside that basket.
    What do we want to do with them?
    If the answer is, “Get out the vote next time” that’s akin to seeing a leak in the ceiling and fixing it by using a bigger bucket to catch the drips. Trying to get more of “us” to vote to counteract the surge in “them” doesn’t solve the “they’re here” problem.
  • For all the talk about pulling rural knuckle-draggers out of East Shithole-ville, we need to consider the converse. No, I’m not talking about learning the words to “Deutschland erwache” or getting fitted for a white sheet. It’s that kind of thought process that put us in this mess in the first place.
    Barbara Ehrenreich touched on this concept in her book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” when she went to work for $7 an hour to see what poverty was like. Linda Tirado took this a step further in “Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America,” as she actually lived the life Ehrenreich visited. However, in both cases, you were looking at survival in larger metro areas.
    What’s it like hauling lumber, milking cows, running the town’s only diner or teaching in its only school? How many people out there have never met a person of color, a gay person or any of the other things Trump is shit-talking? I have a hard time believing anyone on the New York Times editorial board goes home smelling like pig shit at the end of the day or waking up unable to move their right arm. It’s easy to say, “You should come to my way of life” if you have never experienced someone else’s.
  • Vilifying and castigating people have never, ever led to improvements. When someone tells me I’m bad or stupid, the next thought in my head isn’t usually, “Hey, this guy might be on to something! Let’s listen more closely!” Instead it’s “Fuck you and everyone who looks like you.” I have no idea how best to reach people before the next time we have to play, “Let’s Save the Republic,” but I do know what is happening now sure isn’t it. Telling people “We know better” or “Your way is the wrong way” got us here. It’s that self-assured smugness we all hate in Trump and fans of the New York Yankees. We might be right that we know better or that one way is better than the other. That said, that’s not the answer. We have gotten into a pattern that isn’t helping us connect: We wait for our turn to speak. We don’t listen.

Now, we have to at least consider lending our ears.

 

This Too Will Pass

I originally planned to use this song to close out the Sitting Political Shiva post. Then, I paid closer attention and realized how relevant these thirteen year old lyrics are to the post-2016 electoral landscape or is that wasteland? It could be either.

Rodney Crowell is one of our best songwriters and This Too Shall Pass contains some of his finest lyrics:

When the winds of change hit hard and knock you off your guard
And you find out there’s a serpent in the grass
Though forked tongues might speak if truth is what you seek
This too will pass

When you’re all tied up in knots and your friends are taking shots
And the sun comes up and kicks you in the ass
When your stumbling down the aisle and you feel like you’re on trial
This too will pass

Sometimes you’ve gotta go down the middle of the road
Where compromise puts speed bumps in your path
If you know what you won’t let no one say you don’t
This too will pass

Sometimes you gotta crawl through the middle of it all
But don’t compromise your heart for something crass
When everything you do just feels like nothing new
This too will pass

When your all locked up in shame be careful who you blame
This too will pass

Goodnight George

The George in question is Harrison who died on the day Rodney recorded this song:

We Did Not Survive Worse. We Should Not Survive This.

Stop saying “we” will survive this.

Stop saying “we” survived Hitler. Six million of us didn’t.

Stop saying “we” survived Nixon. One point seven million of us didn’t.

Stop saying “we” survived Reagan. More than 20,000 of us didn’t.

Stop saying “we” survived Bush. Stop saying “we” survived the Civil War. Stop saying “we” survived anything.

Maybe you mean to comfort. You probably do.

Stop.

We don’t get better by surviving things.

I know that’s mean to say, because you have a whole story in your head constructed about how what you went through tempered you and made you into steel, about the lessons you learned and the things you became in your moments of extremity. You have a thousand bumper stickers about killing, about making stronger. You have a dozen mantras and you’re repeating them because you want to believe them. I know that’s mean, but it’s true.

This country, this WORLD, doesn’t get better because people survive things.

It gets better because people are willing to put their survival at risk.

It got better because of Abraham Lincoln.

It got better because of Martin Luther King.

It got better because of everyone who stormed the beaches at Normandy and every man and woman who protested at Kent State. It got better because of the Freedom Riders. It got better because of the pamphleteers. It got better because of everyone at Stonewall and everyone at Seneca Falls, every march on Washington saying shove your war.

Women got the vote in no small part because Alice Paul starved herself in prison to ask rights of a Democratic president. Because Susan B. Anthony was beaten in the street. Because Ida B. Wells lived under daily threat of lynching. Those people didn’t “survive” something. That wasn’t their goal.

And a lot of them didn’t survive. A lot of them threw their bodies on the wheels and gave everything they had to stop what was happening.

America didn’t survive their losses. America is America because of their losses. Because of their sacrifices. Because of their heroism.

Don’t say “we” will survive this. “We” might not. Not all of us.

Say we, all of us, will fight this.

That, we can promise. That, we can stand behind. That, we can do.

A.

The Fearful Country

trump-pence-meme

The polls were wrong and so was I. I don’t regret urging people not to freak out, that’s no way to live. I regret not seeing the oncoming freight train of fear and hate for what it was: an unstoppable backlash to all the changes our society has undergone. In spite of that, Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote. Unfortunately, that’s not how we elect our Presidents. This is the second time in five elections that the winner was also a loser and the loser a winner. There’s only a shot glass of consolation in that thought, and it’s still too bitter to swallow.

I was bumped out of the Crack Van last night and decided not to re-enter. The level of tension was high and nobody was interested in my reassurances that we would win Virginia. I was right about that BUT everyone else was right about the big picture. I remained cautiously optimistic until Russ Feingold’s defeat in Wisconsin was called. I knew that there couldn’t be enough ticket splitters for HRC to carry that state and things spun out of control at that point.

It’s hard to process the fact that a cartoon villain who ran a sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic campaign was able to win 276 and counting electoral votes. It’s as if the Gret Stet of Louisiana had elected David Duke as Governor in 1991 instead of rejecting him. Well, at least David Duke, Julian Assange, and Vladimir Putin are happy. Fuck them. And while we’re at it, fuck Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, and James Comey, especially Comey. Above all else fuck the majority of white people who delivered us into the tiny hands of the Insult Comedian.

Does anyone but the con man’s marks buy his “conciliatory” speech earlier this morning? He lied incessantly and exuberantly for the last 15 months, why should that be any different? There’s going to be hell to pay when he, inevitably, betrays his supporters.

Trump is a classic New Yorker: he thinks the rest of the country is full of rubes, yokels, and peckerwoods ripe for the plucking. He was right. It is genuinely surreal that a fake billionaire incited a popular uprising in what New Yorkers often call “the flyover.” Time for a relevant musical respite:

We live in a Breitbart-Bannon-Bossie Man country for now. Stephen Bannon’s dark vision of the Trump campaign won the election. The only question is how much revenge against their enemies B3 and Trump will seek. Vengeance is part of Trump’s world view, which one of many reasons his electoral college victory is so fucking scary. The backlash has only begun.

Above all else, this national tragedy was driven by fear and hatred of women. It was bad enough to these people that we had an African-American President. The mob of angry white male voters could not stand the notion of a female President. Even worse was how many white women agreed with them. That’s the worst part of the backlash of 2016, how many women voted for a man who thinks they exist only to serve him.

American history is full of examples of voters selecting a President who is nothing like their predecessor. This time we’ve gone too far in replacing the elegant, intelligent, articulate and big hearted Barack Obama with the self-absorbed, bigoted, and stupid Donald Trump.

Despite my love of snark, I am usually a “the glass is half-full” kind of guy. It’s hard to see things that way at after seeing how much vast swaths of the country hate women, blacks, gays, Muslims, Latinos, and on and on and on.

Ironies abound in the wake of this national disaster. Republican sabotage of government has been so successful, that they will control both the executive and legislative branches. Additionally, voters have elected a candidate who ran an anti-Semitic campaign whereas the Senate will have it’s first Jewish leader, Chuck Schumer. Minority leader, alas. The genial Senator Schumer will have to become obstructionist in the chief and use the filibuster as an offensive weapon. The GOPers will whine like stuck pigs but fuck them. We’re about to learn just how strong our institutions really are.

I guess I’ll write a post-mortem eventually, but this is still too raw and painful. The finger of blame is already being pointed but even the GOP’s internal models got this wrong. Here’s what I said when the ugly reality sunk in the wee small hours of the morning:

As a British politics buff, I poo-pooed the Brexit analogy. I was wrong about that as well. America *is* eating a bowl of stupid for Brexit right now. Skip the arsenic, pass the sugar.

Let’s all try not to go into a Tailspin:

I’d like to conclude on a relatively upbeat note. Thanks to our loyal readers and my wonderful colleagues Michael F, Tommy T, Doc, and especially our truly fearless leader Athenae. She’s the reason that we Won’t Back Down:

 

 

“Obsession” special – This is NOT who we are.

Why we have to keep fighting :

To: MaxistheBest

 

We may as well quit voting and just ask the damn spades and wetbacks who is going to be king and how much of our money they want.

1,362 posted on 11/8/2016, 7:14:47 PM by Sequoyah101 (It feels like we have exchanged our dreams for survival. We just have a few days that don’t suck.)

And that’s all you need to know about Republicans.

Taking a week off – see you good people soon.

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