Category Archives: Hillary Clinton

More random thoughts….

Why didn’t we listen to Michael?

There’s actually a critical point here– the anger and disenfranchisement of what used to be the middle class in this country has been out in the open for quite some time, and it has been given voice/exploited by movements of the left and right.  The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement, Trump and Bernie Sanders, have all addressed, in different ways and from different angles,  the collapse of the old economic order in this country.  To me, obviously, some of these approaches are more legitimate than others, but they are all talking about basically the same thing.  The part that grieves me is that Hillary just could not get across to those caught in this upheaval that she, and not that shyster Trump, would be better able to help right our socioeconomic ship.  For sure, it’s now clear that this is a core issue that can no longer be explained away, nor can those suffering because of it be patted any longer on the head and given blithe and vague assurances that everything will be all right in the end.

Hillary failed to make that connection, and that’s on her.  In truth, she had her issues and she was not the most inspiring candidate.  But it is also an evident truth that she rode into this campaign with the weight of twenty-five years of right-wing lies and character assassination on her back, and that had to have contributed to her defeat.  Well, congratulations, FOX News, et. al.– you finally achieved your goal, the destruction of a competent and qualified public servant’s career.  You can be proud of yourselves, I guess, in your narrow-minded and mean-spirited little way, but when the bill comes due in the next six months to a year, don’t come back to us whining that you didn’t know how horrible it was going to be under President– and soon, Il Duce– Donald Trump.  What goes around, comes around.

I’m trying to find silver-linings around here, although they seem elusively scarce.  One is perhaps the thought that Trump is going to unite those of us who see through his bullshit and who want something better for the country.  Another is that, just maybe, when everything sorts itself out this country may be in a position to finally face up to and deal with all the broken promises and lost hopes that fueled the anger that Trump fed upon, or which generated him in the first place.  But it’s an open question how bad things are going to get in the interim, how much suffering people will have to endure before this is over.

Note: here and there on the blogosphere I am detecting the occasional “Trump better watch out, look what happened to….” insert your favorite assassinated politician from history.  So far I’ve seen allusions to Caligula and JFK.  We need to knock that shit off, right now.  We’re supposed to be the ones who respect Constitutional process, guys, and part of that is having the patience and courage to let it work out.  Muttering about political violence only feeds the paranoia of the other side; actually committing political violence is the last act of desperation, when all other means of redress has been exhausted.  That, by the way, is called ‘revolution’, and we are not there, people, not yet.  Pray God we won’t have to go there.  So put a sock in it.

Personal note: in my posts from yesterday I tried to sound an encouraging note on the lines of ‘carry on with normal life while getting ready to oppose Trump’.  I will admit that the first person I am trying to calm down is me.  I am positively oscillating between taking deep breaths and screaming out loud.  I hear the words ‘President-elect Trump’ on the radio and I want to puke.  We have entered a danger zone such as we have not seen in this country since 1861, and it’s hard to not to panic over it.  But just as you don’t want to panic while swimming or on the road, so we don’t want to panic over Donald Trump.  This disaster– and I have no doubt it’s going to be a disaster, unless God grants us an unwonted measure of grace– is going to take some months to unfold.  We need to keep our heads about us and work on ways to resist what is coming.

Sad/scary note: Trump, of course, is the effect, not the cause.  He was produced by the anger and dislocation of millions of ordinary Americans, which has been aggravated and exploited by decades of right-wing propaganda demonizing anyone perceived as ‘progressive’ or ‘other’.  Americans, in fact, have spent the last generation dividing themselves along ideological lines, to the point where we no longer see each other as fellow Americans.

The logical end of such a path is, to put it bluntly, civil dissolution and civil war.

Pray God, we can find a way off this road before we get near that destination.  But we need to understand where we’re headed, in case anyone was unclear.

Geez, I was going to try and end on a positive note.  Okay, here goes– there are millions of people who worked for Hillary and voted for her, and we are not going away.  We were even a majority.

More thoughts to come.

 

 

 

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Well….

It hasn’t happened yet, here in north Texas, but I’m reasonably sure the sun will come up today.

That’s about all I’m sure of at the moment.

I watched the election results come in last night with a group of increasingly distressed folks in a local pub, who could not believe this was happening.  I finally went home before Wisconsin and Pennsylvania sealed Hillary’s fate, but with the mathematical certainty looming on every TV screen.

It is now evident that are we are entering a time of testing in this country.  It remains to be seen how severe this test will be, but all the signs to point to an acute constitutional crisis in the near future.  Trump has given every indication that he will manipulate and twist the levers of government to suit his own ends, as well as doing things that are strictly illegal.  How much damage will be done before the shaky mechanisms of constitutional checks and balances take hold is unclear.  It’s even unclear whether those mechanisms are up to the task.

Everyone who believes in a future for the US that isn’t some devolved nightmare of racial and nationalistic stupidity, shot through with an economic buffonery that threatens not just the American economy, but the world’s, is going to need dig in and work to save what we can.  In previous posts I suggested the fate of the American Republic was at stake in this election.  That suggestion is now hard reality.  We have elected a demagogue and a fascist to our highest office, a man who would have dismayed Jefferson Davis.  This is a danger inherent in democracy, that sometimes manipulators of a distressed and frightened populace gain power.  When this happens, and it happened last night in this beautiful country, it’s then the duty of all true patriots, however much they disagree with each other, to stand up and resist.

There’s much more to be said, but I will need to say it when I’ve had a chance to get more sleep and to organize my scattered thoughts.

In the meantime, if you pray, pray for this country.

God help the United States of America.  God help the world.

 

He’s done it again….

trump-smirks
Copyright Evan Vucci/AP

Here’s a link to Trump’s latest bloviating verbal atrocity.

And here’s my reaction to it–

win_20161003_16_02_27_pro

Although at this point, I’m not sure why anything this puffed-up yahoo says still takes me by surprise.

Please, people, vote for a hamster or a fruit fly for president, but not this guy.  For the sake of everyone’s children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The state we’re in– further political thoughts, August 8, 2016

In a  previous blog post I made the case that Donald Trump is basically a megalomaniacal con-man who is exploiting the real hurts of average people to promote his brand, which is himself.  He has no a real plan to redeem the country, or even run it with reasonable competence.  His ideas are not merely unworkable (“We’ll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it!”), they are actually dangerous.

The sad truth, however, is that Trump is in no way the cause of the division this country is experiencing at the moment.  He’s merely using it to his advantage.  Our division into mutually antagonistic ideological camps has been going on for decades.

There has always been social and political tension and contention in this country.  This is inevitable in a society made up of many different groups holding a variety of beliefs.  The Founding Fathers actually recognized that faction was inevitable and took it into account when formulating the Constitution.  Americans have long had a genius for weaving contentious groups together into a, if not completely harmonious, then at least reasonably unified consensus.

Sometimes, however, this consensus breaks down.  The most obvious example, of course, is the Civil War.  Americans in the middle of the Nineteenth Century found themselves unable to continue to paper over the chasm between free state and slave state, between an agrarian South focused on social hierarchy and chattel labor and an industrializing North focused on an open society with free labor.  All attempts at compromise failed and Americans divided themselves into antagonistic camps which, in the end, could find no way to resolve their disagreements other than by force of arms.  The war quite literally destroyed the old Union and birthed a new political order, a new United States.  If that new society was any more just and free than the old, the price paid for it was undeniably high.

We live in another era of partisan division.  Many have remarked on how people are living more and more in “ideological silos”, in which they interact only with people who largely agree with them.  The Pew Research Center has done statistical analyses of this fact that are worth reading.  One of the interesting aspects of these analyses is the finding that those who are more political involved tend to have the most consistently liberal or conservative ideologies.  As these studies put it, centrists largely “…remain on the edges of the political playing field….”

The reasons for this bifurcation are numerous and go back decades– the upheaval of the Sixties, the rise of a vocal and uncompromising conservatism, the culture wars of the Eighties and Nineties, the advent of largely conservative media that has been less interested in journalistic fairness than in demonizing those who hold contrarian opinions (although liberals are hardly innocent of this sort of thing), the contested presidential election in 2000, 9-11, the Iraq war, and the growing threat of terrorism.  People have a profound sense that their government is more and more the creature of plutocrats and money-men.  On top of all of this, the nation is going through demographic and social changes which leave some people feeling alienated from their own country– the United States is well on its way to no longer being majority white, nor normatively heterosexual, nor largely Christian (I personally doubt we were ever really that Christian as a society, but that’s another post).

We are increasingly a nation divided against itself.  We have lost much of our sense of common purpose and identity as Americans– or rather, we spend a great deal of time telling ourselves that people who think differently from us or who look different are not real Americans.  This partisan division has been reflected in the operation of our government, or perhaps rather, its non-operation.  In recent years ‘legislative action’ has too often consisted of using the mechanism of government to deny your opponents legitimacy and anything resembling policy success.  When you see this sort of thing becoming common, it is a sure sign that the established mechanisms of governance have begun to break down, and that new mechanisms and a new consensus need to be created.

Unfortunately, at the moment no one seems to have a clear understanding of how to achieve this new consensus.  At the same time, many people seem to want to restore the America they think they’ve lost, or to bring in someone who will take positive action– whether or not it’s constitutional– to ‘protect’ us.  Hence, Trump.

The essential point is that, even if Trump loses this election, the forces he is exploiting– or that, in another sense, brought him into being– will still be seething with resentment and misplaced rage, doubtless looking for the next man on a white horse. This is almost unprecedented in our history.  The only analogous situation I can immediately call to mind is Huey Long in the Thirties, who was another demagogue who exploited populist discontent.  There was a reason Franklin Delano Roosevelt considered Long one of the most dangerous people in the country.

Personally, I have no ready remedy in mind to heal this rift and soothe the minds and hearts of those who are looking for– let’s not mince words– a dictator.  The rhetoric has become too heated, the divisions too deep for an easy solution.  Possibly all we need to tip us over the edge into some sort of authoritarianism is for some latter-day John Brown— domestic or foreign– to do something appalling (a terrorist nuke on America soil would do the job, if an example is needed) and the American people might just select a Trump-figure to lead them.  We are in dangerous waters.

The only thing I know for sure that we must do is speak the truth, protect the rights of everyone– even if they wear a hijab or have Mexican grandparents– and vote as if the future of the Republic is on the line.

Because it is.

 

 

Now it’s serious– a few political thoughts, May 4th, 2016

In the 2012 HBO movie Game Change about the 2008 US presidential election, John McCain (Ed Harris) makes an observation about the populist anger he encountered in his town halls and rallies late in the campaign.  This is not a direct quote, but I think it captures the gist– “There is a dark side to American populism, and there are some politicians who are willing to exploit that dark side for their own advantage.”  It was an apt observation at the time, encapsulating the building political rage that would culminate in the Tea Party, and the politicians who have been willing to pander to it.  Unfortunately, it is even more apt eight years later.

Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.  Every other conventional or semi-conventional candidate flamed out and fell short, even the hard right conservative– in fact, dangerously theocratic— Ted Cruz.  Against all conventional wisdom, Trump has tapped into the boiling rage of people on the right who feel disenfranchised and left out.

Ironically, their sense of dislocation is not wholly without foundation.  People in this country across the political spectrum sense that the system is rigged, benefiting an elite rather than the greater mass of citizens, with a ossified governmental apparatus and economic forces that are grinding the middle class into non-existence.  This has found expression on the left first in the Occupy movement, and then in Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign.  The right-wing expression of this rage, unfortunately, is larded with racist memes and scary nativism.  The Tea Party and their allies are not wrong in saying that they’re being screwed, but they go wrong with their proposed solutions.

And now all this populist anger on the right has found a spokesman in Donald Trump.  People looking for an outsider who says what he thinks have elevated him to the status of someone who can right everything they see as wrong with our current system.  And Trump is an excellent salesman, who has proven adept at selling himself as the one person who can right the ship of state– no matter what it takes.

In other times and places this sort of person has been called ‘a man on a white horse’.

I don’t believe I am engaging in hyperbole.  Many autocratic or fascist strongmen have gained power not through a coup or a revolution, but by exploiting populist grievances to achieve office through established constitutional paths– and that list includes Adolf Hitler.  We have now reached a very scary moment in the life of our nation.

By all the evidence I can see, Donald Trump has no actual plan for America, and no guiding principle other than his megalomaniacal self-importance.  On the other hand, I see no evidence that his stated concern about working people is genuine.  It appears to be mere shtick.  His proposed policies are horrifying when they’re not just plain ludicrous.  His whole campaign has been about him, and the promotion of his ‘brand’.  He is clearly unfit for high office, and even conservatives recognize this.  And yet, the base of the Republican party has anointed this man as their chosen one.  You would think they’ve all gone dotty at once, except that Trump is actually the logical result of decades of Republican pandering to the dark side of the American right.  I can do no better than to quote John Scalzi on this point–

“Again, Trump has been leading the GOP polls almost without interruption for months. He’s not an outlier. He’s there for a reason. The reason is that the GOP has made space in their party for race-baiting xenophobic religious bigots, and has done so for years by conscious and intentional strategy. Trump did not bring his supporters into the GOP. They were already there…..The GOP wasn’t always the party of race-baiting xenophobic religious bigots — there’s a reason the term was “Dixiecrat” and not “Republidixies” — but they took possession of them 50 years ago and have been banking on them ever since.

The GOP’s problem is that Trump is the distillation of every political strategy they’ve honed over the last several decades, and particularly ramped up over the last two. Lionizing the “political outsider”? Check! Fawning over billionaires? Check! Ratcheting up political rhetoric so that everyone who opposes you is the enemy and sick and awful? Check! Scaring the crap out of not-young white conservative Christians with the image of lawless racial and religious minorities? Check! Valorizing the tribalism of white conservative Christianity over the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States? Check!

There’s a reason why the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s executive director wants GOP candidates to “be like Trump” even as [Lindsey] Graham bleats that Trump doesn’t represent the party. Lindsey Graham, are you shitting me? Trump doesn’t just represent your party. He’s the goddamn Platonic ideal of it. You can’t spend decades preparing the way for someone like Donald Trump and then pretend to be shocked, shocked when he roars down the field, flawlessly executing your playbook.”

So here we are, facing a choice between (mostly likely) a flawed but competent Democratic candidate, and a man who should not be allowed within ten miles of the levers of constitutional power, never mind the nuclear launch codes.  Voting for this man in the general election would be a vote for anarchy and, quite possibly, the end of the Republic.  I can’t put it any simpler than that.

Everyone who gives a damn about this country needs to oppose this man.  Even if you can’t bring yourself to vote for Hillary, please, please don’t vote for Trump.  Support your preferred down-ticket candidates if you wish, but do not cast a vote for this man.  A vote for him is a bullet loaded into a revolver and aimed at the whole country.  Period.

 

 

Democracy– untidy and beautiful

I took part in the Washington State Democratic caucuses today.  It was a special day in more than one way– not only are the stakes in this election extremely high, but it was the first caucus in which my daughter was able to participate.  This simultaneously made me extremely proud and reminded me of my age.  Just a little while ago my daughter was far, far more interested in crayons and her dolls than politics…

Our district caucus was held at one of our local high schools.  We arrived early, but not early enough– the school parking lot was jammed, and street parking was quickly filling up.  I dropped my wife and daughter off, and then had to find parking seven blocks away.  This made my hike back to the high school a bit of a chore, as I am nursing a sprained knee (and a possible meniscus tear– medical assessment in progress).

But I wasn’t going to miss this caucus.

The caucus was wall-to-wall with people– quite probably the largest number of people I have ever seen at a caucus in this state.  People congregated by precinct, and the subsequent discussion was passionate, but generally respectful.  In the end Bernie Sanders took three-quarters of our precinct vote, Hilary Clinton one quarter, which, at the moment, roughly matches the proportion of the vote state-wide.

It was good, face-to-face grass-roots democracy, and nobody called anybody names, and nobody got into a fistfight.  It gives me hope, seeing so many people engaged and looking for change.

Because, frankly, in this country we need hope, and we need change.  There is a real sense that our essential democracy is slipping away.  Working people are getting profoundly shafted, and our republic is in danger of becoming a plutocratic oligarchy.  I am convinced that if certain people from the other party become president (by which I mean all of them, but some more than others) the danger to the country will move from chronic to acute.  We need a political revolution in this country to restore our democracy, and to point the US toward a future that includes everyone.

The problem is that there are a lot of people whose dreams for this country are quite different, far, far too many of whom are threatened by the changes the country is going through, and who are looking for scapegoats for their sense of dislocation.  Certain politicians are pandering to that fear and paranoia and dislocation, offering up empty promises of ‘restored greatness’.  Others are ideologues spouting doctrines that are seriously disconnected from verifiable reality, such as denying global warming in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence.  And all of this is wrapped up in a political polarization that is destroying our sense of all being Americans together.

So I’m hopeful, and I’m worried.  It’s seven-plus months to the general election, which is very long time in American politics, and will be even more so in this election, which has been off-the-wall whacked-out and off the charts.  All we can do is buckle up, hang on and keep working toward what we believe is right, while remembering that while one election is not going to automatically make everything better, that one election could also put us in serious danger.

At minimum, I can do two things for my country at the moment– pray and vote.  To my mind, that’s a pretty powerful combination.

Later.