Showing posts with label Election. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Election. Show all posts

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Swimming Towards The Light

Looking over my last four years of writing I note the gathering dyspeptic tone.  If I had to draw a graph of it there would be a steady downward “tone” line with a sharp descending drop at the onset of the pandemic.  Before that point, there was still theatre, music, literature, and travel to think about, enjoy and write about, a distraction from the Anvil Chorus of Trumpian Transgressions.

This is not my first self-assessment.  A few weeks ago I wrote “We are all in survival mode now.  "This has all sorts of practical ramifications and seems to rob us of other activities.  For instance, my reading of fiction, for which there should be more time during this pandemic, is nearly impossible as existential dread has supplanted my patience. “

That “existential dread” was one of the reasons I couldn’t bear to watch the virtual Democratic National Convention these past few days.  I feared the Democrats would do something spectacularly dumb to jeopardize our one and only chance to remove a spectacularly amoral, non-presidential person from office who lost the popular vote by 3 million four years ago, but managed to inveigle his way into office via collusion and the outdated Electoral College.

As Tyler Elliot Bettilyon explains in Are You Suffering From Existential Dread? I obviously have AED (Acute Existential Dread), “an intense feeling of inconsequentiality triggered by external stimuli.” 

There is enough anxiety in our lives now, a deadly cocktail of environmental degradation, racial inequality, pandemic and healthcare hazards, main street economic woes, Internet facilitated conspiracy groups, militant supporters of a mostly unregulated 2nd amendment, and the decline of American participation in world cooperation, to indeed trigger AED.  When you add Trump’s vitriol to the equation, it is exponential.

Joe Biden had my vote a long time ago.  Anyone from the Democratic Party would have had my vote.  AED indeed blocked my watching most of the DNC, fearful that we might unintentionally alienate voters we need to show up in the swing states.  But, the last night of the convention, I felt it I wanted to see Biden’s acceptance speech, watching it as I would the 7th game of the World Series, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded for my team, one run down, and one out.  Any baseball fan now understands the depth of my AED.

First, I saw 13-year-old Brayden Harrington who met Biden on the campaign trail and talked to him about his stuttering.  Brayden, when you bravely took the virtual stage and said "He told me that we were members of the same club: We stutter,” my hopes were raised for Biden’s subsequent speech.

Biden's speech was the pinnacle of his political lifetime, and ours as we are all struggling, swimming in the muck towards the light.  My AED will never be gone until the swampster-in-chief, along with his criminal cronies, are gone, gone, gone.  But after Biden’s speech, particularly its tone of inclusiveness, there is hopefulness.  I really believe, for the first time in four years, that there is a chance to address the fundamental existential threats to our way of life and life itself.  Maybe indeed we can make America great again.

Unfortunately, we see how Trump is setting this up, undermining the Post Office and already questioning the legitimacy of the election, preparing to challenge the results, no matter what they are.  The more he can make this close and the longer the final tally can be delayed, the higher the probability he can throw the results into a chaotic challenge.  This will not be like the disputed Gore –Bush 2000 contest, where the Supreme Court made the decision and it was accepted by Gore (who really did win).  No, Trump might undermine this for weeks afterwards, trying to throw it into the House of Representatives where each state gets one vote (even through there are more Democratic Representatives, there are more states with a majority of Republican Representatives and therefore their one vote counts disproportionately).

I don’t know how they (the Republicans) always seem to have an unfair advantage, but it is even more reason why Democratic turnout MUST be massive and there can be no question of the results, although they will still be challenged by Trump.  We might all have to go to DC with pitchforks to remove him.  Ah, that’s my AED speaking again.

 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

It’s Time to Rumble


Before the Democrats destroy themselves in their debates, here’s my 2 cents so I can look back and remind myself how wrong I was.

The Democratic Party must strategize, not so the “best” man/woman runs against Trump, but so the most electable ticket is running.  The priority is to defeat someone who should not have been elected in the first place, a confluence of events which perfectly came together to elect the unelectable.  One can simply list these, the modern-day enigma of the Electoral College, the bogus Russian inspired Facebook accounts which spewed propaganda into swing states, Wiki Leaks, team Trump’s nescient campaign tactics (e.g. the meeting with the Russians), Hillary’s arrogance not campaigning in rust belt states, Comey’s eleventh hour reversal on Hillary’s email, and one could go on to document Clinton’s popular vote Pyrrhic victory, while going down where it counts in the Electoral College.  I tried to detail them following the election more than two years ago. 

So if that was the result, how to reverse it in 2020?  The Democrats seem to live in a MSNBC echo chamber.  Biden is the “safe” candidate while Elizabeth Warren seems to be emerging as the progressive favorite.  I worry about Biden in a head to head with Trump.  Yes, he’ll say all the right things. Everyone on MSNBC agrees upon the non-Presidential nature of Trump, that he is corrupt, a liar, and an embarrassment in the international community.  The retort to that was emblazoned on someone’s tee shirt I saw on TV at Trump’s recent Orlando rally: “I didn’t elect a Saint.”  They don’t care.  They feel that Trump is the first politician who has their backs; how ironic is that given he was born with a tarnished silver spoon and has lavished his rich friends with most of the “benefits” of his presidency.

Elizabeth Warren on the other hand is not the “safe” candidate, but sort of like the hand grenade Trump was in 2016.  But will it explode in the Democrat’s faces?  Dare they chance it?  Trump has already branded her a “socialist.” Have the Trump supporters ever considered SOCIAL Security, public schools, Medicare, Medicaid, and all the benefits they would never want taken away (oh, except Medicaid if it was needed by the good-for-nothing unemployed or indigent).  Warren would be tougher on the financial system which is gamed to benefit those who are part of the Plutocracy.  But is that going to bring out the rust belt voter?  If she runs for President, the now favorite Trump mantra will be emblazoned in our brains, “Freedom vs. Socialism,” 24 x 7, Fox and Friends, taking up the cause.   

I’m hoping for a candidate from the “flyover” country and I’m focusing on Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Governor Steve Bullock of Montana, or Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, all more moderate candidates from fly-over states, ones who can drain some of the on the fence Republican voters, capture the independents, and retain the Democratic base.  Pragmatism over idealism. Perhaps someone such as Kamala Harris would run as the VP on the ticket to satisfy the more progressive minds and get a woman on the ticket.  In other words, I’m simply hoping for a WINNING ticket against Trump and all he symbolizes. 

Warren vs. Trump might be fun in the Twitter universe, but I’d be concerned about what people would do in the privacy of the voting booth.  How many people are there, who were Republican, and now call themselves “Independents” and who claim they detest Trump personally but are sympathetic to his “accomplishments” (like what, stacking SOTUS with conservatives)?  I’m not saying a fly-over candidate is going to win all these people over, but some?  Especially in the important swing states? 

In any case, this is a rumble, a gang war coming up.  Grab your zip guns even though they have AR-15s. Confront him with the least assailable ticket.
 

P.S.  Coincidentally, a MarketWatch article published the day after I wrote this sort of underscores the argument :  “If [Warren is] the Democratic nominee, that may help Trump, too. Politicians from Massachusetts generally blow presidential elections, and always for the same reason. They can’t campaign in Middle America.” The opinion is based on shifts in the betting odds. Money on the line beats any poll and the Democrats, as in 2016, may be taking this for granted, especially with a far left of center candidate from a Blue coastal State.
 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

“Truthful hyperbole”


It’s an interesting juxtaposition of words, almost the dictionary definition of oxymoron.  Here’s another two words strung together which approach an oxymoron: “President” and “Trump.”   So it is fitting that oxymoronic terms should hang out together.  This term is expressed by Brad Parscale who according to the Palm Beach Post (great local reporting in this case) is “the ‘genius who won Trump’s campaign,’ and how he’ll get him reelected.

I guess we’ll hear more about this digital / marketing “genius” as the 2020 election gets underway. Stoking the Trump base and bringing in other digital followers will be his responsibility to get Trump reelected. 

This digital gunslinger is more than that, a modern day Elmer Gantry who tackles his calling with a evangelistic fervor, whipping up his crowds, “It’s not just me and my computer and a bunch of algorithms that are going to save us. It’s all of you that are going to save us.” By saving us, he means from immigrants, “socialists,” and gun control advocates.  The details of these issues are not discussed, but are to be dropped as puns, one-liners, the repetition of talking points, etc., “truthful hyperbole.”

At his disposal will be a war chest to turn sites like Facebook into an endless stream of propaganda and fake news, oh, sorry, meant to say, “truthful hyperbole.”  His plan is to turn out an army of faithful automatons, 1.7 million “volunteers,” “super Trump fans.”  A soon to-be-released app “’gamifies’ the experience of waiting in line to get in” to Nuremberg style Trump rallies.  How “exciting” is that?

It is the stuff of the great dystopian novels and we will be living it with people such as Brad Parscale the Wizard behind the curtain, pulling the switches.  

Meanwhile, in the real world, there is the Virginia Beach massacre:  twelve people shot dead by a deranged, supposedly aggrieved person.  Not an immigrant.  Not a Muslim.  Not a person of color.  Most of these shootings are not by such people -- as we all know.  Most are committed by angry white men.  Yet, we still hear about the murderers pouring over our borders.  Among the “solutions” espoused by this administration is to separate families, “build the wall” of course, and not achieving that just put into place tariff taxes by executive order.   Punish the innocent and let the NRA’s propaganda propagate.


It’s in our blood.  Guns.  The blood is on your hands, NRA.  We allow this?  How preposterous in a so called civilized society?  The 2nd amendment now goes hand in hand with “truthful hyperbole.”  The right to bear arms never, never would have applied to automatic weapons or handguns with enlarged clips for rapid firing, had the writers of that amendment could have conceived of such weaponry. 

I’m going to simply “reprint” one of the pieces I published a couple years before, the one I think that comes closest to the beginning of a solution.  And indeed, it’s only a beginning.  But no more “truthful hyperbole” please about “bad guys” crossing over the border.  Congress, face up to what is needed!

I’ve now written dozens of times about gun control and in particular the need to outlaw military type weapons, institute stringent background checks, age limits, etc., all the usual ideas and have seen the usual push backs to the same.

I’ve also (not uniquely) suggested that firearms be regulated in the same way automobiles are, requiring registration and tracking when one is sold.

I go back to this argument as it is more of a total solution than any others.

There are of course persuasive arguments against the bureaucracy of establishing a Federal or State system of a “Bureau of Firearms Control.”  Expensive.  Loss of freedom, Big brother watching, etc. etc.  But we tolerate those for automobiles, which also includes testing, insurance, inspection, etc.  We do so for the greater good of society.  We establish laws governing their use and prosecute when those laws are broken, even by generally “law abiding citizens.”  Gun ownership advocates make virtual talking robot arguments that gun laws only hurt the “good” people while “evil” ones ignore them and thus, we should have fewer gun laws.  Talk about circular logic.

We take off our shoes at airports because someone tried to blow up a plane with a shoe. My constitutional rights allow me to wear shoes!

Annual gun deaths are now approaching those caused by motor vehicle incidents (the latter declining and the former steadily increasing).

Getting to the difficult part, implementation.

First, indeed institute stringent background checks, age limit laws, and ban the use of military style weapons.

Secondly, as Congress now sees fit to increase our national debt, go further and institute a Federal program for buying back weapons voluntarily surrendered, with higher premiums for military style weapons.  Pay fair price.  Return them no questions asked for a specified grace period.

Those choosing to keep their weapons, and those buying new ones, must register them with renewals required.  If the registered weapon is given or sold to another, forms have to be completed, the item identified, with the new owner’s name and address.  Then the new owner has 30 days to register them.  Registration fees will support the process.

Gradually a data base will be developed and ones who have a collection of weapons, an arsenal, would be identified and flagged as dealers, subject to another level of scrutiny and regulatory control.

This is complicated stuff and the devil is in the details.

Indeed, some (especially the “bad guys”) will ignore all of this, but they will be subject to prosecution if found with unregistered weapons, or if someone is found with an unregistered weapon purchased or given by them.  It will take time, maybe decades, to work through this group.  It has to start sometime.

And while more regulatory control and knowledge of our lives is abhorrent to me, something has to be started NOW and a more comprehensive solution needs to be sought by our lawmakers.  No more Sandy Hooks, Parklands, Santa Fes.  Now.  Please.

We don’t even hear much anymore about thoughts and prayers regarding the latest incident.  It’s as if we’ve all become inured to them.  That strategy never did work.  We have heard enhanced rhetoric about turning our schools into heavily armed prisons.  Is that really preferable to a “Bureau of Firearms Control?”

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Our Continuing National Nightmare


One of the last times I wrote about politics in this blog (having made the futile promise to myself to stay clear of the topic to preserve my sanity), was after the midterm elections:  “I had only one wish for the Midterms: gain the House, although like most moderate progressives, I was rooting for Beto, Gillum, et al.  Still, I sleepily emailed ebullient messages to a few friends at 3.00 AM declaring ‘victory’ with the subject heading ‘bring on the subpoenas.’”

How na├»ve I was.  We now all know the effectiveness of subpoenas when the Attorney General is a shill for those under scrutiny.  Instead, investigate the investigators his boss suggests.

For a while I fantasized that maybe indeed Biden might be the best qualified candidate to “unite” the nation and make nice with the Republican Party so things can get done.  It was a dreadful, misplaced hope I now think.  Remember the Merrick!  (Merrick Garland, that is, the Obama appointee to the Supreme Court who was kneecapped by Mitch McConnell.) 

The critical nature of winning the 2020 election is no better spelled out than in a recent article in The Nation by Edward Burmila, “Empty Calls for Bipartisanship Could Doom Us All.”
 
Among his salient points are the following:

*Joe Biden’s assertion that President Donald Trump is an “aberration” in the Republican Party is naive at best and revisionist at worst

*Birtherism and Tea Party rhetoric about taking back “our” country were a product rollout, a test marketing of Trump’s politics of white identity

*The Democratic Party seems unable to recognize the seriousness of the moment. It is only luck that the right has not yet found a skilled autocrat

*Imagine what that person could accomplish with the support of a pliant Republican Senate and conservative-packed federal judiciary

*The Democratic Party has an opportunity to influence what happens next. It will not do so with empty promises to unite Americans.

*It is imperative that the eventual Democratic nominee articulate a worldview based on the belief that public policy, not markets, can address social and economic problems, with specific proposals to that end. If ever there was a time to be bold rather than to play it safe, this is it. Without a compelling alternative, ideologues like Trump will succeed by filling the vacuum with a simple—and vile—worldview.

OK, then, what kind of public policy?  We are dealing with a populace who is anti government everything.  Bring on chaos is their mantra.  They have it with their leader. The conventional extreme left progressive “wisdom” of promising to take care of everyone from cradle to grave is not going to sweep Trump and sycophant Republicans out of office.  This is where I disagree with the implication of Burmila’s argument.  There must be a place for “markets” or progressives will merely defeat themselves.  But I agree with the urgency of Burmila’s call to action.  Boldness is required.

This is underscored by Bret Stephens’ opinion column in the New York Times this weekend, “How Trump Wins Next Year” 

He argues that around the world recent elections have ushered in Trumpian populists or have solidified ones already in office, in India, Australia, the Philippines, Israel, Brazil, and Italy – and what is about to happen in the UK.

The core of Stephens’ line of reasoning is:

The common thread here isn’t just right-wing populism. It’s contempt for the ideology of them before us: of the immigrant before the native-born; of the global or transnational interest before the national or local one; of racial or ethnic or sexual minorities before the majority; of the transgressive before the normal. It’s a revolt against the people who say: Pay an immediate and visible price for a long-term and invisible good. It’s hatred of those who think they can define that good, while expecting someone else to pay for it.

When protests erupted last year in France over Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to raise gas prices for the sake of the climate, one gilets jaunes slogan captured the core complaint: “Macron is concerned with the end of the world,” it went, while “we are concerned with the end of the month.”

Stephens accurately accuses the left of being their own worst enemy: … it self-consciously approaches politics as a struggle against selfishness, and partly because it has invested itself so deeply, and increasingly inflexibly, on issues such as climate change or immigration. Whatever else might be said about this, it’s a recipe for nonstop political defeat leavened only by a sensation of moral superiority.

He makes the point, and here is where my thinking and his especially conjoin, that moderate liberals of the past, a Tony Blair or a Bill Clinton -- and while neither could be held up as perfect politicians (in particular Clinton’s moral failures) -- that neither would ever have been bested by someone like Trump.

So where is that person?  Far be it for me to speculate who that should be.  Perhaps as the primaries develop that person will emerge, but I fear that if it is someone from the far left or a reach-across-the-aisle placater singing 'Kumbaya', we will have missed our opportunity to turn back this wave of populist, know-nothing, nihilism.