It Was a Good Day, Until it Wasn’t

I spent Primary Day roaming the First District putting out signs and helping volunteers where we had them at the polls talking to voters.  Took some photos of John Suddarthvoting.  Started off at a polling place in Caroline County where I greeted a handful of voters and spent 30 minutes talking to Steven Brodie Tuckerabout the state of the Republican Party, whether Nick Freitasor Corey Stewartcan win Tim Kaine’sSenate seat this fall, and single payer health care.  Interestingly, he seemed open to the idea once I explained that John’s proposal would actually free up markets in health care by removing for-profit health insurance companies from the mix. Continue reading

Mea Culpa

I’ve never been very prolific with respect to posting on this blog, and certainly not consistent.  Even an election campaign featuring one of the most obviously unfit candidates for President in American history didn’t change this pattern much.  Still, I wrote two posts arguing that Donald Trump could not possibly win the election.

Well, I damn sure got that one wrong. I simply could not bring myself to believe that American voters would elect a incompetent buffoon* President simply because he promised things no one actually believed he would or could do and said the quiet racist and xenophobic parts out loud.

Like many liberals I checked out of politics for a while after the election.  I simply could not stomach watching Trump’s Keystone Cops transition.  And of course I went into yet another blogging hiatus.

Until, a week or so ago I took a look at Foggy Bottom Line to make sure everything still worked and noticed a rare comment – this one from a Trump supporter:

HaHa! Don’t you feel stupid.

He won and you haven’t had much to say since.

Liberalism is cancer. Hell, you guys can’t even determine how many genders there are. Yet, you’re so scientific and stuff.

It’s time we move on. Nationalism today. Nationalism tomorrow. Nationalism forever.

You’re losing progressives. Your powers are receding. Your spell casts upon humanity is vanishing. Your grip on Western Civilization is weakening and the forces of the Right are prying it from your pale bony hands. Your protest and lamentations are convulsions, the last final death throes of a rotten and corrosive ideology soon to be erased, replaced, and forgotten.

We president now.

Not much here but name-calling and unfounded assertions about where American voters are politically.  Yes, Donald Trump is President now, thanks to an anti-democratic election system designed to protect the political power of slave states.  But it’s important to remember that no liberal Presidential candidate has lost the popular vote since 1988.  And if winning the Presidency demonstrates primacy of a particular ideology, I would have been right about Trump – Barack Obama, after all, won the Presidency – twice – in the name of liberalism (albeit not the most progressive kind).  So it’s not clear how this very close election – won more or less on a technicality – demonstrates an ideological wave moving right.  And it begs the question: how long before Trump’s “spell casts (sic) on humanity” vanishes?  How long before (white?) “Nationalism” loses its new “grip on Western Civilization?”

Nevertheless, I do indeed feel stupid.  Stupid because I seriously never saw President Donald Trump coming.  Stupid because I never dreamed that “nationalism,” (white nationalism?) had gripped so many Americans as a governing philosophy.  But mostly stupid because I didn’t raise my voice loudly or often enough to help prevent it.

If progressive liberal ideology is in fact “soon to be erased, replaced, and forgotten,” I don’t intend to remain silent as it does.  No, I have not had much to say since Donald Trump won the Electoral College.  I aim to fix that.

*I mean…the man lost a billion dollars running a casino.  You have to work hard at stupid to make that happen.  The only case in known gambling history of the house losing – and bigly.

Bob Owens is no “cool and clear-thinking moderate.”

Last week Rick Perlstein published a nice little rundown of the “far-right’s counter-resistance” in the Washington Spectator.  He opens:

Afriend writes, “For basically the past six months or so I’ve been trying to tell my lefty friends in so many words, ‘Hey, there are a bunch of people on the Internet who are waiting for someone to tell them it’s okay to start shooting at you.’”

Perlstein wrote Nixonland, a well-researched and argued case that Richard Nixon’s manipulation of fear and racism in his pursuit of the Presidency helped set the conditions for today’s partisan political climate.  His new book, The Invisible Bridge looks good as well.  “Guns, Extremism, and Threats of Escalation” is a great article and you should go and read the whole thing.  Perlstein by all accounts understands the right wing of American politics and writes well about it.

But I have to challenge him on this:

The march turned into a “small riot,” as gun-rights blogger Bob Owens, one of the most widely read on the web, and a cool and clear-thinking moderate, described it after reviewing the available documentation. (emphasis mine).

Bob Owens, an editor at Bearing Arms, aka “Confederate Yankee,” is no “cool and clear-thinking moderate.” I’ve read his work since I got into a bit of dialogue with him after the Virginia Tech tragedy. in 2007. He’s a racist gun nut who writes barely coherent screeds against Black Lives Matter and suggests that “propagandists for elitists” (Media Matters for America) need a “serious review of our capacity for violence.” He has advocated for the formation of private militias and advised them on proper armament.

In 2010 he argued that since “Our would-be ruling class has abandoned the principles that founded this nation” it’s time to “revolt and destroy the ruling class and reform our government based upon first principles.

He more recently expressed concern that the “radical left” has become “much more insistent in their desire to use force to get their way and impose their ideas on the American people.”  After opening with a suggestion that the “survivors of the Democrat rebellion will meet their end” on a gallows, he uses a quote from one professor to suggest that Democrats want to “forcibly disarm” gun owners and then straight-up lies about Obama’s proposed gun control policies.  Not finished ranting, he then seems to advocate the resistance by police officers and soldiers to lawfully-passed gun control legislation – presumably because no regulation of his ability to arm himself can be legitimate.

This is a man who believes black people are solely responsible for the social problems afflicting their communities – slavery, Jim Crow, and housing and job discrimination have left no lasting legacy.  He thinks every liberal agrees with the most radical leftist he can find but believes right-wing extremists are just normal Americans worried about losing their liberty to an oppressive government.  And he advocates violent overthrow of the US Government whenever it embraces liberal principles that do not match his view of Constitutional legal legitimacy.

Don’t let his opinion that use of deadly force is more restricted in California than it is in Texas fool you. Bob Owens is an extremist, and he offered that advice not to discourage violence but to help his fellow travelers avoid crossing a line..  He is no “cool, clear-thinking moderate,,” and I bet he hides his old Confederate Yankee archives for a reason..

 

Crime and Immigration

Last night while watching the Democratic National Convention I had my Twitter feed up (@foggybottomline) so I could send out a few and follow what the Twitterverse had to say.  I don’t follow @JohnLibertyUSA so I’m not sure why this popped up in my feed.  As you can see I pushed back a bit, asking for a link, and we went back and forth.  Since a discussion like this calls for more than 140 characters at a time, I thought I’d move it to the blog.  Hopefully, Mr. Liberty and his fellow traveler @DeanPerkins will come over for a look.  Continue reading

Star Trek: Beyond

First let me say that I’d never seen a film in IMAX 3D until today.  Didn’t think it mattered much, and didn’t want to wear the glasses.  Let me tell you: it matters – very realistic 3D – and the glasses didn’t detract from the experience, even though I wore them over my own specs.  So if you haven’t tried this, you should.

I’d also like to express a small amount of disappointment that we didn’t get the first adventure in the new five-year mission.  I would like to have seen an episode more like something from the original series – or The Wrath of Khan (the best Star Trek episode ever made, by the way, bar none).  The swashbuckling crew encounters alien race that presents a problem, they solve it just in the nick of time, and viewers get some humorous banter on the bridge in the final scene.  This from Journey to Babel, for example.  Or the classic Trouble with Tribbles.

But Star Trek: Beyond is an excellent film and a great episode in the series.  The special effects were excellent, and for the most part things didn’t move too quickly – viewers could follow the flight of ships and the back and forth of fights without getting too lost.  I think they could have made the reason for the mission clearer and foreshadowed a couple of things more effectively.  But the film carried a classic Trek story line and theme.

I was 8 years old when Gene Rodenberry sold “Wagon Train to the Stars” to CBS in 1966.  For a kid who devoured Asimov and Heinlein stories this was television I could really buy into.  I remember hoping for rainouts of my little league games so I could stay home and watch.  As a kid I simply loved the idea of this naval vessel exploring space with a diverse crew that cared for each other and clearly loved their lives and careers together.  In no small measure, this influenced my later decision to serve in the Army.  So yes, I’ve been a fan and aTrekkie for fifty years.

So the best part of Star Trek: Beyond for me was the interplay among the crew.  Every single actor in the core Kirk/Spock/McCoy/Uhura/Sulu/Checkov executive team helps evoke the dynamic in the original series.  Karl Urban knocks it out of the park as McCoy – he is perfectly cast for this role – and I would say the same about Simon Pegg’s ScottyChris Pine does Captain Kirk nicely as well, and without becoming William Shatner.  I like Quinto’s Spock as well.  Though he comes across as young an inexperienced, he does the “Vulcan” speech inflections well.  Cho, Saldana, and Yelchin round out the core crew with great takes on the characters – Yelchin perfectly delivers the “Scotch was inwented by a little old lady in Russia” line, though it was Leningrad in the original version.  It’s terribly sad and a crying damn shame that a freak accident ended such a promising career so early.

Go see Star Trek: Beyond.  It will satisfy your craving for a Trek film and excite you for the next one.  And if you can, try it in IMAX 3D.  It works.

The GOP “Script”

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wants Donald Trump to “get on script.”  By this, he of course means The Donald should quit saying the quiet parts out loud and get back to using the dog whistle.

McConnell and other conservatives don’t mind racism.  They happily appeal to racism and bigotry when they can use it to distract voters from the real source of their economic woes.  They just don’t want to change the official Republican Party brand from “family values for some families” to racism and bigotry.

Wait.  Maybe they already have that brand.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident II

A couple of takeaways from “Trump Orders Surrogates to Intensify Criticism of Judge and Journalists” at Bloomberg Politics:

@realDonaldTrump is a terrible leader and manager of staff.  He had no idea which staff member had sent the memo telling surrogates not to discuss the Trump University lawsuit.  Then he threw her under the bus, telling people on the call to “throw it out,” and asking if there were “any other stupid letters.”  “…you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t all that smart,” he told supporters (including Jan Brewer and Scott Brown) on the call.  He seems to forget that he’s the incompetent executive who hired “people who aren’t all that smart” in the first place.

@realDonaldTrump hasn’t the foggiest idea what it takes to run a Presidential campaign or to assemble a winning political coalition.  He has no idea how to build and run the organizations and teams necessary to win the Oval Office.  If someone constructed it for him he would jerk it out of their hands like a toy he covets and start throwing it at the ground just to watch pieces fly off.  He doesn’t understand who does what (communications, organizers, fundraisers) or how these people achieve success (data analysis, volunteer recruiting, media plans).  He apparently doesn’t realize that political campaigns are highly specialized endeavors with a handful of professional experts who know how it’s done.  He has no use for either a sound strategic plan or expert guidance for the detailed tactical work needed to identify and motivate supporters.

@realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand that bullying your way through the storm after saying something offensive won’t help him expand his universe of potential supporters.  He can’t seem to help categorizing and referring to people as members of groups (Muslim, “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” Mexican).  People hear this as a claim that tribal membership is the most important quality people have – it drives their behavior.  This is, of course, the very definition of racism – and I believe his willingness to say some of these things out loud has driven his popularity among many Republican primary voters.  At this point, however, it’s begun to offend his now wider audience.  Rather than back off this rhetoric, he’s asking surrogates to emphasize it.  This, by the way, puts people like Jan Brewer and Scott Brown in a tough position – they want to elect a Republican President, but probably don’t want to earn reputations as racists in the process.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident.  He’s a terrible leader and can’t manage subordinates except through fear.  He calls junior staff “stupid” in front of other senior people.  He hasn’t the smallest clue what it takes to put together the national political coalition needed to win the US Presidency and apparently believes he can win simply by saying silly things on television so people pay attention to him.  And when he says silly things on television and the people around him advise reticence, he lacks the temperament to realize he’s in over his head.

This is all very good news for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. #TrumpWillNeverBePresident.

No, Voting for Trump Won’t Accelerate Progressive Change

Yves Smith (aka Susan Webber), a management consultant and principal at Aurora Advisors, writes at Politico that the “highly educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of my website, Naked Capitalism, don’t just overwhelmingly favor Bernie Sanders. They also say “Hell no!” to Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they would even vote for Donald Trump over her.”

They (9 out of 10 Smith friends polled) developed their “conclusions” from “careful study of her record and her policy proposals,” and believe the Clintons represent a policy status quo of “crushing inequality, and an economy that is literally killing off the less fortunate.” And they think “the most powerful move they can take to foster change is to withhold their support.” Continue reading

No, Sanders/Stein Does Not Stop Trump

This argument by Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker at Salon goes in the category of wishful thinking if you ask me.  The core point they make is that by running for President on the Green Party ticket (Jill Stein has apparently agreed to this) Bernie Sanders would keep Donald Trump from expanding his coalition of voters at Hillary Clinton’s expense.  This is because voters see both Trump and Sanders as outsiders, with Sanders the “real” one.  They also worry that Trump could move to Clinton’s left on Wall Street and trade, “corporate trade agreements,” and militarism.  Finally, Zeese and Walker argue that independents will be the key to this race, and that third party campaign risks to Democratic candidates are overblown.  Well, let’s see. Continue reading

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident

Writing at Salon, Anis Shivani predicted last week that Donald Trump’s campaign “will surely be victorious in the end,” because he appeals “to an elemental fear in the country, torn apart by the abstraction of the market, to which Clinton has not the faintest hope of responding.”  Trump, you see, “’builds’ things, literal buildings.”  People can actually visualize these buildings and the cities they were built in.  This contrasts with Clinton, according to Shivani, since her work with the Clinton Foundation and the State Department “represents…disembodiedness.”  “In this election,” claims Shivani, “abstraction will clearly lose and corporeality…will undoubtedly win.”

Another Salon writer, Musa al-Gharbi, doesn’t actually predict a Trump win, but he does seem to think the Donald has a path to victory.  He lays out three key reasons to think this: because Trump has more “opportunity to radically change public perception for the better” since voters don’t yet know Trump “as a politician,” because this election will turn on what voters think about both Obama and Bill Clinton, and because of something he calls “negative intersectionality.”  Al-Gharbi doesn’t define this very clearly, but he seems to be saying something about political correctness: that Trump’s bigotry and misogyny, “heard in the context of a fundamentally anti-white, anti-Christian culture war,” could actually make some voters see him more sympathetically.

These aren’t the only two writers working to outline a Trump path to the Oval Office.  These arguments mostly focus on three claims: both candidates have poor favorability ratings, Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate, and minority voters could shift to Trump. I challenge them below the fold. Continue reading