defrog: (onoes)
And there you have it.

Mostly. According to FiveThirtyEight, there are still over a dozen races that are too close to call, but none will change the basic result of the Demos taking the House. They might widen that majority, and narrow the gap in the Senate back to where it was before the election. Which would be gravy. But in any case, the House is theirs.

So, a few thoughts:

1. Good for them. It’s a good sign that the (slim) majority of the country hasn’t lost its collective mind, and that white nationalism isn’t the only game in town.

2. On the other hand, the fact that the GOP won anything at all is fair warning that a major chunk of the electorate is still firmly onboard the Trump Train and its message of autocratic white xenophobic batshit. And that would be true even if the GOP lost every seat. Whichever Repubs lost, their constituents are still out there, and they’re still angry and scared. And I’m sure every little thing the Demos and the FakeNews™ media do from now to 2020 will make them even more angry and afraid. Fox News and NRATV will see to that.

3. I only had skin in the game as far as the TN race went, and I can’t say I’m surprised at the results. Apart from Memphis and Nashville, TN is firmly in Xenophobe TrumpWorld and so is Marsha Blackburn – indeed it was her main campaign message, and Trump held several of his rallies in TN to help drive that message home. Phil Bredesen was a reasonably successful governor, but that was eight years ago – a lifetime in politics – and the landscape has changed so much since then. In fact, his whole campaign strategy was to run on the issues in order to contrast Blackburn’s pro-Trump batshit – clearly the majority of Tennesseans prefer histrionic batshit. So it goes.

4. TX is not my state, but I confess I was disappointed to see Beto O’Rourke lose, though to his credit he made Ted Cruz fight for it. Granted, I’d love to see almost anyone give Cruz a walloping. But I have to admit I liked O’Rourke’s campaign style, and there’s no doubt he brought a lot of badly needed youthful energy to the base. I also admit it pains me to think that Cruz’s “Beto O’Rourke will take away yr BBQ and force you to dye yr hair and eat tofu” schtick might have actually worked. Still, it only just barely worked, so I guess that’s something.

5. Speaking of O’Rourke, he’s not the only progressive candidate who lost, but some did win, and those that lost generally didn’t lose by much. There are two schools of thought as to what this means: (1) Demos should take this as a warning that progressives lose elections and Demos should avoid them in 2020 if they want to win the White House, or (2) Establishment Demos owe their 2018 victories to progressives energizing the base in ways the Establishment couldn’t do, and they need to do more to accommodate them in 2020.

I lean towards the latter option. I don’t believe the Demos need to go fully hardcore Left to defeat the GOP – the center still matters. But it arguably doesn’t matter like it used to, and the Demos stand a better chance if they can integrate progressives into the party better – and in a meaningful way, not just an exploitative one. 

6. I know some liberals shudder at the idea of Nancy Pelosi being speaker because they associate her with the Establishment who backed Hillary over Bernie (as though we wouldn’t be in this mess if they’d nominated Bernie), or because she’s talking about bipartisanship and common ground and the Left is all: “WITH NAZIS ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME THEY SHOULD BE IN FUCKING JAIL WHAT ARE YOU NEVILLE FUCKING CHAMBERLAIN” etc and so on.

Personally I would rather see some fresh leadership from someone more attuned to the 21st century, or at least someone whose political worldview wasn’t shaped by the Cold War and Vietnam. But I’m not sure who else is available who fits that bill and has the political clout to challenge her.

7. As for the impact of the mid-terms on Trump’s agenda, to be honest I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make. Most of Trump’s ‘accomplishments’ in the last two years didn’t involve Congress at all – the tax bill is the only one I can think of offhand. He will continue to rule from the weird twisted fantasy world where his brain lives regardless of which party runs the House. And you can pretty much forget about impeachment.

Also, it's hard to call the House flip a blow to his admin when all it really does is give him a scapegoat for everything else he screws up between now and 2020. (Granted, he did that even when his own party controlled Congress. Still …)

I think any meaningful impact on Trump will depend on how willing the House Demos are to use their power to start holding Trump accountable on things like, say, his tax returns. Trump has decidedly been aided and abetted by an all too willing GOP-controlled Congress who have been happy to go along with just about every fool thing he does or says, occasionally denouncing some tweet but otherwise being unwilling to actually do anything about it. Sure, they’ll play the victim card and scream about witch hunts, but they scream that all the time, so let ‘em scream.

So it’s up to the Demos to make their victory matter. But I do think – at least theoretically – a Demo-controlled House could restore some balance to the Force if they choose to do so. If nothing else, the House Science Committee won't be run by someone who thinks rising sea levels are caused by rocks falling into the ocean.

So, you know, progress!

Disorder in the house,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Predicting elections is a hobby of mine, and an admittedly precarious one after what happened in 2016 – after all, Donald Trump said and did just about everything possible that traditionally would tank a politician’s campaign. And he still won (albeit by another electoral fluke).

But why not? Besides, I feel pretty confident about how this one is going to play out:

1. The Blue Wave won’t be much of a wave. I think the Democrats will probably take the House (but not the Senate), and a good chunk of the governorships up for grabs.

But this massive takeover that liberals are predicting because the GOP are violent misogynist rape Nazis and there’s no way they can possibly stay in power after the last two years of Trumpville?

No. Sorry.

The reason is simple: people are complex, voters doubly so. You have to remember that people don’t always vote based on logic or a panoptical view of the issues. People vote the party line out of tradition, or they vote based on a single pet issue, or they vote because that’s how Taylor Swift or Kanye told them to vote, or because [x] candidate seems like a nice person, etc and so on. I’ve known people to vote Republican just to see the look on their liberal coworkers’ faces when their candidate loses.

It’s also worth remembering that voters are not operating in a single unified reality. Many liberals and conservatives alike tend to live in their own little hyper-reality bubbles and online communities, and tend to assume that their intake is fair and balanced and that everyone else is seeing the same reality they are. That hasn’t been true for a long time, and it’s arguably getting worse.

Beating the GOP might seem like a slam-dunk given the events of the past two years, but only if you pay attention and follow the news closely from reasonably unbiased news sources. Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t read past the headlines. Also, a lot of people don’t think the GOP is racist or fascist because they have ingrained (and outdated) ideas of what racists and fascists say and do: “How can Trump be a racist Nazi? He doesn’t say the n-word, he doesn't wear a white hood, he doesn't wear a swastika armband, and he let his daughter marry a Jewish guy! C’mon, yr exaggerating! Now Hillary Clinton, there's a Nazi for you ...”

Anyway. Point being, for all the GOP’s awful shenanigans and Trump’s own terrible record, the fact is that Trump’s approval rating is around 43%. That means 43% of the country has no problem with Trump’s opinions, style or policies – most of which the GOP has cheerfully backed.

2. Which brings me to my second predicted outcome.

via GIPHY

No matter who wins, yr going to see a lot of this.

Only it probably won't be as funny.

Fasten yr seat belts,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
John McCain left us last month. I’ve been preoccupied with other things, but I did have a few comments.

1. Personally, I’ve always had respect for him. Which is not to say I’ve always agreed with him, or that he’s always made good choices (see: Sarah Palin). But he came across to me as someone who didn’t just follow the bullet points – he actually put some thought into the issue at hand, and would actually take the time to listen to your views and respond to them. Which is preferable to the hyperpartisan batshit nonsense that the rest of his party has embraced. Sure, his maverick reputation was overstated and his “Straight Talk Express” was mostly a gimmick. But there was a certain amount of truth behind both.

Admittedly, my assessment of McCain’s politics has to do with the fact that I’m not a party guy per se, and I’ve always figured that if you’re pissing off the extreme hardline wings of both parties, yr probably doing something right. McCain did that, and that’s fine by me.

2. That’s why I felt in 2000 that if he had managed to win the nomination and the presidency I would have been okay with it. My philosophy of POTUS elections has generally been that if my preferred candidate doesn’t win, the winner should ideally be someone who isn’t too far from the center and can at least try to be a unifying figure and work with the opposition (assuming the opposition is willing to do likewise). I think McCain would have been such a POTUS. He certainly would have been better than the one we ended up with in 2000.

3. That said, I was less sanguine about a McCain presidency in 2008 – partly because he admitted having never sent an email (which I seriously felt ought to be a basic requirement to be POTUS in the 21st Century), and partly due to his running mate.

Some people have argued that we basically have McCain to thank for Trump because he gave Sarah Palin a national platform to demonstrate that what the conservative base really wanted in a POTUS was a clueless, xenophobic demagogue whose sole qualifications for office were blatant political incorrectness and insulting liberals. But I don’t think it’s fair to pin that on McCain – the Tea Party/MAGA base was already there, as was Fox News, the Koch Brothers and Breitbart, etc, and the GOP had been quietly courting them for years. Given all the Obama conspiracy theories and racist memes already in circulation during the 2008 campaign, I think the GOP would be exactly where it is right now, sooner or later, with or without Palin as poster girl.

4. Granted, selecting Palin wasn’t exactly good judgment on McCain’s part (which he would later admit). On the other hand, when McCain was handed a golden opportunity to exploit conservative xenophobia over Obama’s heritage, he refused. And he got booed for it, if memory serves. But he didn’t change his answer even when he saw it was backfiring. The same can’t be said for most of the rest of the GOP. So I have to give him points for that.

5. As an aside, it’s interesting in retrospect to note that one of the main arguments against voting for McCain in 2008 – namely his age, which meant that Sarah Palin was “one heartbeat away from the presidency” (translation: if McCain dies in office she gets to run the country) – turned out to be unfounded. Turns out McCain would have lived long enough to serve two full terms. So it goes.

Of course, we can never know that for sure, and given the pressures of the job, his health might not have held up as long as it did. I’m just saying.

6. This article in The Guardian is a pretty good overview of McCain’s many personal and political contradictions. Put simply, he was a complex person and he leaves behind a complex legacy that doesn't fit into anyone’s oversimplified partisan socio-political litmus test. He did good things, he did bad things, and he did neither consistently, but he did most of them out of what seemed to be a genuine desire to change things for the better. And if it wasn’t genuine, he was extremely good at faking it.

7. As for his funeral, it says a lot that he received such a huge send-off. And yes, it also says a lot that Trump wasn’t invited (at McCain’s own behest), and why should he be, all things considered?

And as for Meghan McCain’s dig at Trump, I think she’s more than entitled. 

Half-staffed,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

The GOP has gone so far off the rails that George Will is urging conservatives to vote Democrat this November.

Which would be significant if not for the fact that George Will’s opinion doesn’t really count for anything in conservative circles anymore.

Why am I blogging about this?

Mainly because I have a soft spot for George Will. To be sure, I rarely agree with him on anything, but I do see him as one of the last of his breed – an intellectual political commentator with a journalistic approach, a well-read understanding of the issues, and a deep sense of classical party loyalty and a firm belief in what the party stands for (or at least should stand for). When I was growing up, Will was among that class of newspaper pundit who not only had a good grasp of the political issues of the day, but could put together a decent and logical argument for his opinions of them – complete with stats, studies and anecdotes to back up his point.

Again, that’s not to say he was right. But you knew where you stood with him, and you knew that he had at least put some thought into whatever point he was trying to make.

For me, I always felt his main weakness is that his worldview often seems to come more from reading about it rather than experiencing it (particularly when it comes to baseball). That comes across in his writing – typically for Will, his latest column reads like an A- answer to a essay question in a university class. If he was a liberal instead of a conservative he could contribute song lyrics to Bad Religion. Who else but Will would quote The Federalist papers and A Man For All Seasons in the same column, much less use words like “vitiate”?

But that's exactly why I doubt anyone in Trump’s MAGA base cares what George says. For one thing, many of them probably wouldn’t understand half of it. For another, the MAGA clan has openly and frequently ridiculed intellectual elitists for the sole crime of thinking they’re smarter than everyone else. The fact that Trump is POTUS (Electoral College weirdness and Vlad Putin’s cyber-troll action team notwithstanding) is strong evidence that the modern conservative movement prefers opinion leaders who eschew intellectual reasoning in favor of people who shout a lot, insult their opponents personally and blame liberals, feminists and ethnic minorities for all their problems.

Also, Will quit the GOP over Trump’s nomination. He also bad-mouthed Bill O’Reilly to his face. Both of which are virtual treason in Trumpland.

In other words, George Will is one of many classic GOP loyalists who have been left behind by refusing to compromise on principles. Indeed, that’s why he quit the GOP – it’s no longer the party he once supported. Will is from that classic school of post-Vietnam conservatism embodied by William F Buckley’s National Review (of which Will was editor for something like eight years) and the Reagan-era GOP that had a specific ideological vision of what conservative govt should be and could accomplish – but was also rooted in a spirit of bipartisan deal-based practicality necessary to a two-party system.

Thanks to the Dubya Bush era and the Tea Party movement – enabled by the bullhorns of Fox News and conservative talk radio (and eventually Twitter) – the current GOP now embodies almost none of those principles and has morphed into something completely different and horrible. The GOP is dead. Long live the Trump Party. They kept the brand, but it’s a completely different company now. Etc. 

Consequently, no one in the current party is going to listen to his plea to vote the GOP completely out of power in Congress. The truth is, the majority of Republicans like this version of the GOP. Also, as other people have mentioned before (and correctly), the GOP wasn’t exactly dragged unwillingly into Trump’s hate-fueled xenophobic universe of dumb vitriolic race-baiting conspiracy theory batshit. 

The bigger problem is this: convincing conservatives to vote against the Trump Party means convincing them to vote for Democrats. Any given poll shows that most Repubs would vote for Trump all over again even knowing what they know now because they believe Hillary would have been be far, far worse. So I don’t see any of these people taking a chance on a Demo – much less to punish a party they don’t think needs fixing.

Ironically, of course, this is one of those times I agree with Will – to a point. I do think that the only thing that can stop the GOP in its sycophantic tracks and trigger some kind of self-reassessment is having its collective ass handed to it in the mid-terms – badly. Ideally they should lose enough seats that not only make the Demos filibuster-proof but will also take Republicans a good 20 years to try and take back at least one Congressional house.

However, Will seems to think this would force a rethink of GOP leadership that will bring it back to its Reagan-era ideology. He sees a mid-term routing as shock therapy to save the patient.

Remember the scene in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom when Indy is under the spell of Kali and Short Round snaps him out of it by burning him with a torch? Like that.

However, my personal diagnosis is that it’s too late for that. The GOP as we know it is gone, and it is not coming back. It’s now the Trump-Fox-Alt-White Party. A mid-term defeat will cause plenty of soul searching, for sure, but the result will be either doubling down or figuring out how to better package their message, not a return to classic Republicanism.

And it’s a moot point anyway, since – again – most people who consider themselves Republicans would much rather vote for this trash fire than for any Democrat.

Still, you can’t blame George for trying.

Will the circle be unbroken,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Long before Trump won the 2016 election, there were suspicions that Russia was trying to interfere in the election with the aim of giving him a leg up in some form or other, either with or without his knowledge.

Now the evidence is piling up indicating that (1) Russia damn well did interfere with the election process with the goal of encouraging a specific outcome, and (2) at least some of the Trump campaign – if not Trump himself – was at best aware of this (and didn’t report it to the authorities) and at worst actively complicit. Allegedly. By the time Robert Mueller is done, we may have an even better idea of this.

You have to sort of admire the lateral thinking it took to come up with such a plan – why rig elections the old fashioned way (bribes, stuffing ballot boxes, hacking voting machines) when you can take advantage of the trend of Americans becoming increasingly isolated in hyperpartisan batshit echo chambers that serve as alternate reality bubbles, write some software to exploit that, turn the volume up to 11, sit back and watch the fun? They probably got the idea from watching old Twilight Zone reruns.



Anyway, it’s still a story in progress (the wishful thinking of the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee notwithstanding), but between this and the fact that Trump lost the pop vote, we’re looking at the real possibility that the 2016 election will be the first to produce a demonstrably illegitimate result.

Maybe. A major caveat here is that while there’s little doubt by now that Russia really did meddle with the election process, it’s not yet clear whether that meddling decisively altered the outcome. For example, there’s decent evidence that the James Comey letter alone cost Hillary the election – in which case we could deduce that the Russian meddling wouldn’t have succeeded in changing the result on its own. That said, the reverse could also be true – if Russia hadn’t interfered, the race might not have been close enough for Comey’s letter to make a difference.

But let’s say we will eventually be able to prove that Russia rigged the election and Trump’s victory is the result of cheating and therefore illegitimate.

That raises a pretty obvious question: NOW what?

The obvious answer for liberals is, of course, “Make Hillary president!” Or at least chuck Trump and hold a new election. The problem is there is no Constitutional mechanism for such a situation. Snopes has a good article here explaining the problem – basically, we have procedures for getting rid of crooked and incapacitated presidents, but not for rigged elections, regardless of whether the rigging is done by one of the competing parties or by outside agents.

There’s probably nothing we can do about this election, but there may be something we can do about future elections – and we should, because there’s no reason to assume that Russia (or indeed anyone else) won't try this again. Pretty much every intelligence agency we have (and those of our allies) agrees that they’ve already started on the 2018 mid-terms.

According to Snopes, Congress has the capacity to enact legislation establishing procedures for such an event. The problem, of course, is that the current GOP-led Congress is so dysfunctional that it’s very unlikely to hammer out anything useful. And even if the Demos take back Congress by a supermajority this year, Trump will veto any such legislation out of sheer paranoia and spite.

There’s the additional problem of how you would go about actually implementing such a mechanism. Let’s say we already had it in place, and that we had enough evidence to prove that Hillary would have won, which means we need to hold a new election. How exactly do you convince Trump’s MAGA fans – and indeed most of the GOP – to accept that, especially when they’ll simply write off the “evidence” as fake news or a Deep State plot to steal the presidency?

Or, to be fair, let’s reverse the scenario and suppose Hillary won under similar circumstances – would the Demos willingly accept a do-over without a fight, especially given the current meme that the GOP is a bunch of cheating evil bastards who lie about everything under the sun? I have my doubts.

This is the biggest problem with a do-over mechanism – both sides have to agree to it, which means one side has to give up power they just spent a lot of time, effort and (most importantly) money to attain. And let's admit, in these times where the opposition is essentially Satan, it’s always possible the losing side will try to invoke a do-over because they simply can’t accept the fact that they lost. (Which is why any do-over procedure should have a very high burden of proof to be enacted – and it will probably be high enough to ensure that it never is enacted.)

Arguably the relatively easier solution is to prevent (or minimize) election fraud and interference from happening in the first place. We already have laws and procedures for that, although clearly the Russians figured out how to game that system by manipulating social media. So at least we need ways to block such efforts, and that will include convincing Facebook, Twitter et al to ditch the “Internet is freedom” ideology and get serious about policing their content and user base. It won't be easy or perfect. But it’s more plausible than trying to redo an election.

As for the notion that Trump isn’t the legit POTUS – well, maybe, but we’re stuck with him until 2020, and nothing short of impeachment, resignation or death is going to change that. And then we get President Pence, who as far as I can see will only be an improvement in that we won’t have to put up with raging Twitter tantrums every other day.

Yes, that sucks. No, there’s nothing you can do about that. Your best option: go out this November and flip Congress back to the Demos so Trump at least doesn’t have a GOP-controlled Congress to do his bidding. It’s also your best chance to start impeachment proceedings, for all the good it would do.

BONUS TRACK: Speaking of impeachment, Ezra Klein has a good piece here making the case that we need to stop being afraid of using impeachment as a way to ditch a clearly bad POTUS – but the fact that it’s not feasible because of the sociopolitical consequences shows just how far American democracy has fallen from what the Founding Fathers intended.

Stuck in the middle with you,

This is dF
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As you no doubt know, Oprah Winfrey gave an awesome acceptance speech at the Golden Globes and now some people are demanding she run for president.

I am not one of them.

Not because I don’t like Oprah (I do) and not because I disagree with her speech (I don’t – I thought she nailed it), but because I really don’t like the idea of someone with zero govt/political experience holding the highest office in the land.

You can read this article for a good sum-up of the pros and cons of an Oprah campaign – personally I think the cons outweigh the pros. This Intercept article goes a little overboard, but I agree with the overall point it’s trying to make: America needs a POTUS who has at least some experience running a government who can also maneuver in the political arena in which Presidents must operate, both domestically and internationally.

To be fair, I understand why she’s an appealing option for liberals. After eight years of Obama and just one year of Trump, we could use someone inspirational, as well as someone who isn't yet another Old White Dude. Or at last someone who reads. I get that.

But I think it says a lot that people increasingly look to entertainers as POTUS material. It’s like when some liberals wanted Jon Stewart to run when his sole qualifications were (1) mocking Republicans and Fox News five nights a week and (2) expressing informed opinions they agreed with. But being POTUS entails more than just going on TV and making big speeches or telling jokes about the opposition.

The problem, I reckon – and this is what bothers me more than an Oprah candidacy specifically – is that we’re a nation so obsessed with celebrity culture that most people know more about entertainment programs and pop culture than they do about government policy issues. You’ve probably noticed by now that Presidential candidates pretty much have to do late night talk shows, The Daily Show and SNL guest appearances as part of the campaign trail if they’re ever going to have a shot.

We’re at a point in history where people see the POTUS as just another TV celebrity whose main job is to entertain us (which is arguably one reason Trump got the job, Electoral College flukes notwithstanding). Also, as Vox tells it:

… when we fantasize about electing a celebrity as president, we’re not imagining that Oprah is secretly a brilliant legislator or that the Rock has hidden depths as a policy wonk. We’re imagining that the perfect, untouchable, and morally righteous figure of our dreams can stride straight off the screen into the White House and make everything better.
 
And I suppose it’s hard to blame them when the status quo is mostly career politicians offering more of the same old crooked shenanigans. The idea of an outsider coming in and shake things up is an appealing one. I’d like that too – but I’d rather it happen at the local, state and Congressional levels, if only because it has to happen there before an outsider POTUS could reasonably affect real change anyway. So if Oprah started by running for senator, say, I’d be okay with that.

It’s a moot point, of course, since I don't think Oprah will run – she’s said she’s looking into it, but I think she’ll eventually decide it’s not worth the pain and that she can be a more effective agent of change dong what she’s doing now. At least I hope she will.

If she does decide to run, then there are two obvious questions:

1. Would I vote for her?
It would depend on who else was running, although right now I have absolutely no reason to believe that the current trash fire that is the GOP will produce anyone worth considering. If it was a choice of Oprah or re-electing Trump, then sure, I wouldn’t hesitate.

2. Would she win?
Again, it depends on who she’s up against, as well as how she runs her campaign and demonstrates a grasp of the issues. But I think she’d probably at least make it competitive. (Or at least the Russians will make it look that way.*)

It also depends on whether the liberal base will back her or do what many did with Hillary Clinton – voted third-party or voted for Trump because they wanted a REAL liberal candidate like Bernie Sanders, not Ersatz Liberal Hillary. It’s relevant because, as this Twitter thread from Jeremy C Young points out, in terms of her known political views Oprah is generally more Hillary than Bernie. So if Liberals For Oprah are hoping for another Bernie Sanders, they’re in for disappointment. But considering how the last election worked out for the #NeverHillary crowd, I’m hoping they’ll decide that’s not really the best strategy.

I’m a celebrity get me outta here,

This is dF

*Kidding. I think.

defrog: (Default)

As you no doubt know, Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate race.

Unsolicited commentary follows:

1. Like many people who are not from Alabama, I’m glad Jones won.

2. Also like many people, my reasons for this date back long before we found out about Roy Moore’s colorful history of stalking/sexually assaulting minors. Moore’s various comments and judicial actions over the years regarding racism, sexism, Islam, LGBTs and church/state separation – to name a few – have been more than enough to convince me we’d all be better off if he lost.

3. Unsurprisingly – yet hilariously – Moore has refused to concede. And characteristically, his list of reasons why have nothing to do with recounts or alleged voter fraud and everything to do with his belief that America is such a Satanic cesspool of liberal godless immorality that we can’t possibly let the Senate fall into the hands of those evil atheist gay sodomite Muslim baby-killing DEMOCRATS. In which case the fact that Jones got more votes than me is irrelevant to the fact that I MUST HAVE THAT SEAT TO SAVE AMERICA!

Well. Nice try.

4. The conservative reaction has been slightly more subdued (or at least not focused on the Biblical apocalyptic ramifications), but no less predictable – from blaming the Evil Liberal Media’s Fake News unfair and totally false hit jobs on Moore to conspiracy theories that black people cheated by busing in more black people from Mississippi to vote for Jones (ha ha, no).

The only real surprise was Trump’s congratulatory tweet to Jones, which no one seriously believes for a minute he wrote himself. Indeed, Trump soon followed up by saying, “See, I TOLD ya you shoulda gone with Luther Strange, but did anyone listen to me? No! I was right all along, but will the fake media report that?! NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Which sounds more like him.

5. It’s worth taking note that while it’s good Jones won, the fact remains that almost half of Alabama voted for – and most of the GOP outside of Alabama actively endorsed – a racist pedophiliac conspiracy theorist over a guy who successfully prosecuted KKK members for murdering black people.

Granted, it’s worth remembering that many of the people who support Moore don’t believe that WaPo story is true to begin with. So from their POV they weren’t endorsing a pedophile because they don’t believe he is one. Meanwhile, the ones who do believe the WaPo story have long since bought into the nonsense reality bubble that Democrats (and WaPo, for that matter) are literally the enemy of America, which in their mind is far worse than what Moore may or may not have done 40 years ago. Also, they really need to keep Congress locked up long enough to pass Trumpcare, that tax bill, etc, and that’s more important than Roy Moore’s sex life. So, you know, lesser of two evils?

But that doesn’t address the racist/conspiracy theorist bit. That’s something we probably need to address – or at least keep in mind for next year’s midterms. These people aren’t going away anytime soon.

6. Which is why I don’t think the fallout from this election spells the end of the GOP, as some have been postulating – though I guess it depends what you mean by “the end”.

Does it mean it’s the end of them ever winning elections? Of course not. The aforementioned batshit alt-reality that Trump, Moore and their fans currently habit will preserve support for the GOP for some time. That’s not to say it’s not going to cost them seats in the short term – Jones could well signify the beginning of several seat flips in the next election year. But losing elections doesn’t mean the “end” of the GOP.

That said, I do think the Battle Of Alabama could help to destroy the GOP as we know it – the Reagan-era Establishment is fading fast, and it’s being slowly but surely replaced with a party increasingly obsessed with delusional, xenophobic white identity politics and strong-arm authoritarianism (in the guise of Law And Order). The lower classes (which increasingly include what used to be the middle class) are getting fed up with the growing wealth inequality gap, and the New GOP’s apparent strategy is to do what they can to keep the rabble at bay by making the gap wider (to say nothing of the deficit) whilst assuring anyone who will listen that the superrich will totally invest that extra money into nice cushy senior VP jobs for everyone else.

Or not. The GOP hasn’t gone full Bannon just yet, and FiveThirtyEight thinks that Moore's loss could help give GOP moderates an opening to try and get the party back on track – but as the Establishment either retires or dies, the Batshit Fascist wing is increasingly well-positioned to step in and take over eventually. The result could spell the death of the GOP in the same sense that turning to the Dark Side spelled the death of Anakin Skywalker and the birth of Darth Vader.

7. So yeah, while it’s good that someone like Jones can still win an election – in Alabama, of all places – the forces that enabled Moore are still very much in play (to say nothing of the White House), so we’ve got a long way to go here.

It ain’t over til it’s over,

This is dF
defrog: (Mocata)
We have a new type of rule now. Not one man rule or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decisions. They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of the past. There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident; inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine that they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which button to push." – William S Burroughs, Interzone

Well, not so fast there, Bill.

It’s not clear when William Burroughs wrote that – it appeared in Interzone in 1989, but that book includes a lot of earlier work by Burroughs, so it could have been written any time between the late 50s and ’89.

Anyway, it’s a quote that’s stuck with me over the years – partly because he recorded it for Dead City Radio, and also because it struck me as the perfect description of how the US govt and Western democracy work. It helped that a college history professor I greatly admired gave a similar assessment – that the real power in Washington lies with the vast bureaucratic mechanism of government itself overseen by career politicians and experts who understand how it works. The President is really just a figurehead who surrounds himself with the experts who understand how the machine runs and how it will process whatever decisions are made. That doesn’t mean the POTUS has no power – just very limited power compared to a Stalin or Hitler. (Whether this is a good thing depends of course on how concerned you are about the balance of power between the elected POTUS and the appointed bureaucrats, the transparency of the process, etc.)

Anyway, it was this quote I found myself remembering when I came across this article on Quartz (written in March before Trump’s nomination, BTW) about the return of authoritarianism – not just in America, where D.Trump has risen to power on a strikingly authoritarian platform, but in other countries that have elected leaders with similar authoritarian qualities in recent years.

Theresa May (UK), Vladimir Putin (Russia) and Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) are the obvious ones that you hear about the most because of (respectively) Brexit, Trump and Duterte’s policy that if you see someone dealing drugs, you have permission to execute them on the spot. But there’s also Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Narendra Modi (India) and Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel). Meanwhile, in France, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front has moved from the fringe to the mainstream,emboldened by Brexit and Trump’s victory. The same goes for Geert Wilders and his far-right PVV (Party For Freedom) in the Netherlands.

And even in countries where far-right populist parties aren’t leading the polls, their support is growing.  All of them are pushing the populist line that essentially aims to galvanize nationalist sentiment, kick out the foreigners (by which they mostly mean Muslims), selectively curtail civil liberties (particularly for their critics), and Make [Insert Country Name Here] Great Again.

It’s like Trump opened a franchise, although that would be giving him too much credit. Much of this – even the sentiments that his campaign successfully exploited – has been brewing for years and years. These politicians didn’t just show up out of nowhere and con people into buying xenophobic claptrap they didn’t know they needed. Those sentiments were already there.

The obvious question is: why? And the answer is a lot of complex and nuanced guesswork. You can read the Quartz article, this WaPo piece and this article here for an idea.

Personally, I would add that a lot of it comes down to the rise of fear, uncertainty and instability that many people feel as the world changes at a faster rate than people are prepared to deal with. There are specific things you can point to, like the wealth inequality gap, education quality, social upheavals of institutional norms that people haven't had time to process (gay marriage, transgender washrooms, etc), and the ability of both broadcast and social media to amplify all of these issues to wildly disproportionate levels of hysteria.

But on a macro level, I think it’s really down to people feeling afraid and uncertain about the future. I think this is also why we’re seeing a rise in fundamentalist ideologies – not just of the religious kind (Christian and Muslim), but also sociopolitical beliefs. Fundamentalism by definition does not tolerate any idea or opinion that contradicts its worldview. And I’ve written before about how this election more than any other in my lifetime has been characterized by political debates in which people on the other side of the sociopolitical aisle are branded not just misguided or wrong, but evil and dangerous criminals and traitors who will destroy the country and society as we know it unless they are stopped (preferably at the polls, although if that doesn’t work, well …).

In that kind of environment, it’s no wonder more voters are seeking some kind of strongman (at least a symbolic one) in charge to put everything in order the way they think it ought to be put (i.e. in their favor).

Having said that, I don’t think this necessarily signifies the return of Stalins and Hitlers – at least not to those extremes. As I’ve said before, Trump is no Hitler – at least not yet, and not as long as he stays confined by the constitutional framework, economic infrastructure and diverse media outlets that he has no control over. (Those of you tempted to bring up conspiracy theories about the corporate media being a willing tool of the Republican Wall street fat cat evil bastards who really run America, you go right ahead, but I will shake my head sadly at you and move on.)

If it helps, here are two things to keep in mind for perspective:

1. There’s a difference between an authoritarian state and a totalitarian state – both are dictatorships but the latter is the more extreme version where every aspect of society is controlled by the dictating power (see: Stalin, Hitler, Kim Jong-Un, etc).

2. Authoritarian leadership doesn’t equal an authoritarian state. The latter is a monopoly of political power that can be maintained even in a system that allows some form of democracy. So unless (and until) Trump restructures the political system to prevent anyone other than Trump (or the GOP) from controlling every branch of government (to include state level) permanently, the US cannot be called an authoritarian state. The same goes for other countries where authoritarian politicians have power or are closer to acquiring it.

So to come back to that Burroughs quote up there, I think it's true that there will be no more Stalins or Hitlers – in the traditional sense. Perhaps what we’re seeing now is a mutation of sorts – a new breed of iron-willed dictator who is able to dictate within the constitutional confines of a democratic system with a functional (if inefficient) bureaucracy without radically altering its structure. They don’t need to understand how the machine works – they just need to figure out how to get the machine to do what they want it to do without breaking it. It helps that in the last 50 years (or longer), the machine has already been stress-tested in terms of how far you can quietly erode freedoms and civil liberties (in the name of national security) within the constitutional parameters under which it operates.

Which, again, is probably giving Trump too much credit – it’s reasonably clear he’s in this for the ego boost rather than any actual power, and had no real plan for anything apart from winning the election. And I would argue that Trump isn’t an iron-willed dictator so much as a thin-skinned egotistical blowhard control freak.

Is there a difference? I think so, in the sense that the former generally wants ultimate power to transform the country to his/her ideological vision of purity and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. The latter wants power mainly to stroke his/her ego and make his/her life as easy as possible – if they can institute their policies without breaking the system, then great. If not, then it becomes a question of tradeoffs (as in: will abolishing Congress impact my stock options?).

I may be way off here, of course. I’m guessing like everyone else, and I’m drastically oversimplifying all this. My overall point is that I don’t think the rise of authoritarian leaders means that traditional dictators (i.e. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, etc) are coming back into style.

What we may be seeing is a shift towards a quasi-authoritarian democracy under which people decide who gets to be dictator for the next term. Given the increased polarization and fundamentalist attitude of political parties, I think we're already at a point where a significant number of people will settle for nothing less than their favored political party achieving solid control over all three branches of govt and refusing to compromise an inch on any given policy idea or legislation. In short, they want a dictatorial govt that works in their favor – but they also want the mechanism in place to change dictators without resorting to a coup de tat (which would mean hard work and sacrifice).

To be sure, I’m reasonably certain those people who want an authoritarian version of democracy don’t think of it in those specific terms. And they are in the minority – for now. But their numbers are growing, and people like Trump are taking advantage of that. Put another way, the problem may not be Trump (or May, Erdoğan, Abe, Modi, Benjamin Netanyahu et al) so much as the voters that put them into positions of power in the first place.

Where this will lead to is anyone’s guess – again, I’m not convinced it will lead to Trump literally doing what Hitler did. But we are seeing a weakening of support for a loyal opposition that is essential for making democracy work. When you rebrand the loyal opposition en masse as the enemy of the state, yr asking for authoritarians to step in and fix them but good – maybe not in terms of purges and concentration camps, but certainly in terms of permanent disempowerment.

In which case perhaps democracy really will be a case of the winners getting the government they deserve – at the expense of everyone else.

We have met the enemy and he is us,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

A few other random observations about the 2016 election:

1. This is probably the first election in my lifetime where it seemed people went to the polls with virtually no idea what either candidate actually planned to do if elected.

Yes, they knew where Trump and Hillary stood on various issues and each other. But that’s not the same thing as offering details on an actual plan for acting on those positions. Trump went to the wire offering close to zero concrete details on his big plans for the country (“Build The Wall™ and make Mexico pay for it” does not count – that’s a catch phrase, not a plan), while Hillary had detailed plans but no one was talking about them. Everyone was talking about her emails, her pneumonia and her vast global criminal organization that only conservatives can see. If it ever came up during the debates (and I admit I didn’t watch them), the media highlights never mentioned them.

I don’t remember ever encountering this before. I know lots of people who vote for trivial and self-centered reasons and don't pay attention to policy details, but at least some of them usually talk about the issues and what their candidate plans to do about them in detail, especially regarding the economy. Not this year.

2. Another strange detail about Trump’s victory is that he won in part (or perhaps mostly) because he and his supporters are under the impression that America is in the worst shape it’s ever been – or at the very least, it’s worse than it was before Obama took over the dump.

The thing is, by just about every traditional metric we typically use to judge the health of the country under a given administration, the US has actually done okay under Obama, especially when you consider the shape it was in when he first took office (i.e. two wars, an economic meltdown, double-digit unemployment and an escalating national deficit, among other things).

Almost eight years later, the economy is going well, Wall Street is thriving, unemployment is at historic lows, and annual deficits are declining. Even the crime rate is way down. To be sure, the national debt is up 121% since 2009. On the other hand, did anyone even talk about the debt this election?

Anyway, the point is that by the numbers, the country is in relatively good shape, and better than it was in January 2009 – and yet at street level, almost half the country seems convinced that it’s actually worse. That was the whole point of Trump’s MAGA campaign – America has become the worst place ever under Obama, and only Trump can fix it.

There’s a couple of conclusions to draw from this: (1) Trump supporters are completely delusional and living in an alternate reality America – which is possible if they get their new solely from Fox News, Infowars and World Net Daily – or (2) the traditional metrics don’t reflect the reality on the ground for ordinary people – which is also possible (regardless of which reality they inhabit). So it's possible the old metrics don't mean as much to voters as they used to. Someone should do a tl;dr research paper on this, maybe.

3. I mentioned this before, but one interesting fallout of the Trump win is that the GOP has finally given up all claims of being the Wholesome Family Values party.

Which was never a very credulous claim to begin with, I know. I only mention it because I came of voting age at a time when the Moral Majority – and after them, the Christian Coalition – emerged as a heavy right-wing political force in the GOP. Which meant that pretty much every POTUS candidate had to pass a CC litmus test. Consequently, from the mid-80s up to now the political wisdom was that it was impossible for anyone to be a GOP candidate unless they were a devout Christian who not only openly supported Wholesome Family Values (i.e. Christian heterosexual nuclear family with 2.4 kids, no divorces and no fornicating before or outside of marriage), but also lived them.

Donald Trump is of course damn near the opposite of that model. Most evangelicals voted for him anyway, and for a variety of reasons – one being that many seem convinced that there’s a difference between Loud Outrageous Angry Pussy Grab Trump and President Trump. One was just an act, the other is the “real” Trump, or at least a changed Trump.

Another, of course, is that social conservatives in general have not fared well in the culture wars, and with a SCOTUS seat up for grabs, some see Trump at their only shot at regaining lost legal ground, because they’re certainly not going to get that from Hillary.

Anyway, I think that from this point on, the GOP going to have a very hard time supporting Trump and criticizing every Demo candidate after this for not being a clean living Christian monogamist still married to his first wife (who is not a foreigner).

Or maybe not. Never underestimate the ability of politicians and their supporters to harp on the opposition’s shortcomings no matter how many of them they may have in common, and no matter how blindingly obvious this is to everyone outside of their hyperpartisan reality bubble.

4. For people wondering if the results would be different if Gary Johnson and Jill Stein had minded their own business, well, we may never know. The Wall Street Journal says probably not, though of course it depends on how Libertarian/Green voters would have voted in a strictly two-party race (with the caveat that they may well have voted for no one at all).

I would argue that at the very least they kept either from achieving an outright majority, which just muddies the waters further.

5. Also, for people wondering just how Hillary could have blown it against someone as clearly unqualified as Trump, well, everyone has an opinion on that. These stories from Politico and The Atlantic are as good a guess as any.

Of course, some people will tell you she lost because she wasn't Bernie Sanders (and by “some people” I mean “people who voted for Sanders in the primaries and know for a fact he would have won because OBVIOUSLY”).

Yeah. One reason they’re saying that is because polls back before the convention had Bernie at a higher spread over Trump than Clinton did. The thing is, I was never convinced that meant anything. For one thing, the spread wasn’t that big – just a few points more. That might have helped in an election this close, but the other thing is that Bernie was running mainly against Clinton. The GOP barely paid attention to him because they assumed he wouldn’t be their opponent in the general election. If he’d won, you can bet they (and Trump) would have trained their guns on him and let rip, starting with his Socialist Agenda.

Still, maybe he would have overcome that. By traditional metrics, Trump should have lost before the primaries, so maybe that would have worked in Sanders’ favor too. We’ll never know. But since I never really felt the Bern, I can afford to assume that Trump would still be POTUS.

6. Amusingly (or not), Donald Trump is so annoyed at the recount clamor that he’s taken the trouble to tell everyone via Twitter (where else?) that in fact he did win the popular vote – all those extra votes Hillary got were the result of illegal voters.

He didn’t mention how he happens to know this, but by a wild coincidence Infowars – of whom Trump is a fan – ran a story claiming that 3 million people who voted were noncitizens. Their source: one guy who said so without providing any evidence backing up his claim. WaPo has a good wrap-up of how bogus this claim is.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice the unintentional irony of Trump alleging voter fraud on a scale that you’d think would justify the very recount he’s annoyed with.

Okay, I'm done.

An explanation for everything,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

Perhaps inevitably, we’re back in recount territory. Between Hillary’s pop vote lead now exceeding 2 million, and the fact that the polls all showed her in the lead (albeit barely) – and also supposedly Russians and/or Julian Assange hacked voting machines, maybe – HRC fans are desperately demanding a recount in key states. Even Jill Stein is doing it, and has been raising money to fund recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the latter of which is now underway.

Personally, I’d rather they didn’t, because it’s really just asking for trouble the same way that asking the Electoral College to switch their votes is asking for trouble.

For one thing, it always comes across as sour grapes when the losing side demands a recount and accuses the other side of cheating or hacking voting machines or whatever because HOW COULD WE HAVE POSSIBLY LOST OTHERWISE?

Sure, Stein and others are arguing that it’s not about changing the results so much as proving the results are accurate so that we can all trust the system. On the other hand, if the situation were reversed and Hillary won in the same manner, would Stein and her supporters care nearly as much about the integrity of the result? (And I ask that knowing full well that Stein and many of her supporters never liked HRC in the first place – but I’ll bet many of the people contributing to her fundraiser would much rather see HRC in the White House than Trump and are more interested in proving Hillary really did win the electoral vote and that the GOP cheated.)

To be sure, it’s probably time we had an audit of some kind on the electoral process, and I don’t mind if it uncovers some real issues that need fixing. We’ve been talking about this since at least 2000, but once the election’s over, everyone loses interest and moves on. If we're seriously going to audit the voting process, now is as good a time as any to do it. 

On the other hand, there’s no real evidence that any significant fraud took place, or that voting machines were tampered with – not to the extent that it would change the results. And we already know it’s mathematically possible to lose the pop vote but win the electoral vote without the other side cheating or gaming the system. So it’s hard to know what Stein is really trying to accomplish apart from giving HRC one last shot at the White House.

It should be noted too that the one person not calling for a recount is Hillary – which is probably political savviness on her part. She’s already conceded and resigned herself, and instructed her fans to do likewise – only an idiot would actively demand a recount after that. So I’m sure she knows what she’s in for if she demands a recount and wins (or still loses).

Anyway, it comes back to what I said before – at some point you just have to accept that you lost and move on, because the alternative is an endless cycle of distrust and retribution where both sides become less and less willing to accept the transition of power. And whatever Stein’s personal motives might be, I think support for a recount is mainly from people who want Hillary to be declared the winner – and I will bet good money they won’t accept the recount results if Trump still wins.

Also, if the recount does somehow hand it back to Hillary, you can’t expect Trump and his supporters to take that calmly. Because would you?

Here we go again,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
Regarding the #NotMyPresident protests that Fox News is complaining about in the same way they didn’t complain about the “Obama is not legitimate” conspiracy theories:

Personally I’m not very critical of the anti-Trump protests in and of themselves, because I see them largely for what they are – a massive release of the fear, loathing and rage that has characterized this entire sad stupid election. It’s been a savagely emotional two years for everyone involved, and to lose when the polls all said otherwise (more or less) – and to do so yet again in a way where they won the pop vote but lost the electoral vote – is a hard pill for anyone to swallow.

And let’s be clear – Trump supporters aren’t really in a position to criticize the protests when (1) many of them refused to recognize Obama as POTUS because he’s gay Muslim foreigner, and (2) their own candidate said he would refuse to recognize the results if he lost. So let's not pretend that Trump fans would take an HRC victory calmly and agree to move on and unite the country instead of (say) grabbing their muskets, because they literally said they wouldn’t before the voting even started.

Also, it’s important to understand that a lot of this is driven by fear of what Trump and his fan base will or will not do to LGBTs, Muslims, immigrants and every other non-white-Christian-male demographic in America.

I get that. When I was a kid, I got bullied at school all the time (at one point it was for being gay, which I wasn’t, but people said I was, which was close enough for them). I had to go to school every day wondering what kind of shit I was going to be handed, if I was going to get teased or mocked or roughed up, or whatever. Some days were better than others, but that fear was constantly hanging over my head – not knowing what was coming or when or from who, but knowing that I would be forced to deal with it, that I wouldn’t like it, and that no one would back me up. And I had to go to school every day and face that.

That, I imagine, is how a lot of minorities in the US feel right now, only more so. The PEOTUS has given bullies a license to express themselves however they like – and they have been doing just that, and in the manner you’ve come to expect. So I can’t really fault anti-Trump protesters for taking to the streets to reject that philosophy. And it's a good sign that they are.

Having said that, I do think at some point they need to just accept the fact that Trump will be POTUS and prepare to deal with him and his minions on those terms.

Again, I get why that’s hard for them to do. At best they face a much more uncertain future than The Straight White Guys Of America – living in dread of what the Trump admin is going to try to do to them, or what their neighbors/work colleagues/strangers in food courts will do to make their lives sad and terrible.

But while I understand the emotional context of #NotMyPresident, I don’t support it in practice. For me, it’s very simple – the whole point of democracy is to create a peaceful transition of power. If you refuse to accept that transition, then yr headed down a road that leads to one coup de tat after another.

Note that there’s a major difference between refusing to accept the legitimacy of a POTUS and refusing to support any bad or dangerous ideas that POTUS may enact. You can both accept that Trump won AND oppose him on policy. What you can’t do is force him out and put Hillary in just because you want her there, no matter how dangerous you may sincerely think he’ll be.

Well, okay, technically yes you can, which is where people start talking about Hillary winning the pop vote and how the electoral college sucks and the electors should do their duty, become faithless electors and change their votes for Hillary.

Yes, legally they can do that. That doesn’t make it a good idea. Here are couple of reasons why:

1. If you were one of those people who criticized Trump and his posse for saying they would refuse to accept the legitimacy of a HRC victory, then it’s kind of hypocritical to refuse to accept a Trump win to the point of actively trying to change the official result in your favor.

2. Given how Trump supporters were convinced that Hillary would win by cheating – and were prepared to take action to save America – I’m pretty sure they’ll feel twice as strongly about that if the electors actively deny Trump the White House at this stage. If you think the pro-Trump racist groups act like violent jerks when they win, imagine what they’ll be like when they have their POTUS taken away from them.

For that matter, imagine the situation being reversed, where Hillary won the electoral vote only to have the electors give it to Trump.

So sooner or later, I think the Left is going to have to just bite the bullet and prepare to challenge the Trump admin enough to keep damage to a minimum. It will suck, yes. A raging civil war with street violence and possibly endless coups will suck a lot worse.

If it makes you feel any better, we’re already seeing hints that Trump was never serious about a lot of what he said, and only said it to exploit the far-right. He’s already denounced the so-called “alt-right” movement (notice the timing) and said he’s not going to bother putting Hillary in jail.

And suddenly every racist kook in America is starting to get the feeling they’ve just been played.

So there is that.

As I said in the last post, none of this necessarily means Trump will be a good POTUS after all. He’s still likely to do dumb and terrible things, and if he doesn’t personally, his appointees might, and certainly some of his supporters will (and already are). But if we’re lucky, Trump will turn out to be the ultimate huckster who – intentionally or otherwise – actually did us the favor of demonstrating to everyone that America still has a serious racism/bigotry problem that (it turns out) can’t be fixed by pretending that it doesn’t exist.

Interesting times, eh Jim?

The man who sold the world,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
Well. Talk about a twist ending.

And yet one I had a strange feeling we were going to see. When the nominees were selected, I called the election for Trump. I was kind of joking, and yet I never really wrote him off because he was never supposed to make it past the silly season last year.

Consider the traditional litmus test that the GOP usually applies to its candidates: ideologically pure, conservative Christian, family values, 100% American, etc. Which means that it should have been impossible for a womanizing atheist playboy with several divorces under his belt (and is currently married to a foreigner) to get the Republican nomination, let alone one who also managed to alienate every minority voting bloc in the country and bragged about being able to see beauty contestants naked (and grab them by the pussy, perhaps) just because he could.

Yet here we are.

And a significant portion of America – i.e. every liberal in the country and not a few Republican establishment people (not to mention Tea Party conservatives aghast that the anti-establishment candidate they wanted isn’t a “real” conservative) – is duly freaking out.

There’s really nothing I can say to them, because no one listens to anything anymore that isn’t authorized by their hyperpartisan echo chamber. Reason is useless (otherwise we wouldn’t be in this mess).

So really I’m just typing this for my own peace of mind. If it resonates or helps you in any way, great. Also, I’ll split these up for what passes for clarity around here.

Given the general fear that America has suddenly become one big KKK/Nazi rally, let’s start with some perspective of just what happened.

1. As you no doubt know, Trump actually lost the pop vote – by something like 1.3 million votes.

2. Voter turnout was around 52% – which is apparently the lowest since 2000.

3. Trump got about 47% of the vote from that pool, which means – according to my bad math – only about 25% of eligible voter voted for him and his agenda. (And again, that number is around 1.3 million votes lower than what Hillary Clinton got.)

4. Of the people who voted for Trump, many voted for reasons that had little or nothing to do with Trump’s extreme views, especially the ones that the KKK are very fond of. Because, believe it or not, lots of people really will vote for a candidate for one personal pet reason and ignore everything else. I know lots of people who do exactly that. I know people who voted for Trump solely because their insurance premiums went up under Obamacare, or because they liked Mike Pence saying he supports the police (and they liked it mainly because one or more family members are in law enforcement). I also know people who don’t believe Trump is a racist sexist anti-Semitic xenophobe because they think the media makes it all up.

We can argue all day about whether a vote for Trump is a vote for racism whether you intended it to be or not. (John Scalzi argues that it is, though his point is not that voting for Trump proves yr a racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobe – it means that you voted for someone with arguably racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobic views and has the express approval of people who actually are racist sexist homophobes, and is installing at least some of them in his admin, and if they enact any racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobic policies, you have to own that because you enabled it by voting Trump.)

The point is that at the end of the day, Trump’s victory is not the racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobic mandate that liberals fear it is, or that the white nationalists hope it is.

Put another way, 75% of eligible American voters did NOT vote for Trump. Which means that, worst-case, only a quarter of the population actively supports his most extreme ideas. My off-the-cuff guess is that it’s actually far lower.

That ain’t a mandate, not even if you assume that the 48% who didn’t vote stayed home out of disinterest to what happens to minority groups.

And it’s potentially a way to keep Trump and the GOP in check. Trump may not do focus groups – but the GOP does. And for all the dithering over the GOP having rubber-stamp powers come January, even Mitch McConnell has already said that Trump may not necessarily get everything on his wish list. Remember they were expecting to deal with President Jeb or maybe President Rubio, not some reality-TV blowhard conspiracy theorist. (Remember also that GW Bush had a rubber-stamp Congress at his disposal too – and for all the damage that he did, the GOP somehow failed to turn America into the Nazi Christian Theocracy Dictatorship my liberal friends were convinced they would.)

None of this is to say Trump won't try to do (and succeed at doing) terrible and dumb things. At the very least, if he doesn't personally do them, his proposed cabinet might.

And none of this is to say that there’s no institutional racism problem in America. More than anyone, Trump has proven that there is. And that’s not to say that minorities targeted by Trump and his minions will be unaffected.

What I’m saying is that – mathematically, at least – the vast majority of the country is not on board with his batshit. I think that will matter in the coming months when policies start to get enacted, because Trump is not a dictator. His policies may please people who are racist sexist anti-Semitic xenophobes, but he can't force you to be one. You do have the ability to oppose and resist such policies, and the numbers are on yr side.

“But dEFROG!” you may shout, “Trump is a fascist! He’ll scrap the Constitution, make himself dictator and turn America into Nazi Germany! Literally!”

He might. It’s not impossible. I seriously doubt that he will, because – as I say – he doesn't have the numbers, and to be honest, I don’t think he’s that interested in it. A lot of his campaign platform is the bog-standard far-right wish list that, nasty as it is, is still designed to work within the structure of a constitutional capitalist democracy.

(Also, I feel I should point out that many of my liberal friends have said that about every Republican president since Reagan. So far, I’d say their fears of a literal fascist dictatorship are misplaced.)

I'll add that I fully realize I have the luxury of saying all this as a straight white guy who doesn’t even live in the US (though I do have friends and family there, so it’s not like I have no skin in the game, so to speak). But I think it’s important for racial and sexual minorities to know that the whole country hasn't turned against them suddenly – the bullies have temporarily taken control, and that’s not good, but it’s not as hopeless as it looks.

Not yet, anyway.

Hang in there,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I am staying in a hotel that is outfitted with lots of TV screens in the public areas. They are all tuned into the US presidential election – it’s Election Day and the voting has just started. The big news story is that Donald Trump is having some kind of dramatic public meltdown over new allegations of sexual harassment.

I am taking a lift down to the lobby. The lift stops and an elegant looking woman gets on, accompanied by two bodyguards. She looks familiar but I can’t place her. She looks slightly troubled. I ask her if she’s okay – she says yes.

The lift descends and stops. When the doors open, a man tries to charge his way in past the bodyguards, hands clawing at the woman as he screams rabidly, “YOU FUCKING BITCH I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS! YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING! TWO YEARS DOWN THE FUCKING DRAIN! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!”

I get a good look at him. It’s Donald Trump. His face is a mask of orange rage and his hair is a wild mess. There’s a team of paparazzi behind him, documenting the whole thing on live television and Facebook. The bodyguards shove him back and the lift doors close.

That’s when I realize I just happen to be staying in the same hotel where Trump’s campaign team has holed up for the election.

I arrive in the lobby, which looks more like a shopping mall atrium with a network of escalators. I see Trump going up one of the escalators, talking to the press as they follow him. He says that he’s received word from the Federal Election Commission that his nomination has been revoked and that he has to hand in his American Flag lapel pin, which means he’s no longer eligible to run for office.

“I’m done, I’m out, nothing I can do,” he says, looking haggard and exhausted but also somewhat relieved. “Talk to Crooked Hillary’s friends in the FEC. It’s out of my hands. I told you this would happen.”

As he rises out of earshot, I look at the nearest TV screen. The media is naturally going crazy about this development, as it’s literally unprecedented in US presidential election history – so much so that no one is sure what it means or what the consequence is, especially since voting has already started.

Possible options offered by talking heads:
  1. Mike Pence will simply be bumped up on the ticket and inherit whatever votes Trump gets, although as Pence has no running mate, that could disqualify him
  2. The FEC decision will probably trigger a constitutional convention that the GOP-controlled Congress will use to prevent Hillary from taking office
  3. Or perhaps we’ll just have to do the whole thing over again and postpone the election to 2018, which would give Obama another two years in office, which has conservative pundits convinced he engineered the whole thing and hired those women to set Trump up. Liberal pundits respond that Trump probably staged the whole thing because he knew he was going to lose – being stripped of his candidacy by the FEC means no one can say he lost.
The only thing everyone is sure about is that Trump is finally out of the race.

And then I woke up – momentarily thinking, “Wow, so he’s finally out.”

Trumped,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
Well, we’re getting close to the end now. And it’s looking likely that Hillary is going to win this by an electoral landslide, if not a pop-vote one.

Which is good news for Hillary fans, certainly. And it’s arguably good news for America in the sense that the White House will be occupied by someone who is not an egotistical vindictive blowhard / dream candidate for every racist sexist xenophobe organization in the country.

There’s just one catch: it won't be the end of all the ugly savage batshit animosity we’ve endured in this election. Whether Trump wins or loses, his influence is going to continue long after November 8.

Consider:

On average, just over 43% of the voting public is still supporting Trump, regardless of every outrageous thing he’s said so far, let alone the fact that he has offered no real concrete plan to execute any of his ideas.

To an extent, that’s because they either think the media is making up or exaggerating his statements, or they hate Hillary so much that the only thing Trump could do to put them off at this stage is be caught on tape actually having sex with Hillary backstage at one of the debates. (And they’d still probably assume it was fake.) But I think it’s also because many Trump supporters see him as a champion of glorious political incorrectness who is vindicating every non-PC thought that crosses their minds. They have similar worldviews regarding Muslims, immigrants, black people and fat chix, and they wish they could get away with saying stuff like that at work without being shouted down by the office gay feminazi agenda task force or whoever.

I would also add that this is happening in the broader context of America devolving into a cynical “fuck everyone and everything” outlook that is pervasive in American pop culture today. It’s not ubiquitous, but I encounter it all the time in TV shows and Facebook memes – this worldview that everything is generally terrible and stupid except for “my” clique of people, who are “normal” and okay – everyone else can get fucked, fuck those motherfuckers, get the fuck away from me.

The parameters can be defined many different ways – maybe that ire is targeted at fat people, or handicapped people, or stupid people, or religious people, or poor people, or rich people, or hipsters, or people who shop at Wal-mart, or guys with man-buns, or whatever. But it basically comes down to dividing everyone into people you like or don’t like, and then saying it’s okay to pick on and make fun of the latter group because fuck ‘em, really.

This isn’t defined strictly by where you sit on the political spectrum – some liberals do this too, they just have different targets. It’s a human nature thing, really, not a political thing.

That said, it’s fair to say that the GOP has made it a point to exploit that worldview for political purposes and incorporate it into its platform (albeit more nicely worded). Trump has taken that basic strategy and dialed it up to 11, and the results speak for themselves. Many Trump supporters love his anti-PC schtick because they find it empowering and liberating. They want to be able to establish their superiority by expressing their hatred and disdain for people they look down on – fat girls and retards and foreigners and people who Don’t Belong, etc. They want a society where they can mock and bully the undesirables and have social mores back them up – just like the old days when America was "great".

Put simply, they want the right to act like a dick. (Or am I being divisive here?)

To be clear, I’m not saying this is why they’re voting for Trump. I’m saying it’s why his politically incorrect schtick isn't costing him the support he already has. Intentionally or not, Trump has successfully tapped into that mentality.

And here's the thing: that mentality won’t magically vanish if he loses. Those divisions will remain, in no small part because those divisions already existed. I would argue that Trump hasn’t divided America so much as amplified those divisions by ripping off the mask of civility we’ve used to either ignore them or at least keep them from becoming insurmountable barriers to moving forward as a country and a civilization. (And to be fair, Trump didn’t set this garbage fire all by himself – the GOP wrote the instruction manual and Fox News. Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh etc supplied the fuel.)

So with all that in mind, it’s easy to understand why some people are worried that Trump has been talking about this massive global conspiracy to keep him from winning, that the election is totally rigged and he will not accept a loss under those conditions, however imaginary.

Personally, I’m not sure Trump is really serious about that. I think he’s just salving his ego and creating a pre-emptive excuse if he does lose so he can say, “Hey, not my fault.” For all his talk about “I’ll decide at the time”, I think when the results are in he’ll shift the blame, make his excuses and go on to start his new TV channel or whatever. According to some people that’s been his exit strategy for awhile now. Maybe that was his plan all along. Who knows for sure?

The question is whether his base is going to leave it at that. If they’ve really bought into The Donald’s Grand Global Conspiracy meme that the Gawdamn World Liberal Media Crime League has rigged the system and the media against “real” Americans, how likely are they to simply accept a Hillary presidency?

Not likely at all.

Mind you, I doubt we will see full-scale pitchforks-and-torches riots across the country (to say nothing of muskets). We’re more likely see some outbreaks of personalized, opportunistic vandalism and violence directed at Trump’s enemies list, or another one of the Bundy Boys’ armed-standoff stunts (because hey, it’s not like you can go to jail for that).

All of which will be awful and wrong, but it’ll be nothing even close to a full-scale revolution or general breakdown of law and order that some people imagine.

But we will see extremely loud, hysterical resistance to an Imaginary Hillary Dictatorship. Hillary’s reward for winning the election will be the chance to govern a country where 43% of the population is convinced she’s an evil criminal mastermind backed by a global conspiracy who stole the election and should be in jail for crimes only they know for a fact she has committed.

And it’s a fair bet that the GOP opposition in Congress (whether they hold control of the House and Senate or not) will milk that sentiment for everything it’s worth because why wouldn't they? They’ve been milking the Evil Hillary meme for 30-odd years – why stop now when most of their base is doing the same thing?

That’s what we have to look forward to for the next eight years. That’s the best case scenario. Even if Hillary wins, Donald Trump will continue to encourage America to rip itself apart in a fury of paranoia of distrust and impeachment hearings and racist sexist bullying – he’ll just do it from the studios of Trump TV instead of the White House. We can only hope that the marks don't take it so seriously that a few of them decide to do a McVeigh. 

BONUS TRACK: See this interesting BBC take on Trump’s rigged election meme. One takeaway: it wouldn’t be the first time a POTUS has been declared an illegitimate winner. But every POTUS since at least Bill Clinton has been accused by the opposition of being a fraudulent POTUS. Makes me wonder if we will ever return to a point where the losing party will gracefully accept the results and move on.

Things fall apart,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
I’ve been failing in my blogging duties, I realize. I have good reasons. One of them is a lack of time – it’s been a busy and transitional month at work, and family time has also been busier than usual.

Also, I find I don’t have much to say about the hot button issues I might normally blog about, if only because I’ve already made similar comments elsewhere and I find I’m just repeating myself. Either that or my response just seems so obvious that it doesn’t seem worth the effort to post anything about it.

Burkini bans in France? Stupid and bigoted.

Taco trucks on every corner? Best pro-immigration argument EVER. (I’ll bet good money Marco Gutiérrez wishes he’d used a different example – like “rape trucks” or something.)

Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem? Good for him because guess what – you get to do that in a free country.

Hillary’s “basket of deplorables”? Apparently it's okay to say what everyone is thinking if yr Trump but not if yr HRC.

Whatever Donald Trump said this week? Of course it’s ludicrous, but what else could I add to it? I’ve already endorsed Hillary Clinton – it’s not like I need additional “evidence” at this stage to prove Trump isn’t qualified to be POTUS.

Okay, there is The Donald’s Birther Reversal, which is about as stunning a display of CHOOTZ-spa as you could ask for in a presidential election. But there’s not a whole lot to say there, since it’s essentially another example of the constantly shifting alternate reality Trump entertains in his head. It takes a special kind of mentality for someone to go on national television and claim he personally solved that mystery for America five years ago, and by the way yr welcome, when he’s actually been milking the birther conspiracy with the old “I don’t know, nobody knows, why don’t we know?” routine for those last five years (and it’s not like we don’t have documented evidence of him doing this), and expect everyone to believe him.

Which is why for my money, it’s really just more proof that Trump and other conservative politicians and pundits never seriously cared about Obama’s birth certificate – it was just another handful of rhetorical mud to give The American People™ to throw. It didn’t matter if it stuck – it just mattered that you could get the rubes to throw it at him.

So … that’s me caught up, I think.

We blog econo,

This is dF
defrog: (devo mouse)
Speaking of Gary Johnson, he took a lot of flak for his Aleppo moment a few days ago.

It’s not hard to see why, but some people have said, well that’s it for Johnson, no one’s going to elect a guy who blanks on a question like that.

Personally, I don’t think it will hurt him that much, for a few reasons:

1. George W Bush couldn’t name three out of four foreign leaders he would be dealing with when he ran for POTUS the first time. He went on to serve two terms.

2. D. Trump knows less than Bush, or at least what he knows comes from an alternate universe. He won a major party nomination and he’s only a few points behind Hillary Clinton at the moment.

3. Johnson’s chances weren’t that great to begin with, although I understand he’s the first third-party candidate since Ross Perot to make the ballot in all 50 states. And one good thing about Aleppo is that a lot more people now know who Gary Johnson is. Any publicity is good publicity, they say.

But yeah, I don’t think it’s going to cost him an election he has a very slim chance of winning anyway. And most of his support is coming from people who hate Hillary and Donald so much that I doubt they care if he blanks on the occasional question. If there's one thing I've learned from past elections, it's that anything your candidate does or says is excusable, explainable or overblown by the biased media. 

Ask me something,

This is dF
defrog: (science!)
For those Americans who aren’t happy with the major party POTUS candidates, well, you can always go third-party.

And I don’t mean Gary Johnson.

Gabriel Green for President! 1960

[Via Slobber Drool Drip Has Risen From The Grave]

Change you want to believe in,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
One thing Donald Trump and Bernie Bros have in common is their unshakable belief that the election is rigged against them. This is one of the great unsung traditions of democracy, of course – when yr candidate loses, accuse the other side of cheating because WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE?

However, it’s one thing when voters do it. It’s another when the candidate does it. The former has the luxury of being sore losers. The latter doesn’t. And it’s another thing again when a candidate does it well ahead of the actual election, effectively warning his supporters, “If I lose, it’ll be because the election was rigged against me.”

Which D. Trump did.

And it’s comments like this – as well as the adamant belief of some Bernie Sanders fans that Hillary literally stole the nomination and thus is not a legitimate candidate – that get me to wonder if we’re not seeing the end of democracy as we know it.

To explain:

American democracy has always generally been a model for a peaceful transition of power. That’s actually kind of the point. You may hate that the opposition won, but yr not going to try and change the result with a coup de tat like they do in other parts of the world. Even in 2000 when George W Bush was effectively handed the election by the Supreme Court, as angry as liberals were about that, they weren’t furious enough to resort to violence as a remedy.

Occasionally some idiot resorts to assassination to eliminate a specific POTUS or candidate, but that doesn’t result in a handover of power from one party to another. (Put simply, assassinating President Obama results in President Biden, not President Romney.)

So generally, we accept the results of a given election, as much as we may hate them. The question is how much longer we will continue to do so.

Consider the following:
  • Trump’s campaign hinges on milking anger and frustration and providing scapegoats in the form of foreigners, Muslims and – notably – the liberal opposition
  • Some of his supporters have a tendency to express that anger and frustration in the form of opportunistic violence (a tendency that Trump hasn't exactly gone out of his way to discourage)
  • Others who stick to verbal expressions have expressed their feelings about Hillary Clinton in the form of chants such as “hang the bitch” and “kill the bitch” – to include his own advisors (albeit without using the “B” word)
  • Many Republicans – even ones that don’t support Trump specifically – are already convinced that voter fraud is a widespread problem that favors Democrats, which is why they’ve been pushing voter ID laws in as many states as possible
  • A number of those laws were recently weakened or overturned in court decisions.
So with all of those factors currently in play, it’s only natural to wonder how the Trump Mob is going to react if Hillary wins – especially given Trump’s recent Second Amendment crack.

A couple of quick points:

1. I feel obligated to point out at this stage that lots of people assumed the Republican convention would be a bloodbath thanks to the Trump Mob. It wasn’t.

2. I also think the 2A “joke” has been blown out of proportion in the sense that I don’t believe Trump was actively or intentionally calling for someone to shoot his opponent.

Similarly, on the rigged-election meme, I don’t think Trump is intentionally calling for revolution, assassination or any kind of violent remedy should he lose. I think he’s more interested in making sure everyone understands the only possible way he can lose is if Hillary cheats, because DONALD TRUMP NEVER LOSES.

However, as this article at The Atlantic points out, it’s not about what Trump meant, it’s about what his fans thought he meant – especially in the context described above – how much they take it to heart, and how far they’re prepared to run with it.

(I'll also add that while I doubt Trump gives a second thought about how his rhetoric is being processed, I do think whatever violence breaks out will be on him, no matter what his intentions were. He may have no control over the mob he’s created, but that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for its actions.) 

That’s just the Trump camp. Elsewhere, we are seeing that a growing number of voters are becoming polarized to the point where they believe the opposition has become clear and present danger to the country, making compromise or possibly even co-existence impossible. I hear this from conservatives and liberals alike, and boy are they angry about it.

To be clear, most of them aren’t talking about armed revolution, and the ones who are don’t have the numbers to come anywhere close to succeeding. But it seems to me we are heading in a direction where people eventually decide, “What the hell is the point of democracy if my side doesn't win?”

It may take us decades to get to that point. It might take until November. I don’t know. But it’s clear there’s a serious breakdown of trust in the current electoral process – it’s not rigged, but people think it is because they don’t understand how it works. Everyone thinks it’s a simple matter of whoever gets the most votes wins – it’s not, and hasn’t been for a very long time. But people don’t know that. And making matters worse is the process that does exist is starting to buckle under the strain of political polarization among the voting public.

If something isn’t done to correct this – either by reforming the process, simplifying it or even just educating people on how and why it works the way it does – the problem is going to get worse. Democracy works when people trust the system. When that trust is replaced with sufficient anger, suspicion and paranoia … well, at the very least you get D. Trump as a POTUS nominee telling his Very Very Angry supporters to assume a Hillary victory is illegitimate – and refuse to let her get away with it.

If we’re lucky, D. Trump’s numbers will keep dwindling until all he has left is a handful of die-hards. On the other hand, in a room full of dynamite it only takes one dingbat with a match to set it off.

Revolution ballroom,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Well, we’re down to the final two for POTUS 2016, and the election so far has gone exactly as I predicted … except that Donald Trump actually won the GOP nomination and Bernie Sanders made Hillary break a sweat.

Apart from that, I totally nailed it.

It’s amusing to think many of us thought this election would be predictable, and that we had another Bush/Clinton fight to look forward to, and how boring is that, it’s the same old thing, would it kill them to mix it up a little or find someone who isn’t a member of a political family dynasty to run, etc.

Like the man said: be careful what you wish for.

Anyway. Here we are.

And now everyone wants to know who I’ll be voting for because almost everyone I know is unhappy with either choice and seems convinced that no matter who wins America is doomed doomed doomed because their guy didn’t survive the primaries.

As usual, I’m incapable of giving a straight answer without overexplaining my viewpoint, so I’m going to write this in a tl;dr Q&A format. Sorry.

Blah blah blah oh you probably know already ... )

Anyway, I’ll revisit this question in a few months. In the meantime …

I’m with her,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)


By now you know that Donald Trump responded to Khizr Khan’s DNC speech in the usual Trump way: by attacking his wife and implying she wasn’t allowed to speak. Because, you know, that’s what radical Muslims do. Not saying he is one. Radical, I mean. I’m just saying, etc.

This in itself isn’t that notable – Trump has said worse thing about various people throughout this campaign with no noticeable negative effects on his popularity. For all the dithering from GOP players over this and the general notion that American combat veterans are the one sacred cow in the political arena you never ever go after, the fact is that Trump’s constituents don’t care

And if you think Trump is awful, you should see the people who speak on his behalf. Like these people who responded to Khan’s speech by circulating a conspiracy theory that Khizr Khan is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that his son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was a double agent for al-Qaeda.

(Note that they’re not saying he is, they're just saying he COULD be and someone should investigate this because HELLO, MUSLIM.) 

And those who aren’t going for full-on conspiracies are taking Khan to task for not using his speech time to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Which translates to many conservative ears as: “ISN’T IT INTERESTING YOU CHOSE NOT TO DO THAT? IF YOU ARE NOT WITH THE BROTHERHOOD WHY DID YOU NOT DENOUNCE THEM WHEN THE REAL ENEMY OF AMERICA IS ISLAM OF WHICH YOU ARE ONE?”

So no, I don't think this is going to damage him all that much as far as his support base is concerned. 

What’s more interesting is this: 

The job of POTUS generally involves a lot of public criticism – some of it fair, much of it not. It’s part of the job description. Trump does it to Obama all the time. But Trump’s response to Khizr Khan indicates that he won’t put up with any criticism he deems unfair (which so far seems to be all of it) and if he can’t discredit yr argument, he’ll discredit you and yr family. We don’t have to imagine how this might play with someone who will have the NSA, CIA and FBI at his disposal. After all, Trump wouldn't be the first paranoid, vindictive POTUS with an enemies list (which includes the press) and zero tolerance for criticism. 

So, you know, there's that to look forward to.

On my list,

This is dF

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