The Failed Northern Strategy

NEW YORK–Imagine, if you will, being painted with a broad brush; marginalized, ridiculed and made fun of for years for being a bunch of backwards-thinking, gun-fellating, Bible-thumping trailer trash, who hate all minorities and religions other than those “Judeo-Christian” values they hold so dear, by granola-crunching, kombucha-drinking hypocrites, with our “safe spaces”, “trigger warnings”, and privileged ability to look for and find racism via “microaggressions”, residing in densely populated, mostly liberal cities never, once having to look at or care about these people, or the things which they’ve lost.

From my own coastal liberal perch in New York City, it’s been difficult as a man of the left to maintain some resolve in the wake of last week’s general election. In an instant, every poll showing Hillary Clinton was upended; all of the “conventional wisdom” espoused by many–myself included–came undone. And the millions of people who cast their votes to elect the first woman president in our nation’s history had their hopes dashed to pieces in the worst possible way, never dreaming the following words would never be uttered: President-elect Donald J. Trump.

Liberalism was defeated not because of the Electoral College being predisposed to racism and giving former slave states a voice in presidential elections, and it damn sure wasn’t just because of the email scandal that many people, including Secretary Clinton herself, believe. Liberalism was defeated due to its arrogance; this “silent majority” was such only because we chose to ignore them and their needs. We wished them good luck, and left them to their own devices; to do otherwise was labeled as being racist, or giving in to the nonsense of “white privilege.” Hillary Clinton–and I say this as one who voted for her–was seen by many to be the worst example of the elitism and exclusionary mindset, now rewarded by a President Trump.

From a publication called The Daily Yonder:

Hillary Clinton stood before a giant gleaming John Deere tractor in Iowa as she rolled out her Future of America’s Rural Economy plan on August 26, 2015. The white paper (pretty much a carbon copy of her 2008 rural plan) garnered some positive press and the Rural for Hillary Twitter feed picked up a few more followers. Then Madame Secretary wiped her hands and walked away from rural America. Most of the effort to woo rural voters was left to surrogates at a couple of debates and forums with Trump representatives on the other side of the stage and a handful of upstate New Yorkers who testified that Clinton paid attention to them as senator and helped push some initiatives that benefitted Empire State agriculture. The candidate herself told people to go to her website to read her position papers. For millions of rural residents without access to high-speed broadband, that is hard to do. On November 8, the Rural for Hillary Twitter page had a total of 783 followers. 783 Twitter peeps? As they say on Monday Night Football, “C’mon man!”

Last year, In These Times, a website devoted to covering rural American life, answered its own question when asking why the Left was ignoring them:

American disinterest in the poverty of its own pastoral lands can be traced across the Atlantic Ocean and back several hundred years to the origins of social sciences in academia. The rise of these disciplines coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the mass migration of peasants from the country into cities. As an effect of these circumstances, the leading theorists of the era—Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber—were primarily concerned with living conditions in cities and industrializing societies, setting the foundation for the metro-centrism that continues to characterize the social sciences.

“In academia, there’s an urban bias throughout all research, not just poverty research. It starts with where these disciplines origins—they came out of the 1800’s—[when] theorists were preoccupied with the movement from a rural sort of feudal society to a modern, industrial society,” Linda Loabo, a professor of rural sociology at Ohio State University, tells Rural America In These Times. “The old was rural and the feudal and the agricultural and the new was the industry and the city.”

And, as always, arrogance is rewarded by defeat. From the Huffington Post:

Several theories have been proffered to explain just what went wrong for the Clinton campaign in an election that virtually everyone expected the Democratic nominee to win. But lost in the discussion is a simple explanation, one that was re-emphasized to HuffPost in interviews with several high-ranking officials and state-based organizers: The Clinton campaign was harmed by its own neglect.

In Michigan alone, a senior battleground state operative told HuffPost that the state party and local officials were running at roughly one-tenth the paid canvasser capacity that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) had when he ran for president in 2004. Desperate for more human capital, the state party and local officials ended up raising $300,000 themselves to pay 500 people to help canvass in the election’s closing weeks. By that point, however, they were operating in the dark. One organizer said that in a precinct in Flint, they were sent to a burned down trailer park. No one had taken it off the list of places to visit because no one had been there until the final weekend. Clinton lost the state by 12,000 votes.

We ignored those “deplorables” at our own peril, and now a man with absolutely no record of public service is now the President-elect of the United States.

And if we keep up like this, we’re going to lose every time.

It’s going to be an interesting four years.

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The Reality of a Deadbeat

Permit, if you will, a moment of personal reflection.

I have been a man in a state of rebuilding for the last year and four months. During that time, and even before my separation from my now ex-wife, my writing has suffered. My writing and tweeting have dwindled down to nothing more than a few posts, here and there. The crash-and-burn of what many (myself obviously included) once considered to be a “power couple” produced many scars in need of healing and repair.

Losing the woman I once called my One Great Love–and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder–shook me down to my core. Even still, the pain remains, and will probably never go away totally. Moving to another state and hitting the reset button on my life have caused me to question my very ability to write. Perhaps, I thought, this gift I was blessed with was nothing more than a symptom of my illness.

But on October 1st, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump, a nightmare candidate that only neo-confederates, old white racists, charlatan preachers, and his cadre of surrogates so unbelievably incompetent (or in Katrina Pierson’s case, unbelievably evil) they rival “Saturday Night Live” parodies stand with, took full advantage of a tax system tailor-made for cheats such as he. In losing nearly $916 million after the bottom fell out of his casino empire, Trump was able to avoid paying taxes for eighteen years.

I had to pick the pen up again, because at thirty-four years of age, that is over half my own life.

The Times report continues:

The $916 million loss certainly could have eliminated any federal income taxes Mr. Trump otherwise would have owed on the $50,000 to $100,000 he was paid for each episode of “The Apprentice,” or the roughly $45 million he was paid between 1995 and 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos. Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.

As Donald Trump’s antics continue to pile up in public view, a manure pile made larger and larger on a near-daily basis, including having his foundation shut down by the New York Attorney General’s office for not having the necessary certification to solicit money from the public, it stands to wonder: How was this man even remotely allowed to pursue the office of the President of the United States? With so much evidence of his destructive business practices, his racist and misogynistic rants, and the glaring proof that he, as the late George Carlin coined, is a business criminal of the highest order, how can any one person ever consider this man to run a lemonade stand, much less our Nation?

The answer is simple.

Because America loves a good dumpster fire story.

As we sit and watch this train wreck of a campaign continue to alienate itself from decent, even-minded people everywhere (yesterday, Hillary Clinton’s former prosecutor and well-known conservative Michael Chertoff announced he was crossing party lines to vote for her), it goes without saying that we as a nation cannot look away from what inspires us to ask, “What’s next?”

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote this, which perfectly captures the danger Trump truly is, and why he’s just that:

Trump benefits from the expectation of phoniness. Pop-culture critic Jen Chaney wrote in The Post that “having a reality-TV celebrity running for commander in chief may subconsciously signal our brains to participate in this election the same way we’ve grown accustomed to consuming reality shows . . . believing that none of it is genuine, that none of it has any actual consequences.” It doesn’t matter, therefore, if two out of three claims Trump makes are false, or if he proposes dangerous ideas: It’s only entertainment.

Whatever reasons one might have to distrust or outright hate the former Secretary of State cannot overshadow the fact that Donald J. Trump is not just unqualified for the position he seeks; he is the very antithesis of what a President should be. I, for one, do not want a man who will reach for his phone to hatefully bluster at someone who he feels wronged him, or complains about a “biased media” who rightfully calls out his many indiscretions. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton is soberly aware of the gravity and seriousness of the position she seeks to attain.

Deal in reality this November, folks.

 

 

 

Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and the Inversion of Liberalism

Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. A Bernie Sanders supporter, he did a lot of work getting the word — and the vote — out for Sanders’ presidential campaign in his neighborhood. Our work schedules don’t afford us the opportunity to see each other regularly, but we run into each other fairly often in Astoria, Queens.

On one occasion, we met up at a coffee shop on Steinway Street, where he was doing some work. Our conversations always somehow end up going into politics, but this time, we started getting into the differences in thought between liberals and conservatives.

He asked me, “What if political reasoning isn’t always in a straight line? What if it’s more more circular between the Left and the Right?”

It’s ironic he asked that question. Over the years, and especially throughout the advent of social media, I’d been asking that question a lot. Having been conservative, I remember well the rigidity of political reasoning, especially while growing up in a decidedly Christian conservative family. For as long as I can remember, political candidates on the national level weren’t so much selected according to their track records of public service, as they were based on how close to the “infallible, immutable” Word of God their beliefs were. During the GOP primary, their guy was Ted Cruz.

But the Left, for all its talk of treasuring diversity of belief, color and creed, has many of their own orthodoxies. From Black Lives Matter*, “cultural appropriation” and the Occupy movement, to the censorship produced by the demand of “safe spaces” free of ideological threats to the all-too-precious belief sets of millenials (and faculty) on the college campus, the “social justice” movement has been the most militant arm of progressivism. Hungry for revolution, and devoid of any real understanding of how the democratic process works, progressives bared their teeth at Hillary Clinton, aping instead for a savior who will give them said revolution by any means necessary.

It’s no wonder, then, that progressives have flocked to Sanders, who has been selling his “revolutionary” schtick this entire election.

But since Sanders isn’t anywhere near Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic candidacy for President, they have nowhere to go. Their purism of ideology won’t let them.

So instead, they flock to….

Donald Trump?

Yeah, this could very well happen. Progressives are willing to throw their support behind a racist, overtly fascist scumbag, and are willing to make cases for doing so based on Trump’s “anti-establishment” brand, a term that means nothing anymore.

From Salon.com:

Trump’s brand of populism has been enabled by the roughly 40-year decline of our middle class that both parties have facilitated through the abandonment of Franklin D. Roosevelt in favor of Ronald Reagan. Trump may not offer policy specifics, but he does not need them because the political establishment on both sides of the aisle, have failed the American people so badly, and the people have caught on.

The piece goes further.

If he were to be elected, it would force our leaders to have a real conversation about these problems that they simply won’t have if the people elect an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton. If anything, the narrative that would emerge from a Clinton presidency would be that change isn’t possible. The parties pick the candidates, and regardless of what their policies are, the people fall in line with them eventually. Power never truly changes hands.

Excusing the fact that Trump, himself, is a corporate interest, he would shake the current system to its core — which needs to happen.

Along with progressives’ obsession with having “conversations”, the above proves what can no longer be denied: progressives want nothing more than ideological purity, and are willing to sell their souls to the Right to get it. As is their precious Bernie, they are only out for themselves, true political and social progress be damned.

And Trump is all but happy to reach out to them:

“You have two candidates in Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders which have reignited a group of people who have been disenfranchised and disappointed with the way Washington, D.C. and career politicians have run the country,” Lewandowski said. “Bernie Sanders has large crowds — not as large as Mr. Trump’s, but large crowds — and so there is a level of excitement there for people about his messaging and we will bring those people in.”

Political thought in this country can no longer be perceived as a linear plane of varying degrees of liberalism or conservatism. The further out to the fringes puritopians wander, the more they begin to sound like each other, from the unbending social justice warrior to the equally orthodox Bible-thumping theocrat. And as the general election face-off begins to take shape, it will be interesting to see which side will win.

Prepare yourselves, pragmatics.

It’s gonna be a LONG road to November.

 

Praying for Populism?

I despise when pundits and other People You Follow On Twitter crown political candidates a full three years before election cycle begins. I suspect this is done to test the nerve and writing skills (read: increased visibility and page hits) of these people before the actual horse race begins in earnest in 2016. Truth be told, I do not know which is worse, pontificating on 2016 or all these goddamned Christmas sales and decorations stores are putting up 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Hillary Clinton is not my ideal choice for the 45th President, especially as so many media outlets are declaring her the presumptive Democratic nominee short of the convention, even devoting full-time coverage on her every move (or moves on her behalf). Aside from the fact that a coronation like this already took place  in 2008, a second Clinton era would be a return to the days of old-school D.C. culture, full of drama and scandals that did not require shoddily-written press releases from Darrell Issa’s office to gain traction, or the current hand-wringing over the slow Affordable Care Act rollout.

From my personal perspective, a new age of Clintons in the Executive would be yet another example of entitled baby boomers that never seem to go away coming back to claim another position of power as a vanity. Familiar faces and retreads from the 1990s seemed to magically reappear when Obama was elected the first time, with Hillary herself becoming his Secretary of State. For too many people, it is not the proverbial “Clinton fatigue” people are experiencing; it is the baggage of arrogance that comes with it.

That said, Noam Scheiber of The New Republic makes a great case for Sen. Elizabeth Warren making a run in 2016, as there seems to be a recent wave of populist candidates running and winning elections in significant places, most notably Bill deBlasio’s win in New York City. In his long-read from Sunday, Scheiber explains why the shifting in the cultural priorities of the base may end up being big trouble for the Queen of the Establishment:

It’s hard to look at the Democratic Party these days and not feel as if all the energy is behind Warren. Before she was even elected, her fund-raising e-mails would net the party more cash than any Democrat’s besides Obama or Hillary Clinton. According to the Times, Warren’s recent speech at the annual League of Conservation Voters banquet drew the largest crowd in 15 years. Or consider a website called Upworthy, which packages online videos with clever headlines and encourages users to share them. Obama barely registers on the site; Warren’s videos go viral. An appearance on cable this summer—“CNBC HOST DECIDES TO TEACH SENATOR WARREN HOW REGULATION WORKS. PROBABLY SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT”—was viewed more than a million times. A Warren floor speech during the recent stalemate in Congress—“A SENATOR BLUNTLY SAYS WHAT WE’RE ALL THINKING ABOUT THE OBNOXIOUS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN”—tallied more than two million views.

The poll numbers also suggest the Democratic Party is becoming Elizabeth Warren’s party. Gallup finds that the percentage of Democrats with “very negative” views of the banking industry increased more than fivefold since 2007, while the percentage who have positive views fell from 51 to 31. Between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of Democrats who were dissatisfied with the “size and influence of major corporations” rose from 51 to a remarkable 79.

Scheiber’s not the only one singing Sen. Warren’s praises. Katrina vanden Heuvel writes this today:

Coming out of the Great Recession, the wealthiest few are capturing nearly all the rewards of growth, while most American families are struggling to stay afloat. The new majority forged by Obama — the “rising American electorate” of millennials, people of color, and single women — is struggling the most.

And now leaders of the “Democratic wing” are standing up, naming names and calling for a more equitable, just politics. After all, this extreme inequality isn’t an accident. It comes, as Warren put it, because entrenched interests have endeavored to rig the rules to work for them.

Warren, I believe, has a great chance at challenging Hillary. However, the rise of populism that matters most ultimately lies in the Legislative branch, which calls for a much broader focus on winning the House and strengthening the Senate next year. Hope this happens, and soon.