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.


The Farce of Being “Above the Fray”

Joe Williams still can’t get a job.

With thirty-plus years of reporting experience, and a resume that includes The Boston Globe, Richmond Times-Dispatch; The Miami Herald, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and ultimately a three-year stint at Politico, his career in journalism came to a rather abrupt, untimely end last year after giving clear insight as to who the defeated Republican candidate wanted to associate with most:

It’s very interesting that he does so many appearances on Fox and Friends, and it’s unscripted; it’s the only time they let Mitt “off the leash”, so to speak. But it also points out a larger problem that he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall: Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes to Fox and Friends, they’re like him; they’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company, so it really is a very stark contrast, I think, and a problem that he has not been able to solve to date…

This simple, honest, concise breakdown of who and what Romney was–a sheltered fish out of water with barely any contact outside his very rich, very white circle–cost Williams, a father of two, his job, reputation, and his livelihood. Despite the vindication he received from Romney’s infamous “47 percent video” three months later, white men ending up as the only voting demographic Romney would win in the election, and examples of Politico’s fraudulent appearance as an institution of journalism coming to light, Williams now works a part-time job making only ten dollars an hour.

Yesterday, in a sad, rather cruel example of the universe’s fetish for irony, Martin Bashir, the man on whose show Williams gave his accurate assessment of Mitt Romney also lost his job, tendering his resignation from MSNBC after rightfully referring to former half-term governor of Alaska Sarah Palin as a “world-class idiot”, declaring that she should be a candidate for the punishment Thomas Thistlewood doled out to the human beings he enslaved on the island of Jamaica in the 1750s, as she and other Right-wingers like Dr. Ben Carson continuously use slavery as a metaphor in attacking the Affordable Care Act.

There is a certain form of hypocrisy we of the Left needlessly saddle ourselves with: this unconscious, reflexive need to be “above the fray” when dealing with conservatives. For many of us, we find ourselves being caught up too often in this ethereal, movie-scene idealism, where every political party has nothing but genuine love for their country. In this view, both Democrats and Republicans are desirous of spirited debates and seek to enhance and protect civil discourse, having only the best interests of the country at heart. 

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The Right has dispensed with every pretense of civility and collegiality, having called Barack Obama a “skinny, ghetto crackhead”; cast aspersions on his being born an American and playing to his “otherness”. These people have waved Confederate flags at his doorstep, shown up outside town hall events with assault weapons at the ready; waved their fingers in his face because they felt threatened by him, and called him a liar to his face in the House chamber, and yet we cling to the conceit that somehow, firing Martin Bashir for his comments makes us morally superior than the Right? 

As a former conservative, I don’t have any convictions about somehow appearing to be “no better than they are.” Quite the opposite; it is because I have firsthand knowledge of what the Right is capable of that I fight as hard–and at times, as vulgarly–as I do. Bashir valiantly fought the dogs of the Right, having taken on Larry Klayman not too long ago over his remarks that President Obama should come out of the White House “with his hands up.” Bashir sacrificed his job to give this country a proper education on just how horrific and barbaric slavery was, and why comparisons to the same for any form of public policy are not just “bad optics”, they are reprehensible and immoral.

Hopefully, Bashir will eventually be brought back to MSNBC, and the Right’s latest cloud of corrosive, hypocritical fake outrage will yet again come to nothing. If not, perhaps irony will favor the wonderful and insightful Joy-Ann Reid, who has been more than capable and deserving of holding her own time slot as one of the best journalists the network has ever had. Perhaps the field of journalism will once again welcome people who are not afraid of calling out malefactors and bad actors on the Right, with the courage to push back against their poisonous, hateful rhetoric.

And maybe then, Joe Williams will finally be able to get a job.