Into the breach! 2020

27 06 2019

ETA: It’s unto the breach! UNTO! Goddammit.

Yeah, I’ve pretty much landed on that for the theme. Works.

Anyway, I’ve said I’m not going to say much about the primaries and. . .  I’m not. I like Warren for her plans and Harris for her knife skills; I think Julián Castro would make a fine veep, and while I’m sorry she’s not doing better, I appreciate Gillibrand pounding away on women’s issues.

Regardless, and as ever, I’ll vote for the nominee.

Anyway, the real reason I’m bringing up the primaries is because the last two nights I followed the debates on twitter and oh, is that an exercise in meta-analysis: what one person adores another abhors.

Same as it ever was, I’d guess, but it’s a lesson I keep forgetting.

I mean, this isn’t about Dems vs GOPpers, or even lefties vs liberals vs moderates—the ideological disputes I get—but about tone and style and emphasis, about one person saying about a slip-up, Eh, it happens and another OMFG! Doomed!

Again, t’ain’t nothin’ new about that, but I can’t help but notice it every time.

Anyway, this is why I’m confining myself at this point to meta- than actual analysis: I get as caught up in this tonal shit as anyone, and thus don’t trust that I’m in any position to say Ooo, this’ll play well or Sadly, no.

That’ll be less of an issue during the general election campaign, because at that point it’s less about impressing those willing to give you a look-see and more about straight beating the shit out of the other guy.

But in the meantime? Meta.





Into the breach 2020?

8 05 2019

I just though of that; I think I like it. Yeah, I think so.

Maybe I’ll add an “!” after the breach; maybe I’ll choose something else, but I think this might be a winner.

And while I hear Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V‘s in this, there’s also a little bit of LEEROY JENKINS! in this, don’t you think? Or is that just me?

Eh, both work.





And all the men would come around and lay their money down

6 05 2019

For better and for worse, the 2020 presidential campaign is upon us. This means I have to come up with a theme for campaign-related posts.

I’m a little leery of doing this, given that my jokey “Circus Maximus” theme turned out to be horrifyingly on the nose. Also, this next campaign is going to be a shitstorm (“Shitstorm 2020”?), and, man, coming up with something that doesn’t make me wail or want to defenestrate my computer is going to take some work.

I have no real ideas at this point. Final Countdown? Apocalyptic, sure, but without that soupçon of wit to lighten it all up. Maybe something from REM’s “End of the World”. . . ? Nah. And, actually, just typing that, I realize that I don’t want anything apocalyptic. Yeah, things suck, but compared to climate change, the stakes of this election are. . . less.

How’s that for perspective? “We’re killing our planet and its creatures, so the fuckery of the Republicans is comparatively minor.”

So I’ll need something serious, mostly-but-not-completely earnest. Mordant. I’ll think of something.

~~~

As for the primary, I’m not planning to say much about it beyond the fact that I don’t fucking want to hear one second more of the Bernie/Hillary rehash. Enough. Both candidates lost. Next!

~~~

I have little faith that the (mainstream) media will do a decent job of covering the elections, and if people are treating the polls as anything other than a nerd-game at this point, well, I don’t know what to say to that.

~~~

I stated back in 2016 that the election broke me, and, yep, still broken. I will make no predictions, and will remain leery (which I failed to do the last time around) of those who do. I’ll pay attention to the polls once 2020 rolls around and listen to smart people say smart things, and, yeah, I’ll consider the odds, but I ain’t laying any bets down.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’ll cover the elections. That my old knowledge has shattered doesn’t mean every piece was wrong, but I don’t know how, or how far I’ll go, to put them together.

On y va.

 





For we’re marching toward Algiers

13 02 2019

Ah yes, another round in the endless presidential campaign and, as promised, I make no predictions.

I do have opinions, though, on who I like more, and less, and otherwise, on the Dem side.

On the More side: Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren

Less: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, John Kerry, Tulsi Gabbard, Mike Bloomberg

Otherwise: Bernie Sanders, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar, Eric Holder, Pete Buttigieg

There are a bunch of other possibilities, but I’m leaving them off due to the combination of relatively low national profile and undeclared status. (If I included them now, they’d all just go in otherwise because I don’t have much of an opinion on them.)

As for the whys of placement: I like Gillibrand’s overall decent liberal-left profile and I am more than fine with her feminism front-and-center, and I like Warren’s economic focus.

In the less category: I thought Biden was a fine veep, but there’s nothing about either him or his record that makes me want to vote for him. Kerry was a decent Senator and decent Secretary of State, but he’s ran and lost in 2004 and he’s too old, to boot. Gabbard is an Assad apologist. Mike Bloomberg was as good as a Republican gets.

Booker? He’s got some political chops, but he’s rather conservative on economic issues, I don’t know if he’s moved away from charter schools, and, man, there’s just something about him that makes me wary. Still, chops.

Otherwise: Sanders too old but he brings an enthusiastic crowd; I don’t know enough about Castro, Buttigieg, or O’Rourke; I’d hate to lose Brown’s Ohio senate seat and I don’t know that he brings anything more than Warren does; and Holder strikes me as too moderate.

Klobuchar? Again, somewhat moderate, but the stories of her mistreatment of staff are what give me great pause. Yeah, some of the criticism could be driven by sexism, but “the boys do it, too!” is not much of justification for really shitty behavior.

And Harris, well, I think she’s got some skill and she’s generally been righteous as a senator, but her record as attorney general in California is, from what little I do know, not great. I am very interested in her, but I gotta do some more homework.

All of this said: if ANY of these people were the nominee, I’d vote for them.

Finally, I have zero punditastic advice to offer to Democrats in general about who we “should” choose, who might turn off which group, or who scares Trump and the Republicans the most. The GOP are going to throw shit at whoever’s the candidate, so trying to find someone who’ll get less shit is a mug’s game, and demoralizing as all hell.

As much as I hate to say it, Trump as the incumbent has the advantage, so we cannot give any ground.

We Dems should choose who we think is best, get behind that person, and run as hard as we can.





Rollin’, rollin’ rollin’

18 04 2017

Grading, grading, grading. . . .

Okay, that’s not the only reason for my silence. I’ve been thinking about a particular post and what I wanted to say and it all just got bigger and more complicated and more. . . ugh.

I don’t really need to write it—others are writing on the same topic—and, honestly, I’m probably not in the best frame of mind to write it.

It’s about the election, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders.

(You get the “ugh” now, don’t you?)

I mean, I might at some point look particularly at the Trump campaign and what it did to burn through the Republican field and then to beat Clinton, but a big “Here’s the thing. . .” piece? Nope.

Why aren’t I in the best frame of mind to write it? Because I get really fucking angry even thinking about it, and anger and clarity do not mix well in my noggin.

It’s not even a reasonable ire at, say, the FBI and James Comey, or at the media—well, okay, a little bit at the media—but at the Berniesta dead-enders.

These folks are in no way the majority of Sanders supporters and, frankly, deserve no more attention that Jill Stein stans. But, goddammit, I keep running into them on Twitter and, yes, this means I should lay off Twitter but I kinda dig Twitter even though it drives me crazy so I won’t, and I keep getting pissed off.

God, even thinking about why these people piss me off is pissing me off.

Okay, lemme at this sideways. The particularities of the pissiness comes down to two, interrelated phenomena: the sanctification of the senator, and the bullshit illogic that the the only reason he lost to Clinton is that she cheated and the proof of this cheating is that Bernie lost.

That latter bit is bad sportsmanship, and I fuckin’ hate bad sportsmanship.

Yes, matches may be fixed and there is cheating in politics, but you have to bring, y’know, EVIDENCE of such cheating beyond an unhappy outcome.

And no, a party saying “you have to join the party in order to influence the party” is not evidence of cheating, nor is it unfair that long-standing Democratic politicians and activists would prefer, y’know, the long-standing Democratic candidate to the temporary-Democratic candidate.

Anyway, the bigger problem might be the former one: that Sanders is perfect and deserves no criticism, ever. Again, I don’t see this among most Sanders fans, but treating Sanders, or any politician, like some kind of savior is truly, madly, deeply wrong.

He’s a good and decent man, a good and decent senator who continues to pound on an issue which requires constant pounding: economic inequality. Good. Go Bernie!

But there are other issues, including ones related to that inequality, about which he doesn’t have much to say. That’s fine, really: no one can cover everything, and there are others who can air out those things. To mention this to Sanders-zombies, however, is to imply that He is Not Perfect, which is quite literally unbelievable. If Sanders must be right at all times and in all things, then any who disagrees or criticizes must be a heretic.

This is just shit politics. Like your politician. Love your politician. Volunteer for your politician—by all means. I really liked Obama, greatly admire him, and don’t think I will see a president as good as him in my lifetime. I think he is an exceptional man who failed well at an impossible job.

But there were things I didn’t like about his policies and questions I have about some of his decisions, and I am grateful for those good critics of his immigration, national security, and transparency policies in particular. And I think that some of the criticism he received regarding our carceral state helped to move him—alas, perhaps too late—toward some reform of our prison-industrial complex.

He was my president, and I was glad he was president. He wasn’t perfect, and didn’t expect to be treated as such, either.

I’m guessing that Bernie Sanders knows he’s not perfect and accepts that even those who quite like him might nonetheless wag a finger or two at him. Now, if only his worshipers could accept this as well.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Hello darkness, my old friend

13 11 2016

So this is the end of the series—perhaps I should be using the Doors’s “This is the end” to mark the occasion.

The weekend after and I am still stunned. I still can’t listen to the news (WNYC & NPR), although I am reading plenty online. Reading is easier: as soon as I see something about THIS is the reason. . .  I know to move on. I laid out what I thought were the possible variables for Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss, accept that there might be still more; I don’t accept that anyone knows yet how to sort those variables.

I don’t. I have been knocked on my ass, and not have not managed to find my footing I don’t know much about the ground, either.

There were things I thought I knew. I thought I knew the extent of white supremacy in this country, thought most would, if faced with it, reject it. I didn’t think so many would just brush it aside, claim simultaneously that Trump was being both honest and that he didn’t really mean what he said, that the toxins he released weren’t that poisonous at all.

Maybe there’s something there, to be grasped: that those who embraced a racist didn’t want to be seen as racist. It is a slender reed.

So, what next? I don’t know.

What kind of president will he be? I don’t know.

Will he stick to his campaign promises? some of them? I don’t know.

Will he take the job seriously? I don’t know.

Will he turn over the day-to-day executive functions to his staff, to Pence? I don’t know.

Does he even want the job? I don’t know.

What kinds of judges will he appoint? I don’t know.

What kind of diplomacy will he conduct? I don’t know.

How will he react in crisis? I don’t know.

What will happen when he fails, as all presidents fail? I don’t know.

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. The best possible answers are bad; the worst, are more than I can now bear to imagine.

But if one is to prepare, to resist, then all possibilities, the worst possibilities, must be imagined.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: I break down in the middle and lose my thread

10 11 2016

I forced myself to listen to the radio yesterday morning, but last night I couldn’t do it, and today, still, radio silence.

Twitter, however, is still a go, with so, so many people saying THIS ONE THING is why Clinton lost/Trump won.

This gent, however, digs into the data to warn us “waitaminute”:

Read through the entire thread, as he really digs into and compares data across a number of states.

As he helpfully notes, there is no, one reason, and no reason that holds across all states. The “US electorate”, after all, is actually 50 states electorates, plus the D of C. What mattered a lot in one state may have mattered very little in another. Mistakes might either have tipped that electorate or were of no consequence whatsoever.

I don’t know that anyone has AN ANSWER to what happened on Tuesday, and if they do, I won’t believe ’em. I do think, however, that we can identify the possible pieces (or threads, if you will), that resulted in the overall electoral map, recognizing that the “thickness” of those threads varied across the states.

The parties: Republicans generally voted for Republicans and Democrats generally voted for Democrats, with some (varying) amount of crossover.  That’s been the general trend in American politics and there’s little evidence of deviation from it. The roles of the RNC and DNC were secondary to those of the campaigns.

The candidates: Each was flawed, each in his or her own way. Trump deviated a great deal from the standard Republican candidate, while Clinton was pretty much a standard Democratic one. What horrified Clinton supporters about Trump—his lack of political experience and unstable temperament—delighted his supporters: he was an outsider who spoke his mind. Similarly, his supporters derided her as a corrupt (emails! Clinton Foundation!) insider, with her experience a strike against her.

Some have argued that Sanders would have performed better than Clinton, but that’s awfully hard to conclude. He might have done better with some white voters, but not as well with black voters. That Feingold lost to the demonstrably terrible Johnson in Wisconsin leads me to doubt the “Sanders coulda. . !” advocates, but it’s also possible that Sanders at the top of the ticket might have helped Feingold. I doubt Sanders could have outperformed Clinton, but it is possible.

The campaigns: Given the candidates, did campaign strategies make sense? Arguably, Clinton erred in not spending time in Wisconsin, a decision driven in no small part by polling. Was there too much reliance on what turned out to be flawed state polls? What about ad strategy: too much on Trump’s flawed character and not enough on empathy for those attracted to him? Not enough reachout generally?

Turnout: This is of a piece with the campaigns itself. I had thought infrastructure and organization mattered a great deal in turning voters out, but Trump was able to do so with apparently relatively little staff. Does this mean that organization doesn’t matter generally, or that he was an outlier, able to pull people in via other means?

Racism/white nationalism: One of those possible other means, of course, was the implicit and explicit appeal to white nationalist grievances.

On the one hand, this is obvious, insofar as his support was overwhelming white, while Clinton’s was more ethnically mixed. On the other hand, there are also certainly plenty of Trump supporters who while tolerating the racism also seek to distance themselves from it, as well as to downplay the racism of the candidate himself. Those who revel in racism and those who tolerate racism collaborated to elect Trump, which matters a whole lot; but that they are also distinct may (or may not) matter as well.

(Add: class) As for those who suggest (often while touting Sanders) Clinton should have paid more attention to the “white working class”, well, if the key motivator is “whiteness” as opposed to “class”, then what? Is it possible to peel away an attachment to whiteness such that white workers consider themselves as part of a larger, multi-ethnic working class? Finally, initial data (subject to change) that I’ve seen suggests that Trump pulled the bulk of his support from the solidly-middle and upper-middle classes.

Actually, class deserves more than a parenthetical aside, not just for this campaign but for those going forward. It’s just that disentangling it from race is damnably difficult.

Sexism: How  and how much did it matter, one way or the other, that Clinton is, yes indeedy, a woman? How did that affect campaign strategy and tactics? How did it effect how the press covered her? How did it affect willingness to vote for her?

Voter suppression: Some states (WI) had tough voter i.d. laws such that some citizens couldn’t register to vote; some states (WI, NC) reduced the number of polling places and polling hours or relocated polls to locations less convenient for Democrats. Did this effect turnout? If turnout was down, as it was across many locales, could this be tied to suppression or simply to lack of enthusiasm?

The press: There have been a number of analyses of the amount of media attention given to policy versus everything else (emails emails emails), as well as a sense that few took Trump seriously enough to consider what his administration would actually look like.

They complained about her lack of press conferences, but said little about his similar lack. They (media organizations, not necessarily individual reporters) consented to having their reporters penned up. And Trump rather easily slid away from demands for his tax returns. Was she covered too much, too unfairly? Was he not covered enough? How did the coverage affect voting behavior, if at all?

The role of the press is highly contentious and will likely see the greatest play, not least because one of the media’s favorite activities is to talk about itself.

James Comey’s letter: This might be a sub-variable of the press, given how the press shouted about SHADOW OVER CLINTON WON’T GO AWAY. Still, should be considered on its own terms, especially given apparent widespread agency animus to Clinton. And, again, don’t know if or how it mattered at all.

Wikileaks: Again, another sub- of the press. Did the press give adequate context to the emails, especially in terms of ordinary operating procedures to campaigns? What of any (alleged) connections between Wikileaks and Russia? And even if there is a connection, does it matter?

Polls: They got it wrong. Why?

Voters: This would seem to be an output rather than input variable, but insofar as candidates will configure their campaigns around what they think will appeal to those voters, how voters respond to those campaigns will in turn affect the campaigns. What motivates and de-motivates voters? What do voters know, and what do they know that just ain’t so? What is the mix of rationality and irrationality among the voting public? And what of those who’ve voted before, but didn’t this time?

None of these variables is independent, of course. Some of these pieces reinforce and magnify others, while some minimize; and the relative size and  position of those pieces vary from state to state.

And this is crucial: Clinton won the popular vote (final tally t.d. unknown) and lost the Electoral College vote, so any wholly national focus will be wrong. What worked for her in one state could have worked against her in another, but given that the majority of voters did, in fact, vote for her suggests that she didn’t do everything wrong.

Finally, I’m trying to see a way to put together a rational understanding of what happened, but, as Carl Schmitt reminded-warned us, there’s a great deal to politics which is decidedly irrational.

Which means, of course, that you could do everything “right” and still lose.