Friday, November 11, 2016

Electoral College, Donald Trump, and Cooler Heads

Okay, so Trump won the Electoral College. Some people have placed the blame on third-party candidates. Others have said that the onus was Hillary for her “basket of deplorables” remark, and for not giving white, blue-collar workers enough attention during her campaign. Still others maintain that Hillary was the wrong candidate, that Bernie would have won, and the DNC is to blame for rigging the primaries.

Whatever.

The point is, like it or not (and I don’t, not even a little bit), the demented candy corn is our President-elect. And the Democrats did not do anywhere near as well as everybody expected -- everybody, that is, except Kelly Anne Conway, who apparently knows a thing or two. As a result, the Republicans control all three branches of government. Yes, the Republican majority in the Senate slipped from 54 to 51, and the House slipped from 246 to 239, but they are majorities all the same ... and since they also have the White House, the needs for a veto-proof majority is lessened dramatically.

Add to this the fact that there is still an open seat on the Supreme Court (that Senate Republicans refused to fill), and there will likely be three more in the next couple of years ... well, I think it’s safe to say that the progressive agenda is thoroughly fucked for a while. So what do we do about it?

1) The Electoral College

There has been some agitation, to the point of protests in the streets (in Philadelphia PA, Richmond VA, and other places) calling on the Electoral College to overturn the results of the election and vote in Hillary Clinton. And yes, while Clinton did win more of the popular vote than did Trump (60,274,974 to 59,937,338), the difference is only 337,636 votes ... or 0.28%. In statistical terms, a tie -- that 0.28% is small enough to be considered within the margin of error for some.

There is also the “slippery slope” question: do we really want the Electoral College to override the results of the election, simply because we didn’t get the result we wanted? Or, to put it another way, if all the vote totals had been reversed, and it was Trump supporters demonstrating in the streets, would we be as willing to accept this suggestion?

My answer is no, we would not.

Face it, folks. We lost. Whether it was a poorly run campaign, or intentional rigging of the primaries by the DNC, or Russian hackers, or just plain hubris in assuming that Clinton would walk away with this thing, the fact of the matter is:

We lost.

Plain and simple. And any attempt to invalidate the results, to turn it around in our favor, WILL come back to bite us in the ass later. I guarantee it.

2) Obstructionism as revenge
Another issue that has been gaining traction lately in social media is exhortations to Congressional Democrats to be as obstructionist as the Republicans were for President Obama. I guess the rationale for this is to “let them see what it feels like.”

The problem with this, apart from it being dangerous to the country to have ANOTHER four years of nothing being done, is twofold. First, it’s just juvenile. This is something my twelve year old would say, because “getting even” is a big thing with people that age.

We will never “get even.” All that will happen is that Congress’s approval ratings will slip even lower (not that they have that far to go before hitting absolute zero), and Americans will feel the pinch.

Second, the GOP, quite frankly, doesn’t give two shits. They have the majority in the House, the Senate, both Houses of state legislatures in 33 states, and 33 governorships, which means that, in addition to having the votes necessary to pass some truly bass ackwards shit, they also have control at the procedural level -- that is, which measures actually make it to the floor for debate -- and they can control the messaging. And say what you will about the Republican Party, they do have very strong discipline when it comes to messaging (I remember about a year and a half ago that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner made public statements to the press on an issue, and their statements were, word for word, identical. Oh, and it was all Obama’s fault).
On the other side are those who basically adopt P. J. O’Rourke’s stance: “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.” Their take on things is to let the GOP have its way, pass all the ridiculous legislation it wants to, then show up at Congressional elections in two years saying “See? I told ya they’d fuck it up.”

The problem with this, of course, is that the Senate and House are being led by right-wing ideologues, and the Vice-President-elect is a man who makes George Will look like Leonardo DiCaprio (politically, that is). They are obviously itching to repeal Obamacare (not that they have anything to replace it with, except more privatization), overturn Roe v. Wade, overturn same-sex marriage, and (if Pence has his way) impose theocratic dominion over all US citizens -- a group which, in their view, does not include Muslims, Mexicans, or women.

In fact, it would not surprise me in the least to see an effort by the extreme right in Congress to repeal the 19th Amendment.

I realize that, by now, many of you are scratching your heads and wondering if I’m ever going to get to the point. So here ya go.

The point of all this is, we have to be better than ... well, everything. We have to be better than the mob mentality that is taking over some progressives, causing them to march in the streets and ignore the election results. We have to be better than the Trump supporters who are gleefully gloating, posting racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic trash, and generally reinforcing the stereotype of all Trump supporters being knuckle-dragging troglodytes. We have to be better than all the pollsters, pundits, and politicos who were complacent in assuming that Hillary would win in a walk.

Above all, we have to be better than Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and the rest of the Republicans who are so eager to move our country backward. How do we do this? It’s simple, actually. Not easy, but simple.

We must champion equal rights for all. We must work tirelessly to prevent them doing damage to the best of our ability. We must always strive to make things better for people. We must not be condescending, patronizing, or dismissive of those who supported Trump ... to them, their grievances are very real, and part of the reason we were unable to win with them is we essentially wrote them off as hopeless cases.

In short, we have to do our jobs as progressives. Sure, we’ll lose some (if not most) battles, and yes, there are going to be times when it seems like we are getting nothing accomplished. When that happens, we can take comfort in the fact that a) the majority of the public agrees with US, not them, despite their rhetoric; b) our ideas are, quite frankly, BETTER, and are intended to move the country forward, not protect our own asses (at least, most of the time); and c) we are the adults in the room, leading by example. We are willing to compromise, to find common ground, to sacrifice ideological purity for the greater good -- in short, everything the Republicans won’t do -- and this will seep into the American consciousness.

Above all, we must put our country first. Yes, Trump is a coarse buffoon. Yes, Newt Gingrich is a reactionary bozo. Yes, Mike Pence makes the Spanish Inquisition look like a quiz show. Yes, Sarah Palin is an empty-headed nitwit. And yes, they are going to try to stack the Supreme Court with religious ideologues. None of that matters.

What matters is that we show the Republican Party, the American public, and the world that progressives are NOT the manipulative, cynical political hacks that the GOP is trying to portray us as. We need to show that we are patriotic, well-intentioned members of society, and that we are trying to make things better for everyone -- not just Democrats.

We can do this. It’s gonna suck for a couple of years, but we can do this. And in 2018, despite the ridiculous gerrymandering put into place with Republican-drawn Congressional districts in 2010, we can take back the majorities we need to effect some positive results. And I, for one, can’t wait to get started.

Let’s do this.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Welcome to Trumpistan!

Well, it happened.

The thing that everybody (myself included, sadly) dismissed as being too crazy, too far out there, simply too absurd ... happened. Donald Trump is our new President-elect.

I need to let this sink in for a moment. A man who is going to trial for fraud, who has allegations of rape leveled against him, who mocked the disabled, who called for a ban on immigration based solely on a person’s religion, who bragged about being able to sexually assault whoever he wanted because “when you’re a star you can do anything you want” ... this is who was elected.

I have seen a lot of posting on Facebook from my circle of friends, all of whom are expressing shock, grief, outrage, anger, and fear -- as they should be. Despite all the polls, pundits, expectations, hints, and predictions, our better nature did NOT prevail, and our wisdom did NOT kick in as expected. Nate Silver of fiverthirtyeight.com, who as late as Monday night had pegged Trump’s chances in the 30% range, is probably spending the day today scratching his head and saying “What the fuck?”

I have also seen people casting about desperately for someone to blame for this debacle -- again, myself included. Some have blamed it on the media, some have blamed it on the third-party vote, some have blamed it on Hillary, some have blamed the DNC. And there is some truth to all of these. However, it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that we have been dealt an incredibly shitty hand, by a corrupt dealer who has absolutely no qualms about rigging the game in his favor, and we just have to make the best of it. We are facing a Republican-controlled government with a radical conservative agenda and a raving lunatic at the top. Apparently, the obstructionism of the past eight years has paid off. So here’s what we can look forward to.

The Supreme Court will be stacked with conservatives. Roe v. Wade will be challenged and likely overturned. The NRA will enjoy an almost unfettered ability to write legislation, as will corporate interests. The Affordable Care Act will be dismantled, and there is nothing with which to replace it. Environmental protections will be gutted or scrapped completely. Climate change will be ignored, and in some cases outright denied. Voting rights for minorities will come under further, more serious, attacks.

In short, it’s gonna be ugly. So what can we do about it? Well, there are some things that we definitely do NOT need to do.

We do not need to point fingers. Sure, a post-mortem is appropriate, and finding the issues and/or people and/or organizations that led to this loss is needed, but only to improve things next time ... NOT to create scapegoats.

We do not need to encourage the same sort of obstructionist nonsense the GOP has been practicing for the past eight years. They’re much better at it, and preventing anything from getting done will only hurt the average American.

We do not need to question Trump’s legitimacy, his fitness for the office, or his ability to compromise. None of these things are new; they’ve all been said before. It will not move the ball one bit, and will only embolden his supporters to become even more intractable.

We do not need to demonize his supporters. Yes, they adopted (or brought out of the closet) some horrifically ugly viewpoints, exhibited behavior that was borderline criminal (and in some cases outright treasonous, as when a sitting Congressman suggested that Hillary Clinton be shot), but they are still people, after all, and each and every one of them is someone’s brother, sister, father, mother, son, daughter, and they are trying to navigate the twists and turns of life as best they know how -- just as we are.

On the other side of the coin, there are things we can -- and MUST -- do.

We must ignore the Republican playbook, and continue to put country ahead of party. For eight years, the GOP has had a single goal: to control the reins of power without Democratic involvement. Well, now they have it. And even though it will be painful for most Americans, and may very well end up sending us plummeting into an economic tailspin that makes the Great Depression look like a bounced check at the grocery store, we have to accept that they are going to do what they are going to do, and simply be ready to pick up the pieces afterward.

We must stick with what HRC said on the campaign trail: “When they go low, we go high.” There will be shameless gloating from Trump supporters today, and possibly for his entire Presidency. That doesn’t mean we get down in the gutter with them -- we simply stay on our path, trying to make things better.

We have to get ready for the next round. Even though this election has taken all the conventional wisdom there ever was concerning electoral politics, wadded it up, and flushed it down a gas station toilet, history has shown that, when a President enters office with majorities in both Houses, the following midterm elections usually see a switch in the majorities in Congress. Bill Clinton entered office with a Democratic majority in 1992; in 1994 Newt Gingrich’s “Contract For America” swept in a GOP majority in both the House and Senate that endured for the rest of Clinton’s Presidency. In 2000, George W. Bush entered with that majority, and in 2002 the Congressional majority switched back to the Democrats. A similar flip-flop occurred in 2010. This indicates -- but in no way guarantees -- that Democrats stand a fairly good chance at retaking both Houses in 2018 (of course, in 1994, 2002, and 2010, Congressional districts were not gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans to the degree they are now, which makes it more difficult).

Above all, we cannot piss and moan about how “Hillary done me wrong.” She put forth her best effort in the face of unprecedented opposition from not only her opponent, but also Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange and Wikileaks, the alt-right movement (including associated media outlets such as Breitbart), a latent, untapped nativism that many were shocked to discover existed, and younger voters who became caught up in the idealism of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and were either unwilling or unable to look at the pragmatic reality of the need to stop Trump.

So where do we go from here?

Become informed. Be kind. Love people. Stand in solidarity with those who are likely to be royally screwed by this monstrosity that is the new Republican Party: minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, women, the poor -- in short, anyone who doesn’t look and act like Trump -- and refuse to allow them to be bullied by anyone.

Most importantly, though, hold your representatives accountable for their votes, and if you don’t like ‘em, vote them out in 2018. Trust me, the midterm campaigns are getting underway today (already!), and many of them are going to be based around an anti-Trump message. The goal is to regain a veto-proof majority in both Houses so that Trump and Pence can be held in check.

I won’t kid anyone ... this is a devastating setback. Nobody expected this. But we can either cry and complain about how horrible things are going to be (and let’s face it, they will be), or we can get to work on minimizing the damage.

I vote for the latter.

A Path Forward

The Democratic primaries are heating up, and I am already seeing purity tests of various stripes filtering across the intertubes. Bernie ...