The GOP is Suddenly Anti-Violence

It was the kind of gadfly news story that no one is going to remember in a year. The President’s son, Eric, said that critics of his father “are not even people“. Indeed, he’d “never seen hatred like this”. There was outrage. There were thinkpieces. There were condemnations. And we moved on.

Eric Trump is emblematic precisely because he is forgettable. His father, of course, may have incited violence, if not to a legal standard, then certainly in the court of public opinion. Ted Nugent offered to shoot the last first family. Congressional Republicans, quite apart from endlessly protecting gun access, have blocked investigations into right wing militias. There is at least one member of an actual, honest-to-Hitler Nazi Party working in the White House, the rest of the Nazi and Fascist adjacent pantheon of deplorables notwithstanding. Trump has called for “second amendment people” to deal with his opponents.

Apart from cozying up with this sort of endless performative violence, the GOP has constantly poisoned the well of discourse. Do you remember when we had the Obamacare debate and there were going to be Death Panels? Gay panic has mercifully receded in the last five years, but state legislatures still have people willing to say that LGB and especially T folks are nothing more than prowling rapists and murderers lurking in your local public restrooms. Liberals give shelter to illegals (rapists, murders, and, some, I assume, good people) and Muslim terrorists. The GOP has become a cult of fear, imagining political violence barely contained within liberal ranks and convincing its voters, by way of Fox News, to arm themselves and take all possible measures to thwart us.

I’m not suggesting that yesterday’s shooting in Alexandria was caused by this directly. Though, now that I say it, there is something to be said for the fact that Sander’s hyperbolic talk of “rigged systems” and “revolution” thrives when laid against GOP extremism. But what I’m really suggesting is that the hypocrisy of suddenly finding a need for restraint in political discourse is really fucking rich. Liberals self-evidently need to clean house; the Sanders set in particular has drawn more than one extremist. But if there is one person I am not taking advice from about how to do that, it’s noted blight on American discourse, Newt Gingrich. Watching Congressional Republicans respond to the President’s fire hose of bile and vitriol with silence and Paul Ryan’s oddly glassy stare has been a masterclass in how to not to clean house.

But you know why I’m actually %10,000 done with this? There is an epidemic of violence in this country. We just had the 1-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting where 49 people—mostly queer, mostly Latino—were gunned down. Hate crimes are swelling. Systemic police violence is a lot like stormy weather; it comes a few times a summer in most cities. Congressional Republicans have the power to address all these things with the full force of the American Constitution behind them. They haven’t, they aren’t, and it makes clear where their priorities lie.

But, I guess they postponed the hearing about improving access to silencers, so maybe they are turning over a new leaf.

7 Years Should Have Been 8

Nothing highlights how haphazard, ill-conceived, and doomed the Obamacare repeal is quite like scheduling the repeal on the 7th anniversary of its passage.

I’m not knocking the symbolism, per se. Trashing Nancy Pelosi’s legacy on the Anniversary sends a powerful message about what the GOP is doing here. Make no mistake, I am opposed to that message. But I appreciate some good political theater, even from across the aisle. Taking advantage of the anniversary makes sense. My objection is to the sloppiness of this gambit.

It took the Democrats 14 months after Obama took office to craft the legislation and build a coalition around it. The drama of the House vote remains the anecdote I tell to show how formidable she is. After literal years of negotiations, the day of the vote she sat in the Speaker’s chair holding the gavel. As each moderate Democrat walked in, she surveyed them. The threat was both plain and opaque. Figuratively, she was going to beat them to death with that gavel; details of what they stood to lose if they scuttled the most ambitious bill in a generation never emerged. Whatever it was, it was enough. Pelosi watched her bill make it to the President’s desk. In a cruel irony, the bill is now informally named for him, but she was its architect, shepherd, and greatest proponent. If you hate Pelosi or her achievement, it is because she was one of the best Speakers we have ever had.

Paul Ryan looks like an amateur next to her.

Two months is not enough time to craft any kind of healthcare reform. The first embarrassment is that they have only been working on this for a few weeks. Oh, sure, they have been pretending to be repealing Obamacare for 7 years. But the fact of the matter is that those bills lacked substance. And why should they have been more than symbolic shells? Obama was going to veto them, if the Senate even passed them along. Never in those 7 years did the House prepare for the possibility that they might have more than a symbolic shot at the prize.

When Paul Ryan lead the House through divided government, he was hailed as a principled Wunderkind, a visionary, the future of the party. McConnell, after all, is less ideological and much more about the strategy of the game. McConnell is right wing, of course, but that’s not why he is Majority Leader of the Senate. McConnell knows when to make a deal, when to play a parliamentary trick, and when to let the Majority Leader light his caucus on fire. McConnell plays in the same league as Pelosi. Set next to Pelosi and McConnell it is worth asking: Is the hype overblown?

Ryan, it turns out, was a glorified babysitter, good at making his petulant caucus feel like they were taking turns taking shots at Obama. That’s right, Representative Meadows, you are a big boy! Now, let the Moderates have a turn proposing a reform. Here is a cookie. What principles, exactly does that embody? What strategy should we glean from that? Which future does that portend?

Ryan’s sole stroke of genius has been to hand this toxic mess off to Trump. By letting Trump handle the Freedom Caucus (and bad mouth him in the press!), by letting Trump put his name on Ryan’s signature legislation, Ryan is absolving himself of serious political consequences. But again, I ask: What kind of principle is that? It shows good instincts, to be sure. I’m suggesting I expected Ryan to go down with the ship. But poisoning your relationship with the White House only works once. And Trump is especially petty and vindictive; he will not come home quickly or for a small price. That’s the pinnacle of the much-hyped Paul Ryan’s political savvy. He talked Donald Trump into jumping in front of a bus to save him.

It is hard not to wonder: Is Ryan jamming this through because he knows that a once-in-a-generation political scandal is about to swallow the White House? That is certainly consistent with what we’re seeing. But the alternative is that Ryan is a hack who can’t pass legislation with more than symbolic content. That’s possible, too. Whatever his reasons, yesterday drove home just how incompetent he is. Sure, you can hastily call a bill to the floor. But by skipping 12 months of hard work, you are just going to get trashed by your caucus.

You know who knew that?


We’re Already Losing 2018

If the President were selected by the popular vote, Hilary Clinton would have won handily.

As last count, the Democrats would have lost the house by a mere difference of 5 seats—and that’s assuming we seated no third parties.

Critics of this line of thought point out, not wrongly, that if the system were different, people would campaign differently. And that’s true! But it cuts every which way because more people would vote. If you are in a heavily gerrymandered district in a state where the presidency is not competitive, there are few reasons to show up for Federal Elections. (Of course, half of the problems we liberals have are not paying attention to what our state legislatures are up to, but I digress.) These problems disproportionately—though, by no means totally—disenfranchise liberals. You see echoes of that in the ways we keep winning or nearly winning the popular vote and get crushed in representation.

Liberaldom is convincing itself that this is something we did. Don’t worry, I’m getting to the part where I blame liberals, but let’s get this straight: it was none of the popular boogie men.

For starters, this was not a failure of empathy for or appealing to white voters. There is a party that panders to what white people want. It is called The Republicans. White voters do not, foremost, want free healthcare, college, and strong unions. They want black people out of power and Mexicans* and Arabs** to go back to their home country***. If you are failing to understand that, you are bad at empathy. Granted, they are too, but empathy isn’t imagining how Trump’s supporters might be more like you; its imagining how their rich inner lives nevertheless made them into bigots. White America has spoken: A majority think racism and sexism are A-Okay! Democrats don’t have a branding problem. We have a defective product.

It wasn’t money either; Democrats outraised Trump’s awful campaign by a wide margin. Yes, the Koch Brothers are a frustrating feature of modern elections, but their influence isn’t nearly what your average person complaining about “Drumpf” on Facebook thinks it is. They have the influence they do because they swing conservative primaries and progressives can head that off by winning in November. Except, evidence suggests, we cannot do that.

If you think Clinton was a weak candidate, the facts above belie your point. Clinton won by just shy of 3 million votes, except we decided Montana’s voters count for more than anyone else. Do you know who Montana thought was a swell guy? Trump! Maybe Democrats should run him in 2020! Except, you know, that would be toxic for our brand of being the party for non-whites. Funny how that works. Sanders has whole rants to himself, but if was so great, people would have defected from the GOP and voted for him instead of Carrot Stick Mugabe. Alas. White conservatives didn’t like him at all and he got a mixed reception among liberals. Clinton was not only a good candidate, the numbers proved it.

But Sanders comes up right before I get to the blaming liberals part. Before the election there were a bunch of articles about not “vote shaming” people who thought that a candidate who had talked about gender equality—GENDER EQUALITY—with Goldman Sachs executives was too morally compromised for support. You know what? That was a shameful position. The inability to see the difference between Clinton and Trump is a moral disease of epic proportions. It is the kind of selfish, entitled thinking that loses elections. It is the kind of thinking that says if I can’t have everything, we should smash it and burn it down. It is the willful aiding and abetting of white supremacists who now—thanks to you!—have newfound power. Consider yourself shamed.

Because here is the sad truth: you don’t get people into office through dank memes or, yes, ranty blog posts. You get them into office by getting more people to vote for them. And I know better than most that voting in red states is not always easy. But we must start treating that as the morally compromised position, that the thing too toxic to touch is disenfranchisement. The morally compromised position the DNC has is not making voter suppression its number 1 issue. The RNC is just shy of having an official position that votes for Democrats shouldn’t count. The DNC has largely made excuses because, let’s be real, the DNC leadership hails from safe districts anyway. We start by demanding that the DNC be the party of enfranchisement.

This is not going to be easy and we’ve let the deck be stacked against us. Check your state docket; I promise there are bills to disenfranchise people in your state. Call your state-level representative and senator and tell them that you think it is immoral to disenfranchise people. Make sure you are registered to vote and be explicit: this is an issue you will be considering at election time. But Democrats must stop treating voter suppression as something to be worked around: It is the GOP making sure this is a country run by white voters. It is Jim Crow come again. It is how we get a guy who ran articles praising White Nationalists as “intellectuals” in one of the most influential position in the White House.

A principled belief in voting rights for African Americans helped forge the modern Democratic Party in the 1960s and it can help renew it now.

*A word which here means anyone Hispanic.

**A word which here means anyone with brown skin who isn’t a Mexican as defined above.

***A phrase which here means Mexico or Arabia and certainly not the USA no matter how long their family has been here.

I’m 10,000% Done with Bernie Sanders

Bernie or Bust! You did it! You Won!

What’s that? Incoming message from Bernie himself?

But, but, here is my point, and this is where there is going to be division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for someone to say, “I’m a woman! Vote for me!” No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics. I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American head or CEO of some major corporation.

You know what? Go jump in a lake.

That is a completely unfair representation of literally everything that Clinton worked on. Before you made your endless, shrill, contentless talking points, Clinton had worked on many substantive policies that did all the things you asked for. Sure, she often got work done by making the hard choices you are too cowardly to, but she got the job done. Clinton supported greater regulation for banks—you gave a speech complaining it wasn’t good enough. She has long supported affordable healthcare, and was famously involved in the Clintoncare push in the 90s. (The link, as an aside, proves that while her credentials on caring are good, the Clintons did not handle things well. But if that’s your standard, Bernie, when was the last time you did more than bluster in front of a crowd?) While her plan cut an unorthodox path—and one that is fair to criticize on its merits—she was not shy about “standing up to big oil”. Clinton’s progressive credentials bear the tarnish of having actually had the principle to not just fight for Americans, but win.

You want to know why Clinton lost? It is because millennials didn’t show up. We didn’t turn out because we got the idea that she was some sort of hard-right Republican. I CANNOT FATHOM WHERE WE HEARD THAT! Sanders, because you are a spineless, extremist career politician, you have chosen to mistake passing legislation for selling out the middle class. And shame on every would-be Clinton voter who mistook that for principle and didn’t vote for Clinton. Shame on you, Bernie, for encouraging the idea that finding a path to workable legislation is the same thing as selling out the working class.

Because you know what actually is selling out the working class? Torpedoing the liberal coalition. But keep at it! You got your movement now! Your job is secure and you have the boogieman you desperately need in the highest office of the land. Do I think you did that on purpose? Not for a second. But do I think it is awfully convenient for you? Definitely.

Because you know what? All those things you list that you say you are for? Rights for black people, equal pay for women, and protections of LGBT folks? Those are identity politics. What you mean is that as long as you get to put your far-left policies first, you’ll let us sit in the back of the bus and come along for the ride. But if there aren’t enough seats, well, we can walk.

At least someone will benefit from a Trump presidency, bro.