Archive: February, 2020
Stray Political Thoughts
I watched tonight's Democratic candidates debate with some friends and have some thoughts.
- The moderators from ABC News were gawd-awful. Every question from them seemed to be designed to start a fight. To their credit, the candidates generally refused to take the bait, which seemed to frustrate, especially, moderator David Muir. When Muir didn't get an answer he liked, he followed up with another candidate trying to bring out the claws. It was infuriating. Muir's ridiculously simplistic question to several candidates concerning the killing of Iranian general Soleimani was embarrassingly stupid and his rejection of nuanced answers to it spoke quite poorly of Muir's grasp of reality. Most if not all debates have occurrences when a candidate dodges a question or otherwise manages to avoid a direct answer, but this was the first time I can recall being pleased to see question avoidance. The questions tended to suck.
- Candidates that impressed: Pete, Bernie, Warren, and Steyer. Mayor Pete was exceptionally eloquent, gave brilliant answers to lame questions, and came across as monumentally competent. As I said to my companions here, if Pete were ten years older and had served in Congress, I'd be tempted to vote for him based on this.
- My candidate of choice right now, though, is Senator Warren, and she had one standout moment by articulating an agenda based around fighting corruption, including creating a standing agency to keep tabs on government actions that cross lines of legality. Unfortunately, none of her other answers struck me as enough to move the needle for her; she remains strong, but this debate probably didn't win new voters to her side.
- Bernie Sanders was the only one to give an actual answer to the final question that candidates used for closing remarks, and he hit an upper-deck homer with it. The question was, essentially, child poverty continues to be really bad in the U.S., why is that? Sanders crushed it with a simple truth: Because our priorities are fucked up, rewarding the rich and corporate in a Republican economic disaster that began in the 1980s and has never truly righted itself. Bernie also had good remarks on party unity—his most fervent supporters really need to hear that, we can have no _____ or Bust people this time—and on his evolution on gun control.
- And Tom Steyer, who nobody really considers to be a legit contender, barged his way into the discussion with a frustration that a lot of us watching were also feeling: These nitpicky arguments about Medicare for All vs. Medicare for All Who Want It vs. Obamacare + Public Option and the like are tiresome, we've been over it and over it, and no matter what, every single Democrat running will push for vast improvements with the same ultimate goal; what we really need to be discussing is the existential danger of a President Trump who would be King Trump the Dear Leader. Several candidates made the case for turning out a massive number of voters as necessary for victory, which is true, but none of them noted that part of the reason it's necessary is that we need to overcome the cheating that the Republicans are and will continue to perpetrate.
- Amy Klobuchar and Yang were fine, came across well, but didn't impress me. Yang seemed pretty simplistic by always leaning on his basic income proposal as a panacea.
- Everyone missed the opportunity for a simple, clear, true, and relevant answer to a question on whether or not approving the USMCA was a good idea. Instead of arguing that not making climate-change mitigation part of the agreement was a reason to oppose it or defending that it was more important to have a united bloc among the US, Canada, and Mexico on trade, there was a better response: For the Senators who cast a vote, there were but two options—nothing, or a bit better than nothing. Voting no would not help climate change, but voting yes would help some in other areas. Warren almost got there, but veered off before making the point.
- Joe Biden was better than he was in prior debates, but he still seems like a poor choice. Not that he'd be a poor choice to be President, I mean a poor choice to be a candidate for President in the general. The stakes are so very, very high this time around and Joe has this way of interrupting himself, speaking in terms that lack context, being oddly aggressive at times that don't really call for it, and, at least in a debate format, is remarkably defensive. It's scary to me, given how malleable voters have shown themselves to be in the past.
- Mayor Pete is going to make an excellent Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
- I'm more in Warren's camp than ever at this point, but not due to her performance tonight. I started out supporting Kamala Harris, thinking that we need a prosecutor in this election (and she's been a solid public servant). Warren is closer to my thinking in terms of policy, but now, with the field narrowed as it is, she's also the one that gives me the least anxiety as a potential nominee. She's unabashedly and authentically the opposite of Trump in most ways: anti-corruption, pro-labor, full of integrity, whip-smart, and compassionate. And she relates to the general public well. There is still some of that Senator-speak that I cringe at—it's the thing that drove me nuts more than anything else while working for John Kerry's campaign, using the language of the Senate floor on the campaign trail and sounding condescending when it was far from his intent—but in general she connects with the masses.
- Biden and Sanders do the Senator-speak too—the most common offense being to start a sentence with "Look, blah blah," which almost 100% of the time sounds as if there's an unsaid portion that makes it really "Look, you idiot, blah blah"—but Sanders is such a unique character that it just blends into his style and doesn't stand out. Biden is really bad with it, though, especially when he's defensive or amped up.
- Discussing the idiocy of having Iowa and New Hampshire get so much say in who gets nominated, my friend Mark mentioned that at least we in Washington have done away with caucuses. This, weirdly, was news to me! What? When did that happen?! Why didn't I know this?! Just yesterday I blogged about how much I enjoyed them! Turns out Mark is correct—last April the state Democratic party made the change to a primary, and we vote shortly after Super Tuesday. How this escaped my notice I have no idea. Seems like something I would have been plugged into. It was April, so I was likely immersed in baseball, but still. Sigh.
- Little to no commentary in the debate tonight about Trump's truly frightening off-the-rails ego trip yesterday in the East Room. It deserved a mention.
- However, Trump's retaliation against impeachment witnesses Col. Vindman and Ambassador Sondland did get mentions, though not enough. He's going full-on Emperor Palpatine now.
- FactCheck.org has a rundown of things said in the debate that aren't 100% accurate, and it's kind of amusing; none of the items are in spirit incorrect, only in fine details, which is such a giant contrast to any given day of Trump's Twitter feed.
This has been a brutal couple of weeks, politically, and it's necessary to remember not to fall back into normal election season behavior. Watching the debates is interesting and reading analyses of candidate performance is good and all that, but we have to keep in mind that if Trump has his way, this election will not be on the up-and-up and could easily be the last one with any sense of legitimacy at all for a long, long time. Tom Steyer was right: bickering about who has the incrementally better health-care plan means nothing compared to defeating Trump and making it stick. Because we know he won't take losing gracefully, he'll fight it with claims of fraud—because in his mind, everyone does what he does as nothing else makes sense to him—and bogus whining about being a victim and his corrupt and evil henchmen in the Justice Department. That's the priority: Not just beating him, but beating him so soundly and forcefully that he can't cheat his way out of it.No Comments yet
By Lisa Benson, WaPo Writers Group
So, the Iowa caucuses were a bit of a shitshow this year, and people all over the political world are to some extent losing their minds, including the esteemed Mr. Hayes, above. As if this was something new.
Iowa caucuses have been a mess for a long time, this shouldn't surprise anybody. Remember 2012, when Mitt Romney won Iowa, no wait, Ron Paul did, no wait, Rick Santorum did? There wasn't even a mobile app to blame then. Yes, the Iowa state Democratic Party screwed the pooch on this. No question. But let's not make a bigger deal of it than it is; Iowa fucks up, it's normal, and eventually we get results that are agreed upon.
That said, I do think things should change. The wonks on Pod Save America predict this was the last time we'd have Iowa caucuses, at least as we've known them since the modern process started in 1972. I don't see that happening, because this mess will be forgotten just as all previous Iowa caucus messes have been. But the problems are undeniable.
Ultimately, I think I agree with Chris Hayes. Doing away with the caucus process and having every state adopt a primary instead would be more democratic, more inclusive, more understandable. It'd be better. Yet, I like caucuses. I'd miss them.
I've attended the Washington State Democratic caucuses in 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2016, skipping the years when incumbent Democrats were running for reelection and had essentially no competitors. They're fun. For political nerds like me, anyway; they aren't continuously fun, they also involve a great deal of boredom and standing/sitting around. But when stuff is happening, it's neat. It's talking with your neighbors about important national issues and advocating for your chosen candidate. It can also mean greater participation in the whole lengthy campaign—in 2004, I was elected as a delegate for the John Kerry campaign (which I had been doing considerable volunteer work for over many months by then) to the next stage in the nominating process, the district caucus, and had circumstances permitted I would have run for delegate to county and state conventions.
One positive element to caucuses is the ability to switch your allegiance. In a way, it seems unfair, but in the end it's a good thing: If your chosen candidate does not have enough support in your precinct to net a delegate, you may join the group supporting a different candidate so your participation will aid your choice of the remaining options. This happened to me in 1992, my first caucus—I was the only one in my precinct supporting Jerry Brown, thus Governor Moonbeam was unviable there, having less than 15% support. So was Senator Paul Simon. I then opted to join the Clinton supporters over the Paul Tsongas supporters. In the moment I didn't like this, but had the state apportioned delegates via primary election, my vote for Brown would have contributed zero while my caucus support for Clinton gave him one more delegate at the precinct level. Similarly, in 2008—before the scandal broke—I was in the John Edwards camp, but again was in a sub-15% minority and thus had the chance to throw my support to Barack Obama and help him take the state over Hillary Clinton. Of course, calculating voters can make strategic votes in primaries by making assumptions on viability ahead of time, but I still like the process.
We should get rid of it, though.
Caucuses by design limit participation and effectively disenfranchise voters who for whatever reason cannot devote several hours to go to a school gym or a church basement or wherever. They discourage those who simply don't want to give up their afternoon (or evening, in Iowa). They are not a secret ballot, which can keep people away. People who are not comfortable speaking up in groups or who have social anxiety issues won't participate. Elections, on the other hand, are simple. Especially here, where it's all done by mail (or neighborhood drop box). Far more voters can participate. Sure, there are election security issues that caucuses avoid, but as we see every time, there are caucus administration issues that are inevitable. And elections, done right, have a paper trail that can be audited while caucuses can be comparatively recordless proceedings.
Oh, and caucus or not, Iowa has had its fun being first. Time to share that honor around. Yes, yes, they like it so much (as does New Hampshire) that they have a state law mandating they be first, but let's be serious. Let's revamp this to give (a) a more populous and diverse state (say, Georgia? Michigan?) the influence of being first, and (b) change up the order every cycle, so it isn't always the same three or four states that winnow the field. Iowa and New Hampshire have the most influence on who gets nominated, always. South Carolina got in on it recently, and more recently Nevada got in on things, but by the time any large population gets to vote, the field has been cut considerably. Every damn time.
So, change it up. Put in a rotation system. Not necessarily random, I mean, having California go first might be its own problem, but put some thought into it. Albino Iowa and palesnow New Hampshire can go later. Maybe on Super Tuesday.No Comments yet
Welcome to the Banana Republic
Well, they did it. As we knew they would. As they telegraphed they would on multiple occasions and as they confirmed with vehemence last Friday by denying evidence be admitted to trial. 52 United States Senators decreed today that we are no longer a democratic republic, no longer a representative democracy. Instead, in direct opposition to the will of the national majority, those 52 United States Senators welcomed the transition to despotism by giving the current president of the nation unchecked power, by removing any remnants of inhibition that might remain in his behavior.
The current holder of the office of the President, whose actual name I will not use today and whose name will, should we survive into history, become a synonym for corruption and cruelty, was impeached by the House of Representatives on only two counts. He could have been impeached on many more, as he has committed many more reprehensible offenses, but the two in question—abuse of power by extorting a foreign leader to tar a political opponent with made-up accusations and obstruction of Congress in covering that abuse up—were slam-dunks. The proof was overwhelming. He admitted it, repeatedly, on television. No attentive person with even a modicum of intelligence and understanding of the United States Constitution could reasonably deny that he committed these offenses.
52 United States Senators, however, found they could unreasonably deny it and pretend they were honorably upholding their principles.
President VonClownstick reacted to his faux-acquittal by immediately tweeting an animated graphic based on a Time magazine cover displaying his desire to remain in power in perpetuity. Some of the 52 Senators gloated, many of the wannabe-dictator's fans and cultists verbally bashed adherents to the rule of law as losers and, paradoxically, traitors. The wannabe-dictator's son attacked the only Republican Senator to side with the Constitution by demanding that Senator be expelled from his party and branding him a "member of the resistance," a term that in and of itself is troubling. (If there is a resistance, there must by definition be something to resist, and common parlance relegates "The Resistance," in political contexts, to oppressed populations opposing tyranny.)
Those 52 Senators will rue this day, presuming they live more than another few months. There is no question that our wannabe-dictator will continue to abuse his power, will continue to commit atrocities, will continue to show contempt for the Constitution, will continue to behave like the leader of the international criminal enterprise that he is. As House Impeachment Manager Rep. Adam Schiff put it, the odds of this are "one-hundred percent." Further details of the abuses already committed, including those the 52 Senators declared to be perfectly acceptable, will come to light soon. The political calculation these 52 people made will backfire. But will it matter?
We have one opportunity to reclaim the United States of America as the democratic republic it had been before this administration began tearing it down. 52 United States Senators have abdicated their responsibility out of fear of retribution from a vindictive man-child, out of their own corruption and lust for power, out of rank stupidity, and/or out of allegiance to foreign dictatorships. That leaves the electoral process as the only remedy left, and as we have seen many times before, too many American voters are easily-manipulated simpletons that can be tricked into voting against their interests.
It's crisis time. If this president is not defeated in this year's election, if the Senate is not wrested from the death grip of Mitch McConnell, then this country is finished. That sounds hyperbolic, I know, but it's not. This president is profoundly anti-democracy, profoundly dishonorable, profoundly corrupt—and profoundly fragile. He is so thin-skinned and insecure, so in need of utter adulation to fuel his ego, that he demands complete fealty. The danger is, to use one of his favored words, tremendous.
And 52 United States Senators do not care.
Is This Thing On?
Forgive me, Internet, for I have lazed: It has been over a year since my last blog post. In that time I have engaged in numerous behaviors and inner monologues that were worthy of posting about, but failed to do so. I spent my time doing other things. Unfortunate, but as we say on Earth, "c'est la vie."
There has been so much going on in the world, most of it horrible. I know y'all know what's what regarding impeachment. I don't need to go off on a screed here. I mean, I might anyway, because therapy, but you know it sucks and me spelling out the myriad ways President VonClownstick is a vile despotic turd masquerading as a human being isn't going to reveal any new information. Also, the world is on fire. Also, plastic is killing us. Also, Runaways and Cloak & Dagger were both canceled.
But I need to use this platform again. I use my side project over at grandsalami.net to talk baseball, but there's plenty to discuss here (especially in the offseason) and I should do it.
Not right now, though. And not because the State of the Union is happening right this second, I'm not watching that. I will consume all manner of analysis and reportage after the fact, but watching it live would just piss me off and run the battery down on my phaser. No, I have to go pick up my equipment and umpire a softball game now. It's 34 degrees out. Fahrenheit.
More later.No Comments yet