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Election 2016

Six Months After Election 2016: A Moment’s Assessment

in Election 2016/Uncategorized by

It is hard to imagine that it has been six months since November 8, 2016. For what it’s worth, I imagine that all of us have a tale to tell for how that day went down.

Here, for your enjoyment, is mine.

The night before was a late one for me because I had an evening theology class at my college. The discussion was on Martin Luther King Jr. and the fight for civil rights. Considering this was coming only eight years after the election of 2008, the subject and the material seemed slightly off to me. We first talked about the Civil Rights Movement, but the conversation moved inexorably toward the invisible black hole that was the 2016 presidential election. Although we never speculated about who would win, we did talk about the incalculable ramifications that this election, like 2008, would have on the country and the world at-large.

Although we constantly like to think that these elections happen in a vacuum, events like the recent French presidential election should be ample evidence to show that this is not the case. In the end the entire class of six and our teacher agreed that whatever the outcome would be, it certainly would be a unique event quite unlike any election any of us had seen.

The next morning I got up shortly before 8 a.m. and went to my polling station to commit my civic duty. I had done so three times already that year; in April, in June, and in September. Each time I always made sure to note how many people were voting with me in the booths and how many had already voted by the counter in our vote-scan tabulators.

In April the number who had voted by 6 a.m. (when the polls opened) was one (me!). By June the number who had voted by 10 a.m. (when I finished my morning routine) was thirty. By September the number who had voted by 12 p.m. (after a brief lunch) was twelve. This morning the number at 8:30 was a steady 125 and rising. Unlike my last trips, a steady line was in place, with people checking into their polling site and moving to their voting booths with ease.

I could not understand why people did not vote in the same numbers on any of those primary dates just as I did now, but as I had come to observe over the past year in working for the Bernie Sanders campaign, democracy was not a right afforded to its citizens without a fight. Sadly, these questions would need to wait for another day, and I cast my vote and promptly went to the hospital.

See, my father is a doctor at a nearby hospital. When the schedule permits we usually get together for lunch and swap stories about our day so far. He tells me his stories on the ward, and I tell him about my assignments and friends at school. I was going to see him early today, though, because I badly needed a pick-me-up.

I’ve been voting since my eighteenth birthday in 2009, and my feelings after voting could be comparable to soaring under the warmth of the sun. It felt exhilarating to be participating in something people had fought and died for. I not only honored their sacrifices but also felt invested in the great experiment that is democracy. The past year had been a rude awakening, however; democracy, even one as vaulted and rarified as ours, was in a bad way. My father—having lived through a dictatorship, a coup, and numerous authoritarian regimes—perhaps could give me perspective over what I and the world had been a witness to over the last eighteen months.

After quickly going through our respective days, we soon came to the heart of the matter. I am not very good at hiding my disaffection, and my father saw right through my slumped appearance and quiet demeanor.

I told him about the unique melancholy and detachment I had felt while voting earlier in the day and the feeling that no matter who won, things had been said that could not be undone with the unambiguous will of the people tonight. Although he agreed that the campaign had been one that would be better remembered for how politics could reach for our coarser behavior, there was still much to admire about the campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and a congressional candidate whom I had also worked for earlier that month.

After the Democratic Convention in July I had worked for a time for the Clinton campaign, canvassing on the streets of Philadelphia. I suspect that I did so out of some guilt perhaps, but I also felt an urgency unlike anything I had felt before. Even then the experience felt much more canned and sterile than what I had suspected it would be. Perhaps the most difficult experience of the whole affair was to hear people repeatedly tell me (paraphrasing), “With the Electoral College, I just don’t think that my vote counts.” After spending three hours in a bus getting to Philadelphia from the safe blue state of New York, it was something that was quite ironic to hear.

Another warning sign I saw was the oft-repeated phrase, “Ahh those politicians, they’re all just crooks! Who wants to vote for them anyway!” I could not help but feel that my position as a lowly campaign volunteer was a poor one through which to explain the mechanics of our electoral politics as well as the merits of civic engagement. It was way above my pay grade.

However, persist I did, both on my own and with a wingman, either in an open dialog or in a mostly one-way conversation. Despite my best attempts and my honing and tinkering of the wording, I could tell my message was not getting through. It was not that my sincerity was in question; my heart just was not in it anymore.

After October 7 I hung up my walking shoes. I had simply had enough. The Hollywood Access video and the WikiLeaks revelations made me realize that I was dealing with forces that were beyond my ability to comprehend, let alone explain to others. The break was exactly what the doctor—or my old man!—ordered. Life and its welcome monotony and routine came back to me in a welcome flood of comfort and relaxation. The election was as far away as a foreign country across the ocean or on the other side of the moon. I had learned an important thing: everyday life is more important than any election.

For election day I planned to continue my willful ignorance by steeling myself from the wall-to-wall coverage. After running a few errands, I took the family car toward a nearby park on a river, and as the results started spilling in, I tuned in to the nearest music station. Rather than listening to commentary and the latest figures, I spent the evening on the hood of my family’s station wagon, listening to rock ‘n’ roll.

Sure, there were the occasional updates from the disc jockey, but my mind wistfully rolled the tape of the history of the world as the night wore on and the temperature plummeted. I had my own pet theories about how the night would proceed, but rather than ruminate, my mind rolled about the world much like pinballs dart about a machine, bouncing off everything they touch.

“Wow, I can’t believe my grandma lived and died without seeing the Cubs win, and now I have.”

“Nobody’s on the river tonight. Guess it’s not the weather to go boating or fishing in early November.”

“I wonder how candidate X [not Clinton or Trump] is doing? Probably losing.”

“Gosh, I better remember to get that paper handed in to my professor. He seemed insistent we hand it in on-time.”

“Man, I wish I had a telescope! The stars look really good tonight!”

“That reminds me—I better get the camera from my friend’s dad. I’m sure he done using it by now.”

After flipping through a couple of pages of the latest book I was reading and catching a few minutes shut-eye, I made my way to some civilization in the form of a twenty-four-hour diner.

It being long past the midnight hour, the place was mercifully empty and quiet. The PA system, tuned in to a slow-jazz radio station, kept me blissfully unaware of the tumultuous events ensuing in New York City. A few fellow patrons quietly munched on some late-night meals on the counter or in individual booths, and mostly alone. Most were truckers taking a break in their long trek across the nation on the way to their destination. The parking lot was lined with Mac trucks silently awaiting their pilots for the next leg of the journey.

Again, my mind wandered, thinking about the stories these men of the road could tell me if they had the strength or the time. After placing my order, I quickly took a stroll around the establishment to snoop out the trucks’ license plates. Of the six trucks out there that cold November morning, there were trucks from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Missouri. In the swing-state sweepstakes I had hit two out of six—not bad!

At roughly 2:30 a.m. I returned home. The viewing party had long since departed, and only my mother stood as a silent sentinel awaiting my return home. “Whatever happens, everything will be all right,” she cryptically told me as I hugged her. None the wiser about what was unfolding across the country. I thought nothing more about my troubles and restless mind, and I quickly drifted away.

The morning saw me awake very late after everyone had left for work or school. My class was in the evening, so I showered, dressed, and stepped out to what I thought would be a changed world.

My plan was to do as before: visit my father for lunch after doing some homework at the nearby library. The walk was a brisk eight blocks filled with the sights and sounds of a neighborhood. As I began my early morning walkabout I began to notice the profound and deafening silence I encountered as I ventured through the streets.

Don’t get me wrong: people were out and about, cars were running everywhere, and the soundtrack of city life seemed perfectly normal. But nobody spoke. There was no conversation, no smiles, no laughter, no mumbles—nothing. At the end of a simple fifteen-minute walk, I had learned more than any news article or video could ever tell me.

As if by osmosis, I had learned the outcome of the race by the sheer magnitude of the event. I recalled what joy and hope people had in their expressions, faces, and voices after 2008. It seemed now that that blissful period had tragically run out, run aground, and was torn asunder, never to return.

I unilaterally ended my media embargo at midday, just in time to listen and watch the Clinton concession and President Obama’s remarks, largely the most symbolic and final chapters to the most historic and divisive election our nation had ever known. I for one did not share in the shock many had, but the feelings of anger and despair were all too familiar by now.

Had not Bernie been actively defeated—or even sabotaged—to avoid this very situation from becoming a reality? Why, oh why had she used the word “deplorable”? How could this happen? The Electoral College again!? I had so many questions, but the worst thing was knowing that to some questions, there would never be a satisfying answer.

Since then I’ve thought long and hard about what I as a citizen did wrong to help contribute to what occurred six months ago. In fact, we all share some of the blame for what happened—not as individuals but as a part of a civilization.

One thing I can say is that people have gotten the message, and perhaps that is what good has come from this election. No longer will we see ourselves as merely pieces of life but now as parts of the fabric of society. No longer will we believe that our involvement in some action or effort is to be taken for granted or will passed on to someone else. No more will people see politics as a flavor or a sport of choice but rather as a dynamic debate. No more will people see the other side as some unintelligible group of aliens—in more ways than one—but as citizens, compatriots . . . as people.

What the long-term impact of Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be is too early to tell. But if the last six months are any indication, it goes to show how people can see the real power they have as individuals, the great strength they carry as a group, and the real value we all share as a nation. As our country’s motto aptly says: E pluribus Unum.

Out of many, one.

A Time of Great Challenge and Adversity: A Look Back at 2016

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For the last two months, I’ve been mostly muddling through the days, swimming in a sea of thoughts following our elections. While I’ve completely accepted and absorbed the consequences to these results, I’ve been racing through my mind about the many pathways and outcomes we may soon have to face.

Despite the enormous gulf that exists between us, we must not degenerate into demonizing our fellow citizens. One cannot blame people for voting the way they did. Despite what I might think about their choices, we must respect the will of the people and join together as Americans. For those who refuse to do so, I ask you to remember that no election result is permanent and those who fought you this cycle might as easily become your allies in the next election. Voters can change minds, in other words, so diminishing them for their choice is never a way to go about conducting politics.

Our feelings of frustration are better directed at the Democratic Party, the candidate herself, and the campaign she ultimately ran. While they may never admit it, the date of September 10 will always be seared in my mind as the date the election was sealed. For it was on this date that Mrs. Clinton called “half” of President-elect Trump’s voters “deplorable.” A comment so flippantly made, so carelessly delivered, with the added distinction of being prefaced with the words, “You know, to be grossly generalistic . . .” All above a little podium sign that prominently displayed in purple and white “Stronger Together.”

How could any person expect to lead a country—much less win an election—after saying such remarks as these? Any person thinking forthrightly about the qualities of leadership and governance would do well to remember the lessons of this sad episode. More was expected of the woman candidate running for president, it’s true. And some of that double standard was indeed very unfair and biased, to be sure. But I also must believe that some of those expectations were a result of the competency and experience that were her supposed calling card.

2008 should have been a clear lesson that this also was not a winning strategy with the broad electorate. To be sure, experience in governance is a good thing to have. But experience may also be predicated upon poor judgement and lead to equally bad consequences, making such qualifications as useless as choosing a novice. With anchors such as the Iraq War, the intervention in Libya and the nonintervention in Syria, one could be forgiven if the Democratic nominee had all the foreign policy hallmarks of a Republican over her opponent. Perhaps this heightened the contrasts this election year, though I doubt it.

When answering a question from a young Muslim woman in the second presidential debate about how to combat the rise of Islamophobia in our land, Trump’s response was (paraphrasing), “Radical Islamic terrorism is a problem, and Muslims should report on other Muslims about suspicious behavior, like in San Bernardino, or Orlando, Paris, or 9/11.” The Clinton response was no more comforting, if not downright vague: “Thank you for your question. I’ve heard this question many times before.” After invoking the names of Captain Kahn and Mohammed Ali and then reciting some rhetoric about the American ideal of tolerance and respect, she said, “We need our American Muslims to be part of our eyes and ears, on our front lines.” The woman later responded that the answers, other than delivery and tone, were not much different from each other in substance and meaning. Me neither.

How did we get here? That I believe is the most important question we can ask ourselves this day. While the decisions and results of the candidates and their campaigns will vex none but historians and biographers any longer, this should not mean we should easily forget what we all witnessed and endured this year.

We must earnestly look back to see how a nation of laws and norms end up nominating and electing among two of the most unpopular people in the country. Is it any wonder that turnout dropped to the level as that of 2004? Why was the media so derelict in its duty to give fair and equal representations of all candidates? Why were our great journalistic bulwarks so mistrusted on one end and so painfully slow to grasp the realities on the other? Could these not be related in any way? In the coming weeks, I’ll do my level best to review these issues one-by-one and to seek a framework to learn the hard lessons from this campaign. From this, I’ll also try to provide a window into the past to provide not only comfort but also perspective for these times.

We will soon face these challenges together, as a country should. And like it or not, all countries must overcome these great periods of challenge or else silently fall into the dust bin of history. Lately, I have searched our great volumes of history in search of any parallels in our nation for moments of great tragedy and adversity. For those who think this is the greatest test our country has faced, let me remind you of the American Civil War.

Living in the twenty-first century, few scars of that terrible conflict can be seen on the landscape or in the streets. But the frightening figures should be known to us all. Lasting nearly four years, millions of men, women and children were made casualties, orphans, or refugees from the fighting. All done in the name of southern independence, emancipation, or simple conquest, depending on one’s viewpoint. Whole families and communities were torn asunder, heroes and villains were prevalent on both sides, and to this day, evidence of its impact can be seen if one looks carefully. Battlefields are one piece of evidence, but perhaps our latest election results could also be seen as yet another.

In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Cassius at one point says, “How many ages hence, shall this our lofty scene be acted over, in states unborn and accents yet unknown?” So must we too ask this question about our current state of affairs, here and the world over. I look forward to having this conversation with you and finding out from the journey ahead. We might not see the fruits of our labors, but let us begin.

 

Stop the Corporate Democrat Lie: Progressives Must Refuse to Concede the Narrative

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Here’s the story and we’re sticking to it. Because it’s true:

The Democratic Party colluded with the Clinton campaign to elevate Clinton and to suffocate Bernie Sanders’s exploding grassroots campaign for the party’s nominee for president. And if they had not, Bernie Sanders would likely now be our president-elect instead of Donald Trump, and Democrats would likely have a majority in both the House and the Senate.

As we all reel from the shock of Trump’s election as president of the United States, we ask: How did this happen?

The Democratic Party. They did this. They did it to themselves. They did it to their country. They did it to the world.

Despite the fact that Clinton had decades of problematic baggage and was, at best, a weak candidate and that her candidacy only continued to weaken as more information came to light about her and her inner circle.

Despite the fact that Bernie Sanders polled as one of the most popular, well-liked, and trusted politicians in modern history and consistently held double-digits predicted leads over all Republican primary candidates, including Trump, far outpacing Clinton.

Despite the fact that thousands of Sanders’s supporters warned the DNC and all its establishment superdelegates that coronating Clinton would result in a Trump presidency and the loss of critical down-ballot races.

Despite all this, the Democratic Party machine closed ranks, pushed aside and silenced Sanders supporters, and elevated an unelectable candidate as their nominee when we could have had a landslide candidate.

We’d like to think that this loss will be the Democratic Party’s come-to-Jesus moment. That after they did everything in their power, including dictating the mainstream media narrative for both candidates, perhaps the Democratic Party will see the error of their ways now that, as Sanders’s supporters predicted, Trump has defeated Clinton.

But don’t count on that happening.

People in power like to stay in power. And admitting that their very occupation of that power is their—and America’s—downfall would mean that they would have to willingly, for the good of all, give up that power. And they’re not going to do that.

Instead, the Democratic Party elites will try to take control of and distort the narrative.

They will blame third-party candidates—in particular, the Green Party’s Jill Stein—for “stealing” the votes from Clinton, implying that if Stein had not been on the ticket, then all those votes would have gone to Clinton.

In fact, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman started spinning the lie immediately, tweeting, “Btw, Jill Stein managed to play Ralph Nader. Without her Florida might have been saved.” Regardless that even assuming that EVERY Green voter in Florida—people who are disgusted with the corporate oligarchy and moral equivocation that are Clinton’s hallmarks—had voted for Clinton, Stein’s 63,156 Florida votes wouldn’t have come close to closing the 131,695-vote gap between Trump and Clinton in the Sunshine State.

But let’s also remember that those voters chose third-party alternatives precisely because they’re sick and tired of dynastic politics that recycle the same myopia of policy possibilities—none of which offers the majority of Americans any real relief from the economic pressures our rigged economy puts on everyday people or seriously addresses the crises our world faces.

(By the way, the whole Nader-caused-Gore’s-loss-in-2000 narrative? That’s a myth, easily debunked here and here and here, among many other places. Do your homework before trying to rehash that one.)

Or perhaps Democratic Party loyalists will blame the media for amplifying Trump’s every move, for making him the focal point of the entire primary and general election. And they will do that while ignoring their own role in coordinating with the media to promote Clinton and dismiss Sanders during the primary. They will make the mainstream media take the downfall even as they played that same media like puppets during the primary.

Or they will blame James Comey and the FBI, the same James Comey they lionized back in July when he came under attack for absolving Clinton of any criminal charges as a result of her choice to use a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

They will blame the Russians. WikiLeaks. Millennials. Minorities, even (just watch, someone will do it). And, of course, they will blame Bernie Sanders.

They will blame everyone but themselves. They will refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and thus, they will continue to make decisions based on hubris and outdated perceptions of U.S. and global dynamics. And they will do so at the expense of the American people and the world.

If we let them.

So we must not let them take control of the narrative. When they engage in their roulette wheel of a blame-game, shut it down. Give the facts. Don’t let them off the hook.

We cannot take back our country, create a just economy, fight discrimination, and take aggressive steps to address climate change until we clean out the Democratic Party.

And we do that by telling the truth.

Revolution by Numbers: 4, 46, 29, 270, 101, 2020

in Election 2016 by

4

Today is four days from the 2016 election. I’m exhausted. I worked tirelessly campaigning for Bernie Sanders’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination, all the while feeling frustrated as I watched the media cycle through ignoring him, dismissing his candidacy (and, by extension, his supporters), and creating an insulting a false narrative about his supporters as either young, naïve, entitled brats or misogynistic “Bernie Bros.” I worked day in and day out with men and women from all ages and races—most of whom were older and retired—to overcome the Clinton–DNC–mainstream media machine to get our progressive issues and candidate a fair hearing.

Since the Democratic National Convention, I’ve worked for local progressive candidates while avoiding conversations about whether I will vote for Clinton. Partly because I’ve vacillated on the question; partly because no matter what I answer, I have friends who will rail against my decision; and partly because I live in New York, which will go blue and thus all its votes will go to Clinton regardless of who I vote for so it’s silly to care whether I will vote for her.

But I am so tired of this presidential election.

 

46

As we all know, Bernie Sanders didn’t win the Democratic nomination for president. But despite the monumental crony-party-corporatist forces against him and, by extension, his supporters, Bernie Sanders won 46% of the delegates. Imagine what we could have done if the DNC had actually been neutral and the media had treated Sanders like a possibly viable candidate—which, particularly after tying the first primary and taking a landslide win in the second, is what he was.

 

29

Today we are on Day 29 of the WikiLeaks Podesta email dump. I don’t care about Clinton’s damn emails. I care about Podesta’s.

Because what we knew was happening but couldn’t prove is now prove-able. It’s now painfully obvious that the DNC was not neutral—not even close. It’s now clear beyond a doubt that the Democratic establishment is corrupt, insular, and infinitely arrogant. And to me, a vote for Clinton is a vote for what they did and what they’ve become. Even if (as is possible in NY) I were to vote for Clinton on the Working Families Party line, I cannot in any way send the message that I see Clinton’s route to power as acceptable.

And before you start screaming “BUT TRUMP! BUT TRUMP!!!!”—I also want Trump to lose. And I know that Clinton is the only candidate on the ballot capable of defeating him—because that’s the way we’ve set up our electoral system and because the media largely silences parties other than the Republicans and Democrats. But even though, yes, I’d prefer a Clinton presidency over a Trump presidency, I don’t want a Clinton presidency.

Some (including people who were Sanders supporters) say we need to give Clinton a landslide victory to send the message that hate is not okay. But do we really think a landslide victory will make Trump supporters see the error of their racist, sexist ways? Really? And what’s the point of sending a message to people who aren’t in power?

We need to send a message to the people who hold the power.

So I don’t want a landslide victory for Clinton because I DON’T want her and all the DNC cronies who colluded to crush Sanders’s candidacy to think they have a mandate, to think they can do what they did again and get away with it.

 

270

I want Clinton to get 270 electoral votes—AND THAT’S IT.

I want her and the corrupt machine that put her there to know that she BARELY got that presidency and she ONLY got it because her main opponent was raping, racist, ignorant oompa loompa. (I originally wrote orangutan there, but I changed it because I actually really like orangutans.)

I want Clinton to see that this country is on the verge of tearing itself apart—and a huge reason for that is the neoliberal, corporatist policies that have ruled our nation for decades.

I want Clinton and all the corporatist Democrats to see that maintaining the status quo, that touting continued meaningless incrementalism will only make that discord worse—that our leaders need to make real, substantial changes that truly help the people of this country and, indeed, this world.

I want her and her horde of cronies to know that if they want a second term, then they need to institute the kind of progressive reform that is desperately needed, starting with getting money out of politics—and untethering herself and the other machine Democrats from their corporate benefactors.

 

101

And if in her first 100 days we don’t see evidence that she has gotten the message and is ready to follow the winds of change rather than fight against them, then on that 101st day, we—progressive activists across the country—need to start looking for an exceptional and strong candidate to primary her in 2020.

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