Dissent. Diversity. Unity.

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

in Election 2016 by

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

in Election 2016 by

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.

Reflections on Elections Past, Present, and Future: A Perspective

in Uncategorized by

Does anyone remember Tuesday, November 4, 2008?
I remember where I was. It had been a long day at school for me. I was a high school senior who was having a tough time (but that’s another story!) and had returned with my father from voting. Had I only been five months older, I would have joined him in the booth, not as an observer but as a full-fledged voter. Being that I was only seventeen and was not interested in committing voter fraud, I instead egged my father to vote after coming home from work. Because he was a doctor who was on his feet all day, it took some doing to keep him awake and drive him to City Hall to fulfill his civic duty. But he could see the passion and pleading in my voice over the phone and thankfully assented to us going together.
Five months later, after jogging together on my eighteenth birthday, he and I walked to our little town hall together so we could cast our votes—my first ever—in our local town elections. It was an occasion he and I have both cherished ever since. But this all still lay in the future. Right now it is Tuesday, November 4, 2008.
Seeing as I could not vote in any election that year, I had mostly stayed out of the election process. It was a decision I’ve personally regretted since then. The titanic struggle between Senators Clinton and Obama showed me how glorious our country and democracy could be when people of all walks of life are stirred to action by voting and donating their time, money, and hearts to a cause higher than themselves. Elections—even this one—are not devoid of the sometimes vacuous charges, aspersions, and manipulations we’ve become cynically accustomed to, but they generally leave everyone at the end with the sense that the voice of the people—those who vote anyway—have genuinely heard. Ranks close, partisanship falls, and the work of governing can fully begin.
As that evening progressed I sleepily watched the results as they played out on the television screen and a new president was ceremoniously and solemnly declared for the whole world to hear and see. Most people felt that this story could only happen to America, but I disagree with that notion, as I’ll explain later. For me, all I knew then was that tomorrow was just another day of school for me, where I would hear the story of my older friends who were able to tell me they met their constitutional duty and voted for the first time.
Seldom do moments of great historical import pass without people gauging their place as to when they heard. September 11, 2001, the JFK assassination, and the attack on Pearl Harbor are those that quickly come to mind. But there are those such as the first moon landing, the new millennium, and, yes, the election of President Barack Obama that should be proof positive that those moments need not be sad or tragic for us to indelibly etch them in our minds. How proud I am that in that sleepy state as a seventeen-year-old, I could place that moment in my heart where it shall remain for me to forever recall as long as I live.
Looking back, I am struck by a sincere sadness that that moment did not portend better things to come. The elections of 2010, the Citizens United ruling, DACA, and the worldwide economic downturn all changed my perspective from that cold and damp November day. I have voted, but with a heavy heart every time. I have participated in my share of elections, but not with the vigor I would have thought that day would have instilled in me. Perhaps I thought there was something wrong with me. I knew that I looked to my leaders, expecting their leadership on a host of issues, but I always came away feeling rather disowned by their actions. That all changed in 2014 with the help of a woman by the name of Professor Teachout.
Participating in that campaign as I did (only for the last week), I got a ground-floor view to politics that most people seldom know and that no one watching the television on election night would see. The turnout in that election, by the way: a nominal but measly ~10%. Lesson: participation counts! From there on, I worked from the tack of engaging people directly through conversation, argument, and persuasion. I can happily report that although not all the results are in, I have changed some minds, learned some key insights, and will continue on this line so long as it does not fail me!
Arriving at this year, I am struck—as all must be—by the loss of tenor and civility on both sides of the campaign. Let me just state here that although this is not a vote of endorsement or condemnation on one candidate or another, this is a vote of no confidence in our political system as it stands now. I will of course vote, as many others will, but not with the same feeling I had that first time that it will really accomplish much other than having my vote placed on record.
This may seem blasphemous to some, unpatriotic to others. However, when you come right down to it, how many among us would say that our democratic system is truly in a good state as it stands? In our post-Citizens United world, I’m with my father in the opinion that our ever-fragile democracy “is in the ICU at the moment.” The questions we must all ask ourselves is:
After this election, what are you going to do about it?
Sure, we all have our daily lives to live; we all have our problems. Nobody is asking you to give any money or time to any cause. My only plea is that you think about the alternatives to and possibilities of our political system. If you’re just like me, you won’t remember this year’s election night as fondly as I did eight years ago. But the question remains:
What are you willing to do so elections of the future don’t end this way?

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