Tag: president

Understanding the State of the Union

Tumultuous times, indeed.  America’s political parties are both under a heavy state of duress, with non-establishment candidates shaping the narrative of this election cycle.  As of this writing almost eleven million people have voted for Donald J. Trump in the Republican primary, which has resulted in him being the presumptive nominee.  Bernie Sanders, while not appearing to be in a position to win, has created far more noise than anyone had anticipated.  As of this writing around nine million people have voted for him in the Democratic primary.

While the popular vote totals are rarely referenced or brought up in America (since they technically don’t count; that’s another conversation for another time), I feel they are very important in order to provide some context to what is happening in this country right now.

Obviously, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are extremely dissimilar candidates, philosophically.  Sanders self-identifies as a democratic socialist, while Trump is a wild card that appears to be aligning with most traditional Republican positions.  However, one common thread they share, as I’ve discussed here before, is that they’re both anti-establishment.  Their existence and success is based completely on the fact that large portions of their respective parties have had enough of the status quo, for varying reasons.

Now, it’s real easy for people on any side to belittle supporters of either candidate.  In Trump’s case, his nativist slant and acerbic, acidic discourse doesn’t bode well for someone who’s supposed to be considered the Leader of the Free World.  Regarding Sanders, it’s easy to point out that a number of his stated goals are extremely unlikely to occur in an American governmental system that is engineered to resist drastic change, by design.

For supporters of both, there’s a large backlash that is trying to tell them they’re crazy, that they’re supporting a candidate that can’t deliver what they’re promising.  They’re being told that they’re not seeing the bigger picture, that they’re not considering all the issues, that they’re not understanding why they’re wrong.

The point I think we need to understand is this: more than twenty million people have case a primary ballot for a non-establishment candidate, and we’re not finished.  That is a significant number of people; it’s more than 40% of people who cast a primary vote among both parties.

Whether anyone likes it or not, at least twenty million people are fed the fuck up with something.  Whether it’s immigrants, corporate welfare, regressive trade policies, or punitive tuition cost, people are pissed.  More people are pissed than there has been in quite a long time.

All this anger and resentment didn’t come out of nowhere.  There’s a great number of reasons for it, mainly because there are a great number of reasons for the anger and resentment.  Corporate hegemony, an inconsistent and weak economy, the continuing regression of the middle class caused by middling wages and rising costs of living, the overall corruption of our government (and how obvious it is at this point).  Lots of these causes have simmered and boiled over the last few decades, and now we’re at a point where shit happens.

This is the bed we made.  This is the country we live in.  This should not be surprising.

If your national media is allowed to focus its efforts on what’s good for money instead on what’s good for news, what you get is a national media that doesn’t inform the public sufficiently, or at worst misinforms the public with outright lies or out-of-context facts that are meaningless.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We ate it up and asked for more.

If we don’t speak up when the banks are allowed to buy each other and become too big to fail, then we run the risk of those banks making bad deals and needing a bailout.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We gave them that money and hoped they won’t do it again.

If we thought it was wrong for our government to lie to us so they could rationalize a war, we could have said something, demanded an impeachment, demanded to hold those responsible culpable.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We sent our sons and daughters and hoped it would be worth it.

If we thought that politicians and government officials were corrupt, we could have said something.  We could demand term limits, we could disallow corporate donations to campaigns.  We could have cared, but we didn’t.  We watched our government become bought, and hoped it would work out.

Now, we’re caring.  All this fire and anger is good for us.  There’s arguments about whether the outcome of all this is going to be positive, but I have some faith.  And I don’t have faith in much.

The good news is that throughout history, when people finally get pissed and passionate about politics, things change.  Either we get so angry that we revolt, or the systems will change to serve the new demands.  One thing is certain: something will change.  It’s usually for the better, in the end.

I feel like I need to make a note and underline it here: I am not supporting Trump as President.  My primary vote went to Bernie Sanders, and my general election vote will likely go to Hillary Clinton.  In a lot of contexts though, it won’t matter who’s President.  The principal issues with our country and our economy are beyond the President’s power anyways.  The Senate and the House, however, will react, and whoever the President is will too.  They’ll have to.

The long-standing pillars of our democracy, the Democrat and Republican parties, will change.  To resist it is to invite death; that is a universal truth that cannot be avoided.  People have spoken, they will continue to speak until they are made whole.

As crazy and weird as it looks right now, this is democracy in action.

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It’s everyone’s fault.

I’ve thought and written about the regressing, reductive nature of American social and political conversation a lot.  I think it’s one of the central problems with the country; not only are there many people who don’t vote at all, but there’s a huge lack of research and a large surplus of misinformation.  It’s too easy to get a framed talking point embedded in your brain, to be oblivious to either it’s insignificance in the grand scheme of things or to be straight-up lied to.  It’s a sound-bite society, and when it comes to the important shit, that’s real dangerous.

The recent developments of the Republican party (or what’s left of it) have highlighted this problem.  There have now been enough people who have actually cast votes for Donald Trump where he is the presumptive nominee for the GOP in this upcoming election.  But there’s so much more wrong with this, and it has little to do with Trump himself, in my eyes.

Trump’s not a unique snowflake.  There have been candidates like him before; full of bluster, positioning themselves as the “outsider,” keeping their message basic and easily digestable.  Most of the time, primary voters (who tend to be slightly more discerning than general election voters) will weed these types out long before they start winning states and delegates.  For better or worse, the system is set up that way for that reason; any political party will want guys they like as the main choices, and tenets such as tradition will keep many voters from straying too far off of the reservation.

What has made Trump different is the specific manner in which he is presenting his issues, and the issues he’s presenting in the first place.  He has fostered a political climate that is friendly to xenophobia and nativism.  He has taken the Overton Window and ripped open the side of it.  This has tapped into an anger and resentment that a portion of the GOP has hidden or obfuscated for a long time.  That, coupled with frustration with a black president and the ineffectual status quo of the GOP candidate pool, has allowed this orange monster to manifest itself.

It’s fun to say the GOP made this bed and now has to lie in it, but that’s too easy, and a pretty lazy argument.

It doesn’t take a long look at the other side of party lines to see practically the same thing happening.  There’s a few key differences which will likely make the outcome different, but it’s similarities are striking.

(Disclaimer: I am not comparing Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump; the only two things they have in common are that they’re not establishment candidates and they both share disdain for international trade agreements.  Past that, they’re almost completely opposite.)

Bernard Sanders is a similar anti-establishment candidate, but his campaign has been much more “standard” than Trump’s.  Sanders’ path to victory involved reshaping the Democratic party into one that will accept him.  Trump’s path to victory just involved smashing bugs until there were none left.

The primary difference in the outcomes of their prospective campaigns is Hillary Clinton.  Sanders will not likely win the nomination simply because his opponent is a far more accomplished, experienced, and prepared candidate than anyone Trump had to face.  If there were a long-time Republican stalwart running against Trump, his outcome would likely be far different; instead, he got to slice through a relatively cream-puff schedule of first-timers, has-beens, zealots, and John Kasich.  None of them come close to the name recognition, experience, or party loyalty than HRC.

There’s thousands of words to go around here regarding the possibilities of these races (at least of what’s left of them), but the important factor to take from it all is this: shit’s changing.  Shit’s changing a lot.  Both parties have had enough unrest that establishment-unfriendly candidates went very, very far in these primaries.  One looks like he’ll win, the other has come far closer than anyone would have ever guessed.

People are fucking angry, is what I’m trying to say.  They’re angry enough to leave the cocoons of party politics and find candidates that invigorate them.  They’re angry enough to refuse to look inside the box, because inside the box hasn’t worked for them well enough.  In some cases (the death of the middle class, trade agreements that are good for business/bad for people, questionable foreign policy decisions) these angry masses have a point.  In some cases (xenophobia, nativism) they don’t.  But none of it matters if they remain angry.

If they remain angry and impassioned, shit will change.  It simply has to.  There is nothing more terrifying to a government than a mobilization of angry masses, mainly because that’s what gets them killed/removed from power/otherwise marginalized.  This isn’t conjecture, this is history that has repeated itself forever.

And we can’t just point at the GOP and go “WOW THEY FUCKED THIS UP.”  This became fucked up.  Everyone is involved, everyone is responsible.  Anyone can say what they want about Trump’s racists or Sanders’ comrades, they are people who believe in their action and support for their candidate.  They didn’t wake up and go “fuck the police.”  They feel cheated, they feel abandoned, they feel unrepresented.

Yeah, I gave that word the italics, the bold, and the underline treatment.  That word should evoke the last time people in America felt unrepresented.  We threw a bunch of tea into the ocean, then there was a big war that created our country.

I can’t keep up with this primary cycle.

It’s too much.  We’ve become such a polarized, combative, ignorant, and hateful nation of dickholes.  No one thinks anymore.  Everyone jumps to the conclusion they want to jump to, and stubbornly clings to the narrative they made up in their head (or read on a Facebook meme during breakfast a week ago).  Everyone loves to make cute comparisons to horrible things for effect, then end up believing their own hyperbolic garbage.

All sides are guilty of this.  No one is exempt.  This isn’t a “Trump voter” thing, or a “stupid liberal” thing.  This is an “entire country” thing.  We are all this dumb.

We are now getting the political leaders we deserve.

One is an obstinate, hyper-religious zealot who is probably the most hated politician in the country, at least by other politicians.  He’s getting votes mainly because he’s the most aggressively Christian candidate, and being that will always gain a good chunk of votes in America.

Another is a long-term independent running in the Democratic party, and it shows.  His policies are more socialist and challenge a large concentrated power base in the country (banks, billionaires), but he’s made the mistake of using the actual words “socialist” and “revolution”.  Even though this country is 60 years removed from the last Red Scare and 15 years removed from the end of the Cold War, those two words are still frightening to many.

Yet another is one of the most establishment-approved candidates in political history, despite the fact that she would be the first woman president.  She’s tried to maintain a message that paints her presidency as something new based on the fact that she’s a woman, but in reality her politics line up perfectly with two of the last three presidents, and her overarching economic and foreign policy aligns with the interests that have shaped our country for the last 40-60 years.

Finally, there is a reality television star who can’t stop telling us how rich he is.  He has stated and supported multiple nativist and xenophobic policies, and has replied to almost any question asking about specific policy with some form of “it’s going to be great.”  We spent a week talking about his dick.  He speaks to us like we’re fifth-graders, because we are.  He’s a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

This is it, everyone.  This is the part of the history book where there’s a new heading called “Peak and Descent.”  We have one of the most extravagant standards of living in human history, but it’s spoiled us so much that now we’re electing our political leaders by opening cereal boxes and hoping the prize is a toy.

America is fucking great.  And we’re fucking it up.

It’s Not Funny Anymore

Trump was a punchline only a few months ago.  Yeah, he had some polling numbers, but those didn’t really mean anything until people actually went and checked the box next to his name on a real voting ballot.  Yeah, the rest of the GOP field didn’t seem particularly strong, with a lot of flawed candidates and no clear favorite.  Yeah, at best Trump would get a wave of popularity (which is all he wanted, right?), he’d die off as one of the real politicians grabbed the reins, and he’d retreat back to wherever he would retreat to.  Probably off to fire somebody.

Instead, he’s now likely to win the Republican nomination with a delegate majority.  Donald Trump, Republican Nominee for President of the United States is very quickly becoming a reality.  It’s actually happening.

There’s little to say about it, so I won’t say much more.  It’s ludicrous this would happen, it seems a little obvious it would eventually in hindsight.  I’d rather talk about the implications this has on the public conversation, as that’s far more important.

I already blogged a tiny bit on this a few months ago, back in more innocent times.  There I wrote about how both Sanders and Trump were making their marks regardless of whatever success or failure they met in the primaries; they were both pushing populist messages that normally weren’t given voice in the mainstream media or the national political conversation.  That has absolutely continued, but there’s a key difference.

In Sanders, the long-silenced voice of the middle class, unions, and progressive reform has taken rise again.  His ideas and policies are largely derived from Roosevelt-ian doctrine (both Teddy and Franklin Delano) and the pragmatic progressive postures of northern European countries.  Sanders has tried to show us what America could be.

Trump, however, has given voice to a much uglier part of our past, or what we thought was our past.  He has peeled back the scab to show that the sore is still present.  Racism, xenophobia, and nativism have long thought to be dying, or at least on a steady march to the grave (though we still have a long way to go).  Instead, this base has been invigorated and mobilized behind the snake-est of snake-oil salesmen (it’s actually not hard to picture Trump as a figure in the late 1800s, lamenting the loss of the Civil War and doing his best to keep the roots of white supremacy planted firm).  Trump has shown us what America still is, and will still be for quite some time.

Here’s the thing: let’s assume Trump doesn’t win the presidency, if only for our own sanity’s sake.  Whether he loses the primary or the general election, there’s a key point to remember: his supporters aren’t going to go away.  They’re not going to go back to keeping their racist, xenophobic, nativist thoughts to themselves.  Trump has shown them that saying what you want (no matter what) is a virtue, even if what you want is reprehensible and unacceptable to most of rational, educated society.  The toothpaste is out of the tube.


 

In writing about politics here, I’ve tried very hard to remain objective and bipartisan, or at least the best I can be.  Obviously I’m a liberal, obviously I’m voting Democrat.  I’m done acting like I’m bipartisan, just to be nice.  The other side has stopped trying to be civil.  Violence and threats of violence have been common around Trump rallies and supporters, and I suspect it will only get worse with every passing speech or event.

We may reach a boiling pitch where Trump fails to get a majority of delegates (but is close), and the GOP sheepishly gives him the nomination in the face of a full-on, for-real violent revolt.  We may reach a time where Trump or Trump’s supporters crash Hillary’s or Bernie’s events, spreading the violence and unrest to the entire campaign.  We may reach a point where there are threats of violence (or worse, violence) at voting booths in November.  We may reach the point where he wins, and America officially becomes the laughingstock of the world, a great yet bleeding empire who has willingly handed the controls to a disingenuous sociopath who was only really in it for the Twitter followers anyways.

Or Trump loses, but his legacy remains.  Where his candidacy once lived, what remains are his fervent supporters, now angry that their avatar was vanquished.  But now they’re no longer afraid to shout their feelings from the rooftops.  They’re proud of their bigotry and intolerance now, so so proud because Mr. Trump showed them that it’s OK to talk about it.  It’s OK to exclude an entire religion from the entire country, while crying for the “religious freedom” to refuse service to people who don’t make fuck like you want them to.  It’s OK to destroy one of the great tenets of our country’s credo by building a wall next to an allied country.  It’s OK to just “bomb the shit out of them”, regardless of whether you’ve ever met “them”, or whether “them” has ever done anything to you, or whoever’s kids have to die fighting “them”.  It’s even OK to kill “them’s” family in the name of feeling more safe in a country that is actually very, very safe.

I’m not going to hold my tongue about it anymore, or be cute and pretend I’m bipartisan.  I’m not.  Especially in this election, where we have what we have.  I’m already accepting a Trump win in the primary, I honestly believe it will happen now.

So, while I lose no sleep over this whatsoever because not a single person I know in real life is a Trump vote, I’m going to say it anyways, if only to get it into print so I feel better.

A vote for Donald J. Trump is a vote for anarchy.  It is a vote against not just “everyone’s” self-interests, but your own.  It is a vote that is only born out of a negative quality; only ignorance, idiocy, or hatred leads to a vote for Trump.  He is a used-car salesman selling you a pinto with a fresh coat of paint.  He is a blackjack dealer, only dealing a game where he knows he will win.  He is the embodiment of everything wrong with America, and it’s incredibly saddening and disappointing to me that a significant part of our voting population is ignorant, stupid, or hateful enough to check the box next to his name.

If you’re reading this, and you honestly feel Donald Trump deserves your vote, I implore you, look within yourself.  Ask yourself why a shady billionaire with no political experience has any chance to do anything good for your country.  Ask yourself if you want a president who is a known misogynist.  Ask yourself if you want a president who has received a Stone Cold Stunner.  Ask yourself if a man who likes his steak well-done is deserving of sitting in the Oval Office.

If you still think Trump is the answer, then I don’t know what you say to you.  You’re either ignorant, stupid, or hateful.  And you’re proud of it.

“The Establishment Has Failed”, or “What Happens When Government Stops Serving The Majority”

trumpsanders
No matter what part of the political spectrum you lie on, there is a scary candidate on the other side.  Republicans are frightened of the potential of a “socialist” Sanders presidency (and that “socialist” label is being applied to Clinton as well, to a lesser extent).  Democrats are wringing their hands at the momentum Trump appears to have.

While Sanders and Trump are as close to diametrically opposed as can be philosophically, they do share one common trait: they are populist, non-establishment candidates.  Trump brings far more consternation among Republicans than Sanders does among Democrats, but neither are the preferred candidate of either party.  Trump threatens to splinter the GOP, while the DNC has more subtle fears about Sanders, mainly the concern that he is too far left and will turn off centrist voters (which are the key to winning anything).  Both of them are getting their funding from nontraditional sources (Sanders by a large volume of small donors and unions, Trump from his own coffers), and both are appealing on a populist platform.

This shouldn’t be surprising.  The success of both candidates points to a rising tide of dissatisfaction with either political establishment.  While it may be shocking to see this on both sides at this time, to me this was a situation that was inevitable.

This is what happens when the majority of the country (re: middle class and lower) have not been served properly by the government for decades.

This is what happens when both political establishments have sold out (pardon the cliched term) to corporate interests.

This is what happens when the decay of the majority is so apparent that people turn to relatively extreme candidates and their ideologies.

The most ardent Sanders or Trump supporters share that same thought process: the establishments have failed us, we must look elsewhere for help.  The perceived failures, possible solutions, “radical” ideologies, and the candidates themselves are obviously different depending on which side you ask, but the resentment and dissatisfaction is of the same stripe: Washington has failed the American people, and enough is enough.

For the Democratic party, this is less of a concern for a variety of reasons.  The current establishment candidate is a strong household name, and Sanders’ success hasn’t been enough to carry him to a clear victory (and most sober predictive measures don’t show him as a real threat anymore).  While Sanders’ success is still going to provide a lasting effect even without a win (in that his ideals are now exposed and talked about in political analysis), the fact that he simply won’t win doesn’t threaten the Democratic party to a great extent.  The largest consequence of his success is the fact that it’s very obvious that the younger generation of Democrats and liberals largely share his ideals, and this is something that needs to be accounted for as they get older.

The GOP, on the other hand, may be heading for a fracture of immense proportions.  Trump’s success, now some of it in hindsight, is rather obvious to trace.  He is tapping into a portion of conservatives that share his somewhat-to-obvious xenophobic proposals, and are also dissatisfied with recent establishment results.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Trump appears to have appeared at the “perfect” time, where there is no clear opponent.  There’s no one with the cache of Hillary Clinton on the Republican side to oppose Trump.  The GOP’s initial establishment candidate, Jeb Bush, has already been ousted from contention, and the newly-crowned Marco Rubio has yet to win a state.  Some would think lining up behind Ted Cruz would be the obvious play for the GOP, but they dislike him almost as much as they do Trump, so they chose to back Rubio.

 


Both sides have themselves to blame.  Income inequality has been rising steadily for over four decades now; it was only a matter of time before people took notice.  Corporations now exert their power over our government with impunity.  While I wouldn’t call this a “revolution” by any standard (you’d need a lot more voter turnout to consider that term), it may be the beginning of one.  It may be the first wave of a sustained storm that may reshape American politics as we know it.

Will the establishments adjust to this development?  Will our government realign their priorities to serve the majority once more?  Will all this culminate into a splintering of parties, resulting in a four-or-five-or-six-party system?

Well, who the hell knows.  Right now we have a self-labeled socialist and a reality TV star in our primaries.