Category Archives: Politics

“Your President”

During the first presidential debate, Donald Trump, a candidate for the office of the President of United States of America, referred multiple times to Barack Obama as “your president” when speaking to Hillary Clinton. The sentiment is not a new one nor one that has not been heard a number of times before. 1

Speaking anecdotally, a number of my near and less-near relatives will often and rather emphatically refer to Obama in ways that are equal parts in poor taste and emblematic of an attitude that has pervaded the republican party and perhaps the nation at large. This attitude has extended to a recent rash of would-be democratic voters withholding their vote from Hillary on the grounds that she is not “their” candidate, as if they can really stake any sort of ownership to any candidate, who are themselves people with ideas sure to diverge, at least in one or two ways, from the voting population at large.

In the latter instance, the condition afflicting former Bernie Sanders’ supporters 2 is something that has crippled the Democratic party’s attempt to swing back to normalcy, with a disenfranchised left emerging from the primaries rubbed raw by rhetoric characterized by dismissiveness if not vitriol—both sides determined to spike the ball in the end-zone as sure as victory was assured and contradictorily assuming everything would fall into place with the result decided.

Having buried the lede, the purpose of this post is not to harp or impose voting standards or criterion on anyone. 3

If there is one thing that has been made more clear by the nature of this past election cycle, it is the dangers of political rhetoric. These dangers are manifold. Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous on one level in the manner of a promise, or a threat – the first sort of danger comes through not in what he is saying but the promise that those words will birth actions that live up to the violence of the threat and its delivery. This danger is potential energy, and it is the kind that can be avoided. 4

The second kind of danger is the danger rhetoric subtly evokes in people, the ways in which lies can give way to genuine belief. This danger’s edge is almost too keen to feel at first, yet is in many ways as real as the former. While the one is the hypothetical danger of the concretely horrific, the latter is the inevitable danger of something that already fucking happened. The damage of Trump’s policies is a specter haunting us from November, but the real damage of his campaign’s rhetoric has already been felt.

Anecdotal claims catch a lot of flak, and deservedly so. Anecdotes can be used as shields against broader systemic issues that people would rather ignore. 5 These sorts of claims abound in any instances where groups are involved, and often use the experiences of individuals to prop up systems. That shit is a fallacy, and is terrible. I am going to use an anecdote here, but I think it is a bit different:

Dujie and I have been blogging off and on for a while, and we do not have a huge readership. His interest in politics is real, and he brings real knowledge to the table in his discussion of it. My opinions towards politics tend to latch themselves more to the atmosphere surrounding elections than the practicalities of their results. I live that atmosphere, but, like many, can only guess at policies’ results using the tools for research available to me (which I should use more, and more intelligently, as should everybody) and intuition (which I should use less).

The nature of this election has been good for readership. There is a lot of content out there, but there is also a healthy appetite for that content – urgency is high. When we publish something, more people have read it, and more people come commenting, and messaging. As, our leanings are pretty clear, there have been a number of Trump supporters who have come commenting, which we welcome despite our differences. Trump supporters are the people who are done the greatest disservice by his rhetoric. Trump’s primary appeal—and the structure from which his arguments begin—is similar to how marketers sell products. He begins by identifying an issue with you, a problem with yourself. He is not specific, but speaks broadly as one would when writing a horoscope or selling wrinkle cream or zinc supplements at whole foods. 6 Person becomes people. People becomes country. We are a nation of the afflicted, and he is our cure. 7

Donald Trump’s rhetoric presupposes inadequacies in human beings and paints the causes for those inadequacies on the faces of people who are different. When you see people with special needs, people who are old, poor, and too young to know any better, casting hate speech into the shitstorm that is social media, you can see the damage the past year has already done – damage that lives independently from policy. Politicians now will say anything to get elected, but freedom of speech is not only a right, it is a privilege, and if there is an appeal to this post that appeal is to exercise that privilege with the dignity it should be afforded. Donald Trump’s words have already made America a worse place and the hate speech he preaches (that for him, might be a fiction) has already become the reality for those he has targeted.

He has found supporters with gaps in their lives, those with wounded pride, those who have lost loved ones, those who are despondent with their lots in life. He has taken their collective agony and loss and made it something universal to soften the blow – ‘the problem isn’t with you,’ he says, ‘it is with the country. The problem is you are being wronged, the tragedy and loss and hopelessness you feel isn’t your tragedy, its everybody’s, and that tragedy has a cause with the face of Barack Obama.’ He has used the vacuum left by sadness, hopelessness and fear and filled people’s souls with hate.

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Trump is currently running for the office of President of the United States. He also repeatedly denies that Barack Obama is his President. Let’s talk about the dangers of refusing ownership and the rhetorical fuckery at play when a presidential candidate consistently uses the term “your president” when describing the sitting president.

I have always been leery of people who take to the “respect the office” argument in these sorts of discussions as if those words brokered no discussion and were somehow an end-all, be-all to how one should speak of or consider the sitting president. I think looking to the protests being made in relation to the anthem-as-metaphor for national respect are a good analogy here. The office of the president is significant to citizens of the country, it being the unquestionably highest elected office in the nation, and the only one to carry with it symbolic significance equal to or exceeding its practical equivalence. If respect is indeed earned as the cultural idioms of our parents’ would suggest, it seems that the office of the president is, if anything, something imbued with meaning worthy of respect only in the hands of the right individual. This is likely what many people mean when they say “your president,” they are expressing that the values of the current president are not in keeping with their own and are disowning him as such.

Unfortunately, this attitude strays from a simple lack of respect for the man in presidential office by rhetorically constructing an alternate universe implying that Republican voters have been living in a state erected against their choosing, presided over by a dictator – an outsider – foisted to power on the backs of an unknowable other. This premise rests on the fiction that democracy can be uncompromising, and it supplies a notion of foreign-ness to the “other side” who becomes somehow less American for doing what they thought was best for the country’s welfare.

The birther myth is the bedrock to this dreamscape, offering an out-clause for a vocal minority who once cried “respect the office!” in indignation when criticism was lofted at George W. Bush’s decisions and policies. The “not MY president” rhetoric harmonizes beautifully with the birther myth, forming a symphony of bigotry filling the ears of a vocal white minority, discarded relics of our country’s worst years, with Donald Trump taking his place at the head of the orchestra. The ideas are not new ideas, but Trump’s shamelessness lends renewed boldness to organizations and people who have seen the world changing and felt the hatred that was their voice become shriller and lonelier as history 8 continues to leave them behind. In its best case, Trump’s candidacy is the death wail of a once-dangerous animal rendered toothless in its senescence; at worst, it is a rabid thing, infecting a younger generation and perpetuating itself into the future.

When you consider the birther myth and “not MY president” rhetoric side by side, “respect the office” gets complicated. The same people who once admonished others to respect the office of the president can now turn around and insinuate that the sitting president is a foreigner legally disqualified for the presidency. Taking this as truth 9 the “not my president” line moves from an expression of dissent 10 to something starkly literal, an assertion that the sitting president is a foreign dictator 11 in a country of which the utterer no longer considers themselves a part. I mean, if the President of the United States isn’t your President, how American can you really be?

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Word games aside, it is time to get in on that fearmongering game. Monday’s debate concluded with an interesting question, one that is emblematic of this election cycle at large:

One of you will not win this election,” said the moderator, Lester Holt. “Are you willing to accept the outcome as the will of the voters?”

Think about this. In a presidential election in the United States of America, a country which has held 44 presidential elections, a debate moderator trembles and asks the two individuals running for office, whether or not they will accept the outcomes as the will of the voters. This is the stage divisiveness has set for us. The Trump campaign and the arguments that birthed it are an agent sowing seeds of distrust and granting validation to the most paranoid and conspiratorial aspects of a population looking for someone to blame. In so doing, the reputation of the presidential office has already been dismissed as selective. In a world of “Your President” and “My President” the states cease being united, and that’s where we are today. It’s fucked.

The result of this attitude is a competitive, political divisiveness, that values winning and strength as virtues and not means to the betterment of the country as a whole. This attitude is too often carried to the extent that failure in the country is lauded by the opposition, if for no other reason than being an opportunity to hang points on an imaginary scoreboard with Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other. If the country is failing, it’s your fault too. If you are a citizen of the United States, Barack Obama is your sitting president. If you are running for the office of President of the United States, Barack Obama is your sitting president. If you are failing to confirm a Supreme Court Justice, you are working to directly undermine one of the 3 pillars of the US government, the government that people pay you to serve. Rooting for the president to fail doesn’t make you a patriot, it makes you an idiot. You fucking live here too.

Tahat Takes: Kaeperknickers in a twist and the milquetoast Seahawks

Full disclosure: up until a few weeks ago. I didn’t care for Colin Kaepernick. I hadn’t thought about him in a hot minute mostly. And at the height of his powers, I projected my dislike for the 49ers and Pleated-pants Jim “McHandshove” Harbaugh and thought Kapernick arrogant, overrated, and self-centered.

I was the guy who gleefully posted the differences between Kap and Dangeruss’ Instagram on your timeline.

I was a PETTY AF sports fan.

I made him a character acting out a role in the theatre of the NFL.1

I was wrong. Colin Kaepernick is a full person containing multitudes and deserves all the respect I can afford—and that’s before he sat down during the national anthem and demonstrated that he has a curious, working mind engaged in one of the most challenging national issues of our time.

I’ve never bought an NFL jersey in my life, but if I do it’s gonna be Kaepernick’s2.

Some would delegitimize Kap’s efforts by saying he’s rich and doesn’t “have a plan.” But his wealth doesn’t make him less Black nor are protests required to “have a plan” to be on the right side of history.

There’s also a notion floating around that Kap is doing some sort of activism lite, and that he hasn’t achieved much of anything. But he has created space for a conversation in a league that isn’t interested in having this conversation despite the fact that it’s good for business.3 That’s a BFD.4

Enter the Seahawks.

Last week, Doug Baldwin spoke up, promising that the whole team would do some sort of demonstration of solidarity. I, for one, got hella excited. Unleashing ANGRY DOUG BALDWIN on Black Lives Matter and police reform on opening day is an activist’s wet dream.

Giving Baldwin and the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt, I think they meant to do a really meaningful thing—to show solidarity for a movement that prioritizes the lives of black people, that ending racism and oppressive systems require the collective work of many people. The team-wide act, also worked to address the criticism that Kaepernick’s protest was an attention grab by eliminating the individual-ness of it. But at some point, the reality of their demonstration has to take precedent. And in the space of social movements, rhetoric and symbolism are everything.

On its face, a show of unity is an honorable, valuable thing. Who’s against unity?

But the call of unity has long been used to soothe people out of frenzy, as a band-aid for an amputation. But history shows us that to correct injustice—especially systemic injustice, which is more lubricious to grasp—requires anger and unrest so as to manifest into social movement.

Baked into our civic code is the idea we don’t need everyone to agree to something to make it happen; we only need enough to make a majority. That’s how we make change in a democracy. Calls for unity–specifically in response to a movement calling for change–is, at best, a moving of the goal post and, at worst, a blatant effort to cut a movement’s knees from under it.5

I have no interest in unifying with members of the Klu Klux Klan, neo-nazis, or anyone who thinks my interracial marriage and our mixed race kids are abominations.6

Now there’s a case to be made that overhyped histrionics of unity aren’t entirely the Seahawks fault. The media hyped it, not just Doug Baldwin. It’s not purely the Seahawks fault that mine and so many other’s expectations were Ezekiel Elliot-high. But Baldwin and others on the team have been around and have enough media savvy to know the type of coverage and reaction that was coming.

I am also tremendously sympathetic to NFL players not interested in engaging in public forms of protest. For many, professional football represents their only path to social mobility. The NFL is highly regimented and historically conservative. Their earning potential isn’t guaranteed and every time they suit up, they’re risking their health AND their careers.

Protect that. No one should feel like they have to pit their livelihood against what’s right in the world. That makes the choice even riskier. But in the event you face that impossible decision, protect yourself and provide for your family.7

But there’s a real, insidiously inflicted damage made in the milquetoast #alllivesmatter half-measure that the Seahawks proposed. In what is surely an unintended consequence of expressing broad support, their actions validated the misdirected conversation surrounding Kaepernick and other player’s method of protest.

Jesse Williams, in what may be the most woke moment of 2016,8 said, “If you have a critique for the resistance—for our resistance—then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.”

Applied here: y’all that are up in arms about Kaepernick sitting but don’t have a valid criticism of the systems of oppression that drove him to sit9 need to examine y’alls priorities.

Many woke people tried to keep the focus of their coverage of Kaepernick on the racial inequity of our policing that he was trying to point out, however, 99.9% percent of the coverage around Kaepernick centered on his methods of protest—an insidious way of delegitimizing his point in the first place.10

This is wrong. Full stop.

It’s no different than our presidential election coverage eschewing policy for the horse race. It’s just wrong.

Now none of this is the fault of the Seahawks and what I’m sure is a well-intentioned leadership group the face of which has become Doug Baldwin. And I hope against all hope that this was the start of something bigger—that Doug Baldwin’s efforts to connect with the Mayor of Seattle yield real, substantive discussions and outcomes.

But standing together and locking arms has forced even the most progressive people into a debate about the methodology and efficacy of protests when we should all be talking about the inherent racial inequity and injustice in policing as presently constructed.

Let me say that again: WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED.

All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams!

 

 

 

Bing bing bong: The identity politics of Donald Trump supporters and the security of the free world

“Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interest and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.” – David Brooks, New York Times

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Donald Trump had a great week. Ted Cruz dropped out Tuesday night. Jon Kasich dropped out Wednesday morning. And a +184K romp in Indiana punctuated a 15-day, seven-state streak of winning majorities of the popular vote1 Within the span of 24 hours, Trump became the head of the Grand Old Party.

This is the natural point of a presidential cycle when new-found coalitions are forged, overtures of party unity are made, and a certain strain of politics that respects and desires to preserve the polity are called upon.

Naturally, it being 2016 and all, reactions were mixed. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus did everything he could to seem conciliatory, delaying the moment he sets himself on fire:


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems kerfuffled by the whole affair. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan still refuses to hump Trump.

And defacto Maester Aemon of the Republican Party, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is chugging 40s, hurling molotovs, and riding the wrecking ball from the Miley Cyrus music video while flipping off the whole world:

23 candidates. 1 and half years of campaigning. Hundreds of Best Westerns and Quality Inns. 10 months of conservative self-loathing. 8 months of fighting for the soul of the Democratic primary. Thousands of cans of Red Bull. 79 primaries and caucii. The table is set for the matchup we’ve been waiting for our whole lives: Trump v. Hillary Clinton.

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Now that we’ve completed the race for who gets to be in the race for president, who’s excited for more race stuff?

Donald Trump becoming the second most likely person in the world to be president is the type of shit that happens when you let evil in. As David Brooks of the New York Times writes, “Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.”

That broiling intransigence/machismo/xenophobia bubbling beneath the surface broke through in 2008 when America elected its first Black president during the toughest economic hardship of the modern era. White Americans—mostly blue collar conservatives in manufacturing and energy—felt economic pain in muscles they didn’t even know they had. The transgression of economic frustration into hateful rhetoric and bigotry is not a new idea. Politicians have been using it for centuries to win elections, however, a concurrently shrinking White citizenry contributed to the unprecedented levels of steaming vitriol hurled at President Barack Hussein Obama.2

Of course Obama being America’s first black president, it’s all unprecedented.

The Obama White House was seen as an immediate and direct threat to the way of life that had built the socioeconomic landscape and set of values we call America today. That’s because it was—and remains—a direct threat to the white-heterosexual-middle-class-nuclear family that has been the main body in that interminable national ideal of ours—the American Dream.

If Obama is the changing complexion of the American body politic, Trump is the bile we vomit as we overcome the infection of hate.

In 2010, with the help of major donors, ordinary people suddenly had a way to turn their very real frustration into action against the specter of the “hopey changey stuff”—the tea party movement. That rhetoric, agitation, and social movement gave way to a real political entity, the Freedom Caucus, hell bent on slowing the advance of the federal government, thereby feeding the dissatisfaction of the federal government and the man at the head of it.3

And as the Republican Party fed the Tea Party beast—accentuating Obama’s blackness, stripping him of his citizenship, making him other—it was inevitable that a vapid figure like Trump would emerge as its leader. If you actively characterize of the leader of the free world, then of course it’s conceivable to elect a caricature as the leader of your party. If you make people believe the president is a fool, then every fool begins to look like a candidate for president, and when it’s time to pick the next one, people won’t have to look all that hard.

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We are in the midst of a perpetual culture shift. The plurality promised in the melting pot of America is only becoming more apparent because melanin is involved. Before, it was Irish and Italian and Polish immigrants, and communities of color were more easily segregated. Now, the browning of America has become obvious. It’s even harder to ignore when the President is an example of it.

If Obama is the changing complexion of the American body politic, Trump is the bile we vomit as we overcome the infection of hate.

Does this mean America is racist? Yes. But being a racist is a losing proposition. We have a biracial president. And for the first time ever, White Americans will make up less than 70 percent of the American electorate. Soon, White Americans will make up less than 60 percent, and eventually, less than 50 percent. Something about the moral arc of the universe being long and bending towards justice.


Averting a Great Depression. 14M new jobs over a 74-month streak of job growth. Healthcare for 15M more Americans. Repositioning America as global leaders on energy. Strengthening the force of diplomacy through focused relationship-building. A federal government equipped for the digital age. Government and policy victories aside, this video illustrates the most important part of the Obama presidency—his impact on an American psyche undergoing a violent demographic shift.

Demographically, he’s literally the perfect man for the perfect time.

America is squarely in the midst of a cultural identity change. Identity politics are violent acts, constantly breaking lines and redrawing them.

  Welcome to the world of identity politics my white friends. This stuff is hard, but good news: America is browner and more educated than we ever have been, so I like our chances.

The heterosexual nuclear white middle class family 4 has long been the symbol upon which we hang our aspirations of socioeconomic opportunity. As either a destination or a step on the way to becoming a self-made Rockeffeler, Morgan, or Carnegie, it has come to be the most powerful political evocation.

The power of that symbol persists, but it’s waning. And we are seeing the very last throes of it.

For the first time ever, white voters make up less than 70% of the electorate. Romney won 59 percent of the white vote and still got whacked 332-206 in the Electoral College. For comparison, Reagan won a similar 60 percent of the white vote in 1980 and went on to claim the one of the largest Electoral College victories in history.

If Trump should barely win the white vote at 59%, he will win no states. If he meets the eternal conservative threshold that is Ronald Reagan and hits the 60% mark of all white voters, Trump wins the 16 whitest states in the union5 for a total of 88 electors, coming up short by 182.The only way Trump hits the magic 270, is if he wins an unimaginable 75% of white voters. If he somehow managed to do that, suddenly 36 states are on the table along with their 295 electors, and this country ceases to be the country my parents thought they’d moved their family across the world for.6

Trump and the exclusionary politics he forebears have to find a path to the presidency despite a shrinking white voter share. On top of that, the coalition he has managed to cobble together is an over-performing bunch.

In the Republican primaries, Trump has 11M supporters. If you bore out Hispanic favorable/unfavorable across the whole demographic population, for comparison though, you’d find 44M Hispanics opposed. That’s the type of sentence that leads you to post something so stupid as:7

This is the face of a Republican Party who has realized they’ve been cow-towing to a shrinking demographic in the basest way possible, that white people will never again, alone, deliver them the White House, that exclusion and self-preservation doesn’t work.

Donald Trump won’t be the next President of the United States. Trump may be the first presidential candidate to lose all 50 states. We will have to continue to have the long, difficult discussion about who we are and where we’re headed. Welcome to the world of identity politics my white friends. This stuff is hard, but good news: America is browner and more educated than we ever have been, so I like our chances.

I still believe in a politics of optimism and inclusion—the kind a younger, more naïve Junior Senator from Illinois promised, begged for us to hope for, and leaves for us to carry forward.

There can be no other way.

 

Billionaires dodging taxes in order to buy erections

Credit: Iceland Magazine
Credit: Iceland Magazine

Is anyone actually going to care about the Panama papers?

Unless you have been squirreled beneath the web equivalent of a rock for the past week, you likely know at least tangentially of “the Panama papers” – papers leaked from a law firm in Panama connecting major corporations and wealthy individuals to prominent offshore banks used as tax evasion hotspots. The individuals implicated in the papers themselves include celebrities, major world leaders and international businessmen.

Using billions of dollars in evaded taxes, these individuals enjoy jet setting throughout the world, snorting Cialis off of each other’s dicks and lamenting the loss of old-timey values on facebook.

To make a comparison that might resonate with our primarily US-residing readership:

These are the sorts of people who, in America, give millions of dollars to campaigns in order to avoid giving millions in taxes to the Government which hypothetically pay for the streets they drive on, the schools their neighbors’ kids attend, social security for a generation who can’t afford homes until they’re 50, etc. Whether or not they can be officially convicted of the crime they are all committing against their respective communities, they should still be thought of as fake-tanned Ebeneezer Scrooges who actively avoid assisting the communities they now see themselves as above.

All of the individuals implicated have vehemently denied that they have broken any laws. This is likely sort-of-true, as the exploitation of loopholes is pretty much a classic rich/powerful person thing to do. That being said, they are guilty of evading the shit out of their taxes and have likely caused pretty severe damage to the communities of which they are a part as a result.

But did anyone actually break any laws?

Yes. While holding money in an offshore company is generally not illegal, 1 if it is done to facilitate tax evasion, a crime is being committed. If a lawyer appraises a situation and feels compelled to say something to the effect of “technically they did everything legally *cough* to commit tax evasion *cough*” than a loophole needs to be closed, some money needs to be collected, and some motherfuckers have to go to jail.

When a billionaire evades his taxes, he is stealing money from you. According to the laws of whatever country in which he does business, that isn’t his money. It is his Government’s money. It is the financial means by which the infrastructure and day to day lives of the citizens of the world function. Are billionaires privately funding the construction of highways out of the goodness of their hearts?

When politicians in the US talk about remedying the national deficit, they propose that we cut Medicare, privatize social security and eliminate social programs. The same thing happens abroad. When the President of Ukraine can justify evading his own taxes during wartime while demanding the citizens of his country pay their share (and then some), something is probably wrong.

The speculated amount of tax dollars avoided just by those implicated in the Panama papers is around 200 billion dollars annually. As an example of how this can really hurt – this article about Uganda exposes the Heritage Oil and Gas Ltd Company as having defrauded the Ugandan government for a cool $404 million dollars by changing its official corporate home to the tiny island of Mauritius, an island nation with a population just exceeding 1 million people famous for its exhaustingly long Wikipedia page.

So what can we do about this? The answer: nothing. These are the people who run the world and the rules do not apply to them.

Who wants to be a billionaire?

I hastily googled the top 3 people who have stolen from the international community recently. Please feel compelled to find these fine folks on social media and bombard them with garbage. Apparently China and Russia have already censored social media to avoid this, can’t hurt to try though. I have assembled some fun facts about all of them for your reading pleasure.

Icelandic Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson

Credit: Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Credit: Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Likes:

  • Ice
  • Land
  • Defrauding the citizens of a country famously named for being too climactically inhospitable for Vikings
  • Of Monsters and Men

Dislikes:

  • Diet sour cream
  • Lukewarm bagel bites
  • The top button on dress shirts
  • Paying taxes
  • Female orgasms

Sigmundur, the since-resigned Prime Minister of Iceland is famous for being a huge piece of shit with a neck reminiscent of Vernon Dursley and probably severe impotence. He and his wife were indirect creditors of three failed banks responsible for the Icelandic stock market dropping 90% in 3 days. They managed to remain in prominent positions within Iceland for 6 years following the financial crisis since they were not directly affiliated with the wrongdoing that collapsed the economy. People picketed the shit out of him and he is now resigning.

Ukrainian Prime Minister, Petro Poroshenko

Credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES BY MASHABLE TEAM
Credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Likes:

  • Stealing millions of tax dollars from his country during a time of war
  • Chocolate
  • The antagonists in Rocky and Bullwinkle

Dislikes:

  • Eyebrows
  • X-men origins
  • The top button on dress shirts
  • Paying taxes
  • Female orgasms

According to the LA times, Poroshenko has since denied breaking the law. He is quoted as saying, “I believe I might be the first top office official in Ukraine who treats declaring of assets, paying taxes and conflict of interest issues profoundly and seriously.” It should also be noted that Poroshenko is a huge piece of shit who has a profound and serious misunderstanding of what the words in this and the prior sentence actually mean.

The corpsebride, Ian Cameron

Credit: Reuters
Credit: Reuters

Likes:

  • The furtherance of the British Aristocracy via sophisticated tax evasion
  • Telling his son to tell everyone in British Parliament the opposite
  • “The Cameron family’s ancestral home in Aberdeenshire”
  • Winking

Dislikes:

  • Paying taxes
  • Blinking
  • Being alive

I was going to write some nasty shit here about Ian Cameron but he is dead so it doesn’t really matter. Probably wouldn’t hurt to investigate his son though.

 

Nice caucus, (Bernie) Bro: Lessons from the biggest, brownest caucus in the contiguous US

This past weekend, Bernie Sanders picked up 55 delegates with three victories in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state caucuses. The big wins round out a nice 5-0 run of small states that have seen the Sanders Camp finally put up the big numbers that they they’d previously been beaten by on Super Duper Tuesday.

This is good news for Sanders and his supporters. Keep an eye on the scoreboard though, as Hillary Clinton still has a 263 delegate lead: 1,243-980.

Coming out of this weekend, there are two pieces of national political conventional wisdom, as they relate to caucuses, that haven’t dominated the national narrative but are still worth re-examining: First, that Washington1 is white and rural but it also has Seattle so it’s white more than rural. Secondly, higher voter turnout has long favored progressives/liberals, but then why does Sanders keep crushing caucuses—a voting apparatus that, riddled with barriers, stifles turnout?

A plurality of diversity

All jokes aside, Washington state’s caucus is actually the biggest caucus in America as determined by state population2 and delegates available.3 Of all the 12 cauci,4 it also happens to be the second most diverse, next to Hawaii. In fact all three of this past weekend’s cauci were the most diverse of the cycle thus far.

The national press tends to brush Washington5 with the same Titanium White broad brush stroke.6 Washington gets a bad rap for being very white.7 It is. But so is America. Relative to the rest of the Union though, Washington is among the most diverse. Wallethub put out the a list 2015’s Most Diverse Cities in America, and 3 of the top 10 hail from the Evergreen State.8. And several websites that track this stuff and put out top 10 most diverse states9 have Washington as mainstays on their lists.

Despite Washington’s diversity, the Clinton campaign’s lock on Black voters was not tested at our caucus.10 Certainly, Washington’s less than four percent Black population is less than a third of the national average—12.6%.11 For context, states like Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi have Black populations represented at 10 times our rate—31.4%, 32.4%, and 37.3%, respectively. Clinton has done tremendously well in these states, crushing Sanders with the Black electorate to the tune of 60, sometimes 70 points.

Clinton’s success with Black voters has, in turn, fueled a narrative that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are—and more insidiously, must be—hella white. They’re not. We’re not. I’m not.

Perhaps that’s why we saw this week the rise of #BernieMadeMeWhite. A trending Twitter meme that, for the first time in this election gave voice,12 to the exclusion felt by non-White, non-Black, non-Hispanic voters. Do I imagine we’ll get another moment? No.

Let’s not forget, my socially progressive friends and industry peers13 that write, cover and read political stuff, that when we talk about diversity, it is not so black and white.

Washington state results

So how did all these brown people that we’ve established actually do live in Washington actually vote? I couldn’t tell you. No one conducted exit polling during this weekend’s cauci.14 At the state level, caucus-goers voted overwhelmingly in favor for Birdie Sanders, 72.7% casting a vote his way.

Since we don’t have exit polling from which to fabricate relevant narratives, I’ve correlated county-by-county Democratic caucus with 2008 and 2012 election results and 2010 US Census data so that we can paint each county by slightly-smaller-but-probably-still-too-broad brushstrokes.

First of all, some throat-clearing: Sanders swept all 39 counties. The most populous county—King, court of liberal stronghold and our hometown Seattle—handed Sanders the third least ideal victory at 67.3%. Garfield and Asotin Counties were the only other counties to show less approval of Sanders with 60% and 67.2%, respectively.15 The ham-handed impact of King County—which holds nearly 10,000 delegates, four times the next largest county—should not be understated.

Of the nine most conservative counties,16 seven were above the state average.

Of the nine most Hispanic counties,17 seven voted for Bernie at above the state average. Chelan and Walla Walla were the only counties to fall below the 72.7% threshold, but nearly all have been reliably Republican in previous cycles.18

Of the four most Asian counties,19 half voted above 72.7%

All of Washington’s eight most millennial counties20 voted above the state average for Sanders.

In these demographic slices, we see old ground covered. King County, the seat of the Democratic Party, comes through in a big way for Clinton. Young people in Washington love Sanders.

The force of strength shown by reliably conservative counties is unique though. There is a strange slice of conservative voters that—by virtue of his anti-establishment campaign and unwavering commitment to equitable domestic economic policy—support Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders. Many are from Eastern Washington. A strange cycle in deed.

Arriving to a conclusion about what this data says about race and the Sanders campaign in Washington State is near impossible without visibility into the demographics of caucus turnout by county. The fundamental question remains: Was the racial makeup of each caucus reflective of its county?

Probably not.

Caucus problems

Caucuses suppress turnout, disproportionally affecting poor and brown voters who otherwise work on Saturdays and can’t take at least half a day off to stand in a school gym to debate the merits of Clinton’s environmental policy. Caucuses require an investment of human organization and resources. There’s confusion about whether or not voters have to be in person to cast a ballot, which is the exact opposite of an all-mail ballot system that the electorate just got used to in a state like Washington.

Conventional campaign wisdom says higher turnout portends positive outcomes for the most liberal candidates. So why does Bernie do so well in caucus states? 3 reasons:

  • Caucuses rely on enthusiasm, a characteristic Sanders’ supporters have in spades. Washington is a state that favors activism and has a strong history and culture of governing by the ballot.
  • Caucus states are smaller. Washington is the second most populous state Sanders has won. The only two caucus states the Clinton camp really cared about were Iowa and Nevada, both strategic to the campaign narrative, not the math.
  • Caucus states aren’t very diverse. With the exception of this past week’s cauci, we’re talking about states like Utah, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, and Minnesota that rank somewhere in the pure undriven snow category of whiteness with over 90% white people. More pointedly, caucus states have very small black populations

For more real insight on Sanders caucus victories, check out FiveThirtyEight’s take on it.

Where do we go from here?

The establishment media v. the will of the people has been an undercard narrative for much of the campaign. In the last week, we’ve seen it emerge and become a real force. As Sanders’ victories get under-reported,21 it riles up his base on social media even more.22 Let’s be clear, Sanders has never had a greater chance at a primary victory than he does today, but time—and in many ways, the electoral structure of the Democratic primary—is certainly not on his side.

From a communications point of view, the worst thing that could happen right now is that the press overhype Sanders ability to come back and snatch up the nomination. It would invite complacency at a time where Sanders needs the utmost zeal from his supporters in states like New York and California. 23

Immediately up next, is Wisconsin though, which puts its 86 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday. Sanders has pulled ahead of Clinton in recent polling, but remains within the margin of error. A big win is needed to eat into the delegate deficit, but in a slow primary month, any victory will keep the momentum—and more importantly, the momentum story—strong for a solid two weeks before New York, New York.

 

Beware the ides of March: This is where it stops being funny

The first wave of primaries1 is now over. Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in the delegate count 766-576 (465-25 superdelegates), and Trump has nearly a triple digit lead on the field—459 to Ted Cruz’s 360, Marco Rubio’s 152, and John Kasich’s 54.2

States have been voting for six weeks now. The narratives that drive political momentum have been baked—Trump is made of Teflon and very electable, Clinton has a lock on minority voters and probably the nomination—and as we approach the ides of March, shit is getting real. Clinton and Trump both took big leads on Super Tuesday, and have, by and large, ran the table since. At some point in each cycle though, the math takes over. Enter the March 15th primaries—which include four of the 10 most populous states: Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. A strong showing from both frontrunners in those states could sew up their respective nominations.

At this time, it’s only natural that Trump and Clinton pivot towards the general election—trying out their messages aimed up and across, squarely at each other.

Pandering or Pampering?: Democrats hone in on the Black and brown vote

“I can’t help Trayvon at this time, but there are other Trayvon Martin’s I can help.” –Sabrina Fulton

The tone of the Democratic campaign has shifted. Sanders shocking victory in Michigan exposed that perhaps Clinton doesn’t have the Warriors-esque hold on the minority vote we had initially surmised from her Super Tuesday performance in the South. The Sanders camp worked hard to make sure Michigan grabbed all the headlines, but let’s be clear: the math is squarely still in Clinton’s favor. It’s easy to forget that Clinton won the delegate count the Tuesday after Super Tuesday. She whopped Sanders in Mississippi, winning over 82% of the vote and 30 of the state’s available 34 delegates.

Many3 called Sanders’ win in Michigan the greatest primary upset in modern political history. 70% of Michigan Democratic primary voters were white,4 and Sanders won whites 56-42—in line with national polls and anecdotal evidence. Sanders still lost the Black vote,5 but chipped away at the astronomical leads Clinton’s been putting up in southern states. Sanders won nearly a third of Black Democratic Michigan voters, giving the Clinton camp a dose of anxiety.

On Friday, Clinton released an emotional “Mothers of the Movement” ad that features the mothers of slain young Black men and woman Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Sandra Bland, and Trayvon Martin. Both endorsement and heartfelt narrative, the mothers tell their story in this three minute ad that is perhaps most notable for its near complete lack of Clinton screentime. She has a 15-second soundbite at the end and only appears on stage with the mothers at a campaign rally—a brilliant move.

 

 

Earlier in the week, during a debate hosted by Univision in Miami, Florida aimed at Hispanic voters, both candidates promised to not deport children or criminals.6

During the debate, Sanders unveiled a beautifully shot, emotionally fraught ad almost entirely in Spanish about a small agriculture town in Florida, Imokalee, and the plight of its undocumented farm workers who were paid poorly and treated worse.

 

 

The ad is clearly meant to show Sanders’ history of devotion to and success on behalf of workers’ rights—and by extension, the Hispanic community. The format of the Imokalee ad presages the candidates’ presence in the Clinton ad—minimal.

Cynics will surely call what Sanders and Clinton are doing pandering. Sure. It might be, and if these ads were the only evidence of minority engagement, then both Sanders and Clinton could rightly be called phonies. Instead, these ads reflect a deep history and relationship with Black and Hispanic issues. Sanders, with his civil rights record, and Clinton, with her deeply entrenched relationships with Black leaders in the South.7

The Democratic Party could do a lot worse than make the remainder of the primaries about minorities and the issues we face. Coming off of the first ever Black president whose campaign expanded the Democratic Party and turned out the greatest number of primary voters ever, the two white Democrats running for the nomination need to demonstrate that they care about minority issues to keep us invested.

The percentage of non-white voters has been steadily increasing, so the decision to pivot on minority issues isn’t just good primary politics, it’s a foreshadowing of the general election.

Courtesy of United States Election Project
Courtesy of United States Election Project

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that minority and immigrant issues are fundamentally American issues. That fact only becomes more salient as America becomes browner and blacker. As the Republican Party seemingly doubles down on a white electorate afraid of the teeming mass of melanin, this is a good long-term strategy that will factor in in 2020 and beyond.

Violence begets hate begets clownshoes

 “I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here.” – Donald Trump

Thursday night’s GOP Presidential debate was by many accounts unspectacular. These performances have come to represent the highest form of reality television. The combination of personal ego, utter disregard for fact, and highness of stakes have made them must-watch television.

This past week though, neither Ted Cruz nor Marco Rubio tag-teamed Donald Trump. No dick jokes were made. Even the absence of Ben Carson was felt8 The crowd was post-Burning Man blood-thristy.9 The debate offered the same old policy but without the fireworks of ad homonym attacks.10

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve suspended my generally high expectations for presidential-level policy debates in lieu of something baser that appeases the animal part of my brain. Hell, they’ve been fun to watch and the candidates don’t seem to give a shit about higher political discourse. Why should I?

I and so many others have willfully blinded myself to the glib and glamour of the last dozen GOP debates. Every one of the candidates have dazzlingly misstepped and gaffed right into a Twilight Zone of ineptitude.11 With the lights dimmed down to a level that we could actually see the substance of their positions, it was sparse and uninspired.

Trump struck a civil tone. Rubio denied global warming in his home state.12. Cruz had a moment in one of the very few attacks on Trump, but it didn’t do anything to make him any more likable.13 Kasich got nearly the same screen time as Cruz and Rubio.

Buried somewhere in there was a blip of a moment that, in the grand scheme of things, will be forgotten by April.

 

 

Did you miss it? It was that moment Rubio–the reasoned, well-mannered wunderkid–didn’t categorically deny racism and xenophobia because it’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong.

Instead, Rubio pivoted to Christian Missionaries, a married couple14 that chose to go into a culturally rich, economically poor Bangladesh leveraging a lack of resources for blind devotion to their church.15 Rubio posited” don’t be mean to the angry Muslims because they’ll be mean back, especially to the16 Christians who consciously went into a Muslim-heavy country with the explicit purpose of telling said angry Muslims that their religion is wack.17  Following it up by saying, “But the military is great and there are Muslims in the military so those Muslims are great too!” does not make it better. If anything, Rubio is assigning them a value based on their willingness to defend and die for a cause he supports politically but not in reality.

By all appearances, Rubio should be a conservative worthy of disagreement rather than abject disrespect.18 There are even elements of his personal narrative that resonate strongly with liberals and immigrants.19 However, his willingness to consistently belittle and denigrate a group of people in order to score political points is a character flaw unworthy of the office of President.

Speaking of unworthy of the office of the president, a Trump rally was cancelled in Chicago the day after the GOP Debate in Miami. A group of largely Black and brown protesters descended on the University of Illinois at Chicago where the event was supposed to take place and shut that ish down. They even chanted some Kendrick:

 


This was an inevitable outcome. Protest and violence are increasingly becoming frequent occurrences at Trump rallies.

Earlier in the week, a North Carolina Trump supporter John “Whitey” McGraw was charged with assault for sucker punching a Black protestor who was already being escorted out. He later told Inside Edition,20 “Next time, we might have to kill him.”

Even earlier in the same week Breitbart21 reporter Michelle Fields was grabbed and bruised by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris corroborates Fields’ story. The Trump camp has categorically denied the claim, saying both Fields and Terris are making it up and that Fields has a history of histrionics.22 Fields has since filed charges.

Trump’s rallies have a history of violence, one perpetrated by the vitriolic rhetoric the GOP frontrunner employs to rally his base. When the more-often-than-not Black and brown protestors are escorted out of Trump’s eyesight, he’s said things like “I’d like to punch them right in the face,” or “Back in my day, they’d be taken out on a stretcher.”23

On Saturday, an Ohio man jumped a fence during a Trump rally in Dayton. He never made it to the stage. The commotion it caused gave Trump the opportunity to compose himself while whipping his supporters into a fever-pitch.

 

 

Trump is practically rabid. I see foam coming from his mouth24 We’ve seen xenophobia in the context of a presidential election cycle for so long, we’ve just come to accept it.

Race: The most important issue in America, American politics

On the one hand, Democrats are side fighting for minority votes. On the other, we’ve come to normalize racism. America is becoming browner and it’s scaring the shit out of low-income, poorly educated white people. They’re turning out in Republican primaries in record numbers, and observers like myself have vacillated between being awestruck or actively cheering on the Hindenburg-level GOP catastrophe in the spirit of entertainment25.

Whether overtly stated or not, race is quickly becoming the most critical issue of this presidential election. Sanders and Clinton will continue to position themselves as the most in tune with and natural inheritor of race relations. All while reasonable conservatives watch Trump26 dance around the dumpster fire masked as a racial divide masked as an effort to make America great again.

We can rationalize it away. We could pretend that this is just the nature of campaigning and election cycle politics. We can accept that maybe this is just an aberration.27 At this point, we’re just waiting until the general election, which will show that the racists hijacking the GOP are actually a subset of a subset.28 With sublimated aggression after sublimated aggression bringing us to this point, the circus of American politics eventually stops with the fun and games, the grip and grins, the rallies and baby-kissing.

Whether dramatically bringing new minority and immigrant issues to center stage or feeding anger with hate, the tone coming from both sides are becoming decidedly more serious. This is where it stops being funny.

 

 

Your Candidate is a bad person and so are you!

I saw The Big Short and Hillary likes banks and I am really mad about it

“All Hillary supporters are capitalist sell-outs who would happily close their eyes and mortgage 1 the future of our country to investment bankers and their lobbyists in exchange for the promise of incremental improvement and a bulwark against the Trumpocalypse. They lack agency and support Hillary because they have been conditioned to do so.”

First, Candidates have been sponsored by corporate interests for all of our adult lives unless you are about 120 years old. The fact that people are paying attention and reacting to the means by which corporate interests are represented in politics is less a symptom of some new illness and more people learning that waking up and puking every morning isn’t actually normal. Hillary is an exceptional politician with decades of experience functioning within a political system that has always demanded compromises. She is taking money from the same people Obama took money from. Everyone does it and always has. To think that electing Clinton will be somehow cataclysmic because she will work, in part, for the interests of the same banks who the last 10 presidents worked for doesn’t make sense. 2

Additionally, many ad hominem attacks on Hillary and her supporters are suffused with sexist rhetoric. The word “shrill” is maybe a bit on-the-nose but still a decent example for the kind of ostensibly “defensible” descriptors that an anti-Hillary blogger might use. Sure, that word and many others like it exist and can describe things, like say, an annoying bird. 3 But, we really shouldn’t need to prove that sexist rhetorical connotations for certain words and archetypes exist and we definitely shouldn’t have to do so via explicit means because that is sort of missing the entire point (words having connoted meanings and all…). Said anti-Hillary blogger can write a post about how Hillary is “calculating and efficient” and step away claiming they were being somehow complimentary, but they are still pretty much just saying she is sinister and/or a bitch and they probably know that.

Bernie Bros are white and I am white and I hate them because they are unrealistic and because we are white

“All Bernie Sanders supporters are unrealistic ideologues who hide a misogynist and possibly racist agenda behind thinly veiled claims to populism. Any policy Bernie promises on the campaign trail will be summarily voted down by a Republican congress with a Democratic Party minority that may not be in his corner either. Bernie supporters are all white people in their mid-20’s which automatically disqualifies them from having anything interesting to say – particularly in regard to the liberal agenda they try to defend but do not truly understand.” 4

First, has the current Republican Congress left anyone the illusion that ANYBODY would be able to get them to act in support of ANY agenda? No matter which liberal candidate is elected, that candidate will face complete and unilateral obstruction from a Republican Congress. Bernie is a liberal Jew who stands in direct opposition to the interests who got the majority of them elected and, himself, pretty much never compromises. Hillary is a slightly-less-but-still-liberal woman with the last name Clinton. Neither will be invited to many BBQs and both will likely hear the typical impeachment bullshit before they even step into office. 5

The Bernie bro narrative has also been a frustrating rhetorical condemnation. Essentially the narrative became centered around the idea that Bernie Sander’s supporters were white, male misogynists who were categorically abusive and sexist in their online behavior. While the initial article was pretty much just a playful jab and actually pretty funny, the narratives spinning out of that initial moniker -developing original have become increasingly condemning and try-hardy as the “I need to push this idea to the brink of sanity to get more clicks” machine got itself humming. 6 Bernie stands for a few uncompromising populist ideals that get pushed around the internet a lot. It is easy to write passionately about how things should be. Idealists like him and idealists are often young and vocal which means you end up having to read a lot of re-posted articles. I guess that is annoying enough to write and repost a bunch of other articles about how they post too many articles.

Fun with ad hominem attacks

What is represented in these admittedly lazy strawmen examples of the rhetoric on both sides is the emphasis on the supporter rather than the candidate. Debates  between liberals, people who by and large think of themselves as being compassionate and empathetic, should be about meeting in the middle. One of Hillary Clinton’s selling points is her ability to work within a system predicated on compromise. Why would somebody support a person like that with inflexible, antagonistic arguments? Bernie sells himself on being compassionate and progressive. Why would somebody support a person like that by condemning friends and family as corporate shills?

Why are policy debates that should be centered on compromise so antagonistic? 

Outrage is easy. It is the simplest thing in the world to dismiss a dissenting attitude by assuming that attitude is backstopped by a mind that is either critically misinformed or incapable of operating at your level.

Lashing out at a group of individuals in a condescending “I-can’t-believe-you-would-think-that” tone is the rhetorical equivalent of throwing your work papers up in the air – an exciting and seemingly-impressive gesture that’s essentially hollow and unconstructive.

It is an unfortunate side-effect of an outmoded two party system that people begin to relish the opportunity to identify as a “supporter” of a candidate or an ideal rather than as an individual who happens to be more partial to the ideas and policies espoused by one candidate or the other. The mono a mono competitive facets of the political system in the United States have become so perfected over time that the election cycle feels like a game, and people love to win games whether on the micro or macro scale. Dismissing another group’s opinion as insane, silly, or unfounded, particularly when among like-minded individuals, is comforting. It makes you feel superior, it makes you feel like you belong, like you are with the “in” crowd. 7

The part that gets left out is how we need to live with– not only the result of these political games, but — the violent versions of dissent this system fosters from friends and family on the day after Election Day. I have had family members send me angry, hateful emails prior to major elections since they expect me to vote for a Democrat. This isn’t healthy and this isn’t some symptom inherent to elected democracy. 

We are all personally responsible for feeding into an environment where people’s intelligence and integrity can be questioned on the basis of political preference.

If you have an issue with a Hillary supporter, talk to them and try to understand where they are coming from. Do the same with Cruz supporters. Dismissing a dissenting view as stupid is useless especially if the view is stupid. Even if you are dealing with somebody who violently offends every sensibility that you have, reacting with outrage and dismissal just allows that sentiment to fester in the margins of society, where a feedback loop of like-minded people allow any idea or belief to regress to its most self-certain iteration.

A person’s view doesn’t change if you embarrass them and dismiss their thoughts as misinformed, as stupid. When you conflate an opinion with the person who has the opinion, the person hardens their position until they identify with their opinion further. Their view of themselves becomes inseparable from the opinion they hold and any further appeal to alter that opinion comes through the wires as a personal attack, because that is how you have conditioned them to feel. They are no longer somebody who agrees with Hillary or Bernie or Trump – they are a Hillary or Bernie or Trump supporter. An attitude formerly reserved for die-hards becomes universal.

Sort of like Identity Politics but without the aspiration to usefulness

Individuals in underserved demographics have found that by sticking together and affirming their difference from mainstream culture, they could influence that culture and find a place beside it. 8 The politics surrounding the democratic primaries has piggybacked on the sentiment of identity politics while foregoing the underlying substance. The effect is a lot of wealthy white people online yelling at other wealthy white people for being too white9.

Whether you agree or disagree with the efficacy of affirming difference as means for inclusion into mainstream culture, you can at least respect that there is a reason to do something.

What makes the political rhetoric of 2016 so divisive10 is that the us-against-them attitude is meant to reaffirm difference when this, out of the last four, year feels like a good time to find common ground. Among current Republican voters, I can’t really blame them. When squaring off with a Trump supporter, I can imagine suppressing outrage and disbelief is challenging. Particularly given the dismissive and fact-averse attitude that works its way from the top-down and somehow seems to permeate about a third of the American south which is still important in deciding who runs the whole country 11

Being outraged is really easy . Coming to a discussion with an argumentative mindset is easy. Being open-minded is hard. Disagreeing amicably is almost impossible. The thesis of this rambling exercise is to be a little less hard on one another. Try to find out why people disagree with you. Be less of a “supporter” and more of a person. The second we subsume our ability to process facts and alter opinions under an ideology or a candidate’s opinions, we lose the ability to think critically. Don’t do that. I’ll try also.

<<  >>

What a Super Tuesday it was! But what does it mean?

And the circus continues. The weeks following Super Tuesday,1 are when see the shape of the general election beginning to form. Smarter folks than I start drawing out narratives. Here are some stories.

The singular and inescapable takeaway of Super Tuesday is that the stage is set for a Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump general election. Both won seven out of 11 states and American Samoa. Both didn’t exactly surprise observers in the states won column, but the strength of the respective coalitions Clinton and Trump have coalesced is truly eye-opening.

It turns out both can win in the south—but that means dramatically different things on each side. It’s important to keep in mind when we talk about primary voters, especially in the south, that their demographics vary wildly.2 A tale of two electorate bodies, if you will.

More stark in the south than any other, Democratic primary voters don’t only have different values from their Republican counterparts, but they look very different too. In Georgia for example, the African American community makes up less than a third (31%) of eligible voters, however, they cast over a majority (51%) of 2008 ballots. Turnout numbers from that election cycle are by no means a good corollary for this year, 3 however, the numbers still point to the major racial chasm that underpins our parties’ polarization.

Great Orange Porpoise (GOP)

Trump has a hefty delegate lead (316-226-106 according to RCP early Wednesday morning) but a lot critics are quick to point to the fact he didn’t win the majority of the vote or even a majority of the delegate count. The inevitable outcome of Trump’s inability to pull together a majority coalition is a brokered convention4—painted by critics as the last possible stand to stop the Great Orange Porpoise. An open convention doesn’t shut Trump out of the decision making process though. By virtue of numbers and representation an open convention is less populist for sure,5 but it’s not inconceivable that he offers John Kasich or even Ted Cruz a spot on the ticket or in his cabinet in exchange for their delegates.

An open convention would be good television—and, right in the weird vortex of 2016 presidential election cycle wheelhouse, an incredible opportunity for Trump to flex his deal-making skills. That’s right, his candidacy may very well rest on his ability to close a deal.6

In the meantime, Trump’s lack of a majority coalition and others’ inability to pull fundamentally alter the course of the campaign keeps the GOP field fractured and all the candidates in the race.7 So a plurality of ego will maintain the status quo, and Trump won’t ever need to win more than 40% of the primary vote to ride into the convention with proportionally the same lead he has now.

To celebrate his Super Tuesday victory, Trump’s campaign declined the typical rally and victory speech made by nearly every candidate since Hoover.8  Instead he opted for a brief statement and a press conference. It was strange. Trump was conciliatory but on fire. Reporters were on the attack. Chris Christie was silently trapped in a living nightmare. Cable news carried it for forty-plus minutes. Trump supporters were absent. On the whole, it was a magnificent piece of performance art.

My one gripe is that I wish Trump had gone longer. If he’d chosen to run a 90-minute to two-hour presser, CNN and MSNBC would have stuck with him. I cannot iterate enough how novel the choice was to hold a q and a with reporters on Super Tuesday night. Compared to the other candidates—who looked like candidates at a campaign trail rally—standing behind a podium backing off radical positions, weaseling a bit more to the center, and generally captivating the national conscious for nearly an hour was a feat that looked downright presidential.9

Dems the Yams

Hillary Clinton crushed the South, like bless-her-heart-and-these-stars-and-bars-by-the-good-grace-of-Dixie steamrolled to a 543-349 delegate lead (according to RCP early Wednesday morning). And where the republicans relied on older, conservative and evangelical white voters, Clinton won on the back of black and brown voters.

She absolutely dominated the African American vote, thumping Sanders routinely by 60-point margins and creeping into 90% territory for several states.

Clinton also dispelled any notion that Nevada augured trouble with the Hispanic vote.

Bernie wins 4! Is a semi-popular narrative pushed out by the Sanders’ campaign and its acolytes, but that still also points to a state-focused—not precint-, district-, and delegate-focused—campaign strategy. Whether by design or nature, the middle to upper-middle class white coalition that Sanders has such a firm hold on will not deliver him the Democratic Party nomination.

Without a retail politics approach applied at full-court press intensity in black churches and community organizations across the South, Sanders now relies on a Ray-Allen-corner-three-in-the-last-game-of-the-NBA-Finals-but-on-the-grace-of-a-fortunate-offensive-rebound-type wild finish.10

It almost certainly won’t happen.

Ironically, despite a stronger civil right record, the Jewish organizer from Brooklyn, New York just couldn’t break through. Sanders fundraised a whopping $42M in February though, all but ensuring that he’ll be around till the end, acting as the liberal conscience11 of the party.

Clinton is already using the message of togetherness12 to pit herself against Trump. Unity will be a word continues to use more and more as she positions herself as the elder stateswoman that is the only real choice in the general election.

As long as Sanders sticks around and progressives continue to rally, she’ll have to do some unifying of the Democratic party too. Looking forward, Clinton will have to tap Sanders or at least someone in the liberal flank of the party13 as her running mate.

For a guy who was polling at 3% a year ago, that’s a pretty significant impact to make on one of the craziest presidential election cycles ever.

 

 

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 3: Antonin Scalia’ death, the South Carolina GOP primary, and a losing type of politics

This thinkpiece1 is my final toast to Saturday. Quick recap of the crap that I couldn’t let go all week: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

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“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” –George Washington

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia threw the entire political world out of focus. The haze had barely set in before the lights were up for the South Carolina GOP debate, and CBS moderator John Dickerson opened the show with the politics of nominating a replacement.

“If you were President, and had a chance with 11 months left to go in your term, wouldn’t it be an abdication to conservatives in particular, not to name a conservative justice with the rest of your term?”

It might as well have happened at this point that the audience started booing. South Carolina has a reputation for dirty, Real Housewives of Raleigh-type politics, and for the last two election cycles, the audiences at the debates have done their part to carry on that proud tradition.2

The GOP primary debates of the last few election cycles have been the highest form of reality television, and this latest iteration was the Jesse James of the damn bunch.  

The debate experience itself was wild. Less a group interview for the most important jobs in the world, it was reminiscent of an antebellum saloon brawl somewhere along the Mason-Dixon. The presidential hopefuls ran headlong into each other with onlookers swinging from the rafters and the barkeeper3 ducking out of sight. The GOP primary debates of the last few election cycles have been the highest form of reality television, and this latest iteration was the Jesse James of the damn bunch.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the whole affair was how quickly the crowd got involved and, how even quicker, the GOP candidates—being as impressionable as they are to political convenience—indulged the mob. The debate devolved into “Liar, liar, pants on fire!,” “No, your pants are on fire!” exchanges. The moderators let it.

In an sudden show of one-upmanship,4 Ted Cruz started shouting in Spanish5 at Marco Rubio in an apparent effort to court the Hispanic vote by out-Latinoing each other.6 It’s unclear which candidate more solidified their bona fides, but it was clear who tried the hardest.

And we haven’t even gotten to the circus and utter lack of governing or policy detail that is Donald J. Trump’s campaign.7

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“I have never known a peace made, even the most advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate, and the makers condemned as injudicious or corrupt. “Blessed are the peacemakers” is, I suppose, to be understood in the other world; for in this they are frequently cursed.” –Benjamin Franklin

It’s easy to go there for a laugh—to make jokes, to indulge in the vitriol. Hairdos make for easy punchlines after all. Pettiness is cheap and self-reinforcing. There’s a case to be made—and more people should be making it—for elevating the level of public discourse, but what I don’t understand is the GOP’s embrace of a losing political strategy.

It’s not news that the GOP has been bending to its radical wing since for most of this century. Cow-towing to radical elements of any party through anger and fear is thoroughly untenable, and the Republicans’ inability to craft a coherent statement not involving prejudice or exclusion will come back to bite them.

A politics of negation only has one outcome—disagreement, which is not a position from which you can govern. The choice to govern comes with an implicit agreement to come together with whoever else is there8 in the common spirit of doing some goddamn good.

  The GOP strategy to the extent there has been one has relied on pitting white middle class insecurities against the ever-growing brownness of popular culture and the White House.

The GOP strategy to the extent there has been one has relied on pitting white middle class insecurities against the ever-growing brownness of popular culture and the White House.9 As a whole, the party has seemingly doubled down on that demo. As white middle class voices get pushed to the margins and mainstream America more resembles the cast of Hamilton, GOP adherence to a that demo ensures diminished votershare. They’ve set the course to be on the outside of the White House looking in for a long time.

Kasich did well throughout Saturday’s SC GOP debate—at least insofar as he was the only candidate who mentioned the word togetherness. There’s tinge of bipartisanship to him, and in 2016, that’s enough to make him look like a Roosevelt. At minimum, Kasich would be so uninspiring so as to not raise the ire or fervor of the crazy, hateful people that the GOP is committing suicide over right now. So, that is something to consider.

On Thursday, Marco Rubio picked up a trio of endorsements from SC Congressman Trey Gowdy, Senator Tim Scott and Governor Nikki Hailey. Hailey called the final photo op a “Benetton commercial.”[/note]Or a prospective students brochure cover from an exclusive liberal arts college. Although, I still can’t get the cast of Hamilton out my mind.[/note] Good for them. If they turn out to be the next ruling class of the GOP, I’ll hold some hope for a responsible opposition. Don’t underestimate a diverse electorate as a force to drive political will, and the class of Rubio, Hailey, and Scott may wind up with the keys.

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“Americans have one of the greatest legal systems, but not a monopoly of the sense of justice, which is universal; nor have we a permanent copyright on the means of securing justice, for it is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.” –Earl Warren

Public grief is a crappy phenomenon, and the social media spaces carved out by liberal millennials in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death were riddled with its most self-indulgent form. It was off-putting, if not shocking, two scroll through the argle-bargle. There were primarily two strains of responses: 1) “Ding dong! The witch is dead!” 2) “Stop cheering the death of a human being, asshole.”

Ultimately, this dialectic is self-indulgent and not even really about the person that died. Participating in the discussion and taking one of these positions becomes a proxy for the type of person you want to signify to the world that you are.10

As the most opinionated conservative on the Supreme Court, Scalia would time and time again give insight into the what conservatism really meant in the realm of law—an unshakable belief in a constitution preserved in amber and that with every new law, a little more freedom gets taken away.

Scalia was an important11 figure in American life. You didn’t have to agree with him to appreciate his impact. When he came to the high court, Scalia changed the dynamics of oral arguments. The question and answer section of proceedings used to be a fairly blasé affair, but Scalia arrived on fire and turned this part of the process into a line of questioning as a proxy for debate. Lines were drawn and feelers were dispatched. The intensity and insistence he brought to the bench made the whole affair a spectator sport and gave us a sliver of a window into closed door debates.

To the crowd who would dance on his grave, I would point out that liberal lion that she is, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg12 counted Scalia as her “best buddy.” There’s even an opera centered on their friendship.

As the most opinionated conservative on the Supreme Court, Scalia would time and time again give insight into the what conservatism really meant in the realm of law—an unshakable belief in a constitution preserved in amber and that with every new law, a little more freedom gets taken away.13

In today’s discussion on what and how much government can and should do, the US Supreme Court sits on a largely unexamined perch, wielding a tremendous amount of influence. And while the political side of American government has turned into a circus of flash and mob mentality, the Scalia-Ginsburg professional and personal relationship reflected a deep kind of affection forged out of fundamental disagreement.

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“[D]emocracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with use are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.” –Barack Obama

The GOP-controlled Senate will have to nominate a Supreme Court Justice—this year or next. Maybe Senate Republicans don’t want to give anything more to the Obama legacy, maybe they actually think they’ll get to vote on a nominee of their party’s own choosing. Either way, their decision to stall is a refusal to do a job.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell among others has gone even further, demanding that POTUS not fulfill his constitutional duty.14 I get it. The GOP doesn’t want the balance of the court to shift away from them. But that’s why there’s a process—supported by will of the people. Let the senate vote. Let senators run re-election campaigns on that vote. Republicans may win their primaries with obstructionism, but the calculus changes significantly in a general.

  Wherever one falls on the ideological spectrum, there’s plenty to argue about—where should education funding come from? How do we eradicate poverty? What can we do to build, once more, the most robust economy and vibrant literary and arts culture in the world?

In some ways, not taking up the vote is playing at good short-term politics—fighting to preserve a conservative court while not being able to hang the senate vote around Senate Republican necks. It’ll help keep McConnell and others in office this November, but selectively doing their job combined with a shrinking votershare spells a long presidential drought for this incar party.15

In my whole adult life, I’ve never known a responsible opposition.

If you lose an election over a position or vote, that’s confirmation that you’re not suited to represent that constituency. If the people want obstruction then stand for it and let them validate your position. That’s the ball game.

Alternatively, if you have to raise barriers to vote and redistrict yourself into a more favorable electorate, then you’re really not doing your job and you’re not doing democracy and favors. If Rubio and Hailey become the central figures in the GOP, gerrymandering becomes obsolete. A little less pettiness offers a little more room for real issues.

Wherever one falls on the ideological spectrum, there’s plenty to argue about—where should education funding come from? How do we eradicate poverty? What can we do to build, once more, the most robust economy and vibrant literary and arts culture in the world?

Fighting pettiness with pettiness yields only pettiness. When there is no substance to confront, no real ideas to engage with, you get the SC GOP debate,16 and an opposition party that’s alienated damn near everyone and now they’re looking at the date that brung ‘em, wondering how the hell they ever ended up here.

 

 

We say we want a revolution: Sanders is our last hope for saving American Democracy

“The upcoming election isn’t about detailed policy proposals. It’s about power – whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well.”

–Robert Reich, Former US Secretary of Labor1

Head v. heart, pragmatism v. vision

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most experienced presidential candidate in the modern era and probably ever.2

Her most recent tenures as Secretary of State and Senator of a major state (New York) would forever be the first line of Clinton’s bio if the ride were to end here—already a longer resume than some former (and current)3 Presidents when they assumed office. As such, she understands foreign policy, the nuances of governing and institutional record more than anyone in the field, and will be the most prepared on day one to tackle the job.

As FLOTUS, she represented her husband’s more liberal 4 angels—universal healthcare, children and women’s rights. Before and throughout her stint as FLOArk, Clinton was highly politically engaged. It was during this time, she took up the fight—which she continues today—for women and children, all while playing “rainmaker” at her prestigious law and bringing home the bacon.5

Clinton’s broad experience and deep devotion to public service makes her an unimaginably qualified candidate. Her brand of pragmatism and “progressive doer” is vital to the health of the Democratic Party and American Civics. Hence our absolute, unqualified endorsement of her as Vice President of the United States and first alternate for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

In the preference of practicality, Clinton has eschewed a grand vision for America.6

Mario Cuomo7 famously said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”8 Hillary Clinton is all prose and pragmatism—even in this, her most important campaign. We need political leaders with Clinton’s breadth and depth of knowledge and experience; it’s the only way we’ll ever get anything done.

In the same breathe, the Luckswing Editorial staff strongly believes that a candidate asking to be President of the United States should have a clear and sweeping vision of tomorrow’s America. It is not only poetic, but vital to our self-determined national narrative, which, frankly, is one of the last vestiges of American exceptionalism.

There is only one candidate in today’s Presidential election cycle—on either side of the primaries—that understands that elections present opportunities, not only for peaceful political revolution, but to recast ourselves in the image of what we believe we should be. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) not only represents a normalization of progressive politics and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct the atrocity of big money in politics, he has real support and hard numbers that can be leveraged into instruments of political will.

A real shot

Let’s be clear upfront: though the odds have shifted dramatically in the last six months, a Sanders inauguration is still unlikely. The headwinds of change come strongest during election year, however, and here are four headwinds to heed from the last week alone:

  • The 50-50 split in Iowa was a win. Hillary Clinton was ahead 30% in Iowa as little as four months ago.9 Make no mistake: that coin flips dominated the post-caucus narrative and not margin by which Clinton spanked Sanders is a major victory for the Democratic Socialist.
  • New Hampshire is a lock. The generous University of New Hampshire pollsters had Sanders up 30, whereas the stingy Suffolk University number-crunchers10 him up 9, and Fivethirtyeight is giving the neighbor Senator a greater than 99% chance of victory.
  • If money is speech, Sanders’ choir sings loudest.11 Sanders out-fundraised Clinton for the first time this cycle with $20M in January—$5M more than the Secretary. He certainly hasn’t closed the gap, but to put this feat in perspective, Clinton started the campaign with $47M in the war chest to Sanders’ $15M. His, at one point, novel fundraising model is gaining momentum too. He’s fundraised over $75M with over 3.5M individual contributions at an average of $27 and no PACs. The sheer number of individual contributions alone is unprecedented in American politics and makes its own case for populism.12

fundraising screenshot

  • Early states, momentum still matters as national poll numbers keep rising. A Quinnipiac University national poll released on Friday shows Clinton and Sanders in a virtual tie—44% to 42%, respectively.13 Six weeks ago, Quinnipiac had him down 61/30.14 The biggest difference? Sanders’ results in Iowa, of course! He outperformed expectations, which puts column inches and air time in his favor, which signals to the general political conscious that he’s electable because other people are doing.

The nomination is far from guaranteed, but if Sanders’ margin of victory in New Hampshire is substantial, then we’re off to the races.15

Unapologetic liberals are a thing now16

The rise of Sanders has coincided with the growing prevalence of unapologetic liberals and increasingly progressive political rhetoric.17 A chicken and egg situation to be sure, the fact remains his “for the people by the people” candidacy, campaign, and message resonates strongly within the liberal sweet spot.

Let’s pause to point out that in these flickering shadows of the Cold War,18 Sanders’ viability as presidential candidate is, without exaggeration, incredible. He was a child during the McCarthy19 years, and now he’s a self-proclaimed Socialist among the two most likely candidates to be elected President of the United States.

But more to the point of a more progressive America, socialism is gaining traction among young voters; a June Gallup poll showed that 60% of 18 to 29 year olds and 50% of 30 to 49 year olds would vote for a socialist.20

 

socialism pollPeople are responding to Sanders’ radical politics. They’re contributing real money and showing up in the tens of thousands.21 Should this trend continue, his political world view no longer remains radical but becomes mainstream. His presence in the presidential political landscape validates an increasingly liberal electorate, and, like it or not, his presidency would normalize progressive policies and ideals, redrawing the very boundaries of mainstream national politics to the left.

The importance of aligning American policy to progressive ideals cannot be overstated, if only to set up Sanders’ political revolution.

We say we want a revolution

Which brings us to why we’re for the man in the first place22—the revolution.23

The 2016 Sanders political revolution is two-fold, and his thus far successful insurgency is the opening salvo and the proof of concept for perhaps the most important part.

Part 1: Socialism is totally okay

Liberal policies are good for Americans.24 More education opportunities,25 broader healthcare coverage, greater access to civil rights—there’s no way anyone says that every American citizen wouldn’t benefit from all of them. Surely, there are debates to be had on where the money comes from, but the fundamental values these policy outcomes represent are irreproachable.26

We stand with the most liberal candidate in the field27 because, in this moment, the evolution of our political consciousness requires it.

Sanders’ strain of socialism presents as myopic, so says the criticism. There’s virtually no foreign policy experience.28 His world view is limited to middle-class economics and income inequality.

To his critics: yes.

To Sanders: stay strong.

The question every Democrat and eventually every American voter has to answer is this: Is it middle-class economics and income equality the defining issue of our time? And can my vote in this election serve to preserve opportunity, meritocracy, and the American Dream?

We think it is, and we think your vote can.

Part 2: Nothing short of preserving American democracy

A Sanders presidency will net out the best and only real opportunity to take big money out of politics, thereby reinvigorating the democratic process and the very nature of representation.29

Academics, a former president, and anyone with working knowledge of a dictionary agree America’s trend towards oligarchy—as opposed to a true democracy. Power is concentrated among the rich. And thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2009 Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) decision, money equates to speech, safeguarding the system for wealthiest Americans to keep the loudest voices in the halls of government.

There aren’t many options when it comes to overturning a Supreme Court ruling, but the most definitive is through constitutional amendment.

Constitutional amendments, however, are really really hard to pull off30—requiring a Congressional supermajority to propose, and 75% of state legislatures to approve.31

If Bernie wins, a constitutional amendment stands a chance,32 and he’ll point to this cycle’s fundraising, volunteer, and voter support as the model for subsequent elections. A Sanders victory would be a signal to elected officials33 across the US that in they in fact have leverage against corporate interests; it would represent the eye in the heretofore unthreadable needle of big money in politics. It’s a chance to fundamentally alter the nature of representation through our republican democracy at the state and federal level.

There is absolutely no guarantee that an opportunity like this will arise in our life time. It’s incumbent on us to seize it.