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Sunday, December 18, 2016


(Link to post online for those receiving by email)

The Electoral College votes tomorrow, after which, barring a miracle, the nightmare becomes real. All I can say is if ever there was a time for the E.C. to use its constitutional power it's now. We know Trump's election is in part the result of foreign interference, and that he is dangerously unfit for office. If the E.C. rubber stamps this of all elections then there is literally no reason for it to exist.

If you read one thing...

This long piece by Ta-Nahesi Coates for The Atlantic is quite moving and worth your time: "My President Was Black."  It's written in 'chapters,' so you can read it in installments.

It reminds me of this video of Jay-Z and friends celebrating on inauguration night 2009:

Such absolute joy in that video, as Jay-Z keeps repeating the same lines over and over, and it just never gets old. I remember that time in D.C. so well and seeing this video the next morning, among so much outpouring of good will and good feeling... now it all seems so long ago.

Clara Jeffery for Mother Jones issues a clarion call, "Time to Fight Like Hell"

If you're interested in more concrete terms what that might look like, some former Democratic congressional staffers put out a guide to action: "Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda"

Here’s the quick and dirty summary of this document. While this page summarizes top-level takeaways, the full document describes how to actually carry out these activities. 

Ch. 1:  How grassroots advocacy worked to stop Obama. We examine lessons from the Tea Party’s rise and recommend two key strategic components:  
1) A local strategy targeting individual Members of Congress (MoCs).2) A defensive approach purely focused on stopping Trump from implementing an agenda built on racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.  
Ch. 2: How your MoC thinks, and how to use that to save democracy. Reelection, reelection, reelection. MoCs want their constituents to think well of them and they want good, local press. They hate surprises, wasted time, and most of all, bad press that makes them look weak, unlikable, and vulnerable. You will use these interests to make them listen and act. 

Ch. 3: Identify or organize your local group. Is there an existing local group or network you can join? Or do you need to start your own? We suggest steps to help mobilize your fellow constituents locally and start organizing for action.  

Ch. 4: Four local advocacy tactics that actually work. Most of you have 3 MoCs - two Senators and one Representative. Whether you like it or not, they are your voice in Washington. Your job is to make sure they are, in fact, speaking for you. We’ve identified four key opportunity areas to pressure MoCs that just a handful of local constituents can use to great effect. For each of these always record encounters on video, prepare questions ahead of time, coordinate with your group, and report back to local media:
1) Townhalls. MoCs regularly hold public in-district events to show that they are listening to constituents. Make them listen to you, and report out when they don’t. 
2) Non-townhall events. MoCs love cutting ribbons and kissing babies back home. Don’t let them get photo-ops without questions about racism, authoritarianism, and corruption. 
3) District office sit-ins/meetings. Every MoC has one or several district offices. Go there. Demand a meeting with the MoC. Report to the world if they refuse to listen. 
4) Coordinated calls. Calls are a light lift but can have impact. Organize your local group to barrage your MoCs at an opportune moment and on a specific issue.

Masha Gessen writes for the New York Review of Books, "The Putin Paradigm"

Paul Krugman, "Useful Idiots Galore"

Josh Marshall on the 'revelations' that the Russians helped get Trump elected: "Stop Pretending. Everyone Knew About Russia. The GOP Didn't Care."

I also found Josh Marshall's response to John Podesta's Op-Ed in the Washington Post ("Something is deeply broken at the FBI" which takes the FBI to task for their behavior during the election) interesting: "The Unfolding Chronicle of WTF"

The Brookings Institute released a report entitled, "The Emoluments Clause: Its text, meaning, and application to Donald J. Trump" by Norman Eisen, Richard Painter, and Laurence H. Tribe, which talks about how the founders of our country included language in our Constitution to guard against a President using his office for personal gain, opening himself up to outside influence.  Here is the conclusion:
The Emoluments Clause, until recently not much discussed because its constraints have been taken for granted, constitutes a clear barrier to the intermingling of business and governmental interests that Donald J. Trump proposes to build into his conduct of the Presidency. That is a conclusion without partisan or ideological inflection; it would apply with equal force to any person or party occupying this position of public trust.  
It is plain that a President Trump would be subject to removal from office for the intentional abuse of power that this manifestly unconstitutional intermingling of private and public concerns would entail. When this guillotine might fall is a matter of political more than legal calculation, and is thus beyond the scope of our analysis. Likewise, just how the ongoing prospect of such an ignominious end to a Trump presidency would embolden his political adversaries at home and abroad, and undermine his legitimacy in the eyes of the American public and global community, is impossible to predict. So too, we cannot anticipate how the omnipresent prospect of such a disgraceful end would distort the dynamics of a President Trump’s ability to serve the domestic and national security interests of the nation. But that this looming constitutional shadow over his time in office would grievously disserve the people of the United States is beyond doubt.

For a quick and lively summary of this issue check out this short video from Vox's Liz Plank (whose style I can find off-putting, to be honest, but this video makes some good points). I agree this is something the Electoral College should consider (along with Russia's interference, the popular vote, Trump's mental health, among other things), but since they probably won't I hope there are some good lawyers thinking of how to get this in front of some judges.

SNL last night:

I would probably find this funnier if I'd seen the movie it's referencing, but it's still pretty good:

An interesting article from the Huffington Post: "Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? 3 Professors Of Psychiatry Ask President Obama To Conduct ‘A Full Medical And Neuropsychiatric Evaluation’"

The article notes people exhibiting 5 or more of the following 9 symptoms are likely to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believe that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4. Requires excessive admiration
5. Has a sense of entitlement
6. Is interpersonally exploitative
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”
How many of those apply to Donald Trump?

Absolute horror show: "Here's how Republicans plan to repeal Obamacare within weeks of Trump taking office" by Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner. It's going to happen folks, and people are going to die because of it. It's hard to have much sympathy for the ones that voted for Trump, after all they'll be getting what they voted for... but many others will suffer due to no fault of their own. And all basically just to spite a man with the temerity to be President while being black.

Lastly, a bit of fluff: "In the Chappaqua woods, a search for Hillary Clinton" 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Gas Lit

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."     -H. L. Mencken

Here's another collection of links and such that stuck out to me. I'll start with what I think are a few 'must-reads' and then move on to other interesting stuff.

Oh, and if you're getting this by email you can click here to read online (I'm told the formatting on the emails can be screwy).  Speaking of which, I don't plan to keep posting these to Facebook so if you like the blog consider "following" it (link at the bottom). Hopefully I won't be posting a lot... depends on how awful things get :).

These articles struck me as particularly insightful:

Ned Resnikoff writing for ThinkProgress, gets at something really important: "Trump's lies have a purpose. They are an assault on Democracy." Seriously, read the whole thing. He paints the big picture in a way that I think most people are missing.

Ian Millhiser, also at ThinkProgress, follows up on that article with another excellent piece: "Democrats will botch the resistance against Trump." The title doesn't really capture his argument, so just click through. The Thurgood Marshall anecdote was a great way to illustrate the trap we find ourselves in.

And this one you probably already saw, but in case you missed it, here is David Remnick's piece on Obama for the New Yorker. Remnick spent time with Obama in the days before and after the election and provides an account of Obama's reaction: "Obama Reckons with a Trump Presidency."

Technically Donald Trump has still not been elected President. The real vote occurs December 19th, and although it's beyond a long shot that Donald Trump will be denied the presidency it's worth considering a few things:
  • The Electoral College was originally designed as an opportunity to overrule the people should they choose someone unfit for office
  • In this particular case the people, as expressed by the popular vote, in fact chose another candidate (Clinton's lead is now over 2.8 million votes. She earned more votes than any other candidate in history except for Obama in '08), adding further weight to the argument the electors should vote their conscience and the will of the people
  • These are the rules of the game, as written in our Constitution. This is not "cheating." Should the electoral college choose a candidate other than Trump, that candidate will have won fairly according to the rules that are in place. If you don't like the rules we can talk about changing them for next time (a conversation I would welcome!).
  • If, for example enough of Trump's electors decide to abstain or vote for someone else they could conceivably deny him the necessary 270 votes to become President. (I realize this is highly unlikely, but bear with me...) If no candidate reaches 270 the election would then be tossed to the House of Representatives, who would surely vote Trump in all the same. This however would be quite a spectacle and make the absurdity of the Electoral College clear for all to see. This in itself would be a minor victory as it could spur a real conversation about changing the rules to make them more (small-d) democratic. (Not as an easy change to make, given it's written into the Constitution)

Michael Signer (Mayor of Charlottesville, VA and biographer of James Madison) writes for Time magazine, "The Electoral College was Meant to Stop Demagogues like Trump."
Since Nov. 9, Donald Trump has been described as our “President-elect.” But many would be shocked to learn that this term is actually legally meaningless. The Constitution sets out a specific hurdle for Trump to ascend to the presidency. And that will not happen until Dec. 19 when the members of the Electoral College meet in their respective states to vote for the President.It’s these electors who actually hold power under the Constitution to select Donald Trump as president. They should take that responsibility very seriously. They owe it to all Americans to deliberate on their choice in the manner required by the Constitution.The fact is that the Electoral College was primarily designed to stop a demagogue—a tyrannical mass leader who preys on our prejudices—from becoming President.Consider what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper Number 68. The Electors were supposed to stop a candidate with “Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming President. The Electors were supposed to be “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”They were to “possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations” as the selection of the President, and they were supposed to “afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder.” They were even supposed to prevent “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”Hamilton was talking about demagogues. The word “demagogue” appears in both the first and last Federalist Papers; in Federalist Paper Number 1, for instance, Hamilton worried about the “military despotism of a victorious demagogue.”
[Snip] The author describes the four criteria that define a demagogue, and how Trump meets all those criteria.
[T]he Electoral College was designed to prevent a demagogue from becoming president. It serves two purposes. One of them is to give small states power as well as big states and the cities. The other is to provide a mechanism where intelligent, thoughtful and statesmanlike leaders could deliberate on the winner of the popular vote and, if necessary, choose another candidate who would not put Constitutional values and practices at risk.In other words, the electors are not supposed to rubber-stamp the popular vote. They’re supposed to do the opposite—to take their responsibility gravely, to subject the winning popular vote candidate to exhaustive scrutiny, and, if the candidate does not meet Hamilton’s standards, to elect an alternative.
The electors were supposed to be statesmen. Even though recent years have seen a decline in statesmanship in America, they could be reborn this year. Statesmen truly have our greater good truly at heart, pursuing the broader purpose of America and calming the passions.If these men and women live up to that noble goal on Dec. 19, they will truly make American great again.

Lawrence Lessig has more along the same lines:

The Framers created the electoral college as a safety valve. They were not certain how the states would establish the process for selecting a president. Most assumed they’d have popular elections. But to avoid the chance that some insane passion would sweep the nation, and drive it to elect a nut, or a demagogue, they embedded an electoral college as a kind of circuit breaker. If the people go crazy, the college would be there to check it.As (probably) Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [President]” — but that sense would operate through an intermediate body, actually several intermediate bodies that would meet separately in the states, cast their ballots, and then transmit the results to Congress. By requiring they all meet on the same day but in many different places, the Framers thought they could avoid coordination and “corruption.” But by vesting the ultimate decision in these bodies of electors, they intended, Hamilton tells us, that:
the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. (Federalist 68) 
Many have rightly criticized the college as anti-democratic. I am one of those critics. But so long as it is part of our Constitution, we should take it seriously. And all it was seriously meant to do was to give a set of elected representatives (the “electors”) a chance to second guess the outcome of a popular election. If the people went nuts, the electors could veto it.
But if the people don’t go nuts, there is no reason — or justification — for the electors to second guess them. The Framers did not limit the reasons the electors might invoke for voting however they vote. They are free to vote however they want, for whatever reason they want — recognizing, no doubt, that they will need to justify what they do to a public that might ask why. They were empowered to veto the democratic will — if the democratic will needs to be vetoed. But in a Republic, they should only exercise that power when circumstances demand it.
In this election, the people have not gone crazy. The majority have cast their vote for Hillary Clinton. Like her or not, she is not a demagogue. She is not a tyrant. Indeed, she is the most qualified candidate for president in at least a generation. No elector could ever have had a good and sufficient reason to vote against her.
But because of the screwy way that electors are allocated, despite her winning the popular vote, she will lose the vote in the electoral college — if the electors, unthinkingly, simply followed the modern winner-take-all tradition for casting their votes (a rule not itself in the Constitution).
There is no reason — either morally or politically or constitutionally — that the electors need to create this crisis now. There is no reason they need to vote against the popular will. Each elector is free to vote his or her own conscience. In a Republic — aka, a “representative democracy” — it would thus be completely justified for an elector to vote to assure that the will of the majority prevails in a presidential election.
I get that many will respond — “hey, but that’s not our system.” Those “many” are just wrong. That is our system — electors can vote however they wish; and they should exercise their power consistent with democratic ideals.[1] It is at least the presumption of a representative democracy that the person who gets the most votes should win. That presumption should persuade electors to vote to assure a majoritarian outcome, unless there’s a good reason not to. Simply following a tradition that has defeated the democratic will at least 4 times in the past is not “a good reason.”

Another reason the Electoral College should keep Trump out of the White House is his myriad conflicts of interest. Vox helpfully catalogs them here.

This Politico article tells us about two political ethicists making the case to the electors that these conflicts of interest are indeed disqualifying: "'It's like a powder keg that's going to explode'" 

On a side note, Josh Marshall at TPM speculates as to why Trump refuses to divest himself to avoid these conflicts: "Maybe the Answer Is That He Can't Divest." (More here)

Michael Cannon from the conservative think tank the Cato Institute proposes something I would actually support: "Democrats can stop Trump via the Electoral College. But not how you think." Basically he argues Clinton should free her electors to vote for a responsible Republican, such as Mitt Romney.  Finding 38 Republican electors to change their votes could become much easier if they could vote for someone they might actually like, and we would be spared having a sociopath for a President. Also, again, it would have the side benefit of making the anti-democratic nature of the Electoral College very clear. 

The title of this Washington Post article/blog post (from "The Fix") says it all: "A lot of nonvoters are mad at the election results. If only there were something they could have done!" There are some interesting graphs in there.

Ah, Idiocracy. That movie only becomes more relevant over time.

You may have seen similar maps in previous elections, but these blue/red electoral maps of this last election that account for population and other factors are worth checking out.

Adrian Anchondo offers a righteous rant in defense of Hillary, with especially pointed commentary directed at liberals who spent the election slagging her: "Owning Our Shit."

There have been a slew of reports lately from journalists going into Trumpland and asking Trump supporters if they are racist and being told "no." I'm glad they cleared that up! More seriously, it is worth hearing Trump supporters describe in their own words why they voted for him rather than just making assumptions. So, by all means, read articles like this report from Katherine Kramer for Vox: "For years I've been watching anti-elite fury build in Wisconsin. Then came Trump."

And give consideration to this thoughtful post from Jeff Jackson, a North Carolina State Senator, about how Democrats might better reach disaffected rural white voters: "The Case We Should Make to Trump's Working-Class Voters."

But also keep in mind that it is a natural human impulse to want to justify the "will of the people" (in this case actually a minority of the people) and to assume elections point us towards us to a collective wisdom which is our duty to understand and accept. I'm personally skeptical of efforts to sanitize the election of it's darker implications. Of course we should be open to hearing different points of view, but as you read and consider articles like this or this I suggest you also consider this admittedly harsh but truthful post at Forsetti's Justice that argues the problem isn't that the "liberal elite" don't understand rural America, but that rural Americans don't understand themselves: "On Rural America: Understanding Isn't the Problem."

I agree with Charles Pierce's assessment at Esquire, responding to this Politico article about Trump voters: "You Can Keep Studying the White Working Class Voters, But We Know the Answers"-

In the campaign just passed, racism and xenophobia and sexism were not "the only reasons" Trump won. That's stupid. There is genuine economic anxiety and despair in the country. But they were the accelerant. They might not have been the biggest reason why he won, but they damn sure were a big part of filling his rally halls and getting his voters to the polls, and not just in the South, either. All American populism falls into the trap of scapegoating The Other eventually; if it didn't, Bernie Sanders would be picking his Cabinet right now. 
And I'm starting to get a kind of itchy feeling that anthropological surveys like this one are now serving the implicit purpose of camouflaging this basic fact on behalf of delicate souls who don't want to look the country squarely in the eye.

I don't know how we fix this problem, but I do know we won't fix it if we refuse to see it for what it is.

Derek Thompson writes for the Atlantic about "The Dangerous Myth That Hillary Lost Because She Ignored the Working Class"
Perhaps the clearest takeaway from the November election for many liberals is that Hillary Clinton lost because she ignored the working class. 
In the days after her shocking loss, Democrats complained that Clinton had no jobs agenda. A widely shared essay in The Nation blamed Clinton's "neoliberalism" for abandoning the voters who swung the election. “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders said on CBS This Morning, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from.” 
But here is the troubling reality for civically minded liberals looking to justify their preferred strategies: Hillary Clinton talked about the working class, middle class jobs, and the dignity of work constantly. And she still lost. 
She detailed plans to help coal miners and steel workers. She had decades of ideas to help parents, particularly working moms, and their children. She had plans to help young men who were getting out of prison and old men who were getting into new careers. She talked about the dignity of manufacturing jobs, the promise of clean-energy jobs, and the Obama administration’s record of creating private-sector jobs for a record-breaking number of consecutive months. She said the word “job” more in the Democratic National Convention speech than Trump did in the RNC acceptance speech; she mentioned the word  “jobs” more during the first presidential debate than Trump did. She offered the most comprehensively progressive economic platform of any presidential candidate in history—one specifically tailored to an economy powered by an educated workforce
What’s more, the evidence that Clinton lost because of the nation’s economic disenchantment is extremely mixed. Some economists found that Trump won in counties affected by trade with China. But among the 52 percent of voters who said economics was the most important issue in the election, Clinton beat Trump by double digits. In the vast majority of swing states, voters said they preferred Clinton on the economy. If the 2016 election had come down to economics exclusively, the working class—which, by any reasonable definition, includes the black, Hispanic, and Asian working classes, too—would have elected Hillary Clinton president. 
The more frightening possibility for liberals is that Clinton didn’t lose because the white working class failed to hear her message, but precisely because they did hear it. 
Trump’s white voters do support the mommy state, but only so long as it’s mothering them. Most of them don’t seem eager to change Medicare or Social Security, but they’re fine with repealing Obamacare and its more diverse pool of 20 million insured people. They’re happy for the government to pick winners and losers, so long as beleaguered coal and manufacturing companies are in the winner’s circle. Massive deficit-financed spending on infrastructure? Under Obama, that was dangerous government overreach, but under Trump, it’s a jobs plan by a guy they know won’t let Muslims and Mexicans cut in line to get work renovating highways and airports.

And that's reality. 

David Dayen at the New Republic writes "Obama Can and Should Put Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court." Obama, of course, will not do this, and there are even some good reasons not to do it (even if the fact the Senate has refused to consider his nomination is absolutely indefensible)... but that's not why I'm linking to the article.  I really wanted to bring attention to a point Dayen makes at the end of his piece that gets at a more fundamental issue that I think Democrats are going to have to grapple with in the age of Trump:
Republicans have absolutely no problem breaking any norm in their path to power. They turned the filibuster from a seldom-used tool to a routine exercise. Tom DeLay saw advantage in doing a second redistricting in Texas in 2003 to pick up extra GOP seats, even though states normally redistrict every 10 years; he succeeded. Congress typically passes the debt limit without comment, but Republicans took the country to the brink of its first default, extracting concessions in the process. A minority of the Senate prevented the confirmation for years of any director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau simply because they didn’t like the agency. The opposition party would never attempt to conduct foreign policy that differed from the president’s, until Republican senators tried it before the Iran deal.
And, of course, the year-long blockade of Garland, who has not even received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, violated a long-standing norm.
Republicans surely view Democrats in the same manner. They would cite the Senate’s use of the “nuclear option” to end the filibuster on executive branch and judicial appointees (though not Supreme Court justices), and the Obama administration’s reliance on executive orders on policies like immigration. But anyone weighing the two claims dispassionately would conclude that Republicans have shown far more willingness to bend the rules of governance to their will, and far less respect for how those rules have traditionally been administered.
There are consequences to one party being more aggressive about defying governing norms. If liberal legislation can’t break a Republican filibuster, but Democrats don’t offer the same resistance, the playing field is tilted to conservative policy. If Republicans use any maneuver to get appointees in place, and Democrats don’t, conservatives become more likely to be ensconced at executive agencies. If Republicans are willing to blackmail the government and Democrats aren’t, they get more concessions from that blackmail. If Republicans use gerrymandering and voter suppression and every available tool more sharply than Democrats, we get conservative government even if we vote for a liberal one.
Democrats, in short, bring a butter knife to a gunfight. They may be correct on the merits that institutional norms allow the government to function properly. But as long as Republicans don’t care about such niceties, that respect is equivalent to surrender.

The only reason it makes sense to respect norms is if we can count on the other side to do the same. So, how are we going to deal with that?  See the Ian Millhiser article that I posted up top.

And speaking of different sets of rules...

Surprise, surprise: "Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win the White House." The Obama administration sat on this info so as not to be accused of trying to sway the election. Meanwhile, the FBI did the opposite: release baseless speculation in order to sway the election.

The Economist has a very good summary of this issue: "The alarming response to Russian meddling in American democracy"  Just go read it. Republicans didn't always put the interests of their party before those of their country, but they certainly do now. (Many of them, anyway)

It should be said though that the efforts of Putin, Comey and Assange would have come to naught if it weren't for the media's eagerness to portray Trump and Clinton as two equally bad choices: "Study: Clinton-Trump coverage was a feast of false equivalency."

It's worth repeating: the reason we lost is not that all these Trump voters came out of the woodwork... it's that people who came out for Obama didn't show up for Clinton (see my previous post). All the unfair negative coverage was a major factor in depressing turnout.

And then there's social media...

I suppose videos like this are useful, although I look at it kind of like recycling: it's great and we should all do it, but if we're counting on people to choose to do the "right thing" in order to save the planet we're hosed. In the case of the environment we need to make the "right thing" also be the cheapest/most profitable thing. In the case of fake news Facebook has indicated they want to educate their users, using videos similar to the one above I imagine, so that they will be more sophisticated consumers of media. This strikes me as highly unlikely to solve the problem. I can understand why Facebook would rather just stay out of it, but they have a civic and moral responsibility not to let their site become a propaganda tool. This Vox article has some thoughts on how they could really make progress on the issue.

On a related note: "Why conservatives might be more likely to fall for fake news."

This Op-Ed at Teen Vogue (of all places) makes some great points about how truth itself is now under assault: "Donald Trump is Gaslighting America." The Resnikoff piece above covered a lot of the same ground but I wanted to include this as well as it's definitely worth reading. If nothing else we should all be familiar with the term "gas lighting," as it's a safe bet to remain relevant:

"Gas lighting" is a buzzy name for a terrifying strategy currently being used to weaken and blind the American electorate. We are collectively being treated like Bella Manningham in the 1938 Victorian thriller from which the term "gas light" takes its name. In the play, Jack terrorizes his wife Bella into questioning her reality by blaming her for mischievously misplacing household items which he systematically hides. Doubting whether her perspective can be trusted, Bella clings to a single shred of evidence: the dimming of the gas lights that accompanies the late night execution of Jack’s trickery. The wavering flame is the one thing that holds her conviction in place as she wriggles free of her captor’s control. 
To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself, often without bothering to conceal the conflicts within his own sound bites. He lied to us over and over again, then took all accusations of his falsehoods and spun them into evidence of bias. 
At the hands of Trump, facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves, as our very reality is called into question.

I just put the film on my Netflix queue.

Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie argues Trump's election calls for clear moral thinking in this excellent New Yorker Op-Ed: "Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About."  I'm tempted to just post the whole thing, but here's an excerpt:

Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots. Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Hazy visions of “healing” and “not becoming the hate we hate” sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity. 
America loves winners, but victory does not absolve. Victory, especially a slender one decided by a few thousand votes in a handful of states, does not guarantee respect. Nobody automatically deserves deference on ascending to the leadership of any country. American journalists know this only too well when reporting on foreign leaders—their default mode with Africans, for instance, is nearly always barely concealed disdain. President Obama endured disrespect from all quarters. By far the most egregious insult directed toward him, the racist movement tamely termed “birtherism,” was championed by Trump. 
Yet, a day after the election, I heard a journalist on the radio speak of the vitriol between Obama and Trump. No, the vitriol was Trump’s. Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one. 
Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory. Each mention of “gridlock” under Obama must be wrought in truth: that “gridlock” was a deliberate and systematic refusal of the Republican Congress to work with him. Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it. Now is the time to forge new words. “Alt-right” is benign. “White-supremacist right” is more accurate. 
Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about. “Climate contrarian” obfuscates. “Climate-change denier” does not. And because climate change is scientific fact, not opinion, this matters. 
Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction. The election is not a “simple racism story,” because no racism story is ever a “simple” racism story, in which grinning evil people wearing white burn crosses in yards. A racism story is complicated, but it is still a racism story, and it is worth parsing. Now is not the time to tiptoe around historical references. Recalling Nazism is not extreme; it is the astute response of those who know that history gives both context and warning. 

Speaking of which, Trump is not Hitler, but it is worth reviewing a little history here:

Lest you think bringing up Hitler is overwrought, check out this video:

That happened, folks. In our nation's capital.

Now the advantage we have over the people of Germany in the 30's (besides having vastly more wealth and stability) is we've seen that movie already (in my case hundreds of times... I watch a lot of WWII movies). But that doesn't mean it can't happen again. The only reason it won't happen again is we won't let it... so let's not let it.

These days it doesn't feel like love and compassion have much place in our politics. I certainly have a hard time empathizing with Trump voters right now. But as MLK, Ghandi and others have realized, love and compassion are the only things that change anything, ever. This short video is a nice reminder of that:

Obama talks about race:

Quite a series of covers:


I meant to post this video before the election, but it is strangely perfect I must say:

I'm very proud of my college friend Gabe Fowler for putting this together: "Cartoonists are creating a newspaper to protest Trump's view of women"  Gabe has already been contacted by the Library of Congress, who want to enter the paper into their collection. Really cool stuff!

Finally, we of course lost an American hero with the passing of John Glenn this week. (See some cool photos here- keep scrolling down)  I thought this NYT Op-Ed by Dale Butland made an important point:
When John passed away, we lost a man who many say is the last genuine American hero. Not because others won’t do heroic things, but because national heroes aren’t easily crowned or even acknowledged in this more cynical age.  
He belonged to an earlier and more innocent era — when we trusted our institutions, thought government could accomplish big and important things, still believed politics could be a noble profession, and didn’t think that ticker-tape parades were reserved for World Series or Super Bowl champions.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

this is very bad

[Note: if you're getting this by email click here to read online]


“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22

It's been a week now and my heart still hurts from this election. I don't think I'm the only one going through something like a grieving process. This election does more than just set our country back, it does so at a critical time in world history. On the issue of global warming in particular, if Trump follows through on his promises our planet may very well be doomed. Obama's legacy merely being wiped out seems like almost a best case scenario.

The polls were clearly off this year, which I think affected the campaign coverage in important ways. Everyone thought Trump would lose and Hillary would win and more political gridlock would follow, so it seemed ok to spend endless amounts of time on a bogus email story, and virtual no time at all on the policy positions of either candidate. I think if we had seen polls showing Trump ahead in the last week the media would have made more effort to convey what the consequences of his election would be. Now we'll just have to find out the hard way.

It's such a shame too, because I think Hillary would have made a damn fine president. When this election season started the two people who seemed to me obviously most qualified for the office were Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Joe didn't run and Obama, whose instincts I trust, clearly seemed to prefer Hillary anyway. Since the 2008 primary I'd grown to appreciate her worldview that while progress was inevitably slow and halting, with determination small gains could be eked out, even despite relentless opposition from Republicans, and that over time those gains could add up to something bigger. If I wasn't super excited about her candidacy I at least appreciated her pragmatism and her grit.

But over the last several months that straight-forward, practical decision became something more personal for me. The more I listened to her speak and saw her act/react in real time to a dramatic roller-coaster campaign I began to develop a real admiration for her. She was out there fighting the good fight on behalf of everyone hoping for a fairer, prosperous society with opportunity for all. It became increasingly clear that the knocks against her were entirely unfair and, frankly, rooted in sexism. (If nothing else this campaign has opened my eyes to how pervasive sexism really is... HRC was held to an altogether different standard than any other candidate in this race, on either side of the aisle.) And yet she never let it get her down, but just continued to soldier on with determination and optimism. She really was the "happy warrior" out there on the trail, even when the campaign was getting the rest of us down. So, while I primarily grieve for this country and the planet, there's a place in my heart for Hillary too. I know she's got to feel like she let everybody down... I feel like the opposite may be more true.

As Ruth Graham said, writing for Slate:
The shattering of one woman’s career aspirations are no tragedy compared with the globally catastrophic effects of a Trump presidency or even just the awful knowledge that half of the American people are on his side. But I can’t help thinking right now about Hillary Clinton as a person, rather than a symbol. She’s a woman who stayed so strong for so many years, but who is, after all, only human. And she’s a woman who many of us have grown to love.

When I went to volunteer to knock on doors for Hillary during our training we were told that if we ran into any Trump supporters we should also tell them where to vote and encourage them to do so.  No shenanigans. The guy training us said "Remember, everything you do reflects on the campaign and the Democratic Party. This is Star Wars, ok? And we're on the side of Luke Skywalker, so we need to live up to that standard." It was kind of a silly statement, but it made me feel proud to be one of the good guys.

There are so many things that could have gone differently that would have changed the election's outcome. I'm sure there must have been some celebrations at the FBI as their attempt to damper Clinton's support by reintroducing the email issue into the voters' minds right before going to the polls clearly worked. Comey may have been bending to pressure from within his organization rather acting on his own motivation, but that doesn't make his actions any less heinous. As leader of the FBI he should value our democracy over any one election, but his actions did not reflect that. He is a disgrace to his office and himself.

The role of Facebook also needs to be considered, which has for many become their only source of news, in allowing people to share completely bogus "news" stories of who the Clintons murdered, how the Pope endorsed Trump, etc., allowed for an alternate reality to be established among large swaths of the population. We thought Fox News was bad, but while they barely mention facts that don't fit with their worldview and twist inconsequential information into huge stories, there's generally at least some connection to reality. Fake online news stories shared on Facebook fly under the radar and so can make completely ludicrous claims and go completely unchallenged. Zuckerberg doesn't want to take any responsibility in checking news stories for factual accuracy... apparently they devised a system for doing so earlier this year but once they realized it would disproportionately affect conservative content (what a surprise!) decided to shelve it out of fear of a conservative backlash. I hope he will reconsider. (Looks like Google is at least making some policy changes... and some employees at Facebook are going rogue, which is heartening.)

But despite all of that let's not forget that Hillary won more votes, and only lost because of the actual "rigged system" that is our electoral college, which, just like our system of assigning Congressmen and Senators, values the votes of people who live in cities significantly less than those from rural areas. This is self-evidently anti-democratic. A person is a person and all our voices should carry equal weight. We can take cold comfort that the Democratic candidate won more votes in six of the last seven presidential elections. Unfortunately that won't be reflected in the direction our country turns now.

Instead the keys to the most powerful country on earth will be handed to a lying racist rapist. At least we will never have to be lectured about moral values by Republicans ever again. They got behind a moral sewer of a person, so that line of argument is over.

The only slim reed of hope I can hold onto is that given that Donald Trump is a sociopath who likely doesn't believe anything he says, maybe he won't follow through on all of his promises. I think one reason Obama is being so chill right now is in hopes that Trump will feel like he finally got the respect he wanted, and perhaps will find more pleasure tormenting Republicans who he feels didn't support him enough than ripping out Obama's accomplishments root and branch. He's currently making his best pitch to Trump not to scrap the climate deal he worked so hard for (this is the most important issue in my opinion because it effects not only us but all future humanity). I'm quite sure Obama had all the people on the exchanges with pre-existing conditions in mind when he apparently planted the bug in Trump's ear that he might be better off politically to keep that bit of the law at least. (Health care advocates aren't giving up, by the way.. at the very least Republicans need to be held responsible for everyone who dies because of their upcoming actions.) Obama just said Trump didn't strike him as particularly ideological and perhaps he could think outside of the box of typical Washington gridlock, or something to that effect. My hunch is that Obama is trying to influence Trump more than giving his objective analysis here. If it saves some of his achievements, all of which are now vulnerable to being scrapped at this point, it will be worth it.

As others have pointed out though, it can be dangerous to assume the autocrat (which is what Trump ran to become) doesn't really mean what he says. It also risks normalizing someone who has operated entirely outside the bounds of moral decency.

Masha Gessen writing for NYR Daily blog (New York Review of Books), "Autocracy: Rules for Survival"
Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won. 
I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:
She goes on to list six 'rules,' offering commentary and explanation on each. Quickly, the rules are:
Rule #1Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.
Rule #2Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule #3Institutions will not save you.
Rule #4Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.
Rule #5Don’t make compromises.
Rule #6Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. 

I have mixed feelings about the protests that have been going on. I understand what protesters are feeling because I share those feelings. Trump's election is an absolute horror-show. That said, it's worth noting the phrase "not my president," which has been going around, is a Republican one, coined in the 90's in response to Clinton's election (in that election he actually won the most votes, though it was only a plurality as it was a three way race). The truth is Clinton was their president, and on January 20th Trump will be ours, whether we like it or not. I'm not sure if we want to stoop to Republicans level and become more like them by refusing to accept the results of our (anti-) democratic process. On the other hand I understand the argument that we need to get out there and confront this thing, so perhaps complaining about this or that slogan isn't the most productive contribution at this moment. (Needless to say, I hope, actual rioting or destruction of property is both wrong and counter-productive)

David Remnick wrote this for the New Yorker in the immediate aftermath of the election: "An American Tragedy". It should really be read in full if you haven't already.

I remember Democratic strategist David Axelrod once saying that a presidential election serves as an MRI of a candidate's soul. I think that's true, but in this case unfortunately I think it served more as an MRI of our country's soul. If nothing else, the concept of "American Exceptionalism" died last week.

Neal Gabler writing for, "Farewell, America"

This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist. 
If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t. 
This country has survived a civil war, two world wars, and a great depression. There are many who say we will survive this, too. Maybe we will, but we won’t survive unscathed. We know too much about each other to heal. No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things. Nor can we pretend that democracy works and that elections have more or less happy endings. Democracy only functions when its participants abide by certain conventions, certain codes of conduct and a respect for the process. 
The virus that kills democracy is extremism because extremism disables those codes. Republicans have disrespected the process for decades. They have regarded any Democratic president as illegitimate. They have proudly boasted of preventing popularly elected Democrats from effecting policy and have asserted that only Republicans have the right to determine the nation’s course. They have worked tirelessly to make sure that the government cannot govern and to redefine the purpose of government as prevention rather than effectuation. In short, they haven’t believed in democracy for a long time, and the media never called them out on it.

Refusing to consider Merrick Garland was a particularly egregious example of flaunting the rules of our system of government for partisan advantage. Besides the environment, the Supreme Court will be the other way Trump will leave lasting, incalculable damage to our country. Personally I think Democrats should filibuster any nominee to the court until Garland gets a vote. This would just mean Republicans would get rid of the filibuster but that would in my opinion be a very good thing, as they consistently used it against every single thing the Democrats tried to do. If we ever want to get anything done in the future it will need to go. Might as well be over something where they are unquestionably in the wrong.

But even beyond the Supreme Court there are so many things that Republicans in Congress stopped not because they thought they would be bad for the country, but because they knew they would be good for the country, and therefore work to Obama's benefit. Whether it was preventing any infrastructure spending that might boost the economy (which of course they'll get on right away now that they're in power), or refusing to contribute in any way to solving our health care problems, or any other number of issues, Republicans put their party over their country every time. We should never forget that.

Brian Buetler for the New Republic, "Republicans Have Pulled the Country and the World Into the Abyss"
Remember, sitting members of the Republican Senate conference, when they were running against Trump in the GOP presidential primary, warned that he could not be trusted with control over the U.S. nuclear arsenal. They said he was an amoral conman. They were right about all of that. Then they endorsed him. We don’t know what will happen to the global order; we don’t know how Trump will respond to perceived slights by foreign leaders, whether in allied countries, or hostile ones. 
It is little solace to say that whatever becomes of this horrible leap into the abyss—whatever happens to immigrant and Muslim and black communities; whatever happens to LGBT and women’s rights; whatever happens to our economy; whatever happens to global stability—Republicans did this to us. As matters of both politics and conscience, they will have to live with this forever. But so will we.

About Hillary...

The media and her critics from the right and the left all routinely described Hillary Clinton as dishonest and untrustworthy.  It was bullshit:

Graham Vyse for The New Republic, "The Truth About Hillary Clinton"
The 2016 campaign has not been, as Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd said on MSNBC Monday, a “post-truth election.” Clinton has not run a post-truth campaign. She hasn’t always been truthful; The Washington Post’s Fact Checker awarded her seven of its worst Four-Pinocchio ratings throughout the race. But critically, the Post noted that this is an average score, putting her “in about the same range as President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012.” (There was far less discussion about the end-of-truth-as-we-know-it four years ago.) 
Moreover, “Trump has amassed such a collection of Four-Pinocchio ratings—59 in all—that by himself he’s earned as many in this campaign as all other Republicans (or Democrats) combined in the past three years.” Todd acknowledged the differential in his segment, but failed to drive the point home. 

Clinton’s honesty needn’t be graded on a Trumpian curve. In August, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones concluded “Hillary Clinton Is One of America’s Most Honest Politicians,” citing the chart above, of PolitiFact scores for 20 of America’s most prominent pols. Drum noted that The New York Times reached a similar conclusion; Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the Times, called Clinton “fundamentally honest and trustworthy” in her Guardian column in March, citing PolitiFact and her own reporting.

Paul Waldman for the Washington Post (Plum Line blog), "In defense of Hillary Clinton"
Though we seem to always be obliged to say that she isn’t a “natural” politician and she doesn’t have great oratorical skills, Clinton performed nearly as well as any candidate could have. She fended off a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders, mounted a terrific convention, raised more money than her opponent, and decisively won all three debates. Did she make the occasional mistake? Sure, but every candidate does, and she made far fewer than most. 
But in the end, she was defeated by forces that were partly outside of her control. She couldn’t fend off a tide of sexism, or the resentment whites feel at a diversifying America. She watched helplessly as the FBI director, in an unprecedented move with a week to go in the campaign, injected himself into the race to deliver her opponent a gift-wrapped attack. She saw Russian hackers cooperate with Wikileaks to hack into her allies’ electronic accounts and release whatever damaging information they could find. She couldn’t stop Republican voter suppression efforts from bearing fruit in state after state. 
But the emails, you say, the emails. Isn’t that all her fault? It may be hard at this point to step back and look at this issue objectively after so much has been said about it. But if you could manage that, you’d have to admit that the real story of her emails is that what was at worst a misdemeanor was blown up by her opponent and an eager news media into the crime of the century.

To that last point, Matthew Yglesias writes for Vox something that cannot be overstated: "Media obsession with a bullshit story email scandal helped Trump to the White House". If you doubt that at all then you need to read the article. The email thing became a blank slate with which to smear Clinton, but the more you drill into the actual specifics the less is really there. The real point was simply to telegraph "untrustworthy" to voters, irrespective of the actual issue. Apparently it worked.

I understand at the end of the day you either win or lose an election, and Clinton lost. So it's fair to hold her and her campaign to account.  That said, I think one of the most important take-aways here is that Trump not only got fewer votes than Clinton, he got fewer votes than Romney in 2012 as well (both in terms of real votes, as well as a percentage of the total vote). Many Republicans with a sense of decency refused to vote for Trump, although it appears those voters were replaced by other bigots drawn to Trump's racist message (I realize calling people out for racism is not an effective way to reduce racism, but I'm just not in the mood this moment to coddle the sensibilities of folks who spent the year chanting "build that wall!" and hurling epithets at Muslims and immigrants.). Many of these are new voters, and they will likely reshape the Republican coalition going forward.

The bigger story this year though is that Democrats did not show up for Hillary, as these two graphs show:

I saw a post shared on Facebook recently (I believe from the Working Families Party) about how "the Democratic Party failed us." Looking at these graphs I can't help but think the Democratic voters failed us. I think many preferred Hillary to the odious Trump, but just didn't bother to actually vote. I'm guessing there was just "something about" Hillary they couldn't get excited about. They just weren't feeling it somehow. Maybe it was her laugh? Hmmm....

Anyone unhappy that Trump is our President-elect who did not vote for Clinton (some of these people, for example) should definitely read this:

Kurt Eichenwald for Newsweek, "The Myths Democrats Swallowed that Cost them the Presidential Election"

That goes for anyone who thinks the DNC cheated Sanders out of the nomination, or that he would have won had he been the nominee. Granted, you can't disprove a negative, but Eichenwald got a peek at the Republican's oppo-file on Sanders and suffice to say there would have been a category five shit storm headed his way had he managed to win the nomination.

I've seen some disgruntled Sanders supporters trying to cast this election as a referendum on 'neoliberalism.' This article has been going around:

Naomi Klein for The Guardian, "It was the Democrats' embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump."
They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry.

But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake: neoliberalism. That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine – is no match for Trump-style extremism. The decision to run one against the other is what sealed our fate. If we learn nothing else, can we please learn from that mistake?

First of all, yes I will blame all those things for Clinton's loss. To brush those aside is to deny the obvious. Second of all, Hillary Clinton has a "machine"? Who knew. I never hear any other candidate's campaign referred to in such sinister terms. (Funny how the language of Clinton's critics from the left so often mirrors that of Fox News and the right... something I imagine the average voter picked up on as well.) More to the point I find it highly dubious to suggest 'neoliberalism' was the most important factor in this election, especially considering she wasn't even advocating for it. In this election she was essentially advocating for achievable versions of Sanders' more outlandish proposals. You probably wouldn't know it, though, because the media was entirely disinterested in the policies the candidates were putting forward.

But Donald Trump wasn't going around making a critique of the free market... He was scapegoating immigrants and Muslims, stoking racial resentment to benefit himself. Let's not try to dress that up as a respectable argument. I'm all for taking a closer look at our trade policies and making sure our workers aren't forced to compete with peasants making pennies on the dollar somewhere across the globe. But so was Hillary. The assumption is that she was just lying, that she must be corrupt because she was paid to give some speeches, which is really just legalized bribery, right? That's the argument at the bottom of this and it's f-ing offensive. And yes, while Trump didn't really do policy specifics, he played off these insinuations regarding Hillary's character to great effect, because if critics from the left and the right agree it must be true. But, it's not.

Regardless, at the end of the day protectionist trade policies aren't going to solve our problems, even if they may ameliorate some of the pain in the short term. The world we live in will only continue to become more inter-connected. What Obama was trying to do with the TPP is to raise worker wages around the world to help level the playing field in a more sustainable way. I won't pretend to be an expert on this topic, but I know enough to know it's not a simple black and white issue.

Here is another article making a similar line of argument to the previous one, perhaps a little more thoughtfully:

Joan C. Williams writing for Harvard Business Review, "What So Many People Don't Get About the U.S. Working Class."

There are some interesting points in there and it's certainly a discussion we need to have. But now that we all have 20/20 hindsight vision I wanted to bring attention to one excerpt:
Back when blue-collar voters used to be solidly Democratic (1930–1970), good jobs were at the core of the progressive agenda. A modern industrial policy would follow Germany’s path. (Want really good scissors? Buy German.) Massive funding is needed for community college programs linked with local businesses to train workers for well-paying new economy jobs. Clinton mentioned this approach, along with 600,000 other policy suggestions. She did not stress it.
Note how Clinton's extensive detailed policies become a liability for her... shouldn't that be a good thing? But more to the point, she talked about her plan for free community college and debt free in-state college/university tuition while on the stump every single day of the campaign. Every. Single. Day. Yes, there were many other proposals she mentioned as well... all of which were also designed to help the working and middle classes. But the average voter didn't hear about any of it because the press was not interested in covering it. Perhaps if she had sent some emails about her plans marked "Confidential" the press would have been interested when Wikileaks published them, but other than a stunt like that I'm not sure what she could possibly do to make anybody care.

Adam Serwer for the Atlantic, "Is This the Second Redemption" argues that we may be about to experience something similar to what happened after Reconstruction in the South when hard fought gains were completely obliterated, almost as if they had never happened. Along the way he makes this observation:
Democrats now face a renewed white-identity politics whose appeal will be immensely difficult to neutralize, and the notion that a more vigorous, left wing economics will return the white working class to the Democratic fold is likely a fantasy. The last Democrat to come close to winning the white vote was Bill Clinton, who combined his economic populism with promises to “end welfare as we know it” and advertised his willingness to use state violence against black Americans, turning the execution of Ricky Ray Rector to his political advantage. 
The uncomfortable truth is that, whether you’re Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, economic populism is most effective in American politics when it is paired with appeals to racism. Maybe the Democrats can and will find a way to do so without such appeals. By the time they do, it may simply be too late to stop what is coming.

This is what's getting lost here. The reason many white people do not like Democrats is not that Dems only serve their corporate masters. It's that people hear of programs to help people and think Democrats only want to help black people and other minorities, who they think are lazy and undeserving of help (this is sometimes referred to by it's technical name: "racism."). They are apparently unaware that these policies will also help them, as Democratic policies still primarily benefit white people, by virtue of there just simply being more of us. But that's not enough apparently. To get white support you need to signal that you won't help lazy blacks. This, to state the obvious, is not likely to inspire the "Obama coalition" that elected Obama twice to show up to vote. This is the basic conundrum that some on the left are currently choosing to elide. Appealing to racism is not only morally wrong, it sacrifices our one ace in the hole, which is the changing demographics of our country.

There seems to be an effort underway to suggest white voters voted for Trump not because of his racist appeals but in spite of them. Jenee Desmond-Harris wrote a must-read article for Vox, which pretty much lays that argument to waste: "Trump's win is a reminder of the incredible, unbeatable power of racism".

The irony is, as Dylan Matthews writes, "Donald Trump's presidency is going to be a disaster for the white working class"

I saw a news report the day after the election where some Trump voters in Ohio or Kentucky were saying how glad they were he won and that they hoped he would build factories in their area to give people jobs. A) That's not going to happen.  B) That's more or less the definition of Communism by the way, when the government builds factories and employs the people. Just sayin'... But, sure, vote for the rapacious real estate tycoon if that's who you think is going to liberate the workers from the evils of capitalism. Good luck with that.

Gender is, of course, another important angle here...

Rebecca Traister writes for New York Magazine, "Shattered"
Monday-morning quarterbacks now litter the field, pointing out the one outlier poll, or their generalized conviction that Hillary was a terrible candidate, or that Trump’s celebrity helped him, or that Clinton didn’t visit Wisconsin enough, and that any one of these things makes Tuesday’s outcome perfectly comprehensible. 
But the argument that if Clinton had taken a firmer stand on trade, or spent more time in Green Bay, it would have mitigated the fact that 48 percent of voters chose a self-confessed sexual predator who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, attempts to apply reason where there is only visceral incongruity. Clinton was surely a flawed candidate; but Trump was a catastrophically awful one. The disparity is enough to make one wonder if she ever really had a chance. 
We are a female-majority country that had never before nominated, much less elected, a woman president, and in which the administration of our first black president has been unapologetically delegitimized by members of his opposing party, led by our new president-elect. The resounding, surprising, data-defying victory of a man who ran on open racism and misogyny, and was voted into office by 63 percent of white men and 53 percent of white women voters, was made possible by voters threatened by the increased influence of women and people of color. 
Or, I should say, half of those who voted; though the tallies won’t be final for months, it appears that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. But the predominantly white, predominantly male 48 percent of voters who determined the electoral tally rejected her historic proposition, and the imagined coalition of Americans who might have supported it did not turn out — and in some states were successfully suppressed. The heartbreak of this election for Clinton supporters is not just the loss of a tough, smart, and inspiring first female president — though that is wrenching — but also the loss of the idea that this country was so very close to being better, more inclusive, more just, and more representative.
There has been a lot of talk in this election about Hillary Clinton’s failure to adequately appeal to America’s working-class white men, who are suffering from the collapse of manufacturing and coal industries and plagued by a heroin epidemic. But maybe a woman trying to build a coalition of marginalized groups, and espousing policies that would help those groups, simply could never have appealed to Trump’s base — even though those policies would also have helped that base. Yes, Clinton was weak on trade. Yes, she made money giving speeches to Wall Street. Yes, she was an Establishment candidate in a populist era. But Occam’s razor suggests that a wave of white men and women, low-income to college-educated, who came out in unanticipated numbers to vote against the female successor to a black president, and for a candidate whose supporters openly proposed imprisoning and killing both of them, were not acting wholly in response to Clinton’s waffling on TPP. Even suggesting that, critics are told, is exacerbating the problem: Alienating white men (and women) by noting that they responded to racism, sexism, and xenophobia is apparently more grievous a political miscalculation than giving voice to racism, sexism, and xenophobia. 
But as we look forward, we must note that more than half of voters did look toward another America, a future in which participation is diverse and needs are interconnected. Hillary Clinton, the first major-party woman candidate for president of the United States, won more votes than her opponent, the man who will become only the fourth president in history to take office after winning the Electoral College and losing the popular vote. Had this happened in reverse, of course, it would be bedlam, because the will of American whiteness would have been superseded by the (rigged) system of Electoral College voting that afforded non-whites a threatening degree of power. But because this result is an affirmation of whiteness and of maleness, both in terms of the electorate and the candidate who won — there is no threat of incivility. Hillary Clinton conceded early Wednesday morning. Barack Obama welcomed Donald Trump to the White House on Thursday. Michelle showed Melania around. 
This is normal — America as it has always been, not yet the better version we hoped it could be. But the half of America that lost is devastated. “Crying as if someone died” is a text message I received from more than one friend last week. And it is as if someone died: a dream of what we could have been, of the president we could have had. And about the loss of one of the most inspiring (and sure, flawed, but good God am I tired of having to always acknowledge that she was flawed) leaders many of us will know. 
There are those who argue that this election was not a referendum on women, it was a referendum on one woman; if the Democratic candidate had been Elizabeth Warren or practically anyone else, this might not have been the outcome. Throughout the election, many people complained that Clinton was not beating Trump by 20 points. How could she not be mopping the floor with this lying, bile-spewing monstrosity? But plenty of us understood all too well that the exceedingly prepared woman often loses the job to the far-less-qualified man. And, for the record, she did lead him by 20 points or more — with African-American voters, with Latino voters, with single women voters under 55, and by close to that number with Asian-American voters; the only reason this election was even close was because of white people, mostly white men. Few seem eager to examine the possibility that certain segments of America simply do not want to be led by a woman, and that almost every other explanation for what was wrong with her — her high negatives, reputation for being untrustworthy, the email mess — originates with the ways she has been systematically demonized her whole career for being a threatening woman. 
The media narrative about the wretchedness of her political skills has obscured the fact that Hillary Clinton was a pretty great candidate for the presidency. Not a magnetic or inspiring speaker, no. The bearer of way too much awkward baggage, yes. But also: steady and strong and strategic and smart. Despite being under investigation by Congress and the FBI and the media, despite having her State Department emails made public, despite having her campaign staff’s emails hacked, despite being married to a man whose legislative and personal history made him deeply problematic, and despite the rolling waves of sexism directed at her and the racism directed at her predecessor and political partner Obama, she literally won the popularity contest. And the fact that she tried to build a coalition of voters that brought together the marginalized groups that will one day be the majority in this country was inspired and forward-­thinking, even in its ultimate failure.


In this season's final episode of Last Week Tonight John Oliver has a pretty great recap of election night, what it means going forward, and of the year 2016 in general:

Before the election I posted this missive on Facebook that I'd like to include here for posterity:

Apologies, but I'm gonna go on a full on political rant here (everybody gets at least one per election cycle, right?): An ABC News / Washington Post poll yesterday had Trump one point ahead of Clinton nationwide... I have a very hard time believing a majority of our fellow Americans could possibly pull the lever for a morally repugnant serial liar / sexual abuser who in my opinion is literally mentally ill. Nevertheless we have to deal with that as a very real possibility at this point. I normally refrain from political posts on Facebook because everyone already knows how they feel anyway, but I think this is a moment to 'stand and be counted,' so to speak. 
A Trump presidency would be an epic disaster for our country and the world in a way that a McCain or Romney presidency, as much as I disagreed with those guys, would not have been. PEOPLE: you need to vote. And not just vote, you need to vote for Hillary Clinton. I'm sure most of you are there already, but in case anyone reading this feels apathetic or indecisive consider this an urgent, respectful plea to WAKE UP. I'm sorry if you don't like Clinton, but she's the only thing standing between Donald Trump and the White House. If you're considering voting for a third party, I've been down that road: I voted for a certain third party candidate in the 2000 election... in Florida. A terrorist attack, two wars and a financial meltdown later that's a vote I still have to live with. Don't be fooled into thinking your vote is merely symbolic. I can assure you it matters in a very literal and real way. 
For what it's worth, I happen to think Clinton will be a very good President. I supported her from the beginning because I think she's the best person for the job. I think a lot of people mistake cynicism for wisdom and choose to take a very jaded view of her based on media reports and Republican witch hunts which never actually lead anywhere but certainly "raise many questions" along the way. But if you don't like her, fine. Reasonable people can disagree. 
But Trump poses a unique threat to our democracy. If somehow the choice was between Trump and someone like a Bush or a Romney I would vote for ANY sane person who could keep Trump out of the White House. He is exactly the person that every conniving villain from legends and storybooks was meant to warn us about when we were kids. The racism and the bullying and the shameless lying are all awful qualities to be sure, but they are symptoms of a deeper problem: this is a man who can only inflate himself by tearing down others, a man who's willing to appeal to the worst in people for his own selfish ends... but no matter how much he takes nor how many people he destroys it will never, ever be enough. There is a dark void where his soul should be and it will never be filled. I would almost feel sorry for him if he wasn't such a danger to this country. 
We take what we have for granted, but democracy is a fragile thing... in some ways it's surprising ours has endured as long as it has. There is certainly no guarantee it will last indefinitely. Civil institutions erode slowly and then all at once. Donald Trump is exactly the kind of person who could throw our 'great experiment' into a chaos from which it may not recover. People from across the political spectrum are trying to warn us about this, and it's not because they're part of some 'rigged system.' When people like Colin Powell and the Bushes are on the same page as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren maybe we should pause and listen. Hell, at this point even the current VP candidate for the Libertarian Party is urging people to vote for Clinton, saying he 'fears for this country' if Trump were to win. 
For the record, I'm actually optimistic about this election and our country's future. I think Clinton will win and that she will do well for our country, despite the predictable Republican tantrums that will follow. If Democrats win the Senate she may even be able to appoint some justices to the Supreme Court, which is where we might see some real progress. Otherwise at a bare minimum she will hold the line and life will go on. But all that rests on people understanding the gravity of our current situation and acting accordingly (hence this post). 
I know we all can't wait for this election to be over, and it will be soon, but now is the time to focus: Please, make a plan to vote, and talk to anyone who could use an extra nudge. Do everything you can to elect Hillary Clinton, whether you like her or not, and let's move past this national nightmare of an election and on to better times. 
Love to everyone (and thanks for reading),

Glad I'm on the record as being optimistic for our country's future. In the words of Neil Young, "take my advice, don't listen to me."

Jonathan Chait, writing for New York Magazine, has an excellent preview of where our politics are headed, with sage advice for Democrats going forward: "Citizens, United."

Paul Krugman for the New York Times, "Thoughts for the Horrified"
So where does this leave us? What, as concerned and horrified citizens, should we do?  
One natural response would be quietism, turning one’s back on politics. It’s definitely tempting to conclude that the world is going to hell, but that there’s nothing you can do about it, so why not just make your own garden grow? I myself spent a large part of the Day After avoiding the news, doing personal things, basically taking a vacation in my own head.  
But that is, in the end, no way for citizens of a democracy — which we still are, one hopes — to live. I’m not saying that we should all volunteer to die on the barricades; I don’t think it’s going to come to that, although I wish I was sure. But I don’t see how you can hang on to your own self-­respect unless you’re willing to stand up for the truth and fundamental American values.  
Will that stand eventually succeed? No guarantees. Americans, no matter how secular, tend to think of themselves as citizens of a nation with a special divine providence, one that may take wrong turns but always finds its way back, one in which justice always prevails in the end.  
Yet it doesn’t have to be true. Maybe the historic channels of reform — speech and writing that changes minds, political activism that eventually changes who has power — are no longer effective. Maybe America isn’t special, it’s just another republic that had its day, but is in the process of devolving into a corrupt nation ruled by strongmen.  
But I’m not ready to accept that this is inevitable — because accepting it as inevitable would become a self­fulfilling prophecy. The road back to what America should be is going to be longer and harder than any of us expected, and we might not make it. But we have to try. 

After the passing of Leonard Cohen this week Kate McKinnon gave a double tribute to the songwriting legend and Hillary Clinton. I've never seen anything quite like it. Strange but poignant and moving:

I did my best, it wasn't much / I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch / I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you / And even though it all went wrong / I'll stand before the Lord of Song / With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

 This song also seems appropriate:

As a final thought, I think we're all going to have to reassess our lives to some degree in the Trump-era. What do we stand for, and what are we going to do about it? I don't want to fall into trite moralism here; This isn't easy. We're going to have to engage with the other side, but on what terms? On one hand we need to be open to honest dialogue - we can't expect people to listen to us if we refuse to listen to them - On the other, we have to maintain a clear sense of justice and purpose at a time when the darkest impulses of humanity are ascendant.

In "A Time for Refusal" Teju Cole writes for New York Times Magazine about a play called "Rhinoceros" which, written over 50 years ago about fascist Romania in the 1930's... As he describes it the play interestingly highlights the moral dilemmas we now face in the present. Do you protest, or go along? As Gessen says in the first article I quoted above, "it is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room." Perhaps you go along in order to try to affect change 'from the inside,' although that can become a slippery slope.

I read that Obama's been trying to buck up his staff, reminding them you don't need hope in the good times, it's the bad times when it matters. He is (amusingly) allowing a two week moping period, but then it's time to get back at it. Some have been critical of Obama and Clinton for being too accommodating and accepting of President -elect Trump (even typing those words still makes me nauseous). I'm sympathetic to that view, but I'm more inclined to say they're actually doing the right thing, as painful as it is watch. Ultimately the more divided we are and the more we hate each other the more it benefits the other side. By behaving graciously at this difficult moment we hopefully create space for us to come together in the future. They are showing leadership which will hopefully help heal this country, although there are surely more political battles to come.

Along those lines I read that Obama's Press Secretary Josh Earnest told his own staff:

“People say adversity builds character,” Earnest said. “I’m not sure that’s true. I think adversity reveals character.”

Very true. The next four years will reveal a lot about our country and about ourselves.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go barf.