I seem incapable of writing intensive, carefully-reasoned longform essays these days. I have therefore decided to lift my long silence, compromise my most sacrosanct self-imposed standards, and offer a simple, shallow, incoherent, and rambling bullet-list of my contrarian musings and mind-mumblings each Monday evening. Some people watch football.
This evening’s topic is the —
Democratic No-Nuthin’ Convention
The Democratic National Convention is presently shaking the chandeliers sixty miles south-south-east of my home in the Honorable (loyalist scum) William Allen’s town, Pennsylvania.
The DNC commissioned the most shockingly original design for their Philadelphia convention logo this year, cleverly using the iconic Liberty Bell in place of the zero in 2016. It towers over their big cocktail party in the Cradle of American Democracy with a certain je ne sais quoi. Some designer somewhere mustn’t have got paid, “F—k it, here’s a generic icon — plop — from Pixabay. And here’s some blasé, shittily kerned sans-serifed capitals. Oh, and stars. ’Murica.”
In an election cycle distinguished by fierce criticism of the financial industry and its outsized political influence, Democrats chose the erstwhile CoreStates Bank branded arena, which became First Union Center after a 1998 bank merger, which became Wachovia Center after a 2003 merger, which became Wells Fargo Center after the last and most recent 2010 über merger.
Wells Fargo capitalized quite successfully on the collapse of the financial industry post-2008, which is really to say, they capitalized on the misfortune of working class Americans.
In a year of unprecedented mass animosity toward Wall Street and Big Banks, Democrats had no problem with this location, because recently they have proven to be complete idiots about public relations optics.
At least they don’t appear to have taken a $10 million line of credit guaranteed and later forgiven by a Big Coal energy corporation this time.
The blindness of easily seductive panic is totalizing. One would think that a plague were being visited upon us based on the palpable anxiety and tangible unreason of people who insist they are more rational, more factual, and more sane than their opposition.
None of that is true, of course.
If you haven’t read Alain De Botton’s The News: A User’s Manual (2014), please do. It is an essential treatment of everything that is wrong with how we are influenced by the news:
In its stoking of our fears, the news cruelly exploits our weak hold on a sense of perspective.
With perspective in mind, we soon realize that — contrary to what the news suggests — hardly anything is totally novel, few things are truly amazing and very little is absolutely terrible. The revolution will not mean the end of history; it will just change a lot of things in many different small and complicated ways. The economic indices are grim, but we have weathered comparable drops many times over the last century and even the worst scenarios only predict that we will return to a standard of living we had a few decades ago, when life was still possible. Rome fell, but 600 years later everything was almost back to normal again.
[I]f we suppose that most things normally turn out to be slightly disappointing (but that this is OK); that change occurs slowly (but that life is long); that most people are neither terribly good nor very wicked (and this includes us); that humanity has faced crisis after crisis (yet muddled through) — if we are able to keep these entirely obvious but highly fugitive thoughts alive in our minds, then we stand to be less easily seduced into panic.
A relatively slim majority — possibly a tad slimmer if “force and fraud” are factored in — is considered by the carriers of an election as license to suppress the voices of the slim minority. In a country of 320 million citizens, the difference between 16 million people and 13 million people is infinitesimal.
13 million may have lost the nomination by three million votes, but they are still members of a sizable, essential base. As Baron Acton wrote in The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877),
The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
Dignified behavior or justifiable protest is so highly subjective as for the categories to be meaningless.
Many Democrats, especially affluent, socially-insulated members of the professional class — doctors, lawyers, clergy, engineers, academics, middle managers, financial planners, computer programmers, &c. — have extremely fragile sensibilities and are averse to even mild unrest.
This fifth of the population seem unaware of their entitlement, privilege, and self-segregation from reality.
When Paul Krugman wrote his ignorantly oblivious op-ed It Takes A Party, he presumed a degree of party unity that not only didn’t exist but almost immediately exploded beneath the bombshells of Sanders and Trump, and to a lesser degree Cruz.
Notable throughout was the rise in political independents, which is different from political independence in our duopolistic party structure.
Also, the dearth of self-awareness made the professional class, the technocracy, look like farcical fools.
The now growing popularity of third-party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson threatens to erode both the Republican and Democratic vote. However, Democrats have failed over and over again to address the failures of neoliberal economics and identity politics.
Party unity seems less about legitimate compromise and more about suppression of dissent. Establishment loyalists don’t seem to understand that trussing up their progressive wing by insisting that compromise is the same thing as agreement is ripping the party in two by misunderstanding the very nature of compromise.
John Morley wrote in On Compromise (1874),
It is legitimate compromise to say: ‘I do not expect you to execute this improvement or surrender that prejudice, in my time. But at any rate it shall not be my fault if the improvement remains unknown or rejected. There shall be one man at least who has surrendered the prejudice, and who does not hide the fact.’ It is illegitimate compromise to say: ‘I cannot persuade you to accept my truth; therefore I will pretend to accept your falsehood.’
Keeping that in mind, the most legitimate act of compromise without threatening his integrity was Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton, proving that of all the players only he maintained integrity of promise and principle, despite revelatory document leaks and resulting protests pressuring him to turn his back on the party that asked him to deliver his voters but had betrayed him at every turn, tarnishing the electoral process and further invalidating public trust.
This movement of ours — this political revolution — must continue. We cannot let all of the momentum we have achieved in the fight to transform America be lost. We will never stop fighting for what is right.
It is true that in terms of winning the Democratic nomination, we did come up short. But this election was never about me or any candidate. It was about the powerful coming together of millions of people to take their country back from the billionaire class.
Today, I endorsed Hillary Clinton to be our next president. I know that some of you will be disappointed with that decision. But I believe that, at this moment, our country, our values, and our common vision for a transformed America, are best served by the defeat of Donald T_____.
And yet, the New York Times published what epitomized mainstream reportage post-endorsement, a counterintuitively divisive op-ed by Andrew Rosenthal, Bernie’s Uninspiring Endorsement. The contempt was dripping and utterly inappropriate.
Sanders avoided subjects like war and foreign affairs, since he and Clinton disagree violently on those things. He harped on his successes, which was understandable, but it was passing strange when he claimed that he and his backers showed the world that we could run a successful national campaign based on small individual contributions.
Yes, if you define successful as losing.
As I wrote before, Sanders lost 13 million to 16 million, hardly a representative majority. In fact, he lost nothing but the nomination, winning what could very well be an enduring and influential political movement that continues to place pressure on a party all too comfortable in its stasis. In fact, he showed that a campaign could be successfully funded â€” in spite of Citizenâ€™s United â€” with small grassroots donations.
He proved that integrity and principled resolve have clout with voters who were formerly dispossessed. He opened the doors of a shrinking, aging, out-of-touch Democratic Party to passionate young people and long-time political independents. He succeeded in exposing the failures of our nominating process and the electoral privilege of an incestuous do-nothing establishment.
Most of all, he demonstrated that a politics of the people, by the people, and for the people could be wrought in solidarity not divisiveness.
The Democratic establishment has done everything in its power to stupidly squander those gains. Sanders and many of his supporters can at least say in accordance with Morley, â€œAt any rate it shall not be my fault if the improvement remains unknown or rejected.
F—k Debbie Wasserman Schultz. F—k Vladamir Putin. F—k ersatz nostalgia for the Cold War — thanks, Chris, for that line. F—king f—k the f—k out of this bullshit!
First, it’s 2016. Second, it’s 2016. Third, it’s two-thousand-f—king-sixteen! Email can be hacked, it can be intercepted, it can be undermined. The Democratic Party literally opened itself up to another f—king email scandal and I can’t even.
Skeletons do not remain in closets in the age of Anonymous, Wikileaks, Reddit, and Twitter. Repeat, ad infinitum.
Don’t store skeletons in closets. Closets are for pant-suits.
This is what Snapchat is for, Wasserman Schultz and company, not just bozos sending unsolicited dick pics. If you want to do something dirty, make sure its with a destructible medium.
Or, don’t do something dirty. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We do not yet have confirmation of Russia’s involvement, whatever Robby Mook says and whatever rumors are circulating about the FBI. Putin may very well be involved. Guccifer 2.0 may also merely be a Russian national, a renegade hacker. We don’t yet know. Stop being Russophobic f—kheads.
Even if Russia is spying on us and trying to influence our election in favor of T____, use your brains: Denying that this is an issue or trying to distract away from it only helps cement it as an issue.
The United States spies and string-pulls in other nations all the time, including bipartisan commitments to a foreign policy that supplies arms to genocidal dictators and instigates disastrous regime change for some nebulous set of realpolitik “interests.” Let’s be a little less outraged at faults which are as much ours as theirs.
Deal with your dirty laundry when people discover it hanging on the line. Forthrightly. No hemming. No hawing. Issue explicit apologies. Offer immediate plans for reform. Do not use lawyerly smarm and couch your statements with so many qualifiers as to be meaningless. Dismiss wrongdoers. Do not ease wrongdoers out of office by awarding them honors. Penalize them appropriately for wrongdoing.
There was little surprising in the DNC email dump. Nevertheless, we need to deal with the substance and the optics of what it is and what it suggests to the public about a deeply distrusted political machine.
Alas, partiality for a candidate in breach of the party’s by-laws, willingness to trade access for donations, collusion with reporters in clear violation of journalistic ethics, collusion with a nominee’s campaign directly or through a coōrdinating intermediary such as a Super PAC, and continual public denial of all of the above carry only symbolic culpability and penalty, further eroding public trust, because we apparently are naked consequentialists ever justifying the means to our ends.
We forgive every sin except non-conformity, dissent, and disruption. De Tocqueville was not wrong about the majoritarianism undergirding our constitutional right’s arbitrary limits in De La Démocratie en Amérique (Trans. Reeve, 1835),
In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.
Reliable polling shows that 9 in 10 of Sanders’ supporters will vote for Clinton. Period. Unless Clinton and company f—k their own chance from now until November. Until then, get over yourselves, shut up, and be grateful. That does not mean that they will sit idly by and forget their cause. They will continue to protest. We enter an era of renewed political activism. Get used to it. Celebrate it, maybe. Join it, even. Change something for the better.
Finally, even though there are a thousand other nuggets of barely connected and disorganized thinks I could fling at you:
Vote for Hillary Clinton. Just let the dynast have her damn diadem.
Again, vote for Hillary Clinton. Nathan J. Robinson makes the case with Halle and Chomsky very well,
Voting for a lesser evil is often seen as sacrificing “principle” for the sake of “pragmatism.” But actually, it’s not sacrificing principle at all. It’s a very principled decision to think in terms of moral consequences. So long as you don’t consider voting as an important part of your identity (and why would it be?), you don’t compromise anything whatsoever through the exercise of strategic decision-making. Voting lesser-evil is morally acceptable not because Hillary is good (she’s horrendous), but because voting doesn’t have any moral content outside of its direct consequences.
Four more years of unaltered, predictable neoliberal programs and intractable partisan gridlock will not undo us, the alternative very well might. We have no idea. That’s the problem. So, let’s try to keep the four horsemen at bay and the seven seals intact.
That’s admittedly a facetious caricature of what would likely happen and I refuse to be catapulted into undue apocalyptic panic over T____.
However, his unpreparedness and unpredictability should raise alarm. T____ is at a minimum a risk we cannot afford take, especially for the sake of those most vulnerable to this demagogue’s true believers.
Header by Adam Bond. Inline illustrations by Daniel Hammer.