The Ghosts of 2004?

Pretty good so far, Dems. Pretty, pretty good. Yes, it’s annoying that it took so long to stoke the tender egos of the smattering or loud, nihilist Bernie Bozos. Still, The Bern himself was a mensch in the end and did the right thing. The most strident and obnoxious of his supporters were never going to come on board or even try to work within the Party apparatus. If you are constantly interrupting speakers then its always about yourself anyway, so bully for you and pointless mush Jill Stein Green Party taint licking.

Still, I’m having a bad recollection of 2004.

The 2004 Democratic Convention was remembered most, of course, for Barack Obama’s “no red states, no blue states” speech. Loop-the-loop rhetoric floating the ether like a golden eagle, no doubt. Hard to imagine BHO being president without it. Persuasive leadership at its finest.

Touche. The more immediately pertinent result of the ’04 Democratic Convention was the astonishing and complete lack of any manner of attack whatsoever on Generalissimo Bush. This astonishing strategic blunder was supposedly made by Dukakis Campaign genius (and otherwise eight time loser) Bob Shrum who thought it would look unpatriotic to attack the President in war time. Because, BS Iraq War II and the complete failure to corner bin Laden circa 2004 was like, totes, the same thing as Dewey running against FDR in 1944. (Argh! Face Palm!) Recall, that the Republicans had a sulphuric convention that basically said we were all gonna’ die if Kerry was elected. Sound familiar? It’s unknowable if the Dems’ wimpy convention was the difference between winning and losing in ’04. I still think that bin Laden’s election eve video drop was the ENG that put ’04 out of reach (bin Laden correctly surmised that having a real president would be trouble for him). Still, Kerry got no convention bounce in ’04 so at the very least the pusillanimous convention was a squandered opportunity.

The 2016 Democratic Convention hasn’t had a total absence of meanness towards Mr. T. The problem is that anyone that isn’t voting for Mr. T because he is a misogynyst Swine Lord, or made fun of a disabled guy, was mean to John McCain, or was Captain Birther already isn’t voting for Mr. T. It’s easy to pop those soft balls over the wall, it’ll get a good response in the hall, but it won’t make any difference. Elizabeth Warren wiffed too. Can you remember a single quip from her speech? I can’t, and I was sober the whole frikkin time I watched it.

Mr. T needs to be eviscerated on being a lousy businessman, on being a con man, and most importantly on not releasing his taxes that very likely show him as being deeply in debt to Russian Oligarchs. This ludicrous beta-carotened cartoon character could very likely be a Manchurian Candidate that will make the US lose the Cold War during the post-game interviews. From the victorious locker room! While we’re getting drunk on the champagne!

Enter, 12 years later, Barack Hussein Obama. Going negative is against his brand, but this time it is necessary. Obama is the one that has “taken” the America that Mr. T wants to get back. Mr. T folds the racial resentment in with broad economic concerns and general apocolyptic anxiety. I find it hard to imagine Mr. T being the GOP nominee if Dick Gephardt had been President for the last eight years.

Mr. T’s conventions was a sloppy hee-haw tail chasing contest, but having his Creepshow Spawn laud him while a bunch never-has-beens lambasted Hillary was enough to consolidate the Rs and at least keep HRC disliked among the persuadables who only tuned in at prime time.

The Democrats need to come out of Philadelphia with a compelling economic and security message against Mr. T that also counters his eshcatonological vision.

Time to put on the gloves and show up at the bell Obama! You too Biden!



Who will be to blame for President Trump?

First and foremost, the media. Just like in 2000. They simply cannot break this habit of acting like there are two sides to every story no matter what one side involves. In doing this, they normalize that behavior. Trump’s statements a year ago should have been disqualifying. I mocked people on Facebook after he proposed the Muslim ban asking them what was it about building a wall and deporting 11 million people that didn’t trigger them enough. Yet at the same time, they cannot resist painting Hillary Clinton in the most possible negative light even if none of it is justified. This is why millennials actually believe the 90s Republican lies about her.

Second, obstinate butthurt leftists, just like in 2000. They are literally willing to risk a Trump presidency so that things will finally “change.” Oh, they’ll change all right. These people will blame it on Hillary, just as they blamed it on Al Gore. Some of this will be fair, but it won’t justify their recklessness. Indeed, if they are so convinced she’s a bad candidate then they should be working harder for her. Thinking this will do anything but blacklist another generation of leftists from the mainstream of the Democratic party and set us back for a generation again is insanity. For people who see conspiracy in every action of ideologically impure, they sure seem to require their share of fainting couches every time it is confirmed someone is actually, you know, doing politics. Fuck these people.

The reason the left loves to destroy Democratic candidates (and they’ve tried repeatedly to do so especially in 2016, 2000, 1968, and 1948) is because they get more attention and more sympathy during conservative administrations. The sane among us will miss Obama and think fondly of the Clinton years. The hard left misses the bunker mentality of the Bush years when Michael Moore movies were popular.

It will remain to be seen whether Hillary herself will have made some avoidable mistakes. So far, her choices have been smart looking forward even if in hindsight some of them could have been smarter.


Where Were You in 2016?

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention Nate Silver gives Mr. T about a 42% chance of becoming president. Even if the Clinton E-Mail “Scandal” and the subsequent investigation is a Nothing Burger about a Nothing Burger; even if Comey’s unusual hectoring about “carelessness” was probably an attempt to shield his own Federal branch office from the vagaries of Congressional showboating by giving the Dems a straightforward “no charges” while also producing an attack ad for the Rs; and even if Mr. T has continued to be a Skat Muncher that steps on his own news cycles by retweeting anti-Jew imagery, or being an ass hat towards Mike Pence or whatever feeble outrage of the day he produces. Even with all the spun nothing and bluster, having the head of the FBI excoriate HRC is a punch that has changed the fight.

The good news is that HRC has fallen and Mr. T still is stuck in the low 40s. Pseudo-intellectual Hand Job Gary Johnson and Superfluous Gadfly Jill Stein continue to lop up a combined ~15%.  Still, the Republican Klanvention probably did shore up Mr. T’s support among wayward shards of the Republican coalition. The third-world antics of demanding that his opponents be jailed in defeat and the doomsday rhetoric put, for the moment, HRC in the broad category of “Other” that has so flummoxed too much of the electorate. To the degree that Mr. T’s denunciations, bullying, and Saturday Morning cartoon nonsense is racist, or Banana Republicesque (bring on Uday and Qusay — er… Eric and Don Jr.) or just dumb he manages to troll all of the media gate keepers and other “Franklins,” as Rick Perlstein put it, that have remained unknee capped from the Great Economic Collapse. For many, LOLing these Fuckers as they clutch their pearls is more cathartic than getting pissed off at racism or stupidity.

One forgets how brilliant the Bush Junta was at politics before their butterfingers response to Hurricane Katrina. There were financial shenanigans aplenty early in the Bush reign. Recall that the answer was a meaningless rejiggering of regulatory agencies and… cornering and then imprisoned Martha Stewart. Stewart was a Type A’s Type A, a notorious domestic dazzler whose dense details delighted and annoyed. And she was a Democrat! Of course, her financial chicanery was JV compared to the Big Boys. But who the hell were they anyway? Her head was put on a figurative pike and thus someone was “gotten” for the late 90s early 00 financial crisis.

Team Obama managed to birth Dodd-Frank, which has surely been more of a problem child for “Wall Street” than Martha Stewart stitching a poncho in jail. Still, overall Team Obama wasted too much political capital defending the bail out (even if the Bush junta technically got them through) and enlivening Tim Geithners micro penis. The bail out worked and unfroze the credit market, but it still feels like no one who should be punished has been punished. The Rich are still The Rich.

Still, we are playing for keeps here. It is not at all unreasonable to imagine a “King Slayer” scenario if Mr. T becomes president where the military has to step in to prevent him from nuking Toronto because PM Trudeau’s wife slighted his advances. Meanwhile, it appears very likely that the Russian Government is responsible for hacks into the DNC that showed — out of thousands of e-mails — some kids gloves dissing of the Sanders campaign. These have been released on the eve of the Democratic Convention to sew a hint of dissent and chaos all the better to get the incompetent stooge Mr. T in office.

Is this how the American Republic ends? Puerile purist liberals being toyed with by Vladimir Putin and not being able to stand that life is unfair (and that blacks never warmed to Bernie)? With Republican voter suppression? And, worst of all, with Democrats unable to be both rough enough to land meaningful punches on Mr. T while have a positive vision of the future.

It’s up to Hillary to create a positive vision for her candidacy that is more than the sum of its policy papers. Ultimately though, it is up to us to assure that no one is asking “where were you in 2016?” a generation from now.

Bring on the Democratic National Convention!

Trump’s Appeal?

It’s fine when preaching to the choir to dismiss the spirit driving the Trump phenomenon as racism. And while there are quite a few actual racists that stand out in their words, the millions of people behind it are not all literal white supremacists. Understanding what they’re upset about is key to talking to them instead of firing them up more.

Trump’s appeal does not lie in uncovering a latent belief in a huge minority of Americans that minorities are inferior. It is not racism in that sense. The ugly tone of the rhetoric is more like a Tourette’s tic with the racist language a taboo that feels good to violate.

But why is that a rewarding tic to scratch? Because from the perspective of these folks, it’s not a far left and politically irrelevant group of Berkeley liberals that are trying to impose their way of life on the, it’s one huge mass: the banks, the corporations, the government, and their tradition-destroying ways (you know, the revisionist defense of the Confederacy in a nutshell.) You cannot separate all of this if you want to understand these impressions. This isn’t to say these are correct, just to be crystal clear.

What liberals often fail to realize in the context of the culture wars (which they usually win) is that winning and “being right” don’t translate into permanent changes of outlook. Not many people honestly believe, for example, that things like gay marriage are going to be reversed, but that doesn’t mean everyone thinks it’s OK now and they were wrong then. They grudgingly accept (often in a self-martyring way) that this is the world now. This makes the next big change harder to accept. Progressives and conservatives are totally out of sync in how much change they are willing to accept. The problem comes when the progressives get out of sync with the majority (at least for them).

I don’t think that calling large numbers of people racists is persuasive even if it is true and especially even if it is only technically true. It’s also important to recognize that we have been screwed by the economy. Just because everyone isn’t sophisticated enough to figure out that the source of it is different or that the government isn’t really giving unfair advantages to undocumented aliens, blacks, and gays is a different issue.

So fine, when preaching to the choir you can wistfully marvel at the racist language coming out of so much of America. But to lead them, you need a plausible explanation that doesn’t involve shaming half the country for feeling like they’ve lost forward momentum in the last ten years.

What Brexit and California Reveal About Direct Democracy

Democracy means different things to different people, so it’s important to distinguish between representative and direct democracy. The former has been the basis of the two longest lasting existing systems of government on Earth, those of the US and the UK. Direct democracy has been increasingly seen as a solution to the corruption of elected officials in a representative democracy. But what does history show about the results it produces?

Here in California, we have three distinct forms of direct democracy all applicable at the state and local levels: referendum, where the people may agree to or reject a government proposal; initiative, where the people themselves may propose laws and constitutional amendments; and, recall, where the people may remove elected officials prior to the end of their term.

The record is bad. Perhaps the most justifiable of the three, recall, was used to remove a governor who happened to be in office when—you guessed it—a law enabled by initiative started to blow up. Worse, the infamous Prop 13 has strangled local government to the point where they are basically forced to make bad decisions to being in revenue. Terrible laws aimed at immigrants and gays have also been passed by initiative.

Why is this? In the Brexit context people cited numerous reasons for voting “out.” But much of the sour grapes were focused on it being a “protest” vote having nothing to do with the seemingly straightforward question of in or out. Unfortunately, Brexit was a very complex question and the fact that it was made so simply contributed to the confusion because the question of what “out” meant was left open.

And this is, in my view, the best critique of direct democracy as its implemented. We ask what amounts to an opinion question and leave the details out or don’t specifically ask people’s opinion about them. A politician concerned for his reelection would balk at voting for something even wildly popular among his constituents if the resulting implementation and consequences were disastrous. You’d think.

But the broader public failing to be able to distinguish between alternatives that don’t occur and necessary and sufficient causes has contributed to the mix of the demand for politicians to simply implement the popular opinion of the moment and ignore the consequences. This is what the Tea Party was about, perhaps best exemplified in the government shutdowns or the disaster of Brownback’s Kansas.

There is a tendency—a quite natural one, I think—to feel that direct democracy is the solution to an unresponsive elite. But it falls along the lines of thinking that shrinking government will increase freedom—only to find that corporations fill the void. In direct democracy, those that can out-organize, usually thanks to money, have an advantage that has nothing to do with the merit of their ideas and indeed usually trades on emotions like fear.

Recall is probably the most justified form of direct democracy in a representative democracy because it relates to the ability to pick our representatives, not do their jobs, though the chilling effect it has may produce the same result. But the other forms are simply producing bad results and need to be reduced.


They’re re-doing the election in Austria. While it’s just for the symbolic role of President, I suspect enough people will feel ashamed about the irregularities and perhaps the influence of Brexit to bring the far-right candidate into the office. Will this mean that Austrians are about to make an exit of their own?

We’ll see. This will be the first test of non-elite reaction to Brexit, even if it’s attenuated.