So, want to talk politics?

I am, as I have said elsewhere, bored to tears with the Hillary people saying ridiculous stupid things about Bernie, and Bernie people saying ridiculous stupid (and sexist!) things about Hillary.  I am tired of the back and forth on social media; I am tired of both sides claiming victory in the “most unfairly reviled” sweepstakes. Knock it off, Bernie bros and Hillary sisters. It’s not all about you.

It’s about Donald Trump. It’s about the madness overtaking the nation. It’s about the possibility of an extremely confident oaf becoming president. Indeed, it’s been about that since January; we just had to wait a little while to see which oaf it was.

It is clear to everyone that unity is required. Right? OK, not everyone, but  most sane people. Sane people see the prospect of Donald Trump and say, “where do I sign up to make sure that doesn’t happen?” I can help you with that, but first a few thoughts.

Hillary Clinton will win the nomination. But Bernie has managed, with his tireless rhetoric and his swelling popularity, to move both Hillary and the party leftwards. This is more than he could have hoped for when he started, and it suggests that he must stay in the race and continue to force concessions from the DNCC and the candidate herself.

But it is not, nor should it be, an excuse for attacking the presumptive Democratic candidate personally. Saying Hillary is “not qualified” — so bogus. By Bernie’s lofty standards, Obama is also not qualified. Making fun of her civil rights record is both damaging and wrong. And, while we criticize Trump for not distancing himself from white supremacists, we seem to be fine with Bernie saying not a peep about his woman-hating supporters. (In fact, Bernie finally did distance himself from his sleazy adherents, last Sunday, some months after the barrage began).

Bernie should be full of righteous fire, not full of himself.

Hillary has an even deeper problem: She doesn’t seem to get why people are rallying to Bernie. She doesn’t seem to understand his appeal, and the appeal of his ideas. According to news reports, she thinks his supporters are naive or childish or both. And, after her much-ballyhooed pivot to the general election after her New York primary victory, her aides said privately that her calculation was that Bernie supporters would flock to her because they can’t stand Donald Trump.

And that’s wrong on so many counts. First, some Bernie voters will indeed vote for Donald Trump. They just plain hate the system, and Trump is less  system-friendly than perpetual insider Hillary Clinton.  Second, the Bernie believers could very well just stay home. Not voting is better than voting for Hillary, the epitome of gradualism, the woman who shifted her opinions to suit current tastes.

The corruption of the political system is real. The amount of power that large corporations have in shaping American policies is obscene. The defense industries use bribery and intimidation to get their contracts — and they use more nefarious tactics to make sure their cost overruns are not prosecuted. Health care is a mess, because the insurance companies have blocked any kind of sensible single-payer solution. The employment situation has gotten steadily worse — even the jobs available are low-wage split-shift no-benefits service positions — unless you work in tech, in which case you may very well believe that the system is a meritocracy.

Hillary talks about this stuff, but then she retreats to Chappaqua or Martha’s Vineyard, where corporate chieftains unwind and schmooze. Maybe it’s only an optics thing; let’s say that’s true. But optics matter.

The disaffection in the country is real. It’s what’s energizing the Bernie campaign.  It’s why  Trump is attracting followers who are not crazed xenophobes. It’s why  Hillary’s many accomplishments, even her lifelong work with poor minority children,  are pooh-poohed. They look like stunts, like some social justice form of greenwashing. It’s not true, but there are reasons why it feels correct. It’s left-wing truthiness.

And, as the brilliant Amy Davidson argues in this piece, Hillary needs to talk about money. She needs to explain why she concluded that cozying up to big business was an effective election strategy. She needs to explain what she was thinking when she accepted those ginormous speaking fees. There must have been calculations — this is the Clinton zone, where calculations are an hourly affair. I do not doubt her good heart; I worry that she’s too far inside the system to understand the critiques.

And why is this necessary? Because Democrats win when voter turn-out is high. In 2014, only 36.4 per cent of eligible citizens voted. And what happened? Hello, government shutdown. In 2012, a presidential year, 57.5 per cent of eligible citizens voted, and hello four more years of Barack Obama.  We of the Democratic persuasion need to be active in voter registration, particularly in Arizona and Ohio and Florida and other swing states. I think my home state of California is pretty much Hillary country; probably I should put my efforts, and my money, elsewhere.

Of course you can do your part. Do this, for example. Or you could try this. Some states are making it harder, though. But unless you want foreign policy ignoramus and casual racist Donald Trump to be president, unless you want a thin-skinned megalomaniac devoted to his power and his name in gold everywhere to become the most powerful man in the world, then stop shouting and start doing something. Purity is all very well for insulin and skin cleansers, but politics is the art of the possible.

And don’t think it can’t get worse. It can; in most of the world it already is. It might even be possible to make American great again. Catchy slogan.

Remain calm


Photography by Tracy Johnston

Email experimentation by Michelle Mizera

40 thoughts on “So, want to talk politics?

  1. In 2003/4 I worked for 18 months for Howard Dean – I was passionate about that campaign. He lost though. So what did I do? Went to Arizona to register voters for Kerry. The Bernie or Bust people need to act like grown-ups. To make it worse several of my Bernie friends didn’t even vote for the DCCC in the San Francisco elections. Hello? Change happens most often from the bottom up. OK, I’ll stop ranting now. I’m just so darn worried.


  2. It’s true that it all boils down to Trump, and, for me, the Supreme Court. But it’s a false equivalency to say both Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters are equally at fault for the side show. One is fact based, the other is delusional.


  3. Jon, of course you are absolutely right (left) and here’s a further personally addled democratic calculation: I would vote for Felix the Cat in this election if he were the democrat. I mean it. I fervently mean it. This is some crazy stuff going on right here. Makes me sad.


  4. I had a moment of clarity the other day while riding the Empire Builder train (that’s significant not just a random detail) and eavesdropping on Trump supporters chatting. There was a story I heard about the Spanish Civil War in which people said they killed everyone wearing a hat (I suspect it was a certain type of hat that indicated they were of the upper or educated classes).

    The Trump phenomenon is based on class, not politics. Policies or facts are not important. People of the uneducated or semi-educated classes want to overthrow the know-it-alls who think they know better. They DO want to go back to when America was great — back when we dispossessed the Native Americans (the Great Northern Railway was part of that story), enslaved Africans, and raped the land just as we pleased (again, shooting thousands of bison from moving Great Northern trains without bothering to stop even to cut out tongues is part of that story).

    We may not like it, but THAT is the American heritage that Trump is true to. In the immortal words of Icona Pop, ” I don’t care, I love it. I don’t care.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m distancing myself from the craziness. I AM curious to see how the system holds up (its supposed to be able to according to all the rhetoric we are exposed to about our superior constitution, democratic governtment etc) if Trump wins. Surely this system won’t collapse? If it can we really do need to look for alternatives, consider the Parliamentary system? oe Several Presidents rather than one? I
      won’t vote for Hillary or Trump, will write in Bernie with pleasure, because he speaks for me.
      My free choice does go along with my right to vote, does it not?
      Instead of being afraid of Trump, and all the things he can do to destroy us, how about telling us WHY AND HOW one person, the president of the U.S., can destroy the country? Hillary says that Single Payer health insurance isnt feasible, isnt possible, so it can’t be done. But Hillary could destroy the country if Trump can.
      thats all folks. Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.


      1. and what if the system doesn’t hold up? You may find it a bit more difficult to distance yourself from what that could look like.


  5. Once again you speak my mind, but with much more style and grace….we are so lucky to have your words….light in dark times


    1. over a third of Bernie supporters that were polled said if Bernie is not their nominee they will vote for Trump.


  6. I’m sure you have more reasons to vote against Hillary than just her belief that single-payer is not possible just now. There are reasons why it’s not possible in the short term, but Hillary is not the reason. She’s the messenger. The fight for free public health will be as hard fought as the fight for free public education, and that goes back to the 1840s.


  7. Sorry, John…When you said you do not doubt her good heart….I couldn NOT read any more. I’m a *Berner* and disagreed with you in the first part where you say he won’t get the nomination…but that’s ok, sorta, because people disagree….but to say Hillary has a good heart? Oh, Come ON……that’s it for me.

    Not that I’m not going to be reading you any more,….just not the rest of this one…

    Sent from my iPad



      1. your statement noting her life long work with poor minority children is contradicted by her support of the Welfare reform passed during Bill Clinton’s administration. This support caused Marian Wright Edelman to resign from the government. Hillary is famous for flip-flopping on issues. Now she wants Trump to make his taxes public. Will she make the transcripts of her Goldman-Sachs speeches public?


        1. MWE was never in government. She and her husband have had their problems with Bill Clinton, but ask her who she supports today (hint: it won’t be the anti-gun-control guy).

          We urge pols to change their views to match ours; when they do we shame them.


  8. I won’t decide how I’m going to vote in California until June. But I think whoever wins California deserves the nomination. Hillary country? Well if it is, fine. But I think this is Bernie country, and remember, independents can go to the polls and ask for a Democratic ballot.

    I find myself leaning towards Sanders just now, because I believe there are too many people out there who would vote for him in November if he is the nominee, but vote for Trump if he isn’t. Too many people who feel dispossessed, and they won’t feel much better even if wage rates continue to creep up.

    I also don’t really hate Trump. I am so glad he drove Cruz out of the race at the end, and Cruz I did hate. But I won’t vote for Trump. If he wins, it won’t be the apocalypse, but it will be a lot like having The Arnold as governor of California — a time best forgotten. Bernie knows Congress, and Hillary knows policy, and either could do well with a better result in the congressional votes.


  9. Voter apathy has become way too common and not just in national elections. I live in Washington State, in a county near Seattle and our local elections get about 25% voter turn out.

    Aside from that, ugly values are popping up at the slightest provocation. For example, recently the Seattle City council voted no on a street vacation for a potential NBA arena. As it turned out, 5 no votes were by women and 4 yes votes were by men… subsequently the 5 women were subjected to the most profane and vulgar of obscene, sexist, misogynistic attacks imaginable… and that’s in so-called liberal Seattle.

    Once upon a time, perhaps only in myth, voters had a degree of access to facts about candidates … and candidates would debate on foreign affairs, the economy, etc. Certainly there was pretense in campaign presentation and there was a nod to rules of order. We also had professional news reporters and intelligent editorial commentators. Now, it seems most political info comes from talk (hate) radio, TV comedians and social medias, all of which are totally indifferent to accuracy and truth.

    Both of our political parties seem to be imploding. Yeah, Life is hard; terrorism has created a newish nihilism tainted with aggressive paranoia while traditional totems no longer have magic.

    Perhaps this election is for the soul of America, maybe, but that’s beyond my levels of insight. However one thing is clear to me – hyperventilating, pouting liberals must make Republicans mighty happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Drumpf is a suicide pact, a mindless acceleration off a tall cliff, handing the far-reaching power of the surveillance and military state and key parts of a fragile complex planetary economy to a pouting delusional adolescent. His candidacy must be crushed for our species to avoid climate catastrophe. No fooling around – this is not a television show.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. you need more people to be reading you, Jon. Again. Nationally.
    Also, next time: talk about the down-ballot effect.


    1. Down ballot effect is a big deal. The GOP has flummoxed the Democrats in House races, to say nothing of statewide offices. Running the country from the Presidency while having no help anyplace else is a recipe for, well, what we have now.


  12. Speaking of politics, one aspect of the Denny Hastert scandal I’ve heard no one address is the money. Where does a perv who made what? maybe 40,000 a year as a high school teacher/coach and lets say 150,000 a year in congress come up with $3.5 million to pay hush money to ONE of his known victims. I’m sure it was a legal form of bribery, converted campaign contributions. Or was his “job” as an apres Congress influence peddler extremely remunerative? Plus he had four known other victims (and God only knows how many unknown.) How much did he pay them?


  13. My own hopes and thoughts are included in Bernie’s platform and world view. He started this campaign to get more airing for the idea re-doing the corrupt and broken system, not just fixing it. It is amazing that he has come so far. I would like to see him focus through the convention, and after, on building a movement with enough staying power to settle in and bring about deep-rooted change in who makes our national choices, and what values we support through our national policies. Hillary? she’ll be gone in a decade, as will Bernie. We could do worse. But we need to keep re-thinking how to remake the system that has gone so far awry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I think it’s a lot more complicated than social media. And social medioa has its own learning curve, and most people learn the credibility ropes pretty quickly.


  14. Several others aleady said it, but I’ll join them: That was well said. Wish it had a wider audience.


  15. Whatever happens happens. The entire system is corrupt. Dunno what to say. Im just hoping the American people make the right decision.


  16. Read your column on the 11th and I could not agree with you more. Then my state, Nevada, held our Democratic convention this past weekend in Lost Wages. Wow! Pandemonium, acrimony and vileness on an unprecedented scale… and this among fellow Democrats. Better get it together folks or the orange one can actually win it all in November.


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