Towards a Useful Taxonomy of American Politics

A brief guide to having more useful observations of, and conversations about, politics.

Hey it was the best I could find, okay?
Hey it was the best I could find, okay?

Normally, when I write about politics, I choose to translate my views into the language that most folks use. I do this because I figure it makes my writing more accessible and because I haven’t bothered to sit down and write out an alternative guide to understanding and describing the myriad ways that the intersection of politics and psychology creates each person’s political views. With the recent, shocking resolution of the 2016 election, I think that the time is right to go ahead and write this out. With any luck a few folks may be persuaded to describe politics – their own and others’ – in terms that have more to do with reality and less to do with an utterly contrived duality that does no good for nobody no how.

The terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have become useless

One of my many informal life teachers once said “I don’t know if I believe anything is literally true anymore, but I know there are more and less useful ways of thinking about things.” In my own little social bubble, I know at least two people who proudly identify as ‘conservative’ and agree on almost nothing. Certainly I know dozens of folks who would identify as ‘liberal’ – or be identified by others as ‘liberal’ – and spent most of the last election cycle arguing vigorously with each other. So why does anybody use these terms?

The human psyche always offers the temptation to think of some folks as The Other, dehumanize them with a simple label, and then blame and demonize them for whatever we don’t like. Humans also seem to be especially susceptible to contrived dualities – Thing A versus Thing B – even if the duality doesn’t really exist. This is especially tempting to do in American politics because of our two-party dominated system. While parliamentary democracies offer voters many different parties to vote for – and thus many different labels to choose from – the American system really just gives you two choices. Even if you support a third party, most folks look at that as “would-be Democrat votes Green” or “would-be Republican votes Libertarian” with the former still being considered liberal and the latter still being considered conservative. Even if you try to escape the two-party system with your vote, your viewpoint is still subsumed by the liberal/conservative duality. Bummer.

It is this false duality, more so than the two-party system, that causes a lot of the frustration that voters feel when they try to grapple with American politics. Politicians who call themselves ‘conservative’ currently tend to have a radical approach to both policy and conduct in office, e.g. the Senate GOP blatantly violating the constitution (Article II, section 2, paragraph 2) by failing to advise and consent on a Supreme Court nominee. Whereas liberals get into office and tend to be cautious about the pace of change, e.g. Obamacare being constructed in a way that balanced getting people new health insurance against not messing with the health insurance most folks already have. Plenty of GOP voters were appalled at the party’s obstruction in the Senate, but more GOP voters seem to have liked it (certainly the donors did). Many Democrat voters were glad to have healthcare reform pass in 2009, but many felt that Obamacare went neither far enough nor fast enough (some of us felt both).

The terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ then don’t really seem to consistently describe anyone or anything in American politics. Instead they lead to thinking in false dualities, encourage tribalism, and produce a lot of disappointment. Worse still, these labels have become an obstacle to American citizens understanding each other and working towards common purpose because folks are voting based on these labels and not based on public policy. So let’s find something better.

How TLP think about politics in America (and other places)

Remembering that we are not trying to achieve a political taxonomy that is literally true, but instead we are trying to find one that is very useful, we can get there by asking two questions, each of which has three possible answers:

What is this person’s general attitude toward the future? (reactionary, liberal, progressive)

At what pace does this person want that attitude to be implemented as policy? (conservative, moderate, radical)

You can also just think of this as a matter of course and speed, but I think the bit about the future is important. Being alive and participating in civilization is terrifying. As much as we love to argue about the past and future, the present is an uncomfortable and unknowable thing in which we all watch what we’re doing become both immediate past and future. We don’t know how things are going to work out, but we have to make decisions, and those decisions are largely shaped by forces beyond our control. America’s past has always been a violent white supremacist patriarchy, and America’s future has always been a peaceful, liberated, pluralistic society.

It’s not entirely that simple, but for now let’s say it is, and move on to answering the first question: What is this person’s general attitude toward the future?

If the person in question has an attitude of “I want the past back” or even just “fuck that future I don’t like it,” then they are a reactionary. If their attitude is more along the lines of “well the future is coming along on its own, let’s just try to get along with each other while it gets here,” then they are liberal. If their attitude is something like “we see the future and we want to make it happen,” then they are progressive.

Either before or after we assess their attitude, we can also ask about speed: At what pace does this person want their attitude implemented as policy?

If you’re listening to someone talk policy and you notice they tend to see social change as needing to happen slowly, then they are conservative. If they believe in making change through policy at a steady speed, stopping just short of triggering a backlash, then they are moderate. If they believe in making change as fast as the law allows, regardless of the ability of individuals, groups, and institutions to adapt, then they are radical. (Remember that ‘change’ here is a relative term, it could mean changing society to be more liberated or changing society to be less liberated.)

Let’s apply these questions to some examples:

Mike Pence believes in electrocuting gay youths if it will make them not gay (it won’t), criminalizing reproductive health decisions made by women, and only giving police officers body cameras on the condition that nobody ever be able to see the video. Mike Pence wants to see all these things accomplished ASAP via signing laws like RFRA in Indiana and appointing activist judges to the courts. Mike Pence is a radical reactionary – he is decidedly against the future and is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of using institutions to force his views on people immediately.

President Barack Obama believes that cops should be held accountable with body cameras that the public can see footage from, that everybody should have access to affordable healthcare, and that we need to change our personal and professional lifestyles in a way that will help us keep the planet habitable for human life in the long-term. President Obama wants to see these things happen in accordance with social norms and institutional prerogatives, for example he let Congress write the Affordable Care Act with input from a wide array of think tanks and past policy proposals from both Democrats and Republicans, and made not disrupting folks’ current healthcare a priority in those efforts. President Obama is a conservative progressive.

Hillary Clinton believes most of the same things as President Obama, but had a more aggressive plan for pushing all kinds of policies through Congress and/or using Executive powers to implement those policies in a way that would bend, but not break, some political norms. Hillary Clinton is a moderate progressive.

Many Democrats in the Senate from purple or red states – e.g. Joe Donnelly – only support policies that move us towards a more liberated society if they are among those that already have broad public support and little risk of producing a cultural or political backlash. Senator Donnelly et al. are liberals, either conservative or moderate depending on just how cautious they tend to be.

Many Republicans in the House of Representatives want to move America backwards on social justice and economic mobility, but they don’t want to get into any trouble with swing voters while they do it. They try to frame things as being about “tradition” or “values” or “freedom” in order to avoid talking about the actual impacts their policies will have on actual people. These folks are reactionaries, either conservative or moderate depending on the speed at which they try to get policy implemented.

The folks in my Facebook feed who vote for the same liberal/progressive politicians that I do, but then after a loss are all saying “hey we gotta be able to get along with people we disagree with” are liberals (and also, almost certainly, white).

Folks who are Libertarians because they want everybody to be left alone are radical liberals, whereas the folks who are Libertarians because they recognize that if the government stops redistributing resources while folks like them have the most resources, then they win, are radical reactionaries.

Some of the folks who vote for the Green party, based on social and economic justice issues, are radical progressives, but folks who vote Green (or Trump) because they are opposed to free trade and want an immediate return to economic nationalism are radical reactionaries. Yes, that’s right – there are radical reactionaries on the left-wing of American politics. Pretty much anybody who looks at the world through an ideology is stuck being a reactionary as a result; a sorry fate, but not an untreatable one. But I digress.

To put it all another way: Reactionaries want to drive to the past whether you like it or not, liberals want to drive to the future as long as everybody likes it, and progressives want to drive to the future whether you like it or not. Conservatives drive by using the brake peddle or idling, moderates alternate between using the brakes and the accelerator, and radicals are pushing the gas pedal into the floorboard.

If you’ve got an example to share, or want to ask me to apply this model to classify an example you have in mind, please send an email. I will either respond directly or update this post accordingly. This system does work in other countries – in the UK, Tories tend to be conservative or moderate reactionaries, Old Labour were moderate or radical progressives (or radical reactionaries) while New Labour tended to be conservative or moderate progressives, UKIP are radical reactionaries, and the Lib Dems seem to me to be conservative and moderate liberals. This model may have even more flaws when applied to international politics than when applied to American politics. Which brings us to…

This model is useful, not flawless

Some folks, like myself, are radical progressives about any life and death political issue, but are moderate or even conservative about progress in other contexts. It seems that many Americans who voted for a conservative progressive in 2012 were nonetheless persuaded by a radical reactionary in 2016, but that is a topic to chew on in another post. Political militants – those who are willing to sidestep public policy and take up arms to force implementation of their views (e.g. the Bundy family) – aren’t really covered here, but I suppose we could just add an additional militant reactionary category and it would cover all of them, regardless of specific political views.

There are also complications on foreign policy. Non-interventionists might be progressives, or they might be reactionary isolationists, but you won’t be able to tell them apart based on their “don’t bomb people” policy alone. And then you have folks – Hillary Clinton let’s say – who are progressive on domestic issues, but seem pretty reactionary on foreign policy (alas, we’ll never really know).

This model could also be criticized for not being compatible with a number of terms already in wide use – neoliberal, neoconservative, paleoconservative, (lower-case-l) libertarian – but I consider that a feature, not a bug. Most of those terms are coined by someone not in the group, even if they are later adopted by the group, and as a result these terms tend to represent the folks they’re applied to less than they represent the view of those folks held by whoever coined the term. My favorite feature-not-a-bug of this model is that it erases so-called ‘centrists’ entirely, because those folks have no principles and just end up being handmaidens to the extremists they inevitably normalize. But I digress.

Bonus round

There is a third question that can be difficult to ask of public figures, but that is very important for successfully communicating with, or even persuading, someone you know. Call it evolution, or direction, but the question is: Where is this person’s attitude moving?

During the Democrats’ primary, the general election, and now in the aftermath of Trump’s hybrid political victory and cultural defeat, I am watching a number of folks move from moderate liberal to conservative/moderate progressive. Certainly over the last 15 years I have watched a number of Republican folks who were conservative liberals become moderate reactionaries in a somewhat subdued mirroring of the more more dramatic change to the GOP itself. You can look at Marco Rubio’s career and see he is careening to an ever more radical and ever more reactionary politics. You can look at the career of Tim Ryan, who is challenging Nancy Pelosi for leadership of the House Democrats, and see someone who is an odd mix of reactionary, liberal, and progressive and becoming ever more liberal over time.

The point of this third question is less about predicting what a politician will do and more about figuring out how to communicate with folks with whom we disagree. If I can discern one issue where a reactionary friend has a progressive inclination – police brutality/accountability for instance –  I can focus our conversations on that topic and nurture that inclination. I can learn what particular facts and presentations of those facts have persuaded this person to acknowledge that police brutality is a problem and that the lack of consequences for brutal cops is unacceptable. Then I can look for similarly presented facts about, say, healthcare or climate change or reproductive justice, to use in a future conversation with that person on those topics. Alternatively, of course, if I am watching someone become ever more reactionary over time and refuse to acknowledge or accept difficult facts from any source, I can conclude there is no chance of persuasion and not waste my time.

We need to ditch the fake duality of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’

Whether anybody adopts the model I have described here or not, it remains the case that the current conversation about politics in this country is not only useless, but harmful. The word ‘conservative’ provides a kind of veneer of prudence to whoever and whatever it is applied to, which is a big problem in a country where that word is being applied to the most radicalized and most reactionary political movement that we have seen since the backlash to Reconstruction. People seem to understand that there is nothing ‘conservative’ about Donald Trump, but he is actually considerably closer to being an actual conservative than are Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, or Mitch McConnell. With any luck, a Trump administration will give politicians and journalists a good reason to start differentiating between reactionary and conservative. Meanwhile, to their credit, folks on the left are already reckoning hard with what ‘liberal’ does and doesn’t mean and beginning to use the term ‘progressive’ accurately and often. So that’s a good start.

Certainly the policies that impact folks’ lives should be the number one focus of political conversation. That said, it is possible that changing how we talk about politics and policy will help us better persuade folks to come around on those policies. That makes how we talk about this stuff at least as important as what we’re talking about.

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Shocked, But Not Surprised

TLP’s Mourning in America, Part 1

F*CK! (Image: Google)
F*CK! (Image: Google)

This is the first in a series of short posts attempting to grapple with and analyze the election results and, hopefully, add some value to the newly invigorated conversation about white liberalism and white supremacy in the United States of America.

There are two different kinds of white liberal reactions to Trump’s win

No doubt at this point you have seen at least one, if not a few, written or spoken takes on the phenomenon of “white liberals” being shocked and surprised by Donald Trump’s electoral college victory in the 2016 election and the accompanying victory of the GOP for control of the Senate. (And let’s be clear: Donald Trump carried the GOP to the Senate, not the other way around, but that’s for another post.) Here is an example of some white liberal dismay from Paul Krugman at the NYTimes:

We thought that the nation, while far from having transcended racial prejudice and misogyny, had become vastly more open and tolerant over time.

We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law.

It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

And then there are the criticisms of those reactions. Courtney Parker West wrote a popular piece about the privilege and problems of this white liberal shock at Trump’s win:

Dear liberal white people whom I often love: advertising your shock and surprise that racism, sexism, xenophobia, and bigotry are pervasive enough to hand that man the Presidency is a microaggression. Please stop.

Folks are encouraged to read both pieces as examples of their genres and know that there are many, many more of both along with countless tweets and status updates of the same. If you don’t like reading, then just take a few minutes to watch SNL parody the entire thing:

This is where I want to make the distinction between white liberal surprise and white liberal shock at Trump’s election. Folks like Krugman and the white characters in the SNL sketch are surprised that there is enough racism/sexism in America to elect Donald Trump, which is a sentiment that deserves to be pilloried.

That isn’t the only thing white folks might mean when we say we are shocked by Trump’s win. Plenty of white folks – myself included – are shocked by Trump’s win because an overwhelming amount of data over a period of many months said he could not win. Trump never came close to being ahead in polling in Michigan or Pennsylvania. Trump rarely had a lead in Florida and looked increasingly likely to lose North Carolina. Were there counter indicators? Sure, but only enough to justify Nate Silver’s reticence, and even his model gave Clinton better than 2:1 odds to win.

There is a difference between saying “I can’t believe there are so many racists/sexists in America” and saying “I am shocked to discover that the white supremacist vote managed to mobilize and distribute itself in a way that delivered Donald Trump 270+ electoral college votes.” There is a difference between ignorant white folks who are surprised that this could happen in America and historically aware white folks who are shocked that it just did happen and how vast are the consequences. Commentators assuming that any expression of shock is just a demonstration of willful ignorance about racism/sexism are minimizing entirely legitimate feelings of dismay felt by those of us who recognize that while the American cultural landscape was the same Wednesday November 10th as it was Monday November 8th, the political landscape has changed very dramatically and for the worse. So, yeah: please stop.

How the shock might improve so-called white liberalism

As an aside, I don’t like using the term “white liberalism” to describe all white folks who didn’t vote for Trump or are otherwise considered on the Left of American politics, but I’m going with it for now because one thing at a time.

Let’s be clear that while some white liberals are shocked, but not surprised, the folks who are surprised are almost certainly also shocked. Based on my personal experience, there is a real opportunity to use the shock that white liberals are feeling to vastly increase the personal and political empathy that we are able to generate for people of color and/or LGBTQ+ folks.

Using myself as an example: I have much greater fears for my child’s safety than I did before last Tuesday. I wonder if he is ever more likely to be shot in a random and/or mass casualty shooting because the NRA is now controlling all three branches of government. I wonder if I will live to watch him – and maybe some future grandkids – starve, or drown, or suffocate on a planet that is no longer able to support human life because congressional Republicans and President-elect Trump just can’t be bothered to science. I wonder if I will get to watch him grow up, because I have some health issues that are not-bad-unless-they-get-bad and I’m very likely about to lose the health coverage that lets me stay on top of all that.

I have the same intellectual understanding of white supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism and all that as I did before the election. My emotional awareness of what it is to live with a constant feeling of fear for my health and my child’s safety has been greatly increased by the election, though. But it won’t last. My son and I are both very privileged and could only be more so if we were wealthy and Christian, so the part of my mind that is determined to soothe me will find a way. A lot of white liberal folks might not be interested in admitting this, but it’s true: we have the option of gradually going back to not being completely freaked out and are likely to take it.

The fleeting nature of this mass white liberal shock is exactly why I think it is important not to minimize it, but rather exploit the hell out of it. There is an opportunity here for white liberals who are shocked, but not surprised, to collect ourselves a bit and help our #NotMyAmerica white liberal friends understand that #UmmYeahThisIsTotallyOurAmerica and to anchor this week or two of terror and grief as our best chance to glimpse the emotional reality that marginalized people in America have been living with every day for a long time. Intellectual understanding of the issues gets votes, but emotional resonance can actually generate activity. And activism is what is needed of us.

 

 

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Morning Memo for Thursday, September 1st, 2016

TLP’s Morning Memo is brought to you by all the circumstances that leave me with not enough time to write full length essays about these topics. Enjoy.

marked20160901_ChineseFish_Zhuangzi
MOTD

Morning Memo for Thursday, September 1st, 2016

All (okay, some of) the things in my mind I wish I had time to blog about today. Some of these things may get a full post later, but most will not. As always, many more links can be had by visiting TLP’s Facebook page.

Philosophy, Re: the Power and Impotence of Words

 

My approach to philosophy, by which I mean the ongoing pursuit and love of wisdom, has always been one of joyful or even ecstatic curiosity and enjoyment. My approach to Philosophy, by which I mean the long history of pre-existing philosophical work that one is made to study when one asks to formally study philosophy, is uhhh… …adversarial. There are good things (e.g. taoism) one can find that will hold up pretty well today, including some bits from the Western tradition like Aristotle or the Cynics. Mostly though it is men (and in Western philosophy, white men) writing from a place of privilege in a racially and culturally homogenous society that is not technologically advanced. I am increasingly interested in the problems that result.

For example, let’s talk about the MOTD quote in the image above. It is similar to the first line of the tao te ching (incidentally it is the only line that really matters) in pointing out the fundamental flaw of words, which is that they do not actually convey experience:

the tao that can be spoken of is not the true tao

That’s it. You can’t get there from here. That’s the first line! Everything that follows is an at least slightly untrue representation of tao, because tao cannot be represented. As mind fucks go, it is a good one, because interpersonally and politically, once someone realizes that what other people are saying is an imperfect attempt to describe their own experience, it gets easier to empathize, be curious, and find common ground. There is certainly still a great deal of value in the idea that words are, if not meaningless, then at least a mere stepping stone to meaning. But there is also a problem with this.

Both Laotzi and Zhuangzi wrote as Chinese men in China’s ethnically monotonous, male-dominated society of the time. Put them in a modern society with a multi-ethnic population, advanced technology, and ubiquitous information and what happens? We don’t know. They might be Trump supporters! Make the Wall Great Again! Deport the Mongols! We just don’t know.

We do know (thanks, psychology!) that words have power. Not just in the accurate-but-nonetheless-coopted-by-woo-woo-new-age-people “words shape perception and perception creates reality” kind of way, but in the oppression and social justice kind of way. For instance, here is a definition of stereotype threat:

Stereotype threat is a situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group.

Stereotypes are spoken (words) both among persons and also in ways that are published and/or broadcast for mass consumption. The current body of evidence tells us that there is a real impact in marginalized folks’ lives, starting at a very early age, as a result of being exposed to stereotypes.

Another example of the power of words is #BlackLivesMatter. Just say it sometime, somewhere, and watch how fast you can find out a lot about the political and cultural inclinations of the people around you (or the people on your Facebook feed, or Snapchat, whatever). Three words that are, in the United States, radical and revolutionary and have had a dramatic impact on personal perceptions, interpersonal relationships, and increasingly on political institutions and our whole culture. And those three words are particularly powerful. They make a simple proposition, an obvious one, that should not warrant any argument – but holy shit do a lot of people argue with it anyway – and they apply to any and every situation – police brutality, criminal justice, education policy, housing policies, etc – where our society is built around the devaluing of, and violence against, black lives.

Now I will masterfully resolve this paradox between how important words can be to shaping cultural norms and personal experiences, but also their unimportance and basic meaninglessness in the face of nature and personal experiences… …just kidding! But it’s good to be thinking about.

Politics, Re: The Trump Cycle

I am pretty done with the Donald Trump Show and am spending less and less time reading, or even clicking, links related to either Donnie or his Trumpsters. I know other folks who tend to follow things pretty closely and get scared every five weeks or so when the polls appear to narrow. So I wanted to lay out the Trump Cycle, as I have seen it, to explain why I’m always saying/writing “just chill out” about Donald Trump.

Part 1 – The Escalator Pitch: Donald Trump rode down an escalator in 2015 and said Mexican immigrants are… …well he said terrible things that I don’t need to repeat. The Escalator Pitch is when Donnie is at his worst, but trying to present his best. It’s the point where polls turn against him. (This is where we are at in the cycle right now, after last night’s lawn-cross-burning-of-a-speech in Arizona.)

Part 2 – The Spiral: This is when Donnie is at his worst and not even trying to look his best. Retweeting white supremacists, saying whacko crazy shit that his spokespeople trip over themselves to defend for the 24 hours before Donnie contradicts himself again, rinse and repeat. He is just a landed, famous, flailing racist for a few days or weeks, and his poll results get even worse. (This is where we will be this weekend while his newest campaign makeover artist goes on “news” shows to soften up Wednesday’s remarks, while Donnie tweets even more extreme comments on the same and other topics.)

Part 3 – Rock Bottom: This is when Donnie is (relatively) quiet, is facing a huge landslide defeat according to polls, and sometimes is looking to fire one of his top campaign staff. First it was Lewandowski, then Manafort, and my money is on voter fraud expert – and by that I mean he is good at committing voter fraud – Steve Bannon being next. Donald’s decline in the polls slows during this time. (We should be one to three weeks away from this happening.)

Part 4 – MSM CPR: This is when the media, which needs a horserace to get viewers and/or pageviews and needs those to sell ads and needs ads to have money and needs money to… …buy stuff? Anyway this is where the so-called mainstream media resuscitates Donald Trump’s campaign by posting hilariously anti-reality articles about how Donald Trump is about to pivot and he is going to moderate himself and blah blah blah. The media does this for days, maybe even weeks, before Trump decides to inhale what they’re pumping into him, probably because he notices that when they start doing this, his decline in the polls stops. (We won’t be due for this to happen again until near the end of the month.)

Part 5 – Okie Doke: Donnie goes ahead and runs the con being set up for him by the media and says something less-than-usually-stupid about foreign affairs, or maybe makes a less-than-usually-hateful comment about immigration, or maybe even gives a speech from a teleprompter without calling more than a few people names. Now all those pundits can write about how he might be able to win, getting their ad-revenue-inducing pageviews by playing on your fear of the end of the Republic. Donnie’s core Trumpsters are mostly fine with his seemingly moderating about a topic, whatever it is, because their support for him is not about policy it is about white identity and besides at this point they’re in on the con. Donnie’s national poll numbers tick up slightly and het gets closer to competitive in a couple states because he is reaching the voters who think and vote based on white identity politics, but they don’t want to see themselves or be seen that way. (We were just here yesterday.)

Now it is a big media ecosystem and there is lag between how each part of the cycle runs, such that you might have the Okie Doke poll bounce happening even while some media outlets are still pushing a comeback narrative and one campaign spokesperson is still on TV explaining something from The Spiral even while another campaign mouthpiece is being shown the door. But the complexity and overlap are all the more reason to step back and take the longer view of the whole thing. Avoid the coverage. He is just doing the same thing over and over again and the overall trend is towards Donnie losing the electoral college vote in a huge way. Or YUUUUUGE, as they say.

Nerd stuff, Re: New Westworld trailer is much more interesting, also NSFW

Nerd stuff is lite today, but here is a trailer for HBO’s new sci-fi show Westworld:

 

This trailer simultaneously makes me more excited to see the show and also more concerned it will, like so many other recent TV shows, just be too harsh for me.

Image of the Day

Mmm, word play, mmm.
ViolinsWillNeverSolveAnything_GemmaCorrell

(Image is also a link to the artist’s website)

Enjoy your day

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Have a question, comment, or request for one of these thoughts to become a whole blog post? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

Morning Memo for Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

TLP’s Morning Memo is brought to you by all the circumstances that leave me with not enough time to write full length essays about these topics. Enjoy.

LionDadCub1

Morning Memo for Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

All (okay, some of) the things in my mind I wish I had time to blog about today. Some of these things may get a full post later, but most will not. As always, many more links can be had by visiting TLP’s Facebook page.

Philosophy, Re: Eudaimonian Parenting

Aristotle’s moral philosophy is referred to as the Nichomachean Ethics, the ten scrolls on the subject Aristotle wrote and dedicated to his father and/or son, Nichomachus. (Such a better dad than Plato!) I can’t get behind everything in there – e.g. Aristotle’s disdain for, and confusion about why people like, mental/physical ecstasy – but for the most part I maintain that an Aristotelian approach to behavior and relationships is a good thing, particularly in the context of a taoist view of the universe, nature, and life itself. The central concept (and goal) of Aristotle’s ethical system is eudaimonia, which basically means “human flourishing,” and if anyone has yet come up with a better concept to put at the center and horizon of thinking about human behavior, I haven’t heard about it. (This statement is not made cavalierly, but after years of reading about and debating the various and sundry objections to a wellness-centric morality and finding all such arguments to be lacking merit, or lacking a coherent alternative organizing principle for ethics, or both.)

I tend to spend a lot of time philosophizing about what I am doing and the last few years that has involved a lot of philosophizing about parenting and/or being a father. As my son gets to an age where he is beginning to really have his own personality, his own evolving personal relationship to suffering/pleasure, and an increasingly complicated set of material, emotional, and social preferences that interact with all that, I find myself increasingly looking for how I can synthesize my longterm, or big picture, parenting choices that are focused on his excellence (diet, education, exercise/activity, sociopolitical awareness, emotional intelligence & mastery, etc) with the short term, one-day-at-a-time focus on happiness. In other words, I try to figure out how each day we are together can be both immediately enjoyable and also fulfill longterm goals, and it is an interesting back and forth. (This is probably just a fancy way of describing what most parents are doing most of the time.)

For example, breakfast: We eat the same thing for breakfast everyday, unless there is some occasion not to (have to leave the house early, decide to go out to eat, etc). Since the breakfast rarely involves sugar, but rather a mix of greens, fruit, and protein, this was not – compared to, say, donuts – “immediately enjoyable” for my son when we started. I initially had to be very affirming and even entertaining about the eating of the protein and greens, but now when I put the food in front of him he just eats it – greens and protein first, usually. He says “mmmmm” and increasingly asks for more eggs. And our days got even better as a result of this, because protein in the morning really is important both physically and mentally. He even drinks tea with me now, which is just delightful.

Eating the same, healthy breakfast every morning is one of the best things I’ve learned to do in my adult life. I decided to take a chance that the benefits – getting a full, balanced meal without having to make or debate choices first thing in the morning – would apply to by child if I took the time to get him used to it. So while initially focused on long-term excellence (healthy, growing) at the expense of some short-term suffering (the months of not wanting to eat his eggs) we have now arrived at a point where there is no debate about breakfast, it is really healthy, and we really enjoy it. Having an ongoing dialogue between happiness and excellence of my child to arrive at a state where the two are integrated; this is what I mean when I say Eudaimonian Parenting.

Politics, Re: About (the stories about) those polls…

In the last few days you may have seen poll-related headlines about “Toomey pulls ahead in PA Senate Race” or “Trump Closing in on Clinton” or whatever. All of those headlines are related to a large set of polls put out by the same polling organization at Emerson College, and they only involve landlines (so no mobile phone calls). All of which is to say: don’t freak out. These polls are outliers and their methodology contains likely explanations for their abnormal results. Donald Trump’s “pivot” on immigration is not getting him anything but scorn from his alt-right base and probably nothing has really changed. Everybody chill.

Nerd stuff, Re: New Warriors feat. Squirrel Girl coming to TV, maybe

 

All the superhero clickbait today is based on a report from TV Line that Marvel and ABC are looking for someone to broadcast and/or stream a New Warriors TV show:

Described as the junior version of The Avengers, the New Warriors are a superhero squad made up of teenagers, one of whom would include Doreen Green (aka Squirrel Girl). For the record, SG can do more than just communicate with the world’s vast squirrel population; she also possesses super-speed and strength.

Super Girl is high on the list of fan favorites to get a TV show or movie. I am still hoping for Kamala Khan or a near-immediate move to the big screen for Riri Williams, but New Warriors could be good too.

Image of the Day

Sent in by a good friend. I particularly appreciate that they got Poohcard’s jacket so right.

PoohPigletDarmok

 

Meme of the Day, aka MOTD

Quote, from Khalil Gibran:

Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry,

the philosophy which does not laugh,

and the greatness which does not bow before children.

Image: lion dad submitting to lion cub face sniffing

marked20160831_LionDadCub-KhalilGibran

Enjoy your Wednesday

Have a question, comment, or request for one of these thoughts to become a whole blog post? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

Morning Memo for Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

TLP’s Morning Memo is brought to you by all the circumstances that leave me with not enough time to write full length essays about these topics. Enjoy.

I know how to sit still, but not like this guy.
I know how to sit still, but not like this guy.

Morning Memo for Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

All (okay, some of) the things in my mind I wish I had time to blog about today. Some of these things may get a full post later, but most will not. As always, many more links can be had by visiting TLP’s Facebook page.

Philosophy, Re: patiently struggling with patience

I find it very difficult to practice patience and, truthfully, am not entirely convinced of its virtue (yet). The idea of all things being used in moderation finds a lot of purchase in my mind and I apply that to everything including patience (and, for that matter, moderation). Context provides a lot of the information needed to discern which virtue(s) to apply, and how. In the tao te ching Laozi is pretty clear about a lot of things, including the importance of patience. He first speaks directly of it in Chapter 15:

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.

I am actually okay at this kind of patience, which I think of as personal or interpersonal non-action. To wit: A stressful situation develops and I don’t know how it is going to turn out, but I want it to end, my way, now. The intense desire to know and bring about the end of the stress prompts a flurry of mental action – what am I going to say? what am I going to do? who will help me? – that isn’t really based on reality (aka what is actually happening) so much as it is based on fantasy (aka what I wish would happen). Acting on fantasy in conflict with reality is a bad idea. Reality tends to (read: always, every time, without fail) win that fight.

How does on practice personal or interpersonal non-action? In my case at least, the flurry of mental action at the beginning of the process is inevitable, so I use it as step one in my non-action practice. Because as long as I don’t take behavioral action, all that mental action is really doing is bringing my options, my resources, and my allies into my awareness. These are good things to know as I allow the situation to develop without interference. So that is step one. Step two is asking myself two basic questions: What is actually happening? What do I need to do right now to prevent real harm? The first question helps separate my fear of what might happen (fantasy) from my understanding of what is actually happening (reality). If you’ve ever had a personal or professional relationship with someone who likes to make veiled threats, this is really important, because people like that rely on you to give their meager words the might of action, but really they’re just talking. The second question is a good way of figuring out if this is really a time for patience, and even if so what actions might be exempt non-action practice. For example: If water starts leaking in the kitchen, I probably shouldn’t call the landlord and yell at him about it just yet, but for sure I need to put some towels down right now, find the leak, and end the flow of water to it. Step three is the simplest and most difficult: wait for the best possible solution to emerge. I have no idea how this works for people less extroverted than myself. I hear some folks have epiphanies in the shower – that sounds great, try that. I am more likely to have my epiphany while talking to someone about showering, because nearly 100% of my “ah ha!” moments come through dialogue. So take a shower, or phone a friend, or meditate – you do you. The solution will come.

Of course life isn’t limited to the persona/interpersonal realm; there is also the cultural, political, institutional, and spiritual. This is where I have some trouble with patience, and where Laozi’s second mention of the virtue in tao chapter 67 comes to mind:

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

With both friends and enemies? Not so much. At the rate at which black women and men are being extra-judicially executed by police, children are falling into severe poverty, transgender folks are being murdered, and our drones are dropping bombs on foreign civilians – among other concerns – patience as an American has a body count that I find unacceptable. Even compassion gets difficult, here, especially when so many folks I know are already patient and compassionate with the warmongers and white supremacists in our midst. It seems to me that the “let’s walk to the future together, hand in hand, at whatever pace suits you” position has been overfilled, whereas the “hey fuck you, the future is here, stop crying about it and deal with it” position needs a great many more applicants. Even the kind of patience to look at the bigger picture and think “hey I may be yelling at this Trumpster right now, but in the grand scheme of things he will lose and we will win,” is only really available to me because I am an intelligent, able-bodied straight white cis man. My compassion for the struggle and oppression of folks who are not like me seems to conflict with the only kind of patience that I can find for corrupt institutions and a culture of domination.

This is where a good blogger would tie it all together and put a bow on it. Sorry! Not going to happen. I don’t know the answer. Human civilization is better than ever – global poverty and conflict are on the decline – but it isn’t getting better fast enough. And my country, where poverty in particular is concerned, is actually going backwards and I see way to many people boisteroulsy proclaiming their support for the policies, parties, and politicians who will make things even worse. I fail to see any way to apply the virtue of patience to all that. Surely patience in response to oppression, injustice, and deprivation becomes a vice.

If you encounter a personal quandry or an asshole at the office, I think the process I outlined earlier is a good move. Just wait. And while you’re waiting for the best solution to those problems to emerge, maybe donate to #BlackLivesMatter or go register folks to vote. Right now.

 

Politics, Re: Ted Cruz, Donnie and the Trumpsters, Citizen Kaine? What the Hill!

IngrahamNaziTrump
This is a real image of a real thing that really happened.

Let’s see if I can catch up quickly:

On Wednesday night, Ted Cruz gave a speech where he pointedly did not endorse Donald Trump and then got epically booed by the crowd. Cruz is getting cool points from a number of folks – reactionaries and progressives alike – for “standing on principal.” Cruz later told the Texas delegation that he didn’t back Trump because of Donnie’s attacks on Teddy’s family during the primaries. What the fuck ever! The only principal Ted Cruz is standing on is that he wants to defeat President Clinton and win the White House in 2020. Everything Ted said and did – or will say and do for the next four years – is about his desire to be President. He needs Trump to lose for that to happen, so he humilitated Trump on national TV. Deft? Yes. Courageous? No.

On Thursday night, Ivanka Trump came out to introduce her dad and made a speech full of Democratic policy goals to introduce her dad, who she says will make America great again. Ms. Trump then tweeted a link for folks to buy the dress she was wearing from her fashion line at Macy’s. The dress is not manufactured in America.

Donald Trump then came out and auditioned for the role of America’s Next Top Despot. I don’t think he will get the job since it doesn’t even exist. Trump got kudos from some folks – and contemptous surprise from many others – for using the prompter and mostly staying on message, thus prompting the question: is this new, better, general election Trump? The answer – umm, no, not at all – came during a press avail the next day.

ClintonKaine
*yawn*

The next day, Friday, aka yesterday, Hillary Clinton announced Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. Look, I get it: Kaine is a Senator from a state with a Democratic governor – unlike Senators Warren and Booker – which means he can be elevated without costing the Democrats a much needed Senate seat. Kaine is good on some issues, or so I’m told (he speaks Spanish?), but is also problematic on other issues (reproductive justice). Young/left voters are pissed because they wanted Clinton to pick somoene to persuade and even get them excited about voting for her. And while I may have wanted the same thing, I understand the realpolitik of picking Kaine.

The fact is that Kaine will help Clinton keep some voters she might otherwise lose to Trump and maybe even win over some Trump voters. Kaine is also competent to be President if something happens to Clinton, which is always the fundamental concern in picking a VP. As for the young/left voters, the harsh truth is that they don’t tend to vote in general elections – either by not voting at all, or by voting for someone who stands no real possibility of winning. The irony here is that if young/left voters really want national-ticket Dems to cater to them in the future, the best way to make that happen is to show up in droves to vote for Hillary Clinton this November. Probably not going to happen, so the cycle will continue – disregard causes disengagement causes irrelevance causes disregard.

But hey, from a Taoist perspective, Clinton is much better at the patience thing than I am. Kaine is meant to reassure as many freaked out white people as can be reassured, and that hurts Trump, and anything that hurts Trump helps all of us. Kaine is an entirely uninspiring, but not unintelligent, pick for VP.

Nerd stuff, Re: Star Trek Beyond

Hey, Star Trek Beyond came out this week. Read the TLP review here.

More nerd news another day, out of time for now.

Image of the Day

From #SDCC

HowsWaldo

Enjoy your Weekend.

Have a question, comment, or request for one of these thoughts to become a whole blog post? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

Morning Thoughts & Links for Wednesday, July 20th

Morning thoughts and links are brought to you by all the circumstances that leave me with not enough time to write full length blog posts. Enjoy.

Note the absences of either bottle or glass.
Note the absences of either bottle or glass.

Morning Thoughts & Links for Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Welcome to the new feature, where I will write down the things in my mind I wish I had time to blog about today. Some of these things may get a full post later, but most will not. As always, many more links can be had by visiting TLP’s Facebook page.

Philosophy, Re: writing both creatively and well

There is a quote, often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway, imploring us to “write drunk; edit sober.” The quote is a sort of Hemingwayified paraphrase of a much longer thought that is sometimes misattributed to Dylan Thomas:

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

That thought did not come from Thomas himself, but rather from writer Peter DeVries, whose 1964 novel “Reuben, Reuben” featured a protagonist based on Dylan Thomas. Hemingway would not actually say any of this as he was supposedly strict about writing in the morning before he started drinking, saying instead:

“My training was never to drink after dinner nor before I wrote nor while I was writing.”

And again, Hemingway:

I have spent all my life drinking, but since writing is my true love I never get the two things mixed up.

Of course Hemingway didn’t have a blog, but his wisdom applies. I generally don’t try to use my faculties if I have done anything to impede them – it just seems like a lose/lose proposition – but have found there are a couple times when blog posts are not too ill-affected by a drink or two. Specifically tv show/movie reviews and contemporary Republican/right-wing politics. Even then, while the former can be helped by an uninhibited “fuck it, just publish the thing,” the latter is more likely to lead to a “fuck it, why am I even writing about this” well before anything is ready to publish. I can’t imagine how someone like Christopher Hitchens – who famously drank every day and evening while nonetheless producing copious copy – was able to pull it off. I suspect that a fair number of aspiring writers have fantasies about being drunken prophets, which dreams are presumably only half realized, but I prefer my personal excuse of being too busy to write. It feels virtuous and is much less fattening. But I digress.

The intention of the original misquote, fleshed out by the actual original passage by DeVries, is to draw attention to the need to be both disciplined and uninhibited while writing; both focused and careening. Altered states – be it from drink or ADD meds – tend to provide one at the expense of the other, so that’s a bad move. In my limited experience as a writer, and much more extensive experience as a conversationalist, the best way to get Apollo and Dionysus playing nice together is to  have as little self-image involved as possible. I set intentions for the pieces I write – a Game of Thrones recap needs to be funny, movie reviews should have a dash of serious but never ever be severe, a critical response to another writer should be vulnerable and even self-effacing – while making my best effort to have no intentions for myself as a writer. Having some sort of writing-ego-based rules that always apply would be (and used to be) stifling. Sticking with the Greek mythology archetypal metaphor, my inner Apollo brings its own rules and my Dionysus won’t suffer any, so there is nothing to be gained by me setting them. The big bonus here, too, is the vulnerability; if I’m never sure who I am as a writer, then I get to be surprised each time I write something, and that keeps it fun.

So there is my take: have fun writing; have fun editing. Or if you like it in a more judgmental tone: If writing doesn’t feel like play time, then you aren’t doing the work. I look forward to being flattered by seeing to whom those quotes get misattributed.

Politics, Re: GOP Convention Day 2  (a mini Voyeur Recap)

Well the political story at the moment is still the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Day two sounds – or at least reads – like it was as bad as day one.

There was another kind of plagiarism seeming moment in Donnie Junior’s remarks, but it turns out it was just his speechwriter recycling his own previous work. Maybe today we can be more focused on all the white nationalism happening at that convention instead of the plagiarism stuff.

A speaker from the NRA unwittingly made the case for much stricter gun laws.

Dr. Ben Carson ditched his prepared remarks that figuratively demonized Hillary Clinton in order to, well, literally demonize Hillary Clinton. Seriously, he spent time talking about how Hillary is in league with Satan.

Plenty of other crazy shit went down, including Chris Christie leading a mock trial of Clinton so the folks on the floor could spend another night shouting “lock her up.”

Not entirely related to the convention, but the NYTimes has a lot of background on how Trump’s VP selection process went.

Nerd stuff, Re: making Batman V Superman funny and Star Trek stuff

My thoughts and feelings on Batman V Superman are on the record, as well as my views about how Batman should be portrayed on screen V how Batman has been portrayed on screen. And while I do not hold out much hope that Warner Bros DC Cinematic Murderverse will be getting better anytime soon, I did at least find great joy this morning in watching the Honest Trailers take on Dawn of Justice. It’s over seven minutes long, but wow, what a cathartic seven minutes:

In other nerd news, ScreenRant is all over Star Trek news right now with scoops about Star Trek 4 is already a go, the series (thank goodness) will not be recasting Chekov after actor Anton Yelchin’s death, and JJ Abrams continues to be one of the few directors of nerd fare who can reflect on his missteps, in this case regarding Into Darkness, after fandom has helped point them out.

Image of the Day

This has to be the best image I found on the interwebs yesterday:

GnomeAnn

Enjoy your Wednesday.

Have a question, comment, or request for one of these thoughts to become a whole blog post? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

Morning Thoughts & Links for Tuesday, July 19th

Morning thoughts and links are brought to you by all the circumstances that leave me with not enough time to write full length blog posts. Enjoy.

BernieHillaryTogetherNH
One of his campaign promises was to not be a Nader, and he kept it. Nice work Senator.

Morning Thoughts & Links for Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Welcome to the new feature, where I will write down the things in my mind I wish I had time to blog about today. Some of these things may get a full post later, but most will not. As always, many more links can be had by visiting TLP’s Facebook page.

When is Hillary going to run a pro-Hillary campaign?

So far, it seems like the Hillary Clinton general election campaign has been almost entirely anti-Trump, with very little pro-Hillary. Take a look at this ad:

Of course it is excellently done, completely devastating to watch, and probably more than a little bit effective in making folks think twice about the normalizing of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. That said, it is indicative to me of what I have read about rallies Clinton has held, particularly with Senators Warren and then Sanders, where she gets an endorsement (yay) even though most of the time is spent dogging on Donnie.

On the one hand, I have some serious and severe policy and perspective disagreements with Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, I have learned enough about her as a person and policy maker to be excited about voting for her in November. So when the hell is her campaign going to try to get other people excited? Surely accentuating Donald Trump’s negatives is an integral part of a general election strategy, but just as surely that strategy should also include a concerted effort to redefine Clinton in the minds of as many voters as will listen. Maybe this effort will start at the Democratic National Convention and they just wanted to multimedia carpet-bomb Trump for a few weeks first, and I hope so. It would be a shame if the campaign wasted an opportunity to repair Hillary’s favorability ratings and in the process spent a bunch of prime time talking about Donald fucking Trump.

#RNCinCLE Night 1, Highlights and Low Points

Steve King went explicitly and literally white supremacist during an interview last night.

Melania Trump plagiarized passages from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech – remarks about honesty and hard work, no less!

Other people were there and talking and being horrible, which you can read about via Andrew Sullivan’s liveblogging of the evening. Reading that liveblog (I don’t watch this shit) lead to another kind of low point last night…

Speaking of people making problematically white supremacists remarks…

During his live blogging, Andrew Sullivan made some comments that, for the first time in the 18ish months since his blog went offline, made me think the internet might be better off without him commenting about things so much. Sully equated #BlackLivesMatter with white folks who are irrationally scared of crime despite historically low crime rates. He made this comparison because he is apparently living in an information bubble with only a recent paper, which Sully said he finds “conclusive,” that is incomplete and just, ugh, I can’t even. Here is Kim LaCapria from Snopes.com’s excellent debunking of claims like Sully’s:

Fryer’s findings weren’t necessarily misleading, incorrect, or wrong, but there were numerous obvious problems with the bombastic manner in which the New York Times framed his paper (for starters). Fryer’s paper was neither published nor peer-reviewed, and it was certainly not a “Harvard study.” (A similar controversy erupted over a “Harvard study” on of gun rights was found to be a paper penned by supporters of that issue.)

Critics noted that Fryer’s sample size was exceedingly small (possibly skewing the results) and relied on the narratives of policemen and women party to officer-involved shootings. Moreover, Fryer’s background in economics was certainly useful for crunching data, but it lacked the scope and working knowledge present in criminologists and researchers in related fields. The paper is still a work in progress and hasn’t been fully vetted, but even in its “working” state it has been the target of multiple assessments indicating that its findings are far from complete.

If I have time to write a full post today, it will be about this. Sullivan was minimally informed and maximally condescending in his remarks, coming from a place of bias-fueled ignorance as he condescendingly accused BLM supporters of being ignorant and fueled by bias. I don’t say this often, but is was shameful. I emailed him the snopes article at the address supplied during the liveblog. He clearly got a lot of feedback about his comments, some of which he posted, but then he kept digging his hole deeper with his responses, until suddenly he just didn’t mention it again for the rest of the night. I have my fingers crossed that he will be correcting himself, maybe even apologizing, this evening.

Coming soon to a Bye, Felicia! near you…

Roger Ailes, the mastermind behind Fox News since 1996, is either going to be fired or forced to resign sometime real soon, it seems. (Click the link for more info.)

Ailes’ downfall coinciding with the Trump-fueled implosion of the GOP provides a lot of room for interpretation and commentary, like this piece by Rebecca Traister, and I am sure many more to come.

***

That’s it for now, I hear small people waking up downstairs. More links and images will be posted on the Facebook page today. Here is my favorite found image from yesterday:

Take that, Sully.
Take that, Sully.

Enjoy your Tuesday.

Have a question, comment, or request for one of these thoughts to become a whole blog post? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

Wisconsin Primary Hot Take & Reax

Cruz nearly shut out Trump while Sanders and Clinton both hit their targets. (Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts)

Cruz:SandersABCWisconsin1
These guys won.

Results

State (party) – Candidate vote% (delegates)

Wisconsin (Dem) – Sanders 56.5% (47), Clinton 43.2% (36)

Wisconsin (GOP) – Cruz 48.2% (36), Trump 35.1% (6), Kasich 14.1% (0/?)

(Source: NYTimes)

Hot Take

 

I’m going to be up front about this: I am tired of the primaries. Tired might be the wrong word as it implies a problem with the duration of the primary contest, which is definitely part of the issue but not most of it. Mostly I am intellectually and emotionally fatigued by the increasing inanity of the race and its coverage. The GOP contest is now a seemingly interminable fight between two vicious, awful men battling for the mantle of Most Regressive Dudebro. The Democratic primary, which could be a fascinating contest between two candidates that are both broadly virtuous and deeply flawed, has transmogrified into some kind of anti-intellectual shit show from which it may or may not recover (e.g. the recent he-said/she-said argument about debate scheduling). But anyway, with the disclaimer that this is all awful and I’m grumpy about it, here goes:

Re: Democrats – Bernie Sanders won Wisconsin by 13 points and thusly got the delegates he needed, but no more, and must continue to win every single remaining primary by the same margin. Hillary Clinton lost by 13 points and is still on track to win the nomination handily. If this primary is beginning to feel simultaneously strange and familiar, there is good reason: Clinton is winning the way Obama won in 2008 while Sanders is losing the way Clinton lost in 2008 – that’s the familiar part. The strange part is that then-Senator Obama was cast as the outsider candidate in the 2008 narrative, whereas Senator Sanders is seen as the outsider candidate in 2016. It’s like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in 8 years and during that time, despite basically being the same person, they have totally switched subcultures, speaking styles, and appearances. Same thing, different presentation. I’ve got more thoughts on all this and will do my best to put them in a standalone post soon. Maybe I’ll call it Clinton v Sanders: Dawn of Numbness.

Re: Republicans – Cruz, Trump, and Kasich are all awful human beings. Just awful. They all want to oppress everyone who isn’t a wealthy, white, straight, cisgendered man. I’m tired of hearing or reading about them. I’m tired of people pretending any one of them is more electable than another. I’m sick to death of the idea that their primary fight is exciting. If it was a battle for who can win a delegate majority and how, that would be interesting. But it’s not! Trump has a very slim chance of winning an outright majority of delegates and after last night his only hope is to significantly beat expectations in upcoming primaries. Cruz and Kasich have no chance at a delegate majority. So it does look like a contested convention is coming to Cleveland in July, but here is the thing: If nobody is going to win the GOP nomination before the convention then none of what is happening right now matters much. For this reason, other than these reax posts, I am done paying much attention or doing any writing about the GOP guys. Call it a mental health break.

The Reax

Libby Nelson tells us what we already know, which is that last night’s big wins for Cruz and Sanders are not a particularly big deal:

As the bigger picture, though, both Clinton and Trump remain frontrunners for the time being. Sanders has, impressively, won six of the past seven states to vote, but the math necessary for him to pass Clinton in pledged delegates given his deficit remains quite difficult. And Cruz remains well behind Trump in the delegate count — though Wisconsin’s Republican results do make the prospects of a contested convention on the GOP side more likely.

Jonathan Bernstein looks at Wisconsin results and ahead to New York and comes to a conclusion not unlike my own:

Bottom line: Clinton’s lead is safe. The Republican side is still up in the air. Trump could get to 1,237 by June 7. Cruz could rally and get close to Trump by then, and then take a lead during the pre-convention period. Either candidate could win on the first ballot. Cruz could win after the first ballot. Even a deadlocked convention with some other candidate winning eventually remains a plausible outcome. And unless something changes, all of those possibilities will be in play for the next two months.

Albert R. Hunt has the same conclusions, but includes this tidbit of information that puts Trump’s loss in perspective (and dampens claims of Cruz’s sudden momentum):

Interestingly, however, Trump ended up with about the same percentage of the Wisconsin vote that he had in polls taken more than a week before his recent round of blunders. This suggests he’s likely to continue to hold somewhere between 35 percent and 40 percent of Republicans even as he is disliked by most of the others. To win the 1,237 delegates required for the nomination, Trump must win more than 55 percent of the remaining delegates, a challenge made steeper by Wisconsin.

Jim Newell throws some more cold water on the Cruz momentum meme:

But now the race heads back to the East Coast. Any chatter of “momentum” for Cruz will be extinguished on April 19 with the arrival of the New York primary, which is another way of saying that “momentum” isn’t a good framework for considering this primary calendar. With a broad, statewide win in New York, Trump can cancel out most of the delegate gains Cruz has made in recent smaller contests. Cruz does have two events scheduled this week in New York: one at a Bronx charter school and another further upstate at a Christian school in Scotia. But the calendar doesn’t really pick up for him again until early May, with its contests in Indiana and Nebraska.

David Weigel points out that there is one person who is suffering from Cruz’s fauxmentum – John Kasich:

Kasich apparently suffered from the stop-Trump movement’s consolidation in Wisconsin, which began before the candidates even arrived to campaign. Just 20 percent of voters who made up their minds in the final week voted for Kasich, a lower number than he enjoyed in most March 15 states. Just 18 percent of independent voters chose Kasich; in Illinois’ primary, Kasich had won 28 percent of independents, better than Cruz. Kasich edged Cruz with self-identified moderate voters, 29-27, but in Illinois he’d won 32 percent of them to Cruz’s 15 percent.

Eliana Johnson describes how Wisconsin was the first time that the all the #NeverTrump forces managed to actually work together:

Many of Trump’s Republican foes have argued for months now that defeating him would require a sort of all-hands-on-deck effort: opposition from elected officials, the conservative media, and top-dollar donors. While there has been much talk about an anti-Trump movement — the Twittersphere has branded it #NeverTrump — its components have rarely worked in tandem. The literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote in 1950 that conservatism was less a body of ideas than a series of “irritable mental gestures”; its expression in the form of a movement to destroy Trump, and to save itself, has been similarly disjointed. Independent parts have operated without a central-command system. In Wisconsin, though, the stars aligned. A super PAC funded by Republican mega-donors sent an ad attacking Trump viral. After a self-imposed hibernation following his withdrawal from the presidential race, Walker emerged as a vociferous spokesman for Cruz. The state’s conservative talk-radio hosts, Sykes chief among them, hammered Trump relentlessly, unlike many of their national counterparts.

Most of what I could find this morning was related to the GOP contest (ugh), but that is largely because folks are probably tired of writing stories about how Sanders is winning but losing. But kudos to Jeremy Stahl for giving us a write up of Sanders’ and his victory speech to supporters at a rally in Wyoming:

Sanders has now won six of the past seven Democratic nominating contests and heads into the next two contests on a high note. He will likely continue his momentum in this Saturday’s Wyoming caucus before a crucial primary in two weeks in New York.

In his victory speech to supporters in Wyoming ahead of that caucus, Sanders emphasized the theme of his “momentum.” (He also began his speech by touching on a familiar subject of media-bashing.)

“Momentum is starting this campaign 11 months ago and the media determining we were a fringe candidacy. Momentum is starting the campaign 60 to 70 points behind Secretary Clinton,” Sanders said.

“Momentum is that within the last couple of weeks there have been [multiple] national polls that have had as us one point up or one point down.”

If a reader finds some other good Clinton and/or Sanders articles, please use the email link at the bottom of this post to send it to me and I will update accordingly. If you’re desperate for some more words on the Democratic contest and don’t care about quality, then I’m sure the folks at USUncut are heralding the beginning of the end for the Clinton campaign today, just as some writers at Salon are now openly parroting far-right fever dreams about Clinton’s email problems. For my part, I don’t read or excerpt anything that is so far out there that I consider it a straw man in the national discourse (this is why nothing from Breitbart or Drudge appears here, either).

Next up: the Wyoming caucus on Saturday, April 9th. Until then, may you be blessed with other things to think about. I know I’ll be going back to writing about the archetypal qualities of the Batman mythology ASAP.

Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts.

Tell us what you think! TLP wants to hear from you. Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

 

Vox populi, vox derp

Ezra Klein is mad at the Clinton campaign for being honest and practical. WTF?! (Click here to see all of TLP’s #Election2016 posts.)

Bernie thinks she is corrupt, Hillary thinks he is ineffective. He likes guns more than her. Otherwise they agree. I just saved us all two hours, you're welcome.
Bernie thinks she is corrupt, Hillary thinks he is ineffective. He likes guns more than her. Otherwise they agree. I just saved us all two hours, you’re welcome.

I know a lot of people start their morning the same way I do, although I don’t know for sure that too many others read Vox while they do it. Today it was an unusually appropriate pairing as read the intellectually malodorous editorial by Ezra Klein in which he lambastes the Clinton campaign for being honest about something. Let’s start with my biases and some background before we get into the morning’s derp.

(Or you can skip down to the point-by-point rebuttal of Klein, if you’ve been following this story already and/or don’t care about background stuff.)

Biases

I really like Ezra Klein! If I were offered the chance to swap lives with anyone on Earth (and bring my kid with me), Ezra Klein would definitely be on my short list. No doubt some combination of admiration and jealousy motivates much of my criticism of other writers. But I digress. I like Ezra Klein and Vox a lot – articles, podcasts, whatever. He’s great.

My other bias here is that I absolutely do not want to watch another Democratic debate. I am grateful for the Miami debate just because it included a Guatemalan woman asking a question, and getting answers, from presidential candidates via a translator. That was a great moment in American politics. Other than that the debates between Clinton and Sanders have become repetitive in a way that forces both candidates to make increasingly scurrilous claims about one another in an attempt to be interesting and gain an edge. Clinton is understandably cautious while Sanders is basically blogging with his mouth from the stage. Speaking for myself, I’m incredibly bored of both of those acts. The only thing that needs to happen in a debate that hasn’t yet is for Clinton to hammer Sanders about being full of shit on gun safety policy, but she isn’t going to do that because she wants to win over his supporters later. So nothing will happen. Please, no more debates.

My final bias here is that I tend to look for sexism in criticisms of Hillary Clinton, and also tend to find them. Whether or not I’m making a solid analysis or just falling victim to confirmation bias is a reasonable point of debate. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Background

On Sunday, March 27th, the Washington Post ran a piece titled “Sanders sharpens attacks for N.Y. showdown that may dash Clinton’s unity hopes” and written by Phillip Rucker. In the article (read it – it is quick), Rucker describes the current state of the campaign as being one where Clinton is focused on unifying the party while Sanders is trying to drag the primary out for as long as possible. Bernie’s current strategy to do this is to attempt an upset victory in New York’s April 19th primary. Here is the most relevant excerpt:

To capitalize on his fresh momentum, Sanders plans an aggressive push in New York, modeled after his come-from-behind victory a few weeks ago in Michigan. He intends to barnstorm the state as if he were running for governor. His advisers, spoiling for a brawl, have commissioned polls to show which contrasts with Clinton — from Wall Street to fracking — could do the most damage to her at home.

The article goes on to detail how the Clinton camp is working on ways to woo Sanders supporters after the primary and unify both candidates’ voters going into the general election.

Meanwhile, on Sunday’s Meet the Press, Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton to a debate in New York. Caitlin Cruz at TPM wrote it up for the video-averse folks like myself, but there is also a video clip at the link if you like. Here is the quote:

“I would hope very much that as we go into New York State, Secretary Clinton’s home state, that we will have a debate, New York City, upstate, wherever, on the important issues facing New York and in fact the country,” Sanders told host Chuck Todd.

(Okay, but let’s be clear – there have already been 8 debates focused mostly on those issues.)

Then, on Monday, Clinton’s chief strategist Joel Benenson responded to the debate invitation when CNN’s Kate Bolduan asked him about it. Caitlin Macneal had the details at TPM (hey, I like TPM a lot, okay?). Here is (what I believe to be) the part of the discussion that Klein et al. are reacting to:

When pressed about why the Clinton campaign wouldn’t agree to another debate, Benenson said the campaign only “agreed to debates up to a certain point.”

“What’s the risk?” Bolduan asked.

“There’s no risk. She’s done well in the debates,” Benenson said in response. “But Sen. Sanders doesn’t get to decide when we debate, particularly when he’s running a very negative campaign against us. Let’s see if he goes back to the kind of tone he said he was going to set early on. If he does that, then we’ll talk about debates.”

Then on Tuesday night, Clinton’s press secretary said that Hillary is willing to debate Bernie, and once again Caitlin Cruz at TPM has the quote:

Brian Fallon said on Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect” that campaigns typically work with the Democratic National Committee in private to agree on a debate time. He said the Clinton campaign has offered “several” dates and locations, including some in New York.

“If they can find a mutually agreeable date in the next couple of weeks before New York, I think it could happen,” he said.

(FYI, you can get all this info other places as well, but TLP has a subscription to TPM and so it is mostly ad-free for me to get/link material there. So you could say I also have a bias against ads. Also, TPM is great.)

In between those two events – first the Clinton strategist telling Sanders to watch his tone if he wants debates, then the press secretary saying debates would be fine – the Berners on social media started making the Clinton campaign’s point really clear. And here is a story about that from… …Tara Golshan at Vox:

A top Clinton aide’s chiding comments about Sanders’s “negative” tone have prompted Sanders supporters to drudge up all their Clinton attacks on Twitter with the viral hashtag #ToneDownForWhat (a reference to DJ Snake’s song “Turn Down for What”).

And here is one example from the piece:

“Hey, you got paid by bankers to give speeches, you must be corrupt!” – This is exactly the kind of ad hominem attack that Sanders supporters have been making explicitly for months while Sanders himself pushes the limits of the word “implicitly” when he makes the same attack over, and over, and over again at debates. I imagine this is exactly the kind of thing that the Clinton campaign was talking about when they referred to the “tone” of the Sanders campaign.

This brings us to the main event…

Point-by-point rebuttal of Klein’s hot take

Late Wednesday afternoon, after all those other events I listed, Ezra Klein posted his thoughts about the Clinton camp’s initial response to Sanders’ debate challenge. I think the root cause of the problem is a mischaracterization of Benenson’s original comments, which Klein puts at the top:

The Clinton campaign is saying that they won’t agree to a debate with Bernie Sanders in New York because they’re offended by Sanders’s recent “tone.”

This is plainly ridiculous.

Well yeah, that is a ridiculous interpretation of what Clinton’s strategist said. Benenson didn’t say he was offended, or that Clinton is offended, but just that they’re not going to agree to a debate if Sanders is launching into a(n even more) negative campaign. “I don’t want to stand on stage and debate you for two hours if you’re going to launch an endless series of ad hominem and guilt-by-association attacks.” That is a perfectly reasonable boundary to set after there have already been eight fucking debates.

The reason Clinton’s people don’t want a debate before the New York primary is there’s no upside for them in a debate before the New York primary. Their polling, as of now, shows Clinton winning the state’s massive delegate haul, and a debate would simply be an opportunity to screw that up.

Actually, given how Clinton has done in the debates thus far it might also be an opportunity to solidify that lead, maybe even deal a knockout blow to Sanders. If Clinton were willing to tie Sanders to gun violence the way he has tied her to Wall St., then I suspect that would demoralize many Sanders’ supporters pretty badly. Of course Clinton isn’t going to do that because her campaign is focused on party unity and the general election – and we know that because they have told us. So Klein has a plausible theory here, but it is not as plausible as the theory that the Clinton campaign already explained all this and were telling the truth.

Undaunted by the reality of this having all been explained already, Klein continues his attack on his imagined version of what the Clinton camp is doing:

 The problem is that their reasoning, though tactically correct, would strike people as rather less than sporting. So the Clinton campaign has come up with the argument that Sanders has somehow crossed a line with his negative campaigning. “They’re talking about running harsher negatives now,” Joel Benenson, Clinton’s pollster, complained to CNN.

What is Klein’s source? Is he a mind reader? Did someone in the campaign tell him something different? Does he have a natural distrust of women and/or their campaign staffers?

Let’s get real: If the Clinton campaign wanted to bullshit their way away from a debate for tactical purposes, they would say they’re too busy talking to the people to take a day off for the umpteenth debate with Sanders. Instead, they’re stating very clearly that they are not interested in another debate if the campaign is going negative. That is legitimate and believable.

But he keeps going:

This is flatly absurd. The Democratic primary — including the debates — has been substantive and respectful. Sanders has, at times, bent over backward to run a positive race, as when he refused to hound Clinton over her emails. If any candidate has ever proven himself a fair and courteous adversary, it’s Sanders. The mockery Sanders’s supporters are throwing at Clinton is entirely merited.

This is total bullshit. Bernie Sanders has bent over backwards to appear to be running a positive race, but he has deployed fallacy after fallacy in an attempt to paint Clinton – and most Democrats running for office – as corrupt cowards, tools of a system that buys them and then commands them with ease. Sanders also took many opportunities to condemn Bill Clinton’s sex scandals just before saying he doesn’t want to talk about them.

On top of all of that, surely Sanders – just like Donald Trump – has some responsibility as a candidate for the behavior of his supporters.  On social media, Sanders supporters are relentlessly negative. At best, they eschew practical questions about how their revolution will comport with the American institutions of government in order to repeat their favorite Sanders lines instead. At worst, they engage in vicious attacks against Hillary Clinton that read like something from an early 90s ultra-reactionary zine, just in meme form. Hell, Klein even links to the Vox story about the negative attacks that Sanders supporters started making after Benenson made his comments about their tone! Not all Sanders supporters behave the same as the Berners on social media, but then again not all Trump supporters behave like the Trumpsters at his rallies.

Onward to the denunciation:

This is the Clinton campaign at its worst. The argument isn’t just false, it also insults the intelligence of voters. The message is that debates are something Clinton graciously concedes to rather than participates in as part of the democratic process. And the whole effort baits and annoys the Sanders supporters whom Clinton ultimately needs to win over.

This is like watching a yoga master accidentally tie his body into a knot he can’t get out of. I’m not saying it is the Clinton campaign at its best, but at its worst? Please. The argument isn’t false, if anything it is remarkably honest: Clinton doesn’t want another two hour lecture about speaking fees and campaign donations that masquerades as a debate. Why is Clinton avoiding that? Because she wants the least amount of animosity between now and when she needs to win over Berners for the general election. Klein has this completely backwards.

And by the way – all candidates graciously concede to debates, especially when there have already been eight of the damn things. I have never seen a politician criticized like this for pointing out that their opponent does not get to determine their schedule. The assumption that Clinton is offended, that her campaign’s frank explanation is somehow a lie, and that her attitude towards debates is somehow arrogant are all aspect’s of Klein’s take that make me wonder if his viewpoint on this is shaped by some of the enculturated sexism that even the most enlightened American man is bound to exhibit from time to time.

Klein concludes:

Politics ain’t beanbag. If the Clinton campaign doesn’t want another debate, no one can force them into it. But if they didn’t want another debate, they should have just said so, and offered some anodyne excuse like they wanted to spend more time campaigning in New York and less time campaigning on television. Trying to place the blame on Sanders for the fact that they are refusing to debate is just dirty, and it cheapens the tone of this race far more than anything the Sanders campaign has done recently.

Well he isn’t wrong about politics not being beanbag. Bernie needs the free media that comes with two hours on stage with Hillary and he knows it – that is why he made the challenge. Clinton knows this too, and she set the price with her response: call off the negative attacks you’ve been prepping and start thinking about the future (aka the general election).

This is why Klein’s piece is so baffling. The dude is really, really smart and usually has a completely coherent take on the day’s events. But this piece is just bizarre – he complains that Clinton’s response insults the intelligence of voters, then in the next paragraph complains that Clinton didn’t instead use “some anodyne excuse” that would, you know, insult the intelligence of voters.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton didn’t blame Bernie Sanders for not wanting another debate. She set a boundary: If Sanders wants another debate, then he must get back to a positive message, because Clinton won’t talk about debates while his campaign is going negative. That is a stand on principle that seems obviously designed to both point out to some voters that Sanders really isn’t running a positive campaign (he’s not) and also use her only leverage with Sanders (more debates) to get him to halt his march to negativity. Clinton’s goal isn’t to make Sanders look bad, her goal is to keep him from making it any harder to bring their respective supporters together in November, and her campaign was refreshingly honest about that.

I know it can be very hard for men in our culture to take what any woman Hillary Clinton says at face value, but it is certainly important to make the effort to do so. If nothing else, it is easier than coming up with an incoherent alternative explanation and getting yourself all upset about it.

 

Sound off! Do you agree? Do you disagree? Tell us! TLP wants to hear from you. Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. The best responses will be added to this post or included in a follow up post.

Click here to see all of TLP’s #Election2016 posts.

 

Western Tuesday Reality Check

Even the most fubar primary is more democratic than a caucus. (Click here to see all of TLP’s #Election2016 posts.)

Well, that was fucked up.
Well, that was fucked up.
Okay seriously: no denying that the primary in Arizona was really messed up, but however tempting it might to buy into conspiracy theories about why, that is not a helpful (much less progressive) response. It is important to remember that as with most fiascos, the problems in Arizona are a combination of unfortunate, discrete, understandable circumstances that can best be understood by separating facts from opinions. For example:
  1. Long lines, part 1
    Fact: Maricopa County reduced the number of polling stations from 200 in 2012 to 60 in 2016 and sent out hundreds of thousands of early ballots, expecting most voters to use those instead of showing up to vote in person on the 22nd. Contrary to that plan, turnout this year is approximately four times higher than it was in 2012 and so more people trying to vote at fewer locations has caused long lines. (There are other issues (see part 2) that exacerbated this problem.)
    Opinion: This is why the political parties, not the taxpayers, should be required to fund the primaries in every state. Obviously we can’t trust the party organizations to actually administer the vote, but they should foot the bill so that there is no reason why a state and/or county would try to drastically reduce polling stations.
  2. Long lines, part 2
    Fact: Arizona has a semi-closed primary, which means that primary officials and first time/irregular voters were dealing with the issues (e.g. incorrect or missing party registrations) that go along with closed primaries. In the long run this won’t impact the results (folks are able to fill out a provisional ballot, their vote will be counted), but in the short run it exacerbated the problems of #1 by making it take so much longer for people to vote (more people taking more time to vote at fewer locations). Of course some people will be turned away or simply not have the time to wait in line then spend time waiting to do a provisional ballot, so this does prevent some voters from participating.
    Opinion: Closed primaries are stupid and inherently anti-democratic.
  3. Media orgs announced the Dem and GOP winners while many voters were still in line
    Fact: News outlets waited to call the state until after the official poll closing time and when the early votes (already tabulated), exit polls, and available precinct results lead to an inescapable conclusion, which is what they normally do.
    Opinion: People are not normally still waiting in line to vote (because of #1 and #2) when news outlets make these kinds of calls. Even if the predictions were accurate, it was in poor taste to broadcast them with so many voters still in line.
  4. “Only 1% of the votes had been counted when the race was called.”
    Fact: 1% of precincts reporting does not mean only 1% of votes have been counted. A majority of votes in both party’s Arizona primary were early ballots that had already been counted when the news outlets announced the winners.
    Opinion: “The whole thing is rigged! Tag all your comment with #AZRigged get it trending!”

(I put the last issue and accompanying opinion in quotes because they’re something I have seen a lot this morning, but not something that at any point I would be caught thinking or saying.)

Of course a sober analysis of the cascading failures of the Maricopa County Recorders Office is certainly in order, but overnight and this morning on social media the Unksewed Berners have responded to the situation as if it were some kind of Hillary Clinton arranged, DNC administered conspiracy to suppress the Berner vote. As of now (10am Eastern), it seems like the accusations on social media are beginning to focus on the GOP officials in Maricopa County who actually made the decisions that lead to the problems, so that is some progress. Still, all these things happened first:

Rabid Nerd justified (half) their pen name at Daily Kos:

Volunteers were handing out snacks, providing refreshments and playing music according to Bernie Sanders supporter Maria Castro of Phoenix. Some members of her own family had been forced to vote by provisional ballot, and she expressed frustration over Secretary Clinton declaring victory long before many people had the ability to cast their ballot.

Zach Cartwright has some good info on the issues in Arizona, but unfortunately he mars his piece with a bias-laden lede:

During last night’s primary, Arizona election officials showed America what textbook voter suppression looks like. While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both won their respective primaries, the lingering questions of voter disenfranchisement will mar those victories.

No they won’t! Clinton and Trump both won by huge margins. The problems will mar the reputation of local officials, as they should, but they will not impact perceptions of the victories of anyone not already in Cartwright’s confirmation bias bubble. Later he goes full on Fox News, reporting the opinions of people who agree with him as news:

Many on social media are crying foul over the incompetent primary process. A Whitehouse.gov petition has been launched calling on the Obama administration to investigate the claims of voter suppression during the Arizona primary. The White House is obligated to all petitions that garner over 100,000 signatures. Add your name below to demand an independent investigation

“Many on social media” is actually “many Bernie Sanders supporters on social media.” Plenty of people (myself included) think the primary was full of problems, particularly the Latino voter suppression, but there is at this point no reason to believe it impacted the winners or even significantly changes the numbers of delegates awarded. Also, the wording here is kind of funny “the White House is obligated to all petitions that garner over 100,000 signatures.” What they left out is that the White House is obligated to respond to any petition that gets 100,000 or more signatures – they don’t have to do anything, they just have to respond somehow. It can be very disappointing.

(And just in case you think I always pick the worst Unskewed Berners as examples to pick on, click here to see the kind of stuff I don’t even mention.)

This brings us to the reality check: As fucked up as the Arizona primary was last night, it was still more democratic than any caucus – including those in Idaho and Utah that Sanders and Cruz both won in blowouts (although for Cruz only Utah). Caucuses occur in a few hours of a weekday evening or weekend afternoon, when many people are working, going to school, or taking care of their family. Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory over Sanders in Arizona is greater than the number of votes Sanders won in the Idaho and Utah Democratic caucuses combined. Every time I see an article where someone says caucuses “favor more energized and motivated voters” I always wish I could change it to tell the truth: caucuses favor the most privileged and leisure-having voters.

It is ironic that so many of the Unskewed Berners, who love to boast that their candidate consistently wins contests that are prefaced on a several hour wait, are now complaining about a primary that was so poorly administered that many voters experienced a several hour wait.

JonStewartSlowClap

Check back in with TLP later today for the usual hot take & reax about Western Tuesday.

Update: There really just aren’t enough commentary pieces to do a whole reax post, and my only take on the evening is that nothing really changed in either race. Hillary still has a commanding pledged delegate lead (Bernie only made up about 2% of the gap on Tuesday) and Donald Trump is still the GOP frontrunner, even if he is not entirely on track to win the nomination before the convention. Here are some links and excerpts, think of it as a micro-reax:

Josh Voorhees explains how Bernie Sanders either didn’t net any delegates over Clinton, or didn’t net very many (we now know it is the latter)

Bernie’s problem? His small-state victories will be largely offset—and perhaps even overshadowed completely—by Clinton’s win in Arizona, where there were 75 bound delegates at stake. With more than 95 percent reporting, Clinton led Sanders by about 18 points in the state and had won roughly twice the number of delegates. While those delegate estimates are just provisional numbers, they suggest that the three contests will combine to be more or less a wash

Joan Walsh checks in on both parties’ Arizona contests while focusing on the non-protest side of the Trump rally story:

I saw both cruelty and quailing at Trump’s Saturday rally in surreal Fountain Hills, where national media coverage mostly focused on the protesters who managed to stop traffic and block access on the main route in. There were other ways to get to Trumpapalooza, though, and at least 10,000 people did. Fountain Hills, whose residents are 94 percent white with a median age of 54, was the perfect setting. Designed by Disneyland’s architect (really), its eponymous water fountain, once the tallest in the world, can be seen for miles away. In this parched desert landscape it’s a phallic, Trumpian F-you to the notion of limits and scarcity. But a culture that builds water-needy golf courses and erects huge fountains in the desert is by definition an insecure, paranoid culture, protective of all it has taken, anxious somebody’s going to come take it back. It makes sense that Fountain Hills is the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a major Trump supporter, who boasted that he would provide security at the rally and speak at it, too.

Meanwhile, the most important story from the Arizona primary remains the de facto voter suppression (which impacted both parties’ voters) in Maricopa County. Ari Berman makes the case that this is directly related to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision against the Voting Rights Act:

Election officials said they reduced the number of polling sites to save money—an ill-conceived decision that severely inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of voters. Previously, Maricopa County would have needed to receive federal approval for reducing the number of polling sites, because Arizona was one of 16 states where jurisdictions with a long history of discrimination had to submit their voting changes under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This type of change would very likely have been blocked since minorities make up 40 percent of Maricopa County’s population and reducing the number of polling places would have left minority voters worse off. Section 5 blocked 22 voting changes from taking effect in Arizona since the state was covered under the VRA in 1975 for discriminating against Hispanic and Native American voters.

That Ari Berman article at The Nation is the best I have read on the topic of Arizona’s fubar primary. Check it out.

 

Sound off! Do you agree? Do you disagree? Tell us! TLP wants to hear from you. Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. The best responses will be added to this post or included in a follow up post.

Click here to see all of TLP’s #Election2016 posts.