Don Draper for President

Probably, a last-gasp vote for the storied patriarchy, for white hegemony, for quiet women and minorities doing tasks in the background of a tidy Don Draper Westchester County picket fence world – that probably sounds like the right thing to do to confused people pining for the myths of the ultra-white 1950s (or afraid of the colorful 2000s and beyond).

This, and 25+ years of anti-Clinton propaganda,  allow some to simply “not see” the one they will be voting for – he does not really exist – because in their minds, they are only voting “against”: against “corrupt” Clintons, against science that instructs us to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, against minorities gaining status and equal standing under the law, against tolerance for differing belief systems (or lack thereof) and different cultures, against women empowering themselves to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures.

I’ve tried to ask anti-Clinton zealots why they want an authoritarian megalomaniac Putin-stooge misogynist pussy-grabbing fool to be president, and I’ve finally come to realize they don’t. They don’t want him, they won’t even talk about the deeply pathetic man they will vote for, or worse, they claim with great lameness and audacious ignorance that “it doesn’t matter” because “they’re both the same.” They simply are so irrationally fearful of the Clintons, minorities, gay people, and empowered women they would vote for a bag of dicks rather than permit the inevitably diverse future to  unfold.

And that is what they will do.

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Time Out for a Rant on Hypocrisy

Can I complain for just a sec? I am sooo tired of hypocrisy being practiced right out in the open. It’s everywhere, but my best case in point has to be the Senate members who have said for several months that they must abrogate their constitutional duty to “advise and consent” on the president’s Supreme Court nominee. Why? Well, because they are looking out for “the people,” that’s why. They say “the people” should have an opportunity to weigh in on the next member of the Supreme Court via the November election. So since Obama only had about a YEAR left in office, his Supreme Court pick would be ignored.

OH, but wait. Now they are saying that maaaaaaaaaybe we should consider Obama’s SCOTUS pick if and when Clinton wins the election.

Because “the people”…wait. If “the people” pick Clinton, by the Senators’ stated logic, shouldn’t SHE make the choice? Yeah….no. Why? “She will not pick the way we want.”

It would have been so much simpler, and honest, if they had said this back when Scalia died and Obama made his choice: “We are going to ignore the Constitution because it’s annoying and it does not serve our needs at present to honor its dictates. However, if our candidate loses the election, we will then hold a vote on  Obama’s choice in November because that serves our interest. And in case this gets you wondering, we can clarify right here that we don’t give a rat’s ass what ‘the people’ want.”

The Fallacy of False Equivalency

A while back I posted a Facebook picture of my wife and me at an inauguration event from 2008, saying this was the only “political” post you’d see from me until November. I think I’ve stuck by that. My posts regarding the bizarre proposals and threats offered by the GOP nominee are not political, they are warnings about the consequences of allowing fascism to take hold of a fearful and uncertain populace (whose fears and uncertainties are ironically exacerbated by the “law and order” candidate’s disdain for actual law and order).

But I have been frankly amazed at the contortions of logic being offered by those who see the election as more or less equivalent choices between two “nearly equally evil” candidates and, if one is to follow this logic, nearly equally “evil” outcomes should one or the other be elected.

I know this position to be baseless, and yet seemingly sincere individuals offer up this false equivalency as if I should accept such a glaring fallacy at face value. “Well,” so many people say, “Trump is terrible but Clinton is not much better.” Wrong. And I can prove it.

We’ve all seen the vast catalog of differences we are either voting for, or against, the differences that sophists and sour grapes types (and just plain ignorant people) would have you ignore because “choosing the lesser of two evils means we have already lost.” Wrong again, especially when there has been no proof of any “evil” actions or intent from candidate Clinton. For all the bluster and fake (i.e. political or apolitical/anarchist) umbrage spewing from the haters of all things organized and connected and global, they cannot offer a single piece of evidence linking Hillary Clinton to an actual crime.

False Equivalency – The Commercial Angle

Pundits with various political motivations for getting us to believe in a particular reality are relatively easy to spot. I think it’s important to point out the role of the press, and especially the new “social media” press, in helping generate this regrettably common notion, this false equivalency. It helps to employ critical thinking, healthy skepticism, and logical deduction when attempting to ascertain the source of what we consider to be “knowledge.” If we “know” something, from whom did we learn it? How reliable is that source of information? What is THEIR motivation in publishing the information? What do they gain if we buy their version of the truth, if we “believe” it?

If we don’t ask these questions, we risk becoming “vessels” for propoganda that has only a glancing relation (if any) to the truth. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that every single media source out there (including, and especially, slapped-up social media “news” sites) is a business, competing with other media for your attention and for the ability to influence the societal debate. Well, there’s no more compelling topic to Americans these days than a presidential election, unless it’s an “historic” presidential election. (Probably used to be boxing title fights, but times change). And there’s no bigger turn-off to potential consumers of media than a “non-story”, a done deal, a cake walk, yesterday’s news. In other words, the presidential election MUST be a horse race, and it MUST be neck-and-neck, or people will tune out the news media and go back to their first loves: American Idol, Netflix, and Facebook LOL cats.

So what is the media to do when one candidate is a traditional, qualified, highly educated, highly experienced former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, while the other is a crass, bigoted, ignorant reality TV star with exactly zero experience in government and zero commitment to public service?

You crank up the false equivalency machine, of course. You magnify the problems and potential disasters facing the “good” candidate, to the point that she starts to look as “bad” as the unequivocally “bad” candidate. You make what are essentially overprotective office management blunders (based on legitimate fear of domestic enemies) look like treason, while the other candidate engages in treason – actually requests a foreign power to commit criminal espionage against the U.S. State Department.

Her Convictions are Criminal?

Her “real” crime? Being in politics for her entire life and “playing the capitalist game” because – brace yourself – she’s been a government official in a country with a capitalist economy. So..lock her up for conducting foreign policy according to the President’s direction? Lock her up for changing her views on public issues from time to time, or for engaging in common political hyperbole, over a decades-long career? Lock her up for being the Senator from New York? Lock her up for Bill Clinton’s approval of a Senate crime bill in the 1990s? Lock her up for foreign policy missteps and failures that every administration and every Secretary of State experiences in an unpredictable and violent world? Lock her up for being a hawkish neoliberal? Lock her up for accepting speaking fees as a private citizen? Lock her up for her choice of friends? Lock her up for favoring her own candidacy over that of her primary opponent?

We’d have to lock up the majority of politicians for such “crimes.” Yet her opponent is breaking the law at this very moment – right now, soliciting campaign contributions from foreign nationals, which is illegal. It is happening right now. Is that just cute or something?

Compare and Contrast – For Real

Here’s just a few of the glaring, incredibly consequential differences others refuse to acknowledge or would have you dismiss as irrelevant:

Trump: “If I don’t win in November, it will be because they rigged the election.” This is perhaps the most dangerous thing any U.S. presidential candidate has said, ever. It is on the heels of his primary promise that there will be “riots” at the convention if delegates tried to challenge his nomination. It worked for the convention. But if Clinton wins the election (which Trump seems to be acknowledging here as the most likely scenario), he is basically calling for civil disobedience, for an uprising against an imagined criminal conspiracy. In the very, very likely event that he loses, he is signaling his white supremacist supporters to bring on a national calamity as retribution for his loss. At the very least this type of rhetoric (coming off the “Lock her up” theme of the convention) seeks to delegitimize a Clinton presidency before voters can even go to the polls. This, like so many of Trump’s insane statements, is unprecedented and indefensibly dangerous rhetoric.

Hillary has never tried to foment widespread unrest and violence in the event she loses. I’m guessing she’ll skip the “it’s all rigged” tactic as well – you know, since she’s running to be president of a democracy.

Trump: “They will follow my orders.” This is his response to a question from a reporter, referencing Trump’s promise to have the military “take out” the families of terrorists. To order summary executions would be an unlawful order, the reporter says, so how would Trump achieve this? His answer is a clear indication that he has no intention of obeying the law once elected.

Hillary has never proposed a policy that includes illegally targeting the families of terror suspects for summary execution.

Trump: “Ban all Muslims from entry into the U.S….monitor the mosques.”

Hillary is not proposing immigration bans and widespread surveillance of citizens based solely on religion, acts that would violate the Constitution.

Trump – to the Russians: “Please find the missing State Department e-mails.”

Hillary has not requested a foreign power to commit crimes of espionage against the United States in order to help her win an election.

Trump: “If Ivanka were not my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Hillary has never, to my knowledge, publicly mused about having a romantic relationship with daughter Chelsea.

Trump: No government experience whatsoever; no military service (draft deferments) or public service whatsoever; never elected to any office, ever. No evidence of any organizational or strategic aptitude whatsoever (trust fund/multiple bankruptcies). Extremely limited and self-deluded knowledge of world events (“I saw the Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 7-11”), world leaders (will learn the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas “when it’s appropriate”), foreign nations’ priorities (praising the Brexit vote in Scotland, where it lost by a huge margin), and of course the U.S. Constitution.

As a recent Secretary of State, Clinton is fully aware of both world affairs and the priorities of world leaders. As an attorney and former U.S. Senator, she is likely familiar with the Constitution.

I could keep going on and on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. The notion that there’s “no difference” between these candidates is beyond laughable. It’s patently absurd.

Fear and Loathing (and Incompetence) in Cleveland

2011_09_07_Emmanuel GoldsteinThe plagiarism charge is really not a big deal, nobody expects that someone like Melania (or even Michelle) would actually write their convention speech. The larger observation is that the campaign should not look slipshod and half-assed, but it does—and is. The campaign and the convention are supposed to be evidence that the candidate has the chops to organize a team, to head up a large group of people with various functions, and to keep them all on task and on message (and that includes the candidate himself). It’s an application for the job of president. It is the candidate’s and the party’s one shot to seriously address issues that people outside their angry white working class base care about (i.e. issues other than Hillary’s ties to Lucifer Prince of Darkness).

They have blown that chance to broaden their appeal in favor of a series of ad hominem attacks and open fear/hate-mongering, with WWE theatrics thrown in for effect. Whatever you want to call them, the GOP campaign and convention are not serious or grounded in reality. No organizational rigor or collective messaging, no coordinated message at all except “Lock her up”. (Yes, the frenzied delegates eat up the hate and fear and Clinton revenge fantasies – but there won’t be millions of hand-picked convention delegates available to vote in the general.) No serious discussion of real domestic and international issues, just “terrorists want to kill you and Democrats want to let them” nonsense. No serious foreign policy positions on trade, Syria, Russia, Israel, China, Iraq, Iran, Europe, NATO or anything else. No serious domestic policy positions on race relations, policing, women’s rights, immigration (except the fantasy “wall”), fiscal policies/taxes, corporate malfeasance, federal regulations, states’ rights, climate change, or anything else.

The speech by Ted Cruz was one of the most telling moments. The candidate’s team knew Cruz would not endorse, knew he would generate the kind of frenzied hate-filled chaos that in fact did characterize his self-serving “see you in 2020” speech. Campaign operatives were seen to be whipping up the ‘boos’ from the back of the hall, trying to fan the flames. Ted Cruz is, obviously, the campaign stand in for “The Undertaker” (or take your pick of WWE villains), his role to be the evil contrast to the candidate’s “Macho Man Randy Savage” goodness. You know, in the ring.

The Cleveland event is shaping up to be what we should have expected – a transparently amateurish reality show based on crass Hulk Hogan-style fake pageantry and cartoonish good vs. evil fantasy. A megalomaniacal, narcissistic, willfully ignorant display of white tribal hegemony, combined with a nearly fact-free hate-in against the evil “other”. A denial of this country’s growing diversity and pluralism, and a denial of the complex realities that shape the rest of the world in favor of the tired populist mantra of “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it all because I’m so strong”. A WWE-scripted make-believe machismo devoid of seriousness, evidence-based truth, analysis, insight, logic or even basic human decency.

The Freedom to be Massacred?

It’s true, you know – freedom isn’t free. This little axiom has been used in the past to bolster support for armed conflict, as in “we have to be prepared to fight wars to ensure our freedom is not taken from us.” That has been true, though only once in the last century to my reckoning, in 1941.

But now, today, it’s different. We have to fight domestic lovers of conflict and haters of peace like the bizarre orange man-baby, the demagogues and indiscriminate saber-rattlers, the gun fetishists, the amoral greed of the military-industrial-technological complex, the soulless NRA and its meek toadies in Congress – we have to fight all of them. We have to oppose them in order to guarantee our freedom to NOT be party to the indiscriminate murder of innocents by way of legislative inaction or by allowing an insane megolomaniac to gain the awesome power of the presidency. It’s OUR government that’s doing nothing to protect the innocents, it’s VOTERS who put these people in office. Unless we act with courage against them, WE are culpable.

Thoughts and prayers? Faith without works is hollow boasting, vanity and evasion. Far too easy to cross oneself and then look away. Look back – the danger is still here, it’s not over because this week’s dead are buried. Your loved ones are at risk every day, all year long, as we know too well.

To hell with Congress’s moment of silence and Republican lawmakers’ fear of the demagogue. To hell with the transparent lies of the NRA. We need loud, angry voices decrying the inaction of cowards and the dangerous nonsense spouted by ignorant fools every moment, until we are heard.

Lessons Learned (No. 1: Don’t Be a Fool)

At the point where true progressives get over their hurt feelings and philosophical angst (leaving purist non-progressive revolutionaries to do whatever they wish to do rather than vote for Clinton), there are a few very promising results to celebrate regarding this presidential primary season.

  1. New voters are registering in droves – the vast majority of them registering as Democrats. Two reasons for this: 1) Bernie Sanders’ social democracy movement; 2) the bizarre Republican nominee
  2. The Democratic Party has nominated a non-white-male person for President – two times in a row. Black Lives Matter. Women are not the “weaker” sex (nor are they “suspect” for wanting to lead in “traditionally” male roles). These truths are finally catching on in at least one of the two parties, among at least its non-white-male members.
  3. “Bad” candidate Hillary Clinton will defeat the GOP “uber-bad” candidate with help from these new voters, who have been energized and galvanized by the events of this spirited Democratic race (most of which are normal if extremely party-centric, “rigged” in the same way it has always been rigged and run by humans who have always had their own agendas). This promises three positive results: 1) down-ticket Democrats can very possibly reclaim the Senate (though not the House as it is truly rigged) so an actual progressive agenda has a chance in Congress; and 2) a newly progressive Washington can be amenable (in measured steps) to the brand-new social democracy agenda introduced by the Sanders group this year. (If you think that’s not good enough, imagine the fate of Sanders’ fledgling agenda under a GOP gone insane but holding the White House/Congress/Supreme Court.) The biggie – 3 – a newly reconstituted Supreme Court that no longer defines its mission as “protecting corporations and the status quo.”
  4. You may not ‘want’ Clinton as president (we have been trained by a decades old right-wing hit squad to distrust her) but I promise you will prefer her “incremental” positive change to the dark alternative. The GOP has already caved to their nominee’s authoritarian refusal to become human, to stop spewing racist bile – imagine what he could do with these sycophantic hypocrites running Congress and the Supreme Court for him. Il Duce? He will make Mussolini look like a sleepy pussycat. He will make Putin look like a statesman. He will at some point make the vast majority of U.S. citizens feel like decent German citizens did on Krystallnacht. (It’s a valid comparison, because like Germany in 1938, the whitebread Sanders “revolutionaries” won’t be the target of “Make America Great Again” pogroms – it will be Mexicans, Muslims and African-Americans who bare the brunt of the movement.) As with practically everything else he has attempted in his pathetic existence, he will bring this nation down like a cheap casino or fake “University”, and end it by grabbing the spoils of our national disaster for himself while shafting everyone else. Because to him that’s “winning”.

Unfit for Office

People may joke or roll their eyes about this election cycle, and I get that it’s ridiculous, but I hope enough people realize this turn of events is no joke. A plurality of Republican voters has tossed aside the party leadership, and as well the ideals of this nation, and nominated a man unfit to serve in office. The Republican nominee is a self-avowed authoritarian – a demagogue with zero respect for the Constitution or the established tenets of representative democracy. He has said he will torture terrorist suspects and kill their families, contrary to law. He has said he alone will decide who can enter the U.S. based on religion, contrary to law. He has said he will “go after” journalists who portray him unfavorably. (This is already happening to reporter Julia Ioffe, who wrote a perfectly legitimate profile of Trump’s wife. She now receives death threats from Trump’s anti-Semitic white supremacist supporters, or “brown shirts in training” as I like to call them. It’s a disgusting affront to the First Amendment and a sobering reminder of historical episodes of fascist media suppression as a precursor to seizing power.)

Here’s a news flash for the burgeoning KKK wing of the “new” Republican party – your nominee does not necessarily believe anything he says, including the veiled promises he’s made to all you fearful racists. He calls Mexicans “rapists” and “drug dealers” because that’s what YOU believe. He says “no Muslims” because that’s what YOU want. He smiles and shrugs as his supporter/thugs beat up black protesters because YOU like it. He is using you and does not actually respect your twisted views (not that anyone should). In fact, you should know by now he respects no one, not one person, who is not himself. All of his positions are pre-polled to reach an audience the rest of us thought was dying out like bitter Confederate war widows. But no – it turns out ignorant nativist white trash xenophobes are the largest contingent of the Republican Party now, and a populist demagogue has corralled them all into his pro-wrestling-style campaign. Together, he and his “new GOP” supporters represent the very worst of America, the scum at the absolute bottom of the political barrel.

But it gets worse – now that he is the presumed nominee, the rest of the party is putting on a creepy side show aimed at “unifying” under this petulant man-child. With the “pragmatic” support of a party establishment that not-so-secretly loathes him, a pathetic, pathologically insecure half-man, a man the entire media industry laughed off as a joke, now has a very good chance of becoming the next Republican “president”.

The Republican Party, up to now the target of his lowbrow tactics, is converting itself from a pathetic victim into a simpering national embarrassment by adopting him and his non-philosophy, his non-agenda that is whatever he whims it to be on a given day or at a given moment. The party is trying to pretend this is just another election cycle and their guy is just another candidate.

But this is not a political movement hoping to reshape a national party. It’s a white nationalist populist revolt attempting to hijack a democracy (albeit one severely weakened by a corrupt oligarchy). If this country were true to its stated ideals, the Republican nominee would get 0% of the vote and we’d be having a real political contest instead of this national farce, this cheap media circus/reality show/train wreck of a political cycle. The fact that an ignorant bigot will be the choice of approximately half of Americans is a national disgrace that threatens (as it did in 1964) our very existence as a democracy. Anyone who votes for him does not understand what this country is about or the principles it was founded on. (And I am well aware they are probably proud of their ignorance – you know, because it’s not “politically correct” like those sissies in Washington.)

We are turning out to be a much dimmer beacon of freedom than we thought we were, much less intelligent, and now we are flirting with moral bankruptcy. The rise of this know-nothing populist freak, this profoundly uninformed man-baby, means we risk being extinguished altogether by an uncontrollable monster that half of this nation has created in order to destroy the other half. But it won’t work that way. We’ll all burn in that mindless wildfire of fear and loathing.

And when the nation finally realizes to its collective horror that it has elected a self-worshiping demagogue – one who blithely quotes Mussolini and has his followers perform a “Seig heil” salute at his tense, violence-tinged rallies – when we see him dividing the country into “loyalists” and everyone else, as he destroys what’s left of foreign relations, and as he scuttles the world’s most important economy to the point of collapse, our newly elected playground bully will simply shrug and say, “I’ve said all along that this is what I was going to do.”

Or, as the Orange One himself said when asked recently if he was going to “play nice” now that he’s the presumptive nominee: “You win the pennant and now you’re in the World Series — you gonna change?”