So, it’s been a month, and progressives and Democrats have been hearing a constant refrain–that we need to reach out to Trump supporters, to try to understand the forgotten working-class base in the heartland of America which voted for him.

That is a very good point.  We do need to do that if we want to win the next election.  There is only one problem for me:  I don’t really want to know or understand the Trump voters.

This is not the wisest attitude to have, and I guess it marks me as an elitist of some sort. But I don’t care.  I don’t want to know why people continue to support Trump and overlook all the things he’s already said and done when it comes to women, immigrants and Muslims. When I recently visited a website where the deplorables gather to chat, I saw plenty of caricatures of yarmulkas and hooked noses, and references to Reichsfuhrer Trump. Blaming the Jews for your own economic woes is an age-old tradition.  The Trumpsters clearly feel the need to scapegoat someone for their own miserable situation.  What can I possibly say to them about that?  How would I change their mind?  I could suggest changes to the political and economic system which would make their life better, but these are the same people who thought Obama was a Marxist and the ACA was a government assault on their liberty–and frequently voted against their own health insurance coverage.  What does one do when faced with such ignorance?

Not to mention that in order to reach out to the Trump voters, I would have to find them where they live.  Thing is, I love my urban bubble.  I have little interest in going too far beyond its protective shield.  I’ve lived in the rural world before and I’m grateful to have escaped it.  I have no desire to move to a place where my neighbors give me the side-eye just because I don’t attend the same church they do and behave in ways they don’t consider “normal.”

Again, this does not bode well as a political strategy.  Democrats did get the popular vote in 2016, but the Democratic electorate is clustered in a few major metropolitan areas, mainly on the two coasts, and that’s not the way the American electoral system works. Hence the idea that progressives should transplant themselves to swing states.  If only I could convince myself to be enthusiastic about a midwestern or southern swing state….

The progressive movement certainly needs ambassadors right now to take its message across the country.  Unfortunately, I’m not that person.  And I wonder how many of my fellow liberal bubble-dwellers are willing to do the difficult work of outreach.  And if that work doesn’t get done, what will 2020 look like?

2016 was a very special year and it deserves a very special sendoff.  Here is my recipe for Dec 31st:

For the ritual soundtrack, I’m going to turn on some nostalgic Prince.  Your tastes may vary–you are welcome to instead try some Leonard Cohen, Bowie, Sharon Jones, or any of the many talented musicians who left the planet this year.

Sadly, I don’t have a cauldron, so instead I’m going to find a large pot and put it on the stove.  Bring water to a boil in the pot and then toss in the following ingredients:

–the hair of a Trump voter

–eye of Pepe the frog

–my now useless I’m With Her sticker

–my now useless Bill of Rights

–a photo of Justin Bieber…who is still alive

–a few chopped up pieces of the root of division and prejudice

Be sure to stir the pot, and then dance around it, muttering dark incantations and chanting:  “Things will only get worse!  Things will only get worse!”

Repeat as many times as needed.  Keep the pot for next year–I’m sure we’ll be doing the same thing in 2017….

“Hey, Sis?  You realize that the guy who’s selling you the laptop lives out in Frackville, right?”

I leaned over my sister’s shoulder and whispered a few non-English swearwords.  “Why the hell would he be out there?”

“I dunno.”

“So this means I have to go outside the city limits, then.”

“It’s only an hour’s drive beyond the wall.”  My sister shrugged.  “People do it all the time and they’re fine.  Katie went outside just two weeks ago to visit family.”

Mother emerged from the living room, her face drawn.  “Right into the middle of the Disturbance.  This laptop worth this to you?”

“I need a laptop to do my work.  No worries, Mom.”

***

I continued to tell myself I wasn’t worried even as I got ready for my trip in front of the bathroom mirror.  I pulled my hair back and stared at my face, belatedly regretting all the time I spent lounging in the sun over the summer.  Was my skin a bit too tan?

Maybe it wouldn’t matter.  Even though I had chosen my rattiest jacket and ripped jeans, it was painfully obvious I was a cityfolk.

I grabbed my knife and purse.  It really was going to be okay.

***

At the checkpoint, a pot-bellied bearded man with a gun slung across his back sauntered up to my car.  I rolled down my window.

He nodded.  “Hello there.  Purpose of trip?”

“Just travelling to Frackville to purchase a laptop.”

“Mmmmm, going shopping, huh?”  He eyed my purse eagerly.

“How much is the toll going to cost me?”

“I don’t know yet.”  He chuckled.  “You got your ID on you?”

I handed my metropolitan ID card to him.

He scowled darkly.  “Maria?”

“I’m Ukrainian,”  I snapped.

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess your last name does look Russian.  That’s okay, then.”

“Can I go?”

“Not sure.”  He leaned into my window.  “What are you doing trying to go into Nowhere unaccompanied, anyway?  It can be dangerous for females around here.”

“My father died defending the city during the killing days,”  I said coldly.  “It’s your militia’s fault that I don’t have a male guardian with me.”

To his credit, he looked abashed at this.  He cleared his throat and stepped back from the car.  “I see.  We need to run one more quick check on you, ma’am.  Rob?”  He gave my ID to the other guard, who was holding a tablet.  “Check her voting record?”

Rob typed my name in.  “She didn’t vote at all last election.”

“Lucky for you,”  the first guard said.  “You won’t get hit with our wrong candidate surcharge.”

“Great.”  I felt relieved and, for once, grateful for the political cynicism which led me to be a non-voter back in 2016.

“We’ll be nice.  Let’s make your toll payment an even hundred bucks.”

I forced a polite smile, made the payment and accepted my ID.  As I slowly drove away, a truck came to a stop at the checkpoint, and the guards gestured at the truck driver to get out so they could inspect his goods.  I heard the driver yelling obscenities at them, and I sped up until the checkpoint was out of sight.

***

The laptop seller lived in a little white house in Frackville’s mostly empty downtown area.  Across the street, there were a couple of abandoned buildings, with a Trump poster peeling away from one of the brick walls.

I knocked on the door.  A skinny old man cracked it open and peered out at me.

“Hi!  I’m here to pick up the laptop?”

“Nice to meet you, Maria.  Come on in.”

His name was Gus.  He grinned at the knife on my belt (“They still don’t let you have guns in the city?”) and then vanished into the back of the house.  I sat on the sofa and waited.  There was a cross hanging in the entry hallway, but I noticed a distinct lack of Trump portraits.  This was an encouraging sign.

I smiled at him when he returned, bearing the laptop.  “I see you’re not a big fan of President Trump, eh?”

He fidgeted nervously.  “May his soul rest in peace.”

“Amen.”

President Trump had been assassinated soon after the beginning of what we all called the Disturbance–because nobody wanted to call it a civil war–but the Disturbance rolled right along without him.  It was common for the residents of the Nowhere lands to give a place of honor in their home to portraits of the Martyr President, sometimes building miniature shrines in his memory.

After his initial moment of anxiety, Gus relaxed.  “Yeah, I never did like him much.  He seemed like a big talker to me.  Seemed like a fake.”

“Doesn’t that get you in trouble around here?”

“Me?  No.  I leave the militia guys alone, and they leave me alone.  I’ve lived here forever, anyway.”

I examined the laptop.  It was small and the keyboard was wearing out, but it would have to do.

Gus shuffled his feet.  “Sorry, I would offer you some coffee, but I only have a tiny bit left, and I don’t know when the roads will be clear for me to go get groceries.”

“That’s okay.”

“So what kind of work do you do?”

“I knit handmade hats and scarves.  I sell them online.”

I glanced up at Gus.  “Would you like my website address?  Maybe I could make you something?”

“No need for that.  Doubt I could afford it.”

There was no time for me to hang around any further.  I stood up and looked out once again upon the desolate street.

“Are you ever angry at the militia, Gus?”

“Angry?”

“About what they did to your town?”

Behind me, I could hear his soft laughter.  “The town has always been like this, before the militia ever came.  There haven’t been any jobs in Frackville for years and years.  Why do you think the people here voted for Trump?”

***

I opened the car door.  I couldn’t wait to leave this dead zone and go home.

Somewhere in the distance, the small figure of an armed man crossed the road.  The sight should have made me scared, but instead it made me sad.  How had we created a world like this?  How had we allowed this to happen?

The curtains in the front window of the little white house moved.  I didn’t want to make Gus uncomfortable by staying there too long.  I got in the car and started on the drive back to the checkpoint and my exit out of Nowhere.

 

 

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been seeing a lot of supportive I’m With Her posts on my newsfeed.  Mostly, I think, in reaction to the utterly disgusting and frightening comments Trump has made, both at the debates and in his personal life.  It’s been nice to see those posts popping up.

This has been a rough year for some of us who have, indeed, been with her.  For a while there, during the primaries, being a Hillary supporter was practically a mortal sin.  Here in Portland, it would probably require going to confession 😉  I know I mostly remained quiet about it on social media, as I didn’t want to get my head bitten off by Bernie supporters.  I also didn’t want to lose good friendships–not worth it over a crazy election year.  And I know for a fact of other Facebook friends who supported Hillary–they told me so in person–but didn’t post very much about it either.

Now, I can completely understand people disagreeing with Hillary’s policies.  I can even understand people not voting for her in November and will not lecture anyone about that choice.  I do believe in people voting their conscience.  If that means voting for a third party this election, so be it. But during primary season, things went a little farther than that.  Hillary was more than just an opposing candidate.  She was evil.  She was a fascist.  She was Satan.  She would mean a nuclear war and the end of the world.  As opposed to Bernie, whose little bird was a divine sign of approval from God or Mother Earth. No wonder that voting for Hillary made me feel like I should put on my devil horns and mount the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse before filling out my ballot.

Why am I saying all of this now?  Sure, there’s some small amount of satisfaction in seeing more open support of Hillary lately.  Even more so since I think she will make a much better President than people give her credit for.  But mostly, this is an apology to myself.  There’s no pride in being a coward and keeping silent about what you believe.  Especially when I consider myself a “political blogger” unafraid to “express my opinions” and all this other bullshit.  You’re supposed to do that precisely when it’s difficult and unpopular, not when it’s easy.  Maybe when the next election comes around, I’ll be a little bit braver.  For now, go Hillary!

America is a scary place these days.

As I leave my house in the morning, I have to dodge bullets from angry black people trying to shoot me up.  I can barely make it down my driveway.  I’m pretty sure the Black Lives Matter movement is responsible for this.

Even if I survive that, I still have to make it past the ISIS terrorists lurking behind every corner.  So many suicide bombings in my neighborhood.  We should have never let those suspicious refugees in.

And then there’s the commute, with crazy cars veering all over the road.  I’m a well-informed citizen, so I know what that’s about–illegal immigrants driving drunk.  And you think any of them will get deported?  Nooooo…  (Although to be fair, it could also be the hippies smoking that legalized pot.)

No, they will continue living in our country, taking our welfare and stealing our jobs (maybe at the same time!)  Right along with the Asians and other foreigners stealing our factories and our manufacturing.

What’s a frightened white person to do?

Thank God we have a strong leader like Donald Trump running in this election.  He will make all those scary people go away…somehow.  He will make America safe again!

At least…safe for me…right?

Dedicated to all the disappointed elves

She worked her magicks in the darkest recesses of a D.C. conference room, her navy blue pantsuit blending perfectly with the shadows.  Lady Hillary bent her head over a makeshift altar and chanted the incantations that would turn her into the Ruler of the Free World.

Just as she was halfway through her TPP spell, the door of the room flew open and a slim silhouette appeared.

She turned from the altar and sighed heavily.  Naturally, it was one of Bernie’s elves.  Many of them had by now acknowledged defeat and scurried back to their woodland communes to tend their tiny herb gardens, but a couple of die-hards here and there were still trying to mount attacks on her.

The Bernista had flowing locks and big, bright eyes.  She was followed into the room by her unicorn sidekick.  Lady Hillary glared at them with impatience.

“You’re never going to give up, are you?”

“It’s not too late!”  the elf proclaimed with a trembling voice.  She threw her hands up and wiggled her fingers in the air.  “I cast my positive vibrations upon you, oh dark one!  Acknowledge that you are not the rightful nominee!”

Lady Hillary cackled.  “Spare me this amateur stuff.  You do realize, of course, that I have persuaded the majority of those in the Democratic Party to vote for me.”

“It’s all lies and fraud!  It cannot be true.  Bernie is the chosen one for this time.  Did you not see the Goddess send down the little bird at his rally?  Do not question the bird!”

“Enough about that stupid bird already…well, never mind.”  Lady Hillary softened her tone. “Look, you and I both know that the only way to defeat the Donald is to make an alliance with me.  Be reasonable, my little one.  You want to believe in good witches, but that’s not how the world works.  Although I do so admire that pure heart of yours…I feel as if…I must have it…”  She reached out her hand toward the glowing center in the elf’s chest.

“Don’t touch me!” the elf squealed, backing away.

“Or what?  Your Bernie will save you?”

“Bernie will save everyone in Americaland.”

“Ha!  You think his wizardry is truly powerful enough to make all his promises come true?  He will have to raise taxes.”

A slight smile played upon the elf’s lips.  “Ah, but you do not know about our secret weapon. Our unicorns aren’t just adorable…they also fart money.”

“Is that so?”  Lady Hillary stared at the unicorn with great interest.

“I feel a little put on the spot,” the unicorn said.

The elf tilted her head.  “Now will you concede the battle?”

“Concede?”  Lady Hillary laughed.  “Clearly, you do not understand the kind of power you are dealing with here.”  As she said this, she expanded and grew in stature, until she towered over the Bernista.  “I am not merely the Democratic candidate for President.  I am also a crazy leftist and a sell-out Republican at the same time.  Simultaneously responsible for too much war and too much appeasement.  Too calculating and too loud.  Too easily influenced by corporations and by socialists.  I contain it all, the left and the right, the masculine and feminine, every policy and none of them.  I am the everything and nothing of politics.  Try to stand against me and you will be consumed by the void.”

The elf covered her face, but she was past saving.  Her bright eyes turned black–she had gazed into the heart of the political machine.  One more moment, and she vanished into a puff of glitter.  The unicorn pooped out a little pile of cash and fled.

Lady Hillary shook her head.  “Always the same with these creatures.  So much fire, so little strategy.  It’s a shame–this one was cute.”  She turned back to the altar.  “Ah, yes.  What should I do next?  Where is that spell to get Bernie’s endorsement?”

I turn my laptop on in the morning already knowing that the battle continued raging even while I was asleep.  Indeed, shots were fired in the middle of the night.

“You have to ask yourself, are you here for the revolution?  Are you a revolutionary or what?”

I’m definitely a “what.”  And the correct category is…?

“Are you a patriot?  Are you fighting for liberty?  We are continuing our fight against the useless bureaucrats in D.C.”

“How can any liberal support Hillary?”

“How can any conservative support Kasich?”

“Bernie will smash the banks…”

“Trump will keep those illegals out…”

Remember when the Internet used to be all about posting pictures of babies, lunches and kittens?  Believe it or not, I really miss that time.

“You people are privileged and don’t know what it’s like to struggle…”

Hey, everyone!  Here’s a video of Chirpy!

“You people have never had a real job or paid taxes–you don’t what it’s like out there in the adult world…”

“Old and square…”

“Young and dumb…”

Chirpy is a parakeet.  He likes to play the synth…

“Racist…”

“Politically correct sheeple…”

“Fascist…”

“Communist…”

Watch him play the Game of Thrones theme!

“You Nazis should get sent to camps…”

He even whistles along!

“You SJWs should get shot into a ditch…”

And isn’t it hilarious how the cat is watching him from below?

Right?

Guys?

“Let’s burn everything down!”

“Let’s burn everything down!”

It’s not too late.  We don’t have to burn everything down.

 

I suppose this is what it must feel like to be on the wrong side in one of those good vs. evil fantasy movies.  I’m still here, one of the minions laboring in the Dark Castle, hoping that Commander Clinton pulls off a victory, but the audience in the theater can already tell where this one is going.

Yeah, it’s likely that Hillary will end up the Democratic nominee.  But it’s clear she is not the true winner of this election.  Hillary’s the Queen clinging to her crown, while outside her window Bernie prances about, surrounded by happy woodland creatures and chirpy little songbirds, sprinkling his fairy dust on everyone.

At this point, I’ve moved past the furious stepmother phase of my reaction to this election cycle…or at least I hope I have…and, while not enthusiastic for him, I’m glad for how excited the people in my life are about Bernie.  Not being excited about Bernie when you live in Portland is a little bit like being the only sober person at one of those parties where all your other friends are high on something, but that’s okay.  It might not be fun at first, but then you let go and roll with it, and learn to accept the meandering philosophical discussions and the random crying bouts.

As for me, I’ll keep skulking in the shadows, rooting against all odds for Queen Hillary to become President…and maybe even more than that…

“What are we doing tonight, Your Highness?”

“What we do every night…try to take over the world!”

 

So, what is the deal with this cray-cray Trump candidacy?  Is it just the reality show from Hell?  Is it a dumber incarnation of Mussolini?  I’m staring at it in horror, but what is it?

One simple answer is that it’s a reaction to Obama’s presidency.  The racists of this country have had a rough seven years trying to deal with the reality of a black President.  Now, here comes Trump to the rescue, this man who still hasn’t sorted out his feelings about the KKK.  The yokels who cheer for him might not agree with his stances on health care or abortion or almost anything else, but that doesn’t matter–the essence of his campaign is all about bashing brown-skinned people.

Despite the fact that his administration is responsible for a record number of deportations, the screaming heads on talk radio have always accused President Obama of purposely letting high numbers of undocumented Latino immigrants into the country in order to “change our culture” (code language for making the culture less white).  But, never fear!  Trump is here and he’s going to build a giant wall to protect us from all these foreign aliens.

Likewise, the right-wing conspiracy theorists believe that Obama is sympathetic to radical Islamist terror groups, perhaps even that he’s a radical Muslim himself.  This although he has expanded George W’s drone strike program.  Once again, Trump bravely steps up to the plate.  He will keep all the Muslims out.  Radical or non-radical, it doesn’t matter.  That should solve the problem.

In an ironic twist, as the President is disrespected because of his skin color, he is simultaneously blamed for being the one to cause racial division in the nation.  Apparently, he is too soft on the (scary to conservatives) Black Lives Matter movement.  In the world of anti-Obama hysteria, tiny molehills are turned into mountains.  As with everything else in his presidency, Obama has treaded very carefully when it comes to incidents of police brutality, not speaking out as forcefully as many would like him to.  He got in enough trouble just for saying that Trayvon Martin could have been his kid.  And still, according to the crazy rightie blogosphere, he has been coddling rioters and looters.  Trump, on the other hand–he doesn’t mess around with those pesky BLM protesters.  He will have his own audiences kick and shove them out of his rallies.  He’s a big man, that Donald.

So the question is–will we allow the racist backlash against our country’s first African-American President to result in a destructive, reactionary Trump presidency?  I sincerely hope not.

This blog post dedication goes out to a very special presidential candidate…and the way he’s changed my life.

As some of you may know, I work in the health insurance industry, for a local company which shall remain nameless.  Yes, it feels paradoxical to be working in that field when I’m a supporter of a single payer system, but that’s life for ya.  Working in insurance may seem like the most boring career path ever–I’m like Kafka without the brilliant novels–but over the years, I’ve enjoyed my job and found some good friends among my co-workers.  It’s been a nice stable paycheck, and I was hoping to keep working there for years to come.

And now the company I work for is imploding.  Why?  Well, there are multiple factors, but a major one stands out.

When insurance companies agreed to join the Obamacare exchange, the government promised them payments from something called a risk corridor program.  This was meant to compensate them for the fact that they would be taking on a large number of new customers who had been uninsured for a long time, and thus would be very sick and would need costly treatment.  This turned out to be true, and costs for the industry have been even higher than expected.  If anything, this is evidence for just how broken our healthcare system was previous to the Affordable Care Act.  All these newly insured Americans are now finally receiving care for medical conditions they were often forced to neglect because they couldn’t afford to have them treated.

I certainly do not expect sympathy for insurance companies in this scenario.  However, the risk corridor payments were supposed to make the transition to Obamacare smoother and keep the health care infrastructure from falling to pieces.  Supposed to.  But only 13% of the risk corridor money which was promised has been paid out.  And it’s all because of that one very special guy.  Yep, Marco Rubio.  Marco cut most of the risk corridor money out of the budget, and he’s very proud of it.  He brags about being the only conservative who has truly succeeded in damaging Obamacare.  Because it’s so much more important to stick it to the President than to allow Americans access to health care…

So now, insurance companies across the country are going out of business, employees are facing layoffs–and the truly frustrating thing is that Obamacare is getting the blame.  I’m hearing it myself around my own workplace.  It’s easy to think that it’s Obama’s fault, if you haven’t heard all the facts.  Rubio knew what he was doing.

Okay, so saying that I’m not voting for Marco for President is a bit of an empty threat–it’s not like I was going to vote for him before.  Still, I’m definitely never voting for him now. Not for dogcatcher.  I’d gladly vote for Bernie over him.  A shoe could be running against him and I would vote for the shoe.  Call it a personal grudge.

Say it with me, everyone:  elections have consequences.  Think there’s no difference between the candidates?  Think it’s not worth your time to vote?  Nope, nope, nope.  My future, and the future of almost 2,000 other workers, hangs in the balance right now because of the actions of one man.  Vote like the quality of your life depends on it… because it does!!!