Time for a little update about my midterms activities here in the Portland region.  I have been insanely busy canvassing and phone banking, as well as editing and writing articles for my local Democratic Party.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of my time volunteering for the re-election campaign of Kate Brown, our kickass female Democratic governor.

This race is the perfect example of why the midterms are so important.  It’s very easy to get complacent in a place like Oregon.  This is a blue state–the Democrat will win, right?  But while we were being complacent, this has suddenly turned into a very tight race, with polls showing Governor Brown and her opponent to be very close.  Not least thanks to Republican Knute Buehler cleverly portraying himself as a moderate, since he knows that’s the only way he can possibly win the Portland metro area.  Knute says he’s pro-choice in his ads!  He’s liberal on social issues!  He’s got an independent streak!  He criticized President Trump that one time!

While Knute does his “I’m really not a conservative!” song and dance, the Democrats are stuck with the problem of having a competent and hard-working incumbent who doesn’t get any exciting PR for being that way.  I frequently hear voters say “If only Kate had done something impressive!”  After I’ve done some deep breathing and lowered my blood pressure, I direct them to this list of accomplishments.

Some of my favorite highlights include:

She approved a minimum wage hike for the state.

She mandated 40 hour paid sick leave for all Oregon employees.

She set up a state-run retirement fund for any workers who are not provided a retirement plan at work.

She signed a bill which ensured that all Oregon kids receive health care.

She increased funding for the Oregon Promise Act, which helps low-income students attend community college.

She signed legislation to enforce universal background checks on gun purchases.

And she helped pass the motor voter bill, which makes any Oregon resident with a state ID automatically registered to vote.

My climate activist friends are rooting for a carbon pricing bill which is currently working its way through the state legislature.  If Governor Brown is re-elected, she is likely to sign this bill.  If Knute Buehler is elected, bye-bye carbon pricing.  Likewise, Knute claims to be pro-choice now, but before he started his centrist run for the governor, he voted against a bill expanding abortion rights.  A Governor Buehler would be much more likely to restrict reproductive rights for women.

Has Kate Brown’s leadership been ideal? Has she done everything I would like her to do? Nope, but I don’t expect that, because I inhabit reality and not a fantasy world. But…have the things she has done had a real effect on people’s lives? Absolutely yes. I would say she’s made a difference to the kids who were able to get health care, the women whose ex-boyfriend stalker wasn’t able to buy a gun, or the people who will get paid a higher minimum wage.

The problem is that all these things take hard, unglamorous, daily work.  And that kind of work is much less likely to get attention than, say, somebody sitting on his ass and sending out offensive Tweets, or heavily armed dipshits coming to our fair city and hoping to cause trouble.  And chances are even higher that a hard-working and qualified politician will get overlooked or criticized if that politician happens to be a woman (I can think of someone that happened to not that long ago, ahem).

Hopefully voters will take Kate Brown’s achievements into consideration in November. (I know, I’m asking American voters to actually think…that can seem like a stretch sometimes.)  Or, maybe Portland progressives will do what they do best…let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Aaaand months from now all those political purists will be complaining about something the Republican governor did which they don’t like.  Hey, don’t come crying to me…I was out here trying to prevent that from happening!

Speaking of which…the weekend is almost upon us, which means time to lace up my canvassing shoes and get out there.  Hope all of you are getting ready to fill out that ballot.  Only two and a half weeks left until the election!

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No matter how skillful I am with my words, someday I am going to trip over them, and I know that when I do, you will be there, waiting.

You embrace me.  “I’m so happy to see you here today, sister!”

We are sisters–not through blood, but through purpose.  We’re part of the same community.  Working together to make the world better.  Or are we?

Or are we happier when we get the opportunity to cut each other down?  Tear each other down in the name of…what, exactly?  Not in the name of power.  Lord knows there isn’t any real power in our little activist groups.  No real money to be had from this, either.  Oh, but there certainly is the chance to look morally superior.  To feel virtuous.

You’ve already got an advantage over me when it comes to that.  You’re younger, so the forces of history are on your side.  The story of our times is flowing your way, while I’ve turned into The Man (or The Woman, in this case).  Someday you will be The Woman, too, although you can’t imagine it now.  Because you’ll never be like me!  Right?

Your other advantage is that you’ve got sharp eyes.  As well you should–this is politics, after all.  They don’t miss the slightest flaw, and so of course you will catch me when I stumble.  And you will not be forgiving when you do.  We’re a bunch of perfectionists on the left–one flawed cookie spoils the whole revolutionary batch.

Hell, I grew up in a world in which lefties regularly informed on each other and sent each other to prison.  I’ve got no illusions.  I know we’re not anymore tolerant or forgiving than the other side–except we’re that way for a good cause.

At least in this case, I won’t be sent to prison–not by you, anyway.  Instead, our group will get caught up in the infighting, and it will become even smaller and more laughable as we exclude more people.  Our opponents will love it, and will mock us mercilessly.  You will be praised for your rock-solid principles, and will advance to greater personal success, even if the community as a whole loses out.

But I really do believe in the higher purpose of what we’re doing here. So I will do my best to outmanoeuvre your all-seeing eyes, and will keep doing my work.  And even if someday I commit the unforgivable sin of being human and tripping over myself, regardless of what you may think of me, I will still be here.

“Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” — Luke 6:30

For all those who complain about how much the deficit went up under Obama and other Democrats (although it’s usually the Republicans who increase the deficit, anyway)–can you imagine how much the deficit would go up under a President Jesus?

Just think of what his policies would be.  A President Jesus would immediately get impeached or assassinated–by Christians.

“My Secret Service men are unattractive.  Why can’t I have cute Secret Service men?”

“Please, Melania.  I got enough problems.”

“Oh, Donaaaaaald…”

King Donald sighed.

“It’s so cold today, Donald.”

He hated them.  He hated them bigly.  Not only had the Democrats gained control of Congress, but the very first bill they passed was the cruelest blow of all.  It required that he had to spend at least 80% of his time every year right here in D.C., and so did the rest of the Royal Family.  No more Trump Tower.  No more Mar-a-Lago.  Just the dinky old White House.

There were some misgivings about how much that would limit King Donald’s overseas diplomatic travel, but then everyone remembered that he embarrassed the country that much more when he went on foreign trips.

His first impulse was to shout “Off with their heads!”, but despite his stunning re-election victory, he didn’t quite have the power to do that yet.

“I really don’t like living here.  The decor is so drab.  It’s so…there’s not enough gold.”

Queen Melania was right.  But did those lowly Congress-sheeple appreciate all the work he had done in Florida?  His Palace was going to be the best and the biggest.  Like one of those old French ones, or maybe ancient Roman.  Didn’t matter to them–they kept whining about how staying at the White House was a “national tradition.”  They gave dramatic speeches and quoted that “of the people” bit about the government.  He was totally acting like a ruler of the people!  He could help Americans even better from a Palace!  Why didn’t they understand that?

“It’s time.”  The Queen took his hand stiffly.  “Let’s do this right now.  I want it over with.”

Yeah, there was that–one more little stab at his self-respect.  It was a small amendment inserted into the bill.  It stipulated that he must meet with at least one citizen who had voted for him every day–chosen by random lottery, to ensure he didn’t simply select his wealthiest supporters.

They took the elevator down to the tiny room they had set aside for audiences with their subjects.  The couple was already there, waiting for them.

The woman was very excited.  She had poofy hair and was wearing an ill-fitting business suit.  She grabbed Melania’s arm.  “You’re so beautiful!  I love you so much!”  The Queen wrinkled her nose in distaste.

The man was wearing a baseball hat and a shirt with an eagle on it, and King Donald could swear he was staring at him with suspicion.  He nodded at the King.  “Nice to meet ya,” he drawled.  “Lookin’ forward to you finally buildin’ that wall someday.”

That’s when the break came.  The small, wary eyes of that man–one of his constituents–caused the King to make one of his infamous impulsive decisions.  He couldn’t deal with these people anymore.  He didn’t care how anybody would feel about it.  He didn’t care about the Constitutional amendment he himself had pushed through, removing the term limits on his presidency.

This was urgent.  He would tweet about this first thing tomorrow.  No, today.

He was never running for God Emperor again.

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?

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?”

Here I sit, the winner of my own private civil war, and what have I gained?

Bombs were thrown and insults were lobbed back and forth.  “Liberal Demoshit.”  This was a fight in the family, so relatives jumped in.  “Well, you’re a right wing piece of shit.”  The battle had to end with the final shot–the unfriending.

Granted, the guy in question is an asshole.  He has a virulent hatred of the President and the First Lady.  And he doesn’t do a very good job of hiding the fact that his hatred has a lot to do with their skin color.

It should be easy to crow over how stupid he is.  But there is no feeling of triumph after a debate with a Trump supporter.  There’s no satisfaction in having to cut off a part of my family.  There’s only an empty sensation.  I hate conflict.  I hate fighting and mudslinging.  My “uncle” hit me with a low blow, but I allowed myself to get dragged down there with him, and became just as much of an idiot as he was.

And it’s a bad sign of what’s been happening, more and more, to all of us.  We can’t be friends if we’re on the opposite sides of the political party divide.  And now it’s even difficult for members of the same party.  I bite my tongue and stay quiet about the worries I have about a potential Bernie presidency, because I don’t want more unfriendings in my life.

I get the premonition that someday we’ll be standing there, looking at the charred, smoking remnants of our homes, our family relationships, our country.  We’ll shake our heads sadly and say:  “Yeah, it all started with an online argument….”