I’m sure I’ve ranted about this already in the past, but it happened again last week.  I think it must’ve been the impeachment hearings.  A Republican dimwit said something like “The American people wanted Donald Trump to be President…the American people don’t want impeachment…”

No, you dolt, not the American people.  It was SOME American people that wanted Trump to be President.  SOME Americans don’t like the idea of impeachment…other Americans are fervently hoping and wishing for it.

To be fair, this happens on the left too.  I will frequently hear optimistic commentary claiming that the American working class supports progressive policies–and I so, so wish that were true.  But many in the working class are against ideas like single payer healthcare and increased taxation on the wealthy, even though this essentially means they’re going against their own interests.  Saying that the American people support Bernie is just as unrealistic as saying that the American people support Trump.

The point is, the phrase “The American people want x” is useless, because there is no such thing as a united American people at the moment.  No matter which side you’re coming from, about half the country will oppose you.  And not just oppose you in a reasonable, thoughtful kind of way–but more like oppose you in a hair-on-fire, I-want-you-to-die kind of way.  Right now, slightly more than half the country hates Trump. (I’m part of that half, and I do think there are good reasons to dislike him.) If a Dem gets elected President (which I really, really hope happens, and have already started working for), slightly less than half the country will be actively rooting against them, and hoping for them to fail.  I don’t know what kind of saint could perform the miracle of making that division go away.  Jesus would get crucified all over again for being a socialist, so it wouldn’t be Him.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why that phrasing gets used so much.  Politicians want to create the impression that all or the vast majority of Americans support whatever idea they’re trying to promote.  And since when do politicians care if what they’re saying is actually true?  There are also non-politician citizens who badly want to believe that it’s only a small crazy fringe which disagrees with them…after all, their views just make so much sense, right?  But it’s extra disingenuous to be saying this at such an extremely polarized time in our history.

I know it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive to say “Well, about half the people are behind me on this…and large sections of the country don’t like what I’m doing.”  And it could be deadly to one’s political career.  So, we will have to continue to put up with political leaders speaking for “the American people” in their entirety, even though all of us who are in touch with reality know this to be a lie.  We are not one American people, and will not be for a long time.

At least, not until the next time somebody attacks us.  Because nothing binds a people together and puts an end to internal strife like finding a common enemy.  So, on that fine day when we find someone we can hate more than we hate each other, we will be able to once again say “The American people are completely in favor of destroying…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the 2020 election season is starting to fire up, and here comes the predictable chorus saying the same thing we always hear.  When it comes to people who actually want to transform the system we live in–people who support things like a single payer health care system, a higher minimum wage, affordable college…

You want free stuff!

Lazy moochers.  You want a handout, don’t you?  You want to be given something for nothing.

Let me just stop this tired old song before it even gets started.  I’m not a moocher.  I’m certainly not lazy.  I drag myself out of bed and work my ass off every single day.  I don’t want a handout–I just want what I’m rightfully owed for my hard work.  A decent wage.  The ability to see the doctor if I’m sick.  A roof over my head.  Working people should be able to have access to these basics.

Conservatives twist this into the idea of class envy.  If you want these things, it must be because you’re envious of what other people have and want to take that away.  I don’t envy the rich their lifestyle.  I certainly don’t envy Donald his garish, gold-covered absurdity of an existence.  I’m not asking for what belongs to anybody else–I’m asking for what is already mine.  The fruit of my hard labor.

Most Americans I know are like that.  I’ve known a couple of people over the course of my life who I could genuinely describe as moochers, but they were a small minority.  The majority of people I know in this country work themselves to the point of burnout and exhaustion, and they get screwed over in return.  It amazes me that so many of these working class Americans still support Trump.  The man has done his best to weasel away even more from them–everything from overtime pay to the ability to file a workers compensation claim for an on-the-job injury, and he certainly hasn’t helped with the tax situation.  Yet they continue to love the guy who robs them of what little they have.

So no, I’m not interested in “free stuff.”  But hey, getting treated with some dignity by the country I’m investing my life and work into?  Now that actually sounds like a good deal….

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!

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?