A Post-Election Train of Thought

As I write this, I am working on few hours of sleep.  My partner and I stayed pretty late at a field organizer’s house last night, watching the election slip away from Hillary Clinton as the GOP also maintained control of the House and  Senate. Yep, come January, the U.S. is looking at a far-right Republican Party controlling three branches of government and most likely the Supreme Court. As I write this, I am an hour and a half away from teaching Virigina Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and “Professions for Women” in my Women’s Lit class. I will, of course, let them have an open, respectful discussion about the election, if they chose to. Teaching Woolf in this moment feels daunting. If you haven’t read either essay, here is as summary: Woolf declares that there have been so few female writers prior to her time in the early 20th Century because there was  not the economic or emotional space for women to write. They had to be mothers and/or  housewives, or if they did write, they had to face the crippling claims that women were not smart enough to write and publish.  Woolf goes so far in “A Room of One’s Own” to imagine if Shakespeare had as sister, born with the same talent and genius as he. If she went to the theater with a play she wrote, or if she wanted to act,  she would have been laughed right out the door. Woolf concludes that Shakespeare’s sister would have killed herself, due to the inability to fulfill her dreams and pursue her natural talent.

I don’t mean to be dire, but I knocked on a lot of doors, made a lot of phone calls, and did the usual campaign grunt work. I guess I can afford to feel a little down, after the campaign was so optimistic over the last few weeks, even after the Comey letter. I’m still unsure how to process this. I am bewildered and frightened by the FBI’s involvement in the election process, be it Comey’s press conference in July or the letter about 10 days prior to the election. I am alarmed at the massive hacks Wikileaks and possibly Russia committed against the DNC and Hillary campaign. I do wonder what other influences they will have on our election process going forward and how to prevent that. I am befuddled that the Democratic Party, with a president/figurehead who has a higher approval rating than when Reagan left office, STILL managed to lose the White House, and not only the White House, but the House and Senate, where they only needed FOUR pick-ups and had to defend far, far less seats than the GOP.

I am not ready yet to even ponder the future of the Democratic Party. I’ve been a part of it since I was 18 and worked on a number of campaigns. This loss, however, stings the worst, due to all that Trumps stands for. I have no idea what type of world we’ll be living in. I’m not optimistic the Dems can take back even one branch of government in 2018. The Senate map is nasty for them, frankly because they have to defend a ton of seats they won in 2012. The House is also an uphill slog, and Dems vote in even lower numbers during mid-terms. Still, I will get back to organizing,  fighting, and  reshaping the party. I hope others do, too, including the Bernie folks.

The Democratic Party is now post-Clinton and post-Obama. It has no figurehead, no well-known, younger leaders to direct it and craft a platform in preparation for 2018. It will have to get it together quick because the Dems are the only real check on Trump that remains, other than the lower courts. My main concern going forward is the lack of depth within the party, how thin the bench is, due to the fact Democrats have lost several mid-terms over the last several election cycles. Who will step up?

Regardless, I will keep putting in the work. I hope that others do, too. Find others in your community. Get together. Donate to causes that do good work for women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, religious tolerance,  lower-income folks, etc, etc. They will be the groups most impacted by a Trump presidency and GOP-controlled Congress.

Right now, I’m going to get ready to teach Virginia Woolf, to have an honest, respectful discussion with my students about the election, if they want to have it, and then I’m going home to rest so I can get back to work.

 

 

So what next?

I am writing this post a few hours before the third and final presidential debate. I watched the other debates at watch parties, surrounded by friends and other volunteers. Being around them made it easier to watch. It is likely that this debate will be the nastiest yet. Clinton is ahead in most of the swing states, and over the last two weeks or so, Trump has unveiled a new strategy: claim the election is going to be rigged. To their credit, a lot of mainstream Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have pushed back against such claims. Trump’s claims are dangerous because they dig at the fabric of our democracy and the voting process in general. Voting should be seen as sacred, but knowing he is probably going to lose, and possibly lose big, Trump is now trying to undercut the legitimacy of our election. We have never seen anything like this in past elections.

It is now possible that the Democrats can win back the Senate and the House. The Clinton campaign is pushing into red states and now spending money in AZ, which is a virtual tie, according to latest polls, and Georgia, Texas, and Utah. It’s not likely that Clinton will win all of these states. She may not even  win any of them, but the spending could have a serious down ballot effect that benefits Democrats. Even if this turns out to be a wave election, what will the aftermath be? If Trumpism is repudiated big time at the ballot box on Nov. 8, will he go away? Will he stop having meltdowns on Twitter? Will he stop claiming the election is rigged and there is some vast conspiracy going on between the Clinton campaign and the mainstream media? Will the nastiness and xenophobic rhetoric go away, or will his supporters, who feel totally alienated by the political process, become even bolder?

I hope that the Democrats, even if they win big, take a long, hard look at what caused Trumpism in the first place. Why is it that the media mogul, or even Bernie Sanders, resonated so deeply with a chunk of the electorate? What will the Democratic Party do to address the concerns of the white working-class? This isn’t solely a U.S. issue, either. The New Yorker published a story a few weeks ago about the rise of far-right, nationalist parties in Germany, France, and Austria, caused by the Syrian refugee crisis. Here, our electorate is much broader and more diverse, so it doesn’t seem likely that Trump will win the White House. That said, his nationalist rhetoric and the concerns of his supporters need to be addressed. Clinton is going to have a massive burden to try to soothe and heal this country post-election.

My fear, however, is that the GOP may try to obstruct Democrats at every turn, like they did with Obama over the last 8 years. Already, John McCain has stated that anyone Clinton puts up for the Supreme Court will be stymied by the GOP.

Tonight, I will be watching the debate with friends and other volunteers, for the third and final time. I am ready for this election season to conclude, and I hope that Trump/Trumpism is retired to the dustbin of our history, just like McCarthy and George Wallace. The question is, what happens after election day?

Where the Revolution Goes from Here and How Bernie Lands the Plane

Following a string of victories last night in New Mexico, New Jersey, and California, Hillary Clinton made history by clinching the Democratic nomination for president. Less than a 100 years after women earned the right to vote, she became the first female presidential candidate of a major political party. Despite one’s feelings about Hillary, this moment deserves its spotlight. Following the wins, Clinton said, “It may be hard to see tonight, but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now. But don’t worry, we’re not smashing this one…It’s the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee.”

She also noted that her mother was born on the day that Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. She then remarked that the first convention dedicated to women’s rights happened in the state where she stood that evening: New York, at Seneca Falls in 1848.

Browsing my social media accounts, I noticed that some Sanders supporters griped that Hillary was anointed the nominee and did no win it fairly. Putting the super delegate issue aside, Clinton had a few more million votes than Sanders, and for that matter, she earned more votes than any of the presidential nominees thus far, including Trump. The question now becomes where does the Sanders campaign go from here? Last night, he vowed to keep fighting until the convention in Philly at the end of July, and I’ve said all along that he should do so. At this point, Sanders has no chance to be the nominee, other than the very remote possibility that Hillary will be indicted over the e-mail saga. That said, Sanders’ campaign has been about remaking the Democratic Party, so that it resembles the party of FDR or LBJ rather than a party led by the DNC or Clintons. So far, Sanders has had some major successes. He got the chance to appoint five members to the DNC platform committee. Clinton appointed six, and the DNC appointed four. His picks have included African American scholar Cornel West and environmental activist Bill McKibben. On the campaign trail, he has forced Hillary to make income inequality a major part of her platform, which will most likely last through the fall, since Trump has been successful, in part, by tapping into white working-class anger. Now that the general election match-up is clear, Clinton can’t ignore the issues that Sanders made relevant.

If Sanders manages to unite the party, while continuing to push for the issues that matter to him, it is likely that he will return to the Senate as one of its most powerful members, and most likely the chair of the banking committee, if the Democrats retake the Senate, which seems likely, considering the map and Trump’s recent self-implosion over the judge remarks and Trump University scandal.

Following the age of Occupy and increasing anger directed at Wall Street, it is unlikely that the Democratic Party will continue to resemble  a party of triangulation. The financial crisis of 2008 and the bank bailouts that followed have made it impossible for the Democratic Party to not address economic inequality and the working-class anger that Trump has managed to tap into when he talks about the devastating effect of some Clinton-era policies, specifically NAFTA, and the gross effect of big money on politics.

As the convention draws closer, Bernie and his supporters need to make a $15 minimum wage, a major jobs plan, universal healthcare part, and campaign finance reform part of the platform. They should also push to rework the primary rules, even the order of states that votes and open primaries v. closed primaries.

Yes, another Clinton will is now the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but this Clinton has made economic inequality a major part of her platform, and in doing so, she has had to address her husband’s legacy, including the loss of manufacturing that came as a result of her husband’s free trade policies. The Democratic Party is undergoing a major change, and if Bernie and his supporters seriously organize and continue what they started, it is possible policies he advocated will come to fruition. If his supporters remain engaged and come into the fold more, then perhaps next time around, a candidate like Bernie Sanders will win the nomination.

A Fractured Left

After Hillary Clinton’s double digit win in New York last night, the path for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president is impossible. The delegates aren’t there for him. Even more so, Clinton is ahead of him by double digits in a number of the states that vote next Tuesday, including delegate-rich Pennsylvania. I will state for the record that I have always liked Bernie Sanders. He has been preaching about money in politics for years. That said, I have been appalled by what I have seen on social media, especially after Clinton’s victory last night. The Democratic primary has turned into name calling and growing divide between Clinton and Bernie supporters. Some of his supporters feel as though she has not won any of the races legitimately, as though there is some big DNC conspiracy to ensure she’s the nominee. Meanwhile, I have seen some of his supporters declare that they will vote for Trump or Cruz because they can’t stomach voting for Clinton in the fall. This especially boggles my mind. Hillary never would have been my first choice for the Democratic nominee. That said, the Democratic bench was never going to be that deep because in the last few mid-term elections, Dems got obliterated, thus they don’t have a farm league at the state or national levels to groom into major presidential contenders, unlike the GOP, who controls majority of state legislatures, the House, and the Senate. With that said, there is a major difference between Hillary and Trump and Cruz. On women’s issues, Hillary has always been pro-choice and a supporter of equal pay. She is also more liberal on immigration than Obama. In addition, she favors a major raise in the minimum wage, to at least $12. Trump, meanwhile, runs around the country talking about a wall, banning Muslims, and punishing women for having an abortion. Cruz is even more extreme. So while Hillary may not be my first pick, I understand that the differences between she and whomever the GOP nominee will be, most likely Trump, are quite stark.

My fear right now is that this election, on the Democratic side, is going to be a redux of 1968 or 1980, when the party was so fractured that it handed the White House to the GOP. Recent polling shows that between 25-35 percent of Bernie supporters state that they won’t back Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee. Now, I will point out that in the heat of the 2008 primary between Obama and Clinton, polling showed that about half of her supporters said that they would not support him if he won the nomination. Ultimately, the party came together. However, this feels… different. Some Bernie supporters feel as though Clinton is everything wrong with the system, everything Bernie has been railing against. To them, she represents big money in politics, someone who can be bought and sold and changes positions when it is best for her to do so.

I also question if Bernie supporters will back her because some of them have no loyalties to the Democratic Party. Their man is not even a Democrat. He was always registered independent in Congress, called himself a Democratic Socialist, but caucused with the Democrats. During this campaign cycle, meanwhile, he hasn’t done much for Democrats down ballot, even though the “revolution” he speaks of would only be possible with a Congress far, far more progressive than its current make-up.

In 1968, at the height of Vietnam, the Democratic Party was split in SO many different ways. Eugene McCarthy, a socialist, ran. Bobby Kennedy ran, and establishment candidate Hubert Humphrey ran and ultimately won the nomination after Bobby Kennedy was gunned down. Humphrey ultimately lost the race to Richard Nixon, but it was one of the closest elections in our country’s history. Nixon ran on a platform of law and order and ending the Vietnam War, even though he escalated it once in power. However, after major riots, blood shed, and heads cracked with billy cubs at the Democratic Convention that summer, it’s no surprise Nixon won. The country yearned for some type of stability after a turbulent decade and an especially turbulent year. It also didn’t help that the Dem party was split so much, between three candidates initially and then two after Bobby was gunned down. In 1980, meanwhile, Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter in a primary and seriously hobbled him in the general election. As a result, Ronald Reagan was elected.

I would like to see the Bernie people get seriously engaged, long-term in the process. That means voting for Hilary if she is the nominee, but keeping pressure on her to pull her to the left and propose progressive solutions to get money out of politics, create a more stable Middle East, and create more economic equality, ideas that are central to Bernie’s campaign and his supporters. In addition, I want to see his supporters get active in grassroots activism, such as unionism and the fight for $15 campaign. I want to see them more beyond presidential politics and work to seriously remake the Democratic Party in the image of FDR, Bobby Kennedy, LBJ, and some of its other leaders of the past. That also requires working for down ballot candidates and reshaping Congress.

Understanding the Trump Phenomenon

By now, the rest of the world must be looking at the United States, baffled that the  Republican Party is most likely going to nominate Donald Trump as its presidential nominee. After his Super Tuesday wins,  Trump has the momentum, and he is ahead in the delegate count. It is possible that Cruz or Rubio could still stop him, but that would be very, very difficult. Part of the reason Trump has had so much success and has secured so many delegates is because SO many Republicans ran for president this year, and so many of them were considered establishment candidates. First, the establishment pumped money into Jeb Bush, and then John Kasich for a brief period, and then most recently, Marco Rubio. Because the votes have been so divided among the anti-Trump, establishment contenders, it has made it impossible for one anti-Trump candidate to emerge. They are all splitting the votes.

However, Trump’s rise goes deeper than that, at serious ills facing the country, exacerbated by the Republican Party’s rhetoric over the last several years. Essentially, in the age of Obama, the GOP has made itself the anti-immigrant, very, very white party. In a time of rising economic inequality, and both political parties’ refusal to do much about it, the GOP has successfully scapegoated another group of people, primarily immigrants, turning white, working-class, Reagan Democrats against them. This idea is nothing new. In fact, African American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois talked about this very tactic in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, in which he analyzed the way Southern, one percenters pitted white, Southern, working-class Americans against African Americans in the Jim Crow South.

It is no surprise then that Donald Trump first made national headlines this campaign cycle by referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “drug dealers” over the summer, while promising to build a wall along the border and have Mexico pay for it. This should have immediately ended his campaign, but it didn’t. The rhetoric only gained him more supporters, and since then, his hateful language continued, as he promised to ban all Muslims from entering the country and said that a Black Lives Matter protestor deserved to be “roughed up.” Meanwhile, in the last week, a Time magazine reporter was choke slammed at one of his rallies, black students were removed from a rally in GA, and on and on. His rhetoric is indeed inciting violence and worsening divisions in this country.

Only VERY recently have GOP leaders seriously started to speak out against Trump. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a speech denouncing Trump as a fraud and phony. Sen. John McCain said Trump would pose a danger to America’s national security, and House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized Trump’s refusal to distance himself from David Duke, former KKK Grand Wizard who endorsed Trump.

Time ran one of the best editorials against Trump I have seen so far, focused on his bigotry. Perhaps the GOP bigwigs are FINALLY speaking out against Trump because his racism has become so old-fashioned and utterly apparent. The editorial states, “It’s easy to condemn Trump and Duke, and to be self-righteous in doing so. It allows us to point to the bad people over there while protecting our illusory innocence. We should have been outraged by Trump from the very beginning. But that would’ve required that we confront the ugliness in ourselves. Americans aren’t too keen on that. We prefer our illusions straight no chaser.”

Does Time magazine have a point there? Why was the David Duke incident what made GOP stalwarts like Joe Scarborough, Paul Ryan, and others finally denounce him? Why did they not do so over Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants or plans to ban Muslims from entering the country? Were those comments what much of the GOP base wanted to hear all along? Do they only condemn Trump now because he is on the verge of being racist in “the old, American way of being racist?”

Trump is  a result of the GOP’s increasing shift to the right over the years, its failure to diversify the party, and its willingness to coalesce around older, white, working-class voters. Yet, it’s important to note that these voters have legitimate gripes, namely that the system is rigged, politicians are bought, and working-class jobs are gone. However, immigrants are not to blame. Bad trade deals, like NAFTA, are to blame for shipping those working-class jobs overseas, and there, both parties are at fault. Citizens United is one of the main factors that created such an influx of corporate money into our political system.

So now, it seems, it will be up to establishment candidate Hillary Clinton to stop Trump. Clinton better think long and hard, however, about the direction of the Democratic Party. It can no longer be complicit in dealing with economic inequalities that deepen the country’s racial divides. Though she has high unfavorables, it is likely Clinton will mobilize the Latino vote and black vote in the fall,  thanks to Trump’s ascension. She will owe them if she wins the White House. A clear, progressive economic plan and a serious immigration reform bill would be a good start.  Trump’s rallies have given us a glimpse of how anyone different would be scapegoated and treated in his America. That indeed is a horrifying thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, Keep Confronting the Candidates, BLM Activists!

My favorite scene in the N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton, is when the group is on stage in Detroit and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr) looks out on the crowd, turns to Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and then belts out “Fuck Tha Police.” This incident occurred after the Detroit P.D. demanded that the group not play the song in their city. The group’s decision to defy the police led to a riot and the arrest of the artists and raised a lot of questions about censorship.

There are so many good things that I could say about the film, specifically the way it captures the explosion of “gangsta” rap, the implosion of N.W.A., the rise of Death Row Records, but mostly, I favor the film because of how much it resonates with headlines today, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement. Looming throughout the film is tension between police and black communities, ultimately leading to the Rodney King riots. In one early scene, as the artists step outside of a recording studio, they’re shoved to the ground by LAPD because they’re assumed to be gang-bangers.

There are many criticisms that can be made against “gangsta” rap, namely its treatment of women, but as Ice Cube notes several times throughout the film, the music served as a reflection of their reality, including the tensions with police. In that regard, it can also be said that N.W.A.’s bold decision to play “Fuck Tha Police” in Detroit was an act of civil disobedience.

That particular reminded me of young Black Lives Matters activists who recently shut down rallies by Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush, and have since protested at other campaign scenes. When they shut down a Sanders rally in Seattle, several of my progressive friends questioned their motives, since Sanders is generally open-minded and supportive of civil rights causes.  I noted that it doesn’t matter who the candidate is, they should keep employing such acts of civil disobedience. For one, it forces the cnadidates and their supporters to really listen. After shutting down the Sanders rally, for instance, he broadened his platform to include matters of policing in minority communities. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton recently met with BLM activists. These acts of civil disobedience create a national dialogue and force people to pay attention. Any change comes from the grassroots.

There really couldn’t be a more appropriate time for a biopic on N.W.A. produced by Ice Cub and Dr. Dre. Already, it’s continued the conversation that the group started in the late 80s and the BLM activists rekindled, post-Trayvon and post-Ferguson.

Bernie Sanders and the Politics of Election Cycles and Celebrity

It’s starting to feel like 2008 again. Only, instead of Shepard Ferry’s Hope and Change posters, we have numerous articles, including this one from the Huffington Post, about Bernie Sanders’s rise in the polls and the possibility that he could defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary. He’s closing the gap in New Hampshire and Iowa. Other articles have reported on the massive size of his campaign rallies.

One thing can be said. Sanders has energized his base. The size of his rallies and the money he’s raising offer proof of that. I, too, am excited about Sanders. He’s the only self-identified socialist in the Senate, and when he speaks about economic equality for all, I believe what he says.

That said, I have one big concern. The left in this country tends to get very excited every four years during presidential election cycles. They fell in love  with Obama in 2008, and then after the election, the left went silent, other than the Occupy Movement and some other movements here and there, which formed as a response to the left’s disillusionment with the president and the widening economic inequality. Then, in 2012, activists knocked on doors again and helped re-elect Obama. After the election, however, they went away.

Here’s the thing: if Sanders is somehow elected to the White House, he most likely will accomplish less than Obama did in his first term. To his credit, Obama passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Obamacare, and bailed out Detroit, all within his first two years in office, before his party lost the House and nearly lost the Senate in the 2010 mid-term elections. When he was elected in 2008, his party had a super-majority in the House and a majority in the Senate. If Sanders is elected, he will face a divided government. It is highly unlikely the Democrats will win back the House, though retaking the majority in the Senate seems likely. However, the Dem’s Senate majority is likely to be 1-3 seats, and the Senate landscape in the 2018 mid-term elections will favor Republicans, due, in part because Democrats will have more seats to defend. Whatever big proposals Sanders puts forth would most likely die in the House or get filibustered in the Senate.

After Obama was elected in 2008, I hoped there would be a sustainable movement, one that would push him even more to the left. Instead, there was the rise of the Tea Party Movement. Then, after the 2012 election, I held out hope again, and even the Obama campaign tried to make OFA (Organizing for America) into a long-term movement. However, that never happened.

The left needs to learn what the right has known for years. Electoral politics, especially at the national level, are only part of the puzzle. Movements are what create and sustain change. While I am happy that Bernie Sanders has reignited the national debate about income inequality, I have a major concern that the left is once again ready to funnel all of its energy into supporting a candidate, hoping he will create lasting change. If Sanders is to have any real, lasting impact beyond this election cycle, then he needs to encourage his supporters to keep the momentum going well beyond election season. He must encourage movement building.

We’ve seen the left rise up during Occupy and Black Lives Matter, but the tents in Zuccotti Park were swept away by Bloomberg and the NYPD a few months into the movement, and the fate of the Black Lives Matter movement is uncertain, though thus far, it has had more of an impact and has sustained itself far longer than Occupy. There is potential for something bigger. If Sanders can somehow channel the energy of his campaign crowds into something sustainable, then he will achieved something more important than a campaign victory and a seat in the White House. He will have ignited a movement that has been bubbling under the surface in this country for years.