The US Election

It seems like years since the US began this Presidential election campaign, but it’s only twenty or so months. American voters are hopeful, afraid, and indifferent, as usual. Like everyone else, I have some thoughts that are worth no more than those of your least favorite pundit; like everyone else, I have to voice these thoughts, because otherwise the Internet would just go to waste. Anyways:

Everyone has their reasons. At the beginning of the Trump ascendancy, many folks began asking, “Who on earth is voting for this phony? They must be stupid.” Well, no. Trump supporters have their reasons. For instance, at the beginning of the Republican nomination process, Trump was the only candidate to come out against the invasion of Iraq. While Jeb was trying not to disown his brother and the other Republicans were attempting to support the troops by justifying the mess a Republican administration had created for those soldiers, while this was going on, Trump said that the war was a bad idea. Now let me pause here and say, yes, I know that Trump had been for the war early on, but that is also true for Clinton. The point is that he was the only Republican willing to disavow it. I suppose there may be a few people who still think that invading Iraq was a good idea, but I doubt any of the candidates thought so, they just lacked the guts to say it out loud. And that was an early reason to support Trump.

Then there are NAFTA, the TPP, and other free trade agreements. It may be that the overall impact of free trade on the US economy has been positive, but you try selling that point of view to someone whose job was exported to Mexico. So, another reason.

Then there are the bad reasons, racism and misogyny. You may deplore them, but they are reasons. Racism is particularly prevalent in this campaign: four states are ignoring a Supreme Court decision that found their registration requirements discriminatory. A voter registration drive in Indiana has been busted by  state police, claiming that applications to register were “fraudulent or forged”. It will be many weeks before the investigation concludes, so 45,000 Black men and women may not be able to vote in November. Indiana’s governor is Mike Pence who, of course, is the Republican vice-presidential candidate, but that’s just a coincidence, right? On top of all that, Trump is urging his supporters to hang out around the polling stations, possibly code for “intimidate the opposition”. After all, intimidating Black voters is an American tradition that goes back a hundred and fifty years, to when Blacks were finally granted the franchise. So, a bad reason, but not stupid, if you fear losing your White privileges. It might be worth remembering that Obama has faced a lot of this stuff during his tenure. The reasons behind misogyny are similar to those behind racism: people are afraid of shifting gender roles that may diminish or change their own status. (More below on that.)

Finally, after years of neglect, many voters are just fed up and ready to kick over the apple cart because why the hell not? Similar reasons caused Brexit (IMO). It may be futile, it may be self-damaging, but damn! it feels good to watch the knobs in charge running around in panic.

So quit calling Trump supporters stupid. (Or “basic Rednecks”. Just shut up, Bill.) Once you start name-calling, you’ve lost the debate anyway. (And you do not name-call your opponent’s voters. That’s a basic political precept that Clinton violated with that “deplorables” business.)

“The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.” Jean Renoir

The Republican Clownshow  Beginning in 2008, the Republican nomination process has become stranger and stranger. Usually there are some professional politicians, a business professional or two, and an outlier. There will be a token black, a token woman, but (so far) no openly gay tokens. These categories overlap, of course. Sometimes candidates will take truly outlandish positions, like Newt Gingrich in 2012, who proposed that America create a moonbase so that precious elements could be extracted and sent back to Earth. (Incidentally, I believe he got this concept from the Dick Tracy comic strip, which utilized a similar story line back in the 1960s.) Other extreme statements have been made by Alan Keyes, Michele Bachmann, and Ben Carson, just to take an example from each of the three nominations since the Bush presidency ended. These positions seem to draw the other candidates into making their own platform more extreme. After all, Bachmann was declared the “winner” of the first 2012 Republican debate, so the other candidates had to take her seriously and respond. To ignore what seem to be outlandish positions may mean not recognizing an outside-the-box notion that has resonance with voters. Such as opposition to the Iraq War.

There’s another, somewhat disturbing, aspect to Republican nomination spectacles: Alan Keyes, Herman Cain, Ben Carson — what do they have in common, besides being Black? Well, they have been candidates people laugh at. Not everyone all the time, of course — each of those candidates was quite elevated in a post-debate poll or two in their respective election years — but, by and large, they were the butt of jokes. So, is the Black Fool (cf. Stepin Fetchit) a permanent fixture in Republican campaigns?

Black or not, clowns have become an integral part of Republican politics. Perhaps this has something to do with politics becoming show business. Even so, some Republican voices have been calling for party reform before the GOP is written off as a bad joke. So far, they have been ineffective. The one change that will probably happen is that the Republicans will strengthen the role of appointed delegates, so as to head off another candidacy from someone like Trump.

“The painted grin leers out at us from the darkness, mocking our insane belief in order, logic, status, the reality of reality.”  Terry  Pratchett

Groping The video that has Trump bragging about grabbing women by the pussy has caused a great deal of fuss, but not always (IMO) the way that it should have. Trump has characterized his words as “locker room talk” and “salty” language, and his supporters have brought up “political correctness” as an evil that keeps people from speaking their mind. The problem is, this isn’t a matter of Trump using incorrect language, it’s about repugnant attitudes and behavior. The hypocrisy of the Trump campaign was demonstrated when Trump supporters on a television panel requested that another panelist (a Republican) not use that terrible word, “pussy”. Ana Navarro insisted on repeating the word: pussypussypussy. The panel demanded that she employ a euphemism because the actual word used by their candidate was distasteful. But it’s not the word, it’s the mindset behind the concept of grabbing women that is offensive. Calling this locker room talk and diminishing the words used, is a dodge. Trump belongs to a privileged class that views other human beings as objects for his amusement. He is not alone. Even the Republican male opposition to Trump’s video often began with the words “I have a daughter… a wife…” In other words, “I respect women. Why, I even own a few.”  Mothers were not mentioned, of course. You can’t own your mother.

“It’s just words.” Donald Trump

Hillary Hatred Hillary Clinton has faced some nasty criticism ever since becoming First Lady of Arkansas. I found it hard to understand the degree of venom directed at her — until a few years ago. I noticed that people changed the reasons they gave for despising her and I began looking for the common thread in their anti-Hillary comments. First, she was attacked for having an over-developed sense of morality; now she is accused of being corrupt and amoral. She was accused of being uppity when she had an office in the White House and she wound up being blamed for Bill Clinton’s failure to bring in universal medical care. It is easy to dislike or disagree with Clinton’s hawkishness, or to say that the Libya intervention was a huge mistake, but it is really beyond reason to accuse her of being a Communist or to claim that she had numerous people murdered. But anti-Clinton folks seem willing to hang any accusation on her that they can, truthful or not. Sooner or later though, these detractors will descend into attacks on her appearance or make snarky comments aimed at her sex or her sexuality. I believe that she makes many people afraid. These same people, male and female, see their worldview threatened. Hillary Clinton challenges gender roles; she challenges a sexual order that does not allow women to openly show ambition or to wield power. So, all her life, Hillary Clinton has been tagged with whatever labels can be used to attack her very femininity. I recall New York Magazine, at that time edited by John Kennedy, jr., running a cover that showed Hillary and Bill in fetish garb. Hillary held the whip. Because, if she is strong, he must be weak. The lesbian tag has been freely applied to Clinton, linking her to this or that other woman who perhaps also deserves a bit of chastisement. Because, if she is strong, she cannot be completely feminine. She must be a perv. I can only marvel at the strength that Clinton has shown when dealing with this. Mind you, women are more used to handling insults and denigration than men. Still, Clinton is remarkably strong.

Recent polls have shown Clinton leading by a wide margin among women voters, while Trump leads among men. According to the polls, he would win if there were no female suffrage. You can analyze this in several ways: women are emotional and all worked up by Trump’s pussy remarks, for instance, which suggests that men are cool and rational when they support Trump. Spin it anyway you want — this election is yet another battleground in in the long struggle for women’s equality.

“Well, that hurts my feelings.” Hillary Clinton

Julian Assange Remember when Information was to be Free? Last interview I saw with Assange, he was wearing a T-shirt that read “truth“, and that was the rationale that gave WikiLeaks its gravity. Now, WikiLeaks serves some strange agenda that is anti-Clinton and, possibly, a Russian initiative. This is a peculiar end for an avowedly anti-authoritarian group. Of course, Assange means to attack what he used to call “the Conspiracy of Governance”, and this may be the immediate strategy he has chosen. But working against one political party hasn’t much to do with ending that conspiracy and doesn’t sit well with folks who would like to be sympathetic. Why no leaks from the Republican, as opposed to the Democratic, National Committee? After all, if the GOP is vulnerable, then why not bring it down? A  decade ago, Assange spoke of reducing the Republican and Democratic parties to “organizational stupor”. So show us, Julian; take down the GOP. WikiLeaks tactics have been ineffective against the Democrats, why not test them against the Republicans? Perhaps the answer is that Assange’s theories are just so much BS. Does this election mark the end of the usefulness of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange? Collateral damage, I suppose.

“Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.”  Julian Assange



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