Sunday, November 20, 2016

We Can Still Elect a Woman President. It Just Can't Be Hillary.

I am going to make a radical proposal. But first:
A lot has been said recently about the role of the Electoral College in American elections.
One current poll shows a majority of Americans seem to favor getting rid of it altogether and allowing a direct election of the President, as happens with all other offices (though, predictably at this moment in history, the more vehement supporters of that choice are Democrats). However, as many writers have pointed out, there were historical justifications for the decision by Alexander Hamilton and others to create this rather bizarre secondary voting system.
One often-cited reason was to make sure that larger, more populous states did not run roughshod over smaller ones (and, yes, slavery was a consideration in that). But that was only one of the reasons. An even greater one, and the one that Michael Signer, mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, argues about, is this: “the Electoral College was primarily designed to stop a demagogue—a tyrannical mass leader who preys on our prejudices—from becoming President.” In his recent article on, Signer cites Hamilton’s Federalist Papers, which explored the need for the Electoral College. He shows that Hamilton and the other Founding Fathers distrusted the notion of democracy to an extent: they worried that, as Hamilton wrote, a candidate with “Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” might overwhelm the less-informed populace and win the election. In short, as Signer writes, the main purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent the rise of a demagogue to power.
Signer spends considerable time in his article defining the term “demagogue,” which was actually used by Hamilton in the Federalist Papers as a justification for the College. Having written a book entitled Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies, he is somewhat an expert on the concept, and he notes that he did not believe, at first, that Trump was one, but was convinced by his campaign that he more than fit all of the requirements. I encourage you to read his article.
Signer is hardly alone. As early as last March, an article appeared in the Washington Post exploring the possible role of the Electoral College in overturning a Trump victory. And in recent days we have reports of efforts by Democratic electors out of Washington and Colorado to lobby their GOP colleagues to follow the moral imperative to change their votes. We’ve even had reports of a couple of GOP electors who have expressed the possibility of wavering.
Now this is, as Colorado elector Michael Baca is the first to admit, unlikely to work. “This is a longshot; it’s a pipe dream,” he acknowledges. But, as he tries to start what he and his Washington state colleague Bret Chiafolo call their group of “Moral Electors,” he says, “We cannot just rip up the Paris climate accord. We cannot have a climate denialist (in the White House).”
Contrary to the liberal version of the pipe dream though (and the one that I’d love to share), this scenario, even if successful, would never put Hillary Clinton into the White House. See, here’s the thing: even if they could somehow manage to convince enough electors (and that number is a nearly impossible 37) to vote against Trump, they will never convince them to vote for Hillary. And this is where the compromise Signer outlines in his article, the one that Baca and Chiafolo are working on, comes in.
All they want is to throw this thing to the House of Representatives. To do that, they need to deny any single candidate 270 votes. And an elector is technically free to vote for anyone he or she chooses to vote for. Once in the House, the choice will be the top three vote getters. Two of these would be Republican, but one would not be Trump. And the argument goes this way: all Democratic state houses would agree, in a compromise, to vote for the lesser GOP evil, which—if only six others did—would effectively dump Trump.
All of which is basically a summation of theoretical constructs that have been making the rounds.
But I did not place an illustration about the Electoral College at the top of this article, nor is my headline about it. I have a different agenda.
Every one of those theoretical articles has, thus far, proposed that any “faithless electors” vote for someone like Mitt Romney or John Kasich. With all due respect, I submit that they lack imagination. This was, much of America hoped, going to be the year we finally got a woman President. Then a badly run campaign and the rise of a demagogue got in the way. But those voters who felt disenfranchised by the Democrats across that great swath of middle America are already, if they are looking, seeing that they are not getting what they voted for in Donald Trump. 

  • Did they ask for a White Supremacist/sexual predator to be ensconced in the White house as a policy maker? 
  • Did they ask for a transition team full of lobbyists from a man who promised to “drain the swamp?"
  • Did they expect a treasury department staffed by Wall Street insiders?
  • Did they want an end to Social Security and Medicare?
  • Did they want to see transparent efforts to skirt nepotism laws and set things up to enhance personal wealth?

If they did, I suppose they are deliriously happy, but I doubt most of them did. So maybe they would be open to REAL change? You are not going to get it from Romney, and you are not going to get it from Kasich either, though he is certainly better than the others.
But the GOP can have its cake and eat it too if the electors back someone completely out of left field: Maine Senator Susan Collins.
Collins has been known since 1996 as a solid, reliable moderate Senator. She has the 2nd-highest approval rating (78%) in all of the Senate in a state that is increasingly purple. Her ability to reach across the aisle is well-known, as is her ability to bring people together (which is desperately needed right now in this country). In fact, Susan Collins may be the single voice that the GOP has who is capable of righting their sinking ship while the Democrats attempt to figure out how theirs is suddenly foundering. And despite their current governmental prospects, nothing has changed about the future prospects of the Republican Party. Or do they really believe that those middle American voters are Republicans now?
OTOH, with a President Collins, they suddenly would have the bragging rights to the first female President. They would have a moderate leader who can get things done and can quash their most heinous inclinations. They would have someone who could actually find ways to fix the things that are wrong that would attract bipartisan support. They would have someone who could conceivable redefine their party in a way that could truly capture those middle American voters for life. And they would have (not a minor point) someone whose personal life is scandal-free.
Collins has never made an attempt for the White House, but that does not necessarily mean she would reject the opportunity. She made some very strong statements in August about Trump’s illegitimacy, saying that in his campaign “Donald Trump kept appealing to the worst instincts rather than the best part of the American people -- that he was inflaming prejudices, looking for scapegoats, and worsening the divisions that are in our country.” In the end, she proclaimed,
“Donald Trump does not represent the values or the heritage of the Republican Party, and we should not be afraid to say that, and indeed, there is a risk to the Republican Party if Donald Trump is perceived as embodying our values. We are an inclusive party. We are not a party of prejudice. We are not a party that wants to sow the seeds of division. We need to heal this country.
It seems clear that she represents the GOP’s best current chance of remaking itself as a party that can remain viable and attractive well into the coming decades.
I am a very liberal Democrat, and I should wish for anything other than this, but I also am an American. As such, I have long stated that this country needs two strong parties that exist in the real world. The GOP has not existed in that world for a long time, and is about to take the country over the cliff with it. But it has an opportunity, however minute, to change things.
For that to have even this tiny chance of happening, though, we (the sane people of the country) have to take action. And we should want to do so. Our choices are simple: do nothing and get Trumpism. Try and probably get Trumpism...but just maybe make things better. And a sane, reasonable, center-right GOP would be better. Much better. But this sort of thing doesn’t just happen by osmosis. A candidate out of nowhere doesn’t materialize on everyone’s tongues without some social media groundswell. The only way to get electors even to think about voting for Susan Collins is to make some noise about it.
So share this. And like it. And hashtag it (#GOPelectorsvoteCollins). And talk about it. And get the message out however you possibly can:
I am a very liberal Democrat, and I should wish for anything other than this, but I also am an American. As such, I have long stated that this country needs two strong parties that exist in the real world. The GOP has not existed in that world for a long time, and is about to take the country over the cliff with it. But it has an opportunity, however minute, to change things.
Electors, on December 19, vote for Susan Collins for President.
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Trumped Up Change

Those who voted for Donald Trump came in at least three significant categories. First, there were the ones who were the most visible face of his campaign, those whom Hillary Clinton called "deplorable," the ones shouting racist, sexist, and xenophobic chants and wearing obscene t-shirts and assaulting those who did not look quite like them (as in: were not white). Second, there were those in the great swath of counties across America who are not racist or misogynist or homophobic, etc., but voted for Trump because they felt that their country had forgotten about them and they needed it to change. Finally, there were those more educated voters who voted for Trump because, though he is awful, they just couldn't stand Hillary.

I'm not interested right now in the first and third categories. It's the "change" voters I wish to address, for I think that there is no doubt whatsoever that they will see a change in this country. I just firmly suspect it will not be the change they wanted to see.

It's Day Three and I'm still wishing that something in my life would just seem *funny*; I have not felt such uncategorical and insoluble despair since the days immediately after 9/11. And it strikes me that what I despaired for then is what I despair for today: a cataclysmic event that has altered the very fabric of my country in ways that I cannot fully comprehend yet, but I know will be irreparable and will leave me in a place I simply don't recognize, a place that has changed, but much for the worse.

My reaction to this event is the opposite of my reaction back then: in 2001, I found myself masochistically glued to the TV set, watching everything I could about the disaster, my insatiable need to learn and understand it overwhelming everything else. This time, I have not watched TV at all. There is no point anyway: it has, in the fifteen years since 9/11, become so absurdly fragmented and partisan that one really can't get impartial news that way. And anyway I find that I just don't have the emotional strength for the post-mortems. We didn't have eighteen months of non-stop coverage of combative, destructive, outrageous preliminaries before the World Trade Centers were taken out, before a plane blew a giant hole in the Pentagon. Osama Bin Laden was evil as hell, but he didn't hold endless rallies in which he encouraged his followers publicly to beat people up while we watched on the nightly news. We didn't have to watch daily coverage of new nightmares. No one in Al Qaeda ever tried to grab a woman by the pussy. It was a much simpler time. We lived in a country back then where it was actually possible to rally at about a 90% approval rate around a President whom most of us disliked. He had been placed in office barely ten months early by a hugely controversial Supreme Court decision after losing the popular vote. His first seven months in office were, to put it mildly, weak and ineffectual. He was intensely disliked by Democrats and hardly liked by his own party. And then: on 9/12 the whole country was behind him. The whole country believed in him.

We knew then, of course, that the world had changed. We knew that life as we had known it would never be the same. And it wasn't. Under the over-reactive PATRIOT Act, we became a nation of paranoids. Spying on pretty much everyone became something we learned to tolerate. Insane delays for security at airports became a normal part of flying. We still have to remove our shoes because one idiot tried to turn his into a bomb fourteen years ago. And there were repercussions. The USA—stronghold of freedom in the world—violated the Geneva Conventions and didn't seem to care. Regular people learned to be suspicious of everyone, especially anyone looking like a Muslim, even though (to his everlasting credit) President Bush explained time and time again that the Muslims were peaceful people and that 9/11 was the work of extremists, not of regular, rational people. But it was a new world. It was the age of "24," when Keifer Sutherland foiled one attempt after another to destroy our country every season, for our entertainment. It was the age of black sites. It was the age of Gitmo.

When Obama was elected in 2008, I thought that too might have been the start of a new age, a dividing line in the history of the country where one could *feel* the difference between the "before" and the "after." It was another time when things would change. I was right about that, but not in the way I'd imagined in those joy-filled days of Hope. How could I have known the politically-fueled racism that the GOP would intentionally stir up against him so that they could de-legitimize him and make it impossible for him to get anything done? How could I have known the intensity with which those fires would be fanned across the country? Throughout his two terms, even at his highest approval ratings, there remained a staunch core of arch-conservative internet trolls whose posts caricatured him in racist cartoons, who spouted hatred and vitriol in unprecedented ways, who were, in short, the ugly underbelly of America.

And it didn't take long before that underbelly exposed itself in the form of the Tea Party, which the GOP welcomed into its ranks. Their rallies were "populist" and claimed to be about taxes and other economic issues, but you'd never know that from the racist dog whistles on the signs they carried. Between them and the trolls, the GOP had plenty of outside help to further its agenda of simply blocking any and all bills the President sent to Congress, and what had started as a "do-nothing" Congress just grew worse and worse. And so did America, its internal divides starting to unravel. But it was not until this election season that they overflowed into pure venom.

Trump's campaign ripped open the wound, inviting the ugliness into the open where we could see it oozing out. Hillary unwisely (though accurately) referred to it as "a basket of deplorables": and though, as i said above, most of Trump's support was not this seething open sore of America, the most visible part of it was, a part that he was, shockingly, encouraging, giving them a voice where before, out of basic human decency, they'd held their tongues. But his victory means that basic human decency has suddenly become a notion as quaint as sock hops and actual tea parties.

And so America has fundamentally changed once again: today we live in a country where it is suddenly perfectly OK to say and do all of the things that the Trump crowds did in their rallies. School kids have already been bullied by kids in Trump hats for being black or Muslim. Middle school bathrooms have been spray-painted "Whites Only." A gay college student was beaten by a Trump supporter who told him "We have a new President now, Fag." A group of people of color were seated on a New York bus when some white 20-somethings got on. One young woman told them they should be sitting in the back now. A teenager was hit in the face by a beer bottle. Buildings have been defaced with Nazi symbols.

And the man isn't even in office. It's only Day Three.

As I said, there is nothing about any of this that is funny. I can't even find anything funny in reports that Sarah Palin is being considered for a Cabinet post. It's Day Three. Day 1500 is a VERY long way from now. That is a lot of time for a lot of potential changes. I hope there's someone left to commemorate it.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Choices: What Should Progressives Do Now?

I have been trying all day long to figure out how to respond to the aftermath of the ugliest election I have ever had the misfortune to witness. Like most people, I was stunned by the results. Even Trump himself didn’t see it coming, and those whose job it is to predict things like this were utterly blindsided. I watched in shocked silence until I could watch no longer; then I thought perhaps I could just sleep until 2020, but that didn’t work, as I awoke in early afternoon completely cognizant of the disaster that likely awaited me online.

Since then, I think I’ve been going through the five stages of grief, with the clear emphasis on depression. I admit it: I spent a very long time crying. I don’t usually cry over politics, and I wasn’t doing that today either. This was not politics. This was something far beyond politics. I’ve said it before and many, many others have as well: what Donald Trump represents is not politics as usual. There is a reason why no major newspaper in the country endorsed him. There is a reason why even conservative papers called him an existential threat to the country. (If we ever needed proof that the era of newspaper endorsements is over, this pretty much does it.) His election validates his xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, bullying, anti-LGBTQ, anti-science, petty, vindictive, venomous campaign in all of its facets. One cannot cast a vote for him without simultaneously endorsing the way he has run his campaign and the fact that he has given voice to the ugliest part of the ugly underbelly of America. He was actually endorsed by the KKK, for Christ’s sake. And this is a man my fellow Americans just decided was fit to be President.

So I cried. I cried for myself as an LGBTQ person, a woman, a progressive, and an American. I cried for my country, which clearly has divisions within it that are deeper than any of us ever realized if nearly half of it actually believes this man is its salvation. I cried for the world, on which his policies will without a doubt have a terrible and potentially irreparable impact. I cried for my children, and for all children born and unborn, for whom life—which might have become much better under another progressive regime—is about to enter an era in which it is likely to become very dark indeed. I even cried for the people who foolishly supported this buffoon: if he does even half of what he says he will, their lives, which were on the verge of finally improving under the recovery Obama authored, may be flushed down the toilet forever.

Of course, I don’t really expect him to do most of what he said he would. That’s the real joke on those people: they have no clue what they elected and neither do we. The one thing, though, that we can count on is this: he will pass his insane tax plan because that will personally benefit him. And it won’t make one iota of difference that it will cause those who supported him to sink further into the mire. As to the ACA, who knows? Maybe the GOP will do what they said and repeal the thing. Or maybe, now that their bluff will actually be called, they will realize what a huge bloody mistake doing that would be, since it would suddenly throw twenty million people off of the insurance rolls as well as returning us to the good old days when companies could take pre-existing conditions into consideration. They may well decide to take that one more slowly. It wouldn’t be the first time they suddenly decided there was good in something they’d previously called a disaster. And as for SCOTUS, well, who really knows what kind of person he’d appoint?

What we do know is this:

The GOP and their voters are fully responsible for whatever happens now. As far as I’m concerned, I hope for some kind of heavenly intervention in which absolutely everything works perfectly, he comes around on climate change, the economy somehow booms, his followers (happy now that things are going so well) realize that they were wrong to blame others for their own prior failings and offer olive branches to blacks and Muslims, and all is right with the universe. If that happens, I’ll be perfectly happy to shout how wrong I was to worry from the highest mountaintop.

I’d say that has far less chance of happening than, say, Trump being elected in the first place. So I’m left with a few alternatives:

  1. Leave.

    1. Well, it’s a lovely thought. And I have on several occasions considered expatriate retirement. It is, however, easier said than done. And it feels wrong to leave others to fight (if fighting is actually possible this time) while I run away.

    1. OTOH: If indeed ACA is gutted, my daughter and her husband may be forced to leave for medical reasons. Should they do so, I will probably follow them; they should not have to expatriate themselves alone.

  1. Stay depressed.

    1. It would be easy. The future as Trump has painted it is a completely depressing one. And any future influenced by LGBTQ-hater Mike Pence is even worse. I suppose I could easily just hide from the world for a couple of years, hoping for a 2010-like election in ‘18.

  1. Do what I can to fight.

    1. This is by far the hardest choice because it forces me to act as if I believe that there will be a real democracy post-Trump, and in all honesty I am not sure I believe that.

    1. If I can get past that core issue, though, doing whatever I can to continue the fight for progressive causes in the face of what will likely be the heaviest opposition they have ever had would be the most positive thing I could possibly do. And, as a retired person, I could probably do a lot.

Of these, the only one that makes any sense to me is the third one (unless I am forced into leaving by a repeal of the ACA, as noted). It will not be easy to do. (Hell, it won’t be easy to drag myself out of bed in the morning in Trump’s America.) But it’s the right thing to do.

This does not mean I’m not angry. I’m very angry. I’m angry as hell at anyone who cast a ballot for this horrific person despite seeing so clearly what kind of man he is, especially those who justified their terrible decision-making skills by saying “Hillary is just as bad” because it doesn’t take a freaking genius to know that there is a fundamental difference between messing up on some emails and the vast number of things Trump has done. Hell, Trump is about to go to trial on two of them! So, yes, I am really angry at those people. And I’m angry at the people who voted third party not because they sincerely believed in Johnson or Stein but because they detested Hillary. Again: these people are fools, and if they live in some of the very close states that Trump won (Florida, anyone?) they helped tip the election to him. And I take that personally because he stands for everything I hate.

So, yes, I’m angry. But I’m going to channel that anger into action. I won’t be able to do it right away—I’m not stable enough yet—but by next week I’ll be looking for as many places to give my time and treasure to as I can. And I urge those of you who hurt as much as I do to do the same. We can cry over this debacle; it’s OK. But now we need to look ahead to 2018 and fix it.
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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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