This Is What Democracy Looks Like, a Report from the Washington State Caucuses

Will Rogers once joked “I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.” It’s as true today as when he said it, as I was reminded when I attended the caucus held in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, a neighborhood so liberal our local City Councilmember is Socialist Kshama Sawant.

The caucuses were scheduled to begin at 10 am, and as someone who hadn’t pre-registered I was encouraged via text message by volunteers for the Sanders campaign to arrive by 9 am to make sure I got my paperwork filled out in time to properly participate in the caucus. I thought that was probably a good idea, but I got a wee bit tipsy the night before, and didn’t make it til 9:30.

The caucus was held at the Century Ballroom at the corner of 10th and Pine, a giant space usually reserved for Salsa, Swing, and other couples-style dancing. It occupies most of the second floor of the old Oddfellows building, a large, old structure smack dab in the heart of one of the most liberal neighborhoods in one of the most liberal cities in the US.

When I arrived, the line to get inside was already around the corner and down the block almost to Pike Street. I was immediately grateful to have brought a thermos of coffee and a book. Continue reading “This Is What Democracy Looks Like, a Report from the Washington State Caucuses”

Planting Seeds in Common Ground, or Why Don’t These A-holes Agree With Me?

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about something that happened to me back in 2004. It was primary season, Howard Dean was all the rage, MoveOn.org was filling my inbox every day, and I went with a friend to a Democratic party Meet Up at a bar somewhere in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. George W. Bush was running for re-election, and who to put up against him was the topic under discussion at the big table we all sat around. What I remember in particular is that there were these two guys kind of in the center of the group who kept hijacking the discussion, talking about how what we really needed to do was purge the ranks of DINOs so that a pure, unadulterated liberal message and messenger could emerge, which would then, through some magical Underpants Gnomes-type process, rally the faithful, convert the skeptics and doubters, and win the White House back from the disastrously incompetent administration occupying it at the time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wanted and want that, too. And though I found their continual hijacking of the discussion off-putting and rude, in the end I have to thank them, because they provided the opportunity for something of an epiphany for me.

Now, let me back up for a moment and reiterate that in terms of desired end-states, these two insufferable prigs and I were in more or less complete agreement. Where we differed was in our assessment of where we were at the time and how to get where we all wanted to go.

I don’t remember exactly what I said once I managed to get ahold of the conch for a couple of minutes, but the gist of it was simply this: we didn’t have the numbers. There simply were not enough people who agreed with our desired ends for their strategy to work. Continue reading “Planting Seeds in Common Ground, or Why Don’t These A-holes Agree With Me?”

About This Whole Hillary/Bernie Thing

So, let’s get started by placing your humble correspondent in context. I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders. I give him money every month, and when Washington State holds its Democratic caucuses in a week or so, I’ll be there, standing with other Sanders supporters. I think his run for the Democratic nomination is one of the most important political developments of my lifetime. His overarching theme of wresting the apparati of state and nation back from the oligarch class and putting it to work for the common good makes my heart soar. His indictment of the warping effects of money in politics is trenchant and is clearly resonating in the hearts and minds of millions of citizens. He’s given a voice to ideas and positions I think many of us despaired would ever be so clearly articulated on the national stage, and his grassroots organizing campaign has upended the conventional wisdom about running for office without the assistance of either SuperPAC money or mainstream media coverage.

And, frankly, he’s losing.

It’s not over yet. It is at least theoretically possible for him to overcome the odds win a majority of pledged delegates (superdelegates would, I think, fall in line at that point, as they did in 2008, when President Obama overtook Hillary Clinton). But it’s really, really unlikely. By the accounts I trust, he’d need to win something like 60-40 in every one of the remaining contests to make up his current deficit and come to the convention in Philadelphia with a winning majority.

I hope he does. But I don’t expect he will. The odds are overwhelmingly against it.

That said, I don’t think he will —  or should — drop out of the race. For one thing, the message he articulates deserves as wide a hearing as can be accomplished, and the longer he stays in the race, the better he’ll be able to do that. The more attention he can bring to the fundamental causes of wealth and income inequality, the more acceptable talking about it becomes in the national discourse. Which means maybe finally we’ll be able to do something about it. And the more he talks about what Democratic Socialism actually means, and the policy choices that fall within its penumbra, the more the national discourse will be empowered and/or forced to give them a fair hearing.

Every vote Bernie gets and has gotten only makes that case stronger. And the grassroots organization he’s built can accomplish a great deal going forward, whether or not he gets the nomination or is elected to the Presidency.

But the odds are that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Not only that, and despite the gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair that is my facebook feed these days, the odds are that she will be our next President.

And I’m okay with that. Continue reading “About This Whole Hillary/Bernie Thing”

Trump Trolled

I know a lot has happened in the days since the confrontation in Chicago between protesters and supporters at the cancelled Trump rally. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and come to a conclusion that, while I’ve seen it hinted at here and there, I haven’t seen anyone explicitly say.

The whole thing was a conscious ploy by Trump, and the progressive left fell for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I found it as uplifting and heartening as any two-fisted, red-blooded American progressive to see pushback against the animus and incitement to hatred and violence that is Mr. Trump’s stock in trade. But the triumphalist notes that have been sounded are, to my mind, misguided, because Mr. Trump laid a trap and we walked right into it.

Here are the dots I’m trying to connect:

Trump plans a rally, not only in Chicago, which is as strong a Democratic stronghold as there is, but he also does it at a large, diverse public university, where he can be guaranteed a large number of protesters. Keep in mind that Chicago is also undergoing some pretty major race-based conflict lately.

Protesters show up in large numbers, many of whom manage to get inside the venue.

Fights break out inside, as rightly incensed protesters, many of them POCs, are put in close proximity to Trump supporters, who’ve been fed a steady diet of racist hatemongering and calls to beat up protesters. Footage is captured.

Trump cancels the rally, claiming the Chicago Police Department has advised him to do so (a claim later proved false).

It seems like a defeat, but it’s anything but. Because now Trump can claim, however falsely, that it’s the protesters who are causing the violence at his rallies, and he has footage that can be spun to support the assertion. Not only that, but it plays into his narrative of white victimhood, because here’s all these white folks just trying to peaceably assemble for a political rally, but they can’t because these violent protesters came and shut them down and started fights and just generally disrupted the rally, denying Trump his right to free speech and his supporters their right to peaceably assemble. He gets to look like the good guy for calling off the rally so as to prevent violence, and it only bolsters his support among his followers, whose narrative of white victimization, however misguided, has been reaffirmed. Polling confirms that it worked.

Then Trump gets to go on TV and make the narrative about how violent protesters are disrupting his otherwise peaceful events, derailing the more general (and true) narrative about his stoking of racial resentments and his proponence of violence as a solution to it. And now he’s got the footage to prove it, or at least he’s got footage that reaffirms his narrative of white victimization.

Fuckery that it is, you have to admire the slickness of it.