What Voting Should Be Like

“Hurray for democracy!” I shouted. A guy with a mustache and a hunter’s camo jacket who’d just dropped his ballot chuckled. Nearby, a bald man in a bright-colored sweatshirt leaned out of an SUV, taking pictures or video of a woman putting their ballots in the drop box outside the county courthouse. I’d left my wallet in the car but had my phone in hand so I could take pictures of the ballots going into the box.

See? There they go!

It took all of an hour from Dr. Bae bringing the mail in today, October 16th, eighteen days before the election, to my dropping the ballots in this box, the only delay being the time it took to do the research to make informed choices on some of the down-ballot races and local referenda and drive down into town.

For more than ten years, Washington state, where I live, has had all mail-in elections. Every registered voter receives a voter’s pamphlet a month before the election, in which candidates introduce themselves and cases for referenda or ballot initiatives are made and rebutted. Then, twenty days before the election, every registered voter is mailed a ballot, along with a tab to follow the vote as it’s collected and counted.

Look at this gorgeous thing.

It’s fucking awesome. Seriously, it’s so much better than vote in person, which I was happy to do when that’s what people did. But did I always do the research beforehand to make informed choices? No. I didn’t. And even if I had, who’s to say I’d have remembered it. No, it’s so much easier to crack open the voter’s guide, fire up the old internet machine, and take the time I need to make sure my voice is not only heard, but that it’s saying what I want it to say.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, there’s a paper trail. Actual, physical paper. The best guarantor of election security there is.

This year, voting was quick and easy. This year, it’s Democrats all the way down the ticket. Since my general rule is to always vote for the most liberal/progressive viable candidate, that’s most years. But if you’re reading this, and you aren’t voting Democrat all the way down (especially at the state and local level), please please please reconsider, just this one time. For all our sakes.

Today was the fastest turnaround I’ve ever done for getting my ballot in. I’m usually a late voter. Not because I’m a late decider — I’m too compulsively informed for that — but because I’m lazy and I suck at time management. This year is different, for reasons we’re all too painfully aware of. But either way, I had the privilege of getting my ballot, dropping what I was doing, and getting it filled out and dropped off as fast as I reasonably could. Like I said, I took only the time I needed to make sure I was voting what I actually want. But if I didn’t have that privilege? If, say, I was an essential worker who had a shift today, or on election day? If I only had five minutes here and there over the course of a week to do my research? If I couldn’t get my ballot in til the last minute? No big deal. It only has to be postmarked by November 3rd. I would not even need a stamp (though if you got one, use it; the Post Office could use some love right now).

Expanding the number of people voting is not only good for small-d democracy. It’s good for liberals and progressives of all stripes. Because it’s not true, as is said ad infinitum, that America is a center-right country. If it was, the Republicans wouldn’t need to do all the voter suppression, gerrymandering, vote stealing, and ratfucking they do. They’d just win, fair and square. But when things are fair and square, it’s the Democrats who win, because America’s center-left, or even left-wing now Covid and late-stage capitalism have worked us all over so fucking thoroughly.

We are the majority. It behooves us to make sure everyone votes, or can vote, for reasons both idealistic and partisan. It’s a win-win.

And if you’re looking for a good way to do it, mail-in balloting on the Washington model is a damned good place to start.

Shit Mountain Blues: Anti-masking, Open Carry, and the Right to Do Harm

How many times have I heard the lament? If you won’t wear a mask to protect yourself, won’t you at least think of the innocent people you might infect? Because that’s the thing, right? Masking works best when everyone does it, because it provides some protection for the wearer from aerosolized droplets, yes. But the bulk of the protection comes from limiting the spread of those droplets in the first place, when the infectious person’s mask catches them right out of the gate. That’s just science.

The lament is rhetorical, an appeal to conscience. And if you have one, and aren’t hyper-invested in white christian supremacist patriarchy and your place at or near the top of its hierarchy, such an appeal might work. But it doesn’t, because it is exactly that perceived positioning atop that particular hierarchy that drives the anti-mask movement, along with Second Amendment fundamentalism and, let’s be honest, the conservative movement generally.

It’s a dominance thing.

Let me see if I can break it down. Say you believe that there’s a hierarchy to the world. Call it Shit Mountain, because the slopes are steep and we all know which way shit rolls. Say your mythology tells you you’re king of shit mountain, or at least a member of his court, and everyone below you doesn’t matter. You don’t have to give a shit about them or about what they think or what they want or how they feel, because they’re below you, and we all know which way shit rolls. 

Sounds pretty good, right? But it’s not, though. It’s enervating as fuck. Because you know the people you shit on are eyeing you, watching for weakness. Worse, you’ve got your own to jockey against, because the closer you are to the top the less you can afford to get shit on, because if people see shit on you, they might think you’re lower down than you are. If it happens enough, they turn right.

It’s enough to keep a man up at night. To eat at him constantly. The more invested he (or she) is in Shit Mountain, the more anxious, the more paranoid about status he (or she) gets. Seriously, just try and tell a Shit Mountain man something. Anything. He’ll fight you on it just because you said it first. Prove it’s true, and he’ll double down. Because to Shit Mountain Man everything is always about power. Shit Mountain Man believes he can bend reality to his will. So long as he can make you submit, he thinks he has.

The more anxious Shit Mountain Man is, the more likely he is to act out. To insist not only on his right to do so, but on the rightness of his doing so. To insist, furthermore, on acknowledgement of his right to do so. Because what, after all, is a greater demonstration of power than to harm others without consequence to oneself?

When white men don’t wear masks, when they march in the street open carrying long guns, when they show up to ‘protect businesses’ or counterdemonstate against police accountability protesters, when they ask to see the manager and try and get you fired from your job, it’s an assertion of power. It’s an assertion of a positive right to harm others, and a willingness — in too many cases, an eagerness — to do so. It’s an assertion about Shit Mountain, and where they are on it, and where everyone else is. And that assertion, and submission to it, is more important than anything else. 

***

I wrote not too long ago about what I call the Founding Factions, the contradiction at the heart of the American Experiment: 

“On the one hand you have ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and th pursuit of happiness’. On the other you have the Three-Fifths crowd, a burgeoning aristocracy founded on the bedrock of chattel slavery, in which some people have no rights at all.”

me

Shit Mountain Man is the cultural, intellectual, and — in plenty of cases — genealogical heir to the Three-Fifths crowd. They’ve fought against those self-evident truths since the ink on the Constitution dried. They tried to secede from the Union, and when they lost they engaged in armed insurrection, terrorism, and guerilla warfare til the Union said fuck it. They lost slavery, so they built the caste system of Jim Crow, and have done their level best ever since to keep America from fulfilling the promise that was supposed to legitimize the whole goddam thing in the first place.

The world’s oldest democracy has never lived up to its ideals. How could it, when the clearest enunciation of those ideals come from a slave-owner and serial rapist? Try and bury that kind of contradiction, shit’s gonna keep coming back around, like it is now. 

The Shit Mountain crowd is scared. They lost the argument — because, duh — and, worse for them, they’re losing the demographic battle. That’s why they’re so desperate, why they have no conscience left. After all the dirt they’ve done, what’s a few more dead, theirs or ours? Until we submit, and pretend they can bend reality to their will, they’ll keep insisting on their right to do harm. And they’ll keep doing harm, in or out of uniform.

Who am I kidding? They’ll keep doing it whether we submit or not. We all know what power does, just like we know which way shit rolls.

The Reason They Won’t Say When He Last Got Tested

One of many obfuscations President Trump’s doctor has engaged in is refusing to disclose, so far, when Donald Trump’s last negative COVID test was. Now, of course, he won’t say why, but I have a hunch that fits the facts and fits the pattern of the Trump White House’s behavior like a Savile Row suit:

Trump hasn’t been getting tested.

Not regularly, despite the White House line that they test more than anybody. And maybe they do, if you aren’t the President (never mind the fast turnaround tests they use aren’t super-reliable, from what I understand). But Trump himself? I agree with Josh Marshall that they were probably relying on testing everyone around him as a proxy for testing him.

But why not test the President? Why not test Donald Trump?

My guess? It’s the same reason he’s downplayed testing in general. If you don’t test, you don’t know. You can do the Trump thing where you decide what reality is based on what you want and pretend it’s actually so. It’s the same willful ignorance/knee-jerk malevolence that drives everything he does. Only this time it’s come back to bite him in the ass, him and a whole super-spread-alicious chain of Republican movers and shakers.

And hey, you know what? It couldn’t’ve happened to a more deserving bunch of folks. Not only as karmic retribution for what they’ve done to our country, but as just desserts for their own hubris thinking COVID couldn’t touch them. Guess that’s what happens when you get high on your own supply.

It’s Alright to Wish Donald Trump Ill

A lot of people I know are taking the high road with regard to Donald Trump’s Covid infection, and urging others to do the same. As someone who for the most part takes the high road myself, when it’s available, I applaud them, and agree: in general, it’s not good to wish others ill, or wish that someone would die.

(For my own part, I do not wish for Donald Trump to die of Coronavirus. I want him to die many years from now, broke and in prison for his life of crime, so he really has time to kick himself for all his mistakes. Barring that, I prefer he survive at least til November 4th of this year.)

That all said, Donald Trump is the exception that proves the rule. Or maybe the rule’s better understood as a guideline. Whatever. Donald Trump is not only a manifestation of almost everything that is worst in human nature, he has also done untold harm to more people than you or I or all our friends put together could count. He’s an abuser we’ve all been forced into a relationship with, and he’s hurt all of us, without caring or apology. His handling of the pandemic has not only killed two hundred thousand Americans and counting, it’s disrupted the lives, well-being, and livelihood of the whole goddamned country. It’s going to take decades to fix all the damage, if we even can, thanks to the judges that have been confirmed on his watch; either way it’s going to leave scars on our democracy and a lot of us with PTSD just from bearing witness to the whole tragicomic shit-show.

So yeah, it probably is better for your soul or whatever not to wish death or suffering on anyone, no matter how terrible they or the consequences of their freely-taken actions are. But as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to history’s monsters — and Donald Trump is one — you may excuse yourself from that particular aspiration, and wish the man a speedy rendezvous with his just desserts.

Quick! Someone Inject Him With Bleach!

From the Department of Chickens Coming Home to Roost: the President, Donald Trump, has Coronavirus, and the schadenfreude is both sweet and savory.

As for myself, I am torn. On the one hand, it would be sweetest irony for Trump to die of the pandemic he’s so consistently downplayed and handled so terribly, putting his fellow Americans — his own supporters most of all — at risk and wrecking the country and its economy.

On the other hand, I want him to live long enough to lose the election, and for his hundreds of millions in debts to come due, and for all the prosecutions waiting in the wings for when he isn’t President anymore to indict and convict him for all the crimes he’s so blithely committed, so he can spend the last years of his life broke and in prison, as would happen in a just world.

Either how, I suppose irony isn’t completely dead after all.