Towards a Progressive Foreign Policy

Elizabeth Warren said two things last night I wish more people were picking up on and talking about, because I think they’re both very important, both on their own merits and with regard to the actual powers of the office of the Presidency.

One, in reference to Afghanistan, she talked about putting an end to the American practice of tasking our military to solve problems that don’t have military solutions. Most problems don’t, and we’d be much better served as a nation to think less about warfighting and more about building a stable, sustainable world in which every human has what they need to thrive and live a meaningful (to them) life, using all of the tools in our toolbox, and not just the hammer.

Two, she talked about leveraging the power and prosperity of the American market to pressure other countries to bring their environmental, human rights, and labor practices into alignment with our highest values. Not only does this make the world better on the merits, it’s also good for the American economy, because it disincentivizes companies taking jobs elsewhere because labor is cheaper and there are fewer regulations. It’s power we have, but choose not to use, because our government has been captured by corrupt oligarchs who’d rather make a buck than the world a better place.

Not only are these things more relevant to the Presidential election than the healthcare debate (which is, help us all, the purview of Congress), they constitute a sea change in approaching previously intractable problems, and are one of the best — if not first — articulations of a genuinely progressive foreign policy I’m aware of. People can agree or disagree, but it’s a fundamental shift in approach that merits discussion and (to my mind) celebration and support.

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Elizabeth Warren is the Real Deal

I’ve been waiting my whole life for a Presidential candidate I could believe in as much as I believe in Elizabeth Warren. To be honest, I didn’t think there would ever be one, at least not with a credible shot at winning. I never felt that way about Ralph Nader, or Bernie Sanders, both of whom I supported on pragmatic grounds (Nader as a way of getting the Green Party – still new back then, and not the RT-funded spoiler party it later became – federal matching funds, Bernie because he helped mainstream some vitally important issues that were considered fringe by the punditariat and the mainstream media despite their widespread popularity). Both those men were, frankly, imperfect vessels at best, for reasons easy enough to find that I don’t feel a need to get sidetracked into explaining them.

But, as with so much in life, sometimes you have to take what you can get and make do the best you can.

But sometimes life does give you that unambiguously good choice, the one that seems too good to be true, that cynicism tells you can’t possibly be what it gives every indication of being, and will try and talk you out of believing in it, if for no other reason than to protect your precious, scar-crusted heart from being broken again. When that time comes, no matter how weary, how wary you are, you have to find the courage to make that leap of faith, and believe.

This is that time. Elizabeth Warren is that candidate. Continue reading “Elizabeth Warren is the Real Deal”

There’s No Normal to Go Back To: A Quick Note on Evaluating the Democratic Presidential Candidates

So, I have my preferences, loosely held at the moment, because it’s too early to get all worked up and the infighting/circular firing squad thing we went through last time (and how many other times before that?) just isn’t gonna work for us this time, so I’m saving my shots for the other side, who far more richly deserve them. That said, I do have a thing I want to say about how I’m going to be making my choices, donations, and decisions about whom to support in the 2020 election cycle. And though I shan’t tell you, a presumably grown-ass adult human capable of making your own choices, what to think or how to come to your own conclusions, I do hope you’ll give this a read and a good long think, afterwards.

We are at war, and have been for a long time. Decades, at very least.

No, I’m not talking about Afghanistan, or any of the other various and sundry American military deployments abroad, however hot or cold their current theater of operations is. Not that that’s not worth talking about, especially Afghanistan where we’re almost two decades in and I still don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish. No, the war I’m talking about is the war here at home, between left and right, and it’s a war only one side has been fighting for most of the time it’s been going on.

That has to change. Like, yesterday.

Look, I get that you may not think of it that way, and you probably don’t want to think of it that way. It’s comforting to think of the Trump era as an aberration, a Black Swan event that, while it’s doing some damage to our republic, our cultural and institutional immune system is even now spinning up antibodies (Congressional investigations, various state AGs, the Mueller report, etc) to combat it. Once the fever breaks, we can go back to normal, with good-faith bipartisanship and West Wing-style governance by whoever makes the best argument.

We can’t. Continue reading “There’s No Normal to Go Back To: A Quick Note on Evaluating the Democratic Presidential Candidates”

A Quick Note on My Political Praxis, That Others May Find Useful

There are candidates and politicians I like better. There are candidates and politicians I like worse. None are perfect, because all are fallible human beings who willfully and routinely put themselves in a position to make morally gray choices, often if not always among options of which none are what a regular person might call good. And though I do believe character matters, ultimately, my fealty is *not* to individual candidates or politicians.

My fealty is to a platform of policies. Policies which in turn reflect my ideals.

Save the environment. Take care of everybody. Leverage the potential and talents of the entire human population. Minimize unnecessary suffering, maximize general prosperity and happiness. Make room for everyone to participate, thrive, and matter.

You know, bend the moral arc of history toward justice. Save the world. Eat the rich.

Just kidding on that last one. Mostly.

Anyhow, when I approach a political question – like how to vote, which party or candidate to support, where to donate whatever time and money I have to spare – I ask myself a simple question:

Which of the choices realistically brings me closer to the world I want to help bring about? Even if it’s not that close. Even if it’s a lesser-of-two-evils situation. Put it in the grand context, sink it into my lived historical particularity. Which choice moves us closer to the future progressives and liberals and, well, anyone left of wingnut these days want.

Because let’s be real: the stakes are as high as can be. Half the population on the verge of losing their bodily autonomy. Majority rule, hell, rule for the benefit of any but the richest and worst among us, threatened, along with the tattered remains of our democratic traditions. The planet we all live on heating up, soon to be past the tipping point and shit getting all kinds of fucked up. We need to be making big strides. Barring that, baby steps. Anything to start the momentum moving the right direction.

And we need to be pragmatic about it. Because our ideals – and the stakes – deserve no less.

No Safe Space for Them

Thinking about Ijeoma Oluo’s Medium piece and something my friend said last night on Facebook, about things we on the left can do outside of (the still absolutely vital and necessary work of) GOTV in November and beyond. I’m thinking also about GOP Senators and White House officials being confronted in elevators and hounded out of restaurants, and how much news it makes and how much it seems to rattle them when the effects of their actions are brought home.

And, you know, it makes sense. These are people who are used to the world being their safe space. That’s why they always piss and moan about civility when backlash from their day job spills over into their personal time. That’s how they can do what they do – it doesn’t touch them, most of the time. And when it does, oh how mightily they whine.

So I think we should keep doing stuff like that, because it’s clearly working. I am not, to be clear, advocating violence, even if I can sympathize with the temptation.

But turnabout is fair play, and seeing how their policies and political goals create a general atmosphere of threat and uncertainty for everyone not like them, I think it’s only fair they should get a taste of that in their own lives.

Will it change their minds, or policies? Who knows? Probably not. But it’s time those policies start costing them the way they cost so many other people.