On This Idea That Things Have to Get Worse Before We Can Make Them Better

Short on time, so I’m going to keep this quick and dirty.

The notion that if things only get bad enough that suddenly the progressive agenda will become more widely appealing (and thus easy to implement) is a fucking canard. Ain’t gonna happen, no way no how.

If you have to destroy the village to save it, you didn’t save it.

First off, we tried it back in 2000. Maybe you forgot, or weren’t alive, or weren’t old enough to be paying attention, but things were going pretty fucking well at the end of the ’90s. The economy was chugging along pretty well, and there was plenty to go around. Yeah, not everyone was doing great, but there was a lot of cause for optimism. We hadn’t been in a shooting war in decades. Hell, our worst threat was a bunch of goat-fuckers in camps in Afghanistan who wanted to hurt us but mostly weren’t pulling if off.

Was it the best of all possible worlds? No. But things were good and getting better. There was a solid foundation to build further progress on. Hell, it seemed eminently reasonable to vote for Ralph Nader, if only to elevate the Green Party to minor party status and get it some federal funding to build a roots-up political organization that could do some good in the world. I, myself, voted, donated to, and volunteered for Ralph.

Then Bush won, and shit went south pretty much right away.

Not one but two massive tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy. 9/11, which happened at least in part because Bush et al took their eyes off the aforementioned goat-fuckers. Then the Iraq War. Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. CIA black sites. Katrina. Two Supreme Court Justices — including a new Chief Justice — who have contributed to decisions like Citizens United, and Shelby County. Oh, and let’s not forget the US Attorney scandal, in which they tried to fire ostensibly independent LEOs for not prosecuting enough Democrats or, God forbid, prosecuting Republicans. And, of course, the financial deregulation that gave us the Great Recession, which continues to fuck the economy to this day despite the best efforts of the Obama Administration.

We lost a *lot* of ground towards the progressive utopia we all want to see brought about, thanks at least in part to a solid chunk of the population that thought “If it gets bad enough, people will see the foolishness of conservative/Republican governance, and turn, as they must, to the other side.”

I mean, seriously, if you’re worried about, say climate change — and if you aren’t, you’re a fool or at least fooling yourself — just think for a moment what eight or even four years with the guy who made An Inconvenient Truth in the White House might have done to make progress on fighting or at least managing it.

Then we got Obama, who’s done a pretty good job turning things around, but could have done so much more if liberals, progressives, and generally sane people hadn’t sat out the 2010 Census Year Mid-term elections in such big numbers, allowing the Republicans and their Tea Party bomb-throwers to gerrymander a damn near unsinkable House Majority for a whole fucking decade.

So here we are now. Things are turning around. Yes, it could be faster. Yes, the system’s corrupt. But again, we’ve made some real progress. Laid a foundation for more. We’ve got a Democratic candidate in Hillary Clinton who ought to be a progressive dream candidate. Not only a woman — and holla for breaking that glass ceiling — but one running on the most progressive platform in the history of ever. Even if her opponent wasn’t a racist, sexist, xenophobic, fascist idiot narcissist in the pocket of the Russians who genuinely doesn’t understand why we don’t use the nuclear weapons we have or any other goddamn thing, anyone who even remotely identifies as liberal or progressive ought to be jumping for joy at the prospect of the most qualified and capable candidate for the highest office in the land in the history of the goddamned Republic.

But, again, we’ve got a bunch of people who just can’t bring themselves to pull the lever for her, and who think, once again, that if we let the racist, sexist, xenophobic, fascist idiot narcissist in the pocket of the Russians win that things will finally get so bad the Glorious Progressive Revolution will come of its own accord.

The problem, aside from the damage done and the many, many steps backward that will entail, is that human nature doesn’t work that way. A progressive society is contingent on prosperity. When people ain’t got shit, they start looking out for them and theirs, and fuck everybody else. They cling to their guns and their religion and their tribe harder than ever, because if there ain’t enough to go around then they’ll make damn sure they and theirs get what they need first, and the rest can go hang.

Look. I get it. There’s a lot to object to in the way our country is run. But if the choice is between an imperfect status quo and the goddamned apocalypse, then that shouldn’t be a fucking choice at all. If you have enough privilege to ride out the serial disaster that would be a Trump administration, bully for you. But there’s a whole fuckload of people who don’t, and way way way too many of them stand to get hurt while you wait for the revolution you haven’t really thought through to ripen.

You want progress? You want change? Then not only do you have to vote for Hillary Clinton (hold your nose or no, I don’t really give a fuck). You have to vote Democrat all the way down the ballot. You know why shit’s so dysfunctional? Because the goddamned Republicans put party before country, and have sabotaged and vandalized and obstructed every fucking thing that might make things better. They have to, because their whole thing is that government can’t work and is never the solution and if you elect them they’ll prove it to you, as they fucking have for decades now. The Democrats may be imperfect and their tent’s big enough that they’re as centrist as they are liberal, but at least they want to keep the fucking lights on.

It’s not sexy, I know. But if you care about making the world a better place by enacting a progressive agenda, then you have to build on the progress we’ve already made.

Hillary, Bernie, and Me

I was a strong and early supporter of Bernie Sanders, especially the Bernie Sanders of the early campaign: the guy who took the high road, who spoke truth to power, who organized at the grassroots and refused to engage in negative campaigning. The guy who said on her worst day Hillary Clinton would be a better President than any of the Republicans.
But I have a confession to make: I never thought he’d win.
It wasn’t lack of faith in the message or devotion to the agenda he espoused. That faith and devotion is what drove my support. To me Bernie Sanders was only a vehicle for getting the word out and starting to organize. It was clear the man himself was an imperfect vessel (he is, after all, a career politician). It was also based on a cold, hard political calculation. Remember the incident in Seattle about a year ago, when two #blacklivesmatter activists stormed a stage he was set to speak on? The way Bernie and, more importantly, his most ardent supporters handled that told me all I needed to know. However you stand on the incident, nobody gets the Democratic nomination without support from African-Americans. And while Bernie has done a great job of mobilizing younger African-Americans, they were outnumbered by their elders, who were less willing to take a chance.
Still, I advocated, and donated, and when the time came I caucused. All along I tried my best to keep to the high road the Bernie Sanders of the early campaign laid out.
Sadly, my candidate chose not to. Somewhere along the way, some subtle threshold got crossed. It was about Bernie now. Bernie the man, the visionary, the leader of a revolution, though what the revolution meant or would look like was never made clear. He started throwing punches, insisted he was going to win despite the fact that the path to victory only got narrower and less likely with every primary and caucus, even the ones that he won.

Continue reading “Hillary, Bernie, and Me”

A Pragmatic Idealist’s Guide to Caucus/Primary Season

Call me liberal, progressive, whatever you like. Parse it how you will, I occupy somewhere most of the way to the leftwards end of the political spectrum. If I had to self-label, I’d probably call myself a Social Democrat. My ideal economic arrangement would be using the productive capabilities of capitalism to achieve socialist-style ends (something along the lines of Iain Banks’ notions about the Culture in his novels, which can be summed up at the organizational level as ‘socialism within, capitalism without.’). Politically, I’d like to see a strong democracy in which participation by an informed citizenry with a liberal education, historical and scientific knowledge, and critical thinking skills ran the show. I’m in favor of single-payer universal healthcare, a guaranteed basic income, and top marginal tax rates approaching ninety percent (I’m also in favor of allowing folks to assign how their tax monies are spent, at least within a set of broad categories). I’m not against people becoming wealthy, but I think that option should only open up once the floor has been raised and guaranteed, for everybody.

So that’s where I’m coming from, in case any of the ten or fifteen people who read this blog didn’t already know. And I think there are lots of folks who’d agree with me, though the kinds of views I espouse don’t get a lot of play in the mainstream media.

So, given the rapid approach of primary and caucus season, what’s a pragmatic idealist to do? Continue reading “A Pragmatic Idealist’s Guide to Caucus/Primary Season”

Santa Claus and the American Dream

I thought of this the other day, but I didn’t want to harsh anyone’s mellow this holiday season, since there are lots of folks I know who genuinely love the holidays, especially Christmas, and I respect that.

But it occurred to me how the mythology surrounding Christmas, at least the American conception of it, kind of encapsulates us as a nation in a less-than-entirely flattering way.

Think about it. The Christmas myth is, essentially, that if you behave yourself and do as you’re told by authority while being surreptitiously surveilled by an invisible judge given to binary distinctions (you’re either on the nice list, or the naughty list), you’ll be rewarded with material goods. If you don’t behave, bam! Coal in your stocking (which does at least beat having Krampus). Or fewer presents. Or none.

The worst thing is that the kids who actually receive this punishment aren’t necessarily misbehavers: they’re just poor. The mythology connects material prosperity with virtue and obedience to authority. I don’t mean to take too jaundiced a view of the whole thing, but it’s a hell of a thing to teach little kids, never mind that it sets them up for the inevitable disappointment of learning that Santa Claus is actually just their parents, and that the volume of material love under the Christmas tree has more to do with their parents’ wealth than anyone’s virtue or behavior.

Every year there’s noise made about a War on Christmas, and as far as I can tell, the folks making the noise think the war is on the Christ part. Maybe for some folks it is. For my own part, I’m pretty down with JC. But if we wanted to declare war on the crass materialism that we’ve come to celebrate alongside his birthday party, I’d be inclined to join up.

Why I’m Voting for Kshama Sawant

UnknownI’ve been meaning to write this for a few weeks now. And while mail-in ballots have been out long enough that some folks have undoubtedly already cast their votes, I still think it’s worth chiming in to say that I whole-heartedly support Kshama Sawant’s bid for re-election to the Seattle City Council.

This is not to say that I whole-heartedly agree with her every position and precept. And to be clear, I am in no way affiliated with her campaign (though I am personally acquainted with some folks who are). I haven’t volunteered or worked for them, and though I still intend to donate money, I have not yet done so.

But whatever our (minor) differences of opinion on policy, I find a lot to like about Councilmember Sawant, both in terms of her accomplishments and in terms of the policies she’s currently pursuing.  Continue reading “Why I’m Voting for Kshama Sawant”