Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Revolution We Don't Need

There's this Sting lyric I can't get out of my head lately: "I never saw no military solution that didn't end up as something worse." It makes me think of revolutions starting with the promise of populist renewal but ending in dictatorships or theocracies. It makes me think of Donald Trump, a career con-artist who came along at just the wrong moment in history. This week's R.N.C. festival of white hate and fear left me with a shame for my own country I haven't felt since our collective shrieking hysteria over Janet Jackson's boob in 2004.

We have real reasons to fear. The world is changing faster than most people are comfortable with. Unchecked Climate Change could be as devastating as thousands of terrorist attacks. Far too much money and power is still in far too few hands. Radical Islam seeking a nuclear weapon is dangerous to everyone on the planet. Vladimir Putin is a loony douche and right-wing American fanboys of his need to stop invoking his name whilst touching themselves. Under his rule, Russia is a homophobic retrograde threat to world peace.

But we have survived gargantuan threats in the past with a logical reading of data, civil arguments over solutions, and a stoic resolve to carry them out. We thrived under the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War. We overcame isolationist attitudes to help defeat the threat of global fascism in World War Two. We balanced the economic brutality of the Gilded Age with strong unions, unapologetic trustbusting, and the New Deal.

So why is such a large portion of the nation seriously considering electing an inexperienced narcissist with nothing but platitudes, scapegoats, and mood swings at his disposal?

Global trade deals sure have something to do with it. Naomi Klein's 2007 book "The Shock Doctrine" explains how unfettered capitalism went from a fringe ideology in the 1960s to our unofficial national religion in the 1980s better than I ever could. It was forced on the world militarily in many instances and quietly slimed into massive budget bills in others. Whenever it has been put to the people, the idea of the world's rich having a circle jerk while the rest of us mop up has been, to say the least, unpopular.

Now the bill has come due. The real fear of power and money hoarding by the global mega-rich has been deviously merged with old silly fears of brown people, women, gays, and the nonviolent majority of Muslims. In America, poor white people are justifiably angry, but they're aiming their anger at people who have suffered just like them, rather than the old, fat, white C.E.O. class who actually dicked them over. Many of us, in our illogical fear, are turning to a shortsighted billionaire asshole to solve the problems created by shortsighted billionaire assholes.

The rise of Donald Trump has only been possible because of all of these factors. Throw in the internet and 24-hour news cycle and you get a fixation on what's wrong with the world that is wholly unprecedented. So right now it doesn't matter to many Americans that Trump is an intellectual lightweight who inherited his fortune and enhanced it by ripping off subcontractors, committing fraud, and being a shameless corporate welfare queen. It doesn't matter to many Americans that his menstrual mood swings, lack of constitutional knowledge, and utter lack of curiosity prove that he will be a completely inept president (until he declares martial law and dictatorship). It doesn't matter to many Americans that his solutions are, as Matt Taibbi expertly summarized, "ideologically vicious and logistically impossible". All that matters to his acolytes is that he has at least acknowledged the problem. The wall won't keep "them" out, but he's pointing at "them", which means he must be for protecting "us".

As his popularity has grown, his diseased mentality has been adapted by many of his devotees. Don't know facts? Shout platitudes! Tired of having to be nice? Punch a bitch! Who cares? The guy who could be president's doing it! Common courtesy was the first to go. Next will be nuance. Look at the response to the police murders of African Americans and the retaliatory murders of innocent police. In a rational society, we would add civilian review boards and police body cameras (to protect honest police from false accusation and to protect civilians from sadist cops) to the justice already meted out to cop killers. We could acknowledge wrongdoing by fringe elements on both sides. Then we could take other moderate steps to improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve, working backward from crisis mode to "how did this happen?" mode to "how can we stop this from happening again?" mode. One community recently solved a lot of its problems with a "meet your cops" picnic followed by some of the moderate reforms mentioned above. It's easy to hate a faceless "them". It's much harder to hate Harry who you just had ribs with.

This is not to say problems like police racism and police being murdered can be solved overnight. That's the point. Problems like these are solved incrementally over decades. Stop looking for someone to blame when they don't immediately resolve themselves. And please stop listening to shills who offer you an instant solution to a complex, entrenched problem.

There's no room for nuanced solutions in Trumpland. Only one thought at a time in that dystopia. Scapegoats, mood swings, and platitudes. That's all we're cookin' at this here barbeque.

Want to test a politician? Use the word 'how'.

Donald: We're gunna build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

Logical Voter: How?

Donald:'s gunna be yuge.

Meanwhile, lost in all of this is the fact that the Obama presidency was good for America. Ten million new jobs. Fifteen million insured. Job openings at a fifteen-year high. The unemployment rate just dropped below five percent. Wind and solar power quadrupled. Oil imports down 53 percent. Debt remains a bipartisan problem (check Bush and Reagan borrowing if you need a reminder). We're still in too many foreign wars. But overall the numbers point to progress. So he wasn't the messiah we elected in 2008. Maybe there's a lesson in that. Stop looking for a messiah.

Contrast Obama's record with where we were before. Does anybody else fucking remember 2008? Do we remember the horrors our national religion of unfettered capitalism wrought? Do we remember three quarters of a million jobs disappearing per month? Do we remember the Iraq war that created I.S.I.S? Do we remember the abandonment of New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina because, you know, gubment cain't get too big? Lost in the horror of this week's R.N.C. hate festival was the fact that some of Trump's platform was announced, and it isn't populist at all. It's just Dubya 2.0. Tax cuts for the rich, anti-gay bible-thumping bullshit, and depressed wages as "the market" is allowed to union-bust, outsource, and start another round of merger-orgies. The laws Trump would seek from congress wouldn't match his pro-worker rhetoric at all.

This is where the Democrats have to avoid a fatal mistake. The T.P.P. is a trade deal meant to check China's growing influence in the Pacific, but like its predecessors, it's loaded with corporate giveaways, union-busting sludge, love letters to polluters, a fucked-up lawyer tribunal that can overrule local government laws, and a continuation of the downsizing and outsourcing that led so many of us to seriously consider electing a sassy reality show bitch.

Obama is for it. He thinks he can make it worker friendly enough so that everyone will benefit. He can't. He may suspect this, which is why he's trying to get it passed during the upcoming lame duck congress. Again, globalization would be forced on us, because if we voted, it wouldn't pass.

This would make the Democrats look like the exact elitist pigs Trump calls them. It would lend him credibility despite all the data to the contrary. Never mind that it would be a Republican congress passing it while the majority of Democrats oppose it, facts done got cancelled when we nominated a wig.

The President is wrong about T.P.P. It will be the mistake that undoes his legacy if we allow it. In addition to the toxic effects of this agreement, it could have the far more tragic consequence of turning us fascist by electing an ignorant, incurious, incapable megalomaniac president in what would likely be our last free election. I don't like our oligarchy, but I want to replace it with democracy, not anarchy.

Bernie supporters, I was one of you, and you simply have to get over it. Hillary has her faults but she's at least a qualified adult. On a side note, she's actually the most honest politician in the race according to Politifact. Her empty space of an opponent is the least honest, not that facts matter anymore. Get behind her, people. Get behind her even if you wouldn't forgive your mans if he got himself a B.J. on the side. Stop being infants. You aren't electing someone you like. You're electing the best person for the job. She's been a Senator and a Secretary of State. Her approval rating once elected has always been high. It's only ever dipped when she was running for something, because we have some lingering issues about women seeking power. So what if you don't find her sexy? The laws she will seek will help enable you to improve your life. The judges she'll appoint will make us a more just nation. The treaties she'll negotiate will be fair to all (she's already opposed T.P.P.) and she won't alienate our allies or start World War Three because her ego gets bruised sometimes. She's clearly dying to do all the un-sexy work an adult president does. It's all right there in her e-mails. (P.S. She's either the smartest legal ninja in history, smart enough to hire the smartest legal ninjas in history, or her "scandals" were just bullshit thrown into the right wing echo chamber to make them seem like something. Nothing among her "-gates" makes me consider an inexperienced emotional midget with a spray tan as a viable alternative.)

This election may be the best example of why we need more of a menu, as many other democracies have, and less of a binary system. That may be the revolutionary change we need, moving forward. But it's too late in this round of the game to change the rules. We'll either have an occasionally disappointing professional who is capable of compromise and adult discourse or an unqualified seventy-year-old toddler. Looking at the data, it isn't much of a choice at all.