my public Facebook profile in the months before the election. (You're welcome to follow me there.) Since the election––or more accurately since the results became increasingly obvious––I have been able to focus again, and I'm getting back on track. I'm going to blow through these compilation posts over the next handful of weeks (both to catch up and to give me something a little lower key to post during the holiday season).
After that, maybe I'll do more like one a month instead of every two weeks.
Note: Some of these are very topical, so I've put notes about what was going on when they were written.
|There are a number of "we don't need no stinking government" ideologies that depend on the
decency of fellow humans that I think might want to look at the pandemic as a data point.
“The American people must have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."
-Mitch McConnell 2016 (after Scalia's death--a vote he SINGLE HANDEDLY BLOCKED from even coming to the floor for a vote for nearly a year).
“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
-McConnell 2020 (after Ginsberg's death with 46 days to go until the election)
Tell me again how unfair it is to say they will wrap pretense around whatever the fuck they want; lie, cheat, and steal to enact their agendas; and are not interested in a free and fair democracy or pluralistic governance if it even provides so much as a speed bump to what they view as a moral imperative.
Tell me all about how uncharitable I'm being to say EXACTLY that.
Why come up with a complicated system of epicycles when a heliocentric model explains the data much more accurately and without increasing absurdity? Occam's razor.
Can you imagine if you actually did *MEAN* "stand down," and then you reviewed the tape to find that you had said "Stand back and stand BY."
Like, anyone who actually meant "stand down" would be falling ALL OVER themselves, clamoring to assemble a press conference, or find a journalist, or grab the nearest bullhorn or sharpie or SOMETHING to set the record straight.
They. Would. Be. MORTIFIED.
The convoluted explanations for why he hasn't corrected himself, made such a profound mistake that happens to exactly match his oft-repeated behavior, and has NEVER successfully disavowed white supremacy until maybe days later (and only in a kind of wishy washy way) are ludicrous. We will look back on these ridiculous rationalizations like epicycles and those who defended them like the Catholic astronomers who refused to acknowledge the much simpler and painfully obvious truth.
He is a white supremacist. Full stop.
[This was written shortly after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death.]
I'm definitely angry right now, and I'm not the best version of myself, and maybe tonight isn't my "final answer," or I'll find some pocket of nuance that I just can't ignore, but right now I want to just write off every "I art lefter than thou" type with a hearty "Let me know how that fucking goes for you."
LET ME KNOW how it goes, as we keep drifting to the right, first with W and then with Trump, because Gore or Clinton or now Biden aren't perfect enough and you'd rather "send a message to Democrats" than make the world a marginally better place for the people the GOP likes to hurt.
How'd that one go, by the way? It's 20 years later. Did Nader and the Green party bring you the liberal reforms you wanted? Did Dems start taking the far left seriously? Did the Dems learn their lesson? (Or did they just learn who they couldn't count on?) Did climate change top the issues in 2004....2008.....2012? Did the DNC and the Democratic leadership come around? Or did they just learn that the far left couldn't be counted on in a general election and was less risky to sacrifice, with its write-ins and abstentions, than a center who might actually flip a vote for an opponent who mattered. Did they learn their "lesson," or did they just learn that the center was where they could find the money and votes from a country MOSTLY made up of people whose hearts and minds were never won because, instead of winning them, we only deign to involve ourselves in one part of mainstream civic engagement, and THEN we toss away our own influence on protest votes and spend the next three and a half years glutting social media with guillotine and bootlicker memes that don't win the hearts and minds of the same the same mainstream, working-class folks we are counting on to back our vaunted "revolution" next time around.
Whatever lurching, sporadic, three-steps forward-two-steps-back, Republicans-being-dragged-kicking-and-screaming-the-entire-way gains we have made on the left (anywhere bigger than the community level) in my entire life have come from the executive branch in the form of a campaign promise like the A.C.A. or the O.B.R.A in '93 (since rolled back because "Clinton was just as bad as Trump") or the results of S.C.O.T.U.S. rulings in the form of civil rights and liberties like Obergefell v. Hodges.
And the greatest HARMS came from those two as well.
I'm a non-monogamous, gender variant, pansexual crowdfunded working writer who gets paid for nannying my ex's kids primarily in groceries, emergency computer replacements, and health insurance. Believe me that if you present me with two options in life, I'm very likely going to find the third that you didn't list, but that works better for me and go my own way. And even I can tell you that our current political choices are bad and MUCH MUCH MUCH WORSE.....and that's IT. It's all there is. More's the pity, but it is. You either do harm reduction and keep doing the work come Nov. 4th or someone else decides for you that fascism is okay and people die.
Dems aren't going to make it all better, but the last four years should be an abject lesson that it can always always ALWAYS get worse.
Democrats keep waiting for voters to be shocked and appalled enough to vote out the group openly cheating, and liberals keep waiting for Democrats to be the "adult in the room," and that's bad enough that they're waiting on each other. And I certainly have the nuance to understand why an individual just....can't. (Getting people to vote for their own oppression is a tall order.) But the leftist purity politics stuff just makes everything worse for its existence.
It’s really quite simple.
Trump lies about everything. He lies even when he doesn’t have to lie. He lies when no one will care. He lies when there’s tape of him from a live broadcast on national television of the truth￼. And he’s so committed to his lies he’ll do shit like take a Sharpie and draw on weather forecast maps.￼
So it’s piss obvious when he suddenly loses the plot like a ten year old who’s gotten caught (“Wait....who did you want me to condemn?”). He could just lie. ("Yep. Totally condemn them.") Every OTHER thing out of his mouth is an effortless lie. Why all the sudden does he stumble? Why he won’t just simply do what he does best—or at least most often—and causally LIE that he denounces white supremacy (even though he doesn't).
Because far from simply being an ongoing series of unrelated misspeaks and confused reactions he conspicuously has around ONLY this issue (that just happens every single time to reinforce a careless-but-unintended message)￼, he knows exactly what he’s doing and who’s listening.
If the National Association of Hurricane Deniers loved him￼, hurricane denialism￼ was a core part of his message that helped him win his first election, and there was a list as long as ￼Suleiman Ali Nashnush’ leg that suggested he was a hurricane denier, he wouldn’t have touched that sharpie.
White supremacy protects itself, so intellectuals out there looking for zebras because of hoof prints are playing right into those boiler plate scripts. Occam’s razor suggests an elegant solution that explains everything quite simply. He won’t condemn white supremacy because he’s a white supremacist.￼￼ Acting like we don’t “truly” know￼ because he doesn’t show up to the debates in Klan robes is getting pretty silly.
If you've never seen anyone stand up to a gaslighting abuser, the first Trump/Biden debate is pretty much what it looks like. It's messy, and they claw and scratch and bite and try to drag you down to the ground with them the whole time.
It's only spectacular and cathartic in the movies.
That's why it's so hard to do, and you usually have to settle for ESCAPE. (Not so much of an option in a presidential debate.)
[This post was in response to the first Biden/Trump debate (the one where Trump just interrupted and insulted everyone for two hours) and some of the mainstream reactions.]
They're both being awful. They both suck. They're both being terrible. No winners; only losers.
I know this is a popular frame, particularly from those who want to seem erudite about matters of policy and forensic debate and to show off their political acumen (or who are just a little bit gleeful for whatever reason about tearing down Biden), but I also know that this is exactly what abusers go for. This is what they want when their abuse is being called out. They want to point at their victims and say, "They started it!" or "What about them?" Anywhere the blame can go––even "both"––that takes the focus off of their abuse.
Every. Single. Time. I called out my abusers' behavior, I would be "punished" for doing so. The form of the punishment was like a whirlwind attack of anything and everything that might stick. Everything I'd EVER done, no matter how off topic. (And don't even try to return to the subject at hand.) Every detail challenged, no matter how irrelevant. (Was it six months ago or seven? Let's start a sub-fight about this.) I couldn't even finish a sentence. And they would keep going until I disassociated enough that they "had the floor" and would talk and talk and talk, spinning out this word salad about how terrible I was being to THEM.
They push their victims and rattle them and get them into a moment when they are defending themselves against something preposterous, and when the person reacts in a way that they are NOT their best, the abuser has ammunition forever for how THEY were the aggrieved party. How many times have you thought, "Boy, those two are just TERRIBLE to each other" and later on, you learned that one of them was actually being far far terrible-er?
We're seeing this play out at the macro level as "the left" is being blamed for all the violence. As if there were never an inciting incident or fifty.
It's called DARVO. (Deny, attack, reverse victim and offender). It's the reason a lot of victims of abuse couldn't even watch the debates last night and are having an almost-as-difficult-time this morning as people claim that Biden was just as bad. Because when you stand up to an abuser instead of leaving (maybe because they've created a "captive audience" space like, oh, say, a debate), that's pretty much what it looks like. It's not like the movies where you get the great zingers and the rocking catharsis. It turns into a grudge match of lastwordism and whataboutism.
Only one candidate walked onto that stage with absolutely no intention of talking about policy and politics. Only one couldn't for one second let another person have the narrative or the attention. Only one person was talking about how awful everyone was being to him instead of the country. One was determined to derail the entire train rather than deal with the thought of losing. The other tried to talk to the audience and keep a train of thought and debate in good faith. He just couldn't. It was like debating a screaming goat. Because that's how abusers work. They can't allow you to make your full points. Then they might have to deal with them, and not everyone will take their side.
If you fall/fell for it, don't feel too bad. You're in good company. Our culture is a mess when it comes to trust and verify. We almost always either don't trust at all, decide based on other things who we will believe within seconds and never get around to the verify part, or exercise our reasonable-sounding muscles by assuming "both sides" must be behaving badly for identical reasons, and that intellectual morality is in total emotionlessness. That there is something fundamentally "wrong" with a person's rationality if they are capable of being provoked. (Which is part of the reason we end up blaming the victim so often.)
What I saw last night was someone standing up to the mind games of an abuser.
And from a side of politics that claims it is entirely tired of being told to "go high" in the face of so much abuse, it might be worth considering which narrative we're playing into.
No one ever THOUGHT Trump's cult followers were going to toss their MAGA hats to the ground with a "You mean he's not what we thought he was? You mean he doesn't have the business acumen we elected him for having? Well, this just changes EVERYTHING!"
We never thought that was going to happen. MAGAts have cast their lots and committed to their moral path. And a certain number of folks will find it nihilistic-chic to point it out at every opportunity how "they won't care."
Of course they won't. Of COURSE! That was never our ambition. They are lost, and if they're coming back at all, it's not going to be because of anything we did to convince them.
Remember why we share these stories and point out the hypocrisy and lies. It's for the tiny few who might listen (in a world where the margins of victory for swing states are less than 1% and sometimes less than half of one percent, you only need to get through to one person in a couple of hundred.) That one Republican in Michigan or Ohio who really HAS had enough.
It's for the moderate who thinks maybe the left just really HATES DJT based on nothing substantive.
But mostly it's for us. Because WE'RE the goddamned frogs in a pot and in this mixed metaphor the burner is social gaslighting. We do it to remind each other that we're not crazy. THIS IS NOT NORMAL!
You live in a small town in rural Indiana. As small as it is, it has organized crime. "Boffo" runs the town. Boffo is the mayor and police chief, but he also controls the city council and has the local judge in his pocket. The state won't mess with him.
Boffo has enemies, but they don't have the power to stop him, and in order to even TRY, they have to go through federal jurisdictions which usually ends up with an FBI task force showing up but being told they can ask questions but no one is going to cooperate.
Boffo breaks laws all the time. He jay walks, runs red lights, speeds, and parks everywhere just as a matter of course, but he also funnels city money into his bank account, rigs the mayoral elections, accepts bribes, rips off insurance agencies, cooks the books, and several people in town have credible stories of larceny. Boffo even brags about how he orders big meals at restaurants and then walks out before paying the check.
Your roommate has spent YEARS telling you, "Boffo can't do that! It's illegal." (Your roommate fancies themselves a very legal savvy expert.) Every time your roommate says Boffo can't do something, Boffo does it anyway, and there's no one to stop him. So not only does Boffo "do that," but he gets away with it. If it's really, really bad, the FBI comes down like six weeks later and leaves empty-handed a few days afterward.
One day your phone rings. It's Boffo. He tells you that he's going to murder you. Naturally, you are terrified.
"Pfffffft. Relax. Boffo can't do that!" your roommate insists, dismissing your concern, and even mocking it a little. "Murder is illegal. You'll be just fine."
THAT'S WHAT Y'ALL SOUND LIKE.
Recently on NPR I heard about this group called the Transition Integrity Project that was set up to try to ensure a peaceful transition of power (one of the cornerstones of a democracy). This group played a series of "war games" about the transition of power and found that in only one scenario did Trump concede power without tapping every agency, commission, state, and local government, and even the military and/or openly encouraging mob violence and stochastic terrorism.
A total blowout.
That's the only scenario. In every other scenario, the group playing Trump was able to block mail votes, mobilize the national guard, sow chaos, tap law enforcement, and even weaponize his people to fight for him in the streets. In every other scenario (even a RESPECTABLE Biden victory––to say nothing of a narrow one), we end up counting on a guy who basically *dared* Congress to do ANYTHING about Ukraine, regularly encourages violence, has openly said he wants more than EIGHT years, and can't handle his anything being smaller than Obama's.....
We're counting on THAT guy to have a sudden crisis of integrity. There isn't a particle of grace in the man. He's not going to be a good loser.
It turns out that an executive branch that is uninterested in a smooth democratic transition of power has an AWFUL lot of ability to make it very, very unsmooth.
A total blowout.
That's why we need to make this election about collective action. Because this may be the last collective action we get to take that doesn't involve blood in the streets and us or our loved ones dead, injured, or imprisoned.
We can't just win. Trump decided he won the popular vote when he lost it by four million in 2016 because of "fraud' that didn't exist (and he brought the far right narrative right along with him). We have to absolutely pulverize him. Otherwise this could drag on for months, and a whole lot of "yeehaw leftists" who think crowd suppression is as bad as it gets are going to be divested of their romantic notions of the cost/benefit of civil uprisings.
A total blowout.
[Postscript note: We straddle that line between "respectable Biden victory" and "total blowout" and look how much damage Trump has done denying the results.]
[This was written after Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court and it became piss obvious that she was going to be rushed through (even if that meant no Covid relief package).]
This is exactly, entirely, precisely why you fucking VOTE! Even if the person isn't exciting. Even if they don't promise you every legislation you wish they would. Even if you don't like them as a person. Even if you wish there were more than two viable parties. Even if they make you feel a little dirty.
Because it's not just them you're voting for. It’s not just their politics and your protest or purity. It's NEVER just them you're voting for. It's the shape of every commission they form. It's the philosophy of the entire Cabinet. It's the character of every lifetime appointee they nominate. It's the AG and their prosecutors. It's the heads of agencies. It's the regulations they gut (or don't). It's the way they instruct law enforcement to ignore white supremacy and blame everything on Antifa in a transparent effort to make everything you think you're doing "instead of voting" a criminal act. It's which laws they will enforce and how they will enforce them. It is which groups they will take off the terrorist watch lists. And of course it is the flavor of the judiciary.
There's now a damn fine chance that everything from Roe v. Wade to Obergefell v. Hodges get overturned and the next THIRTY years of rulings will be so spectacularly pro-business and anti-immigrant/poor/civil rights/body autonomy that we really will be back to fighting for the things we won in the 60's. We're going to be dealing with this for the next 30+ years. Really.
It's never just about that one person. Their ripples will echo on for DECADES.
You know....just to acknowledge some nuance directly:
I'm pretty precise with my language. That's literally my job. When I say "yeehaw leftist" or "I art lefter than thou" leftist, that's who I mean. I don't mean everyone ever who calls themselves a leftist. That's just too much for one generalization to support.
People have reasons to not vote that isn't my lane to judge. A lot of indigenous folks don't vote; you haven't seen me give them so much as a sideways glance. I can't decide for a marginalized group whether being thrown under the bus by the DNC is a dealbreaker, or whether they recognize that it'll get WORSE under the GOP. If that argument is to be thrashed out, it will be within those communities and it's not my place. And I'm not ABOUT to tell someone who is a survivor of S.A. to suck it up if they just CAN'T vote for Biden, or that they are not "allowed" to consider his accusations credible. (And as a survivor myself, that IS my lane.)
I'm giving this shit to a very specific group of people who are expending their political capital trying to get OTHER people not to vote (or cast "protest" votes) but who, generally speaking, don't have the skin in the game to be good judges of who is "just as bad." I'm talking about jilted Sanders supporters, proponents of accelerationism, and people who are dank memeing themselves into such a dither (backed by Russian psyops and false flags the whole way) that they honestly can't see stopping fascism and preserving some vestige of a flawed democracy as harm reduction (to say nothing of the ACA vs. nothing or foot-dragging climate change policy vs. still just calling it a hoax). Folks who demand peggicorn ponies that are actually (to brazenly metaphor mix like a mad scientist of writers) the third rails of mainstream U.S. politics, and if they don't get exactly what they want and THIS election cycle, "Screw you guys, I'm going home."
If that's not you, I'm not talking to you. But I do hope you're taking a good, hard look in the mirror before you usher in four more years of EVEN WORSE THAN THE LAST FOUR by ceding power (through inaction) to Trump.
The self-righteousness of the primary season is a hell of a drug.