Category Archives: Democrats

Franken Resigns and the Democratic Party Strengthens

So after eight women came forward and leveled accusation of misconduct at Minnesota Senator Al Franken the Senator announced his resignation from his position. Now Franken tended to provoke strong reactions, I know people who adored him as a senator and dreamt of presidential plays and I also know people for whom it seemed impossible to mention his name without a personal insult travelling along side I had no such passions about the man. His comedy was so-so and his political positions were fairly solidly liberal and predictable.

All that said the party forcing his resignation was in my opinion the best move that they could have made. Did the Democratic Party lose a high profile member with name-recognition? Yes. Did they lose a member whom could be counted upon as a consistent liberal vote? Yes. Will the Republicans be shamed into taking action against their members accused of sexual misdeeds? No. So how is this good for the Democratic Party?

It is the long game and there are two advantages in what has happened.

First, you cannot claim to be a party of values, standards, and principles unless you live up to them. Sweeping Franken’s accusations under the rug would be a bold loud proclamation that political victory matters more than any principle. That these women’s trauma matters less than getting a vote on policy. That is damaging. It corrodes the Party’s brand and helps erase any distinction between them and their opposition. For liberals it may hurt to lose one of their favorite stars but you can only hold the moral high ground by consistently being moral.

This is a lesson the Republican Party failed to learn. Over and over again when faced with this sort of thing they chose the path of political expediency and destroyed their claim to any moral standing.

Second, it builds a bulwark against sliding into chaos and angry politics. If the party turned a blind eye to Franken then when another crisis of principle arises it becomes that much easier to turn that blind eye again. When called out on it the only course to defend against such blatant hypocrisy is stoking anger and hatred in the Party’s base for all those who are not lock step with the Party. Personal destruction of all enemies, within and outside of the Party, becomes the norm and acceptable discourse plummets to the gutter. Soon only the loudest, angriest, voices carry any weight.

Does this sound like a familiar history? It should. No organization sets out to corrode what they fight for, and yet so many do. It happens because when faced with expediency over principle they take the easier path and like getting turned by an enemy intelligence asset, each step makes it that much harder to regain your proper course.

As I said I have no strong feelings for Franken, but my analysis is that the Democratic Party did the right thing and they should continue doing the right thing. And if you still think that his votes, his policy matters more than the things he is accused of then you are making the precisely same argument as those who intend to vote for Roy Moore. Choose politics over morals and eventually you will be reduced to no morals.

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Cultural Criticality

The sudden and widespread exposure of sexual misconduct across widely disparate fields feels like a cultural tipping point has been passed. This seemed to start with the Harvey Weinstein expose and then like a row of tumbling dominions it spread, but that dominion simile is not quite correct. No, this is more like a nuclear chain reaction. To my mind that picture is also a much better analogy for grasping what is going on and what could happen in other areas of the social sphere.

Imagine you have a large number of 1-gram blocks of Plutonium. In this thought experiment you take the blocks and assemble them into a cube. One by one you pick up a cube and add it to the others, and wow nothing is happening. They just sit there. You can do this thousands of times and nothing will happen, but somewhere around 11,000 times you will add one cube and the mass with become critical. At that point you are dead. The chain reaction takes off and the cubes that had presented no serious danger before are now all presenting a lethal threat. The last block you added? There was nothing special about that one. It was exactly the same but adding it to the pile did not provoke the same non-reaction.

Why the Weinstein expose and not the Cosby one? We can never know, here the analogy is not a perfect fir, but it still serves. It feels like we have hit a critical reaction and going back to the way it was before is looking less and less likely. (Not a bad thing in my opinion.)

I think we are still facing a similar situation with mass shootings. Newtown and a cowardly murderer targeting children did not change things, but we were and are still below criticality. It is not the individual event and its character that will matter but with some future some ineffable sense will change and sudden it won’t be the same game anymore. If there happens to be a Democratic controlled Senate at that time it would not surprise me to hear that they are suspending the filibuster for legislation in order to pass something. (And if they do pass something Trump would sign it. It costs him nothing and he can bask in the warm glow of praise. All that matters to him, that and money.)

This is the danger that I see pro-second amendment factions are ignoring. By taking no actions, by offering nothing at all, and there are things that they could offer that are not gun control and bans, they are removing none of the block from this growing pile.

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A Difference in Magnitude not Kind

It has been interesting watching the political debate surrounding Moore and Franken. On both sides there are people calling for resignations and on both sides there are people calling for pragmatism.

Moore may be a child molester and a hypocrite but he’ll vote for the right policies and his opponent will not

Franken may be a molester of adults and a hypocrite but he’s a good progressive, standing on the right side of almost every issue his replacement may not.

Do you see that these really are the same argument?

I am certain that I know the number of ‘free’ assaults Democrats would allow a conservative is zero, and I am equally certain that number of ‘free’ child molestations the Republican’s would allow a liberal is an equally low zero.

The Tea Party has taken ‘compromise’ to be a dirty word and for the most part politics is compromise but there are things upon which you should not bend and basic morality is one of them.

I walked away from the Republican Part when is embraced torture as a ‘pragmatic’ solution because party unity mattered more than right and wrong. As such I have no qualms about voicing my opinion that Moore is a terrible person and should be gone.

Franken’s assault, though not against children, are also terrible.

If you do not hold people to standards then they and you will never meet those standards. Be wary of pragmatism over morality for in the end you may be left with neither.

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Franken

Let me make this real quick as I have a novel that is not going to write itself. (And believe me I have tried that method.)

If there are creditable accusations, and I have not taken the time to make that judgment, then he should step down and Minnesota should hold a special election to replace him.

See, that was easy.

To conservatives who want to hide behind Clinton and Franken hoping to retain control of the Senate with that nut-job Moore.

Franken and Clinton aren’t your shields.

Moore is a direct result of the party you have built over the last few decades. When angering and trolling liberals is more important than policy or ideas then you get men like Moore and he will not be the last.

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The Weekend’s Rampage

I will not call it a tragedy for that removes the sense of an actor with agency that performed this senseless murdering. I also will not go deep into the gun control debate, on that front both sides present few minds left to persuade. There is one prediction I will make, but without a time line, and that is unless things change the forces of gun control will eventually have their way. To me the logic is simple and inevitable, people, mainly men, will keep doing this, people will keep dying, and only one party in our two party system will keep advancing a solution. Eventually that solution, regardless of its efficacy, will be implemented. The conservative offers nothing to prevent such murders except platitudes and resistance to change, that is a holding action and given a limitless number of incidents it is a holding action that must fail. Lots of people will be murdered and I doubt that the GOP will ever break out of their siege tactics.

One thing I do want to address is the charge that is being thrown about that the NRA has bought the GOP politicians and that ‘follow the money’ explains their lack of action. This gets the cause and effect back to front. The NRA gives these politicians money because they already support the sort of things the NRA wants.

To put it in counter example; how much money would it take to get Diane Feinstein to vote the NRA way? Or how much to get Elizabeth Warren to push legislation in favor of big business and banks? You can’t buy those votes; it would destroy the politicians’ credibility with their constituents and their conscience.

The charge that the politicians are bought on a subject so emotional and so important to their voters is really just a charge that the politicians are bad people and your politicians are noble following principals over lucre. By the way that works perfectly in reverse as well, the conservative change that the Democratic Party is own by the trail lawyers is a way to avoiding the idea that the Liberals might be in favor of civil actions as a manner equalizing the power between individuals and corporations. The Democrats are ‘bought’ by the trial lawyer and the Republicans aren’t ‘bought’ by the NRA, both are political actors serving the interests, however much you may not agree with those interests, of their constituents.

The de-legitimization of the opposition is virus killing our democracy.

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Wow, This has all Sorts of Stupid

I have been seeing links to this (Your Refusal to Date Conservatives is One Reason we have Donald Trump.) piece bouncing around the internet for a few the last week but today was my first chance to read it first hand. Truly this is awful stuff.

Apparently what set the writer off was a dating site that is allowing people to self-identify as support Planned Parenthood. The impression I get is that Laber seems to feel that supporters of Planner Parenthood are rigid and unyielding. (And of course we know that the Right is so compromising when it comes to Planned Parenthood.)

Then he dives from Planned Parenthood and assertive dating into tribalism and the fact that we are boiling our electorate down into extreme bases. That’s true, but it is hardly the ‘plague on both house’ both sides are guilty sort of affair.

Of course he tries to support his position with a spot of evidence.

First up: Pew pole from 2014 Republicans holding ‘very unfavorable views’ of Democrats 43%, Democrats holding the same for Republicans 38%. Seems clear to me who is more extreme, particularly since that started out 20 years earlier only 1 point apart on that same issue. (Note how in the article itself he uses numerals for one and words for the other, hiding the sausage with a bit of typographic trickery.)

So then he transitions into how this drives primaries and election more extreme candidates. Hey, that is also true and look he pops up with more evidence.

Second up: 2010 Delaware Republican Primary, Tea party Purists Christine ‘I’m not a witch’ O’Donnell wins the primary and costs the GOP a seat. Looks to me that once again his evidence does nothing to show ‘both sides’ or that hot women rebuffing Conservative Men are at fault but rather the hard, ‘compromise is a dirty word’ Republican base is the more extreme faction. (It’s also interesting how his evidence keeps going back further and further into the past yet continues to show the Conservatives as the hard liners refusing the bend. Seems to me there’s a clue there about where this started.)

His third point, that Trump’s appeal was to ‘economically anxious’ voters and that they were really ‘culturally anxious’ he presents without supporting evidence. Frankly that fight is still being fought but you can hardly ignore the fact that from the very first moments of his campaign, Trump ran on racial issues. Laber thinks that Trump would not have done as well had we been less polarized.

Yeah, that I think is true, but it also ignores the years and years of lies, distortions, and hyperbole coming from the Right on this issue. Death Panels, Born in Kenya, Secret Muslim, this poison in our politics is deadly and it did not come equally from both sides and it has nothing to do with women preferring to date men who aren’t enemies of their constitutional rights.

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It’s Horror Film Season in D.C.

In most low grade horror films, particularly of the slasher variety, there’s a point where the hero, using the ‘Last girl’ thinks the killer is dead, only to have the bad guy rise and start attacking again. Like those poorly thought out monstrous plots the GOP is taken their ACA repeal and shown to the world that it is not dead.

Cassidy-Graham, the latest, and truly most likely to be final, attempt to repeal the ACA is shambling its way toward a vote on the Senate floor. This is likely the final push as the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that the Budget Reconciliation bill must pass by Sep 30th.

There have been, of course, no debates (apparently only 90 seconds of debate remains on the clock.) No committee hearings or mark-ups, no public hearings, and there will be no CBO score letting us know the final cost and the number of people who will lose their insurance, but the GOP is plunging ahead despite all that.

This is an example of perverse incentives. Millions of people, perhaps tens of millions if the earlier bills are any guide, getting tossed off their insurance is something that would normally make an elected official very hesitant, but there’s something more terrifying to the sitting GOP members, a primary challenge.

For a number of years, approaching a decade now, the GOP has through a mixture of lies and hyperbole, painted the ACA (Obamacare) as the greatest evil, failure, and theft of liberty to have ever risen against the nation. (Death Panels anyone? Worse than Slavery?) They have convince their dedicated base that the law must be repealed and election cycle after election cycle they have promised just that, while lying their asses off about ‘replace.’ This cycle of lies and over promising fertilized the ground Trump’s candidacy. (gee, thanks.) If they don’t pass something, then a loud mouth with bigger lies and bigger promises will challenge them from the right in the primary. For senators that’s a serious threat and for House members it very nearly electoral death because safe districts make such challenges stronger than competitive ones.

Because of the calendar deadline if the Senate passes this bill the House will be faced with the choice of passing it as is or killing it. I would not bet on its death.

I have friends for whom this bill will be a terrible thing. There is no doubt that if it passes and is signed, millions and millions of people will be enraged and the Democratic party will be emboldened to go even bigger, having had their faces shoved in the fact the GOP will never compromise for market based solutions.

I keep hearing Jamie Lannister saying “How do you think this ends?”

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The C.O. is Always Responsible

When a ship or military unit suffers a disaster the reasonability falls on the commanding officer. It doesn’t matter if junior officers messed up, it doesn’t matter if the civilian government gave them unrealistic goal, it doesn’t matter if the weather turned terrible, the C.O. is responsible. It isn’t fair but it is the way it is.

The same is true in politics, hence Harry Truman’s ‘The Buck Stops here.’

From reviews from both her supporters and opponents it would seem that Hillary Clinton would like to pass the buck for her electoral loss. Certainly before her book was released I heard from the left side of my internet friends that she shouldn’t be blamed, that we should say she was a bad candidate, that other forces and events stole the election from her.

Bullshit.

Before I go further let me just make something clear. Trump is the worst person to ever occupy the office of President. I did not and do not want him there. His damages are incalculable.

Hillary Clinton won, in round figure, three million more votes than Donald Trump and yet she still managed to lose the election.

Yes, she had headwinds, the media’s obsession with her emails, the interference from foreign powers, being on the wrong side of the insider vs outsider divide. All these things hurt her campaign and made the road longer and rougher.

You know what? Life’s not fair. None of those elements were unknown during the campaign. None were so powerful that there was no counter. IN fact despite all those things she got those three million more votes still.

She lost because she ran a poor organization. She wasted resources on states like Arizona trying to run up the score while ignoring the cries for desperate from help coming out of states she had to have to win. She lost because for decades now that Clintons have favored loyalty over competence. It is why Barack Obama beat her in the 2008 primaries. Right or wrong the Clintons act from a state of continual siege, seeing enemies all around and because of that they pick their inner circle based on personal loyalty. (Trump is similar but loyalty for him equates subservience and boot licking yielding even worse people.)

Hillary Clinton was a bad campaigner because she could have won this election. She could have watched the details and focused on the states that mattered instead of assuming her opponent’s terrible nature would deliver the win she and the nation needed.

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This Opera is not Over

Today the U.S. Senate will vote to advance to debate a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, AKA ObamaCare. There are two bills under consideration by Senate leader McConnell and as of the time of this writing, the freaking morning of the vote, it is not know which bill or bills the Senate will be voting upon.

Consider that for a moment, the forces pushing and pulling at the GOP are so implacable that they are moving forward on legislation that they not only have not read, have not studied, and for which the parameters are unknown but that the exact bill is unknown. Because their margin of votes is tiny, by using reconciliation they avoid the legislative filibuster, they have even brought Senator McCain, still recovering from surgery and fresh off his diagnosis of an aggressive and dangerous cancer, up from Arizona to supply his single vote. (Presumably in favor of stripping healthcare from millions of Americas as he fights for his life with those same resources he is about to strip from thousands that voted for him.)

Whichever bill is advanced, the repeal and replace that will cause about 22 million to lose their healthcare insurance or the repeal and delay that will make that number as high as 32 million, it will be a disaster for individuals, the United States, and the Republican Party. If it’s such a disaster why are they doing it?

Because the GOP politicians, individually, are trapped.

One the House side migration, the rural/urban divide, and gerrymandering, quite a few GOP representatives come from ‘safe’ districts where the Republicans simply cannot lose the general election. However this does not free up the GOP rep to vote as he please, it rather forces him or her further right with each election cycle. Knowing that no one from their ‘left’ can threaten them these representative fear their ‘right.’ To be challenged in their primary is their greatest fear and failing to vote for the end of the hated ‘ObamaCare’ will almost certainly provoke a challenge. That they can lose. It doesn’t matter that this issue is so grave and so damaging that it can flip a safe district. If they do not survive the primary the general is meaningless. So they dig their own graves hoping for a miracle to save them. Moderate Republicans are even more vulnerable to this process as they are already viewed with suspicion by the party members at large.

Senators, facing statewide election and not gerrymandered districts, are less prone to this process but even at the state levels the same forces are at play, some states tilt so far ‘left’ or ‘right’ as to be consider ‘safe.’

I do not know where this will end. Until they are working on and debating the next big bill, likely to be their true love, taxes, the fat lady has not sung.

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The Ultimate Insult

What is the worse political insult you can throw at a person? It’s not fascist. It’s not Nazi. It’s not Communist. I think the worst insult you can hurl a person is either liberal or conservative, and more specifically Democrat or Republican.

Now those sound pretty tame compared to the others mentioned. Surely, it must be far more insulting to be named a Nazi than a Republican. Well that depends on who is doing the naming. Those on the left expect to be called Communist and such from the right and liberals have long named Conservatives Nazi. In a partisan political combat those are practically medals. However if you are a conservative and a fellow traveler on the right calls you a liberal, that burns, that’s a wound. The same is perfectly true from the left. During the last presidential election the insult thrown with the most emotional weight at Hilary from fellow Democrats was that she was really a Republican.

This is the apogee of tribalism. It ceases to be about ideas, solutions, or even principles but everything devolves down being a good member of the team. I certainly know this effect well.

I believe in a second amendment right to bear arms; I believe in capital punishment; I believe a flat tax rate; I believe that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system, and more than once I have had conservative friends call me a left-wing liberal.

I believe in marriage equality; I believe in a woman’s right to control her body; I believe in social safety nets and universal care; I believe that corporations are not people, and more than one liberal friends have called me a right-wing conservative.

To me being called a liberal or a conservative is hardly noticeable, but to a partisan it is the supreme insult. It is to be called traitor, a turncoat, a quisling for the enemy. People who are partisan will contort and twist to avoid this. If it means taking up the same side or cause as the opposition they will stand silent on events that may otherwise inflame them.

This is opposed to reason and discourse. Free yourself from your tribe; think and speak for yourself.

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