Friday, June 15, 2018

Electability

I was appalled when, on Wednesday morning, I read this headline in the Post & Courier:

Democrat Archie Parnell, who once beat his ex-wife, easily wins SC primary


No, it wasn't glaring red, but it might as well have been.

Sadly, it doesn't take much to get to this point when our own Democrats are so willing to jump in and push good candidates -- and elected officials -- off the ship.  Bakari Sellers, who has turned from a decent and caring public servant to a famous celebrity, was among the first to try to shame Parnell into stepping down.  Either no skeletons in his closet, or no plans to run for office.

Apparently, republicans have realized that all they need to do is to dig up (or invent) some dirt on a candidate who threatens their feifdom, and then step back and let us Dems pummel that candidate into the ground.  Lordy, the best they could come up with was college party videos of Jon Ossoff, who scared the crap out of republicans in Georgia last year.  They couldn't have done it without us.  While most Dems continued to stand by Ossoff, enough backed away to give his republican opponent the win.  That's all it takes.  Remember Hillary?  Thirty years of republicans flinging mud, with James Comey putting the icing on the cake and leaving him, and us, with feelings of nausea -- and with Donald Trump.

Focus, Democrats!  Focus on the issues here, because we stand to lose good candidates who MIGHT JUST WIN unless we get distracted by rumor, innuendo and the occasional irrelevant fact.

We are the party where we stand by people who have had tough times in their lives, made horrible mistakes, and come out better for it.  We don't need to support people who live bigotry and misogyny; we can leave that to the republicans.  We have enough good Democrats who will fight for us.  But we have to accept that they may be flawed.

We need to stop looking for the perfect candidate, because that is our Achilles heel:  the strength that becomes our vulnerability.

In fact, we don't even have the ability to look a gift horse in the mouth and say, "Aw, thanks."  As when our own Dimitri Cherny made the outrageous decision to run against Mark Sanford in the republican primary.  It was hilarious to watch the republicans (who have used the open primary system against us a number of times) squeal about how unfair it was.  What wasn't as much fun was watching our own party have conniptions over what they saw as Dimitri jumping ship.

Because in the cold light of day, there was absolutely nothing for us to lose in Dimitri's candidacy.  At best he might topple the horrible Mark Sanford, who has been like a piece of chewing gum stuck to the feet of South Carolina for decades.  At worse, he would... what?  lose?  In fact, he did lose, but the three percent of votes that he got just might have been what lost Sanford his cushy job.  To that I say, "Thanks, Dimitri."  Of course, now we need to garner some enthusiasm for Joe Cunningham instead of cowering over the fact that he will be running against a right-wing wacko Trump supporter.

Meanwhile, the DCCC, in an effort to prove their irrelevance once again, is currently sniffing around, looking to put the money they suck from us whenever they can into candidates that are "electable."  It saddens me to say that Nancy Pelosi, once my hero, is now so desperate to win in November that she is leading the charge against candidates that may be too progressive to be electable.  Pelosi: once a progressive firebrand herself, the woman who held the damn bag of cats that was the Democratic House together to pass Obamacare.  I have until this recent news defended Nancy with every breath I had, and continue to believe that it is ageism and misogyny that has been behind the push to push her from her position of party leader in the House.  And yet this picture of Pelosi seeking to support Democrats who appear safe -- electable -- and pass on those who aren't afraid to talk about significant change, that is the real threat to the Democratic Party and our success in taking back Congress.

We had Bernie "the socialist" shake things up in 2016.  In 2017, among other headline wins, Danica Roem became the first transgender elected official.  People are electing Muslims and gays without fear these days.  And yet we continue to have a party afraid to support "progressive" candidates.

On the other side, we had a child molester in Alabama who nearly beat an amazing Democratic candidate.  Thankfully, Doug Jones didn't have any scandals that could have been dug up.  And don't forget the current "president" of the United States, who ran happily on being capable of every possible crime that could be committed (including shooting someone on Fifth Avenue). While good Democrats stayed away from Hillary, muttering about "emails," "Benghazi," and never proven financial crimes.

I don't know how much more proof we need that voters want radical change.  They want to hear about their own lives and needs.  Donald Trump didn't win (he really didn't) on grabbing pussy.  He won because he lied about giving everyone health insurance and good jobs.  And now we have solid proof that the republican party has not only failed in those goals, they have actively legislated killing health care and job creation.  They convinced some of us that a $14.00 a week increase in our paychecks was a win, but psychotic economic policies have caused the price of gas to go up over $1 a gallon since the maniac-in-chief took office.  Social services are being cut to fatten the pockets of Trump, Ryan and McConnell, and all their rich buddies.  Trade wars with our once-friends will eat up more of our miserable incomes while Jeff Sessions and the cabinet of deplorables works to make sure that, from education to employment, we won't have a chance at a level playing field.

Archie Parnell is serious about winning this thing.  And he is damn close.  All it takes for him to lose is friends like Bakari Sellers, and us.

I did not support Parnell in his special election primary last year.  Rather I supported a young, smart, African American woman.  Big name Democrats came out in droves for Parnell, because he was "electable."  It is a shame that we do that to ourselves, keep women and minorities from representing us because we are afraid they won't win.  Talk about your vicious circle.  But when he was chosen, he became by far the best candidate, and I continue to wholeheartedly support him.  I'm glad he has the guts to stay with it, rather than hand this victory to the republicans.

On June 13, BuzzFeed published this friggin' headline:

National And State Democrats Won’t Support Archie Parnell In South Carolina


“What Archie Parnell did is inexcusable and deeply disturbing, and he should drop out of this race immediately.”
Well, there's a surprise.

Farther down in the article was a video posted on Facebook by Parnell.  The same video was published by the Post & Courier before the primary, and before their egregious post-primary headline.  I would like to post the video here, but can't do it from Facebook.  I urge you to listen to Archie talk about his decision to continue to run, in its entirety.  This is the kind of candidate we should throw our support behind, enthusiastically.

You know what, we might get hoodwinked.  But at some point we need to trust what we see with our own eyes.  And if we don't, for sure we will be the ones to lose.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

In Defense of Roseanne

I have been crazy about Roseanne since I saw her on Johnny Carson in 1985.  Her humor is an acquired taste -- or not.  Her voice is grating, she insults with the charm and bad taste of W. C. Fields.  She stood Rodney Dangerfield's "Take my wife... please" on its head when she began to take potshots at marriage and husbands.  And I loved it.


I enjoyed the first run of the sitcom, but at the time I was an older parent with my first child and pretty much in denial of any conflicts about parenting.  That meant I was uncomfortable with Roseanne's trademark insults.  Now, after having raised two kids that aren't addicts or in prison, I can step back and admit we had our rough patches.  And some of that affectionate sarcasm might just have helped a bit.

I don't follow celebrities.  I haven't followed Roseanne, although I had heard that she is a right-wing nutcase.  If you couldn't tell she was flaky and off-center right from the start you just weren't there.  Like Cosby, Franken and Van Gogh, Roseanne's genius came with baggage; her brilliance at pushing the envelope meant that she would at times go too far.

I wasn't surprised to hear that she was a very vocal Trump follower.  We have all had to distance ourselves from loved ones since that asshole came down that escalator three long years ago.  But, since November 8, 2016, I have been listening to Democrats obsess ad nauseum about what they need to do to understand and capture the trust of the Trump voter.  Too many have gone so far as to support abhorrent positions in order to attempt to win over abhorrent people.  All the while completely missing the boat.

While the pussy-grabber-in-chief flaunts his racism and misogyny and pushes through an agenda that enriches himself and destroys families, Democrats are still looking for the safe stance.  We talk about being a big tent, but instead of meaning we will try to help all, it ends up meaning we will support a candidate or issue that denies some group its rights if only we can get the approval of a Trump bigot somewhere.

I live on a shoestring, but my worries are still in the future.  I have an old car that runs reliably, a house that is nearly paid for, and never lack for food or an alcoholic beverage.  But there are working class Americans who have never had the chance I had to sock away some savings, or who lost jobs and homes a short decade ago and never got back on their feet, or whose income goes to health care or trying to educate their kids.  I am happy to say most of my friends, also on shoestring budgets, are also not walking that tightrope to survival.  And most Democratic politicians can't even fathom the fears blue collar Americans live with, or the painful decisions they have to make on a daily basis. 

So, that in mind, let's talk about the Roseanne reboot.  Because what I have heard from the majority of my Democratic friends is how they hate Roseanne.  And that they would NEVER watch her show.  Which reminded me of those Dems who just couldn't vote for Hillary, and then added, "I just don't trust her."

I loved the reboot.  I loved that her cast loved being part of the original sitcom so much that they ALL happily signed up.  And that Roseanne would happily work creatively with a bunch of liberals like Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf.  Looking back through eyes that raised two kids, I loved the affection that so obviously went with the wisecracks.  I loved the twists and turns, like the cross-dressing grandson and D.J.'s marriage to an African-American woman, Gina, stationed in Afghanistan.  And it turns out that Gina dates back to the original show as well.  Where D.J. is in a play and refuses to kiss Gina; Roseanne tackles racism and sexism in one wonderful wack.


I heard a TV blowhard critique Season 10's Episode 7 because the anti-bigotry plot was simplistic.  I imagine that's a person who doesn't spend a lot of time around blue collar Americans.  No wonder they get insulted by us liberals, who turn up our noses at a 30-minute sitcom that doesn't get into the complexities of anti-Muslim attitudes.

And the last episode to air took my breath away.  If you want to understand how good people (not the Nazi sympathizer or right-wing religious zealots) could have supported Trump in 2016, there could be no better portrayal than that of Dan Connor, stuck along with too many Americans between the rock and the hard place, trying to survive.  Having to compromise life-long values to take care of his family.  In fact, the problems the Connors encounter are the ones that day after day, one by one, add up relentlessly in an America where the quality of life has declined for some forty years, where wages have dropped and education has been corrupted by profit and premiums, co-pays and deductibles have rendered health care unattainable.

I am saddened by the tragedy of Roseanne, much as I was saddened by the tragedy of Bill Cosby, who also spoke so much truth about the absurdities of life.  I am glad we got this short flash of brilliance before it blew itself up.  Roseanne Barr is a disturbed -- conflicted -- woman, one who is destined to self-destruct.  ABC was right to give Roseanne the chance despite her past bigotry, and ABC was right to cancel.

And my heart breaks for it.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Sex and Violence

Now that I have your attention.

I am crazy about Jim Jefferies.  He is Australian, now living in the U.S.  I discovered him when a friend sent me a link to a stand up comedy bit he did on guns.  It is biting, hilarious, and just as relevant today as it was when he first did it.



He also has a filthy mouth.  He happily pushes the limits way past humor.  He has to tone it down for basic cable, but his podcast is something to behold.  It is basically him and a couple of his writers getting drunk and dirty for an hour after the show each week.  The filth is pretty meaningless, just drunken slobber for the most part.  It would be nice if it were funnier, but his political commentary is so brilliant, as is his humor, that I will plow through the pure crap for it.  I don't know many who would.  Even my son has said, Uh, no thanks.

But Jefferies follows a long line of great comedians who pushed the limit.  Lenny Bruce was slightly before my time, but he fought the law for freedom of speech.  George Carlin did it when the zeitgeist welcomed it, and I am so glad he did.



As he branched out from the seven words you can't say on TV, two things happened.  He really exercised his First Amendment right, and in so doing, exercised it for the rest of us.  And he offended a lot of people.

Being a child of the 60's and in full-blown rebellion against parents that would curse at times but tell me it was a sin, I rejoiced in Carlin's literally calling out the hypocrisy.  In my home, "god-damn" was the forbidden swear word, requiring confession on Saturday.  Carlin welcomed sexual curse words into our vocabulary.  It was glorious to be able to toss out a "fuck" back in the day.  Today those dirty words more often are uninspired, about as clever as a burp, but truly tinged with violence.

Today we have a "president" who dismisses his comment about grabbing pussy as locker room talk, and then is celebrated at the annual prayer breakfast.  Granted, you still can't say "shit" on TV.  But Roy Moore very nearly became a US Senator with the religious right fully aware of his pedophiliac past.

I was planning on writing about sexual harassment and women's rights.  But there is the power of words, and maybe we need to start there.  After all, it was a matter of empowerment that African Americans have forced our entire country to say "N-word" instead of, well, you know.  And yet, "bitch" isn't even consistently bleeped on TV.

A staple of Bill Maher's comedy for the past two years has been inviting his audience to join him in calling Donald Trump a "whiny little bitch."  This gets my back up.  And yet, when I searched for the inception of this routine I came up with the funny and ironic "New Rule" in which he turns the stereotypes of women on its head, and applies those stereotypes to the whiner-in-chief.


The most powerful of words, the dirty words, have power because they are sexual.  And they have the potential to twist our morality into knots because our sense of our sexuality is so twisted.

Men who, despite their thoughts and prayers, don't flinch over mass murders, are willing to legislatively rape women in the name of "saving babies."  And women have been willing to let them.  The most logical comparison is of the fight to preserve a man's god-given right to own a gun versus the fight to allow women to control their own bodies.

In the 60's we welcomed those seven dirty words into public life, but began to refer to sex as "making love."  Is sex talk dirty, does it have to be?  And when is it degrading, because it surely can be.  As, for example, when used by the "president."  And what does it do to women, who are still considered the weaker sex?  When is sex talk violent, and when are insults sexual?

#MeToo has us all wondering how afraid men should be about stepping over the boundaries between approach and harassment, sex play and coercion.  I would like to suggest that sexual harassment and assault is the end result of verbal attacks on women that we ignore and/or accept.  If you aren't uncomfortable with Maher calling Trump a "whiny little bitch" you are either a man or a woman who doesn't recognize the power that words have to demean you.  If you don't cringe when you hear men insulted by being referred to as "girls" you are accepting not just that women are physically weaker, but that women are weaker.

The answer is not censorship.  The answer is changing perceptions, refusing to accept stereotypes and insults.  The value of forcing us to refer to the derogatory term as "n-word" (when we are in civil society) may be a constant reminder of how wrong it is, but it also denotes the power that African-Americans now have that they can compel this change.  Sadly, another result is that racists become ever more filled with rage at the imposition on their freedom to publicly display their bigotry; the backlash was destined to happen.  But African-Americans aren't taking it anymore, and that too will be quashed.

Women don't like to fight.  We want to fix things.  This makes us appear to be weak, and people like Congressional republicans and Donald Trump will use us as a battering ram to force their way into power.  On the other hand, they can dog whistle other misogynists by painting those of us who aren't compliant as bitches, you know, like Hillary, Nancy and Elizabeth.

Sexual equality is going to mean a fight.  Our daughters have grown up in a world we thought was safe, but was still fraught with sexual harassment and degradation.  As long as there are laws that establish rules about what is contained within our bodies, men will control us.  And we will be demeaned.

Those dirty words have power.  I am all for the well-placed curse word, but we have to admit that there is violence in sexual language.  It is not just that men in power can "grab pussy," it is that they are so confident in that right that they are happy to tell others about it.  Confronting men who assault women sexually is the beginning; their acts must have consequences.  What we  do as these men are confronted is going to be a long and tangled path.

But we need to first become sensitized to the words, their meaning, and their effect.  Not to censor, but not to ignore.  Indeed, until there are consequences for a man who brags about grabbing pussy, women will be under siege.  Denial of the power of those violent words leaves us vulnerable, and grants permission to men to continue to put us "in our place." 

It is time to let men know that we are the ones who will determine what our place will be.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What Comey Forgot

Not too long ago I wrote about an important book that went under the radar called, The Unmaking of the President 2016.  The book explains quite thoroughly how Comey's clumsy handling of the Hillary email fiasco caused Trump to win the election.  At the time, I got pretty snarky in describing James Comey.  But I do try to be fair, and now that I have heard him analyze the bizarre details of his past couple of years in the spotlight, and have read his book, A Higher Loyalty, I find that I have changed my opinion of the man.

I believe I have referred to James Comey as smug and compared him to Pence and Gorsuch, which would conveniently make them the unholy trinity of vanity, hypocrisy and self-righteousness.  But I don't believe Comey is like that at all.

He seems to be honestly struggling to do the right thing.  He can be self-deprecating, which means he is attempting to be objective and is aware of his own very human fallibility.  He has a sense of humor, which immediately separates him from the humorless Pence and Gorsuch, as well as Donald Trump.  By the way, I have for some time been aware that Trump never smiles or laughs, a feature of the narcissist-in-chief that had also come to Comey's attention.

Comey has a lot to say about bullying.  In his book he describes having been both a victim of bullying and an instance wherein he became a bully in his younger days.  This kind of self-analysis and insight makes his narrative of the election of Donald Trump both personal and relevant to the current political era.

As with all heroes, Comey's greatest strength became his Achilles heel.  The need to be honest and fair brought him to national attention during the Bush years, when he went head to head with Dick Cheney over the reauthorization of the NSA surveillance program "Stellar Wind."  It was a dramatic moment, when Jim Comey dashed to John Ashcroft's hospital room -- in intensive care -- to head off White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Bush chief of staff Andrew Card who were trying to force Ashcroft to sign the reauthorization.

Because of this, Comey had a great deal of respect and credibility when he began the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as Secretary of State.

In his book, Comey goes into great detail explaining the situation as he saw it, and each step of his decision making.  It is obvious from this narrative that he has not only examined his actions but looked to others of his peers for their analysis.  He is aware that his actions may have influenced the election, and he has admitted that the thought of having a hand in electing the deranged and dangerous Donald Trump makes him "mildly nauseous."

I can appreciate, after the diarrhea of lies that have come from Donald Trump and his swamp creatures, that James Comey is being honest.  I share his nausea over the events that led to the election of Donald Trump.  I value the extent of his self-examination in order to get this account right.

But James Comey has missed an even greater factor in this tragic event.  He has neglected to include the effects of a corrupt Congress in the way this story has played out.

The story goes way back, but it was the republicans in Congress after the election of Barack Obama, and subsequently the Tea Party extremists that took over who represent the bully in the room.

It was minutes after Obama's inauguration that the republican leaders in Congress were meeting to strategize how to defeat the president.  Mitch McConnell famously and unashamedly stated,


John Boehner on the floor of the House led the rage with a cry of "Hell no you can't" as he talked about the proposed health care bill, a bill republicans refused to be a part of constructing, and then told the American people that the Democrats were excluding them from the process.

Republicans in Congress thwarted Obama's every effort to move the near-dead economy, ignored or distorted his successes and magnified out of context the defeats. Remember Solyndra?  Thanks to republican spin and the media echo chamber, all the successes that resulted from government investment in such small businesses were buried under headlines about this one failed attempt. 

That was the way Obama's eight years went under this republican Congress, as they doubled down on lies and false accusations with each electoral success.

While ignoring the hunting down of bin Laden and the winding down of one of our most tragic wars, republicans in Congress did not just refuse to work as partners with Obama in defeating our enemies, they actively opposed whatever he proposed.  Isis?  Syria?  The dynamic and entertaining McCain/Graham duo found fault with it all.  McConnell and Boehner refused to offer any constructive alternatives.  In fact, Congress did not offer any legislation that could be seen as a commitment one way or the other; all they offered was cynical criticism of anything Obama thought might work.  And because he believed that he should be working with Congress, he hesitated to take strong actions in Syria without agreement from Congress.  Although Obama's diplomacy turned out well at the time, he has faced contempt throughout for failing to act when Assad "crossed the red line."

And the whole Hillary project may have begun as an innocent misogynist reaction to the smart and powerful wife of a president, but by the time her intentions to run for president had barely been announced, the same game went into play.  Her every action was criticized, lies were told and then retold by the press, and the Hillary that can't be trusted became the narrative. 

The obstructionism worked, because the republican party united in their loud opposition.  They worked the media, and they played the American people.  They lied and then they lied again.

So, when Donald Trump brought his tantrums and lies to his campaign, the only difference between him and Congressional republicans was the degree and the flamboyance.  And because the media likes to follow shiny objects, like the orange hair, we got to witness every moment of the blowhard's traveling salvation show, with fake miracles and full-blown hate and hysteria.

Sadly, Trump gets full credit for Obama's failure to act more aggressively against Russian election interference.  And surely Trump was by then the bully that controlled the entire show.  He spewed anti-democratic hatred with far more flair than his republican allies.  But without eight years of the bombast and bullying of the republican party and Congressional leaders, Trump would have most likely been dismissed as a crackpot.  Without a Congress that refused to fight for anything other than their own survival, Obama would have fought hard against Russian interference.  But the bullies were harassing and attacking one of the candidates, and the opponent was making shrill accusations of cheating.  Bullies win when they cause the rest of us to lose confidence and to hesitate to do what is right.  The bullies won because Obama did not want to be seen as interfering in the election, as the bullies had already intimated.

And this is where Comey lost the thread of the narrative.  He thought he was cooperating with a responsible branch of government, but Congress was a fully partisan player in destroying Hillary Clinton.  He reported to Congress about emails as though the emails were the issue, and not the defamation of a candidate for president.  And then he went back again, because he had promised he would if anything changed, even though he had no reason to believe anything had changed.

Just as Obama went timidly into these last weeks of this election, Comey went obediently to Congress.  He ignored the advice of his boss and he rationalized ignoring precedent, and he interfered in the presidential election by jumping into an investigation because he was afraid of not opening it, and he reported it to Congress and the American people, because he was afraid he would be seen as dishonest if he didn't.

There are times when one has to take the risk of doing the wrong thing in order to do the right thing.  That last decision point, days before the election, was when James Comey decided it was more important that he be seen as trustworthy rather than that he had followed precedent and law.

James Comey has had to face the reality, through his subsequent dealings and ultimate firing by Donald Trump, that his attempt to be honorable led to a disaster for our democracy.  Out of fear of being seen as dishonorable, he allowed himself to be used by a corrupt Congress and a megalomaniac candidate.  Had he not come forward to announce the reopening of the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails, the outcome of the election would surely have been different.  But then he would have had to face accusations of partisanship by the other side.  And that is where being honorable would really have come into play.

Which brings me to the point of the whole thing.  We have a Congress that is dirty.  Congressional republicans have proven to be wholly partisan and untrustworthy.  They have chosen to continue to hide facts in order to support a corrupt and unbalanced leader in order to maintain their hold over our democracy.  In Germany in 1933, it took elected members of the republic to give Hitler the power to create a dictatorship.  And today we have lapdogs like Devin Nunes and power mongers like Mitch McConnell paving the way for the illegal and undemocratic acts of the Trump administration.  Today this Congressional majority is not only thwarting efforts to protect Robert Mueller from being fired by Donald Trump, they have undermined the investigation into Russian interference.  And incredibly, we continue to hear from one or the other that they think Congress should reopen investigations on Hillary.

While Trump keeps us busy following his criminal and crazy rants, Congress is truly the arm in which the fate of our democracy rests.  I don't believe we can take another session of republican rule.  Not only have they gutted laws that protect 98 percent of us, they have stood by as Trump signs away our environment and our liberties.  They happily approve federal judges that represent the far right:  big business, big money and the curbing of individual freedoms.  They continue to hope baiting us with Planned Parenthood and the Second Amendment will keep them in power, and are blind to the threats to our democracy.  In so doing, they have become the greatest threat to our democracy.

This is why we must do everything we can to turn over both houses of Congress in November.  The only way we can survive the terrorism of Donald Trump is by electing a Congress that will fight for our democratic principles.

We cannot be passive during this midterm election season.  Be informed.  Volunteer.  Donate.  Spread the word.  Vote.

Our lives and our children's futures depend on it. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Forgetting to Show Up

In Arizona, republicans just won the special election for US House, and it is my fault.

It is also Rachel Maddow's fault, and Stormy Daniels' fault.

After amazing wins in Alabama and Pennsylvania, we seem to have been lulled into a sense of complacency.  Persistent hyped up talk of a "Blue Wave" and the powerful get-out-the-vote movement by Parkland shooting survivors were momentarily energizing but, after all, this is midterm year and we Americans just don't pay much attention.  So many special elections competing for air time with the Trump train wreck.  And now we have primaries leading up to November's election.  So exhausting. 

Is it any wonder we can't seem to take our eyes off Stormy Daniels and Trump's tweets?  Once again we have been happily led by American media to the lowest common denominator of the entirety of our politics, our government and our democracy.  It appears the future of our republic hinges on a pee tape and a payoff.  Meanwhile, who can keep up with the daily dastardly deeds of the Justice Department, Congress, and the "president's" cabinet?

Don't blame me for being tired and discouraged.  MSNBC and CNN cover the same damn story with the same damn quotes -- and "presidential tweets" -- hour after hour.  Who can stand listening to that nasty sound coming from the puckered mouth of the tantruming toddler-in-chief?  New White House scandals aren't much different than old White House scandals.  It has been established that Trump can shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, Scott Pruitt can carry out his heist in broad daylight, and Lindsey Graham will change his mind daily about the importance of defending our democracy.  We have, since November of 2016, marched, emailed, and attended town halls, only to learn that republicans in Congress -- and a few shameful Democrats -- don't feel much of a need to even bother to justify their greed and collusion with their wealthy constituents, much less change their votes.

On the momentum of the Woman's March and Indivisible, a lot of incredible people have stepped up to run for office this year.  There has been a lot of enthusiasm for this movement to turn over Congress and state houses, but I fear it is dwindling.  Of late our minds have been wandering.  With this brutal winter and reluctant spring we seem to have lost the fervor we had just months ago.  Yes, we are glad Democrats are running for office.  But we just don't have the energy to stand right by them and fight for them.  We just want this embarrassing nightmare, of Trump and pee tapes and cabinet members destroying our country from their soundproof telephone booths, to end.

I fear that, instead of charging that last mile to November, we are closing our eyes for a little nap.

I know I have taken my eyes off my democracy because I can't tell you who is running in my state primaries.  I know we have Democrats running in races here in South Carolina that have gone uncontested for far too long, and we even have more than one candidate in many of them.  When our candidates show up, isn't it our responsibility to get excited about it?  And more than our responsibility, shouldn't it be our privilege?

In the age of Google, it doesn't take all that much energy to find out who the candidates are for, say, governor and go to their websites and click on "Issues" to find out where they stand.  And if the words on the screen all seem very similar, you can find moving pictures of the candidates on youtube.  If you follow candidates from Facebook or their website, they will probably let you know when they are speaking, and this is a great way to get a feel for whether they are speaking for you.

Here is another great advantage to showing up.  It lets other people know there are candidates they should be paying attention to.  Our Democratic candidates are not going to get a lot of publicity here in SC unless we create the crowds and the fervor that will make it impossible for media to ignore.  You can do that!

Wow.  I don't do exclamation marks all that often.  It felt weird, but in a good way.

We have for far too long tamped down our enthusiasm, tried not to get our hopes up, hidden our progressive ideas for fear of being attacked by the rageful right-wing.  We have listened to a Democratic Party that has exercised caution instead of confidence in its candidates.  They have held back funds in races they could have helped win, like that close race in Arizona.  But in a year when an endorsement by Donald Trump can lose a race for a republican, isn't it time for us to take to the streets for our candidates?   Why are we continuing to allow the pundits who led us to Trumpland get away with telling us we don't have a good chance of winning the Senate?  Or the governorship?  Or the statehouse?

Because the fact is, if we turn up, we can win.  And as long as our three branches of government continue to so blatantly work against 98 percent of Americans, we can bring all but the mad and the obscenely rich to our side.

The South Carolina primaries are June 12.  Here in SC we can choose to vote in either the Democratic or republican primary, but with so many candidates running on our side, I believe most of us will be wanting to vote on the Democratic side.  And you can get a list of all the candidates on your ballot at Ballotpedia.

How cool is that???

It would really tickle me to hear on June 13 that more Dems showed up to vote in the primary than republicans.  And to be honest, it would incite fear into the republicans, which would be a bonus for showing up.

If your favorite candidate is running uncontested, show up anyway.  There are lots of other choices to be made.  Show up and show some enthusiasm.  Because it is the enthusiasm that will grow that Blue Wave and wash the corruption and crazy out of our government.

That nap I took was refreshing.  And now I am ready to get back in the fight.  I plan on spreading the word on races across the country, like that one between Beto O'Rourke and the hideous Ted Cruz, and here in SC where we can get rid of the phony Mark Sanford, "you lie" Joe Wilson and gun-slinging Ralph Norman.  And in our own state capitol, we've got a governor and state legislators that need to be retired.  Guys like Peter McCoy have been skating by while holding his party line for far too long; show up at the Democratic primary and shake things up by voting for his opponent.

Paul Ryan may have pretended to ignore our calls and postcards and rallies, but it is because of our energy that he is heading for the hills.  We don't need the DCCC to come out from hiding in order for our great candidates to win.  We have been winning without their help.  We can make that Blue Wave happen.

If we show up.


South Carolina Primary Day
Tuesday, June 12
  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Rare Ability to Piss Off Everyone

Party republicans here in SC are whining about the primary process.  It appears that they no longer like the open primaries that they have in the past used to great success.  In fact, they are so up in arms that they are finally moving toward changing to a closed system.  Democratic party officials, not to be outdone, are pissed off that a Democrat colored outside the line.

The big brouhaha is over former Bernie Democrat Dimitri Cherny, who has switched party affiliation in order to primary Mark Sanford in US House District 1.  The problem for republicans is that Cherny is using their own game against them.  The problem for Democrats is that he isn't playing the game by the rules.  The rules that republicans have consistently broken in order to win, and which has over the years given them control over all branches of government, including of late the Supreme Court.

Back in 2010, a smart and unscrupulous republican realized that if certain key state districts could be won and legislatures handed over to republicans, that would enable them to control the upcoming redistricting.  What resulted was the bizarre gerrymandering we have today, wherein most Democrats are swept into one huge district, and many other districts have a comfortable republican margin.  Read the brilliant book Ratf**cked by David Daley for the incredibly ballsy details behind Project REDMAP.  And note:  REDMAP 2020 is in the works.

Closer to home, and back to the republican snit over Cherny registering as a republican, we have indeed had our own questionable candidates.  Back when I was a new and naive blogger, there was Alvin Greene, who despite being totally unknown, handily defeated Vic Rawl in the Democratic primary.  Greene had no prior political experience or ambition.  A closer look (and there were lots of those) found him to have right-wing views on major issues and a couple of pending obscenity charges.  Before the primary he had done no campaigning.  Boy, were our faces red.

The media tried to come up with a number of lame excuses for why his candidacy -- and win -- were legitimate,  from Rawl only campaigned with robocalls and emails, to Greene's name was first alphabetically and on the ballot.  The most logical reason that an Alvin Greene could end up competing against Jim DeMint for the Senate is that he was a republican plant.

Then we have the twenty-year perennial candidate Ben Frasier, who popped up every couple years like Punxutawny Phil to primary a Democrat here in Charleston.  Each election season he dropped in with questionable residency and the ability to disrupt credible races and drain a candidate's financial resources.  He infuriated party elders like Jim Clyburn who accused him of being a plant, but was unstoppable.

Both the Alvin Greene and Ben Frasier fiascos left Democratic Party officials skittish, to say the least.  When Jay Stamper attempted to run against Lindsey Graham in 2014, rumors about his legitimacy had Dems running for cover.  He was not even allowed to introduce himself at a Charleston Democratic group meeting.  At the time, he seemed to me just the kind of candidate that could beat the republican:  fearless, smart, ballsy.  In other words, just the kind that republicans would fear and that Democrats... would also fear.

Stamper was running as a Democrat.  So it is not surprising that Dimitri Cherny would get at best the same kind of welcome as did Stamper.  Given that we actually do have two Democrats running in the primary for SC House District 1, it would make sense that we want our voters to show up for that particular primary.  Cherny has suggested it would be cool for Dems to choose to vote in the republican primary so they can vote for him.

I love you, Dimitri, but that's not going to happen.  What is more likely to happen, however, and what has republican panties in a bunch, is that he can throw a wrench into their primary, which with Dimitri now has three candidates.  I find that absolutely delightful.  Cherny is likely to appeal to younger and/or angrier voters, and given the third candidate, a woman, there is indeed a possibility that Sanford will not easily walk away with a primary win.  And even a win will leave him with republican voters who voted for one of the other candidates.  For once in his graced political life, Mark Sanford might end up breaking a sweat.

The neat thing about Cherny's run is that he just might get some people to get engaged on issues.  Sanford mumbles and bobs-and-weaves his way into sounding like he agrees with just about every stand, and then goes into Congress and votes 100% party line.  As a recent notable example, he happily showed up at town halls last year and expressed total understanding and sympathy over those who did not want to lose Obamacare, and then voted for each of the horrific repeal bills.  Most recently he voted for tax cuts for the rich, his true constituents.   And while he is smart enough to be against drilling off our own coast, he totally supports oil and gas company rights to drill every-damn-where else.  Leaving his supporters back home thinking he is on their side, with no one to challenge him.

The way I see this is:  Sanford wins, and has to go against a Democrat without as united a front as he has had in the past; OR, his republican opponent wins and without the name recognition leaves the Dems with a more level playing field.

OR, Dimitri Cherny wins.  And in the general election we have a Bernie Democrat running against... a Democrat.

No wonder republicans are so pissed off they are actually planning on changing the system.  But Dems, how about lightening up?  Take a page from the truly successful republican playbook and make lemonade out of this strange lemon.  You could just end up winning.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Ironic Cherry Reads... What's Up with James Comey?

The Unmaking of the President
2016
by
Lanny J. Davis



I am not a fan of James Comey.  He is smug and smarmy and carries himself with the self-satisfied aura of Mike Pence and Neil Gorsuch.  I look forward to reading what promises to be a self-serving memoir entitled A Higher Loyalty much as I looked forward to the 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels; that is, with a great deal of skepticism.

I picked up the book, The Unmaking of the President 2016, when it came up in my library search for Comey's book.  With all the Trump/Russia/election books out there, this one seemed to have gone under the radar.  Since I have less time to waste these days, I did a quick google search for the author and the book, and decided it would be worth the effort.  And I needed a more objective narrative before I tackled Comey in his own words.

It is a shame that we are reading trash like Fire and Fury while this book goes unnoticed.  It is a clear and well-documented record of the FBI "investigation" of Clinton's emails, and describes precisely how -- and why -- this incredible interference into the 2016 presidential election came to be.

Going way back to the reporting on the initial fake Clinton scandal known as Whitewater, Davis describes the biased and inaccurate reporting of the New York Times, and then the similar biased coverage in its misleading reporting of the FBI email investigation.  In a nutshell:  When the fact of Hillary's use of a private email server became news, she said, "I want the public to see my email(s).  I asked State to release them.  They said they will review them for release as soon as possible."  This routine "security investigation" to determine if any documents to be released were confidential was reported by the Times as a "criminal investigation."

Throughout, insinuations became headlines, and corrections and clarifications were buried near the bottom of the page.  Right wing media like Fox and Breitbart began the rallying cry and mainstream media led by the Times was all too happy to follow suit.  And it was Clinton season in the political hunting world once again.

The sainted Comey (self-sainted, I would like to add) may have been best known for the moral stance he took by standing up to Bush administration pressure to reauthorize illegal spying.  But, as recounted in The Guardian, Comey is not a huge fan of civil liberties.  He has backed torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention.  Davis claims that Comey's heroic act had more to do with "technical issues" -- and maybe also the fact of the Bush administration trying to do an end run around Comey to get to a hospitalized John Ashcroft -- than with principled opposition to the program.

Democrats have been heralding Comey as a hero once again since his firing by Trump.  Of course, the idiot-in-chief tried to con the Democrats by saying Comey was fired because of the bad things he did to Hillary --  even though he admitted on national TV that he indeed fired Comey because of the "Russier thing."  While we aren't buying that load of Trump manure, we should also be wary of the man who said during his Senate testimony:  "It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.  But honestly, it wouldn't change the decision."

There have been things about Comey and the FBI leading up to the election that have made me mildly nauseous as well.  I have wondered about Comey's anti-Clinton bias, as he was supposed to have been honorable and non-partisan.  I wondered at his extremely poor judgment and apparently partisan exposure of the Clinton investigation while keeping the Trump investigation under wraps.  And I wondered why on earth he would make the announcement that he was reopening the investigation on October 28, going against long-standing DOJ policy not to make public announcements that close to an election that might effect the outcome.

Which leads us to Rudy Giuliani and the New York FBI.  Ignorant as I am about the goings on of the New York FBI, there was just something squirrelly about Giuliani's gleeful and somewhat mad TV appearances days and even weeks before Comey's October 28 surprise.  Because "surprise" was exactly what Giuliani was crowing about.  Davis explains this puzzle in a way that makes all the crazy pieces fit.

Take years of a rabid republican Congress trying to dig up scandal against the presumed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, add to that the festering Giuliani and his New York FBI cronies, and top it off with a year and a half of Trump's paranoid harangue that everybody is out to get him and the election is being rigged.  The end result is Comey being twisted and influenced because of his own need to be seen as above the fray, morally and politically superior to those around him.

Davis ends his argument with an impressive chapter detailing objective measures that point to the effect of the Comey letter on the outcome of the election.  Yes, it is possible, and he does not just point to a single poll but several measures that show strong consensus in the dramatic changes that occurred after October 28.

The last chapter of the book is a strange one, in that it led me to ask:  "Why is this here?"  It is labeled "Epilogue" and details the impeachment process and twenty-fifth amendment:  the history, the process and the relevance.  Again, it is well-drawn and important, but really has nothing to do with Comey.  At all.  I couldn't help but imagine that the author was so impassioned by the need to rid ourselves of the scourge of Donald Trump (as are we all) that he just had to include this appeal.  Whatever his reasoning, I'm glad his editors let this tangential bit in.

I am also glad that I found this book before diving into Comey's memoir.

One last thought:

A better title might have been, "The Unmaking of the Presidency."