Mitch McConnell

Leaving his policy stances aside, Mitch McConnell is a genius political strategist. To be able to be so detached from his own words and actions in the past, and speak now as if he didn’t mastermind the Strategy of No that the Rs employed against Obama… it’s ridiculous and pathological and pure evil genius. He’s not a statesman, he’s not a representative, he’s as beset by a blind compulsion for the next “win” as a junkie to their next fix. He’s willing to say anything as long as it plays well with the people it needs to reach, and everyone else be damned. It’s nearly impossible to fight that sort of detachment from practicality.

Finally Ready To Talk About It

Trump got elected and there are many reasons why, but here’s the big ones.

Sexism. From the very beginning, we’ve been told Hillary is unlikable, despite a lack of evidence to prove it. In fact, in interviews I’ve seen where she lets down her guard and laughs/jokes/shows emotion, she seems pretty likable to me. Maybe she’s a bit reserved, but lifetime of getting the shit hammered out of you by political opponents would probably make anybody a little cautious. Oh and she’s kind of dorky, but she’s a policy wonk so that’s to be expected.

What remains is that no other candidate for president in my lifetime has been sold by the opposition as being unlikable in the way that she has. Opponents to the left and right used it against her. “Shrillary” they called her because her voice wasn’t deep or measured, like a man, all the time. Constant criticism and scrutiny of her style of dress. Again, I’ve never seen a presidential candidate scrutinized so heavily for their appearance.

Her opponent was a man who is genuinely unlikable. He built his entire brand on being unlikable. His whole schtick is centered around the idea that he will fire you, put you on blast, and say whatever the hell he wants whenever he wants and berate, bully, and threaten you if you dare respond. Double standard much, dudes?

Racism. Donald Trump and Steve Bannon tapped into the raw energy and emotion of White Supremacists. Not since Pat Buchanan has a candidate been so blatantly nationalist and anti-immigrant. Overt, active white supremacists were empowered by this election like no other election in my lifetime. Donald Trump might not be a white supremacist like those skinheads and Klan members, but he sure doesn’t care whether they’re emboldened or not. And he sure doesn’t care what consequences his rhetoric has as far as the proliferation of hate crimes nationwide is concerned. You didn’t have to be hood wearing Klan member or shaved-head Nazi to feed into this. There are many more of those racists who deny it than the ones who wear it on their sleeve. They’re the ones for whom Make America Great Again kind of means to make it white again. It’s that subversive racism that is more dangerous than the overt kind because you can’t touch or see it, and it gets people like Trump elected.

America’s working class feels left behind. Here’s where I might depart a bit from my friends. Many folks have been unwilling to look past those first two things. [For the record: his isms and phobias were enough for me. I didn’t need to know more] I also think it’s very important to examine this piece of the election dynamic if we’re going to defeat him and his ilk in the future.

We have to recognize that socio-economic conditions played a role as well as sexism and racism. I’m going to say it plainly: It’s not fair to say wholesale that America’s white working class are sexist and racist and that’s why they voted Trump (those who did). Sexism and racism are pervasive and systemic and white people, especially men, always benefit from it. That’s a known known in my equation. I’m not denying it or excusing it. I do want to separate the issue of working class angst for the purposes of this essay.

My perspective here is that of a stepchild, grandson, grand-nephew, great-grandson and great-grand-nephew of Longshore workers. They worked the docks in Portland and Vancouver and our family is a strong working class union family. Dockworkers have been hit hard by the recession like all of the working class has.

Union rank and file, especially on the docks, in the mills, and manufacturing plants are tough and don’t suffer fools. They protect each other, and stand up for what they feel is right. After years of seeing their jobs depleted, being turned away at the hiring halls, and struggling to feed their families, they’d had enough. These folks would have voted for Bernie, because he represented dumping the neo-liberal bosses off their backs, AND a change toward a more egalitarian society. With no Bernie in the picture because of Democratic Party elite-fuckery, they were left with another populist voice, as batshit crazy as it was. Workers strike when wages and conditions get bad, and conditions had gotten bad enough. So the typically Dem voting workers decided to go on strike, and it cost Clinton the election.

The problem. Trump’s campaign hinged one primary narrative: The political establishment abandoned the working class and he was going to bring the jobs back.

This, like a lot of what he says, flies in the face of reality. He said the Globalist Democrats let the jobs go overseas because of these damn dirty trade deals. He spoke specifically about manufacturing and coal in many of his speeches. Well the truth is: manufacturing jobs in a lot of cases were given to robots, not Chinese workers. Coal jobs went away because coal is old technology and the oil industry is phasing it out and moving toward shale.

The truth is that capitalism left the working class behind, and the Neo-liberal politicians on both sides of the aisle did nothing to stop it. Communities, people, and the environment are all externalities to capitalism, and aren’t reflected in the bottom lines that shareholders see. If I have 80 workers that can be replaced by 5 robots, I’m going to save a lot of money on payroll. That’s going to increase profits and I’m going to get a fat bonus. I don’t care about what those layoffs do to the community because that just doesn’t have an impact on the company I’m in charge of.

This is a bill of goods Trump sold the working class though. He can’t make those jobs come back. They’re gone for good – and I haven’t seen any indication that he’s the kind of person who could negotiate the bi-partisan effort that would be required to either create retraining and reeducation programs in these hard hit areas – or – to create a jobs program that would create new opportunities nationwide to rebuild our failing infrastructure. Many, much better politicians [Obama] have promised these very things and have not been able to deliver.

So while I don’t believe that these working class whites voted for Trump because they’re all the kind of overt racists that liked his nationalistic, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, sexist message… I DO think they were willing to overlook it his rhetoric [and that’s just as harmful].

I heard somebody say after the election: Clinton supporters took Trump literally but not seriously and Trump voters took him seriously but not literally. That is to say they took him at his word that he’d shake up the establishment, but they didn’t take every word he said literally – the majority thought he was a goofy gaffe machine.

We can’t undo the severe impact of Trump’s words – the hate crimes, or the fear of further reprisal, that families will be torn apart, benefits stripped, and rights taken away. We can band together though, and we can try to reach out to our working class and rural neighbors and show them some love. We’re in this mess because we let ourselves get closed off to the world outside our bubbles. Rural folks, just minutes away from our own communities, were written off as dumb, racist, hicks – and they wrote us off as snobby, bourgeoisie, city-slickers. But the truth is, we’re all the same in that we’re all different. These labels don’t apply universally to anybody, and we should really make the effort to get to know each other on a personal level, and support each other. That’s how we beat Trumpism and the wave of white supremacy. hate, and other ugliness that his election has brought and will keep bringing. We’re not enemies, but we’ve been divided, and that cannot stand.

I hope you’re all doing as well as you can, in these times.

Love.

On Diversity in our Organizing

At the last meeting of the Thurston County Progressives group, there was a call out from a member, a woman who identified herself and her partner as tribal members, that the mostly white room needs to reach out to people of color. There was a lot of head nodding in agreement.

That got me to thinking a lot about diversity and this common goal among white progressives to “reach out” to people of color, to create a plan for that outreach and execute it.

I want to push back against this a little bit. First, the notion that you have to create a special and separate plan for outreach to people of color kind of perpetuates white normalcy, does it not? Isn’t it saying that people of color are different and should be treated differently?

People are people, if you’re talking about and doing something about issues they care about, they’ll hang out with you. If you don’t, they won’t. So, instead of creating an outreach plan, just look around and you’ll find plenty of resources that will tell you what issues are important and make those issues your own. Start doing the work, and people will join you. Too many dead end invitations are exactly why we don’t see more participation. It’s time to earn trust – by proving we’re for real.

#LoveIsAnAction

To my dear, sweet, fellow agents of change:
 
For the last 40 years or so we’ve lived in a Neo-Liberal nation. See a problem: monetize, privatize, militarize. Human life is an externality, and the loss of it, imprisonment of it, and suffering upon it are necessary “for the greater good.” This machine is powerful and refusing to go out without a fight – the Dems choosing Pelosi and Schumer as their leadership is absolute proof of that. We also see it on the local level with the monetization and privatization of social programs, with policies that ignore the environmental and human impacts of decisions made by our elected officials.
 
BUT LET’S STOP and think about how very close we came this year to bringing that to a halt.
 
Bernie… Yes… Bernie…
 
He didn’t win, because the neo-liberals of course would never let him. They knew the threat he posed to their way of being. Beyond the money, they’ve invested everything in their neo-liberal philosophies. It’s stamped into their core and they know no other way. But he came REALLY close.
 
We came too close this year to give up. Trump’s Neo-fascism is an ugly backlash against this system. His win is proof that the neo-liberals are weak, and also proof that he’s the best that agents of hate can muster – no real competition at all against the power of our love.
 
What do we do now? We organize. We don’t fight each other about tactics, we embrace each other, and ask:
 
“How can I help?”
 
Every action, done out of love, advances the cause. We’re not done. Our nation isn’t entering a dark time. Right now is just that darkest moment before the dawn breaks and the light fills the sky. I believe this truly. I don’t think I’m being naive or myopic or ridiculous.
 
This is not inevitable though, as with all things we have to put in the work. We have to be love, show love, and DO love in all things. Every day, every moment, ask yourself what the loving thing to do is. If we do that, we can’t be stopped.
 
Now get to work.

A Little Perspective, from Van Jones

I rarely post just links to someone else’s content but these videos from Van Jones were good enough to earn the honor. He gets to a perspective that we really need right now – that of the actual people on “the other side” of where you’re likely at if you’re reading this.

His point that we don’t have to be enemies to disagree is one that particularly resonates with me right now. Disagreement isn’t negative, it’s not an attack. Disagreement is where problems get solved. It’s where innovation is born.

If I call you out on your behavior it’s not because I’m attacking you, it’s because I love you. We always assume the worst of each other, and that needs to change. Assume “the other” loves you and see how your world can be different.

I hope you enjoy these, I’m sure there are more to come.

Service

This is the first time I’ve sat down at the keyboard to write something since Tuesday. I’ve been through a lot of the same shock and numbness that I’ve seen a lot of people vocalizing. Like most of my white friends, my shock was instinctually rooted in the fact that this country could elect a person like Trump – racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, admitted (proud) sex offender, etc – that shock is in willful ignorance of our POC and LGBTQ+ friends who have been TELLING US for years about the country we live in.

For a lot of people like me – who tend to rely on data and polls – we’ve been preaching that Clinton had it in the bag. Wrongness in the polls at that level would be certainly unprecedented and nearly impossible. We ignored that we’ve never had a candidate like Trump before, so of course something unprecedented was possible.

Over the last few weeks I’ve focused on the data, while many women, mostly the mothers, in my life have focused on their gut. Their guts hurt, they were worried, they couldn’t shake the sense of dread they were feeling.

To everyone: I’m sorry for ignoring you, I won’t make that mistake twice.

But this isn’t an election post, this is about service.

I’m a Veteran, and this being Veteran’s Day, if I decide to leave the house, someone will say, “Thank you for your service.” I’ve yet to meet a veteran who isn’t a little peeved by hearing that from a stranger. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the sentiment, people always mean well. For me, it’s that it devalues that word.

Service.

One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Cornel West:

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”

Love and service are intertwined and without love, service is a meaningless gesture built on sympathy or some other hierarchy where you’re putting yourself above others.

In my head the past few days there have been five words rolling around, looking for traction:

Magnanimity – our actions are rooted in grace, not fear and resentment.
Reciprocity – we give love and receive love in equal proportions so that we can rise together.
Community – we don’t look inward, we think of our neighbor first.
Love – we project it even in the face of hate or indifference.
Respect – we treat each other well, communicate directly, and choose radical honesty over politeness and comfort.

I choose these five things as my personal pillars. My guiding principles going forward. I choose to serve my world, love my friends, and stop shrinking away from my responsibility as a man of privilege to stand up and kick open doors.

If you’re reading this, I love you. Please share it and let’s start a revolution of the heart.

 

What is the Alt-Right?

Trump’s rise obliterated neoconservatism, and cemented the Alternative Right as the political movement du jour. What exactly is the Alt-Right, who is it, and what does this mean for the future of politics in the U.S.?

The “Alt Right” is a term used more today than ever before. Trump’s campaign is rooted in Alt Right philosophies and dogma. If you only read liberal media, you probably think that the alt-right is a neo-fascist, neo-nazi, white supremacist movement seeking to undo civil rights and equal protections. Like anything though, the truth isn’t so simple.

First let’s look closely at the Alt-Right. There are four parts to the movement as it is:

The Intellectuals

Paleoconservatism is probably the best home for the Alt-Right in the pantheon of political labels. Some of the notable intellectuals of the Alt-Right are:

Jared Taylor – white nationalist and Executive Editor of the website, American Renaissance
Richard Spencer – Identitarian, and President of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think-tank in Washington DC
H.L. Mencken – anti-semite, white nationalist, racist… and I think he did some writing also.
Julius Evola – neofascist, antiegalitarian, antiliberal, antidemocratic, and antipopular Italian philosopher
Sam Francis – paleoconservative journalist
Steve Sailor – Alt-Right blogger

They also draw inspiration from Pat Buchanan as well as from the French New Right.

The Meme Brigade

You hear about these folks more than any others on the Alt-Right. These are the people who brought you Gamergate, who attacked Leslie Jones, and are responsible for years of hateful, disgusting, trolling of women and people of color all over the internet – and especially places like 4chan. I’d say the jury is out whether they actually believe the hate, or just get off on being hateful. Not that it matter a bit if you’re in their crosshairs.

Donald Trump has been an avatar of their ideology: Say whatever the hell you want, about whoever you want, and never apologize. They’re a big part of his success in this campaign and we can think him for getting them politically engaged. If not for Donald Trump, these dudes would still be fapping away at their keyboards, anonymously hate-trolling women on Twitter.

The 1488ers

This is what you think the Alt-Right is if you only follow liberal media. These are the hateful, nasty, confederate flag and swastika sporting poster children of this political movement, even though they don’t have great numbers. In fact, most Alt-Righters wish the 1488ers didn’t exist.

1488ers want to destroy people who aren’t straight and white. I don’t think I need to tell you much more about them.

The Natural Conservatives

This is the “mainstream” of the Alt-Right, and is actually who you should think of when you think of them. They’re tribalist, protectionist, and isolationist. They reject individualism, egalitarianism, social progress, and diversity, in favor of homogeneity, stability, hierarchy, and familiarity.

If the 1488ers hate and want to destroy people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+ folks, etc – then natural conservatives are made uncomfortable by and want to avoid them. That means closing the borders, eliminating protections for vulnerable people, and shutting down entitlements. To preserve their culture and way of life, they will often vote or act against their own economic and social interests.

The Alt-Right believes there is a crisis in our country. That their way of life is at risk, being threatened daily by the scourge of diversity, political correctness, immigration, etc. They rage against identity politics as a great enemy of their heritage, individualism a great evil.

Their crisis is not actually identity politics, it is their own lack of identity. American whites no longer have an ethnic or cultural home. We have only the plastic facade of our own marketing of the American Dream mythos. White people assimilated themselves to the consumer culture so well that they left no shred of anything else to hold onto. Whiteness isn’t actually a thing, after all, no homeland, no history, no songs, and no stories – nothing to be proud of, nothing to mourn. So the perception that non straight white people are going to ruin everything they’ve worked so hard for is a sort of sick projection of their inner dialog around their loss of a sense of place or cultural purpose.

The Alt-Right movement, and Trump – I think – is a last gasp of American White Maleness as dominator. This is not the start of a political revolution, this is the death of a dynasty.