Category: Election 2016

Presidential Elections in Which I Voted

Somebody asked me the other day, whether I was satisfied with the candidates that the Democratic Party offered for the Presidency. These are the Presidential elections in which I have voted, and the candidates for which I voted. And I answer that question, with one caveat, yes.

The caveat is Bill Clinton. I think Clinton was a good President. He ran the country. He handled a contrary Congress, and got his legislative priorities implemented. Unfortunately, he is a first class jerk. He did not provide the moral leadership that we needed. And, some of his ideas were just plain wrong.

  • 1972
    • Richard M. Nixon
    • George McGovern
  • 1976
    • Jimmy Carter
    • Gerald Ford
  • 1980
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Jimmy Carter
    • John B. Anderson
  • 1984
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Walter Mondale
  • 1988
    • George H.W. Bush
    • Michael Dukakis
  • 1992
    • Bill Clinton
    • George H.W. Bush
    • H. Ross Perot
  • 1996
    • Bill Clinton
    • Robert Dole
    • H. Ross Perot
    • Ralph Nader1
  • 2000
    • George W. Bush
    • Al Gore
    • Ralph Nader
  • 2004
    • George W. Bush
    • John Kerry
  • 2008
    • Barack Obama
    • John McCain
  • 2012
    • Barack Obama
    • Mitt Romney
  • 2016 ??

  1. Since I lived in Oregon, and Clinton was locked in to win that state, I gave my vote to the Green Party, in hopes of getting the Party certified for matching funds on the national ballot. The party needed a percentage of the vote to qualify. 

The Clinton-Sanders Axis

“He said – she said” is a piss-poor paradigm on which to make judgements about political candidates. Why should I care about what the candidate said, when I can look at what he or she has done?

Two qualities of Democrats and so-called progressives that I find particularly annoying are:

  • No loyalty, neither to the brand nor to the candidates
  • No patience, no willingness to work on a long plan to achieve goals

One reason conservatives can hold the line, even when they hold positions deeply unpopular within the public, is that they remain committed to the party brand, and to each other as bearers of the standard. The hidden benefit to the Tea Party rampage is that its members have broken the line; the brand loyalty, and the solidarity of shared sacrifice are breaking down on the right. However, because the Left is equally disloyal, and uncommitted to its brand, it can’t take advantage of the breaking apart of the enemy ship.

For as long as I have been voting, which is a pretty long time, the Democratic Party, and especially its liberal base, has focused on and looked to the national government as its base for implementing social change. This probably is an outcome of the civil rights struggle, the legal aspect of which had to be fought at the national level. But, the national victory was based on local struggle. The bus boycott, Selma, the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, and the like, were the foundation on which the legal scaffolding was raised.

The conservatives regrouped after the losses of the 60s and early 70s. They looked for another way to get their policies into power. That other way was through local government. At the outset, they probably had no idea that liberals would simply roll over and take a nap, leaving the small potatoes to the conservatives because they thought owning the big potato would trump all that little stuff.

We are now 40 years into the process, and conservatives fairly well own the country. The only piece of the political pie which the Democrats have been able to contest successfully in the past 30 years is the Presidency. And that may be on the brink, what with so-called progressives in the Democratic Party again playing the old “I’ll take the ball and go home, if you don’t make me QB” theme.

Tired of compromise? You’re tired of government. The essence of government is that you don’t get your own way all the time. I’ll tell you what. The other side is tired of compromise, too. And they’d like nothing better than for you to forfeit the game, and let them have complete control of the government. Which will then rapidly cease to be government and become the state of fear and repression.

Democrats have been, for four decades, the gold medal champions of Own Goal sports. The rights and liberties of the whole nation have been dribbled away by single issue voters, behaving for all the world like old men with weak streams, pissing on their own shoes and down the legs of their trousers. On the right, the single issue voter has nothing to lose. He will gladly surrender to theocracy, or any system that will reserve rights to his own particular group. On the left, ostensibly, the single issue voter has been contending for the rights and liberties of all Americans. Events have shown us that such is not the case — and that the contention is for the top spot, the QB, the Big Chair — who gets to decide what’s important, and who is left to ask politely for favors.

I don’t know that the party, and what it stands for, can be saved. The ability to work together, as a team, to accomplish concrete and recognizable goals, is key to the success of any political and social movement — just as it is to any other undertaking. The ability to see the connections between all the disparate members of a set of goals, and work them into your plan for success, is key to the leadership of the team. Even Hillary Clinton, who to my mind is far and away the most capable candidate on the floor today, has the vision to see the goals, and at least some of the connections; but not the vision to communicate the connections to the party.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

— Theodore Roethke

Sanders v Clinton: In the Trenches

Berniebots

Semi-regularly, supporters of Bernie Sanders complain about the insulting behavior of Clinton supporters, especially the labelling of them as “Berniebots,” and the like.

Berniebot, n.

  1. A supporter of Bernie Sanders for President, who uncritically accepts everything positive about that candidate and uncritically rejects everything negative.
  2. A supporter of Bernie Sanders for President, who spams a discussion forum with memes ridiculing Hillary Clinton’s appearance, ideas, and occasionally, even her political positions.

When the Berniebot spams out these memes, what is the goal of the activity? Not to persuade Clinton supporters to change their votes, of course. Even allowing for the fact that they’re bots, and not thinking about what they’re doing, the bot programmer would understand that caricature and ridicule persuade no one to change a position on any subject.

I believe the activity can be laid to three intentions. First, the Berniebot gets a frisson of smug satisfaction at its own cleverness and at its own above-average intelligence. The bot is not “one of those fools” who has “fallen for” the other candidate’s lies. Nor is it “one of those hypocrites” who falsely professes liberal or progressive views.

Secondly, the bot wants the positive reinforcement of generating amusement among its compatriots. Ridiculing the outsider is a well-known tool with which groups solidify and maintain their cohesion.

Finally, the bot wants to drive away the supporters of the other candidate. On the one hand, Berniebots have free play in spamming the forum with rude messages. On the other hand, supporters of the other candidate are cautioned repeatedly to “stop the insulting behavior.” When the group is split unevenly, maybe 70-30, it’s natural for the bot programmers to want to scrape off that 30% holding the wrong views. The political circle jerk is one of the most common forms of intellectual masturbation. Sanitized conservative groups have no exclusive patent on holding members of the collective responsible for maintaining purity of thought.

This relentless pursuit of group think is one of the oldest forms of political activism. Many people are that insecure in their understanding and comprehension of complex issues, that they need constant reinforcement from “their own kind.” They have my sympathy, but not my time. I have no difficulty in maintaining my integrity in the face of fierce opposition. While the Berniebot is building up mad skillz at the meme generator, I’m analyzing voting records, reading position papers, listening to interviews, searching out background information and expert analysis. Perhaps, one of these days, a Sanders supporter will program a bot to do the same.

Many Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008 were shocked and angry at decisions he made in his first term. The willingness to sacrifice Social Security, to cut spending in social services, to “vigorously pursue” whistleblowers, to maintain NSA spying, to use drones to bomb villages back to the Stone Age.  They were shocked and angry only because his speeches were the only part of his campaign to which they paid attention. I wasn’t one of them.  Whichever candidate shows up on the ballot in November 2016, I won’t be surprised by the post-election behavior then, either.

Hillary Clinton Gets My Vote – I

I admire Hillary Clinton.

Tough-minded, ambitious women are not popular in America. Even so-called progressives don’t like them. Hillary Clinton is one of those women.

When she was still an undergraduate student at Wellesley, classmates remarked that she would be America’s first woman President. Before she was out of her teens, she was already off the road of conventional bourgeois life. She was chosen by her classmates to be the first student in the history of the college to give the commencement address. That speech, in which she criticized then-Senator Edward Brooke, who was on the platform with her, received huge acclamation from her audience and led to Life Magazine featuring a profile of her.

From the very beginnings of her legal career, families and children were the focus of Clinton’s work. She worked at the Yale Child Study Center while a student at Yale Law School. She worked on child custody cases as an intern at Treuhaft, Walker and Bernstein, a law firm that specialized in Constitutional issues, and which was founded by two former members of the Communist Party known for their “radical left” views. While still at the school, she wrote the article “Children and the Law” for Harvard Law Review. In that article, she surveyed the legal precedents and case law for children, and advanced the view that children were “powerless individuals” under the law, who should not be (as they were at the time) regarded as being legally incompetent for the entire period of their minor status. Rather, she wrote, they should be considered as becoming gradually more competent as they grew up. This article became one of the foundations for modern legal opinion of children under the law.

Fresh out of law school, she went to work for the newly founded Children’s Defense Fund as its first staff attorney, and she provided legal consulting to the Carnegie Council on Children.

This focus on legal issues for families and children continued throughout the next twenty years. She co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She chaired the Arkansas Rural Health Advisory Committee and the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee. She created the Arkansas Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth to help families get their preschoolers ready for school.

During those years, she also found time to become the first woman to chair the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation, the first woman on the Walmart board, the first woman to be made full partner at Rose Law Firm, one of only two women on the faculty at the Law School, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She chaired the board at the Children’s Defense Fund and the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession. She continued to write scholarly articles on children and the law. She served on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Legal Services. Twice, she was recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top one hundred most influential attorneys in the United States.

What’s wrong with this career? Hillary Clinton is not a man. Such an intensity of purpose, such ambition, would cause no remark if its owner was male. For most of the Clinton marriage, Hillary Clinton was the principal breadwinner. Oh, no you don’t, uh-uh, this is Murica.

After she left private life in 1992, to become First Lady, she did not stop being an advocate for families and children. Throughout the long years of being pilloried as a veritable Satan, accused of murder, denounced as scum for not abandoning her philandering husband, with every aspect of her personal life turned into some kind of conspiracy of evil, — through all that, she continued to work on issues for children and families. Elected to office for the first time at age 53, she established herself in short order as one of the more effective Senators in the national legislature. She got things done. Her ability to lead, and create legislation that would be successful and that would become law, put her in the top half of the Senate by the end of her first term.

I watched the video of her “confrontation” with the Black Lives Matter activists. Toward the end, after she listens calmly to the guy berating her, she says, “Okay, what do you want me to do?” He’s stumped. She goes straight to the point — all these things he says are true, now what do we do about it? And he doesn’t have an answer; for which, later, he blames her.

Well, she says, you can fill Yankee Stadium with white people, and a million more besides, and they all say, “I hear you, I’ll try to be better,” and it will accomplish nothing. You have to change laws, and processes. Apparently, that’s not what he wanted to hear, and it pissed him off. But, that is exactly what I wanted to hear. Because that’s what I want from the leader of my country: someone who will go straight at the problem, someone who will focus on changing the laws and processes.

The end of segregated schools; the Voting Rights Act; the Civil Rights Act; the Fair Housing Act; did not come about because we waited for white people to wake up and decide to get moral. They didn’t come about because people burped out two-sentence sound bites about “income inequality” and published them on campaign photographs on the internet. They didn’t come about because career politicians gave good speech, or looked good in a suit. They came about because people like Hillary Clinton were willing to step into the scrum and move the ball forward.

She has my respect, and she gets my vote.