Friday, August 28, 2020

Impunity is Soulless*

Trump has lived a life without consequences, without accountability, slathered in privilege and autarchy. We are supposed to be a nation governed by the rule of law in which everyone agrees that no person receives privilege of exemption, where acts of impunity are shamed and then prosecuted. But why we have learned from Trump is that Republicans don't care about any of those values or concerns. He's "telling it like it is" by breaking norms and setting new precedents. They don't even seem to care that they have awoken the Balrog from the depths of darkness, the genie is out of the bottle, the toothpaste outta' the tube---there may be no going back, the path ahead only more abuse, more impunity and disregard for decency and law.

Heather Cox Richardson here quotes Norm Ornstein who works for the conservative American Heritage Institute, which has never been a friend to progress and rarely indulged in honesty when it comes to Republicans abuse of power (or anything else):
"People have been fired for sending flyers around for a municipal election that was partisan,” Ornstein says. “Every time Kellyanne Conway in her official capacity made a statement that was partisan, it was a violation of the Hatch Act. Every cabinet member, every border patrol member, every federal employee participating in the activities at the White House tonight violated the Hatch Act. This was the most blatant abuse of power and legal authority for partisan purposes by far than anything we have ever seen by a president or an executive branch.” Violations of the Hatch Act are supposed to result in removal from office, but punishment for the numerous violations in this administration has been minimal."

Machiavelli ain't in it, not even the more radical claims to the exercise of monocratic rule that Kautilya legitimizes in the name of security and order. What is before us is the choice between law and lawlessness, some form of accountability and outright tyranny. Who in the world is going to stop a Trump who wins a second term? Do Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley really believe they can manage this mad king or is it that they aspire to be his heir in his own image? We are looking down the barrel of democracy and the gun is, as it always is in America, easily available, locked, loaded, and ready to be used with...impunity.

With great power comes great responsibility but America's toxic privilege, rooted in the hypocrisy, duplicity, and impunity of its origins in white supremacy, cares only for power, privilege, wealth, and domination. "Individuality" is now liberty defined as selfish disregard fora anything but one's own needs and wants. Freedom is no longer shared commitment to each other but was it ever?

When Reagan was elected I thought we could still recover, push the oleaginous charlatan evangelists to the periphery and make a way forward despite them. Like Falwell, Jr. we know who they really are even without the Pool Boy's tell all. Hubris and hypocrisy has its get outta jail free card in the phony soporifics of repentance and absolution---so he'll be back, they all are so long as there's a dime to steal and a sucker to be duped. Fox knows this every single hour of its "news" programming. That the likes of Hannity, Carlson, and Ingrahm have their loyal audience reveals in plain sight that America's white nationalism is as much a kleptocracy of greed and stupidity as it is racism.

That the majority will disagree---Biden will win the popular vote by perhaps 5 million or more, more than Obama had defeating Romney---well, this is what gives me even a shard of hope. But that I'm neither hopeful nor hopeless means that I am still not wholly resigned. Only a Trump re-election could accomplish that.

King, Lewis, Obama, and I am sure Biden all believe that our day will indeed come, that we will arrive at the mountaintop, that America will fulfill its promise. I am wholly unconvinced, which disqualifies me from any public office, perhaps even from patriotism itself. What I hope is just that on November 4th or whenever the votes are finished being fairly counted, there is even the shard of an America worth saving at all. I resist the cynical in favor of the ordinary strife that comes with candor. This battle for America's soul will reveal if we ever had any at all. 

*with apologies and exception to our Buddhist no-soul pals, of course, I demur from polemics here to invoke Tubman, Douglass, Truth, Parks, and James Brown for a definition of soulfulness.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Binaries Apply

It's usually imprudent to reduce matters to binaries. Too many things happen in the in between. But not this time. This time it's not a choice. That is where we have arrived. It is binary.

It's the simplest test of character but not between candidates. That has already been revealed. It is 
America's test.

The strategy taken at the Democratic convention was to restate the fact of the binary.
It's not the policy differences though they matter.
It's not conservative versus progressive though that will serve as cover.
All of those things matter but that is not the choice. We are voting to save the soul of democracy but it goes even deeper, if that is possible.

The choice is between good and evil. President Obama made it patently clear. Michelle Obama could not have been more effective in making the point. Will America stop evil or succumb to it? That evil extends from Trump to the complicit entirety of elected Republicans.

Trump has demonstrated once again that you don't have to "believe" in evil to know that it's real. Every. Day. Is. Worse. Trump in defeat will attempt to burn the world, blame everyone but himself, and care for nothing but himself---because that's what evil will do. His dupes will continue to follow because their grievance is his grievance: this is the nature of any cult. But it will remain to be seen is if the other rats---Sasse, McConnell, Rubio, Cruz,,--- will finally abandon his sociopathy to try to save themselves. The Republican's armada is about to meet a Blue Tsunami.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Biden Chooses Harris, and Krsna Gets It

There is both a human touch and a political calculation here that suits me just fine. Allow me to don the toque of pundit qua Krsna, which means pure political calculation, something Krsna of Mahabharata makes sure everyone knows is a vital feature of _survival_. There ain'tgonna be nuthin' else if we don't survive, a lesson that the Yadava prince never fails to offer. Ask Jarasamdha.
This is not an argument, this is survival.
All that, what is the calculation? Choose to win. Choose survival and progress as you can. The demons are not going away. The demons are always going to be there and even when they deserve no seat at the table you must deal with them and often make a deal with them. Yes, make a deal with demons. This has to happen. Or you fight to the death. That is not the preferable choice. There are costs no matter what and your friends can be disappointed in you even when you know acting in good faith and doing what you can wins no applause. But the way to progress is to seize the moment. When you have momentum, criticality has occurred, then take it. Inflection points must be used when they give you advantage. Under the entropic circumstances of the usual banalities, you must make the deal you can get or decide not to. So let us apply the model where Krsna wants victory to restore decency and live another day.

As I see it, two things happened.

First, Biden's instincts are to bring things together, to work a deal. This is hardly that popular even when the partisan atmosphere is nothing less than liquid fire raging the landscapes of decency. People with strong political ideologies don't fancy the compromiser unless _that_ is their ideology. You have to believe that the system of levers, checks, and balances delivers change slowly and then under criticality. (Have we arrived at such a crucial inflection point with BLM? One hopes.) But the process is always going to create unwanted features of any compromise: you lose something or agree to something that you would not prefer. Did you go "too far" with the other side? Did you sell your soul? Judgment calls all. Biden chose someone who does not present herself as a radical but as one willing to make a deal (within the systems of messy governance). All the while that same choice has deeply progressive ideas and values, looking to find their way into every compromise necessary. I believe that those are Biden's instincts too. He will be as progressive as he can be to get a deal. Whether the deal is worth the cost is always the issue. But the instinct comes from being forward looking, progressive even. It is not arrived at with proposals that warm the left because they ask for things that scare people. It's that simple, "defund the police" for all its _genuine_ meaning and wisdom might be the dumbest political articulation since the last time they failed to win enough hearts and minds. Stop scaring people, is the first summary point. Then move forward.

Next, how do you inspire people once you have stopped scaring them? Biden has done that by choosing a person of character, intellect, experience, who reaches into important issues of community and gender. This is the obvious part, no? But "inspiring people" means getting out the vote and that means WHO is going to vote. The Krsna Calculation is this: Biden/Harris reaches more deeply into moderate Black voters, college-educated women and white suburbanites than it does lefty educated whites or young people. The bet is that the lefty adults will show up sufficiently because they will finally act like adults after they stop being upset, disappointed, wringing their hands, foreboding of failure, and claiming they were robbed or that the DNC sucks. The further bet is that young people will not vote in sufficient numbers to make their inspirations worth the costs. Leap left with progressive youngsters and watch yourself lose the suburban middle just enough not to make up the difference. But really it's simpler than that: college and just older? They never show up. Not convincingly enough to bank on them. Assign them a term paper with 15 weeks of lead time and watch them make excuses why they couldn't get it done. Sorry not sorry true: also Krsna Calculation candor.

So Biden did the obvious thing which is sometimes the best thing. Turn out in PA, OH, MI, FL, AZ, WI, NC and this nightmare is over. Then healing and rebuilding and looking forward. Harris will heal, rebuild and urge Joe forward. But forward will be the "surprise." You see when the white nationalist rich and stupid complain that this is a "far left, radical" agenda, they are not _entirely_ wrong. Most of their fears are true: judges, regulations, the rule of law, police reform, education, civil rights...all of those things will be on the agenda. Rage on, calmly.