Category Archives: Politics

Purity Tests

Establishment Dems talk about ideological purity a lot and how the Left demands it, refuses to vote for candidates who aren’t ideologically pure, and thus, hurt the party. They frame this as “the Left won’t vote for anyone who’s not a hard-charging Bernie Sanders-style anti-capitalist crusader, and this is why Republicans win!” While there are definitely some on the Left who will agree on the first part, the second part is a total lie. The vast majority of those demanding “ideological purity” from Dems are literally just asking Democrats to run candidates who support Democratic ideals. The problem is, the rank and file and the establishment have very different ideas of what those are.

The Democratic Party is, in essence, a center-right, pro-business, socially moderate party with no strong ethos other than “don’t upset the money.” It is the GOP from 50 years ago, just with less backbone. The problem is that everyone who is in favor of that is either rich, in their 90s, or in the ground already. The modern non-GOP voter wants candidates that will work for them. And when I say “work for them,” I don’t mean some nebulous “work for the people,” I mean “actually make the lives of the non-rich better in these highly quantifiable ways.” The establishment does not agree with this.

The starkest difference between the Dems and the GOP is how they deal with ideology within their parties. The GOP has allowed a fringe authoritarian ideology drive them for the last 40+ years, leading to what we have today. Why? It’s loud and preys on fear, and it works. Older GOP politicians probably aren’t the raving proto-fascists we see today from the party, but pantomiming it to secure and maintain power makes them seem like that. Younger GOP pols? Wearing jackboots. Why? Because that increasing curve into authoritarianism generated true believers, who are beginning to take over. It went from “Mexicans are going to take your jobs!” to “we either win elections at the ballot box, or at gunpoint” because leading by fear produces extreme results.

Dems, on the other hand, refuse to be lead by their party. The establishment demands top-down control, and the top does not care much about the bottom. What it does let itself be lead by, unfortunately, is “The Middle.” The problem here is that, in our two-party system*, “The Middle” only matters if both parties are fighting over it. The GOP is not. It does not need the political center, because it operates on fanatical turnout from its base coupled with driving turnout down among others. The GOP does this in two ways: 1) making it difficult or impossible for those that aren’t likely to vote for them to vote at all and 2) preying on the discord the Democratic party itself generates internally to drive down turnout. And in doing this, they shift the center. The GOP has managed to shift the Overton window steadily to the right for decades by painting moderate Dems as burgeoning Stalinists, and in response, the Dem establishment moves to the right to try to prove them wrong. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t work.

There are, of course, “independent” voters, but they don’t represent “The Middle.” Most of them are low-info, reactionary voters who show up once every four years to vote for whichever candidate has made them care more. To be fair to them, though, most voters are low-info, because neither party likes an informed electorate. But Independents tend to say they don’t like either party, but typically it’s more that they don’t care enough to form an opinion longer than it takes to vote. The GOP strategy toward this group is either to keep them home or make them angry at Dems. Both strategies are super effective, because both are easy.

Look at when Dems have won – years that the GOP has been in control when the economy has tanked. Look at years the GOP has won – all the others. They win elections when they’re destroying the country, as long as the money isn’t being touched, because they excel at blaming Dems for their own failures and only lose when those failures are so horrifically large to shift all the blame on. Democrats, on the other hand, are completely inept at even taking credit for their own wins, and are constantly playing catch-up, which, in turn, moves the Overton window farther to the right.

This, in turn, leads the Dem establishment to further marginalize and demonize voices within the party calling for a move to the left, because they still think they can win “The Middle” by being centrists. The only thing they do is create a larger, more disaffected bloc that cannot be relied on to turn out. Rinse, repeat, definition of insanity. “But they won in 2020!” Did they? 2016 and 2020 should have been layup elections where they not only won the White House, but supermajorities in Congress. 2020 was not a win. All it did was barely hold the line. Heavily on display was the Dem establishment strategy of attacking the concept of ideological purity in favor of “what wins.” TWENTY-NINE Dem candidates for President, and they were mainly there to paint candidates like Sanders and Warren as outside the mainstream.

Contrary to what the Dem establishment would have us believe, “what wins” is candidates who say stuff like “it would cost lest money and lower your taxes to forgive student loans so let’s do it” instead of touting GOP lines like “what about people who paid theirs off?” Dem candidates aligning themselves with the establishment will pile on any outsider who says stuff that upsets the money, and piling on draws the money. Dems calling other Dems “socialist” is hilarious, because if you stop using that word and list what it means, that polls extremely well. But the money doesn’t like it. The only ideological purity that the Dem establishment cares about is fealty to the money.

And that’s the biggest difference between the Dems and the GOP. For all the squawking Dems do about ideological purity, the GOP has been practicing this for quite some time, and it works terrifyingly well. Republican voters purge anyone with even a hint of moderation in their primaries, general election consequences be damned, because their party is willing to sacrifice borderline districts in order to increase turnout everywhere, and slowly eat up more control of the process. GOP candidates that lose are considered failures unto themselves for not being pure enough. The Dem establishment paints center-left leaning candidates as threats to general election success, and either paints establishment candidate wins as vindication, or losses as the result of leftist spite.

* Yes, a two-party system, because like it or not, our Constitution does not allow for viable third parties.

Just a bit late

I usually do this in May each year, and what do you know, the fifteen years that was May just flew by. So here’s my Political Compass update:

Yep, that’s:
Economic Left/Right: -9.5
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.08

I’m sure current events may have something to do with that being the first time both of those numbers have hit -9, but it’s really right in the ballpark for me.

My Political Compass: 15 Years

I first took the Political Compass test in 2004, shortly after I became politically aware. Those were my heady days of idealism, with the zealot’s fervor of the converted. The test has remained unchanged in the intervening 15 years, and so has my general score on it.

Economic Left/Right: -9.0
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.56

Basically, I’ve remained a pinko. Age has not mellowed my beliefs, it’s just jaded my view of the process. I was young and idealistic in 2004, now I’m just old and fatalistic.

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

Governmenting is hard work. Representing hundreds of thousands of people can’t be easy, what with those unwashed masses demanding ‘accountability’ and ‘doing your job’.  Sometimes, what that job is might slip a representative’s mind.  So, this Valentine’s Day, show you appreciate your U.S. Representative (or closest Republican rep) by sending them a gift.  Here’s a suggestion:

Should be required reading yet isn't.

All Representatives are sworn in, affirming that they “will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” but maybe they don’t remember what that entails, or maybe they just haven’t read it.  So get them a copy.  It’s not an expensive gift (only $1.00 on Amazon!), but it’s the thought that counts.  And don’t worry, I’m sure that if someone else decides to also get a copy for them, they have a few hundred staffers who could also use a copy, so don’t worry about duplicates.

Send In The Marines

Look, I have an idea.  Let’s let the military handle policing.

What, that’s a bad idea?  Yes, yes, I know about the Posse Comitatus Act.  I know that “military occupation” isn’t exactly a happy thought.  But hear me out here – this is actually a legitimate idea.

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about the Army or the National Guard taking over for the police.  I’m talking more about something like the Coast Guard.  A new, separate branch of the military.  It would have an organizational command structure just like any other branch, with ranks and chain of command.  As police forces already have this, I’m not not talking about a huge organizational change at the local level.  What I am  talking about is a unified entity on a national scale.

Recruits would be drawn from every part of the country, assigned to a training base in a group, and trained as a whole.  Initial training would be the same as the military, with less of an emphasis on unit tactics and weaponry.  Recruits would be indoctrinated into the rules of military engagement, which are, quite honestly, more civilian-friendly than what’s being taught to the police currently roaming the streets.  Once the physical aspect of the training was over, there would be a more intensive criminal justice training.  Graduates from this 4-month boot camp would then be assigned to a one-year training cycle with a senior patrol training officer.  Assignments would be nationwide, not likely from the recruit’s hometown.  A large emphasis on community-based policing would be employed, with patrol officers building relationships.

Once the one-year assignment was up, recruits would become full-fledged patrol officers, and begin working their way up the various ranks.  They would be eligible for relocation assignments.  Police stations would become micro-bases, and the chain of command would follow up to the Pentagon level.  Internal investigations would be handled by a Judge Advocate General, a body far-removed from the patrol level and with much more transparency and oversight.

Military-style force (SWAT interdictions) would require authorization and coordination above the local level – the local police chief wouldn’t be able to call up a tank without going up the chain of command.

Look, we operate military and peacekeeping forces in active warzones, where anyone can be a combatant, and we still wind up with less civilian casualties from ground units.  We forge relationships on the ground to help the local populations.  When shit gets real and bullets start flying, we have rules for our soldiers, and when they break those rules, they are punished. We don’t have that for our police.  We don’t have police forces that integrate with the community.  I live in a relatively affluent, largely white area, and I don’t know a single police officer.  The ones I’ve interacted with have made me feel uncomfortable and I was just a possible witness. And I’m about as white as there is.

My point is that our individual police forces have failed many communities, particularly communities of color.  For those communities, the police are already an occupying force, one that abuses them with impunity.  Having the discipline, training, chain of command, transparency, and oversight of a military branch would turn policing into the community defense that it should be.

 

Priorities In Order

It’s safe to say there are some problems facing America right now, and here we are in the midst of a presidential election in a year where there is no incumbent running.  There will be a change in leadership.  This should be a time to reflect on the issues of the day, such as:

  • Despite the economy being stable and upwardly trending over the past eight years, the middle class is still dealing with the same lack of mobility and wage stagnation that it’s been beset with over the past 40 or so years.  The ‘American Dream’, as it were, is more and more just that – a dream – to all but the very well off.
  • Global terrorism is edging ever closer, affecting our allies in more and more instances.  Our attempt to contain the very beast our foreign policy has created over the past handful of decades has failed miserably, and it’s only a matter of time before we bleed for these mistakes again, even as we continue to make them.
  • Racial issues are approaching a new flashpoint, with a new Civil Rights movement emerging that will either be peacefully resolved or result in increasingly violent confrontation.
  • Europe is becoming a disorganized mess, and will require strong economic and political guidance from the strongest of its allies, particularly in the face of Russian expansion and sabre-rattling.

One would think that the sober heads in the Republican Party, who have spent the past 8 years dutifully providing loyal opposition, would be using their convention platform to outline their vision for tackling these issues.

But hey, why bother with that shit when you can devote time to addressing the indiscretions of a president who left office 15 years ago?  I’m sure that other stuff will solve itself.

Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Waiting For Black Jesus

Jonathan Bachman/Reuters
If you haven’t seen this image yet, you’re probably not reading this.

So much to unpack in this image.  So terribly, terribly much.  First off, Jonathan Bachman deserves a Pulitzer for this.  I understand right place, right time, perfect timing on the shutter, but this is an iconic photo.  Iesha Evans stands like a perfect statue of peace, eyes closed against the oncoming wave, arms crossed in front of her as if containing her power.  Her dress is caught ever so lightly by the breeze, giving her an ethereal, almost angelic quality, as if she’s just landed.  The riot officers, (thankfully) slowing, appear to be encountering her aura and repulsed by it.

That’s just the composition.

The reality is that Ms. Evans is about to be dragged down and zip-cuffed by two men more heavily armored than combat soldiers, men both nearly twice her size.  She represents zero threat.  No reasonable onlooker would conclude that she is armed. She is not in any way aggressive.  She is peacefully protesting, but committing the ultimate crime of blocking a thoroughfare. For this, the police deemed greater than military force was necessary.

Putting aside that I’m presented with yet another peaceful civilian being brutalized by a police force unconcerned with “serve and protect” and fattened on years of cheap military surplus, I have a different problem with this image and what it represents.  It’s almost too perfect.  It might actually work.  It might start to change public opinion about how policing is handled.  That’s great, but my question is: why this one?  Why this image? Why this woman?

Because we’re looking for Black Jesus.

These protests arose out of the general impression that minorities, particularly African-Americans, are assumed by the legal system to be guilty until proven innocent, unworthy of justice if they are, subject to summary punishment, that the system is unaccountable when it errs concerning their rights.  I could recite a litany of names here, but it would seem incomplete because there will be another one horrifyingly soon.  The largest issue is that even when the dead black (typically) man has done nothing to warrant roadside execution, the narrative always circles back to assume he somehow deserved it, somehow brought it on himself.  Maybe he was a criminal a decade ago.  Maybe he was rude.  Maybe he had a toy gun.  Maybe he was being suspicious.

In 1956, Rosa Parks was hauled off to jail for not giving up her seat on a bus.  Her’s wasn’t the first case, in fact, there was already a case working through the legal system that would successfully end Montgomery’s bus segregation.  But why were the women involved in that suit not raised up as icons of the Civil Rights movement like Parks was?  The first one to be arrested, Claudette Colvin, well, she was 15 and girl had a mouth on her.  She wouldn’t play well in the media.  She wasn’t a good face for the movement.  She wasn’t the Black Jesus they needed to show the injustice.  Similarly, all of these people who’ve wound up dead after interacting non-violently with police have been somehow less-than-holy.  Michael Brown may have robbed a store.  Freddie Gray was packing a knife.  Sandra Bland may have mouthed off to an officer.  Eric Garner was selling cigarettes.  Alton Sterling had a record.  No qualifiers for Black Jesus there.

Now we have Philando Castille, who, by all accounts, was a model citizen.  Gunned down without hesitation in his car after informing the officer that he was going to produce his permit to carry, Castille seems like the perfect person to hold up and say “this man did everything right.”  He yielded to the officer when pulled over.  He informed the officer that he was legally carrying.  He followed all of the motions, and still wound up bleeding to death from multiple gunshot wounds.

But, like Jesus, he hung out with a woman who may have been less than the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, and if there’s one thing this Christian Nation cannot tolerate, it’s someone who is not white and less than perfect.  So maybe he’s not our Black Jesus after all.

It’s possible that Iesha Evans is the Black Jesus of protesters.  Maybe not.  I’m sure we’ll hear in the coming days how she once got a B on a midterm or said a bad word once, or was in some way less than perfect, justifying her treatment in the scene in which she’s been immortalized.  But maybe we need to stop looking for Black Jesus.  Maybe we need to stop looking for that perfection and understand that we’ve already seen enough to know that there is brutal injustice going on in this nation.  Half of the country lives in fear of the law, lives with a sense that they are not equal under the law, lives with examples that they can be refused justice without repercussions.  Even if this is just a perception problem, it’s a problem.  We need to stop looking for a savior to be crucified before our eyes to start working for salvation.