After Lines is out

An anthology I’m in, After Lines, is out today at Lulu.com. After Lines takes familiar fairy tales as a starting point, and explores from there (such as my story, “The Duckling Swan,” a continuation of “The Ugly Duckling”). I’m pleased and proud to be part of this collection — check it out!

Endgame 2016, pt. 2: Do you want power, or not?

Hillary Clinton is going to be the 2016 Democratic nominee. Bernie has endorsed her, which puts an undeniable end to his campaign, despite the hopes of those who wanted to see him fight all the way to the convention. It’s not the result I would have hoped for, but I’m done grieving. He won nearly half the vote, for chrissakes. That’s not insignificant — and it shouldn’t be allowed to become insignificant, either. Even if some of y’all are doing your damnedest to make sure it does.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do next. My own personal viewpoint is that whoever gets the win in November is going to be making SCOTUS nominations, which is not to be taken lightly. I’ve been seeing some fairly strident arguments, at least on Facebook, that Trump would be kept in check by either Congress or the Constitution; if Trump wins, however, he’s going to get to stack the Supreme Court in his favor. He’s already name-dropped one potential nominee, a guy who would have jailed LGBT people for having sex in their own homes. Do you still feel like taking that bet, especially after the “payoff” we got from Dubya? I sure as hell don’t.

I’ve seen an awful lot of people say they’re going to go third party, a lot of them for Jill Stein of the Green Party. “I’m voting my conscience,” they say. Increasingly, I’m finding that to be a fairly disingenuous stance. Why? Because while I see a whole lot of people “voting their conscience,” I don’t see a helluva lot of people doing the shitwork it takes to build a third party into something that would actually be competitive: getting down-ticket people elected (or even local-ticket folks), and so on. I would enjoy being proved wrong, but for the most part, what I see in the Green Party looks more like a mere feel-good option, not unlike buying a Rage Against the Machine CD: it allows one to feel revolutionary without actually getting one’s hands dirty with the work of a real revolution.

It seems to me that the most useful thing progressives can do is to leverage the political capital they have, in fact, accrued with the Bernie campaign — he won close to half the vote, for chrissakes — into a bigger place at the table for progressives within the Democratic Party. Something which can be built on, even expanded, in 2018. Because this fight doesn’t end in 2016, or even at the presidential level: those down-ticket Senate and House elections may be even more important, at least in determining what kind of Congress the next President is going to have to work with.

What I’m talking about is taking back the Democratic Party for progressives — one hates to compare the effort to the Tea Party, but there’s no denying how successful they were at taking over the Republican Party, and in a short time, to boot. As I’ve written before: taking back the Democratic Party from the neoliberal corporatists that now hold sway is not an easy task to take on — but it’s a damn sight easier than trying to build a third party capable of challenging it, especially if the goal is to amend the current system in favor of one which makes third parties viable entities. (Which, by the way, may not be the saving-throw third parties might hope for: if they’re polling at anything less than 20%, are they really any less marginalized, even in a multi-party system?)

I’m not going to pretend that Hillary Clinton is, say, Elizabeth Warren (though the hints that Warren could be her VP are, to say the least, tantalizing) — but under the conditions of 2016, a Clinton presidency could, if played right, be a stepping-stone for progressives toward actual power — in the Party, and in the government. Which, however much one might agree with her, one cannot say of Jill Stein. That may be unpleasant to realize, but it’s the political reality of the situation.

The Bernie campaign was always described as a revolution; at this point, the question remains: does the revolution stop here, with different factions going off in different directions (as is so often the case), squandering the potential gains they’ve won? Hillary has, at least in one speech, started opposing the TPP, even if her operatives have kept that position from becoming a plank in the party platform. This is not insignificant, even if it is inconsistent. That said: The neoliberal establishment should not be allowed to continue sneering at the progressive base as insignificant — Bernie got nearly half the vote, for chrissakes. But what comes next is going to depend on whether or not progressives are willing to fight to reclaim the soul of the Democratic Party, or if they’re going to dissipate their energies chasing third-party unicorns.

Because that’s what it really boils down to: do progressives really want power, or not? It’s yours for the taking, people. You only have to be willing to exercise it….

Endgame 2016: “Fuck You” is Not a Winning Strategy

These days, I’m reminded of something the writer John Scalzi said about liberals: that they’re…

Fractious and have no sense of loyalty; will publicly tear out the intestines of those closest to them at the most politically inopportune times. The attention spans of poultry; easily distracted from large, useful goals by pointless minutiae. Not only can’t see the forest for the trees, can’t see the trees for the pine needles. Deserve every bad thing that happens to them because they just can’t get their act together. Too bad those they presume to stand for get royally screwed as well.

Some of y’all need this carved in your bathroom mirror, if not your own viscera, so you can see it every day to remind you: You’re acting like an asshole, and you need to quit it, now.

At this point, Hillary Clinton is pretty much a shoo-in for the Democratic Party nominee for the 2016 election; I’d have preferred Bernie Sanders, to be honest, but, as the kids say, it is what it is.

Here’s the thing: what it is, is deeply uncertain. How many of the Bernie-or-Burn-It folks are going to hold their noses and vote for Hillary Clinton? Polls suggest a full quarter of Bernie supporters are willing to vote third-party or stay home altogether — an estimated 2 million voters. This ought to be troubling to anyone who remembers the 2000 elections — but apparently, it’s not. At least, not in some circles.

There’s a lot of problems with LaFauci’s analysis — pretending Hillary is actually a progressive warrior like Elizabeth Warren (and not a neoliberal like her husband) is a slice of disingenuousness usually reserved for the Religious Right — but the big problem is the tone he takes. And I quote: “The Democratic Party doesn’t want or need your vote.” In other words, fuck you.

So let me be the one to advise anyone who would cosign LaFauci’s sentiment: don’t dislocate your shoulder trying to pat yourself on the back for being one of the grownups in the room. “Fuck you” is not a grown-up, practical, reasonable, pragmatic strategy for winning an election. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself: what did it get the Democrats in 2000? The satisfaction of being right? Is that really preferable to the satisfaction of victory?

You want Bernie voters to hold their noses and vote for Hillary? Hold your nose and throw them a goddamn bone or two. Because we all know that, should Hillary lose in November, you’ll be blaming them for staying home — not yourself for failing to give them a reason to come out and vote for you in the first place. And make no mistake: if LaFauci’s is the tone you’re going to take in the months leading up to the election? The blame is going to rest as much on you as on incalcitrant Bernie supporters. You need those voters, every last one you can hoover up. History tells you that much, and if you ignore that, you lose the right to call yourself one of the reasonable, pragmatic grown-ups in the room.

That doesn’t mean some of you Bernie people are any less guilty of being divisive. The number of you in my Facebook feed who openly speculate as to whether America deserves a Trump presidency to teach them a lesson is mind-boggling. While I understand the sentiment, let me repeat myself: The fact that nobody seems to have learned any lessons from the Bush presidency — the very fact of the Trump candidacy proves that much — doesn’t give me much faith that a Trump presidency would knock any sense into them. Look at the body count of the Bush presidency — tens of thousands killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the twin towers. Then there’s the 2008 recession to consider as well — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to Bush 43’s casualties, literal and figurative. If that doesn’t teach a lesson, what will?

Also worth considering: by the time a Trump presidency ground people down far enough to rise up en masse, they’d turn to the first group who could reasonably promise to restore order afterward. There’s nobody on the left organized enough to make a believable guarantee of that. Nobody. Meanwhile, the religious Right has been salivating for just such an opportunity. Just as the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt, (and Khomeini did in Iran), the religious Right would likely swoop in and steal whatever revolution a Trump presidency might spark. All those hopes for a revolution that’s going to put a progressive in the driver’s seat? Pipe dreams. You heard it here first.

That’s assuming Trump would spark a revolution in the first place. People are disenchanted, but there’s plenty of those disenchanted people lining up behind Trump, no matter how clearly it seems to the rest of us that Trump is not going to work toward their interests.

And then there’s the Supreme Court. That’s one place — and not an unimportant one — where we wouldn’t be able to undo Trump’s mistakes without a violent revolution. If it weren’t for Obama’s nominees, we wouldn’t have victories like the gay marriage decision; meanwhile, we have Bush’s nominees to blame for travesties like the Citizens United decision. HRC is no progressive hero — but who would you rather see making SCOTUS nominees?

I’ve been a Bernie supporter, but I think the way forward is to storm the gates of the Democratic party, much as the Tea Partiers did with the Republican party, if we’re going to have our concerns heard out. And no, that’s not necessarily an easy prospect — but it’s a damn sight easier than trying to build a third party from scratch that can meaningfully take on the two dominant parties. And yes, it occasionally means compromises that we might not like to make.

At the present moment: one of those compromises is that Bernie should probably concede the nomination, and publically rally like hell for more positions in the platform-writing committee than he already has. Why? Because the alternative, a scorched-earth attempt to win the nomination, is more likely to divide the party irreperably than to win him the nomination. Why does that matter? Because fuck you isn’t a winning strategy.

Let me be perfectly blunt about it: At this point, nobody cares who started it — if the two sides don’t start acting like grownups and trying to work together (instead of just sneering at each other), both sides are going to be responsible for a Trump victory in November.