Russian Interference in the Election

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People are all up in arms about Russians meddling in the American election.   Of course they meddled.  On the one hand, you have an incompetent boob who has business ties to Russian kleptocrats, who questions the value of NATO, who seems unconcerned with Russian adventures in the Ukraine and Syria, and who praises Putin for his leadership; on the other, you have Clinton.  Of course they did what they could.  They hacked the emails of both the the Democratic and Republican national committees and released through Wikileaks whatever they thought might hurt Clinton.

Big deal.  I know my email is not very secure, and, unless they took extraordinary precautions that I don’t know about, the DNC should have known that too.  After all, among all of the faux furor over Clinton’s supposed misdeeds, it was her lack of respect for email security that seems to have gotten the most traction.  It might be that lax email security nailed her in the end.

As far as I can tell, no one is accusing the Russians of doing anything more than influencing the American people through selective leaking of information.  Both Republicans and Democrats do that whenever they get the chance.  Even the FBI seems to have gotten involved.  If the Russians managed to tilt the election, which I doubt, it doesn’t scare me.

trump-lierWhat scares me is that we elected a man who lies so frequently that people ignore the constant noise from the fact checkers. America has entered a post-truth zone, where accepted scientific conclusions are questionable and where demonstrable facts are powerless against the truthiness of a con man who “tells it like it is.”

The problem isn’t the Russians.  The problem isn’t ISIS.  The problem isn’t just Trump, though he is pretty scary.  The problem is the imaginary conspiracies, the unacknowledged prejudices, the interminable Benghazi hearings, in short,  the abundance of misinformation that has guided the views of so many American voters.

The problem is us.  As long as we, the American people, allow ourselves to be so easily misled by what is demonstrably false, we will be defenseless against those who wish to manipulate us.  Our birthright, liberty and justice, will not be secure until we commit ourselves to Truth.

 

 

 

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Not the Year for Minor Parties

In America, we have a two-party system.  This is not the result of some mysterious cabal, but simply a natural outgrowth of of the way we run our elections. When people vote for a third party candidate for President, they know that there choice has virtually no chance of winning.  However, by giving support to a candidate whose ideas are on the fringe today, perhaps they can play a role in making those ideas more mainstream in the future.  Certainly, the Socialist Party under the leadership of Eugene Debs laid the groundwork for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the candidacy of George Wallace played an important role in shaping the direction taken by the Republican Party of today.  So, even if a vote does not contribute to immediate victory, it is not wasted; it has influence. It reverberates in the electorate.

In an effort to be more democratic, our major parties have developed an elaborate, lengthy process to select the nominees.  However, despite all of the primaries and caucuses, many people, both independents and party stalwarts, are dissatisfied with the choices that emerged this year. So, they are looking elsewhere.

gary johnson close up

Gary Johnson

I find much of Libertarian Gary Johnson’s platform appealing: protecting privacy and security on the internet, ending the disastrous war on drugs, and reigning in the military. The major parties, busy competing on the basis of who can keep us safe from both the real and imagined dangers of the modern world, come down on the wrong side of all of these issues: they will try to undermine encryption standards on the internet, they will ineffectively tinker around the edges of drug policy, and they will increase military spending.

However, I disagree with the Libertarians on their fundamentally laissez-faire approach to the economy.  I suspect they would try to dismantle the social safety net, since they think “the proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.” Their ideas of freedom ignore the vastly unequal bargaining position of an individual versus a corporation in the modern world. Their somewhat utopian vision of “a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded” would simply allow powerful, unregulated multinational corporations to run amuck.

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Jill Stein

Since I am particularly concerned about the impact that our civilization is having on the natural environment, I am attracted to the Green Party, which has nominated Jill Stein, for President.  She has this to say:

 It’s time to build a people’s movement to end unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe; build a sustainable, just economy; and recognize the dignity and human rights of every person.

On internet security, the drug war, and foreign policy, Jill Stein makes statements that I am in full agreement with:

Protect the free Internet, legalize marijuana/hemp, and treat substance abuse as a public health problem, not a criminal problem….Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights.

However, I am far too moderate to be enthusiastic about the Green Party, which “seeks to build an alternative economic system”.  As much as I admire the goals of “creating living-wage jobs for every American who needs work” and “transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030,”  I am convinced by the Washington Post’s analysis: their plan is an appealing “fairy tale”.

Since I think for myself, no candidate is going to be perfect, that is, in agreement with me on every issue. Even if such a mythical person were to exist and get elected, they would end up having to compromise.  My vote, inevitably, also represents a compromise. I am ok with this.  My judgement is probably less than perfect anyway.

So, why are people so dissatisfied with the choices that emerged from the major party  primaries?

Hillary Clinton Speaks At The University Of Miami

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton has been in the public spotlight for a quarter century.  Ever since she said “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies” in the 1992 election, she has been pilloried by partisans who oppose her vision of the modern woman and by professional character assassins skilled in covertly leveraging the prejudices of the American public.  She has endured scandals, both real and fabricated, investigations, and an endless stream of congressional hearings. The details of her life have been closely examined by people determined to find a way to bring her down.  She is probably the most thoroughly vetted candidate in history.

Through it all, she remains standing.  Yes, she has her faults, and she has made mistakes during he long career in public service.  However, the worst that Trump can actually substantiate is that she didn’t handle her emails properly when she was Secretary of State.   All of this scrutiny over the years has trained her to be extremely cautious in what she says, and her lack of spontaneity puts many people off.  In addition, Clinton is far too moderate for many in her own party, as the remarkable candidacy of Bernie Sanders pointed out.  However, she is rational, experienced, knowledgeable, competent, compassionate, and, despite what was chanted at the Republican convention, basically honest.

It is ironic that the historic milestone, the first woman ever nominated for President by a major party, should receive such little attention.  That is because all the attention is being grabbed by the Donald, whose candidacy is what really makes this election historic.

Donald Trump is in many ways the opposite of Clinton: he is irrepressibly spontaneous, irrational, inexperienced, ignorant, incompetent, callous, and basically dishonest.  He has built a career promoting his brand, serving no-one but himself.

Perhaps you are tired of the Democrats brow beating you with the specter of some calamity should a Republican get elected.  Me too.  But this year, the Republicans have put forward an unimaginable catastrophe.  Historians, including Ken Burns and David McCullough, who usually keep their political leanings private, have taken extraordinary steps to warn the American people about Donald Trump.  Newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle which has usually endorsed Republicans, have come out against Trump in July, long before they would normally endorse anyone.  Even many Republicans openly oppose him.  One, Evan McMullin, has begun an independent campaign to oppose Trump because “someone needed to do it”.   All of these agree: Trump is a danger to our democracy.

And he could win.

His rallies are packed with supporters who enthusiastically cheer his most outlandish pronouncements.  Another contingent, having fed for decades on anti-Clinton propaganda, will vote for their party’s nominee no matter what he does or says, putting party loyalty ahead of loyalty to their country.  That adds up to a significant portion of the electorate.  If the remaining voters divide their support among the rational candidates, Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and now McMullin, it is quite possible for Trump to come out on top.

Currently, opinion polls are heartening.  However, such polls can lead to a dangerous complacency.  If a poll puts a state safely in one column or another, people may think that they might as well indulge in a minor party candidate, trusting others to make sure Trump doesn’t win.   Opinion polls have always had a margin of error, and the error is likely to be larger this year than in the past, especially with Trump disrupting the usual voting patterns.

In normal circumstances,  I would be sympathetic with those who choose to vote for a minor party candidate; such a vote can have important long term effects. However, nothing about Trump is normal.  When a fire starts, you put it out; long term planning can come later.   This is not the year to vote Libertarian or Green, even if you support the most radical of their proposals.  The stakes are simply too high.

If you care about the future of our republic, you have only one choice: Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

 

Clinton and Warren Electrify Cincinnati

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Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren                                                          (Sam Green / Cincinnati Enquirer)

Electricity: that intangible Clinton’s campaign has apparently lacked in the run up to the nomination, Trump seems to have in abundance.  Well,  at the Clinton rally in Union Terminal in Cincinnati on Monday, I can testify that there was plenty.  As  the Washington Post reports, “Her rally with Warren had a different feel. It easily was one of the most electric events of Clinton’s campaign.”

 

Together, Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton showed a remarkable chemistry.  The papers seemed to think Warren stole the show, but that might be in part because she was what was new.  Warren was the attack dog.  Clinton delivered the substance, and a few effective jabs at Trump as well.

Warren is being vetted as a potential running mate. There are practical considerations that suggest this might not be the wisest choice.  Several people I have spoken with think that the American voter might balk at seeing two women on the ticket.  And there is the precious Senate seat:  electing Warren to the Vice Presidency would give a Republican governor a chance to appoint the replacement.

However, the surest path to victory in November is with rallies like this one, rallies that can energize the grass roots campaigners, the get-out-the-vote efforts.  If Clinton can generate the same enthusiasm with someone else, I am all for it.  But I saw an effective campaign partnership, and I would hate to see it broken up.

Cinton Warren Crowd

(Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

Clinton Warren me

That’s me behind the baby.  You can see my right hand sticking up behind his ear and my left eye, well covered by sunglasses.  (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

The Donald Still Dominates

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photo/donkeyhotey

Even after banning half of the press from covering his rallies, Trump still takes up all the oxygen in the room.  It seems we just can’t get enough of this horror show.

For example, on Thursday (6/23) morning, on the Washington Post Opinions web page, almost half of the articles named Trump in the title.  The “Load More” added more essays, again about half were on Trump.

 

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photo/donkeyhotey

Clinton was not mentioned until you got down to “The Post’s View:” “Hillary Clinton offers a welcome concession to reality ”.  This was an analysis of her address on economic policy.  Hillary said things like “it takes a plan.”  She seems to actually have one.  The Post commented that her assessment of the economy “has the advantage of being true.”  It sounded like a relatively boring speech devoted to what actually needs to get done in order to govern well. It’s not going to win many hearts.

Of course, the article on Clinton’s policy statement also talks about Trump, who had just delivered a blistering attack, just what his supporters were hoping for: exciting, direct, forceful, and on message.  It was also mostly fictional.  The AP used a dozen fact checkers to keep up with all the distortions and out-right lies.  Trump knows how to push the emotional buttons, and those buttons are a lot easier to push if you not tethered to reality.

Realpolitik lies at the heart of Clinton’s appeal, but this is reality television.   Whatever Clinton says, she cannot turn up the volume loud enough to be heard, unless, of course, she starts making stuff up the way Trump does.  She is reasonable, compassionate, competent, and able to explain coherent policies in complete sentences. But these are simply boring when placed beside the ranting Donald.

Can reason win?  It’s possible, but Americans vote with their hearts.

Except on Fox News, the press coverage of Trump is more profoundly, uniformly negative than for any major political candidate in memory.  But bad news attracts our attention, and all eyes are on the Donald.  Clinton might be the most qualified candidate for president that we have had in decades, but most votes will be for or against that other guy.

Like it or not, this election is all about Donald Trump.

 

Becoming a Negative Partisan

Like a moth to the flame, I am inexorably drawn to this presidential campaign, not to the interesting tussle of ideas and vision between Hillary and Bernie, but to the ghoulish horror show on the other side. Each day, I search the news in fascination, finding some new reason to be appalled. Yesterday, it was from Ted Cruz: “We [the southern states] should build a nuclear bomb and use it to defend our right to believe in God as our one true Father.” (Actually, this quote was from several months ago, but I just came across it.)

 

I am amazed, not that someone thinks this way, but that such a person would be a leading candidate for the most powerful position on the planet.  But it is not just Cruz; others are almost as frightening.  Their policies concerning climate change vary from outright denial to a complete unwillingness to do anything about it that might “hurt the economy”, meaning hurt the vested interests who are funding their campaigns.  Their attitudes toward our civil liberties are totally skewed: they worry about “religious freedom” for Christians, by which they mean they want the freedom to discriminate and practice their religious rituals at government events, but seem totally unconcerned about the Constitutional rights of Muslims.  None of our civil liberties are safe with these guys, except our gun rights.  When it comes to foreign policy, they want America to lead the world, but they think the way to do that is to be belligerent as possible.  As Rand Paul said in the recent debate, responding to one of the supposedly more moderate candidates, “Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.

Bernie&HillarySo, I am not so much in favor of Bernie or Hillary as I am totally opposed to the rabid reactionaries. I have succumbed to what John Chait calls negative partisanship.

 

The party system has split along racial, cultural, and religious lines, creating a kind of tribal system where each party’s supports regard the other side with incomprehension and loathing.

“Incomprehension” is not quite accurate in describing my own feelings.  Having grown up in the South, I find some of this all too familiar.  “Loathing” might be more accurate, but it does not convey the fear.  This sense of fear is actually something I share with the reactionaries, it is just that I fear entirely different things.  We each fear exactly what the other seems to hope and dream for, for our country and for the world.

This identity politics, driven by fear, is unhealthy.  It means that the political party that I choose is largely unaccountable.  Even if I find my party falling short in honesty, integrity and good government, I will continue to support them so long as the they protect the country from this band of misguided ideologues.  As long as the Tea Party threatens to win elections, I am voting Democrat.

My older son tells me I’m “nostalgic for those days when a reasonable person could contemplate voting something other than a straight ticket.”  He’s right.  Long ago (2014), I endorsed a set of candidates from four different parties for the state-wide races in Ohio.   That was before the Donald, the Cruz, and their fellow maniacs scared me straight.