Friday, May 24, 2019

"The Most Important Election of 2019"

So read the subject line of an email I received this morning, from a group (out of Chicago) called Progressive Takeover.  They are asking for money for the Democratic campaign in the special election for the NC-09 House district. They promise to help increase turnout for the September 10 voting.

I won't deny that the race, which if won by the Democrat would be a symbolic vindication of the party's struggles against voter suppression (in this case, outright fraud by Republican operatives), has its importance.  I have given for it and will do so again, but not now. There are other 'significant' off-year elections in the US (Kentucky governor, state legislature battles, other special elections), but I'm looking elsewhere.

A good case for the most important election of the year could be made for the Lok Sabha elections which just concluded in the world's greatest democracy, India.   The result--renewed mandate for the Hindu nationalist government headed by Narendra Modi--was something of a foregone conclusion, but it turned to be far more decisive than expected.  The opposition was headed by the Congress Party, which appears to be a spent force at this time, while Modi's party, the BJP, was buoyed by the economy and jingoistic emotions after a fresh military dust-up with Pakistan over Kashmir.

A case could also be made for the general election in Indonesia, the world's fourth (?) largest democracy (depends how you count them), held last week.  The incumbent, a somewhat Obama-like secular centrist, Widodo, claimed victory, but the defeated military/Islamic nationalist candidate Prabowo sent his supporters to the streets to challenge it. Hard to tell what it portends there; I hope that is not exactly the model to anticipate, post-2020 election here.

No, I would pull for a strange choice, the European Parliamentary elections being held in the next couple days throughout the European Union.  It will provide a thermometer reading on the global political battle in the liberal democracies, between the Right and the Center-Left, or between Nationalism and Globalism. As an example of the battles within nations expressed through these elections, the outcome I am watching most closely is between the party of French President Macron and the National Rally of Marine Le Pen.  (There will be no partial results; then they will all come out Sunday night, Europe time.)

Both the overall turnout level and shifts in the distribution of seats among the various groups will be important to monitor.  The social democrats and the liberal democrats (in English acronyms, the S&D and the EPP, respectively) have always been able to form a parliamentary majority between them, and will no doubt do so again after this time; however, many of those centrist parties have been weakened by centrifugal forces:  Greens, regional autonomy parties, and, especially far-right nationalist parties.

The Europe-wide number to watch is the size of the fledgling far-right alliance being championed by Italian deputy PM Matteo Salvini.  Salvini is a clever schemer, an opportunist of unusual talent.  He has led the realization that the power center of the EU has more potential for developing a ring-fence around Europe than what he can achieve in his country alone (where he is currently Interior Minister).  So, the nationalist leaders have largely changed their point of view, from lumping the regional authority with the hated global elite, to a useful target for their endless ambition.  If their parties, and their provisional alliance, are strong enough, they may be able to add some major groups like Hungary's governing party.  The question for this election will be whether the European far-right voters get the memo and turn out for their champions.

It appears they will do so in the election circus that is the UK's participation in these elections.  That was not supposed to happen:  In the original formulation, the UK was supposed to be out, and the deadline was specifically drawn to exclude their citizens' participation in this round.  The May Mess persisted too long, though, so now they are in it--sort of. 

Most UK voters have no clue for which party to vote to signal their opinion about the ongoing Brexit stalemate--with one major exception.  England's answer to Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, has formed a new, improvised Brexit party which, according to polls, will likely lead the voting in the UK over all the other fragmented parties.  (These elections are run proportionally, with party votes over large constituencies determining the shares of seats.)  In particular, the two largest parties in the UK, the Conservatives and Labour, are having their vote shares shattered by the Brexit controversy and the parties' ambiguous policies.  It is possible the Liberal Democrats, long taken for dead, may finish second, as the national party with the clearest pro-Remain viewpoint (though there are also significant Remain fragments going to a new party, Change UK, and to the Scottish and Welsh regional parties).

Labour's muddled straddle is not a success, but not a disaster, either, as the Conservatives are the ones that are (rightly) getting the most blame for the governmental crisis.  Corbyn wants Brexit to die without having to be the one who kills it.  A lot of Labour voters who do not want Brexit will either decode the message or just vote Labour anyway.  At the end of the day, the UK participation is a comic sideshow:  the EU would do well to deny them their seats (they won't), and nobody will care much about their votes on the EP's measures, if there are any while they're still around.

The European Parliament itself isn't all that important, as a governing body.  This is not to say the EU as an institution is not important:  EU rules govern the largest economy in the world, though US Americans are slow to realize it.   Other parts of the world--China, Russia, Turkey, even Iran--have recognized how attractive the EU markets can be, and are courting them eagerly (as the US government, in general, seeks lame ways to annoy them).  The EU punches below its weight in international affairs, but that has begun to change, as the threat of breakup recedes, and the ability to show increased turnout across the board would bolster the EU's bid to strengthen its roles in expressing the will of its people.

Bottom line:  the US' domestic sparring will continue with no resolution through 2019.  There is another special election in the same state (North Carolina) on the same day that will get no attention, though it has just as much relevance (the two, together even, are not critical for the Democrats' House majority).  The real action is abroad this year; the US' turn is next year.

Barr...the Door

A great tactic in  almost any tough negotiation is to show your counterpart the door.  Present to them what you see as that which it will take to escape this mess.

Now that Attorney General Barr has shown his true colors, and thereby permanently trashed his name in the history of this despicable episode, he has only one decent option:  to resign, and thus avoid further damage, through having to cravenly continue his dereliction of his duty, and the opprobrium--and worse--which will be due to him.  Also, to avoid further damage to his office, one which has frequently been compromised by politics, but rarely so overtly contrary to the public interest.  (OK, John Mitchell.)  After his astonishing act of public misrepresentation with his press conference to announce the Mueller report, some immediately raised the call for him to resign.  (Cory Booker, I know, was one of the first. )  Clearly, Barr will not do so.

Instead of bogging down themselves in proceedings involving him, which I am sure will get the House committees nowhere, the House Democrats should introduce immediately a motion of censure, for intentionally misleading Congress and the American public, and for failure to perform his duty to those who pay his salary.  (Maybe also a bill making Trump pay for his services.)  The motion to censure Trump should follow in due course.  Censure has the benefit of being an act the House can do, by itself, laying out the damning truths.  It has no practical effect, but neither does impeachment without conviction, and it will put on the record that these actions of Barr and Trump are not acceptable to the people or their representatives in Congress.

Impeachment inquiries should commence for Trump, Barr, and about half his Cabinet, with the general charge of investigating corruption and incompetence.  Legislative efforts should commence to change the law to implement the emoluments clause of the Constitution and prevent future Executive Branch senior-level officials from running their offices for personal gain.  Research for that legislation would be the reason to support the subpoena for Trump's taxes, though none is legally necessary.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The 'Writer Beat' Experience

Last November, I was invited to join a shared weblog called "Writer Beat'. (Thanks to Autumn Cote for her efforts setting it up, recruiting people, and dealing with their gripes.)  Something I said got noticed, appreciated, and more was sought from me, something I am too willing to provide.   I do regret starving this blog a bit in favor of the more interactive site in recent months, but now it looks as though it may dwindle.

Writer Beat's format was an article, with whatever visuals appended, and then an open comment session moderated by the author of the article.  Depending on the subject, opinions could be fast and furious, or the article could drop right through the site's front page into obscurity. 

I liked having my thoughts challenged by others, even though many of them were hostile--that was one thing you could count on happening. The preponderance of active posters/commenters were from various factions of the Party of the Right--not real joiners, in terms of Republican party activism,  but constitutionalists, libertarians, curmudgeons of all sorts (yes, including racists and bigots), with a sprinkling of foreigners of various nations and a couple of liberals.

 A friend of mine, an activist of progressive tendencies, asked me why I bothered with it.  Surely I don't expect to change anyone's mind there?  Well, no, though I do think I made some progress in humanizing some people's responses to normal progressive expression (and I rarely fell into some of the uglier habits and sunk for long into ad hominem name-calling, snark, and insults).

The post and the discussions that follow were response to a few articles in which these very non-Democratic folks tried to give advice about what the Democratic party should do.

Bring Back the Whigs! 

"Lots of people told me" that Abe Lincoln signalled down from Heaven that he was giving up his membership in the Republicans of today.  The phrase Party of Lincoln can no longer be applied to any but the Whigs. 

("Lots of people told me" =  in Drumpftalk, what follows is a total fabrication.  If not a lie, it is because he pays people to say it to him.)

How the Democrats of the future will respond to the Drumpfist Dilemma--the idea that there really is a "silent majority" which defeats the glorious idea of democracy--remains just that, a dilemma.  I thank all for the contributions they made to that debate, which, I repeat, is an ongoing one. 

Let's turn instead to the fate of their opposite, the elephant in the room, the party which has had its justification exposed as false and failing, which has now been replaced by something awesome and ugly and all-too-factual.  

Cleaning up my email file (as I must, every day, as it is about 5.5 lb. of mierda in a sacco of 5 lb.), I ran across a reference to this article from The Hill of July, 2016.  In it, various establishment-Republican types were bemoaning their party's fate, as in their view Hillary's win was inevitable and would be massive, due to the defection of major Republicans (like them).   

The result was even worse (for them).  It proved definitively that they no longer represent much of anything, constituency-wise.   Where will this disinherited mass of Washington stooges go?  (sounds like an episode of "Veep") The Biden campaign?  I don't think so. 

It's just--Can the whole conservative movement pin all its hopes and aspirations on the fate of that scoundrel? 

What a roller coaster, an incredible risk to take.  I find it hard to believe.  William Weld can light the way, but that is barely a candle in the wind.   Kasich, the Mittster (or a I call him, "The Suit")?--no stomach for the long haul.  Some NextGen Bush, willing to continue the vendetta?  Saddam is dead, my friend, so are his sons. 

There is a need for a Third Way, and it can succeed in being the successor to the "Republican" party of Trumpian legacy.  It needs a symbol, it needs a name, it needs....some disinterested advice from someone who has the least possible sympathy for their plight. 

It will soon be Time to Bring Back the Whigs, or something just like them.  The People who have some moral decency but reject the madness of the Democratic version of democracy need a place to go.  Resolutely anti-slavery (or at least its unconstrained spread throughout the country), against empire-building, a limited government constrained by laws and good sense.  The party of Tippecanoe (and Lincoln).  Numbers 9, 10, 12, and 13.  But that practically have to wheeze to say it

You talk about your False Flag operations:  Try a search for "Whig party symbol".  It brings you to the amusing battle for control of the Modern Whigs' symbol.  I give you a free space to give your version for its symbol--the Owl or the Eagle?   Or you could try to tell me how the Drumpfian vision will guide us into the uncertain future? 

(Make America Whig Again!)

Selection from the comments following 
That "Bush wing" that Thomas talks about--where will they go when they have been excised from the Trumpist party--even after Trump is gone?
I see our politics as 40% Trump (hopeless, deplorable), 40% Democratic (ineffective, due to infighting and being outmaneuvered), and 20% homeless never-Trump ex-Republicans and conservative/moderate ex-Democrats. It may be a small group, but what they do may determine the future course of our politics. That's why I think it's important.
When I look at the Writer Beat crowd, most are in that group that can't stand Democratic candidates but won't admit to supporting Trump. So, I ask you, where?

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      I... did not vote for Trump last time because he was not a conservative, and I had promised myself I would settle for nothing less (after being forced to vote for the likes of McCain and Romney).
      This time around, I may end up voting for Trump for two reasons.
      1) I see no acceptable candidate running against him. Personally, I think the Democratic Party is so far gone (left) that I doubt it can produce one.
      2) To send a message to the statist media, elite, deep state, and crazy left that has pushed all the overblown Russia collusion bullshit.
      All you guys give grief to those who held their nose and voted for Trump last time (2016), especially Christian.
      So, I ask you, where was the alternative? What candidate should they have supported instead based on their principles? Would you have rather they sat on their hands (and votes) and given the job to Hillary by proxy? (Actually, THAT is precisely what that particular criticism is about... Well, all I can say to that is we all hope those we despise and oppose are idiots.)

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        Stoner the problem I see is that you are asking wrong question/discussing wrong issue. Your concerns seem to centered on the parties. The parties are the problem. They are parties alright: theirs. We are not invited, except at election time. The parties are not going to be fixed. They both need to be destroyed. 

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          Little surprise coming from an "anarcho-libertarian gonzo". Political parties grow organically from the political milieu, and tend to evolve toward a two-party structure. Wishing that the two existing major parties "need to be destroyed" is about as constructive as wishing that Santa Claus was real.
          "Your concerns seem to be centered on the parties. The parties are the problem."
          Well, DUH! His concern is centered on the problem - how ridiculous is that?!
          Admit it, BH - you don't know or care what you are talking about...1

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          Fair enough, so I ask: How do you destroy the immobility of the two-party system as we have it? The answer has to be a third "force" (--Let's not call it a party, we can celebrate once it has succeeded.)--one that rejects the parties yet has some organizational quality to produce positive value. ( It is not the Trump movement, which is a clownlike parody of that idea.)
          I say in all sincerity (though as an outsider) that we need that moral force which conservatism could have to be restored to our politics to have any hope of resolving the stalemate. My best-case scenario for next year is discord between dRumpkins vs. the Repenticans, and the Democrat slide through. Sort of like 1992, or 1976. So my motives are dubious, however:
          As for the Democratic party, that would take care of itself quickly enough once the menace of control of the government by the Trumpist Republicans has receded. They (we) can't wait to have at each other, but the imperative is to hold off until Mordor falls. That could happen in 2020, in 2022, or it could take decades still, though we must believe justice will prevail.
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            Jim I appreciate your voice in the conversation. I strongly disagree with most of your premise on things, but you do seem to be starting to recognize the source of at least some of the problems. Just my opinion, but you seem to be an old school Chicago democrat unable to separate yourself from the party identity. You can take boy out of Chicago, not the Chicago out of the boy 😁

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                I'm more like one of the Chicago 7, but I can't pick just one. Maybe Bobby Seale (the one that was bound and gagged in the courtroom because he just wouldn't STFU). Not from Chicago, though.


                  With regard to taking up arms for the Democrats' nominating a radical before the process even begins, I suggest calmness--it will be a very long ordeal.
                  I would suggest one way to think about the process: if we think of Chief Twit as being the classic 'dorkhead' (a euphemism), then the Democrats' objective should be to nominate the least-dorkhead possible candidate.
                  That would suggest certain qualities: a non-misogynist, non-racist, well-educated and well-spoken, knowledgeable about foreign policies and scientific thought, a good manager of people, clear-thinking, forward-looking and consistent in philosophy. Not Barack Obama, though, unfortunately.

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                    Just as there are shade of differences in the words and actions of right-wing Republicans, there are variations in the positions of Democrats of the left (using the label for convenience only). Not to mention "the center", which is moving heavily against Chief Twit.
                    The young women you are criticizing (there are others of all the other spectra of Democrats) come from heavily Democratic districts (one of the by products of heavy gerrymandering) which have moved to people with more radical positions as natural replacements for others moving on.
                    The only moral of the story is: non-partisan redistriction after 2020. Nothing else to see here, move along.

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                      You are real short on understanding of the Supreme Court's view that district drawing is a patently political process and one made for valid constitutional reasons.
                      I suggest before you make a bigger fool of yourself that you review the case law on the subject and the Court's Court's recent rulings

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                        I know what it is, and why. I am advocating for change. We cannot leave this to the Court Court.
                         It could be done at the state level (as some have done), but it would be better to standardize principles of House districts across states, leaving it mostly to states to determine their legislative boundaries