Tag Archives: Politics

Life and political struggle 2019

My life has reached a point where it feels like the year may as well end in early November. Because working toward the November election looms so large each year, consumes so much effort in every form, and this year even accounted for so much of my paid professional work…

I wake up about one week into November, not only with a jet lagged mystification about how I went from Memorial Day to late Autumn so quickly, but exhausted, and at something of a loss for what purpose these several more weeks in the calendar year serve.

With the 2010s closing out, it feels like I should review the past decade as well as the past year, but the past decade for me has mostly been the tale of two half-decades. The five years 2010-14 were largely personal: personal projects, solitude, lots of “me time,” personal life dramas, a lot of reading and writing and travel and reflection.

This began changing steadily each year, right from the beginning of 2015, in a way that almost feels scripted.

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Meghan F. George for Mayor of Lakewood

I can supply plenty of abstract reasons to elect Meghan George as Lakewood’s next mayor. I think Meghan is genuinely better prepared, by professional experience, for the responsibilities of administration and management.

As a Lakewood resident, I think Meghan is definitely the choice to work on behalf of the whole community. She’s her own person; she has support from a broad spectrum of the population, including my friends and allies, but she is not dependent on any narrow faction. She was never appointed into office. She has cast good, independent votes on council.

Most important to me, probably, is that as an activist Meghan is the kind of person I want to deal with in government.

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Late Sept. 2019, phase shift

I spent minutes struggling for a title, here, because I’m not sure how to describe the national situation. “Dam breaking?” That describes how this moment feels, but what if a month from now the dam still seems to be there.

I wrote this in our newsletter for the Lakewood Democratic Club:

Trump pressured a foreign government (Ukraine) to open an unfounded investigation of a political opponent, in return for the release of funds which his administration was holding back. He also tried to block Congress from seeing a related whistleblower complaint.

He got busted, his personal involvement in this attempt to extort foreign election interference is now exposed, and a whole lot of other misconduct is being exposed as well.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced complete support of formal impeachment proceedings.

That’s the bare summary of the past week!

That’s a decent, simplified summary, I think. It leaves out a lot, but it covers the big news which seems to have precipitated a “phase shift,” in which suddenly House Democrats quit being scared, polling had a sudden jump in public support for impeachment, Trump and Republicans are on the defensive, and everything just seems different and that’s the part which seems to defy explanation.

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The Hurricane Warning

The extent, and the momentum, of corrosion in our society seems increasingly beyond rational problem solving.

I extend the recent string of deep pessimism, here, without enthusiasm. It would be nice to concentrate for a while on something else, again.

But I try, try to keep up with major events of the day, and lately this has been both very high-volume, and increasingly horrifying as they seem to gather into something like a destructive force of nature.

I’m not sure how much detail to go into, here. I’m not sure whether or not I can persuasively explain the impression of recording the reports of society going off the rails, daily for two and a half years, to someone who has not gone through the same experience.

Suffice to say that, with this experience as background, I am lately losing the ability to see relevant solutions to scale with the problems, which can credibly be accomplished by any kind of rational planned response.

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A republic worth keeping

The American right strives to subvert representative democracy, with a curated electorate that will protect the privileges of a white, patriarchal ownership class, regardless of popular will.

This has been a dedicated project for at least 50 years, and is poised to shift America further toward that end, perhaps very soon.

Contemplating that possibility today, it occurred to me that this is actually much like the reality of America’s republic at its very outset.

Morton Halperin ends a new Slate article with a familiar story about Ben Franklin, and a familiar message:

When the Constitution was being drafted behind closed doors, many feared that the Framers would create a monarchy. As Benjamin Franklin left the hall as the meeting was ending, they shouted at him: “What is it?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our ability to do so is being tested now. We must seize the moment to reestablish the republic that we were given.

We were given a republic which functioned to subvert representative democracy, with a curated electorate to protect the privileges of a white, patriarchal ownership class. We have not kept that republic, exactly, but I think the contemporary Republican Party is reestablishing it to a significant extent, and that this is the real threat, for all of Trump’s attraction to kingship.

We should not reestablish that original republic. We should, instead, reckon honestly with what it was, and with the long and far from finished efforts which went into creating a system of government worth defending.

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Playing from way behind

It is strange living in this moment, watching the capture and corruption of the most powerful institutions in our society, at the same time as day to day life mostly continues as though completely unconnected.

That’s an illusion. A few weeks ago a friend, who knows better, casually said something about how “well, life goes on, anyway.” I could have made a lot of responses. One which I didn’t make, but might have, is a comparison with The Lord of the Rings films. For all that “The Scouring of the Shire” is an important part of the novel, its absence from the films combined with Meriadoc’s warning about the possibility of such an outcome is haunting on its own. He was absolutely right that the safety of the Shire was in danger, and significantly, it was in danger from something that most of its people would never even notice until it was absolutely too late.

Had Sauron secured the One Ring, it would have meant the end of the Shire. Unstoppable armies would have burned it to the ground within months, or at most a year or two, inevitably. But that fate was being decided, with finality, while most of the persons at issue were carrying on normal life in total ignorance of the peril.

In a sense, Americans have had comparatively ample warning, yet most don’t really notice it, and “normal life” carries on. Even though what’s happening right now is locking in severe negative consequences.

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How Republicans divide & denigrate using identity

Today, Ohio state Representative Kyle Koehler decided to share a nonsubstantive meme mocking US Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. The thread which followed illustrates two very important lessons.

  • Over and over in his replies, Koehler refers to the “silly ideas” of Ocasio-Cortez. Yet he argued at length without citing a single one. Even after being explicitly called out on that. The word “ideas,” here, is just a fig leaf intended to disguise an ad hominem attack as a policy critique.
  • After pointing out that his nonsubstantive swipe targets a female person of color, rather than any of the other people who share her ideas—and that this is part of a pattern from the GOP—he protests that “you’re the one bringing up race and gender.”
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Human progress as economic bubble

During recent attempts at some deep thinking about politics, civilization and history, I have pondered the long term and how present dysfunction might be little more than “reversion to the mean.”

An expectation of general progress, or of a fair society which lasts, seems hard to square with the long arc of history. My own impression is that after developing basic civilization thousands of years ago, humanity did not really “advance” much until the past 300 or 400 years.

The advances since then have included some spectacular transformations, at least for lots of people. Long lifespans, food to eat, medicine which works, flourishing science and arts.

Yet the systems powering industrial civilization are ecologically unsustainable—that’s just a plain fact—and while its product is an anomaly within human history, to date, resource burnout is not. Jared Diamond’s book Collapse explored a pattern of civilizations building prosperity upon unsustainable foundations.

What if all industrial civilization—powered by toxic fossil fuel combustion and internally resistant to alternatives despite many decades’ notice of the need—is just one more unsustainable bubble?

Yesterday, Slate reported on some similar speculation by David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth.

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Authoritarianism for dummies

So this week, the president of the United States formally declared a “national emergency” on an indisputably bullshit basis, with no real pretense that it is anything except an attempt to do an end-run around Congress’s very clear refusal to pay for a ridiculous campaign prop (which the president has continually insisted will be paid for by Mexico).

To the extent that constitutionality is an objective standard, this seems to be unconstitutional. The fact that the president did so anyway has at last brought a plain statement from one authority that “this is a constitutional crisis.”

This is certainly serious. Among other things, I feel like if ever national political drama demands notice even in this occasional personal chronicle, it’s this week. I have of course already called members of congress. (Have been doing so for some weeks, in fact, as this fake “emergency” has been toyed with openly since last year.)

This is also absurdly stupid.

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Capital is just a lot of the problem

In the month since I posted this big-picture political assessment—pointing to Republicans’ intentional exploitation of nonrepresentative features of our constitution—I have mused on some kind of deeper dive.

Can I identify even further explanations for our peril, more fundamental than a 50-year-long project by capital to (struggling for a better word) trump a system of democratic governance rejected as an unacceptable constraint on the accumulation of private fortunes?

I’m still working on that. But it is difficult to feel like the fundamental conflict at hand is meaningfully unlike that explanation.

The above is not really a story of the Trump administration. It’s the story of a value system that prioritizes private wealth with no real, firm limit or point of satiety. A value system for which there is no “enough,” no point at which consideration for others outweighs the desire for increased private status and privilege.

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