Tag Archives: Politics

Bill Curry on strategic voting

Bill Curry has touched on some themes I’ve been trying to express a time or two, and I am glad to see it.

We once left tactical thinking to politicians. Then issue advocates began hiring pollsters. Now voters are getting into the act. The effect is to turn the marketplace of ideas into a casino. It’s hard enough figuring out if a candidate represents your values without having to speculate about his appeal to others. You don’t go to a store to buy what you think someone else wants, yet primary voters do. One reason for all the tactical thinking is the paralysis of government; if you think nothing will get done, you focus less on policy. Polarization’s another; if you hate their party more than you love yours, what matters is picking a winner. The biggest culprit is the media.

Following politics on TV you learn nothing beyond the horse race. Pundits specialize in predicting the recent past.

The entire article is here.

Dynasty’s end*

I can’t suppose that I will give up prediction, or even political prediction, entirely. One has to act upon some kind of concept of the circumstances around us, and how they may change or not change in future. I should, though, at the least be more cautious.

To adapt a line from the master, “if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers… kindly whisper ‘JEB‘ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.”

* Or is it? Hardly the moment for me to make such a sweeping prediction, is it?

America goes bonkers, contd.

Recently I wrote up a post about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and the Overton window, but I have since decided to throw it all out. In a way, further reflection has convinced me that the whole Overton window concept may not even be useful any longer, as my earlier post was in fact implying, even if I hadn’t realized it. At this point I think a single “window” of what’s possible in American politics, at the national level, is not even accurate as a simplified model. It feels like a relevant update would now involve something out of a nightmarish video game, with multiple holes opening, closing, changing size, etc., simultaneously without any reference to one another.

Obviously Republican America has ceased giving any heed to any universal idea of what’s practical, or of anything else. I mean, what is there to say? The latest word from those pundits still attempting to make meaningful observations is that the GOP establishment is, now, preparing to embrace Donald Trump for president because they find him less offensively deranged than his leading rival. I’m not even sure what part of that sentence it would make sense to emphasize; it’s all surreal.

In the meantime, some kind of much more modest but still dumbfounding suspension of reason seems to be creeping through Democratic America. I’m certainly not unbiased, but here’s what I’m seeing. A growing number of putative liberal voices are

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Rugged defeatism

Browsing through Andrei Codrescu’s wonderful New Orleans, Mon Amour last night, I was reminded of some comments about Crescent City politics. New Orleans, Codrescu observed, features a

…peculiar mix of backwardness and upside-down priorities… matched only by an even more peculiar mix of bravado and hype. The highly vocal locals imagine that they can weather anything if only nobody bothers them to take part in the political process. Years of corruption and neglect have made cynics of them all. And lord knows that voodoo isn’t going to save us.

Yet, what we might call “rugged defeatism” seems, appropriately for voodoo country, to have a zombie-like inertia. Minus the literal voodoo, meanwhile, the same attitude seems to run equally deep in northeast Ohio.

Hearing the negativity in Lakewood about prospects for thwarting liquidation of the city’s hospital, I’ve begun to recognize a new, darker side to the seemingly defiant point of view summed up in this minor local icon:

"CLEVELAND: You've Got to be Tough!!"

Seen on t-shirts, etc.

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2016 Democratic presidential strategy note

I wrote this post months ago, but it’s now actually 2016—the 2016 presidential election is only 10 months away—so I’ll finally give up my conscientious objection to obsessing over presidential politics for this cycle.

I’m also going to address “strategic voting,” another object of distaste. Specifically, I want to address other prospective Democratic Party primary voters, many of whom will be voting before I do.

For those who actually want to see Hillary Clinton president, there may not be much I can say. If you really want, in the words of Conor Friedersdorf, “a Patriot Act-supporting, mass-surveillance-enabling hawk who opposed gay marriage throughout the years when it mattered most, still favors the death penalty, and would re-enter the White House having cozied up particularly close to Big Finance,” then we may just be too far apart for meaningful discussion.

Perhaps I’ll try anyway, later, but for now I want to address those who are less eager for such a candidacy, but worry about “electability.” Particularly when it comes to the leading alternative, Bernie Sanders. I know from anecdotal experience as well as independent reports that a number of fellow Democrats worry, in spite of their personal preferences, that he would be too “fringe” for the general electorate and that it would be better to settle for the “safe choice” of Hillary Clinton. For these persons, a couple of reminders.

n.b. I happen to favor Mr. Sanders’s campaign, myself, so I’m not simply speculating on “the political strategy machinations” or concern-trolling.

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The Rust in Rust-Belt Politics

I have spent months, at this point, mentally drafting various summaries of my year in local politics. While I have believed for quite some time that the saga of Lakewood Hospital would not genuinely end with this fall’s election, regardless of its results, now is probably nonetheless as good a time as any to make some conclusions about what I’ve learned.

I must confess that, while I did not take victory for granted, none of my draft versions were really about specific results one way or another… but faced with multiple bitter losses, that suddenly pushed aside most other musings. During many restless hours last night, I basically threw everything out and started my analysis over from scratch.

One of the blessings of age, I suppose, is that at this point I have seen electoral fortunes violently reversed more than once, and some kind of life goes on. Discouraging as this may be in general, it’s now more difficult to react to any specific reverse like it’s the end of the world than it was, say, 11 years ago. It’s even more difficult since I always recall the column turned in by the local media’s token conservative* after Barack Obama’s re-election; even accepting just for argument’s sake his very different perceptions of the outcome, coming from a middle-aged adult it was just so absurdly fucking over-the-top that the memory acts as a check any time I get close to a similar reaction. Even I can’t take one election result that seriously any more.

As useful as this probably is, however, it also leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. I feel silly going to that extreme. But I find the opposite extreme equally silly. One Lakewood personality** seems to demonstrate this regularly, including this morning, i.e. “hey, we’re all neighbors; so many people on both sides tried very hard to do what’s best for the community, that’s something great.” Yeah no. I don’t believe anything of the sort. But what do I say instead that doesn’t shade into childish pronouncements of doom?

I believe I’ve figured it out. What’s more, a lot of it has already appeared here on this blog, and much of it wasn’t even my own opinion. In one of the many ironies of this whole shambles, I can base most of my complaints about what yesterday’s defeat represents on statements by the very same editorial board that has lobbied consistently for said defeat.

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The darker Back to the Future

Nine times out of ten, “Back to the Future Day” is about the last occasion I would choose to comment on the eponymous film cycle. I’m as fond of them as the average person I guess—which is apparently quite fond—but the presence of identical fluff “news” stories essentially advertising a commercial property on site after site after site just makes me wince.

As Doctor Emmett Brown said, though, “well… what the hell.”

I have one or two thoughts, stirred up by the long approach to October 21, 2015, which might also be a little different from the standard fare even if they aren’t absolutely unique. First, I’ve been holding this in for several months now, and I’m just going to say it: the treatment of Jennifer in Back to the Future 2 is just creepy and wrong.

I’ll acknowledge here that I haven’t seen any of the movies for at least a decade. I own the second movie on DVD, but haven’t taken it out of the case yet. Partly because I don’t want to watch it by itself, and I haven’t found part one or three on sale yet. But partly, also, because… excuse me, adolescent girl, could you just look at this for a second, thank you, splendid you’re so much more agreeable as an unconscious object whom we can stash somewhere at our leisure rather than being asked all of those questions great scott it was like she was never going to stop…

Just a lot creepy, hm? Just to make absolutely sure I’m not falsely remembering the scene, someone please inform me if Dr. Brown does not flash a “sleep-inducing alpha rhythm generator” in Jennifer’s face, explicitly because “she was asking too many questions,” after which he and Marty dump her body and forget about it while they proceed with their adventure unencumbered. Otherwise, though… I’m claiming this as just pretty much appalling.

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The Internet vs Federalism

Such memories as today remain of the late “Tip” O’Neill are, I suspect, propped up by his grammatically tricky dictum “all politics is local.” I don’t really remember Tip, and relied on autocomplete for the spelling of his last name in fact, but I remember this. That having been said, I have increasingly remembered this maxim in a context of something obsolete, as years have gone by.

Today, though, some impressively precocious grouchy-old-man scolding from Millennial pundit Matthew Yglesias suggested one or two new wrinkles to the intersection of local politics and 21st-century America. Yglesias makes the point that plenty of politics is still local or at least sub-national, even though Democrats’ focus (and, I would argue, America’s generally to a great extent) has been swallowed up by the presidency.

I don’t disagree with this, but I did have to question Yglesias’s grounds for his tone of righteous lecturing. Both his own product and that of his employer, Vox, as a whole devote much much more attention to national and above all presidential politics than to anything else. (Consider that America has elections this fall but about 99% of Vox‘s considerable  elections coverage in 2015 has been about 2016 races.) Thinking about this, though, I had to ask myself: what gets more clicks?

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Reminder to Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter

This almost feels too important to write anything about, here. i.e., this is just my dumb blog with a maximum readership in the low fews; it almost feels like trivializing something as important as racial equality to post about it. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, though, so anyway a note on one or two recent observations.

Last week I attended a meeting of the Lakewood Democratic Club. Though a registered Dem, I’m not a member of this very small organization, and was only there because of a discussion related to Lakewood Hospital. It was interesting beyond that, though, as this same meeting included by chance a long-awaited appearance by the Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper.

His presentation was mostly encouraging. The party leadership, at least here in Ohio, seems to have noticed its big problem with voters only showing up every four years. Doing something about it will be more difficult, but the program outlined by Mr. Pepper seemed like a credibly serious plan.

The only big problem that I noted was two-fold: 1) the suggestion that every important Democratic message ties into economic inequality, and 2) the fact that Mr. Pepper and, I think, everyone listening to him may be presumed to check “white” on the census form.

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The Street Fight for Lakewood Hospital

It has been quite a year in the campaign to defend Lakewood’s community hospital. Since exploring my reasoning, back in March, I don’t think I’ve had anything further to say here aside from a small jab at Northeast Ohio Media Group. As I have been co-manager of the Save Lakewood Hospital web site, it has generally made sense to present my observations and experiences there.

Events yesterday have motivated some more casual and personal comments, that can’t really be formatted into detached editorial voice. So, a few updates on what feels like a turning point in the long war…

First, my thanks to former congressman Dennis Kucinich. When I heard that he planned a press conference and community forum to discuss Lakewood Hospital, I was frankly very skeptical, of the timing if nothing else. Nine months into our campaign, I did wonder whether Save Lakewood Hospital would be boosting Kucinich’s profile rather than vice versa. I was very happy to conclude that my suspicions were groundless; I don’t think there is any way that Mr. Kucinich could have made yesterday’s press conference less about himself. The planned program was nothing fancy at all, in fact; he collected documentation of Cleveland Clinic’s fraud and maladministration, spoke in extremely measured fashion about its significance, then presented copies to the several media representatives who dutifully turned up when summoned. Thoughtful, mature, good civic participation.

That, at least, was the formal program. The informal program of certain attendees was rather different…

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