Thursday, January 23, 2020

Quote of the Day: "We Knew This Already"

Even as the outcome seems a foregone conclusion and I haven't been talking about it much, I've been following the Trump impeachment proceedings.

Daliah Lithwick, at Slate, captures the zeitgeist of what it means to live in a nation with two major political parties, only one of which is remotely interested in democracy, truth, fairness, and justice, and a mainstream media ecosystem that repeatedly offers "false balance" when so many of Trump's misdeeds have been done openly, in plain sight:
"Seeking, over and over, evidence of that which has already been proved sets the bar higher than it need be. And it also blunts us to how horrifying those very first disturbing facts—from the original lies on the campaign trail to the corruption of the inauguration—really were. Or as Paul Waldman puts it, the primary mantra of the Trump Era has become 'we knew this already.' As I’ve suggested in the past, this is not about persuasion, or even about TV ratings, but about a messaging war, in which one side is overcommitted to truth-seeking while the other is overcommitted to shit-seeking.'"
The Republicans repeatedly shit-stir false allegation after false allegation, thus giving the 40% of or so of the American voting populace a pretext to continue supporting an authoritarian bigot because "Democrats are just as corrupt, if not moreso."

I think often about the vast political, opinion, and reality chasm between the population that remains committed to Trump, no matter what, and those who do not.

As we live through another Democratic Primary season, I continue to wonder if part of why those on the moderate-to-left side of the political spectrum are so hard on each other is because it so often feels completely hopeless to engage those on the political right.

Adding to this tension is that the very real urgency of defeating Trump and the Republicans is coupled with the reality that legitimate divides exist among the anti-Trump crowd, divides that need to be hashed out, rather than swept under the rug in that oh-so-American-way for some people's comfort and perceived "unity."

Resolving this tension has always been one of the main tasks in our post-2016 election environment, an environment in which, instead, mainstream voices almost immediately told everyone opposed to Trump - especially the marginalized, the silenced, and the abused - to shut the fuck up, stop talking about identity politics/political correctness, and unite, and maybe just maybe some of those Trump supporters will join our side and we can win in 2020.

That narrative rested on the premise of "if they only knew Trump was bad, they wouldn't support him," which in the era of Fox News and Mitch McConnell has turned out to be faulty. We knew Trump was bad already. Everybody did. For a lot of people, that's precisely the point. And, telling the marginalized to remain silent about their pain, for the sake of perceived unity, mostly just adds cruelty on top of cruelty.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"From this moment forward, as in days past"

I've read five books so far this (new) decade and I've been pretty pleased with them all.

These include:
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (Atul Gawande)
  • The Great Believers (Rebecca Makkai)
  • A Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir (Edie Windsor)
  • The Testaments (Margaret Atwood)
  • Blowout (Rachel Maddow). 
Today, I want to talk about Windsor's memoir, primarily because I cried about a million times during it, but also because parts of it were pretty hilarious. Also, if the name sounds familiar, Edie is the Windsor from the US Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor, which overturned part of the anti-equality Defense of Marriage Act.

In the book, Windsor recounts a lot of anecdotes about her life as a young lesbian in the pre-Stonewall era, like the following from circa 1950, about being attracted to a woman named Renee and somehow "intuiting" that Renee felt the same way during their flirty tennis matches, where they had a habit of  repeatedly and "accidentally" bumping into each other on the court.
"...[O]ne afternoon when Renee knocked me particularly hard on the elbow and flashed her customary apologetic-yet-flirty grin, I leaned in and said under my breath, 'Do that again, and I'll kiss you on the mouth.'
She looked a little startled and a little shocked, but after class, she came up to me and asked, 'Did you mean it?'
'Yes,' I said, feeling impossibly bold.
'Where can we do that?'"
Windsor then proceeded to clock two Women's Army Corp vets as being a couple and immediately began renting apartment space from them from her hookups with Renee.

Circa 1950! 

Anyway, after 40+ years of being together, Windsor was finally able to legally marry her partner Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007, when Spyer had advanced multiple sclerosis. During their ceremony, their vows included the lines, "With this ring, I thee wed.... from this moment forward, as in days past," acknowledging that they had spent virtually a lifetime together before their relationship and commitment were acknowledgement by a government (even if not their own, yet).

Spyer died in 2009, and shortly thereafter Windsor was hospitalized for stress cardiomyopathy, or what is sometimes called "broken heart syndrome."  Windsor later became more active in the LGBT rights movement and eventually passed away in 2017. I'm glad she lived long enough to experience the win in US v. Windsor, which was a highlight in her life, as it was for so many of us, as well.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Clinton on Sanders: It's the Culture Around Him

Zero fucks Hillary Clinton is the best Hillary Clinton.

In an interview with Hollywood Reporter about the upcoming series about her, here she is on Bernie Sanders:
"I will say, however, that [the problem is] not only him, it's the culture around him. It's his leadership team. It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don't think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don't know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you're just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that's a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions."
I appreciate Clinton bringing gender to the forefront in the 2020 election, because gender has oddly not been, despite a primary that started with record numbers of women running.

Of course, last week's conversation, if one can call it that, about whether or not Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren he didn't think a woman could win the presidency, after which Warren was viciously attacked online by influential Bernie supporters and surrogates, demonstrates why female candidates might choose not to foreground gender, and misogyny, in their campaign.

There is absolutely a toxic left misogyny culture around Bernie Sanders, a culture that he has let fester.

Observe, for instance, my reaction last week to well-known Bernie supporter Michael Moore's attack on Elizabeth Warren, which he tweeted out to his 6 million followers:

This type of vitriol from influential Bernie supporters isn't even rare. Shaun King, who has over 1 million followers, was also repeatedly tweeting attacks on Warren, claiming to have inside knowledge about how Warren is dishonest.

It's also hard to overstate how the festering of this culture is made so much easier on social media, particularly Twitter. For instance, on Twitter, once a high-follower, pro-Bernie account tweets a general soundbite about another candidate, bots and Bernie supporters begin swarming with riffs on that soundbite, targeting that candidate and the ordinary people who support that candidate.

Bernie could de-escalate a lot of what we see, online, from his hard-core supporters, but too often, we see that, through his silence, he lets the abuse and misogyny work in his favor. Historically, to "address" the abuse, he has just given a general statement saying he doesn't want his supporters to attack people, and they continue to do so anyway.

Interestingly, though, when one of Bernie's surrogates attacked Joe Biden in a piece at The Guardian, Bernie just recently outright apologized to Biden, in public.

It's a notable distinction to how he treats his female/POC opponents.

[1/23/20 - UPDATE: Conspicuously proving Hillary Clinton's point about the culture that permeates Bernie's campaign, with his endorsement, today Bernie Sanders approvingly tweeted a clip of Joe Rogan speaking well of Bernie and saying he's probably going to vote for him. As Sady Doyle notes, Joe Rogan is, uh, pretty problematic for a host of reasons.]

Friday, January 3, 2020

US Attacks Iran

Almost two year ago to the day, I wrote:
"If Trump remains in office for a full term, I think it is very likely that he will manufacture a war or crisis in order to bump up his approval ratings and pressure Congress to stop investigating his ties to Russia."
After having just been impeached, and with the 2020 presidential election looming, Trump appears to be doing just that with the recent US strikes that killed a top Iranian General.

Republicans in Congress will back Trump in going to war (or him just attacking states without declaring war), and he can also count on the support of many within the mainstream media to cajole the citizenry and Democrats into dropping this impeachment business and rallying behind "the President" similar to how they did with George W. Bush's immoral wars, for the sake of "patriotism," thus helping to ensure a second term in office.