Entry Twelve: Election 2016 (An Autopsy)

It would appear, at the moment, that the United States of America has elected a narcissistic buffoon to it’s highest public office. That’s unfortunate.

trumphair
And unsightly.

Thankfully, by itself, that is not the existential disaster that major sections of social media seem to think it is. It certainly isn’t the first time we’ve placed a staggeringly unqualified individual in the Oval Office. And although there’s a very real concern over what sort of presidency Trump might attempt to craft, last Tuesday’s results are hardly the apocalypse the fine citizens of Portland (apparently) seem to think it is.

portlandriots2016
Pictured: Not “thugs”, apparently.

Now you can call that position white male privilege if you’re inclined to, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong. You’d be a facile jackass, but not completely wrong. Unquestionably, it IS easier for me to remain ungripped by fear when my chances of being victimized over race/religion/gender/sexual orientation/etc. are relatively low. So no, I’m incapable of speaking to or for the primal reactions people are having to the very real (and dare I say deplorable) uptick in hate crimes following the outcome of the race. Whatever his actual disposition, Donald Trump ran on a platform that true bigots found empowering, and that is both disappointing and disturbing.

However, it’s worth remembering one key fact: Donald Trump is a goddamn liar.

Hard to believe with such an honest face.
Hard to believe with such an honest face.

He lies, gets caught in lies, and changes his lies to suit his mood or the weather or whatever-the-crap else at a rate that most of us perspire. And the only legitimate fear on the horizon is that a Donald Trump presidency will be exactly what the Donald Trump campaign promised us it would be. And the only logical way I could be afraid of that is to take the man at his word.

And I’d be a fucking moron to do that at this point.

So yes, I’m outraged that the neo-nazis have fresh hate-boners and there’s been an uptick in juvenile douchery. And I will PERSONALLY jack-slap anyone I happen to see engaging in such disrespect in my presence, laws be damned.

But America’s Hitler? Yeah, we ain’t there. Yet. Maybe it will come to that, but I personally doubt this asshole has the required ambition. The election was a titanium-cased shit show, certainly, but it isn’t the quite the fall of the Republic. If Trump’s current trend of appointing closet goose-steppers to key offices continues, then we’ll see. Until then, I’m gonna hold off on retrofitting an attic with secret rooms for the kindly Muslim family down the street.

For now.

What we have, however, is the first time in modern memory that the winning candidate’s public persona has been comprised quite so completely of provable bullshit. The sum total of Trump’s campaign was toddler-level fibbing and a tough guy act so absurd it wouldn’t make it past the writer’s table of an 80’s Saturday-morning cartoon.

To be fair, any one of these guys would have had my vote before Trump.
To be fair, any one of these guys would have had my vote before Trump.

The depths to which our first Twittering, pro-wrestling, reality TV starring President-Elect sunk in order to garner votes was unprecedented, but hardly surprising. We live in an age of pride in ignorance, or worse yet pride in false knowledge. So it was really only a matter of time before an avatar of some simplistic shit like the alt-right mounted a major campaign.

But to win? No one thought that was possible. Certainly not me, and not the vast majority of pollsters, pundits, and statisticians who make this kind of thing their job. Even as august a voice as Nate Silver, who was getting in Twitter-fights with someone over at Huffington Post for low-balling Hillary’s chances, was still giving her somewhere around 70%. Interestingly, the reason for his relatively gracious outlook on Trump’s chances were probably the exact reason the election went the way it did, albeit dramatically underestimated.

So what the fuck happened, exactly? Well, that’s the 18.6 trillion dollar question, and right about now you can’t throw a meme on the internet without it bouncing off five conflicting opinions. I’ve thus far read every possible explanation from “lack of young voter turnout” to the always-popular “Illuminati”. But the fact of the matter is, literally no one can reasonably answer that question at the moment.

Assuming they haven't got to me, too.
Of course, that’s just what they would want you to believe.

It’s important to remember just how balls-out huge the process of an election is. Calling a winner is the easy part. Examining where and who and (most importantly) why people voted for one side or the other will be a months-long process, and the only fully accurate information will be yielded long after most people have stopped giving a shit. So I’m not going to sit here on my lonely little blog and pretend I know why Donald Trump was elected president. I was wrong about his chances to begin with, so the height of hubris would be to try and tell you how this went down while there are still absentee ballots being counted.

However, there are a precious few pieces of information which seem credible. And from them, we can probably determine what DIDN’T cause Trump’s victory, at least in a few instances. It should come as no surprise that a few of these are being recited by commercial media as the current narrative, seeing as how their narrative has been horseshit recently.

whitebitches

First and foremost, a rise of racism didn’t cause Trump to ascend to (in)glorious victory. Nor did a rise in authoritarianism, economic stress, disenfranchisement, or any other kind of “ism” you could name. This man did not become President-Elect by the dramatic upswing of any one singular social force. He didn’t ride on any tides to a wave of victory, he didn’t “tap into” anything people were feeling that hadn’t already been mined by a fuck-ton of politicians before him. How is this evident? Well, as of this writing, Donald Trump is sitting on about 61,500,000 votes, give or take a couple of cheering rallies. That puts him at roughly half-a-paltry-million more votes than were earned by this guy:

Enter: The Mormon
Enter: The Mormon

So once again, doing some actual counting tells us something important. It tells us that after two years of campaigning, hundreds of swing-state Nuremberg knock-offs, and about sixty thousand batshit psychotic tweets, Donald Trump managed to JUST barely outperform Mitt Romney. Romney, it should be noted, was the least exciting Presidential candidate since Walter Mondale, someone who managed to get electorally slaughtered while failing to unseat a man that used to make movies with a trained chimp.

Trump did not “rise” on anything. He didn’t rise at all. He barely got a bump higher than the last guy the GOP nominated. To be fair, he did it with major sections of the Republican establishment refusing to back him. But all that proves is that voters don’t give a shit if other politicians are backing a candidate or not, a fact that that seems to be obvious to everyone on the planet except politicians.

Yes, amazingly most people don't take this guy's opinion into consideration when voting, no matter how many times he changes his mind.
Yes, amazingly most people don’t take this guy’s opinion into consideration when voting, no matter how many times he changes his mind.

The second thing that didn’t cause this outcome was a lack of support for Hillary Clinton. It IS true that she has more than three million votes less than Obama got during his last run. And it’s also true that this most likely reflects voter apathy, combined with a sense of distrust inside her own base, particularly after her obvious hatchet job on Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

However, what is also true is, and this is important: SHE WON THE GODDAMN POPULAR VOTE. More Americans, at the end of the day, have voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. Like, over a million more so far, and that number is generally expected to rise. So as much as I personally don’t care for the woman’s politics, and as much as I held my nose when voting for her myself, to say her “lack of support” played into this as a general statement is ludicrous. Her loss was a strategic one, boiled down to demographics on a county-by-county level that favored her opponent within the rules of that obsolete clusterfuck called the Electoral College.

3rdparty

On the same note, and fully realizing how much shit I give them, it probably wasn’t third-party voters who caused this outcome either. A lot has been written about how many votes Jill Stein got in Michigan or whatever, and maybe future data will prove me wrong on this. But in a situation where no one knows whether a third-party voter would even VOTE without the option to cast their useless little protest ballot, it’s a stretch at best to blame this outcome on Johnson and Stein supporters.

And finally, with some reservation, it PROBABLY wasn’t Russian hackers who fucked this up either. Probably. I mean, it is seriously difficult to put anything past Vladimir Putin, who I honestly think is the most dangerous person on the planet right now (at least until January 20th).

Hard to believe with such an honest face.
Hard to believe with such an honest face.

Given the piecemeal nature of our election process, it’s CONCEIVABLE that this race could have been flipped by targeted subterfuge in a collection of key counties. I would thoroughly support a full-scale effort to investigate any reliable evidence that someone meddled in an American election, and that may yet happen. But I’m pretty sure Putin’s ego is on a scale large enough that he’d have confidence in his ambition whether or not he was dealing with a President Clinton or Trump. Pretty sure. Maybe.

So, barring intervention by Boris and Natasha, what DID cause this upset? Dare I even speculate? Of course I do, it’s me.

Ya boy.
Ya boy.

From the looks of things, a lot of the same white people who voted for Obama in the last two elections jumped ship to Trump. These would be people who are keen on the whole “change” thing, and don’t much care who promises to bring it so long as they seem earnest in doing so. Unfortunately, these are people who, for whatever reason, tend to live in swing states.

And it would appear, at this early stage of analysis, that the Clinton campaign simply didn’t reckon on those people. That they paid lip-service to places like Michigan and Pennsylvania and North Carolina, on the assumption of a “blue wall” that never really existed. I suspect that part of this assumption was a complete inability to imagine a white voter who would cast for Obama in 2012, then turn around and vote for an evident racist in 2016. Within the narrative of Hillary’s campaign, that kind of person wouldn’t exist, let alone actually show up to the polls and vote with the deplorables.

Well I hate to count the chickens before they’ve all come to roost, but it certainly looks like A: not only does that kind of voter exist but that B: there are apparently enough of them to throw a fucking Presidential election.

Surprise!
Surprise!

So, in the end it wasn’t racism on the right or lack of energy on the left. Barring some extraordinary discovery of Russian chicanery, it would appear what we have here are the results a strategic misstep meeting the vagaries of the electorate.

It was, in other words, American democracy.

It was loud and messy and boisterous and pretty shitty. It was nastier than the usual round, and it might have elected a fascist. Or maybe not, because the confusion continues no matter how badly we all wanted this to be over.

But it was what it was BECAUSE it worked as we the people designed it to, not in spite of it. If we don’t like that (and I don’t, and we shouldn’t) then we should fix it. We should stop thinking about politics once every four years and spend one day weekly writing our congressperson about whatever is on our minds. Why?

Just. Fucking. Because.

We should let them know that the bill we’re hearing about on the news is bullshit. We should TELL THEM to stop arguing over the topic du jeur on social media and fix the pipes and bridges. And if Donald Trump starts putting anyone on a motherfucking registry list, we should remind them how much firepower is lying around the streets and homes of America.

Picture unrelated.
Picture unrelated.

You want to abolish the Electoral College? You want to put an end to the longest war in American history? You want to get paid a living wage in a town where opiate addicts can get some basic goddamn medical aid?

Terrify the state. Be scarier than they are. Make some fucking noise in one direction, at once, instead of against each other on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll say it loudly because I’m as guilty of it as anyone.

At the end of the day, the Republic is NOT falling. It’s not even on life support. The stupid, scary thing about this election is that IT WORKED EXACTLY THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO. It worked based on systems we’ve allowed to continue, and it worked because we’ve been too busy fighting each other to create the kinds of changes we all agree on.

The system in not broken. But it does need our maintenance.

Now.

Entry Eight: Dem Dems; A Post-Debate Primer On Hillary, Bernie, and Those Other Guys (Whoever They Are)

[NOTE: Yes, I’ve been lying low for more than a month. Yes, I’m back to semi-regular updates. Yes, I’m still writing. No, I’m not on the road, my traveling has paused for the winter. Yes, I still have stories to tell from the great American highway. Yes, I will. No, I will not father your children (most of you). That is all.]

candidates

So, the nominees for the Democrat side of the Presidential ticket had a debate nearly two weeks ago, and I watched it. Fortunately for everyone, I took notes. Unfortunately, it took me this long just to shake myself out of the internal mental screaming that followed the event so I could actually write a little about it. Now that the tortured wailing of my psyche has calmed down a bit, we can have a review. I sincerely hope everyone is ready, because I might need another round of therapy after muddling through this mountain of “holy shit these people want to be the President”. Remember, I do this for you, gentle reader. The tip jar is still on the left.

Okay, deep breath. And……. go.

JIM WEBB

It seems appropriate to start with the candidate who has, in the least surprising bit of political news of the past week, already dropped out of the race. Former Senator Jim Webb’s performance in last week’s debate was nearly the most awkward thing I’ve seen since losing my virginity, and involved twice as much nervous stammering.

Webb, seen here vowing to eliminate likability.
Webb, seen here vowing to eliminate likability.

From the outset, when he introduced himself to America by touting his record of “accomplishing different things” (wow), to the moment he answered a final group question by stumbling over a description of that time he totally killed an NVA soldier who had the audacity to throw a grenade him, Jim Webb seemed to be doing everything he could to alienate himself from the Democratic base, if not regularly-adjusted humanity in general.

To be fair, Webb is a guy of staggering intelligence and fortitude. He’s a military historian, has written ten books on the subject, and taught at both the US Naval Academy and Harvard. He’s also got enough combat medals and citations to write an action movie script, and probably possesses more foreign affairs experience than anyone onstage except Hillary.

You magnificent bastard, I read your book.
You magnificent bastard, I read your book.

Unfortunately, none of those attributes translate into a guy that can work a political image in his favor. By the end of it, Jim Webb looked as uncomfortable being there as he made everyone else feel. Given his comments on the subject, maybe he’s a little more in tune with general consensus than he seems. Either way, he’s out of the race, and the less said about this false-start of a campaign, the better.

lincoln chafee

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Did you know who Lincoln Chafee was before the debate aired? Me neither. Apparently, he’s from Rhode Island, and he used to be a mayor there, then a Senator, then the governor of the state. Did you know that Rhode Island was still a part of the United States before the debate aired? Me neither, I had to google all that shit. So…. yeah. Shout-out to Rhode Island. Glad you’re still with us. Don’t hear a whole lot from you guys. Keep it real.

Pictured: Pretty much all of Rhode Island, I think.
Pictured: Pretty much all of Rhode Island, I think.

The debate established two memorable things about Chafee. First, he changes party affiliation more often than I change mobile phone carriers (literally). He’s been a Republican, an Independent, and now finally a Democrat. I’m only sorry the Whigs aren’t still around, so he could check them out next. Chafee is either the least welcome guy around the party clubhouses, or a man who stands on principle. Either of those things is enough to disqualify him for the Presidency.

The second thing was that Chafee’s point of pride coming into this was a complete lack of scandal over the course of his political career. While this was clearly meant as a dig on Hillary, it remains a pretty sad fact of American politics that “hasn’t had a scandal” counts as a positive point for electability and not just, you know, a bare minimum for any public office higher than Rowan County Clerk of Court. Unfortunately, the spin he put on it came off less like “look at all the integrity I have” and more like “holy shit I’m so boring you may as well skip your ambien tonight”.

martin o’malley

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Coming directly out of his previous job as the governor of Maryland was Martin O’Malley. This is not a guy who likes downtime. Since 1991, he’s been a Baltimore city council member, the mayor of that same city, and then the governor of the state without so much as a year in between to just chill the hell out. Somewhere in that time, he managed to become one of the major influences for the Tommy Carcetti character on “The Wire”, who was played by the guy who would go on to portray Littlefinger on “Game of Thrones”. Make of that what you will.

Maybe Baltimore needs a Moon Door?
Maybe Baltimore needs a Moon Door?

I have a strong suspicion that O’Malley is an issue candidate. He seemingly turned every question into an excuse to talk about renewable energy like he was in the pocket of Big Solar (TM). This theory is only mitigated by the fact that I’m not entirely sure there’s even such a thing as Big Solar. Given his pattern, he’s more than likely using this hopeless campaign to interview for his next job. He seems to be shooting for Secretary of Energy under whoever winds up in the White House. Maybe he’s just looking for a job where he can finally stop getting shit on by David Simon.

hillary clinton v4.0

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And here we go again.

The latest entry into the Clinton Machine’s incessant effort to dominate all of American politics took to the stage in grand fashion. Hillary version 4.0 seemed to be a refined version of all the best aspects of the model’s previous iterations. She possessed the whimsical charm of Hillary the Candidate’s Wife and Hillary the First Lady (versions 1.0 and 1.5, respectively), the stoic resolve of Hillary the Faithful Wife (version 2.0), the blank unoffensive nature of 2.7’s Hillary the Senator, and the gregarious charisma of Hillary the ’08 Candidate and Hillary the Secretary of State (3.0 and 3.5). Truly, her programmers and image consultants have a lot to be proud of.

In keeping with her chameleonic ability to morph into whatever kind of politician she needs to be, Hillary pulled a “wasn’t me” on the first question. Anderson Cooper, who was generally about as useful in this debate as the referee at a WWE event, asked her point blank if she’ll say anything to get elected. Clinton managed to turn her answer into a six-minute long bragging session on her “consistency”. That was such a vintage example of Clinton-style bullshittery, I had a 90’s flashback and briefly forgot what my definition of “is” is.

Let's be real about this: If there were no such things as term limits, this man would still be the President.
Let’s be real about this: If there were no such things as term limits, this man would still be the President.

The impressive thing about the former Goldwater Girl’s performance was an ability to interweave her usual political brutality into this newly-found warm and fuzzy image. Without making it obvious, she took Bernie Sanders to task on his less-than-hard-line gun control record by referencing a mass shooting that was less than a month old.

With “only” a D rating from the NRA on the issue of pumping as many assault weapons as possible into the responsible hands of the American public, clearly the dead bodies in Roseburg were Bernie’s fault, after all. Nothing like leveraging the fresh tears of grieving families to score points against the guy who’s trouncing your poll numbers. Classy.

bernie sanders

berniesanderspointing_600x400

Here comes Bernie Claus, here comes Bernie Claus, right down Bernie Claus way. Free education, for everyone out there, don’t ask how we’ll pay.

Anyone with musical talent can feel free to complete that song and post a video of their performance in the comment section.

Yes, the darling of the internet came out swinging, or at least wildly gesticulating like Doc Brown talking about gigawatts of power. Senator Bernie Sanders clearly arrived at this debate with a message, and he wasn’t gonna let little things like volume control get in the way of that.

Bernie is not what you’d call a “realistic” candidate. Though his ideas obviously resonate, and might even be amazing if implemented, he seemed far more interested in outlining a vision for a new America than he was explaining how we were going to make the rest of Washington implement it. Even Jim Webb managed to shake himself out of torpor long enough to point out that Congress has to agree to all this shit before before we go shifting government spending toward domestic investment and away from bombing brown people. I’m paraphrasing, mostly.

On an impressive note, Bernie managed to work the crowd despite evoking the persona of an old man yelling from his front porch. At any given moment he sounded half a breath away from ordering Anderson Cooper off his lawn, and really, who could blame him?

But the most telling moment of the night was, unsurprisingly, the most misinterpreted by the punditry. Seriously, I stopped trying to figure out a long time ago which political commentators on the cable channels were willfully accepting scripted dialog and which really are that fucking daft.

Regardless, Bernie’s “everyone is tired of hearing about your damn E-Mails” moment was illuminating for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was the most factual statement I heard all night. Secondly, it showed a level of political acumen I didn’t know the man possessed. Rather than being “helpful to Hillary” as the talking heads seemed convinced, it was a subtle attempt to shut any talk of Clinton controversy down that night.

And good for him. Because Hillary knows from experience that nothing fires up the Democratic base as much as reminding everyone just how far the GOP will go to drag her in front of a committee for some insignificant reason or another. A protracted discussion of yet another Republican media circus starring Hillary Clinton would have only helped her that night, and Bernie knew it.

So maybe he’s not entirely the batty old man I thought he was. Maybe he DOES know how to work the political system to achieve nigh-impossible goals. He’s certainly been hanging around Congress long enough to have learned. And shutting down Hillary’s self-serving review of just how much the other side can’t stand her definitely qualifies as “nigh-impossible”.

in conclusion

All I know for certain is that we can all start counting the days till Chafee and O’Malley go the way of Jim Webb and into the category of “former Presidential candidate”. As for Bernie and Hillary, time will tell.

I will say that in the weeks since I did my write-up on the slowly diminishing GOP field of nominees, I’ve changed my wish list. Rand Paul is proving to be about as interesting as Norwegian television, and Donald Trump is proving to be cleverer than I thought. I now sincerely wish for a Trump vs. Sanders general election. If nothing else, I’ll have shit to write about through next November.

Let the memes commence.