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 Ten: Dear Third-Party Voters, It’s Kinda Time To Grow Up

ballot-296577_640

This post will assuredly offend some of my friends. It may well infuriate at least two or three of them. It already KINDA pisses me off, because if I heard it coming from someone else I’d be a little irritated at the tone myself. But in the spirit of this (now revived) blog, it bears writing, so I’m gonna write it. See Entry One for further clarification on my editorial standards.

It shouldn’t come as news to anyone that the United States is in the middle of an absolute shit-show of a Presidential election. Never in my lifetime have we witnessed anything at this level of galactic absurdity. As of this writing, nearly forty percent of the electorate are supporting a reality TV star for the motherfucking Presidency of the United States of America. The opposing candidate, while eminently qualified, is as shady as any member of this country’s political class. But she also has a vagina, and that apparently makes what she does ten times worse than what her male colleagues get away with, like, fifty times a day.

Your choices. Whether you like it or not
Your choices. Whether you like it or not

That being said, it is an indisputable fact that, barring extreme and/or dramatic circumstances, ONE of these two individuals will be elected to the Presidency in November. That is a given. Water is wet, the sky is blue, the sun rises in the East, and the American government is a two-party system. Period, point blank, end of story.

Some of you, however, can’t seem to get that through your thick skulls.

Enter Options C, D, and WTF
Enter Options C, D, and WTF

Look, I get it. I really do. Ask anyone who’s known me long enough. If we could rewind the timeline a couple of decades and ask young Paris what he thought about having a third party in American politics he’d talk your ear off about it. Thankfully we can’t, because he’d likely say a lot of other things that would embarrass the shit out of current Paris, so we’ll just leave this metaphor where it’s at.

The point is, I well understand the frustrations associated with the two-party system. There’s never a viable candidate that comes close enough to YOUR point of view. Both parties are shot through with corruption on a seemingly insurmountable level. They’re not as far apart politically as everyone seems to think they are, and they’re mostly under the influence of outside interests with deep pockets. The Republicans and Democrats are most distinct only in which economic factions tend to rent them out, with the exception of Wall Street, which lines pockets on both sides. I even understand the appeal of more flippant criticisms. As the great statesmen Jesse “The Body” Ventura once said: “The advantage of a two-party system is that it gives us one more choice than Soviet Russia.”

He then proclaimed himself a sexual Tyrannosaurus and blew up half the jungle.
He then proclaimed himself a sexual Tyrannosaurus and blew up half the jungle.

So third-party voters, I’d first like to say that I understand. All of these are valid points.

But it’s about high-time you got the fuck over them.

Before we get into the uselessness of modern American third parties, it’s worth having a review of how we got to a two-party system in the first place. Third party advocates are quick to point out that there’s nothing in the Constitution about political parties, and that George Washington himself warned against the dangers of such organizations in his farewell address. Both of these are true statements. It’s also true that there’s nothing in the Constitution about capitalism, the forty hour work week, or the Air Force; all things that most of us consider intrinsic to the American system today. Also, George Washington warned us about the dangers of getting involved in other countries’ business as well, which we fucking do all the time now. The point is these ships have sailed. They sailed over two centuries ago. They’ve sailed so hard they’ve had time to circumnavigate the globe, grow into full-blown fleets, and over-fish the ocean.

"Or, you know, run it however you want. The fuck do I know?"
“Or, you know, run it however you want. The fuck do I know?”

The two-party system began to form roughly five minutes after the first real presidential campaign started. Washington was essentially worshiped by that first generation of Americans, and for all intents and purposes ran unopposed. Thus was not the case for the next two candidates, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The United States first political parties (the Democratic-Republicans and Federalists, respectively) formed around them, and the American two-party system has been all but enshrined ever since. So yes, political parties aren’t outlined in the Constitution, but they’ve been with us for almost as long. Even when a new party arises, it has only done so by replacing an old one that’s falling apart internally. The Republicans, for example, rose into the power vacuum left by the implosion of the Whigs immediately before the Civil War.

So in short, the names change, the positions change, the voting base changes, but the existence of two primary parties that actually hold political power has been a staple of the United States basically for as long as it has been a country. Third parties, where they’ve been able to exist at all, have essentially formed around certain hot-button issues, and dissolved when those issues were either taken up by a major party or simply ceased being something people cared about. Read anything written about the Anti-Masonic Party if you want a good example of this.

What, you thought InfoWars started this shit?
What, you thought InfoWars started this shit?

This is usually the part where a typical third party advocate will interject with the “corruption” argument. The two parties hold power, they will attest, because of “unconstitutional” ballot-restriction laws in every state, passed by Republicans and Democrats to make sure no one can interfere with their cooperative tyranny over the freedom-loving American people. And while it’s true that certain laws on a state level are probably unnecessarily restrictive to aspiring third parties, most of them are simply serving to prevent fringe movements from wasting everyone’s time (as though the political process weren’t enough of a waste of time already).

The ACTUAL reason for a two-party paradigm in the American system has more to do with structure and mathematics than political corruption. This can best be explained by a principle that poly-sci types call “Duverger’s Law”. The short version of this principle (which even Duverger himself admitted wasn’t absolute in every political system, to be fair) is that a government set up like the United States’ will always give rise to two, and only two, dominant political parties.This is because any smaller grouping would lack the power to actually accomplish anything in a lawmaking body.

Maurice Duverger, seen here right before pissing all over a Dixiecrat poster
Maurice Duverger, seen here right before pissing all over a Dixiecrat poster

To see what that means, consider Congress. Distasteful, I know, but bear with me. For either house of Congress to pass legislation, it must be voted on by a “clear majority”, essentially more yeas than nays. If our one-hundred member Senate, for example, were divided into three roughly-equivalent parties, it would be mathematically impossible for a single party to pass any bills into law. Two of the three parties represented would have to form an alliance on every bill to grab the majority. The end result would be one of two things; either a single party that was disproportionately powerful, swinging its vote back and forth between the other two and basically deciding all by itself what became law, or three parties so ideologically separated from one another that cooperation would be impossible and deadlock insurmountable. If there were more than three parties, the chaos would only increase.

Yes, amazingly, there actually COULD be more cluster to this fuck.
Yes, amazingly, there actually COULD be more cluster to this fuck.

Duverger noted that it’s not just politicians, but voters who understand this. Banding together into systems of duality is basically the only way anyone can be on a winning side. To be certain, the end result are parties whose platforms are so vast and occasionally fickle that’s it’s nearly impossible for the average voter to agree with either of them on every single issue. But without this structure, you wouldn’t be able to vote for a candidate who could, even in theory, get a goddamn thing done.

And it’s not as though people haven’t tried to insert third parties into the modern age. Which brings us, rather amusingly, to one H. Ross Perot:

Perot
You knew this was coming.

For those readers too young or stoned to remember the early 1990’s, Perot was a Texas billionaire who very entertainingly funded his own independent presidential campaign, running against George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. He spent millions out-of-pocket on a campaign ground game. He purchased half-hour blocks of prime time television to lay out his economic plans. And if a thirty minute political ad sounds boring to you, then by god young’n you don’t know how batshit-insanely entertaining Ross Perot was.

You're gonna have to take my word on this.
You’re gonna have to take my word on this.

The guy was charismatic, affable, and basically an endless wellspring of watchable television. The press loved him. His former employees adored him. At one point he jumped out of the race and then back into it, claiming that the Republicans were planning to destroy his daughter’s wedding by accusing her of lesbianism. It was gloriously insane. Not even Bill Clinton playing sax for Arsenio could eat up the media bandwidth this dude mustered.

And the result was palpable. Voter turnout that year was at 55%, a number that wouldn’t be surpassed again until 2004. Excited by the prospect of a viable third party, formerly disenfranchised voters flocked to the polls. Nearly one out of every five of them voted for H. Ross Perot.

And unfortunately, this is where another aspect of Duverger’s Law came into play. Without the traditional inroads into voting populations that the other parties had, and with a campaign primarily driven by television, Perot’s support was simply spread too thin. Neither the GOP nor the Democrats were fractured in any way. The end result was that, even with 19% of the popular vote, H. Ross Perot did not gain a single vote in the Electoral College. There has, to date, never been a better funded, better organized, or more successful third-party bid for President of the United States. And it failed utterly.

“So what?” some of you are probably saying. A third party vote isn’t about winning. It’s about protesting the current system, or voting one’s conscience, or promoting a candidate who can insert an issue into the conversation that the other two candidates are ignoring. And those are all fair points. Myopic, but fair.

The purpose of this post isn’t to admonish you for acting as “spoilers” to the main election. It IS theoretically possible for a third party to draw enough voters away from a main party candidate that it can affect their chances, especially on a state-by-state level. There are some who feel that without Ross Perot in the race, for example, that disaffected Republicans (most of his voters, the reasoning goes) would have cast for Bush Sr, and we’d never have had a President Clinton. Some also point out that if Ralph Nader hadn’t drawn close to a hundred thousand (presumably Democrat) voters in Florida, then Al Gore would have beaten Bush Jr. in 2000.

This, however, is not something that concerns me in this election. For one thing, Hillary Clinton is currently slaughtering Donald Trump at the polls, despite what commercial media (and Trump himself) would like you to believe. For another, even the two examples cited above are questionable, at best. A huge chunk of Perot’s voters were either registered independents, or had never voted in an election in their lives. It’s unclear if they would have shown up to the polls at ALL, let alone voted for Bush. And assigning blame to Ralph Nader for losing Florida is, quite frankly, Democrats whining. Nearly a quarter of a million registered Democrats voted for Bush in Florida that year, so if they want someone to blame, go talk to those people and leave Captain Auto Safety alone.

You do you, oh magnificent wingnut.
You do you, oh magnificent wingnut.

No, my concern is that you, valued third-party voters, seem to be really passionate about the electoral and political process. And honestly? I’m kinda sad when you decide to vote yourselves out of it. Neither Jill Stein nor Gary Johnson are going to be President of the United States, period. And as troubled as your “conscience” might be voting for Hillary or Trump (and believe me, I get it), your precious little feelings aren’t what the American political system is about.

You want to protest the system? Move to alter the Constitution, and see how many of your fellow Americans would prefer a Parliament. Or take to the streets and protest. Write a blog. Start your own podcast, whatever. You want to insert an issue into the political discussion that wasn’t there before? That’s what primaries are for. Half of Hillary’s talking points wouldn’t be on the table without Bernie Sanders right now. You think anyone in this race is gonna waste airtime discussing Johnson’s ridiculous foreign policy notions, or Stein’s “Mother Earth” environmental policies? Not fucking likely, guys.

If you want a voice in the American political system, it goes through one of two parties. Simple as that. Those parties are as much a part of how we do things as the Supreme Court or the National Guard, and have been ever since Adams and Jefferson’s bromance went through its rocky phase.

Original party animals
Original party animals

Maybe, just maybe, after this embarrassment of a race is over, the Republican Party will remain fractured enough for a third party to rise up and take it’s place. And if that happens, more power to them. But when that process is over, you know what we’re gonna be left with? Two parties.

So in conclusion, I’m sorry that none of the mainstream candidates speak to every little issue you think is important in precisely the right way. But you know what? Every fucking voter in America is in the same situation, especially right now. So how about growing up a little, realizing representative government is a cooperative endeavor, and joining the rest of democracy for once? Maybe if enough of you obnoxiously vocal motherfuckers scream this hard behind a real party’s platform, something might actually start to change.