On the Nevada Democratic Convention

I’ve seen Sanders supporters here and there demanding to know why Clinton supporters haven’t been talking about the mess that was the Nevada Democratic Convention over this past weekend. I can only answer for myself, though I’ve been a vocal Clinton supporter for several months. In my case, I’ve been quiet for three reasons:

  1. There hadn’t been much reporting done yet, just claims made.
  2. The history of claims of maltreatment from Sanders supporters don’t have a great history.
  3. Pointing out #2 when Sanders is already losing seems like a waste of energy.

Still, if Sanders supporters are going to insist on seeing a conspiracy of silence, I can speak up. Let’s start by talking about caucuses generally, because if you’re going to insist on saying one went wrong, you need to know what it looks like when one goes right.

Going back to basics, caucuses are one of the least-democratic ways a U.S. political party currently chooses its candidates. “Least-democratic” here means the fewest voters are directly represented in the outcome. Some smaller political parties are less democratic in that several states have no input into the national decision, but by and large, the days of backroom decision-making are done. The people who are allowed and able to participate in state contests choose the candidates to some degree. Caucuses are now the low bar.

Primaries, of course, are more democratic than caucuses. Open primaries, where people don’t have to be registered with the party whose candidate they’re choosing, are more democratic than closed primaries. However, they’re also open to being gamed by people who don’t support the party in whose primary they’re voting.

Proportional awarding of delegates to the national convention based on vote tallies is more more democratic than the winner-take-all system used by the Republicans, which turned Trump’s pluralities into a probable majority. Awarding delegates based on which candidate wins a smaller geographic region can also be less democratic than proportional representation, particularly if it follows gerrymandered borders.

All of that is a long way of saying that, if your concern is the will of the people and hearing the masses over party machinery, caucuses are the wrong places to be looking. (Though the assertion that party selection processes should reflect the will of the most people is an open question.) Caucuses are, by definition, about giving the people willing to put in the most effort far more say than anyone else. That makes them less accessible to people with physical limitations, people who don’t speak English well, people who work off hours, and people who can’t afford childcare.

So if you’ve been sharing things that tell me how super important it is that your candidate does well in caucus states, I’m already not terribly sympathetic to arguments that he was robbed and the will of the voters has been undone by machinations. This is particularly true when you’ve also been sharing things telling me how super great it is that your team used this not-very-democratic process to overturn the will of the people who were able to vote in the caucus and gain a disproportionate number of delegates to the state convention. (This is particularly true when the information is misleading to boot, but more on that later.) Inconsistencies like this, on top of all that nonsense about red states–which just happened to be the states with high proportions of non-white voters–only make me think you’re conflating democracy with getting what you, personally, want. Continue reading “On the Nevada Democratic Convention”

On the Nevada Democratic Convention
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Jonathan Chait, “PC”, and Liberal Responsibility for Trump

Today, Jonathan Chait uses his column over at New York Magazine to do what all the cool kids are doing, tell us how Trump ended up the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Spoiler: It’s our lack of eugenics programs.

The 2006 movie Idiocracy depicts a future in which Americans have grown progressively dumber, and eventually elect as president of the United States a professional wrestler, who caters demagogically to their nationalistic impulses and ignorance of science. Only because the film took place in an imaginary world was it possible to straightforwardly equate a political choice with a lack of intelligence. In the actual world, the bounds of taste and deference to (small-d) democratic outcomes make it gauche to do so. But the dynamic imagined in Idiocracy has obviously transpired, down to the election of a figure from pro wrestling: [There is video at the link, if you want some wrestling theater.]

While it’s impolite and politically counterproductive, if we want to accurately identify the analytic error that caused so many of us to dismiss Trump, we must return to the idiocy question. The particular idiocy involves both the party’s elites and its voters. The failures of the elites have been the source of analysis for months now. Republican insiders and donors failed to grasp the severity of the threat Trump posed to their party, many of them rallied behind obviously doomed legacy candidate Jeb Bush, or they used ineffectual messages when they did attack Trump. Or, most of all, they simply deluded themselves about the dangers he posed rather than face up to them. I never believed party insiders could fully dictate the outcome of the nomination, but I did expect them to be able to block a wildly unacceptable candidate, and they proved surprisingly inept even in the face of extreme peril to their collective self-interest.

Then there are the voters, whose behavior provided the largest surprise. It was simply impossible for me to believe that Republican voters would nominate an obvious buffoon. Everything about Trump is a joke.

I’m not going to delve deeply into the Idiocracy reference, but yes, really, eugenics. Plus a denial of the demographic facts. And a nifty little dose of ableism like a cherry on top.

I don’t want to get too far into Chait’s poor argumentation either, but I can’t quite let that paragraph about Republican Party elites pass without comment. Why are these elites “idiots”? Because they didn’t do what Chait expected them to be able to do. They were inept because what they did didn’t work. It can’t be that the problem was harder to deal with than Chait’s eyeballing it suggested. He stopped Trump, so clearly they must have been able to.

Oh, wait. He didn’t. He’s just calling people “idiots” and saying Trump is unserious at thesaurus-supported length, which will clearly solve the problem immediately. It’s a good thing someone finally thought to try it.

Oddly enough, nowhere among all the people Chait blames for Trump’s rise is Chait himself. Continue reading “Jonathan Chait, “PC”, and Liberal Responsibility for Trump”

Jonathan Chait, “PC”, and Liberal Responsibility for Trump

The Problem of Naive Multiculturalism

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

Multiculturalism is a problem, we’re told. Recognizing other cultures as being as valid as our own keeps bad, oppressive ideas alive and empowered. Endorsing multiculturalism is what leads to feminists in Muslim countries being branded “native informants” instead of interested parties in their own societies.

It also situates Ms. Eltahawy’s work within a growing trend of “native informants” whose personal testimonies of oppression under Islam have generated significant support for military aggression against Muslim-majority countries in recent years.

If we believe in multiculturalism, we’re told, Mona Eltahawy’s protests against harassment, assault, and exclusion aren’t real because they can be used to serve American goals. They aren’t valid because her statements on the her interests and the interests of other women like her don’t reflect the positions of every woman enmeshed in Egyptian Islamism.

Embracing multiculturalism is what leads feminists and LGBT activists to support Islamist men in shutting down a talk by an ex-Muslim woman speaking about the costs of Islamism borne by women.

Goldsmiths Feminist Society stands in solidarity with Goldsmiths Islamic Society. We support them in condemning the actions of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and agree that hosting known islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.

If we embrace multiculturalism, we’re told, we must always side with the people in power in any society. We can’t question their motives, their means, or their effects on others. We must respect them as they are, or we are simply foisting our own views on another culture.

So we’re told. Of course, we’re told a lot of things. It’s good to take a step back every once in a while and question whether they’re true. In this case, they aren’t. Continue reading “The Problem of Naive Multiculturalism”

The Problem of Naive Multiculturalism

“Secular Lobby Day”, Monette Richards on Atheists Talk

One of the goals of the atheist movement is to have our voices represented and heard in the halls of power. Until we’re elected in any great number, one of the best ways to do this remains lobbying our elected representatives. Before we can do that, however, we need to know how to lobby.

For the past four years, Monette Richards of the Center for Inquiry–Northeast Ohio and Secular Woman has organized a Secular Summit in Ohio. The Secular Summit combines training in lobbying with hands-on practice in talking to politicians. That includes talking to politicians who disagree with you. Monette joins us this Sunday to talk about what goes into lobbying and what we get out of lobbying together as atheists.

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“Secular Lobby Day”, Monette Richards on Atheists Talk

Bernie Sanders and Revolution Betrayed

The revolution will not be organized, and it turns out I’m a bit angry about that.

This post is about why I’m voting against Bernie Sanders for Democratic nominee. I’m afraid that to be taken seriously doing that these days, particularly as a woman, requires a political autobiography. Credentials required lest someone think I am merely voting genitalia.* So here they are.

The first presidential election I recall having any feelings about, much less strong feelings, was the Carter-Reagan-Anderson race of 1980. I was for Anderson, mostly because I found the Carter administration weak and too easily mired in scandal. I was wrong, because I didn’t understand how major third-party candidates worked against the candidates they were closest to politically in our system, and because I didn’t understand how the press manufactures the image of an administration, but it didn’t much matter. I couldn’t vote. I was barely ten when the election happened.

I grew up political. I also grew up Gen X, particularly that little slice of Gen X who knew that nothing we did was going to matter because Reagan was going to get us all killed with his macho, anti-communist, bullshit posturing before we got to see any significant slice of adulthood. It turns out we were wrong about that too, though not because of Reagan. An awful lot of people worked to keep us all from dying.

It took a long time to grow out of this idea that nothing we did mattered. Continue reading “Bernie Sanders and Revolution Betrayed”

Bernie Sanders and Revolution Betrayed

Reproductive Justice: Activism on the Sidewalk

I don’t have any new stories from clinic escorting for you. Two weekends ago, I was out of town for Secular Social Justice. This weekend, I was still recovering from con crud.

You don’t need me, though. Instead, have Niki Massey, who’s been doing this far longer than I have and who inspired me to start escorting. This was her talk at Skepticon, given on about ten minutes notice on Sunday morning when another speaker couldn’t appear. She volunteered without thinking when she found out about the problem, and neither I nor the organizers gave her any time to change her mind.* You can see why.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvprAPChJyw

* I did make sure she was well taken care of after the talk. I’m only so cruel.

Reproductive Justice: Activism on the Sidewalk

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

Yesterday, I posted something about the race for the Democratic nomination. It wasn’t an endorsement of either candidate. It made no argument in favor of either candidate. It didn’t even express my preference for either candidate.

What I posted yesterday was a critique of the political process as it’s playing out this year. It pointed out that allowing our progressive selves to embrace decades of right-wing character assassination of Hillary Clinton harms more than Clinton. It pointed out that doing this harms me and other women who have been subjected to similar campaigns for being politically active and effective. And it pointed out that it’s nearly impossible to get people to pay attention to this problem.

It also said this:

Commenting note: If you think a personal reflection like this is a place to argue for or against your candidate, whoever that might be, think again. Think hard. Trying to talk about this problem–and having that treated as though I were campaigning instead of engaging in the same cultural critique I do every day as a feminist–has been exhausting and disheartening. My reserves of diplomacy are running low.

Here are the comments I received on that post that you won’t see there. Continue reading “No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition”

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I

I was chatting with someone last night about politics, like you do, privately, like you do, so we could have a conversation instead of being interrupted by people telling us how Hillary Clinton is evil. Things get a little rough when politics turns people into sea lions. He mentioned appreciating a piece on the Democratic contest at Shakesville, so I went looking for it.

I don’t know whether “Expectations of the Monster” is the piece he was talking about, but I didn’t get past it. I got stuck instead, stuck trying to figure out how to share it. I got stuck trying to figure out how to get people to read it as it was, there on the screen, instead of as a piece of partisan propaganda. It was the same stuck I’d been trying to figure out how to share the “All-Caps” piece (warning: brief auto-play video at the bottom of page) from earlier.

I was still stuck when I went to bed. When I woke up, this is what came out.

When we’re talking about the Democratic presidential nomination, and I tell you that Hillary Clinton’s actual record shows continual movement to the left (which is not flip-flopping), some of you will tell me that you just don’t trust her. You’ll tell me Clinton is calculating, cold, evasive. You’ll point to “scandals” as though the existence of so many allegations proves there must be some core of fact.

You might as well call me “dogmatic” and “authoritarian” to my face. Continue reading “If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I”

If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I

You Say You Want a Revolution

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

“When the revolution comes….”

Photo of grafiti saying "revolution" in black text with "love" spelled backward in red embedded. A red heart is on either side of the word.
Crop of “Revolution – LOVE” by Arkadiusz Sikorski, CC BY-2.0

It’s a dream, a mantra, a prayer for some. I’ve heard it from the anarchists. I’ve heard it from the socialists. I’ve heard it from the communists. I haven’t heard it from the libertarians or the secessionists or the sovereign citizens, but that’s probably only because I know that sometimes I have to choose between the polite smile and actually listening.

I haven’t said it myself. I don’t expect I will. All impulses to burn everything down to the contrary, I’m a reformer at heart. Everything I’ve learned about revolution has reinforced that tendency. Even having revolutionaries near and dear to my heart and among the people I want to grow up to be hasn’t shaken me on this.

It does, however, make me want to explain why I believe revolution is a terrible idea in most democratic states.

Before I do that, though, what do I mean by “revolution”? I mean the transfer of governmental power within a state through extra-legal means, not merely rapid political change. If the mass of U.S. non-voters rose up next year and wrote in coordinated candidate slates at every level of government, the potential for change would be enormous. It would not, however, be revolution.

In a revolution, power is seized rather than granted. Additional changes to the political system are then required to maintain that power rather than have the upstarts thrown out and prosecuted. With enough backing, a revolution can be bloodless, but this isn’t the norm.

That’s what I mean when I talk about revolution. That’s generally what people mean when they talk about “the revolution” coming, though they may be hazy on the details of how it’s supposed to happen or how power is supposed to held and maintained under the new system.

There’s a good reason those details are hazy for most people who are pro-revolution. It’s because the process of a revolution is ugly. It’s ugly in the lead-up, ugly in the transfer of power, and usually ugly in the outcome. Continue reading “You Say You Want a Revolution”

You Say You Want a Revolution

There Is No Pure in Politics

A few days ago, I posted a two-part guest post from Kelly McCullough about the necessity of voting. The first part was practical, laying out some political truths about why this country has found itself where it is today. The second part was far more direct, talking about the people voting most affects. As a nominally fertile woman, I happen to be one of those people.

Apparently, Kelly’s post wasn’t blunt enough, as I have two people who usually display relatively normal reading comprehension skills going off the rails in the comments. One of them is bragging about how he does nothing to protect my rights while telling me I’m on a “high horse” and accusing me of calling him names. The other has a list of issues I must solve for him before he’ll do anything about my rights and is saying, oh, it doesn’t matter anyway, because systemic collapse must be on its way.

So, Kelly’s post was not blunt enough. I can fix that.

You really want a name from me? Fine. Let’s go with “complicit”. Continue reading “There Is No Pure in Politics”

There Is No Pure in Politics