Maybe It’s Not The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Maybe It’s Just Your Candidate.

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I’m still seeing many people clinging to the argument that a lot of the stuff we see online that is critical of Hillary Clinton is either from sinister right-wing operatives or from gullible left-wingers who have been tricked by those operatives into not supporting the party-ordained candidate. Someone just posted a mini-rant (inspired by a New York Times piece) about Republicans posting anti-Hillary tweets so that liberals will repost them and be turned against Hillary…

Wait, what?

If the liberals are reposting these insidious tweets, they’re doing so because they agree with them already. They’re not being hypnotized by the totemic power of 140 well-chosen characters to achieve a sudden right-wing epiphany that Clinton doesn’t represent their views. If a GOP agent provocateur tweets “I love chocolate,” even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if some chocolate-loving Democrats agreed and retweeted.

Are there right-wing operatives out there in social media trying to manipulate voters? Of course. There are also confirmed accounts of the Clinton campaign using Karl Rovian tactics like push polls to try to dishonestly manipulate Democratic voters into believing false things about Bernie Sanders and his policies. That was the same tactic Rove used for Bush in South Carolina when the pollsters were telling racist voters John McCain had a little black baby. The Clinton camp and its surrogates have also, for months, tried tactics varying from implying that Bernie Sanders is just like Hugo Chavez, the ex- strongman dictator of Venezuela, to having the candidate herself lie straight in voters’ faces over and over again that Sanders plans to completely abolish Obamacare and then start all over on the healthcare issue. That simple lie — used constantly, the classic political “Big Lie” — has gone mostly unchallenged by the media and has misled many voters into thinking that their coverage is in danger if they vote for the guy who is actually trying to get them better, more affordable coverage.

This is, of course, the same Hillary whose campaign in 2008 released a picture of Barack Obama wearing traditional Kenyan garments, including a turban, in order to frighten voters into thinking he was a muslim, as well as resorting to other underhanded tactics designed to capitalize on white people’s base ignorance and xenophobia about foreigners and black people in general.

Which is worse? Republicans dishonestly trying to manipulate Democrats, or Democratic politicians cynically lying to manipulate their own voters?

How about when you see a liberal friend criticizing Hillary, or supporting Bernie, just give them the benefit of a doubt. Maybe, like you, they’ve come to their decision on their own terms, according to their own experience and values, and they have reached different conclusions than you have. Respect them, and engage them, and change their minds by reasonable sharing of information and ideas if you can. But stop projecting all this nonsense that if people disagree with you, it’s the Republicans’ fault.

Mostly, it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault.

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In Matters of Principle, Stand Like a Rock: A Plea To Your Better Angels

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Beautiful.

This is why I support Bernie Sanders. He’s a Hail Mary pass against all the entropy and corruption and business-as-usual. His roots are in New Deal America, and his roots are strong. He is running because he wants better for us, for ALL of us, and for our children, and he is willing, has always been willing, to fight like hell to get it for us. He represents a nearly impossibly rare opportunity to do great things, to reach for goals that elevate us as a people, to work for an America that truly belongs to us all.

A vote for Bernie is a vote for our people, our land, our country.

Please vote.

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson

A Special Place In Hell: Hillary Clinton vs. The Women Who Don’t Support Her

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Gloria Steinem looking for boys, 1996

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Thus spake Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State to Bill Clinton, with Hillary Clinton laughing gleefully by her side. The “women who don’t help each other” she was talking about were the very, very many women supporting Senator Bernie Sanders for the presidency instead of Mrs. Clinton. Essentially, Albright’s (and presumably Hillary’s) message was that if a woman dares to not vote for Clinton, she can go to hell.

Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem made comments on behalf of Clinton in which she said that the main reason young women are supporting Bernie Sanders is to meet boys. How disappointing it is to hear that sort of condescending bullshit from one of the guiding lights of feminism. In a single breath, she denies the political agency of millions of women to make their own informed decisions, and infantilizes them as acting emotionally rather than rationally simply because they aren’t falling in line and showing the proper obeisance to her candidate.

After an online shitstorm of outrage over her comments, Steinem is backpedaling in a clumsy bit of damage control and trying to play it off as a joke. But this isn’t the first time she’s made such condescending (matronizing?) comments about women who don’t support Hillary. A while back, she implied that women weren’t supporting Clinton because when they looked at the Clintons, it subconsciously reminded them of issues they had in their own marriages and that made them uncomfortable.

So, to Gloria Steinem, if you’re a woman and you don’t support her friend Hillary, it absolutely must be because you’re either immature and horny (if you’re one of the women under 45 who support Bernie Sanders 2:1) or driven to neurotic distraction by your marital difficulties (presumably if you’re a woman old enough to be assumed immune to your glandular drives). It can’t possibly be because you’re intelligent and have looked at the candidates, their policies, and their comportment as leaders and come to your own rational conclusions.

It’s an odd form of empowerment that demands obeisance and subservience.

Mother Jones recently ran an article titled “That Time Bernie Sanders Said He Was a Bigger Feminist Than His Female Opponent,” referring to the 1986 gubernatorial election in which Sanders was running against the incumbent, Madeleine Kunin. The writer plays on the reflexive outrage of such male presumption, and Sanders lost that race, but ironically ten years later in a congressional race against another female candidate:

“…feminist writer Gloria Steinem traveled to Vermont to endorse Sanders, joking that she’d come to make the congressman ‘an honorary woman.’ Another speaker, a female state senator, emphasized Sanders’ feminist credentials. ‘As we know, to be a feminist a person does not have to be a woman,’ she said. ‘A feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of this country…Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist.'”

That senator, her decisions no doubt driven by neurosis or puberty, is surely going to hell.

Recently, I saw a woman post this in a discussion on Facebook:

“Don’t let anybody – ANYBODY – tell you not to vote based on gender. We’ve elected presidents of this country for 250 years based on gender. The white men (and women with Stockholm Syndrome) telling you otherwise, are guilty of supporting yet another white man because, whether they are conscious of their internalized biases or not, they aren’t truly ready for a women in charge. It is clear as day that Hillary is vastly more qualified for the job. Period. Truth be told: there will never be the ‘right’ women for these people.”

Now, first thing, I’m not going to tell you not to vote based on gender, or whatever other criteria you choose. That’s your right, and frankly, all things being equal, I’d vote for the female candidate in a heartbeat because I do, genuinely, think having a woman president is a damned important milestone we need to hit, and soon. If I thought, based on their records and policy and what I’ve been able to gauge of their character, that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were roughly equivalent, the gender factor would probably be the factor that swung me to vote for Hillary. But I don’t see them as equal at all, so I can’t commit to her just because she’s sort of okay in the usual corporate Democrat way, and also a woman.

And that’s me. You may be different, that’s fine, that’s the very nature of our sort-of-in-a-way democratic system. You decide based on what you want to decide on, I’ll do likewise, and we’ll argue about it and then settle it at the polls.

But read that quote up there again. This is, actually, from a professional writer,* a very smart woman, but a woman so blinded by her own viewpoint that she’s not even capable of granting respect to other women who decide to support the opposing candidate based on whatever criteria they decide. If you don’t support Hillary as a male voter, plainly that’s just sexism, of course, but if you’re a woman and don’t support her, it’s because you’re a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and “internalized biases” you’re not conscious of. If you aren’t willing to support the woman candidate JUST BECAUSE, then she is willing to deny you the very agency of your own thoughts and observations and decisions.

I find that fairly despicable.

Vote how you want. If gender is the only thing that matters to you, knock yourself out. But really, do you have to be such an asshole about it?

*( WHOOPS: I was wrong, she’s not a writer. She’s — get this — an actual Wall Street executive who used to be with Morgan Stanley. Consider the source…?)

Then there’s this, from the very smart and gifted Rebecca Traister in an article in Elle:
“[Hillary’s]…been tepid in her support of abortion rights; she has cozied up to Wall Street and big banks, drawing huge speaking fees and donations from the financial institutions that the next president should aggressively regulate. In the Senate, she deployed dismaying rhetoric against immigration rights, once describing herself as ‘adamantly against illegal immigrants,’ and it took her…way too long to support gay marriage.”
Yet the entire article is about how Traister, despite huge reservations about Hillary, will vote for Hillary anyway because Hillary is a woman.

I’m sympathetic. I look forward to seeing the first female POTUS, too, and as a white guy I’m forced to admit that such a milestone is by definition much more important to many women than it is to me. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is not important to me, nor that I am a misogynist for not supporting Clinton (an accusation I’ve suffered through already from devout Clinton supporters). What it means is that I’m aware of the big flaws in Clinton that the writer herself acknowledges, as well as others, and I’m able to rationally compare what she has to offer to what Bernie Sanders has to offer.

Again, if I were doing a “Plus-side/Minus-side” chart of the two candidates, I’d put “Is a woman” on the plus side for Hillary, and “Is a white guy” on the minus side for Bernie just because I do want our culture to hit that milestone. Unfortunately for Hillary, my chart wouldn’t stop there, though it seems to for many of her supporters.

“There will be sexism, veiled and direct, from the right and the left,” Traister writes. “Democratic women will feel screwed by their friends all over again, as I did in August when I saw a poll showing Clinton ahead of her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders by a mere 6 points with the party’s men and 44 points with its women: a 38-percentage-point gender gap that seemed to speak volumes about how much men on the left care about women’s leadership…”

I’d say that it speaks more to the fact of how much some women on the left care more about having a woman in office than they do about actual policy. Yet even with women, Clinton isn’t an overwhelming choice: her support among Democratic women, which was nearly universal when she started this campaign, has plummeted to ridiculous levels; twice as many women under 45 support Bernie Sanders as support her, and even a third of women her own age support him. So the strong majority of Democratic women clearly aren’t ignoring matters of candidate history and policy in the name of gender, and it’s a lot harder to accuse them of veiled misogyny. (Which is why they’re resorting to accusations of neurosis and immaturity.)

There’s a woman in my Facebook feed who I don’t know personally but whose work as a writer I have great respect for, and I see her post often about how great Hillary is, about how progressive she is, about how naive it is to think that Bernie (or anybody) can stand up to the wonderful Hillary Clinton. But, for me, everything she posts is tainted by the first comment on the matter I saw her post in which she showed anger at Sanders supporters and said something to the effect of “If these assholes keep us from getting a woman president and we just get another fucking white guy, I’m going to kick some asses.”

I support Bernie Sanders not just because he has been an unmatched progressive warrior for decades, not just because he is a man of unflinching integrity, not just because he stands solidly against the corrupt power of huge corporations and Wall Street rather than coddling them and taking their money, not just because he doesn’t coldly calculate every stance he takes based on polling and focus groups, not just because he’s not the safe choice of entrenched party power, and most definitely not at all because he’s a man. I support Bernie Sanders because I see in him an opportunity all-too-rare to actually make a huge difference in our government and our country. An opportunity for positive change on a New Deal scale.

Fortunately, more and more of my fellow voters, men and women, are seeing that in him too. Some may proclaim they’ll see us in hell…I see it more as we’re trying to get to America.

How The Democrats Can Give Us A Republican President

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We hear a lot of nonsense spin about not voting for Bernie Sanders because he’s “not electable.”

When you point out that in pretty much all the polls, for months, Sanders has outperformed Clinton (often by a large margin) when matched up against any specific GOP candidate, the data is handwavingly dismissed because “Hillary has low numbers because she’s been under attack for decades, but Sanders is untested.”

Other than the fact that the entire corporate power structure of the Democratic party is trying to squash him, of course.

And never mind the fact that in the past year, as both candidates have shown the people who they are and what they stand for, Sanders’s favorability numbers have soared from the low 30s to nearly 90% while Clinton’s have plummeted from the mid-70s to 39%. It can literally be said that most voters, whether they support him or not, genuinely like Bernie Sanders. The same is not true of Hillary Clinton.

All the same, while the polls consistently show Sanders beating GOP candidates by a larger margin than her, they do (usually) also show Clinton beating them. So if things continue along this track, it appears that either of them is actually electable, though Bernie would be the more certain bet.

Part of Bernie’s strength is that he has enormous blocs of voters who are incredibly passionate about his candidacy. Within the Democratic party, he has a two-to-one edge over Hillary among all voters under 45. Let me say that again: ALL DEMOCRATS UNDER 45 prefer Bernie by a two-to-one margin. And anyone who tells you that young people won’t turn out to vote hasn’t been paying attention to the tens of thousands of people who show up to see Bernie speak, or who spontaneously marched in support of him in cities coast to coast recently. The young people will be there for Bernie. He doesn’t do as well among older, longtime Democrats, though he still has a lot of support; even a third of Baby Boomer women, Hillary’s core demographic, support Bernie.

And many polls don’t even count independent voters, most of whom support Bernie, or the surprising number of crossover Republican voters who can’t stand their own candidates but see in Bernie a man of integrity they can get behind.

So much for the “electability” nonsense.

We also often see folks saying “whoever you support in the primaries, just be sure to support the winner in the general election.” And that’s a reasonable and rational request. There’s not a man or woman who has stood on a Republican debate stage who is qualified for the presidency, and some of them (the frontrunners, naturally) are simply monstrous and would be total disasters for our country and the world. Most sapient people would prefer either Clinton or Sanders to any of the snarling buffoons of the GOP, so the principle of supporting whoever ultimately winds up opposing them is obvious. And most people will do exactly that.

Except…

Except, young voters are pretty notorious for their lack of participation, and while many of those now fired up about Bernie Sanders will remain engaged even if he loses the nomination, the unfortunate likelihood is that many of them won’t. There will be anger, yes, but I don’t think that’s what will lead them to stay away on election day. I think it will be the nihilistic feeling that their vote doesn’t count after all. Bernie will have given them hope that an establishment they see as hidebound and corrupt could be successfully challenged and changed, and that hope will have been crushed. To a demographic that is already tragically, even stupidly, disengaged, that loss of hope will prove enough to keep many from bothering to cast a vote for anybody.

I’m not supporting that attitude even a little bit. But I do recognize it as a political reality. Many more people will turn out to vote if Bernie Sanders is the nominee, and they will support the Democratic candidates in other races when they do. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she, and all the other Dems on the ballots, will lose those disillusioned young voters.

That, in itself, may not be enough to tilt the election to Trump or whichever other malignant pustule the Republicans nominate. Hopefully not. But let me tell you what almost certainly will:

If Bernie Sanders wins the nomination by popular vote but Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment steal it from him, and buck the will of the majority of voters, through process maneuvers.

As someone commented today on Facebook, “If there’s a cabal of Democratic Party insiders who will choose the candidate no matter who the Democratic voters want, then I am not a Democrat. If the majority of voters go with Clinton, then I’ll vote Clinton. If more of them want Sanders and the party chooses Clinton anyway then I will do everything I can to turn the Democratic Party into an irrelevant third party.”

Today’s the day of the Iowa caucus, and it’s being reported that the Clinton camp has been training their supporters to game the caucus results wherever possible to keep Martin O’Malley’s delegates from going to Bernie Sanders. The fact that this is possible is one of many terrible things about the caucusing system (and the primary system in general, and our electoral system at large), and the fact that Clinton is falling back on it shows just how desperate, and ruthless, she is. Though she can game the caucuses, the fact that she will is troubling, especially after months of obvious unethical favoritism shown her by the Democratic National Committee and its unfortunate head, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

At the same time, while Bernie endures an avalanche of attacks from the establishment media and pundits and Democratic party insiders, much of it disingenuous and a lot of it verging on character assassination (compare Chris Cuomo’s loaded questions to Sanders to the fanboy bootlicking he gave Clinton) Nancy Pelosi herself is making a point of saying that many of the great things Bernie Sanders wants to do for the American people will not happen, not because of Republican intransigence but because her Democrats won’t work with him to make needed change. That’s right: Nancy Fucking Pelosi, the absolute mascot of the Democratic corporate establishment, basically just threatened to stamp her feet and pull a Mitch McConnell if Democratic voters don’t choose the candidate that she wants them to.

How dare the voters think they have the right to decide who wins an election?

And then, ahead, we have the existential threat to democracy that is the superdelegates. Another of the bugs in our electoral system, the superdelegates are the very essence of the establishment looking out for the establishment:

A “superdelegate” or an “unpledged delegate” is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention or Republican National Convention that is seated automatically, based on their status as current (Republican and Democratic) or former (Democratic only) party leader or elected official. (From Wikipedia)

Superdelegates are unelected, they have significant power (especially in a close election like this one), and they are the political party’s way of saying “No, no, never mind, we’ve got this” to the voters.

For months, hundreds of superdelegates have been already pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton. Why wait to see what the people want? The establishment has chosen, after all.

So, what happens if Bernie Sanders wins the primaries according to the will of the Democratic voters, but then the party sics the superdelegates on him and manages to give the nomination to Hillary Clinton? I’ll tell you:

All those Bernie Sanders voters get really, really fucking pissed.

Then, you know, voters are human, and voters are emotional, and voters don’t always do the “reasonable” thing. I think, combined with the lower turnout among younger voters, the backlash among angry voters who actually won the vote for the nomination only to have it stolen from them could well sink what is otherwise a very good chance for the next president to be a Democrat.

Bernie’s supporters will almost all vote for Hillary if she wins the nomination fair and square. But if she, and her longtime cronies and pals, insist on stealing it?

Get ready for President The Donald, or something just as bad.

Captain America And The Real Myths Told By Superheroes (A Discussion)

A few years ago, when the first Captain America film came out, I was visiting my friend Phil Rockstroh. Phil is “a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City,” so leftist he makes me look like Ronald Reagan, and he watched the film with me. To him, of course, Steve Rogers was the very major model of a modern jingoistic character designed to arouse fascistic and nationalistic feelings in the weak-minded.

I tried pointing out that Cap had been created by a couple of Jewish kids trying to encourage Americans to stand against the Nazi threat in Europe before America was even in the war. I tried to delineate the progressive values Captain America has shown over the decades, and how at every point in the film, the creators subverted the potential jingoism that can, indeed, be a part of such a character. I predicted that in future films we would see a very strong anti-authoritarian theme at work in not just the Captain America films but in Marvel films in general. And I’m happy to say I was right.

Recently, while discussing the Joss Whedon/Black Widow foofaraw, we revisited the topic and the discussion got interesting, so I’m sharing it here. Making an occasional contribution is my friend Ed Hall,  a writer and the co-editor of Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond. Continue reading

I’m Not Your Dummy — And Neither Is Joss Whedon (Part 2 of 2) (UPDATED 10/2017)

Art by Cliff Chiang

[Read Part 1, “I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally,” here.]

Joss Whedon is a feminist.

He claims the term as a central pillar of his identity. He exerts a great deal of his creative energy on crafting narratives which focus on complex, strong female characters, and behind the scenes he goes out of his way to create opportunities for female creatives. He is a persistent activist in feminist causes like Equality Now, and has been an outspoken supporter of feminist targets of misogynistic harassment like (the awesome) Anita Sarkeesian.

But Joss is not the “right kind of ally.”

Last week, after Avengers: Age of Ultron opened (the film from my dream in part 1), there was a vicious shitstorm of online invective against him because of his treatment of the Black Widow in the film. He also left Twitter, without saying why, and many assumed it was because of the abuse. Or, as one blogger derisively put it, “Feminist and female writers take issue with black widow depiction. A lot of them do. Joss gets saddy pants and leaves Twitter.”

That same blogger was full of scorn for Joss and admiration for “what these intelligent and brilliant women wrote about their concerns with avengers 2…” And what sort of intelligent, brilliant commentary did we see?

Continue reading

I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally” (Part 1 of 2)

So I woke up one morning way too fucking early, with a dream dying in my head…

I’m at a huge theater with my girlfriend and my son, waiting to see the first showing of the new Avengers movie, and a nasty racial brawl is about to break out over a stupid misunderstanding. Something annoying was said, someone replied with annoyance, and several others took that as deliberate insult. A spark of irritation falls toward a volatile pool of abiding resentment. Huge violence is about to happen.

I just want to watch the movie, but am also naturally concerned about the fact that we’re smack in the middle of a crowd about to run riot. So I foolishly interject, redirecting the ringleader’s anger my way, focusing the conflict down to me and him rather than everybody. He rushes me and I back away, drawing him from the group. I don’t fight him, I don’t submit to his violence, I try to placate him, to calm him, to help him see that I was just trying to get his attention and there’s no reason to fight. This being a dream, it works. We laugh awkwardly and return to our seats. Everybody gets to see the movie, nobody’s going to bleed or die.

And I awoke. It was still dark, and I’d gotten maybe four or five hours sleep, but I was wide awake. I found myself ruminating about a recent blog post I wrote, and about the reaction it got (and didn’t get). Only after I gave in to the inevitable and got up, while I steeped some hot tea, did I make the connection between that rumination and the dream which preceded it. Continue reading