Election 2016: How We Really Lost (By The Numbers, Part 3)

election2016

(This is about the election. Because so many Democratic and progressive voters are still debating what happened, and because a forthright postmortem is essential to the Democratic Party moving forward effectively [and is, to all indications, something they don’t actually care to do], I’ve researched what the numbers actually tell us. I find it interesting. If you don’t, that’s fine. If your highest caliber response is to school me on paying attention to this when you want me to pay attention to something else I’m probably also paying attention to, just keep it to yourself.)

Would Bernie Sanders have won? Did Hillary Clinton lose because of Russia/FBI/Mercury retrograde? Was she a good candidate? Was he?

In a discussion elsewhere of factors which led to Donald Trump’s win, I pointed out that Clinton’s favorability ratings throughout her entire 2015/2016 campaign remained historically awful, never hitting a point where a majority of voters saw her positively. Someone asked about the polls before the election which seemed (unlike the polls throughout the months prior) to show her handily beating Trump. Nate Silver was mentioned.

The thing is, though Clinton enjoyed bumps in the polls toward the end, in most cases her edge remained within the margin of error. Real Clear Politics, which tracks and averages all the major polls, had her lead at only 3.2% going into election day. This was just slightly better than her polls against Trump had generally been all along (you might remember those weak numbers during the primaries because some people said they indicated she might lose).

The big numbers predicting her win were projections of probability of her winning according to the biases of those making the projections. Silver, for example, gave Clinton a 71.8% chance of winning (and he was actually accused of being too pessimistic). This didn’t mean he expected her to get 71.8% of the vote. In fact, he predicted she would get 48.5% and Trump would get 45%, a margin of only 3.5%, a number which was, you guessed it, within the margin of error.

But the polls pitting the candidates against each other were only part of the story. Just as, and possibly more, important were the candidates’ favorability polls which indicate how liked and trusted each was. This should have been an important consideration because no candidate had ever won the presidency with a net negative favorability with voters.

When she entered the race in April 2015, Hillary Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability rating was 44%/52%. A net negative of -8 points.

When he entered the race in April 2015, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 20%/27%. Lower scores in both, and a net negative of -7 points. But 54% of voters had no opinion because they didn’t know him, compared to 4% for Clinton.

By November, 2015, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 41%/52%. Net negative -11 points.

By November, 2015, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 41%/37%. Net positive +4 points.

By the Democratic National Convention at the end of July 2016, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 42%/56%. Net negative -14 points.

By the Democratic National Convention, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 53%/36%. Net positive +17 points.

By the election, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 43%/56%. Net negative -13 points.

By the election, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 59%/33%. Net positive +26 points.

So what we see is that throughout the entire primary season and the general election, Hillary Clinton’s favorability scores remained roughly static. Nothing she did after November 2015, months before the email leaks or FBI fishiness, boosted her numbers. Likewise, none of the allegedly critical negative events of the election dropped her scores much further. She stayed at her net negative score, with a constant majority seeing her unfavorably, from DAY ONE up to her loss. Voters had pretty much made up their minds about Hillary Clinton before she even started running.

Would Sanders have fared better in the general, as so many of us think? He did, after all, go from a -7 net negative as a relative unknown to +26 net positive. And he managed to close Clinton’s initial sixty point lead to give her a very tense fight through the primaries.

Clinton, meanwhile, not only just got less popular, she, a globally renowned candidate with a huge war-chest of corporate cash and the support of the entire Democratic establishment, squandered a sixty point lead to a little known, grumpy old senator from a small state.

And, of course, Sanders always beat Trump in the polls by double digits, while Trump was the only GOP candidate whom Clinton would usually beat, though always by a narrow margin. Like that 3.5% Nate Silver spun into a 72% probability of victory.

Sanders now has 56% favorability (32% unfavorability; Clinton has 40% favorable, 54% unfavorable). Among Democrats, he has 80%. Among Republicans, he has 31%; that’s right, nearly a third of GOP voters actually like and trust Bernie Sanders. Among Trump voters, 27% favorable. You know, those voters we’re told would never have crossed over to vote for him?

And how does he score with Clinton voters? 86% favorable. That’s twice Clinton’s favorability on election day, while the majority of her voters (54%) said they were voting for her only to vote against Trump.

A lot of people run with that line about how the Republicans would have attacked Bernie in the primary, and maybe his numbers would have fallen to Clintonesque levels as a result. They never seem to grok the fact that Clinton was already down there, and Bernie would have had to fall thirty-one points in the short time after the convention to sink to her level.

I think the numbers tell the tale. I tell you only because I’m sick of seeing Clinton fans slander Sanders and blame her loss on him (one I saw just before starting to put this post together said, “OMG Bernie people, just STFU and think about how you ruined everything!”). All the data indicates that Bernie had a big chance of winning, while Hillary had a slender chance and was so relentlessly unpopular that the slightest puff of ill wind (an ambiguous FBI announcement, evidence of unethical collusion with the DNC, refusal to take a stand on the Dakota pipeline…) might destroy her shot.

The fact is, Hillary Clinton ended her race as she began, the single most unpopular Democratic candidate in history, while Bernie Sanders started as a relatively unknown, impossible long-shot and finished as literally the most popular politician in the United States.

Anyone who thinks that wouldn’t have (probably) made all the difference is in denial.

By The Numbers, Part 1: How Democrats Continue to Lose

By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?

By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?

capamerica

(This is the second of three posts regarding Democratic attitudes and performance, both in the election and at present. Part 1 showed how the Democratic Party  has rapidly shrunk, even after the election, and showed the public attitudes toward its leaders and their GOP counterparts. There will be some overlap in my references to certain data through the three posts.)

I’m often accused of “relitigating” the Democratic primaries because I still vocally support Bernie Sanders (who is now in Democratic Party leadership and is their frontman in most of their actions against Trump) and I occasionally still criticize Hillary Clinton (who is now…uh…tweeting sometimes, I guess).

The main reason I do this is because I am, like many progressives, fighting to strengthen the party through reform, trying to force a failing party away from the corporatist policies and out of the calcified bubble of privilege which led to its catastrophic failures in the past quarter century. Part of that is very much a frank look at where it failed in the last election, both with its presidential candidate and with its national strategies.

Another part is actively countering those who do not want the party to change, or who are themselves still litigating the primaries. While I may post things like, “Hillary Clinton not only didn’t even go to Wisconsin to campaign, she bought seven times more TV ads in Los Angeles than she did in Milwaukee,” I see other folks post things like, “I fucking hate Bernie Sanders, Trump is his fault.” I hope you’ll recognize that my posts are generally a sharing of information, not invective, while much of what I see from those standing in defense of Clinton and the entrenched party establishment is pure venom. I often feel my skin crawl after reading through a thread from these folks.

Mind you, #NotAllClintonistas. I’m not saying no Clinton supporters offer reasoned arguments, nor am I saying all Sanders supporters avoid nasty invective. There is a lot of anger out there, and a hell of a lot of people are blinded by it and, often, not actually as informed as they should be. There are a few lefty folks in my feed who are my natural allies, who share very good information, but will often veer into crazy land and make their posts unshareable because I don’t want to be associated with irrational nonsense, even if offered up with otherwise sound info.

While many on the left who disagree with me seem to detest progressive voters, I harbor no ill will toward Clinton supporters, though I do think all of the data we have available strongly indicates that the Nader effect during this election wasn’t a third party vote in the general, it was a Clinton vote in the primaries. I understand why some folks thought she was the better choice even though I don’t agree. Those voters voted for her because they believed in her, or at least believed in her greater electability. And to whatever degree they support a Democratic party which serves the actual needs of the American people, they are my allies.

As for the folks who spew hate toward Bernie and toward the left, I am relieved to discover that, though very loud, they are in a nasty little minority, even among Democrats (just as the nasty Bernie supporters are a sliver of the community, just as they always were, no matter how much the DNC and Clinton campaign tried to insist otherwise).

According to a recent poll by YouGov and The Economist, Bernie Sanders has:

56% favorability among all Americans
(higher even than Obama’s 53%)

80% favorability among registered Democrats

85% favorability among liberals

31% favorability among Republicans
(that’s right: almost a third of Republicans actually like Bernie)

53% favorability among all men

58% favorability among all women
(note that’s higher than among men because, you know, “Bernie Bros”)

52% favorability among all whites

64% favorability among all Blacks
(note that’s higher than among whites, and most “Bernie Bros” are supposed to be white)

58% favorability among all Hispanics
(ditto)

61% favorability among “Other” races
(ditto)

86% favorability among those who voted for Hillary
(note that on the day of the election, Hillary had 43% favorability, exactly half Bernie’s number here, not even a majority, and 56% unfavorability)

27% favorability among those who voted for Trump
(you know, all those voters we’re told Bernie absolutely couldn’t have gotten; Trump, by the way, had 39% favorable/60% unfavorable on election day)

Bernie Sanders finished the primaries as the most popular politician in the country, and he remains so. So don’t be surprised when people champion him for continuing to champion us, or when they voice regret that he didn’t get the chance to beat Trump, or when they simply say good things about him. He isn’t old news, he is, arguably, the current leader of the Democratic party, at least to the American people. And to the degree the Democrats embrace him and his policies, they have a greater chance to prevail.

(Oh, and in case you’re interested, Elizabeth Warren has a 34% favorability among all voters. Just so you know where the other “progressive champion” stands.)

And as for those acid-spewing Bernie haters on the left, I assume they’re in the “very unfavorable” category which makes up a pathetic 6% of Democrats. Nurse that grudge, beeyotches, you’re so insignificant you’re basically the margin of error.

By The Numbers, Part 1: How Democrats Continue To Lose

By The Numbers, Part 3: ELECTION 2016: How We Really Lost

capnbernie5

Liberal Lockstep: Why I March To The Beat Of My Own Damned Drummer

hires

To some degree, this is my Facebook feed:

“It was Russia’s fault!”

“It was Comey’s fault!”

“It was the Millennials’ fault!”

“It was Bernie’s fault!”

“It was Jill Stein’s fault!”

ME: “It was also because of poor choices by the candidate and her campaign, and because of systemic failures over the years by the Democratic party.”

“Tim, why are you still talking about this? We have to unite against Trump!”

And we do. And I am.

But I am a progressive and I want not just to beat the bad guys, I want to improve the world. I see what has happened to the Democratic party since 1992, since the rise of the corporate-friendly Democratic Leadership Council (funded by, among other big business interests, the freaking Koch brothers) and the Clintons with their “Third Way” politics of embracing right-wing policies in order to court voters on the right rather than on the left. I see how the left lost Congress during Bill Clinton’s terms after controlling it for decades, and through neoliberal policies and bad strategy has steadily lost more and more power ever since. I see how Donald Trump is not just the inevitable result of years of Republican degradation and capitulation to their worst elements, he is also the result of Democrats abandoning their traditional principles and essentially becoming socially liberal Republicans.

And I see how the corruption and cronyism and arrogance of the Democratic party went full-tilt-bozo this election and they ignored all the data and all the signs that they were making bad choices and they lost to the single most unpopular candidate in history, a man who did damn near everything possible to make himself absolutely unelectable. It’s not just a matter of forcing the choice of their own incredibly unpopular candidate on voters from the very start and violating their own regulations to make sure she won, it’s a matter of the strategies chosen after that, like never bothering to campaign in Wisconsin or maligning progressives and Millennials while pursuing Republican crossover votes.

These are things worth talking about. These are things that shouldn’t be ignored, lest we keep making the same mistakes and keep losing elections. Even big money Democratic donors are apparently angry that the party hasn’t pursued an honest postmortem to determine the real reasons for its devastating failures at every level this year. It’s a conversation that they think we should have, and the Democratic party’s frantic finger-pointing everywhere but in the mirror is pissing them off so much they’re saying they’re going to start withholding the cash.

Yet when I post about these things, or even when I praise progressives like Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard for their current acts of principled leadership, I get called out by some of my liberal friends. They really don’t want the party, or its chosen candidate, to be criticized or to be held accountable for their mistakes, or for the negative impact of their policies. When I criticize Democratic leaders for specific failures — say, Barack Obama’s failure to prosecute Wall Street criminals or his record-breaking deportation of immigrants — I’m accused of being a “purist,” naively wedded to my progressive ideals while in the real world we have to apparently just settle for terrible acts when they’re done by our side. Again, I am accused of being a purist because I want to hold our leaders accountable and encourage them to be better in the future.

Folks, I don’t have a “purity test.” I have standards.

I also get a lot of flack about posting what I’m posting rather than what everyone else is posting. “Why are you talking about Hillary Clinton’s campaigning failures when you should be talking about how Russia hacked our election? Why are you complaining about the Democratic establishment’s complete lack of accountability and myopic defense of the status quo when you should be complaining about Trump because Trump is bad?” Sometimes it boils down to a simpleminded accusation like “You’re criticizing Clinton, you must support Trump.”

Well, no. But thanks for playing.

Even putting aside the fact that I do criticize the terrible orange shitnuke, which I am amazingly able to do even while talking about other things, does anyone really need me, personally, to tell them how shitty Donald Trump is? Is it really vitally important that I replicate what everyone else is saying, that I surrender my voice to the group voice?

Because you know what that is? That’s authoritarian message control. That’s an insistence that we should all not just be working together, we should be marching in lockstep. And you know what? I’m not really a lockstep kind of guy.

On the individual level, I know that some of my friends say these things out of annoyance because they’re sick of seeing some of my posts, and that’s fair. I’m sick of some of their posts, too, but I don’t let that turn personal. They can post what they want to post. They don’t have to cater to my concerns.

And I know that some of them are sincerely concerned that criticism of Democrats at a time like this is counterproductive, that it hurts the party and scatters our energies and will limit our effectiveness in the fights ahead. I’m less sympathetic to that viewpoint because I think the left will only beat the right if it, well, moves left again. And sweeping its failures under the rug of temporary expediency, to be forgotten and later dismissed as “old news,” does not contribute to that happening. Only open eyes and open discussion will help us do what we need to do in order to beat back the forces of darkness.

The most insidious reason that some argue for this messaging lockstep is because they are trying to control the narrative in order to protect the entrenched Powers That Be. They want us to think that Russia’s alleged involvement in revealing to us the reality behind the DNC’s “neutrality,” or James Comey’s nebulous letter a week before the election, brought us to this point. They want us to think that a tiny percentage of disillusioned third-party voters betrayed us, not a party and candidate who ran a contest so badly that those tiny numbers mattered even when they had the gift of a buffoon as an opponent. They want us to think that those who didn’t support their candidate are all misogynists and racists and “deplorables,” not folks with legitimate concerns they no longer trust the Democrats to address, who went for the crazy Hail Mary pass of a Trump or third-party vote because the ‘safer’ option, to them, offered no perceived hope or respite from the trials they face.

They want us to support the narrative that it wasn’t their fault because they want to maintain their power and wealth. And they want us to suppress criticism of the establishment, to push us into lockstep with a consistent message that keeps them from being held accountable, allows them to avoid change, protects them from progressive challenges to their control. This narrative is driven from the top and absorbed by those below, and whatever the personal motives of each person insisting we stick to it might be, they all wind up serving that overarching purpose and acting as a shield against accountability and necessary change.

This isn’t just the case now, with President Trump about to occur. This has been the relationship between the Democratic establishment and progressives for a quarter of a century. Progressives are always expected to fall in line, to accept the malignant fiscal policies, the kowtowing to corporate interests, the diminished concern for working people and the poor, the embrace of war as a defining principle. They’re told they have to march lockstep, to be realists not idealists, to shut up about bad things like draconian trade policies and focus instead on good things like gay weddings. They’re told to shrug off the failures of the Democrats because the Republicans are monsters (and they are) and they have nowhere to go. They’re told not to criticize now, during the election, because they might hurt the nominee, and they’re told not to criticize after the election because that stuff’s in the past. (I had one friend literally say, “It’s been nearly two weeks since the election, why are you still talking about this stuff?” Nearly two weeks.)

And progressives, largely, submit. Because a little good is, undeniably, better than all bad. And they surrender their voices to the group voice, to the narrative that the Democrats are doing as well as they can be expected to do, and we can’t do great things, we can only do little good things here and there as we go, and you gotta be a team player and you gotta stop trying to do more. Because you have nowhere else to go. So sit down and shut the fuck up and vote when we tell you to.

No more. Not for me. This year, my  lifelong progressivism became weaponized because (a) I saw that significant change for the better was actually possible because millions of people are yearning for it and willing to work for it, and (b) I saw how utterly resistant to that change the party I’d always supported truly is. Resistant to the point of total disaster.

I’m on your side. But I’m not your monkey. I will fight for what I believe in, and I will always, always point out the Emperor’s lack of garments whether you want me to or not. You pick your fights, I’ll pick mine, and hopefully along the way we’ll wind up with a party strong enough to take our country back and compassionate and ethical enough to make it something worth having.

On The Matter Of My Vote

choices-fork-in-the-road3

I have, as a rule, avoided discussing how I’ll vote because I generally see that as a distraction from much more important things. My vote isn’t going to decide the election, and is itself a less than minuscule factor in the contest.

That said, as anyone who follows my blog already knows, I have a lot of issues with Hillary Clinton that will make casting a vote for her extremely difficult. The DNC collusion (particularly the unethical use of state parties to bypass campaign finance donation limits allegedly to support down-ballot candidates while actually funneling almost all the money to Clinton’s campaign while the DNC was, according to its own bylaws, supposed to be neutral), the swiftboating of Sanders’s civil rights activism, the bullying and rigging that went on right before the cameras in places like Las Vegas, the Clintons illegally (and arrogantly) campaigning in polling stations because they knew their local lackeys wouldn’t prosecute them, ordering poll workers to give the wrong ballots to independent voters in California, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters in multiple states like New York, the utter disrespect shown to Sanders’s duly elected delegates and volunteers at the convention…

Jesus, I could go on and on, and I haven’t even started on her record or policies. The DNC money laundering/collusion, which is a matter of public record and not just conspiracy theory, is all by itself compelling enough reason not to support Clinton or the Democrats at all. A vote for Clinton sends the message that all of that bullshit was exactly the right thing to do because it gets them what they want. It rewards electoral villainy. And I have some strong issues with doing that.

Should Trump lose? Yes. But my hope remains that Clinton wins by a very tight margin so that she knows she’s going into that office on probationary status, not with the mandate to continue doing as she and the DNC have been doing. I want her to know she cannot just take progressives for granted and treat them like shit and expect to win again. Odds are, she’ll have a more formidable challenger next time and she’s gonna need our votes. If a voter doesn’t vote for her, she’s likely still going to win, but that vote doesn’t add to her mandate. If any voter opts to go that way, I completely grok that. Clinton already has the gift of Donald Trump (though even so, she’s oddly weak against him), so perhaps she doesn’t need that one vote, and perhaps the lack of support contributes to her doing more progressive things in office because it makes her afraid of losing next time.

And the risk that Trump wins? Well, as I’ve pointed out, that risk was just fine for Clinton supporters who were “with her” when they put aside the math which showed that maybe running the least popular Democratic nominee in history might be a bad idea. If she can’t even beat Trump of all people because she was already unpopular and her actions in conspiring with the DNC lost her even more support, that’s on her and the DNC and all her supporters, just as much, or more, than it’ll be on folks who don’t choose to vote for her in November.

The entire case for Hillary Clinton tends to boil down to a handful of words: Woman. Trump. Nader. History. Democrat.

The only one of those words that isn’t entirely a plea to emotion or tribalism is “Trump.” And most of the folks who are tearing their hair out and screaming apocalypse when other folks say they might have to risk Trump because of silly things like “ethics” were more than willing to take the risk of Trump when they determinedly followed the DNC into the electoral pit by choosing the candidate with the demonstrably far worse chance of beating Trump. It was fine for them to risk Trump to get their preferred nominee, but now it’s just crazy to risk Trump for other reasons.

Me, I think it was crazier to bring a Clinton to a Sanders fight. And I’m tired of hearing simplistic hyper-emotional rhetoric and canned spin from the very people who put us in this situation.

My point boils down to: whether I vote for her or not, the election will turn out the way it’s going to turn out. She will win, or she won’t, and it will not be based on my vote. Another reason I won’t say how I’m voting is because by doing so I’m implying at least a bit of endorsement I can’t give, but however I vote, it ain’t coming down to me. In fact, a logical case could be made that my individual vote is of such statistical unimportance that demanding I violate my personal integrity for the sake of what is, effectively, a non-effect is absurd. That aside, again, what’s gonna happen is gonna happen, and if she loses, it will be because she was the worst choice for the fight and because she and hers screwed over a huge segment of leftward voters. If one individual chooses not to vote for her, for whatever reasons, their complicity in her loss will be infinitesimally smaller than her own, or than the DNC’s.

I don’t support Clinton, but I hope Trump loses. That’s all the endorsement she’s earned from me.

When Bernie Sanders Throws His Mighty Shield…

 

CapnBernie3

I just returned from visiting Nydia,  my amazing inamorata, in Brazil for a couple of months where, among other more psychologically healthy activities, we spent a great deal of time tracking the American election. Last week, as we sat eating airport food, drearily counting the minutes before I had to depart, I noticed the latest of many Captain America t-shirts I’d seen worn by Brazilians during the visit.

I told Nyd I was heartened to see the shirts, and the popularity of the character, who I see as a true symbol of the American ideal, not the jingoistic symbol of American imperialism seen by some. And I credited that popularity to the Marvel films, and Chris Evans’s very human, very decent, very noble portrayal of Steve Rogers. Captain America isn’t propagandistic, he’s aspirational.

“Captain America is Bernie Sanders,” I told her. “They’re both old guys from Brooklyn with superhuman stamina, dedicated to New Deal policies, still fighting to protect the weak from the powerful, unflinching in their belief in the American dream.”

Later, back home in the states, I saw author Catherynne Valente tweet, “Clinton is Black Widow (troubled past, does the right thing eventually) Sanders is Hulk, always angry, no one is Cap.” I have a lot of respect for Ms. Valente, but I disagree.

First off, Clinton ain’t much like the Black Widow. She lacks the Widow’s metaphorical agility as a campaigner, and when she takes aim at her opponent, her shots almost always miss or ricochet back and hit her. I’ll grant she has a “troubled past,” if you really want to undersell the problems with Clinton’s record, but that very record shows she actually doesn’t really do the right thing eventually unless it’s politically expedient or she has to because she’s forced to “walk back” a stance or action because of political damage. She does have a great deal of “red in her ledger,” blood on her hands, in places like Haiti and Iraq and Libya and Honduras, places that have suffered terribly because of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton’s ruthless political calculus. But the Widow owns up to her acts, and, in The Winter Soldier, even released the transcripts records to the internet, taking full responsibility for her misdeeds and working to redeem herself for them.

Hillary won’t even share the content of a few speeches she made to Wall Street, much less acknowledge the terrible human impact of her decisions over the years.

And Bernie as the Hulk? No. The Hulk’s anger is unreasoning, destructive rage. Bernie is angry, yes, as he should be, but he is not destructive. He is protective, nurturing, and constructive. And he is anything but unreasoning; just watch the video of him speaking to the students at evangelical Liberty University, where he engages them with respect and gets respect in return though their philosophies are radically opposed.

I’d say Donald Trump is the Hulk, but he lacks the Hulk’s dignity and compassion. Hell, he lacks the Hulk’s intellect.

But no, Bernie is definitely Captain America.

One of the best pieces I’ve ever read on Captain America is by Steven Attewell, and in it he addresses Steve Rogers’s political identity:

“Steve Rogers isn’t a jingoistic conservative asshole…Unlike many other patriotic characters who derive their virtues from the American heartlands, Steve Rogers grew up in the cosmopolitan multi-cultural world of New York City. He came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor, the American Labor Party was a major force in city politics, labor unions were on the move, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organizing to fight fascism in Spain in the name of the Popular Front, and a militant anti-racist movement was growing that equated segregation at home with Nazism abroad that will eventually feed into the ‘Double V’ campaign.

“Then he became a fine arts student. To be an artist in New York City in the 1930s was to be surrounded by the ‘Cultural Front.’ We’re talking the WPA Arts and Theater Projects, Diego Rivera painting socialist murals in Rockefeller Center, Orson Welles turning Julius Caesar into an anti-fascist play and running an all-black Macbeth and ‘The Cradle Will Rock,’ Paul Robeson was a major star, and so on. You couldn’t really be an artist and have escaped left-wing politics. And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the ‘New York Intellectuals’ were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.

“And this Steve Rogers, who’s been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn’t an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.

“Captain America didn’t ‘share 40’s values’ – a reductive label assuming that everyone alive in 1940 was either a racial bigot, a misogynist, a homophobe, and an unthinking militarist, and handily ignores the people of color, women, gays, and left-wing activists who were hard at work to change American society for the better – he exemplified from the beginning the ideal that America could be. Thus Steve Rogers led the Invaders (a multispecies and multinational Allied superhero force) into Europe to fight fascism, he fought with Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, a racially integrated fighting force from the beginning, and fought with the French Resistance rather than snidely repeating anachronistic cheese-eating surrender monkey jokes.

“Thus when Captain America is unfrozen in the 1960s, he’s not freaked out by the changes in racial progress – instead, he forms an instant partnership with one of the first black superheroes, the Falcon, who movie audiences just met for the first time, and the two of them go toe to toe against an insane imposter Captain America who’s obsessed about communists under the bed. The analogy cannot be more pointed: the real Captain America stands for racial equality and civil liberties, the Captain America who believes that the government needs to ‘smash’ reds by any means necessary is a fraud. In the 1980s, Steve Rogers runs into a childhood friend, Arnold Roth, who happens to be gay – and Steve Rogers defends his friend from bigoted violence, because Steve Rogers is a good man.

“In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when Steve Rogers is unfrozen in the ice in 2011, he’s not here to be startled by our progressive values. He’s here to judge us for falling short of his – and that’s the entire crux of the plot of Winter Soldier. When Steve Rogers wakes up in post ‘New York’ America and sees SHIELD preparing a giant fleet of sniper drones that’s going to be used to cull the human race based on meta-data that supposedly predicts the bad things people might do in the future, he immediately calls this out as inherently incompatible with the Constitution and the ideals that Steve Rogers fought and essentially died for. He puts his faith on ordinary soldiers and rank-and-file officers to do what’s right, not the corrupt or blinded authorities personified respectively by Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson. And his solution to SHIELD/HYDRA’s plan for world domination through mass murder is not only to sacrifice himself to save the world (again), but also to release all of SHIELD’s secrets to the world.”

Did I say that Bernie Sanders is Captain America? Bernie Sanders is Captain America.

 

CaptBern

A few years ago, writer J. Michael Straczynski put these words in Steve Rogers’s dialogue balloon:

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world: No, YOU move.”

That is exactly what Bernie Sanders is doing. He’s telling the Democratic establishment and the GOP and the media and the big money special interests, No, YOU move.

And the people of America are hearing him. And they’re starting to plant their feet as well.

(NOTE: A while back, I had a really interesting discussion about Captain America and his place in America’s political psyche. I posted it here.)

CaptBern2

Art by Danny Kelly

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)

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