Unfocused Rage Is Not a Strategy

It’s hard to be hopeful when the left seems to think we can pass gun laws by wishing and hoping, and that anger, nastiness, and personal attacks can defeat Trump.

After Newtown, I looked around at the facts, concluded new gun laws weren’t going to happen, and said so. I was excoriated for it (anyone who votes against new gun laws will lose their seats in 2014!), but I was right (they GAINED seats). The votes weren’t there. Too many members of Congress had A or B ratings from the NRA. We’re not a democracy where public will calls the shots; we’re an oligarchy where the rich and powerful few do. The same is happening now. A couple states are strengthening gun laws, but at least as many are moving them in the opposite direction. Congress isn’t about to do anything.

The left is excited about the 2018 elections. The right was excited about the 2010 and 2014 elections. Republicans made major gains those years but still couldn’t defeat Obama. Democrats are poised to make major gains this fall, but again, that says little about their ability to win a presidential election. Run another campaign like 2016, especially with another piss-poor candidate, and you will get the same result. You can’t apply the same actions and expect a different reaction. The left’s response to Trump now reminds me a lot of the right’s response to Paul Wellstone when he was in office. They were apoplectic and tried throwing everything they could at him in the desperate, random, undisciplined hope that something would stick. They never bothered to figure out what he was doing or how. So they never defeated him, as liberal as he was. If you pre-emptively declare all Trump voters evil and unworthy of campaigning to or persuading, you can’t get enough votes to win an election. And you don’t have to win all of them–just enough to get 270 Electoral Votes. No Nazis required; just win back Obama’s voters. If you’re too proud to care about those Obama-Trump voters, you’ll have to endure 8 years of Trump. And you’ll share responsibility for making it happen. Calling them names, applying double standards you don’t hold yourself or your allies to, demonstrating ever-increasing levels of baseless hyperbole–and abandoning your most fundamental values of logic, fairness, and civility in the process–will only alienate more people further and cost you the moral high ground. Fight on Trump’s terms, and Trump will win. He will always be able to out-divide and out-hate us. It’s a fight we can’t win, and a basis so disgusting and antithetical to our oldest and most important principles that such a victory wouldn’t be worth it.

That doesn’t mean excusing, ignoring, or pandering to hate. I grew up Jewish. Like any Jewish American born in the 70s, I had Holocaust teachings beaten into me. And I’ve always objected to *and studied* the scapegoating of minorities and the forces that lead to genocide. (I truly cannot implore you strongly enough to read Richard J. Evans’ history of Nazi Germany) From the KKK in this country around the Civil War and civil rights movement, to Hispanics, Catholics, to LGBTQ people, to Nazi Germany, to Rwanda, to Sudan; one truth emerges consistently. The fear and hatred of minorities usually comes from roots in economic suffering and desperation. That’s not to say it’s okay; it’s a horrific unjust failure of morality, conscience, and humanity. But the best predictor of how humans will act, or explainer of why they act as they do now, is usually history. America has never been good at teaching, learning, remembering, or applying the lessons of its own past, and we’ve gotten worse with the constant focus on whatever is happening RIGHT NOW to the exclusion of thoughtful analysis and discussion. We have even less memory of the past or sense of history than we used to before push notifications and BREAKING NEWS on every screen. I even had an attention span before 9/11. While we must do all we can to ensure equality and protect vulnerable groups of people, we also must finally address and ameliorate the underlying economic problems misleading people down the path of scapegoating and hate.

Why do you think Bernie Sanders did so well with people who later voted for Trump? Or that, once Hillary clinched the nomination, people chose a fascist demagogue over an establishment corporatist? Progressive populism works, and people choose it if given the chance. As Wellstone did. As long as no one really speaks to their financial pain, as neither corporate party has in my lifetime, many get swept into the hate. It’s easier to ignore the real problems in your own economy and blame “those lazy foreigners” (who are somehow taking your jobs with their laziness), just as it’s easier to for Democrats to ignore any possible fault or responsibility of Obama’s and lay all blame on Republicans, however dishonest or counterproductive. It feels good temporarily, but it doesn’t solve the problem. And on some level, I think people realize that. Offer to do something about wages that have stagnated for 40 years, the obscene debt you have to take on to get a college degree, the appalling lack of health care for tens of millions of Americans, the grim future we face as we can’t afford to retire, the communities betrayed by both advancing technology (closing coal mines) AND poor trade policies (Rustbelt manufacturing), the third world destitution we gratuitously condemn huge swaths of the country to, the creeping dominance of the working poor and idle rich–and you will earn those people’s support. AND YOU WILL WIN. Blaming the Russians, hoping for impeachment, or throwing your most creative insult-laced personal attacks at Trump supporters won’t get us anywhere. Progressive economic populism will.

We haven’t rejected an incumbent president since George H. W. Bush in 1992. If we stay on our current path, 2020 is going to look more like 2004 than 1992. Unfocused rage is not a strategy. We’re going to have to strip away our preconceptions, listen to people we don’t agree with, and do SOMETHING to address their legitimate concerns.


The Hypocrisy of Many Nikkita Oliver Supporters

It’s the stock in trade of many Democrats to blame non-voters for their losses in midterm elections. This is not an accurate description of what’s happening or why, and it’s a terrible strategy for trying to win elections or just treat other people with basic respect. You can’t shame and blame people into voting the way you want–ask Hillary Clinton. Moreover, this strategy ignores the myriad of real problems that lead people to abstain from voting, in which Democrats are often complicit. Research shows that the #1 reason people don’t vote is lack of time. But no matter how thoroughly and patiently you explain this and the political science behind it, Democratic voters and many politicians and “pundits” insist on ignoring real problems, blocking reforms, and blaming people who don’t vote in midterm elections. Because it’s easy and absolves them of responsibility.
Now Seattle has an open mayor’s race. There are 21 candidates on the primary ballot. Many of these same liberal/progressive people who insist on blaming non-voters are now flocking to Nikkita Oliver–a young black woman with an uncommon name who has failed to vote in 75% of the elections for which she was eligible. Not only have these same blamers fabricated intellectually amazing excuses for this, but some even accuse you of sexism, racism, or classism for pointing it out or questioning it. I have never missed an election since I turned 18 in 1994. I am not black or female, but I am poor and disabled, and I have moved a lot. You don’t have to have a perfect voting record, but you can’t fail to vote 3/4 of the time and expect to run a major city with no political experience. 
For her supporters, who seem less concerned with substance or policy than anything else, you can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to blame people for not voting, you can’t support a candidate who votes 25% of the time. And if you’re going to support the candidate with the worst voting record, you have absolutely no business ever blaming anyone for failing to vote.

A Brief Relief?

I saw a doctor and got temporary psych med prescriptions. I’m waiting for them to be ready. That should bring some relief by tonight. This doctor wanted me to alter an existing appointment, I forget why, so I go back Friday to see the kind, understanding, pretty doctor (locum) again. My regular doc is back soon, so she’ll be gone. 

Today’s doc was naturopathic and suggested cranio-sacral therapy (?) for PTSD in Wallingford. I’ll look it up. She says they found a way to get Medicaid to cover it. She also wants to believe my toe numbness is due to high blood sugar, but I’m seeing diabetics online who have the same side effect from the med I take and say it goes away as soon as they switch meds, so I want to try an alternative. I’ll try to do the intake for longer term psychiatry tomorrow. 

A small present I got myself arrived, so hopefully I can get the broadcast TV channels well and watch Jeopardy regularly. 

I got an email blast from a temp agency I worked for years ago, seeking an executive assistant. They’re interviewing me Monday morning. I expect absolutely nothing out of this. They treated me pretty badly in 2012-13 after I did a great job for them in 2011. I mentioned the idea of unionizing temp workers, and they banned me from their Facebook page. It rubs me the wrong way that they’re even open on MLK Day, let alone having people interview then. 

I emailed a bunch of information to the community mental health ombudsman, and he claims interest in helping but won’t deal over email. I’ve emailed and left phone messages for Larry Gossett about a few things, but the man never answers. I’m ready to vote for someone who responds to constituents, rare as that is. 

So call this all cautiously relieved. Never count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

UPDATE: Two meds filled, one not ready until tomorrow.

Election Predictions: Initiatives

I think it’s time to make some OFFICIAL ELECTION PREDICTIONS. Washington has 6 statewide initiatives on the ballot this year. Here’s my forecast on them (bonus at the end):
I-732 (carbon tax)
This is pretty certain to FAIL. The left being divided is a major hit to it, and I don’t see moderate or conservative support making up for that. Taxes do best in presidential election years, and WA should easily see 80% turnout next month. There’s some chance that people who don’t know much about it might read the voter guide and think it sounds good, putting it over the top, but that’s a decidedly unlikely possibility.
I-735 (resolution on Citizens United)
I think this will PASS, partly because there’s little real opposition, and partly because it just doesn’t do anything–it’s symbolic.
I-1433 ($13.50 minimum wage/paid sick leave)
This will PASS easily. It gets at least 55%, possibly 60% or more.
I-1464 (public campaign financing)
This is basically I-735, but with teeth and at the state level. There doesn’t seem to be much polling on it, I haven’t heard much about it other than from its own advocates, and I suspect many people will be unsure or confused about it. Given our record as a progressive and largely good government state, and the high presidential turnout, I’m inclined to say this is slightly more likely to pass than fail. But overall, I don’t feel like I have a good read on it yet, so I’m going to hold off on making an official prediction.
I-1491 (extreme risk protection orders/guns)
This will PASS easily. Two public polls show it with 64% and 79% support. In 2014 (a midterm year), I-594 on background checks passed 59%-41%. The underlying issue is the same, but this presidential year favors the yes side even more. A 2:1 victory here would not be surprising.
I-1501 (identity theft penalties)
This, too, will PASS easily. Who doesn’t want to protect seniors from identity theft? You can quibble about what the initiative really does, but that’s how the vast majority of people will see it.
I strongly believe in accountability for these predictions, because people need the ability to compare before and after the election, and because I find it improves my ability to make good predictions. Before the August primary, I predicted that Pramila Jayapal would win the 7th congressional district primary with at least 40% of the vote. She won with 42%. I also predicted that Seattle’s housing levy would pass with at least 65% if not 70% of the vote. It passed 72%-28%.
PASS. This horrible dumpster fire should not pass, but it will–easily. Separating what you want to happen from what appears likely to happen is important to making good predictions.
Stay tuned for further predictions in other races.

Primary Election Result Analysis

One metric people tend to overlook in election results is how many total ballots are cast in each race. Generally you expect more contested or controversial ones to get more votes, but the results in WA are often an instructive insight into what people care about more and less. In 2012, the marijuana and marriage ballot issues got more votes than the races for governor and senator. We had 11 statewide items on the primary ballot last week, and I’ve ranked them here in descending order of total votes cast:

Governor: 1,364,432
Senate: 1,355,229
Secretary of State: 1,318,695
Lieutenant Governor: 1,295,050
Insurance Commissioner: 1,294,131
Auditor: 1,284,437
Commissioner of Public Lands: 1,274,766
Treasurer: 1,257,099
Attorney General: 1,221,354
Supreme Court 5: 1,162,814
Superintendent of Public Instruction: 1,121,116

The All Comers Debate

Many supporters of Bernie Sanders have complained and expressed incredulity or even conspiracy theories about the lack of mainstream press coverage of Sanders’ campaign. To be fair, he does have more supporters than Donald Trump, who gets the bulk of media coverage on the presidential race so far. But I don’t think complaining is an effective tactic; on the contrary, it has real potential to make Sanders supporters look whiny or petulant. So this is one of a few ideas I’ve come up with as an alternative way to attract media attention.

Here’s another idea to get press coverage that isn’t complaining. Bernie should offer to debate presidential candidates from all parties or no party. The number of debaters would have to be limited (10?), but I don’t think it’s ever been done in the primary season. Americans increasingly hate political parties and don’t belong to them. Independents outnumber Democrats. And Republicans. If you’ve watched “minor party” debates in the past, you know that they often raise issues the major parties totally ignore, but which Americans care about. (Like Civil liberties in 2012) We could see candidates from different parties debate each other directly, instead of waiting for each party to nominate 1 person and not see them spar until September. Kind of like interleague play in baseball. The All Comers debate would allow any candidate who wants to come, be they Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, The Rent Is Too Damn High… Limit the number of participants based on poll numbers, or for something different and arguably more democratic, by number of donors. Maybe Hillary is afraid of more debates, but Bernie isn’t! 

This would get lots of attention because it’s new and different. It would also get more viewers because it would include Democrats AND Republicans AND supporters of other parties at the same time. And if the idea comes from Bernie, he gets the credit for proposing it. 

Establishment people in both major parties will hate this. But times change, and rules and norms must adapt to the times. Fifty years ago, primaries and caucuses hardly mattered. Nominations were really decided by a few powerful people–party bosses (now “superdelegates”). By 1968, it was clear that system didn’t work anymore, so they changed it. Well, it’s been 48 years since then, and the country doesn’t look like Mad Men anymore. Let’s try something new designed for the 21st century.

If You’re Poor, Your Time Has No Value

Email I sent to Gov. Inslee and my state legislators:

45 minute expected hold time (it ended up being a 52 minute call) to update my address with DSHS for Medicaid & SNAP. After I just gave it to my health insurance company. Assurance Wireless only gives you 250 peak minutes per month. When you’re poor, the “social safety net” treats your time as worthless.

You NEED to raise revenue (income tax, MVET, highway tolls, estate tax, capital gains tax, luxury tax) and properly fund agencies like DSHS. Or better yet, abolish all these wasteful, bureaucratic, inefficient, classist, demeaning means-tested programs and replace them with a guaranteed basic income for all. It’d be more efficient, more effective, and actually reduce or eliminate poverty. Plus it would have broad political support like Social Security if you made it universal. Put a 3-year residency requirement on it to prevent lots of people from moving to WA just to get it.

Why was voter turnout so low this election? As they do abroad, people are boycotting elections that force them to choose between two bad choices, that aren’t truly free and fair. They know their voice doesn’t matter when corporations are people, and big money is the determining factor–studies (Demos et al) find that politicians overwhelmingly do what the richest 1-20% want, and the bottom 80% is powerless. Princeton said we’re not a democracy earlier this year–so why bother? Our political and economic system isn’t working for most Washingtonians. Give them a reason to vote–make the system work for them–and they will.