Talking in Television


Just a short rant post today.

I was wandering around the glorious place known as the internet when I came across a forum post entitled “I hate talking.”

From what I gleaned from this, the author had a serious problem with television shows and anime in particular where the characters take time to talk out a problem or some in-universe issue.

Positive case in point: Ghost In The Shell – Stand Alone Complex. All the Chief does most episodes where he appears is talk. But I love this aspect of GITS. As the head of the open-secret special operations group Section Nine, Chief Arimaki’s smallest remarks (all the way to his full blown political, social, and scientific debates) reveal more story and setting than most pieces of media do in an entire season – in an entire run of a show.

But for the counterpoint, watch the first episode of Lucky Star.

How do you eat a chocolate cornet, DSW Faithful?


Talking in Television

Rubio Closing in on Golden Boy Status


Marco Rubio is having his fifteen minutes (we’ll momentarily ignore the irony that everyone getting their fifteen minutes of fame is fundamentally a socialist concept) and this has led to a consensus that he’s emerging as the GOP’s anti-Trump and most likely to win the nomination at this point. I remain a bit skeptical, simply because the GOP field has a habit of going through repetitive cycles where one of its candidates surges and then falls apart a few weeks later.

At the moment, Marco’s eating into Trump’s support in New Hampshire and already lining up support in other early states but for the moment at least his road to the nomination remains long. New Hampshire is a primary state, meaning the polling on that state is going to be more accurate because the primary itself is more straightforward: people walk into voting booths and pull a lever for their preference. That means there’s a good chance Trump is more likely to win in New Hampshire then he ever was in Iowa.

I think the big difference coming out of Iowa for the GOP is the money factor. No one in the GOP donor class is acting as if Rubio’s third place finish in Iowa is going to make the primary significantly less painful for Republicans, at least not yet (that may change if Rubio takes a close second somehow in NH). But it does signal to the donor class that Rubio is now a viable candidate, worthy of an ever-growing share of their financial attention, and that definitely makes a difference. GOP donors have so far stayed out of their party’s primary, presumably because they didn’t see a promising investment yet and wanted to wait until at least one contest was finished as a way of taking the Republican primary electorate’s pulse. But I think that’ll start to change. I think a lot of donors are beginning to decide they see a pulse in a Rubio candidacy and are becoming increasingly ready to go all-in for him.

Hopefully, that’s not the case. Because if there’s one thing that could be worse for the country than a Texas Republican, it’s a Florida Republican.

Rubio Closing in on Golden Boy Status

Last Word Before Iowa


Today is Iowa caucus day, something we’ll be covering at DSW in between our regularly scheduled content both today and in future analysis as the primaries move forward. But before the caucuses wrap up I wanted to take a minute to say a personal word on the Democratic primary:

The first state hasn’t even voted yet, and I’m sick of this nonsensical power struggle already. It makes no sense, it’s dragging the party back into the ideologically split hell it needs to stay out of to remain viable, it’s trapped in the same crisis-minded thinking that the tea party has used as a thinly veiled justification to hold the country hostage for years, and much of it is built on a lie.

The lie is something that consistent conservatives and consistent liberals/progressives seem to agree on: America doesn’t simply have challenges it needs to face, it’s in decline. We are falling apart as a superpower, splitting open at the seams, etc. etc. Despite plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise, despite what has been called our greatest rival suffering through an economic slowdown, despite Russia, considered our main geopolitical rival, suffering a major economic crisis because of its incredibly stupid foreign policy decisions, despite double-digit unemployment still popular throughout Europe years after the Great Recession, despite a civil war in Syria producing refugees whose possessions are literally being stolen from them by countries like Denmark (which is often a country held up as a paradise the US should be aspiring to), despite all that, it’s us. America is a doomed, poisoned wasteland and we’re all going to die as slaves forced to work on oil rigs as the smog-choked air blots out the future sun.

This slightly pessimistic outlook has dominated the presidential primaries for both parties, primaries that started way too early. The campaign slogans say it all. Trump’s “Make America Great Again”. Sanders campaign rhetoric about restoring the American dream, a phrase that almost every single candidate has used at least once in recent years. Scapegoating of Muslims, millionaires, blacks, whites, and every other demographic group in the country during increasingly heated campaign speeches that are described by supporters of the candidates as “populist.” The groups being targeted might be different, the rhetoric might resonate with a different group of Americans, but the Democratic primary this cycle is threatening to turn into a mirror image of the bitter shit show going on in the other party.

And the reason is pretty Machiavellian, too. The amount of mud that’s been thrown by both front-runners at each other doesn’t normally happen unless there’s something deeper going on than the candidates. And there is: the introduction of raw and undirected populism into early 21st century American politics.


At least, it was raw and undirected for a little bit. But for most of the last few years, it’s been completely astroturfed. There’s actually a documentary called (Astro) Turf Wars that details how the Tea Party was started and then co-opted a few years ago by the fossil fuel industry and GOP mega-donors. Democrats seem to think they’re immune to that sort of thing; their form of populism is righteous and pure.

Not so fast, actually. There might be lest astroturfing (so far) in the left-leaning populism that threatens to split the Democratic party at a moment where it definitely cannot afford it, but there’s still plenty of fear and misinformation upon which certain presidential candidates are more than happy to capitalize. After all, an accurate reflection of both Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders produce a huge amount of cognitive dissonance: how can two candidates who voted with each other in the Senate 93 percent of the time and whose views on issues only get more similar as the primary goes on be leading a campaign as filled with paranoia and background noise as it has been so far? Mistakes, real or misplaced accusations of sexismendorsements showering down and even changing from people who would never normally endorse, hit pieces and nonexistent scandals, millions of people are caught up in the idea that this primary is very important and that the two frontrunners are radically different from one another.

But here’s the thing: that’s simply not true. The combination of a false perception of why Barack Obama won the nomination in 2008 with encyclopedias worth of populist propaganda and fearmongering has led millions of people to believe America is facing a massive crisis and on the verge of revolution when in reality only the Democatic party is facing massive crisis. The problem, of course, is if the Democrats don’t get their shit together this country actually will be plunged a few circles deeper into hell then Bush managed to get it just eight years ago when a Republican president and Republican Congress start rewriting the tax code, building a border wall, registering and tracking Muslims, opening temples to Reagan, and whatever else they have planned. In order to keep this from happening, on the eve of hearing results from the Iowa caucuses, we all have to calm down, take a deep breath, and critically examine both what’s happening and how to fix it.

The examination starts with OFA in 2008. Now known as Organizing for Action, OFA started as Obama for America, an arm of the 2008 campaign which did most of its field and political work somewhat independent of the DNC’s own work on the presidential campaign. This was an organization born from the mind of a community organizer turned presidential candidate and it’s not an understatement to say it completely revolutionized the way politics is done in this country. It brought community organizing into the mainstream and after the election thousands of organizations and campaigns took lessons from that success, many even hiring staffers trained in OFA techniques.


The thing is OFA was and is about a new (old if you know your history) way of organizing while Barack Obama’s historic presidency and indeed the man himself have been about a new way of thinking about politics. Despite the media and his supporters turning him into something of a celerity in 2008, Obama was different in that he sincerely didn’t want his time in office to be about him as a political personality. People adored the man, but he was prescient enough to understand that wasn’t always a good thing and had no problem telling the American people the truth, whether or not they actually wanted to hear the truth.

There is little evidence Clinton or Sanders on the Democratic side and Trump or Cruz or Rubio (just to name a few) on the Republican side have the interest or ability in doing the same. That’s why I cringe when I hear people on both sides describe this campaign as a movement, because the candidates in this campaign seem more interested in saying what people want to hear then what needs to be said. People who willingly subscribe themselves to part of a movement built around a single political identity (in other words a candidate), or at least the people who have done so this cycle, are all clearly influenced by the crash and burn worldview described above and are all more than ready to “take the country back”.

Here are a couple of great examples of just how people with this mentality think and how they’re engaging on the ground in Iowa as we speak. Their movement, because it is centered around the candidate, quickly becomes an all-or-nothing mentality about the candidate themselves and whether the public should nominate them. A pro-Trump blog tells supporters, “Let others know, especially the press, there’s only 1 CHOICE you’ll accept.” (For the record I’m completely mystified as to why choice is capitalized). A similar guide on Reddit was set up for Bernie Sanders with even more revealing advice like “KNOW at least some of BERNIE’S positions!” (again with the random caps).

In other words, the “movement” is about the candidate, not actually the issues. The candidate sells the crisis, points out a few important facts almost as a way to deflect from the fact that those are only facts being mentioned in their stump speech, and gets mad. 21st century movement politics suffers from an overload of emotion and a severe shortage of actual policy.

And that’s not an accidental occurrence, which brings me to what I consider to be the greatest and most sinister lie of the political age, a lie which is currently dominating the Democratic primary and the election in general. I mentioned astro-turfing in this article because the phenomenon happening now is very similar. Particular in the Democratic primary, candidate centered movements are being sold as something that happens organically. Hordes of people are just mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.

Except that they’re already being co-opted (on the Democratic side at least and I’m sure on the other side as well) to fight a battle that is anything but revolutionary: the tired and age-old fight between the center-left and the far left. Same old battle, just being played out with new boots on the ground. The talking points barely even change. And what’s amazing about ideological fights when they happen are the results they can produce. Think about this for a second: we are going into Iowa with two large movements, one in each political party, for revolutionary change. And if those movements are successful we will walk into the general election immediately following the administration of the first African-American president with two old white guys from the northeast still fighting the election of 1968 as our candidates.

More on this after the results.



Last Word Before Iowa

State of the race in Iowa for parties


I figure I owe that portion of DSW’s readership which is passionate about politics a “state of the race” post since we’re only a few days out from the Iowa caucuses. Before I dive into where the candidates stand for each party, let me be clear on one thing: Early primaries, especially the ones in Iowa and New Hampshire, are completely pointless. They in fact undermine the whole point of the primary system, which is to nominate a candidate for president that is representative of their political party as a whole. It’s hard to argue that states like Iowa and New Hampshire are representative of reality in the rest of the country, for a number of reasons.

But that’s for another post, most likely immediately following the results on February 1st. For now here’s where both parties are:

On polling, the Real Clear Politics spread tells very different stories depending on which party’s primary we’re talking about. While one poll (Quinnipiac) only has him squeaking ahead in Iowa, every poll on the Republican side for almost every contest shows Donald Trump in the lead, one national poll by as many as 22 points. It’s also notable that in every one of those polls Ted Cruz takes second place and Marco Rubio takes third in the vast majority. Depending on the polls one takes a look at, it’s arguable that the contest in Iowa specifically has narrowed in the past six weeks, though far from certain.

The same spread shows a much closer contest for the Democrats. The FOX News poll pus Clinton ahead by 6, ARG puts Sanders ahead by 3. National polls show Clinton with a ten to fifteen point lead, and a comfortable lead in other primary states like South Carolina (CBS News puts her up by 22) and Minnesota, where she’s up by 34. But Sanders is dominating New Hampshire, CBS News saying he’s up by 19 there, while the Suffolk University poll has him up 9 points.

While a lot of analysis has focused on how high-stakes the Iowa caucuses are for both parties, the truth is more complex than that. The Republican challenge in Iowa is far different than the Democratic challenge.

Republicans have to decide how they want to identify themselves, and whether that particular conflict is going to be settled in a state like Iowa. Nate Silver argues that Donald Trump hasn’t been stopped by the GOP perhaps because not all of them are actually trying to win the presidential election this time around because there’s no “professional incentive” to. I think the issue is a bit simpler than that. The Republican party has for decades carefully crafted the image of the conservative commander in chief, one that acts with strength, behaves like a toned down alpha male with a folksy appeal and a blue collar aura about them, but one that is still intelligent enough on policy matters to handle themselves adeptly on the world stage and propose the occasional sweeping reform of a long-standing domestic program. They had rebuilt this image from its previous low point at the end of the Nixon administration so successfully that Bill Clinton had to all but copy it in order to get to the White House in 1992. But in 2008 they had the commander in chief image stolen from them by Barack Obama, who in addition to checking off many of the boxes the GOP thought only their candidates could, did so while maintaining an identity as a black progressive politician with a background working in marginalized communities. I cannot state enough how much Obama was able to capture that commander in chief image and completely shatter the idea it belonged more naturally with the GOP (the Palin factor helped quite a bit as well). Ever since then, without the commander in chief image to hold it together, the Republican party has returned once again to swaying back and forth between conservative extremes like a drunken Barry Goldwater stumbling in the night.

Democrats have a different question, though there are a few similarities which I hope to touch on in a different post. Having won this image battle they have almost taken the spoils from their victory too far. The Democratic primary is dominated even more than the GOP contest by a cult of personality. The two leading candidates voted the same way in the Senate (during the years they were both Senators, that is) 93 percent of the time, and yet the primary contest between them couldn’t be more divisive. The ironic part about this is that the contest centers on key personality questions (who’s most trustworthy, who has the temperament to be commander in chief, etc) but the only way to see which candidate is best in that category is to see which candidate makes the most sincere call for a return to a sane level of discourse between the campaigns and actually gets their supporters to follow them (that second part is by far the more important).

It’s possible that Iowa will end up being a more decisive contest for the Democrats than for the Republicans, but the potential is there in both parties for open and contested primaries.


Image credit to The Atlantic

State of the race in Iowa for parties

Sanders: Planned Parenthood Part of “Establishment”



Political contests, especially in this country where everything focuses on the candidate instead of the party, are high-tension situations. I get that. I get that verbal slips are made in these situations. It’s how one reacts to these verbal slips that matters.

One of those slips happened on Tuesday night, when Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders made a comment on television implying that Planned Parenthood and several other progressive interest groups including NARAL and the Human Rights Campaign were part of the political establishment that his candidacy is fighting against. The one thing all of these organizations have in common, other than nor normally being described as establishment and fighting for progressive causes? They’ve all endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Interest groups endorse presidential candidates all the time, nothing special or newsworthy about that.

Except in the case of Planned Parenthood. Just two weeks ago news broke that Planned Parenthood was making its first endorsement in a presidential primary ever, and it was endorsing Hillary Clinton over her rival. The head of the organization had the following to say about this endorsement, quoted from above link:

“Let’s be clear — reproductive rights and health are on the ballot in 2016,” said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. “We’re proud to endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

“No other candidate in our nation’s history has demonstrated such a strong commitment to women or such a clear record on behalf of women’s health and rights,” she added. “This is about so much more than Planned Parenthood. Health care for an entire generation is at stake.”

Before this endorsement, Democrats were united in defending Planned Parenthood from an unprecedented attack from Capitol Hill Republicans who were attempting to starve the organization of funds and shut it down entirely in the same way ACORN was shut down just a few years ago. This is nothing new for an organization that’s been breaking barriers since its founding in 1916 when its founding members were arrested for opening a birth control clinic. To this day it vehemently defends reproductive rights and its leading members regularly face harassment and even death threats for doing so. Nothing about that should sound to anyone like an “establishment” organization. And yet, in the middle of a primary that the country is watching closely and considering a referendum on progressive values, many in the Sanders camp are defending rather than even attempting to explain this opinion.  If the Sanders campaign wants to be the organization known for defining what it means to be a progressive, it should start by explaining to the American people what a Senator who’s been in Washington so long his hair had color to it when he first got there is doing calling a group of dedicated progressive women under daily attack from other politicians in that same city part of the “establishment.” I have great respect for the man, but I believe if he’s going to fight against the establishment he first has to be honest and acknowledge that he has been an active part of that establishment for decades, as has Hillary, as have most politicians in Washington. Both candidates, in fact, are far more of the establishment than Barack Obama, a Hawaiian born to a mixed race family, raised in Indonesia, the product of public schooling, former community organizer. If you want someone with a legitimate anti-establishment background, Barack’s your man.

Maybe asking who’s pro “establishment” is the wrong question. Maybe Senator Sanders and Mrs. Clinton both should be asking themselves a far more important question: if they actually have what it takes to succeed the most successful American president since at least FDR.

Sanders: Planned Parenthood Part of “Establishment”

The Latest Democratic Debate and Politicults: A Rant



I had high hopes when I sat down to watch the Democratic debate last night. As a Democrat who has been largely undecided over the primary I wanted to take the time for once to hear a whole debate, start to finish, from the candidates themselves instead of doing what I normally do and read a transcript the next morning.

Normally I don’t need to watch nor do I actually watch debates, especially live, but this time was different. I felt (and still feel) that both frontrunners had lost it a bit. Not necessarily mentally (though there is something to be said for the idea that anyone who actually wants to be President of the United States has something wrong with them), but in terms of their messaging. Even though the primary’s been going on for months on social media and in the news, the campaigns themselves haven’t been doing most of the talking. Instead the primary has been characterized by exponentially more and more petty mudslinging between increasingly crazy cults of Bernie and Hillary supporters. To less-than-fully-decideds and outside observers, it’s made the primary sound like the Spanish civil war, with alternating definitions of who’s the monarchy and who’s Franco depending on who you ask.

So needless to say I was excited to see a sane exchange between the candidates without the hordes of DNC apologists and Che Guevara wannabes ruining my ability to actually judge the best candidate for myself.

Alas, I would have been happier if I’d just read the transcript. Even though I’ve seen at least a dozen articles straining to argue that either Hillary or Bernie “won” the debate (depending on which one you’re reading), I was much less impressed with their behavior. There’s trying to be more aggressive and score points three weeks ahead of a caucus of massively inflated importance, and then there’s just acting childish. The latter was what I saw. I counted twice where both candidates were trying to shout over each other to make a point literally as the debate was going to a commercial break. I lost count listening to them stubbornly repeat slogans instead of spell out their policies (though part of that was no doubt the ludicrously short time limits they were given to answer questions).

It was a world away from the debates in 2008, and that’s not a good thing.

I plan to vote for the nominee whoever it ends up being, but I’m starting to get worried that it doesn’t matter who it ends up being. Negativity in a primary isn’t always a bad thing, but this amount of it is. The bloody shirt waving cults at the far periphery of the primary process shouldn’t be the loudest voices in the room dictating what the candidates say and do. Fight for your candidate, definitely, but once in a while just remember it’s OK to dial it back. Otherwise we’re going to end up with a losing nominee no matter who wins the primary.


The Latest Democratic Debate and Politicults: A Rant

Fascists and Robocalls Unite?



In a sign that American politics has hit peak Family Matterswhite nationalists are now sending out robocalls for Donald Trump’s campaign in Iowa. This is yet another one of those strange and increasingly moments in the politics of 2016 where I just wrote a sentence I never thought I would write in my entire life. You can listen to the robocall here. It’s only 30 seconds long, but if you can’t bare to deal with listening to white supremacist nonsense for even that long, the call ends by saying “we need smart,  well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote trump.”

James Taylor, the voice on the robocall, is from a group called American Renaissance, which I admit has a Norsefire-esque ring to it.He calls himself a one-issue voter, that one issue being immigration and backs Trump because, according to the Washington Post article featuring the robocall (linked above):

“He’s attractive to many Americans who see their country slipping through their fingers. You don’t want to end your days living in an outpost of Haiti or Guatemala do you?”

Donald Trump doesn’t actually endorse white nationalist groups, to be clear, and his campaign has actually fired a couple of staffers for allegedly posting over-the-top racist material on social media. But white nationalists certainly support him. KKK “grand wizard” David Duke has endorsed Trump, his only criticism of the candidate being that Trump’s support for Israel is a bit over-the-top. And groups like American Renaissance are actively campaigning for the man in Iowa. Not by knocking on doors or anything like that. No, that wouldn’t be annoying enough apparently. Apparently spewing hate across the state of Iowa like a ruptured sewage line does across a busy street isn’t enough. The hate must be recorded and delivered in the most annoying way ever contrived by the human race: the robocall.

The robocall. Perhaps that is in fact the most fitting way to deliver information like this, in a format that will sit on someone’s answering machine for a week. “This is Randy from Chase Visa about your account,” “This is an advertisement about how much credit we have to offer you for no risk ever*”, “We need smart,  well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture.”  Maybe the only fitting fate for a message like that is it gets laid to rest with other such needless bullshit.

Anyone’s bet on whether this helps The Donald’s campaign.





Fascists and Robocalls Unite?

No, Print Isn’t Dead. It’s Even Growing.


There’s a lot to despair, it would seem, for people in the newspaper industry. Classifieds, obituaries, the reporting of news itself, all once solidly in the newspaper publisher’s wheelhouse, have gone digital. Articles about the death of newspapers are far from new or original anymore, and from the perspective of newspaper reporters and contributors the fears expressed in those articles are well warranted. Investors have been pulling money out of newspapers for years, and even though the industry is stabilizing as newspapers make new revenue putting their digital content behind paywalls and the like, the print format of those papers is slowly going under, at least according to conventional wisdom. And of course it is. As a news media consumer, I now have two options for purchasing a subscription to a local or national paper. I can do it the old-fashioned way, wait for a truck to cruise by my house at five in the morning and wake me up by slapping a paper against my front door, walk out to get that paper at six to read a small portion of it before either taking it with me on the train or leaving it behind and driving to work, or I can just have the same paper delivered to my inbox every morning at the same time and read it whenever I get to my desk in the morning, minimizing the tab with my news on it when another task comes up. Put that way there’s really no contest.

But print as a media format isn’t limited to news. And outside of the news world, it’s still thriving. Even digital companies are pushing print and more traditional media distribution centers today. Amazon just opened its first brick and mortar store (follow the link to see what the store looks like inside) in Seattle. The store carries thousands of print books sold at the same prices as on the website. This follows a trend Amazon has been on for a while of incorporating print into its media empire rather than trying to extinguish it. Authors who publish their novels or nonfiction books as ebooks on the website have for years had on-demand print options available to them and their customers through Amazon. Now those authors have a shot at getting their books in Amazon stores (hopefully without having to sacrifice royalties to do so).

And it was very prescient of Amazon to recognize the strength of print media and incorporate it into their brand. Print is still a place to put your money if you’re the kind of person to invest in these things. Between 2009 and 2014, despite the Great Recession’s drag on the economy, the number of small, independent book stores in the states has jumped at least twenty percent. This, too, could be because of companies like Amazon; the idea of independent book stores thriving as a counter to giant retailers in the same way craft breweries exploded as a counter to domestic super-brewers is not at all implausible.


But other reasons could be behind the continued survival and growth of print. Maryanne Wolf suggests that the distraction-free nature of print media in a modern world full of nothing but distractions can’t be underestimated. “The basic message of working on screen is you are on call,” Wolf says of digital media. “It’s not that you can’t do deep reading on a screen, we’re talking about the ease of how you get into it. The emphases are different. Amid all the interruptions on a screen, we are actually diminishing the amount of words we really take in when we read.”

It may not be easy to prove the reason why, but the fact is print continues to do well, somehow. In addition to Amazon’s investment, there are examples of public support for print books even through Kickstarter campaigns like this one. This is as true in business it seems as with literature. Ironically, the prevalence of digital design tools and formats seems to be contributing to a four billion dollar growth of the inkjet market in four years. The ability to print technology onto things like paper and textiles seems to be contributing as well.

This of course could be an overly optimistic assessment. There are hundreds of articles to refute the hundreds of articles out there arguing that print is surviving and even thriving well into the digital age. But in many ways the fates of digital and print media seem inexorably linked; digital formats exist increasingly not only as independent media of their own but as a way to make something look and feel as pretty as possible on a piece of paper. Access to literature and news in both formats has never been easier for humanity in general, and maybe print is simply being propped up by overflow consumers in an age of digital enlightenment. But my hunch is it’s managed to market itself as a real alternative, and until a Kindle can feel as good in the hand as a book, print will be around for a while.

No, Print Isn’t Dead. It’s Even Growing.

Newsflash to Democrats: Winning is Important


By a lot of accounts, the Democratic Party has become increasingly divided over the last year or two. This has been highlighted, underscored and circled in red pen by the way the presidential primary is going for Democrats so far, but there’s at least some evidence to suggest this has been going on for a while. The Atlantic pointed two years ago to economic inequality and what to do about it as the central point at which the Democratic party is divided. They backed this up with the now familiar bullet points of millenials moving the electorate to the left and the electoral victories of Democrats like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Bill de Blasio in New York as signalling a return to liberalism. In doing so, they identify millenials as really, really young New Deal liberals and older more “establishment” Democrats as centrists who are centrists specifically because they want to win elections.

More then just in the general sense, the Democrats have allowed themselves to become divided on specific issues as well. They’re divided on the Syrian refugee issue. They’re divided on the historic nuclear deal the president made with Iran (for the record it astounds me how anyone could oppose that deal, but that’s a matter for a different post). They were divided over whether Joe Biden should run for president (as if a candidate needed the electorate’s permission to enter a race). They’re deeply divided over whether to take an interventionist or isolationist approach to fighting terror in the Middle East.

There’s an argument out there that division among a political party is a good thing, that it allows for open and honest discussion about the direction a political party should take, the ideology it should embrace and the degree to which it should embrace that ideology, etc. And there’s an argument out there that this is a good time (relatively speaking) for the Democrats to be divided because the Republicans are divided, too. I mean come on. Just look at all the Republicans running for president, right?

But the huge and telling difference that can’t be repeated enough is that Republicans aren’t actually divided on being Republicans. They might disagree on who they want to lead the party, but they don’t disagree that they’re a part of the party and that it’s a good thing for them if the party wins elections. That is why no matter how much Republicans may denounce Donald Trump, they have publicly gone on record stating they will support the nominee whoever it happens to be. That might be a level of cognitive dissonance that’s hard for most people to understand, but the logic behind it is incredibly simple. Political parties exist to win elections. Standing behind your party’s candidate during an election is the best way to ensure that candidate wins. If enough candidates win, the political party has a major seat at the table when it comes to running the actual country. The GOP has drifted way to the right recently, and it will likely eventually drift back towards the center, but regardless its major figures will continue to fully support the candidates the party nominates for office.

It is simply not that way for Democrats, or for the left in general, especially in recent history. The infamous PUMAs of 2008 were ready to bring down the Democratic Party because Barack Obama became the eventual nominee for president and the Hillary camp for whatever reason simply would not concede. Many of them accused party leadership of rigging the nomination process in favor of Obama. At the time of this writing there’s an active Bernie or Bust pledge where Sanders supports swear they won’t vote for anyone but the Vermont Senator under any circumstances, even if that means employing a write-in vote. Many of them have accused party leadership of rigging the nomination process in favor of Mrs. Clinton.

You may notice a pattern there, but it doesn’t just exist in the US. In the UK, the Labour party went through a similar, albeit at the time much more pronounced, divide over ideology between left, center-left and centrist factions. It became so bad some of them splintered off and formed their own political party (which has since vanished) and Labour was crushed in 1983 when it remained divided right through the election itself. The same thing happened in 2015; Labour’s focus on ideology and ambivalence about actually winning cost it an election it should have won.

Returning to the US, what’s surprising is that there isn’t much structurally speaking within the political parties themselves to explain the different ways Republicans and Democrats view the roles of their parties. Republicans see the Republican Party as an organization dedicated to winning elections so they can control the political agenda and the levers of power needed to execute that agenda. Democrats view their party as a standing representative of the collective principles of those members, and elections as constant tests of those principles. Going by that definition, no wonder Democrats don’t care as much about their party; it’s because they don’t care as much about winning elections. They care about abstract stances on political issues instead.


Well my opinion is, and there’s no nice way to say this, that’s a really fucking stupid way of looking at politics, and it’s going to lead to nothing except the prolonged suffering and oppression of the disenfranchised and marginalized groups most Democrats claim to represent. This isn’t just a flippant accusation; there are progressive Democrats actually saying letting Republicans win and Americans suffer is some necessary cathartic moment that will “wake up” the country. These are progressives, claiming to fight for the oppressed of this country, wanting those oppressed people to suffer at the hands of a right-wing administration because they apparently need to learn some kind of lesson.

Let me be crystal clear: that’s straight-up deluded, and proof positive that calling yourself a progressive and adopting radical positions simply for the sake of being radical doesn’t make you any smarter, any more prescient, any more “awake” then anyone else in this country. And if you’re willing to throw an election because you think doing so will lead to mass suffering, and that mass suffering is required in order for the country to adopt your positions, it’s your positions that are wrong, not the country’s.

It’s fine to be divided, but you should be divided on tactics and strategy, not on whether or not winning is necessary. Newsflash to Democrats: Winning is important. Your collective belief it isn’t is one of the primary reasons you are where you are right now and why the US is being mismanaged by the league of drunken uncles that calls itself the Republican party. The people you claim to represent are counting on you not just to speak for them but to actually win. Maybe try focusing more energy there, and less on whether your constituents need to suffer to understand your increasingly deluded mentality.


Newsflash to Democrats: Winning is Important

Let’s Break Down this Data Breach “Scandal”




Let’s take a moment and look a little closer at the data breach scandal that has clumsily thrown the Democratic party into some kind of Mexican standoff between supporters of its two front-running presidential candidates. It’s hard to find anything like an unbiased article to link to, but in case you haven’t heard the DNC’s voter file has been compromised.   Several (what could only be senior level) staffers from the Sanders campaign may have been able to view voter data from the rival Clinton campaign for anywhere from a few moments to a couple of hours on Friday. According to USA Today this is because “a vendor’s firewall failed”, which made Clinton voter data available to rival campaigns for the brief window. The crux of all this is this isn’t free data. The firm that collects, stores, and sells this data to campaigns is called NGP/VAN, and is the single most essential modern organizing tool for political organizers and operatives on the Democratic side of the aisle. So when data is made available to those who didn’t pay for it or other wise request access to it, it’s a major issue. It’s a major issue not only because the Democratic party has a contract with the vendor and therefore needs the company to be able to trust them with sensitive data about millions of voters, but also because the company has a reputation to uphold as well. Both are put at risk when this sort of thing happens.

The details around the actual data breach are hazy at best. Depending on what sources one goes to, the Sanders campaign either maliciously tried to gain access to their rival’s files or was set up by the DNC in order to bring their campaign down. What we do know is the Sanders campaign fired Josh Uretsky, its national data director over the incident. Shortly after that, Sander’s campaign manager Robby Mook held a press conference specifically to lay into the DNC and present the campaign’s version of events. “We are particularly disturbed right now that they [the DNC/Clinton campaign, presumably] are using the fact that they stole data as a reason to raise money for their campaign,” Mook told reporters. Jeff Weaver, also identified by the Associated Press as a/the Sanders campaign manager, said  “Clearly, in thise case, they [the DNC] are trying to help the Clinton campaign.”

The judgment and collective outrage of the progressive community was swift. The collective decision has already been made that the DNC is a shill for the establishment candidate and the system is rigged against the progressive candidate. Popular progressive blog Crooks and Liars veered dangerously close to Gamergate territory with an article entitled The DNC Data Breach-It’s the Cover Up! In it they alleged “the DNC was out there employing the great smoke and mirrors of politics.” Their opinion is that Sanders is just the fall guy in a DNC attempt to cover up a massive security breach that would have undermined the relationship between them and the vendor that maintains their database. And that was just the most benevolent critique of the DNC from the progressive blogosphere. Reverbpress argues the data breach is just an excuse to punish an insurgent campaign. Because the breach was described as “inadvertent” (the actual quote, misrepresented by the article, is that all users were “inadvertently able to access some data belonging to other campaigns for a brief window”) by the DNC communications director, according to Reverb, the Sanders campaign was unfairly punished when it was temporarily suspended from accessing voter files with NGP/VAN. Consistently outraged Russia Today apparently agrees, going so far as to call it “our data.”


But the evidence suggests that this breach wasn’t just something Uretsky happened to stumble upon alone one night while going over campaign data. Multiple sources with presumably some level of inside knowledge of the incident have apparently told reporters that four NGP/VAN user accounts tied to the Sanders campaign had run searches of the data at the time it was compromised. And yesterday the Sanders campaign suspended two more staffers who were likely involved in the incident. So far, it seems like no one’s telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what happened here.

And that’s probably because no one knows what happened here for sure. That is what annoys me most about progressives’ reactions to this. Usually it’s bloggers and internet trolls on the right that react prematurely to events and spin conspiracy theories like yarn at will. Usually it’s the Brietbarts and Limbaughs of the world that see cover-ups at every turn. But this is the first nationally significant news story in quite a while where virtually the entire American progressive left has thrown itself into the deep end without knowing virtually anything about the data breach incident. Even Snopes doesn’t know what happened. But despite that, and despite the story being unresolved and barely 72 hours old, the verdict is in. The DNC chair, Hillary, etc. must hang. They have been lying to and instilling fear in “movement progressives” (are there non-movement progressives?) for too long and must hang for it.

As for me, before I don the black hood and walk Hillary up the creaky wooden ramp to the gallows, I want to at least take a look at other possible explanations, particularly ones that don’t contain the accusation of malice on the part of one of the two leading campaigns in the primary. Because if we look at the facts, there’s no evidence of malice; incompetence, maybe, but no malice. After sifting through the countless articles on the breach, I find this take from the always thorough David Phillips to be the most compelling (the key portion of his article quoted below):

“So here we have a situation where people now behave like fans instead of citizens and supporters. More than one thing can be true at a time. You can think Hillary Clinton is a less than savory candidate (no argument from me). You can think Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is shitty at her job and favors Clinton (I certainly believe both of those things), you can believe the DNC is a hot mess and I won’t argue with that either.

What I will say is when you are faced with good liberal reporting that tells you this breach not only occurred, but involved multiple staffers and the collection of data, AND there is empirical digital data that proves that, AND the guy who did it flat-out confessed that all these things are true, AND you still want to defend the behavior of the campaign or even worse, deny that it happened at all, well, now you’ve become something akin to a republican denying that climate change is man-made, or even is a thing.”

That’s about it, folks. Facts are stubborn things. And the facts simply do not support a grand anti-Sanders conspiracy surrounding a data breach that several of his staffers may (or may not) have behaved less then ethically during. Not all the facts have come out yet, but so far the conspiracy theory just doesn’t look plausible. What’s more likely is simply the result of an insurgent campaign hiring staffers driven by ideology more then experience. In other words, some of Sanders’s staffers may never have experienced a high-pressure situation where one must tread incredibly lightly to remain ethical, and a few of them choked. As of this time, that’s about it.

Let’s Break Down this Data Breach “Scandal”