Tag Archives: politics

After Trump’s “Acquittal” — What Do You Do?

Donald Trump was “acquitted” Wednesday on the two counts the House had passed to the Senate. Every Republican except Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Mitt Romney had voted against hearing witnesses in the trial, breaking hundreds of years of precedent. Every Republican except Romney voted to acquit Trump on the count of Abuse of Power. Every Republican including Romney voted to acquit Trump on Obstruction of Congress.

To cover up so many witnesses is unthinkable. Is democracy broken? To hear many, it’s a death blow that democracy can never recover from. To hear many, the fight is all but over.

This is only a death blow to democracy if you allow it to be. Months back, we were wondering if we could even get an impeachment process off the ground. We were trying to pressure Democrats to instigate something long delayed. Now we’re trying to pressure Republicans to simply do their jobs. That’s a distance traveled.

Does it mean we succeeded? No. Does it mean we failed? No. It means there’s more work to do. It means we succeed if we do that work and get others to do it with us. It means we fail if we don’t. That’s always been the equation. It hasn’t changed.

Democracy is no less intact or damaged because you’re the democracy. Stop pretending these fools are. They’re a system built to represent that democracy. If they fuck up, the democracy itself is still intact unless it decides it’s too dejected to be.

Our job is to get in their works, and slow them, and frustrate them, and expose them. They sand us out, replace a part, ignore the problem, we get right back in there and fuck up the works and slow them and frustrate them all over again.

They disconnect Congressional phone lines when they get overwhelmed. They stop answering phones as often and let voicemails stay full so no one can leave more messages. Those aren’t the acts of people in control, unburdened. Those are the acts of the overwhelmed, of desperate people clinging to waning power in the face of the people who they know really control it. They want to avoid you and their accountability to you because they fear it.

Democracy isn’t dead or broken. It’s simply in your hands instead of theirs for once. How do you mistake that as dead or broken? That’s you mistaking your power for something useless. That’s you mistaking their desperate fatigue for your own. Why would you do that to yourself? Why would you envision us as so incapable?

Republicans in government are the ones who are acting out of cowardice. They’re the ones who hid from you. Democracy isn’t dead or broken. It’s simply been abandoned by cowards who hope you don’t find where they left it. Pick it the fuck up and use it.

When they try to hide, call them out. When they forego accountability, keep asking the questions you need answered. Do it consistently, publicly, and keep yourself capable of doing it consistently. Most importantly, get others to do the work consistently by your side. Get the vote out. Register voters. Arrange carpools to voting locations for those with decreased access. Participate in phone banks. Write letters to the editor. Call the offices of elected officials. March.

This has always been a war of attrition and Republicans’ only strategy from the beginning has been convincing you that we aren’t strong enough. They wouldn’t spend so much time trying to convince us of that and then hiding from accountability to us unless we fucking were. This is one more battle among so many that we’ve forgotten half of them.

Republicans in government are overwhelmed and desperate. Treat them that way. Keep pressing. They have less and less ground every day because we’ve been taking it day after day for three years. They’re fading, retiring, negotiating shreds of cover where once they had systems of it.

Keep doing the work. The work is democracy. Getting others to do it with you is democracy. Keep doing it, and democracy will eventually fuck these cowards up. You do the work, and democracy is fine because it’s yours and not theirs anymore.

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Is Sanders or Warren Holding the Other Back?

One line of thinking about the Democratic primary follows a peculiar logic. It goes like this: if Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren drops out, you can just add the polling numbers of one to the other. They’re splitting the progressive voting bloc! Either would be winning against former V.P. Joe Biden if the other just dropped out! Right? Except this isn’t the way voting blocs and demographics work.

Voting Blocs Intersect

Yes, there is a progressive voting bloc that favors Sanders and Warren. However, the argument above assumes that voting bloc isn’t intersected by a variety of other voting blocs. Yet it does intersect with both demographic and issue-driven voting blocs:

There’s a voting bloc of white men that favors Biden and Sanders. There’s a voting bloc of white women that favors Warren. There’s a voting bloc of Black voters that favors Biden. There’s a voting bloc of LGBTQ voters that favors Warren. Hispanic voters are generally split fairly evenly between the three top candidates, with Biden and Sanders enjoying a very slight advantage.

People tend to be very comfortable with the perception that there’s a Black voting bloc that’s likely to vote for Black candidates, that women are more likely to vote for women, etc. What’s not discussed or acknowledged nearly as often is that there’s also a white male voting bloc that tends to vote for white, male candidates.

That voting bloc in the 2020 primary largely favors Biden and Sanders. Go back to 2016, and the only demographic split of race and gender that Sanders won in the primary was white men.

Let’s look at second-choice polls in 2020 to see how voting blocs tend to split. Second-choice polls describe who respondents’ second choices in an election are. They’re grouped by first-choice. They do have a margin for error. They’re just like any other poll. However, the fragmentation that’s displayed in them is consistent in nature. Let’s see what happens if Sanders bowed out, and then Warren (just going alphabetically here).

If Sen. Sanders Left the Primary

If Sanders bowed out, Morning Consult’s second-choice poll suggests his voters would split more or less evenly between Warren (31%) and Biden (26%). On the surface, that might not make sense. This is because Sanders’s progressive voters would gravitate to Warren, but white male voters make up the largest segment of his bloc – many would gravitate to Biden. Those who are both would split. There’s a slight edge to Warren, but not markedly so – not to the extent that it would boost her much more than it would boost Biden.

Not all progressive voters are alike. Some would be comfortable shifting their vote to a woman, some less so. Some would be comfortable shifting their vote to a more moderate candidate, some less so.

If Sen. Warren Left the Primary

What if Warren bowed out? A decent amount of her voters go to Buttigieg, possibly because Warren is first by a solid margin among LGBTQ voters. Sanders would get the highest share (30%), but Biden (19%) and Buttigieg (15%) would be close behind.

Sanders’s minor advantage as a second-choice (30-to-19 over Biden, vs. Warren’s 31-to-26) isn’t created by having more appeal. Note that she picks up 31% of Sanders’s voters if he leaves; he picks up 30% of her voters if she leaves. The difference is statistically meaningless. Sanders’s advantage in this poll is that her voters are more likely to chiefly split to three candidates (including him) instead of just two.

Minimizing this advantage isn’t a selective reading. If we use the Quinnipiac instead of Morning Consult second-choice poll, Warren holds a much bigger advantage over Sanders. Here, if Sanders dropped out, she’d be the second choice 35-to-17% over Biden. Whereas if Warren dropped out, Sanders would be second choice 33-to-21% over Biden.

Neither demonstrates a real advantage for one or the other. That’s because the difference is pretty minimal by the time we’re splitting up small numbers into even smaller numbers.

Why the Difference is Slight

By the time you’re splitting up 15-20% of national polling into thirds, the difference between getting 20 and 30% of those voters is a matter of closing a losing margin by one or two percent.

Think about it this way: Biden is polling at 27%, Warren at 16% at the time of this article. Let’s say Sanders drops out. She’s down by a margin of 11% in the polls, but now Sanders’s 20% in national polls is up for grabs.

Warren gains 31% of Sanders’s 20% of voters. That translates to an additional 6.2% in national polls for Warren.

Biden would gain 26% of Sanders’s 20% of voters. That translates to an additional 5.2% in national polls for Biden.

In other words, Biden improves by about 5 points to 32%, and Warren improves by about 6 points to 22%. She’s gone from being down 11 to down 10. That helps, but what we’re really talking about is closing the margin by a whopping 1% in polling averages.

Best Case Scenarios

The very best case scenario for Sanders or Warren getting near Biden would be Warren exiting under the Morning Consult poll. Her current polling average is 16%. Sanders would gain 4.8% in the polls. Biden would gain 3% in the polls. Buttigieg would gain 2.4% in the polls. In other words, Warren dropping out means Sanders would have closed his margin by an astonishing 1.8% in polling averages. Biden’s advantage over Sanders would have started at 27-to-20, and ended at about 30-to-25. I’m sure Sanders would gladly take being down about 5 instead of down 7, but he’d still be down to Biden in the polls.

Let’s take the absolute best case scenario for shifting total number of votes, from the Quinnipiac poll where Warren gets 35% of Sanders’s voters, and Biden gets 17%. That still nets Warren an additional 7%, and Biden an additional 3.4%. She closes the margin by 3.6%. She goes from being down 27-to-16 to being down by a little over 30-to-23.

The point is that neither Sanders nor Warren exiting would put the other over the top. It would come nowhere close. They’d both still be down at the end of the day.

Both historical data and polling data has heavily suggested for the last year of this primary (this has been going on a long time already, hasn’t it?) that one or the other of Sanders and Warren bowing out doesn’t really give the other any major boost.

Voting Blocs Do Not Order by Hierarchy

These are the kind of situations that are likely. Neither Sanders’s nor Warren’s entire number would transfer over. Those voters would split according to a range of priorities and tendencies. You’re not talking about adding Sanders’s 20% in polls to Warren’s 16%. That’s not the way it works. You’re talking about splitting up their voters according to a range of intersecting voting blocs and priorities.

Neither Sanders nor Warren is particularly hamstringing the other. Progressive voters act as a bloc, but that bloc doesn’t exist in a vacuum. White voters, Black voters, LGBTQ voters: all of them have their tendencies and priorities, and those blocs are just as important and functional as a progressive voting bloc is. That’s just dealing with demographic blocs, before even getting to voting blocs that favor single issues.

Looking at politics in a monolithic way, where your voting bloc must magically supersede all others and make them irrelevant and inapplicable, will only teach you to look at electoral histories and polling information inaccurately. Acknowledge and recognize that other demographics exists, and that their priorities can be just as legitimate. When talking about voting blocs, don’t assume they’ll all follow a certain action. They intersect with other priorities that mix their tendencies. Don’t expect other demographic or voting blocs to follow yours. Understand why they might not.

In no world would Sanders’s and Warren’s entire voting blocs combine, even if they were hunky-dory and the best of friends. The best you might hope for in a field with a number of candidates like this is a breakdown where you might get about 40% of a dropped candidate’s voters, and another major candidate gets 20% of them. That closes margins of loss, but it doesn’t come close to evening them out – let alone changing the leader.

Neither Sanders nor Warren is holding the other back from swallowing up the other’s entire group of supporters. Those supporters would split pretty widely and somewhat evenly across the other major candidates because more voting blocs exist than “progressive” alone.

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Trump Has Already Moved Our Norms on Candidates of Color

Sen. Kamala Harris: a prosecutor with legal expertise that the American people badly needed to hear out. Primary voters were convinced that expertise was something to be distrusted and even fought. She was posed as an integral and ingrained part of a national Democratic machine despite only having been in national politics for three years. She’s harshly criticized Democratic concessions to Republicans for years, yet she was posed as a centrist. She’s the 5th most progressive vote in the Senate (using ProgressivePunch’s metrics), ahead of even Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Secy. Julian Castro: focused on housing, infrastructure, and medical access – especially for rural communities. He highlighted abuses in the immigration system, ways that for-profit companies are committing human rights abuses and stealing money from immigrant and citizen alike. He stood up for trans people when others wouldn’t speak their names. Primary voters were convinced that he couldn’t speak to the very daily needs he was the only one to offer policy on. He was posed as part of a national Democratic machine, despite being one of the most contentious members of Obama’s cabinet, and despite being a lifelong Chicano activist and leader in a front that’s done more to pull Democratic politics leftward in Texas and the Southwest than any other group.

Sen. Cory Booker: one of the few candidates who’s actually done something heroic when he rescued a woman from a fire, and who has a history of pressuring Republicans onto civil rights policy. He was posed as part of a national Democratic machine because he voted against a pharmaceutical bill – nevermind voting for a version of the bill that disallowed loopholes and had teeth. He’s the 7th most progressive vote in the Senate, ahead of even Bernie Sanders.

Former V.P. Joe Biden’s leading the Democratic primary polls, while saying he might nominate a Republican as vice president, and that Republicans will work with him after they successfully defeated his attempts at getting them to work with the Obama administration for 8 years solid – including most famously on the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination.

Sanders is second, despite having failed to provide transparency on his medical records as he promised, despite having failed to provide transparency on his financial records as he’s promised for the last four years, and despite Our Revolution being in violation of campaign finance law on behalf of his campaign as reported by the AP News.

We’re told Sanders is more progressive than these “centrists” despite Harris and Booker having more progressive voting records than he has (Castro was a member of the Cabinet, and so doesn’t have a voting record.)

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is mayor of the country’s 301st biggest city, has no major successes in that city to speak of, has a major issue with racism in his police force that even he’s admitted he’s failed to address, and he’s fourth in polling.

I want to stop here and highlight something: we’re told Sanders is new despite his being involved in national politics for 30 years, whereas Booker (7 years), Castro (3 years), and Harris (3 years) are magically ingrained despite having just entered. We’re also told Booker, Castro, and Harris aren’t experienced enough while the mayor of the 301st biggest city in the U.S. is lauded, admired, and treated as a very serious candidate. That all’s some bullshit.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is solidifying his spot as 5th candidate and could overtake Buttigieg’s polling aggregate soon. He has commercials, but no particular policy.

Tom Steyer overtook Booker in polling before Booker dropped out, despite offering a fraction of the policy.

The only candidates of color left in the race are Andrew Yang, a businessman with no governance experience who regularly makes and permits racist jokes about himself, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who joins Trump in chiefly running a campaign against Hillary Clinton.

The only candidate I can consider voting for in the primary at this point is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She’s the second most progressive vote in the Senate. She has more vetted, specific policy than the rest of the remaining candidates put together. Her biggest issue is an assumption of indigenous heritage that she at first addressed messily and wrongly…and then worked to amend by putting native voices first and foremost. Whether that’s satisfactory isn’t mine to decide, but I know it’s more than other candidates have done to address their accountability on issues that are directly policy-related.

Each of the Democratic candidates is about as electable as the next, with the key metric for an advantage being turnout among our base. I do think Trump’s strategy (given that it’s been his only strategy for four years running) will be to make the other candidate look as bad as he does. I can’t believe our candidate will be able to hold Trump accountable before the nation’s eyes if they can’t hold themselves accountable first, and Warren by far comes the closest to doing that on a reliable basis.

(I haven’t forgotten about other candidates past and present who I haven’t mentioned, this just goes on long enough by this point. Sen. Klobuchar’s fine, for instance, but she’s the 28th most progressive vote in the Senate, and her platform reflects this.)

I’ll vote for any of them against Trump. I’ll support whoever wins the Democratic nomination, and I’ll work to get whoever wins the nomination elected.

My point here is about how much our norms have already been moved. Part of guarding our norms is recognizing when we’ve failed to do so. Well regarded, qualified candidates of color can be lied about, disqualified according to double standards, and have these narratives taken as truth while white candidates can shift their politics by the week and face no accountability for it. Our norms have been shifted backwards, and we have to admit and acknowledge this. Perhaps it was a norm we only briefly escaped, given that it’s been the norm on which this country has operated for centuries. But it is a norm impacted by Trump, it is a norm some of our own white candidates feel too comfortable reinforcing and taking advantage of, and it’s a norm we have to take the fuck back before it gets anchored into a relentlessly ugly place.

Even just strategically, if you make it impossible for candidates of color to get elected, you’ve cut out maybe 5% of Republicans’ talent pool, while cutting out about 50% of our own. You cannot win that way. You cannot be surprised when you lose that way. You cannot compete in a reliable way that way, certainly not in thousands of races up and down the ballot.

It’s Easy to Lose Hope — Good Thing You Have Other Emotions

“I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

-climate activist Greta Thunberg

“Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something you create with your actions.”

-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

How can you be useful in activism when you’ve lost hope? In all the same ways you’re useful in activism when you have it. Hope is an emotion, like any other. It comes and goes. The work of protest, activism, resistance – it can’t depend on the presence of a single emotion. That denies you being able to be a real person within that work, and that will burn you out much faster than simply being hopeless for a time will.

Don’t despair that you can’t find hope; do the work to change things.

Despair can be its own convenience. Despair is a tool Trump, Pence, and Republicans sell you to convince yourself the endpoint you fear is inevitable. Despair can quickly become a comfort in powerlessness.

If you don’t feel hopeful, that’s OK. Hope isn’t the goal. Hope isn’t an accomplishment. The work to change things is.

There are days when I’ve called or researched threats or protested when I had a great deal of hope. There are days when I’ve had none.

You’re told always to hope, and that’s good if you can have it. Some days you don’t, and that’s OK. Still do the work. If you’ve done the work and need self-care to get yourself back up to doing the work again, that’s one thing.

If you refrain from doing the work to change things because you have no hope, hope is not always the fuel for that work. It can be. So can other things. Often, hope is manufactured by the work you do. Despair is chased out by standing up for yourself and others. Hope is a byproduct as well as a source.

If you give up hope, that’s OK. It’s tough to come by sometimes. If you give up the work to change things, that’s not OK. That produces hope for yourself and others, bolsters the work of others, encourages others to do that work.

We’re often told the opposite of fear and despair is hope. It can be. That’s legitimate. It’s not your only resource, though. You wouldn’t need resilience if you always had hope. You wouldn’t need persistence if you always had hope. You wouldn’t need the twinning of empathy and anger on its behalf if you always had hope.

You cannot work just from hope. You cannot expect hope to be your only fuel. You have to be a full person to do this work. You have to be a full person to do your best to help others. You have to be a full person to keep hold of your norms.

It’s OK to feel hopeless some days. It’s OK to get knocked down, take a minute to stand again, and then stand again because if they have to knock you down again they can’t do it to someone else. It’s OK to build your hope up again through other emotions.

Bring everything that you are to the work of activism and creating change. Some people aren’t strong in hope. You may be strong in resilience, or fortitude, or consistency, or translating needs between communities, or empathizing, or the anger that bridges empathy to action, or logistics, or you may be a range of talents and emotions that you don’t know how to wrangle together. Each of those can make change even when hope runs low.

Trust yourself to do the work that makes change. Trust the strengths that you have to make change even if they don’t match a quote or memes or whatever it is. You’re not an inspirational quote, and you can’t do the work as if you are. That would be exhausting.

You’re a human being, inherently uneven, strong in some ways, weak in others. Even when you’re impacted by horrors every day, that full human can be resilient, can call upon hope for action one day, anger for effort the next, communicate and self-care the day after, resilience to do the work again, whatever beautiful combination in you works because it’s the way you work.

The work to change things needs effort from different people, with different backgrounds, with different combinations of strengths, some optimistic, some pessimistic, some reassuring, others needing reassurance, but all doing that work to apply the pressure needed to change what is happening.

Hope alone does not accomplish a goal. It needs to be fused to the work of change, as a thousand other emotions can be. It is OK if hope has escaped you for the moment. It is OK if you’re a person who doesn’t feel hope in the first place. There are so many valid emotions that can help people. Make sure you can sustain yourself, and then help others regardless of whether you do so out of hope or empathy or anger or whatever emotion allows you to translate what is happening and act on helping people.

Be a part of a community that can supply some of what you’re drained on in a healthy way, but never feel bad if you can’t meet the standard of an inspirational quote about hope. The quotes about effort and work and anger have a tendency not to survive or get shared or be prized in the ways quotes about hope can be.

Hope is important. It’s not the only important thing. If it’s missing from you, that means you’re human and reacting to what’s going on. Sometimes it’s missing from me, too. Sometimes it’s so hard to find. I still do the work of activism in the ways I can, and sometimes that produces more hope in me, and sometimes it doesn’t.

One thing it does do, though – it keeps me from buying into the illusion that we’re powerless. It shows me the ways in which we’ve eroded Trump, Pence, and Republicans, the ways we’ve given them less ground to stand on, the ways we’ve clarified their barbarity to a larger public. It makes the ways we’ve slowed them down clearer, the people who are safer because of someone’s work clearer, the routes toward helping people clearer.

We wouldn’t need resistance, resilience, persistence, or any of the other things we celebrate if we were hopeful all the time. We wouldn’t need self-care if we were hopeful all the time. We wouldn’t need to reach out and do this with wider communities if we were hopeful all the time. Hope is one thing, important and inspiring. It is not essential all the time. If you lost it, it is OK. Bring the rest of yourself to bear, and witness that the rest of who you are can be effective, can create change, can even restore your hope or allow it to be restored by others.

Don’t despair. Just do whatever step is next in the work to change things.

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Everyday Protest: What if You Can’t Organize a March?

What if you don’t know how to organize a march or write a calling campaign? What if you don’t know how to do the big things?

Here’s what’s important: that march and those calling campaigns would be nowhere without people taking actions to show up and do the daily work.

Call a Congressional office every day. It takes a few minutes, tops.

Get someone new to call with you. Encourage them, and stand by them if they’re nervous.

Change isn’t created by people doing large things. Those large actions are simply ways to harness and focus the daily actions. Those daily actions are a foundation that can shift governments. Those daily actions reinforce and reclaim norms. Large actions cannot exist without that foundation.

Scale is simply a matter of access, community, resources, organization. You can’t scale something up if it doesn’t exist to begin with. You need to make it exist to begin with. You need to take those daily actions. They are more important.

Trump and Republicans can defeat a single large action. Winning those is important, too, but what they can’t defeat is millions performing daily actions. They want to make you think you’re powerless and alone. They want to make you think your fate relies on one or two people.

They can defeat those people. What they can’t defeat is you, every day. And your friend, every day. And a family member, every day. And more and more every day.

If you put your expectations in a handful of people, Trump and his cronies can defeat and change your expectations if they defeat those people. If you put your expectations in yourself and your community, then they can’t defeat those expectations or change them. They can never escape those expectations then, and their being accountable to those expectations is only a matter of daily work and time.

They won’t win because they have power. They’ll only win if you don’t practice yours.

Whether you can organize a march or make a call, whether you can write a calling campaign or visit an office, whether you can speak publicly to hundreds or get one person you know to call, it’s just as important. There’s no difference between all those things. Scale can only be increased when there’s something consistent to increase.

Defeat Trump and Republicans every day, and they’ll be defeated in the big moments.

Only defeat them in the big moments, and we’ll fail to defeat them every day.

The daily, consistent work you do is what decides this. Decide it.

If what you read on this site is useful, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Don’t Want War with Iran? Call Your Congresspeople

I’m getting through to Congressional offices today. Call, please. There is a window to de-rail war with Iran, and it relies on pressure applied to Congress to avoid normalizing it.

Make it a priority. Don’t call as an afterthought. Mark it as something you do every day. It is important. Treat it as important.

Know what you want out of the conversation. Don’t call timidly. Have expectations. It’s their job to meet your expectations, not yours to lower them.

When they tell you they have no answers and can just take a message, remind them that Trump has talked about this for years, escalated the situation with Iran for months, and there’s an international incident that’s days old now. How is it that their office has no response from the Congressperson, let alone a plan of action to stop war? How much time do they need to do their job?

Ask them how they plan on paying for this. Charging it to future generations who will suffer the consequences is not a plan. Millennials already know that all this does is torpedo the opportunities of a generation.

Remind them that they’ve failed to win the other wars we’re engaged in. We retreated from Syria. Iraq is voting to kick American troops out. We have no long-lasting victory in Afghanistan. Iran is more powerful than those three countries put together.

Remind them that military families are exhausted. It’s been more than 15 years of countless tours. Remind them they haven’t taken care of the veterans from those 15+ years of war. They haven’t earned the right to declare another one.

Ask them if they know anything about Iran. Do they know its population? It’s 81 million people. That’s more than Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya put together at the times we became engaged with them.

Do they know Iran’s size? It’s 636,000 square miles. That’s more than three-and-a-half Iraqs put together.

Do they know the strength of its military? Iran’s military is ranked 13th in the world. That’s more powerful than Brazil, Israel, Australia, or North Korea.

Do they have a plan for how much worse this would make things in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan? Or is that the plan?

Do they have a plan beyond missile strikes and then see what happens?

How is it that Congressional offices don’t know the first thing about a war we might be diving into? It’s their job.

How is it the Congressperson has no response about escalations with Iran? Why are they failing to do their job?

Stop worrying about being polite. Call them out. Have expectations and do not allow them to be moved because someone is nice on the phone. They’re going to nice-on-the-phone us into a war, refugee crisis, and economic depression that will make the last 18 years of nonstop war feel like a relaxing breather. Be pissed. Demand answers to your questions. Ask why they fail to have those answers. Make it a priority. Get others to call with you. You only stop a war by stopping it, not by hoping someone else will.

Make Trump, Pence, and Republicans retreat on their make-believe, wannabe dictatorship and holy war playtime that would have real, inescapable repercussions. You can. It’s just a matter of whether you do.

The Most Beautiful Primary

by Gabriel Valdez

Politics can be beautiful, damn it.

This beauty hides behind statistics and demographics and any number of political sciences that begin to make a voter feel inhuman.

So ignore those things for a minute. Ask what the philosophies being discussed really represent.

Are racial, gender, and community injustices root causes? Do they arise naturally, and then make the implementation of economic injustices necessary for the survival of those root causes? This would be the view of social injustice that Sen. Hillary Clinton champions.

Or is economic injustice the root cause that creates racial, gender, and community injustices, and uses the divisiveness of these as tools that feed the root cause of class indifference? This would be the view of social injustice that Sen. Bernie Sanders champions.

In other words, are racism, gender, and community bias something natural that we have to socially evolve away from in conscious ways in order to overcome? Is Clinton right?

Or are those things unnatural social constructs that are simply created and then preyed upon by economic injustice for its continuation? Is Sanders right?

That seems to be how the Democratic primary is breaking down. What are the real causes? What are the symptoms that distract us from them?

I fall squarely in the Clinton camp. Sociological studies have shown us that our biases are natural inclinations. That hardly justifies them. As a society, we’ve overcome many other natural inclinations that we deemed unwanted in order to continue existing as a healthy civilization. We consciously change our lives all the time, individually and as a society, in order to make our existences and interactions healthier.

(I mean, you’re reading this on a computer or phone that you got because it increases your efficiency at doing a number of daily tasks. We’ve already stepped irreversibly down the transhumanist path of social evolution, and we barely noticed.)

Either way, at least this dichotomy in thinking is at the core of the Democratic debate. Let’s bring demographics back into the discussion. You can see philosophy even in how groups of people lean one way or the other:

Those who’ve suffered racial injustice (people of color), gender injustice (older women), and community injustice (urban and failing industrial communities) to a greater extent than economic injustice tend to side with Clinton.

Those who’ve suffered economic injustice (young voters, low-income white voters, rural and current industrial communities) to a greater extent than racial, gender, or community injustice tend to side with Sanders.

Both candidates’ messages are evolving geographically as primary season continues, as they always do. But from the beginning, the fight for support has been over those who have been victimized most by the cross-section of these two separate philosophies of injustice:

Young voters of color have suffered the effects of severe racial injustice and the long-lasting economic impacts of the Great Recession.

Young women voters have suffered the effects of both aggressive gender injustice and those same economic impacts of the Great Recession.

And low-income white voters have suffered both the abandonment of the infrastructure of their communities and the disappearance of a reliable industrial economy.

These are the voters most “at play” for a reason, because they fall squarely between two philosophies of how to fix the world. And that they are being valued and spoken to and planned around is beautiful. It may be discussed in demographics and statistics and pop political science talking points, but the discussion itself – at its root – is about the construction of our society from the ground up.

I can’t remember anything like it in politics, anything that strikes so far down to the philosophical core of how societies choose to evolve. The arguments we have and the passion behind those arguments are very real and very crucial – these are not philosophies that share much middle ground, but they are philosophies that can and must be brought closer together.

That the Democratic primary is a discussion of social evolution is in itself a striking moment. Contrasting philosophies of social evolution are usually not the core around which any election evolves in this country, at least not since the Civil Rights movement and UFW agricultural strikes. While this primary is a very ugly one, when you can take a step back and boil down what’s really being discussed, it also might be the most beautiful one.


Trumpalytics: How We Help Donald Trump Metagame Toward Power

by Gabriel Valdez

Hi, Donald Trump! Hi, real poll analytics! Why don’t I ever see you in the same room anymore? Are you secretly the same person?

Trump’s support has repeatedly hit a ceiling of about 35% in Republican polls, right? A full third of Republicans are shouting, “Yay, racism!” From the rest of the Republican field, it seems more like a tepid, “Er, go…go racism, I think. Aren’t we normally more subtle about this?” Which really puts Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in some difficult positions. It should do the same to Ben Carson, but this cycle’s Rick Santorum 2012 is destined to one day become Rick Santorum 2016.

So…America is obsessed with Trump, right? Everyone’s going to vote for him and he’ll win all 50 states, and ban everything but golf and gambling, right?

Here’s the thing. Trump’s support has hit a ceiling of about 35%, and that’s of registered Republican voters. Registered Republicans make up only about 25% of voters. Registered Democrats make up a bit over 30%, and the rest are independent.

Why hasn’t Trump been able to catapult himself over that ceiling of 35% among Republicans? Because of his ridiculous negatives. His unfavorable rating consistently hovers near 60%. We’re talking about a candidate who might not even be able to win the presidency in an up-down referendum wherein he’s the only candidate.

Furthermore, if you look at the polls being made of Republicans thus far in the cycle, most of them are of any adult or registered Republican. Most of them are internet polls. Most of them are not of the most accurate metric polling can offer: likely voters in live phone polls. These are voters who vote regularly, and Trump’s support among them has been lower by anywhere from 6-10 percentage points throughout most of the campaign.

Why avoid live polling of likely voters when it’s the most statistically accurate metric? Because people click on Trump. I’ll click on him, you’ll click on him, we’ll all click on Trump just to see what crazy, racist, deport-my-born-and-bred-U.S.-citizen-ass bullshit he comes up with next. We click on that bastard like there’s no tomorrow, and that means more ad money for the sites being clicked on. We’ll hang on channels showing him, and that means higher ratings for the networks being watched.

Among likely voters in live phone polls, Trump has never crested 28%. Despite little opposition, his ceiling is fairly established. Why would he struggle to increase that number when other candidates who are polling lower wouldn’t? They aren’t saddled with his negatives. As the Republican field narrows, candidates like Rubio and Cruz (or even dark horses like John Kasich and Chris Christie) will absorb far more of the voters freed up when other candidates drop out.

That doesn’t mean Trump can’t win the GOP primary if the Republican field fails to winnow down. It does mean that, in order to win, he needs most of the 14 candidates still in the race to stay in the race without giving ground through most of the primary cycle. There’s a better chance of that than in most primary elections, but it would still be fairly unprecedented.

Why should all these metrics matter? If Trump is hammering out a maximum of 28% of Republican voters, and Republican voters make up 25% of all voters, that means Trump is polling a whopping…drum roll, please…7% of likely voters. Ooh.

We all wonder why polls are so inaccurate. They really aren’t, if you know which ones to pay attention to and how to read them. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox have no interest in presenting them accurately, giving context, or teaching people how they work. They spit out statistics, no matter how misrepresented, so that others will repeat them ad nauseum. In recent years, there are fewer and fewer independent pollsters. Most now have a patron, and that patron is always in the form of a news network, a newspaper, a think tank, or a PAC (political action committee). The shape of the kinds of polls we take has changed according to what these patrons need to drive their story lines. That’s how we end up with months of coverage about future presidents Herman Cain, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Santorum.

These organizations have an interest in creating the most exciting story lines, the ones that’ll make you click on their sites, change to their channels, or share an interview that goes off the rails on YouTube.

Yes, we should continue protesting the ugly things Trump says. What he says encourages and endorses hate crimes, racial violence, and sexual violence. We need to speak out against it, but not just in regards to Trump. What much of the Republican field says encourages these same things.

But we shouldn’t freak out, and we shouldn’t buy into much of the information being sold us about the shape of this election. We should educate ourselves about polls. If you post a news story about a poll, have you clicked on that poll and actually looked at the questions being asked? Do you know if a poll’s questions are worded in a leading manner? Do you know how the poll was taken – online, automated phone, live phone. Was it of all adults who responded, registered voters, or likely voters? Was a particular demographic relied upon to supply answers? Is the sample size even realistically viable? Chances are, you don’t know any of those things when you post a poll, so why are we posting them as if they’re facts?

We’re so quick to post articles about how Americans are getting less education, about how we’re understanding less and less by generation, about how facts are becoming more malleable than they once were, about how specific groups of people are being less represented in our history books. Polls and the story lines created off them are all this in a nutshell, but we post them as if they are fact. We need to stop thinking that we are immune to understanding less and relying on fact less. We have our blind spots, and we succumb to them just as much as a Trump voter might.

We are no better, and we are no worse, but we can’t keep posting these kinds of things without understanding them, and then pretending they’re real representations of how this country thinks. That doesn’t just feed into the networks’ narratives, it feeds into the narratives of people like Trump. It feeds into the narratives that give him more air time, that lets him cause more damage, and that feeds his campaign.

If there’s one success in Trump’s campaign, it’s that he’s the only candidate who understands this. This is the metagame Trump plays, and this is how we feed it. By pretending he’s a front-runner, he becomes more viable in the minds of voters as a front-runner. By pretending the things he has to say, good or bad, are worth listening to, the things he says become more interesting in the minds of voters. By pretending that he’s a serious politician, he becomes a serious politician. The emperor has no clothes, but we are all so convinced he does that we share it as fact, as something impending, as a main attraction instead of a side show.

Without understanding the nature of the stories we post, all we do is drive Trump’s most advantageous narrative – that he is a serious candidate. We’ve done it enough that we’ve made it true, and by doing so, we’ve aided his campaign.

We can oppose the things he says without being afraid of him, without treating him seriously. I’ve written a good amount on polls and how we read them. People always ask, “Why does it matter, they’re just polls?”

Because we share them as fact and treat their realities as fact without bothering to understand them. That makes their realities our own. That means our political reality is now one that helps Trump, even when we oppose him.