All Hands on Deck at The People’s Summit

The People's Summit
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke and then posed for this photograph with the over 5,000 leaders, organizers, activists, and followers at the 2017 People’s Summit in Chicago.

You cannot build a movement for the common people if you hold the common people in contempt. — Thomas Frank at the 2017 People’s Summit

Chicago, IL — This past weekend Jered Weber and I attended the 2nd annual People’s Summit. The first one in 2016, was held shortly after Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), went from a little known and self-described democratic socialist to the brink of the Democratic Party nomination. Taking on Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State in the first Obama administration, who had nearly every endorsement from Democratic elected officials and party leaders, as well as the support of corporate America, Sanders received 46% of the primary vote.

Assembling a coalition of millennials who had previously helped put then-Senator Obama over the top in the 2008 presidential primary and general election, progressives, independents, and populists, Sanders shocked the country, especially the donor and billionaire class by proving that in the Age of Citizens United, there was another way forward. There was another way to run a viable national campaign without having to offer fealty to the Super PACS, corporate lobbyists, and special interests holding the country back in the 20th century.

And what was remarkable to so many who flocked to the campaign, new and old, of all different generations and backgrounds, was that it was the ideas and message that mattered. It was the positivity of the campaign and its focus on the issues, and it was the remarkable consistency and authenticity of the candidate throughout the years.

Sanders repeatedly explained that when the people come together in common effort, they win. It was never about him, it was about a “future to believe in.” And we now know it was never about him because the campaign never ended, because ultimately, it was more of a movement than a campaign to begin with.

And that is where the People’s Summit comes in.

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The People’s Summit is first and foremost, an Ideas Summit.

Not just ideas for the future of the country, but also ideas on how to fundamentally improve and outright save our democracy. Those critical of the People’s Summit only needed to give these ideas attention at the Center for American Progress and perhaps they would not have to get mad that not everyone is falling in line and “uniting.” Before moving on to an analogy for what to think about the People’s Summit, let me just say that no matter which route one prefers to moving this country forward, there is no need to come together on the issues, on party unity, or anything other than basic civility and decency because we still have three years to go. In other words–see you in 2020.

Bubbles need to be pierced, and introspection and national conversations must continue en masse.

Now onto how to think about the People’s Summit in terms of what it means for the future.

Each year movement conservatism (or what passes as that these days) has its annual ideas conference called the Conservative Political Action Conference, put on by the American Conservative Union. Think of it as a “State of the Movement” address to conservatives from all across the country. Upcoming elected officials and advocates often get heavily promoted and featured at the conference. In addition to think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and others, CPAC gathers all of the various grassroots conservative groups and organizations from around the country. Not being included almost serves as a statement that one is not “conservative” enough or not a “true conservative.”

CPAC operates very much like an ideas and state of the movement arm of the major American political party on the right–the Republican Party.

In 2003, recognizing the power think tanks, ideas conferences and so forth had in propelling the conservative movement to electoral victories through its political arm–the Republican Party, John Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, which is both a think tank and has an annual conference. There is no mystery that the annual CAP conference and its ideas are heavily attached to the Democratic Party. But while the Democratic Party was slow to jump on the think tank bandwagon and invest heavily in the think tank model in comparison to the GOP, its adoption of that model and investment in it represent the final shunning of its historical roots as the FDR “party of the people.” Consider this, CAP founder Podesta was national Chair of the Clinton campaign, Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and later counselor to President Barack Obama, made several versions of this sentiment throughout the 2016 election cycle:

For every working class voter we lose, we’ll pick up 2 or 3 professional class voters.

That’s the thing with the establishment or corporate Dems. I’m not much of an ideologue, I have a governing and leadership philosophy yes, but at the end of the day I have a healthy respect for facts. A respect that is lacking in so many political leaders and those who cover and follow our nation’s politics today. I’m fine with compromising. All democracies and constitutional systems require it. However, what incentive do people who do not like to compromise their belief systems have to follow a strategy that not only is not their views in key areas, but also does not and has not won? I submit these simple truths about where the party stands in terms of electoral strategy:

And I direct these six points of logic to the failed Podesta mentality from above and a similar mentality echoed by (permanent) Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which stated that “for every working class vote we lose, we’ll pick up 2-3 moderate Republican voters.”

  1. There are not enough professional class voters to form the consensus.
  2. The ones who realigned from the GOP to the Democratic Party did so years ago.
  3. The ones still in the GOP are rich and unpersuadable.
  4. Working class voters are more numerous and more diverse than ever.
  5. Some of them are even organized already, through this thing called collective bargaining.
  6. You can’t build a party of the people if you have contempt for the people. You have to talk directly to the people about the issues, all the people.

Please note that when I say the working class I always mean that anyone who has to work for a living to keep existing. Many choose to work for a living and that is great, but their livelihood does not necessarily depend on it, and they likely have multiple streams of passive income.

Speaking of passive income, George Soros, a major funder of CAP and constant boogeyman that the right wing media likes to use to discredit policy agenda and goals, is not too different from the Koch brothers or any other member of the billionaire class engaged in electoral politics in the Citizens United age if one does not personally agree with George Soros. And that is the problem.

Neither party is seriously committed to taking on big, unaccountable, but organized money in politics.

If you are super-rich in America, or anyone really who can sit on their hands making millions in passive income revenue streams, and if your preferred party (whether Dems or GOP) does not win, you always have the other major party to protect your interests for the most part, with only a few exceptions.

It’s the same model. Controlled by the donor class, and dependent on the labor of others to keep itself in power both politically and economically.

And this is where the People’s Summit comes in. Ideas and voices, organizers and activists, leaders and followers that were shunned or not invited to CAP.

I would argue the People’s Summit is an ideas conference, that allows for networking, learning, and updating on the “state of the movement”, similar to CPAC. As of now, it is without a political party attached to it, but I have no doubt, shall a viable third party arise in the next few years, it will be called the People’s Party and it will have started and spear-headed by the 5,000 or so people that have attended the Summit, and those that followed along online, etc.

The central organizing goal of the movement, like the Republican Party, the last third party to replace a major party before in the 1850’s with slavery, is the biggest moral issue of our time — economic inequality and the forces that continue to make it worse, organized big money in politics and legalized bribery and corruption.

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A Future Beyond Party Labels and Endless Partisan and Media Sensationalism. A Future that is not just Resistance, but Beyond Resistance

In the weeks to come, this website will be recommitting itself to trying to churn out regular content the best we can. Apologies if we miss the mark on that front, as we all have busy lives in addition to written commentary, podcasting, etc.

This weekend the third season of the Agreeing Loudly podcast will be on just one topic and prompt: the Third Party option.

In addition, I’m hoping to finish up three articles in a “state of” series on the nation, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party.

Bernie Poll
While we will never know for sure if “Bernie Would Have Won” — what we do know is that he is easily the most popular politician in America. And while there are loud voices among those 20% of self-identified Democrats that do not like him, especially in the media, corporate America, and on the Twitter-verse, the facts are that the “BernieBro” or lack of diversity myths do not hold up to scrutiny.

If this coalition translated to the electoral college, which I understand is a big leap of logic this far out, but bear with me here, if that DID happen, you would not just see a Sanders victory over the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time (candidate Trump) but you could possibly see the first genuine popular vote AND electoral college landslide since 1988 (and to a lesser extent 2008).

 

My Constructive Criticism of the Summit.

First of all, folks at the summit of all stripes were amazingly self-reflective of what could have gone better not just for the movement, but also for the 2016 Sanders campaign for President.

My two points for potential improvements to next years Summit.

  1. Get a vets or foreign policy-focused speaker to talk about and call for a national “Peace and Security” movement. There are massive levels of economic implications to our #ForeverWar policy that tie into the larger issues presented by the movement. The social and economic costs in caring for our veterans and veterans issues have been some of the best policy work that Senator Sanders has done, so it only makes sense to feature this going forward.
  2. Reach out to Republicans concerned with the direction of their party, big money in politics, and the growing, unsustainable levels of economic inequality. Perhaps this one will be more controversial, but if we’re truly to talk to everyone, we have to mean it. And we see evidence every day, not so much amongst Republican political leaders but we do see it amongst the rank and file and they are growing uncomfortable with the Trump-led GOP. The GOP is dominated by the interests of the donor and billionaire class even more so than the Democrats most years, and disillusioned Republicans becoming former Republicans would be a key feature of any future coalition, especially in current red to light-red states.

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The participants were divided on the question of a Third Party movement, but were engaged, passionate, and committed to the future no matter what — it’s an “All Hands on Deck” strategy for saving democracy for all and creating a 21st century economy that works for the many and not just the few. 

Division is nothing new in this political age. Like the rest of the country, there was a split in views at the Summit. Progressives and populists committed to taking on the corporate state are divided on how best to achieve the desired results of taking on big money in politics and tackling the moral issue of our time–the highest levels of economic inequality in a century. 

My unscientific observations of the sentiments is that the People’s Summit activists, organizers, leaders, and followers prefer starting a vital third party movement in this country. This is a sentiment I agree with more and more each day. However, for the time being, reforming the Democratic Party by taking it over seems to be the immediate goal and interest. A goal that has seen mixed results, winning some small battles early on, but losing the more high-profile battles like the DNC Chair election, California Democratic Party Chair election, etc. What is clear though is the ideas and message is winning over public opinion in America at-large. Significant portions of the speech last Saturday highlighted that.

And what is vitally true, is that we have now reached a 1955 William F. Buckley moment for progressives that this website had called for in 2015 and 2016 throughout the Presidential campaign as all of us ranted and raved about how badly the Democratic Party was going to bottom out in the coming years.

Progressives and populists have finally come to terms with the failure of the current model of the Democratic Party, and from this day forward–everyone knows that change will not come from the Democratic Party, change can only be brought to the Democratic Party. And the more and more party leadership grasps onto and protects their hold on power, even in the name of electoral viability (which is a ridiculous reason when you’ve lost nearly every election), the more and more power the movement, independent of any party control–will be. One way or another, the neoliberal and professional class consensus is over. And thank God for that.

I do not say these things lightly. After all, I am a member of the professional class in this country, but I also think that the younger cohorts of the professional class (Gen X and millennials, those under 45 or so) have far more in common (because of issues with student debt, broader acceptance of diversity, etc.) with the concerns of the working class (now more diverse than at any time in American history) than the concerns of the professional class consensus, whose obsession with incrementalism, education and innovation as a key to mitigating inequality (when in reality, it’s rationalizing it), and insistence that all problems can be solved from Harvard or Yale yard, Wall Street or Silicon Valley, New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, or by lawyers or financial service professionals, etc.

If the leadership of the party would rather go down on the Titanic, so long as they have a first class seat, then so be it. The overriding focus of the People’s Summit was not to re-litigate the 2016 election, but to move beyond just merely resisting what the Trump administration is doing, because guess what? That only goes so far, both in practical day-to-day terms and in electoral terms.

Folks, the only way out of this is to win elections, and to win elections you need a party willing to adopt a better message. A message capable of capturing a large majority of the nation and turning out and inspiring more voters than at any other point in modern U.S. history, because there are significant obstacles in gerrymandering and voter suppression to overcome.

The ideas and message of the folks who attended the People’s Summit were not welcome at the CAP conference this year, so we took them to our own conference, in the same state where the last successful third party movement in America took off from, Illinois.

The Republican Party was founded as an abolitionist party to end the immoral practice of slavery in this country. Similarly, if neither major party takes seriously the issue of big money in politics and the fact that we are in a 2nd Gilded Age, then it is highly likely that the movement makes a clean break. But as of now, in practical terms, the prevailing consensus was that there is not enough time for 2018, and undecided about 2020.

One of the conference speakers Thomas Frank (writer, historian, and co-founder of the Baffler), put it best at the end of his most recent book “Listen, Liberal!” which was written almost as if he already knew the 2016 electoral result, even though it was published in the summer.

Direct solutions are off the table for the moment… Democrats have no interest in reforming themselves in a more egalitarian way. There is little the rest of us can do, given the current legal arrangements of this country, to a build a vital third-party movement or to revive organized labor, the one social movement that is committed by its nature to pushing back against the inequality trend.

What we can do is strip away the Democrats’ precious sense of their own moral probity–to make liberals live without the comforting knowledge that righteousness is always on their side. It is that sensibility, after all, that prevents so many good-hearted rank-and-file Democrats from understanding how starkly and how deliberately their political leaders contradict their values. Once that contradiction has been made manifest–once that smooth, seamless sense of liberal virtue has been cracked, anything becomes possible. The course of the party and the course of the country can both be changed, but only after we understand that the problem is us.

Welcome to Thunderdome

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Agreeing Loudly’s Empiricist-In-Chief correctly predicted the naming of a Special Prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was named just prior to this going to publication.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and Girls. Dying Time is Here…” — Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

By Justin Norris

As we watch the slowing moving car crash that is the Trump administration, and as we watch the GOP in Congress react to said car crash, it is important to remember a few important points.

First, Trump was never popular with most of the GOP elite writ large. Not just in Congress, but across the nation.

Second, like much of the country, it is doubtful that the GOP political establishment believed Trump was going to win the 2016 election.

Third, The Republican civil war was, and is, real.

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When you take these things into account it goes a long way towards explaining the peculiar predicament we find ourselves in today. There was no real plan, and the political establishment for both parties are playing it by ear.

To lend some context here, we should discuss the nature of governance in the American political system. As any student of American politics can tell you, eliciting lasting change within the separation of powers system is difficult under the best of circumstances. Because of how our system is structured there are numerous choke points throughout the legislative process for which bills can die. Indeed, the most likely outcome for any given bill is an unceremonious death. If one has any hope of getting bills enacted into law it requires large enough political coalitions in both chambers of Congress to circumvent the many different choke points, and then it must get past presidential action. And things have only become more difficult as political polarization has increased in recent times.

Since the political parties have become increasingly ideologically homogenous, and because the political parties have moved farther apart both ideologically and politically unified government has become critical for the political parties if they have any hope of enacting their agendas. This is why the GOP elites have been willing thus far to seemingly ignore anything approaching principles. They know this may be their only real chance to push through their agenda for some time. So like any good political opportunists, and most of the denizens of Washington are political opportunists, they know they would be fools to not at least try to take advantage of the hand they’ve been dealt.

This is precisely why folks like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and much of the GOP rank and file in Congress have been willing to play along up to this point, and why most of them will continue to play along. They have their eyes on the prize.

Like all good cons, this includes a gamble. The GOP elite know that Trump is deeply unpopular. They also know that Trump is incompetent. They’re hoping that despite this they can get through much of their agenda before everything implodes. They hope that winning the legislative victories their political base so deeply craves will be sufficient to shore up enough political support as to withstand the likely backlash they will face in the 2018 midterm elections. And even if the majority does not survive the midterm, they will have at least moved the agenda forward and hopefully put some points on the board by making lasting policy changes.

As far as plans go in American politics this is not a bad one. Indeed, if these were normal times, and if this was a normal president, I’d say this plan would have better than fair odds of working.

But these aren’t normal times, and this isn’t a normal president.

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Some people will read the preceding statements as partisan or ideological. I want to be crystal clear on this point. They are not. Yes, I absolutely have my own political preferences, but I am not discussing those preferences here.

If these were normal political conditions we would not have a sitting president with record low approval ratings for this point in a presidency. We are only a little more than 100 days in, and to date the president has fired an attorney general, fired a national security advisor, fired the head of the FBI, given code word intelligence to the Russians (in the White House no less), and if reporting is to be believed, the president is likely going to fire more members of White House staff by the end of the week. And these are only but a handful of the things that have happened thus far.

Within a little more than 100 days we have had John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, state in a public forum that things are starting to look a lot like Watergate. Jason Chaffetz, the epitome of political opportunism, and chair of the House oversight committee has gotten the Speaker of the House to sign on to a letter formally demanding that the FBI hand over all materials related to communications between former director Comey and the president.

This is not normal. Not by a long shot.

As previously stated, the Republicans in Congress knew Trump was inept. To be fair, Trump is, by all accounts a complete and total political amateur, so some ineptitude would likely be inevitable, even he had good instincts for governance. However, Trump has shown a shocking level of ignorance as it relates to the separation of powers system in general, and the nature of governance for the executive branch in particular. In other words, the GOP had no idea just how incompetent Trump really is. Nor did they know how petty and vindictive he really is. And they are all together unprepared to deal with it.

Another wrinkle in the plan is the lack of a plan. Since the GOP didn’t think they were going to win, they did not have any cohesive policy initiatives ready at the starting gate. Paul Ryan has had a list of talking points and unscored, half-baked, initiatives he has been selling for years, but none of them were ready for them to pull the trigger. This has left the GOP scrambling to cobble things together as they have gone. And the results have been disastrous.

Part of the reason the GOP was left flat footed stems from the nature of the GOP caucus in the House, and to a lesser extent, the nature of the GOP conference in the Senate. The GOP, especially in the House, has been fighting its own intraparty war for years now. Though it is cliché to say, the different party factions really do believe they are fighting for the soul of the Republican Party. For outsiders, the differences between the GOP factions may seem trivial, but for insiders they are deeply important, and within the more extreme factions there is a rallying cry for purity at all costs. In other words, there is a lot more disagreement among Republicans than many realize.

This conflict was apparent in the fight waged between House Republicans to get the healthcare bill through the House. The party nearly ripped itself to shreds getting the bill through to the Senate, and the resulting bill is so unpopular the Senate GOP essentially declared it DOA. And repealing and replacing Obamacare was supposed to be the easy part of the agenda. It will only get harder from there.

Despite this, the Republicans in Congress are still largely standing by the president, at least publicly, because they know they may not have this kind of opportunity again for some time. Trump may be deeply flawed but he is still the only viable political option they have at this juncture. But as the scandals deepen, and the drip, drip, drip of news stories continue, the likelihood of political derailment increases. And the longer this goes on, the harder it will become.

Which begs the question, what now?

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As the public moves farther away from Trump, and as his unpopularity deepens, the likelihood that Trump will take the GOP down with him increases. The signs are already coming into place that the 2018 midterm elections could be disastrous for the GOP in Congress.

For example, despite flooding special elections with unheard of amounts of money Republicans have either narrowly held on to a seat that they normally carry by over 20 points, or the race has been forced into a runoff. The GOP will not be able to defend all of their districts this way in the midterm, and some analyses suggest that if the midterms were held today only between 100-150 ‘safe’ Republican seats could withstand the backlash.

Moreover, several credible polls have come out in the last two weeks suggesting that Democrats hold a double-digit lead in the so-called ‘generic ballot,’ a routine polling question asking respondents to either state their preference for who should run Congress or state which party they would vote for. One poll puts the gap at sixteen points. To put this in context, an eight to nine point gap often signals a defeat for the majority party.

However, the election is not being held tomorrow, and a week can be a lifetime in American politics, let alone almost two years. The Republicans have time, and unless things get worse, or even if they stay the same, the GOP in Congress will have little incentive to break away from the Trump administration for some time.

But what about Watergate? This is a question I’ve heard often in the last few days, and I readily admit that the comparison easily comes to mind. It is true that the Republicans in Congress turned against Nixon, and stood for the republic against their own president. However, it’s important to point out that the Republicans were the minority party at that time, and most Republicans did not turn against Nixon until the end, after two long years. Even still, some Republicans stood with Nixon to the bitter end. It is entirely possible that if Republicans controlled Congress the situation would have played out quite differently.

That being said, cracks are beginning to form. Some rank and file Republicans are openly discussing impeachment, and some GOP leaders are calling for more stringent investigations. But that’s all it is at this point, talk. If things remain as they are, and do not get worse, it is possible that the GOP will stick with Trump and take their chances in the midterm elections. But if things continue to get worse, which I think is likely, I fully expect more and more rank and file Republicans will break ranks and openly run against Trump because they want to try and save their seats. If things continue to get worse we will reach a point where congressional leadership will cut their losses and turn against Trump to try and salvage the party brand, if not the majorities themselves.

And this may not result in impeachment. At this juncture impeachment is a real possibility, which is not something I was willing to say two weeks ago, but I still don’t think it’s likely. At least not soon. I think it’s more likely that if things continue to deteriorate GOP leadership will cave and put together a bipartisan commission to investigate. If things get really bad they may move to appoint a special prosecutor. It is also possible that events will connive to take things out of their hands.

For example, the Justice Department could conceivably appoint a special prosecutor, or the different grand juries could deliver indictments. In which case the calculus for the GOP largely remains the same. Except now they have some additional cover, because they can point to the nonpartisan investigations and say, ‘we should not be hasty until the investigations conclude.’

However, I think it’s likely that most of the GOP’s legislative agenda is dead. Credible polling data consistently shows that a solid majority of likely voters are strongly opposed to Trump and the GOP legislative agenda. Solid majorities also favor thorough nonpartisan investigations. And as the media dedicates more time and resources to covering the cascading Trump scandals it will destroy any momentum behind legislative prerogatives, regardless of whether there is ultimately an independent investigation(s).

Given how egregiously the GOP in Congress broke from norms, protocol, and traditions during the Obama administration I don’t feel bad for them.

Unfortunately, as it was during the Obama administration, this is bad for the republic.

But if Republicans in Congress are indeed reaping what they have sewn then my response is this:

Welcome to Thunderdome.  

Judiciary is Conspicuously Missing from WhiteHouse.gov as Being Part of the Federal Government

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As of 10:20 PM EST on January 29th, on the tenth day of the Trump administration — the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government is conspicuously absent from WhiteHouse.gov

According to the Way Back Machine on the InterWebs, the Obama Administration had The Judicial Branch of  the Federal Government on its website. While this could have been an oversight, rather than a deliberate political move, like the status of LGBT Americas, Climate Change, Health Care, and Civil Rights, I believe this is a deliberate attempt to delegitimize the Courts, which are the last vestiges in the way of one party fascist rule (in addition to the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution, which must be enforced each and every day by WE THE PEOPLE), and the basic decency and goodness of the American People and our communities.

It takes a long time for the Courts to change over. As you may know, the Supreme Court has had a right wing tilt for a generation or two, but the lower courts have turnover at a much faster pace. While an obstructionist GOP often blocked President Obama’s nominees to the Federal courts – he was able to appoint a total of 329 federal judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayer and Justice Kagan.

This legacy of judicial appointments also includes 55 Courts of Appeals judges, 268 judges to the District courts, and a couple dozen more to specialty courts under Article III  (International Trade), Article I (Federal Claims, Tax Courts, Veterans Claims, Military Commission Review, Armed Forces), and Article IV Territorial courts.

This eight year legacy of judicial appointments, the day-to-day bureaucracy, and the majority of the American people stand in the way of significant parts of the Trump Agenda. We’ve already seen constant attempts to delegitimize the media (although they do a pretty good job doing that on their own), and I believe we’ll see more and more of this as long as District court judges stay executive orders, rule legislation unconstitutional, etc. This “battle of the Federal Government branches” mathematically can only last eight years, or even fewer than that.

Why? Because if we allow one party rule under this President and his administration for that length of time, the judges appointed will be far more favorable to executive orders like the one that swept across the nation this weekend.

This has been a dispatch from Publius – a Public Citizen of the “Sons and Daughters of Liberty” – writing from the island where Lady Liberty welcomes new Americans to the land of opportunity, holding a torch, which will burn a little less brightly if WE THE PEOPLE – do not do our duty in the years to come.

Election Postmortem by Justin Norris

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Justin Norris holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a MA in Political Science from the University of Georgia. He is currently completing his PhD there.

When I was a teenager I enjoyed reading the historical fiction of authors like James Clavell. In one of his stories, Tai-Pan I believe, there was supposedly an old Chinese curse that went like this: May you live in interesting times. I have no idea if such a curse exists, but if it doesn’t it certainly should, because we are certainly cursed to live in interesting times.

 
Many have asked me to write a postmortem of sorts for the 2016 presidential election. As to oblige, the following is a list (in no particular order) explaining what I believe led to the outcome in the 2016 Presidential election. Many of the items on this list bleed together and intensify the impact of one another.

 
Word of warning, this is a long list for this kind of format, and I’m not going to put together a tl; dr version. These assessments come from a combination of expertise, the publicly available information released up to this point, and some of the semi-inside info I’ve received from several people who were in the field during the campaign. Since it is still early, some of these assessments may change as new information emerges. That being said, here’s what I think happened.

 
1. Social desirability bias is alive and well. Many people, especially college educated voters (both men and women), did not want to fess up to pollsters that they supported Trump. Of course, in hindsight this is not surprising, and I had concerns about this problem early on, but there was little good evidence to suggest it was a factor during the primaries (and what evidence that did exist was mixed). Moreover, the classic examples for social desirability bias in surveys occurred when white people would lie about supporting African American candidates for political office. The incredible accuracy of the overall polling environment during the 2008 and 2012 elections led many to believe that social desirability bias was no longer as major a problem as it was in the past. We were lulled into a false sense of security, and the consequences were both great and terrible.

 

The bad polling data led to bad polling aggregates and bad models. Or as many methodologists like to joke about these kinds of situations: garbage in, garbage out. Faulty data leads to faulty decisions. This led many within both campaigns to make faulty decisions about vote targets, potentially effective messaging, canvassing goals, targeting areas, etc. It also helped fuel a lot of confirmation bias across the board (myself included). Though to be clear on this point, damn near everyone was fooled by this. There are several reports originating from within the Trump campaign that suggest that they expected to get no more than 240 Electoral Votes on election night. They were caught flat footed by this as much as everyone else.

 
Similarly, most pollsters used faulty assumptions for the population weights they used in their survey results. They assumed that the election would look like 2012. This turned out to be wrong. Some pollsters released multiple findings for their polls using different weights. I think this should become the norm.

 
2. Sexism is alive and well. I have had people (who I thought were smart, until they said this) tell me that Clinton was nominated solely because she has a vagina. Period. The exit polls are suggestive on this matter. Damn near 80% of males overall voted for Trump. Moreover, the large number of sexual harassment stories in the days since Trump’s victory makes it clear that it may be debatable as to whether sexism was the most important factor for deciding this race, but you cannot deny that it was a factor, and likely an important one.

 
3. Racism and bigotry are alive and well. The exit polls and on-site interviews are suggestive on this point. People who care deeply about illegal immigration overwhelmingly went for Trump. And they were very vocal about it. We are talking about a winning candidate endorsed by both Neo-Nazis and the KKK. Moreover, many hate groups bussed ‘their’ voters to the polls in several important states. On a personal (albeit anecdotal) level, I know many of us have had to look no further than our own social media environments to see the role bigotry played in this race. I also know many people who have already had to deal with this in the real world. It is unclear at this juncture how important this was for the outcome, but it’s pretty clear that it was part of the equation.

 
4. White working class/white rural rage is real, and Democrats need to ditch the corporatists that moved the party away from the working class in general when it comes to economics. When it comes to economics, Trump ran as an old-school Democrat in many ways (at least rhetorically). Superficially, much of what Trump said on corporate greed, the system being rigged, etc. is similar enough to what Bernie Sanders said that many voters would not be able to tell the difference. And the Democrats let him get away with it. Instead of showing how full of shit Trump is on these issues the Democrats largely ceded the ground. This had consequences which are now plainly seen.

 
5. I’m sorry, but Clinton was a terrible candidate. I know I’m going to get heat for saying it, but it’s true. To be fair, it’s not entirely her fault. Her enemies have been very effective in painting her in the worst possible terms for decades, and the aforementioned problems with sexism make the impact of these attacks even worse. However, she ran a terrible campaign (especially considering who she was running against).

 
Many of us hoped that the Clinton camp learned from 2008, but as of right now that does not appear to be the case. It appears that they still valued loyalty over competence, and suffered from group think to the extreme. For example, I’ve gotten both inside accounts and read media reports stating that the Clinton campaign did not try to mobilize support or persuade voters in rural areas. Nor did they try to target working class whites.

 

 

Moreover, there are media accounts suggesting that this decision was made over the loud objections of Bill Clinton (who knows a few things about this subject). Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama made plays for these constituencies. Even if you don’t win them over, you must try to counteract your opponent’s efforts in trying to win the day with these voters. The Hillary Clinton campaign ignored these constituencies almost entirely. The damage on this point is evident.

 
Similarly, insiders have told me, and media accounts now confirm that the Clinton campaign overly relied on simulations for determining messaging, canvassing maps, GOTV priorities, and other matters. In and of itself heavy use of data analytics isn’t necessarily bad. If you do it right I believe it can pay dividends. However, it’s what happened next that makes me want to scream. After putting their plans into effect for messaging, canvassing, etc. the people on the ground reported that it wasn’t working.

 

This went on for months in both critical and noncritical states where people on the ground warned the campaign brass that it wasn’t working. Messages were falling flat. They couldn’t build enthusiasm or get voter commitments. Targets were not being met. The brass in Brooklyn told them to stay the course. That is political malpractice, and whoever was in charge of making that decision should never get paid to work in politics ever again. Ever. In general, using data and running simulations to help make strategic decisions is a good thing, but once you’ve tried to implement those plans and the evidence suggests it’s not working then you need to rethink what you are doing. You need to challenge your assumptions, question the data, and listen to the people you have entrusted to put your plans into effect. Ugh. And again, you can’t just focus on minority populations, young voters, and women, and you certainly can’t just focus on the urban and suburban areas. This is a recipe for disaster.

 
6. I am certain I’m going to get heat for this too, but the evidence is already mounting that it’s true. Third Party support did constitute a spoiler effect for both Clinton and Trump. Exit polls suggest that roughly a third of Johnson voters in critical states, states decided by less than one percent were self-identified Democrats. Moreover, nearly all of Stein voters were self-identified Democrats. If these people had voted for Clinton in places like FL, WI, PA, or MI it could have swung the election. That’s a textbook spoiler effect. Though I of course concede that this, and all the other factors identified in this dissection do not exist in a vacuum. Regardless, that is all I’m going to say on this subject.

 
7. The media dropped the ball. In the attempt to adhere to the ‘balanced coverage’ approach to covering campaigns many in the media pursued a false dichotomy that led many to believe that the campaigns were comparable in many ways. This is nonsense. Yes, the media covered the ‘Grab them by the pu**y’ video, but they also dedicated a ridiculous amount of coverage to the email story, even though it was a nonstory compared to everything else going on in the campaigns. For example, even now the majority of voters are unaware that there are around 75 pending lawsuits against Trump, many involving allegations of serious crimes. Similarly, the media gave Trump so much free uncontested air time it was insane. Not to mention that issues were generally ignored. Yes, the media always focuses more on the horse race, but not to the exclusion of damn near everything else.

 
To be fair, television and cable are dying platforms, with fewer viewers by the day. Similarly, much of the traditional print media did a fantastic job, but fewer and fewer people read their content. Instead we get the vacuous nonsense that passes for discourse in social media. And most of what gets circulated in social media comes perilously close to rank propaganda or are downright hoaxes. I had a conversation post-Election Day with a family member and Trump voter where they listed a litany of well-known hoaxes to help justify their vote. To hammer the point home that these stories were false I read them the top Google search results for each story. In each case, the second Google result was the Snopes story explaining that the story was a hoax. I suspect many people have had similar conversations in the wake of this election. It’s has gotten to the point where Silicon Valley elites are starting to ask if Facebook has too much influence over American political discourse, especially given that most of what gets disseminated is patently false.

 
8. The Clinton campaign is arguing that the Comey letter is to blame for their loss. Given all the other problems I believe this is suspect as the sole cause. However, it undoubtedly played an important role. The media jumped on this story, and though they quickly dialed back the more explosive aspects because they were entirely unfounded the damage had already been done. And to add insult to injury the second statement from Comey stating that the new investigation was already over and had found nothing was nowhere near as widely circulated.

 
As for the impact of the FBI putting its finger on the scale, the best evidence at this point suggests that it influenced voter behavior in a number of ways. The exit polls and a lot survey data suggest that the Comey letter had a profound impact on late-deciders, with the majority of them breaking for Trump. This makes the scant coverage of Comey’s retraction all the more damning. Moreover, there is evidence that the Comey letter demoralized a significant number of Democratic leaning voters, and helped bring a lot of wavering Republicans back into the fold. Though I think Harry Reid goes too far in arguing that Comey violated the Hatch Act, his behavior came perilously close, and I believe the Justice dept. should have ordered him to not send the letter.

 
9. There could be many culprits as to why, but this was a low turnout election, especially compared to the two previous elections. This hurts Democrats for a number of reasons, but I will focus on what I think is the most damning reason that has the farthest reaching consequences for future races. This was the first presidential election in 50 years that was not conducted under the most important provisions of the Voting Rights Act. After testing the waters in the 2014 midterms the Republican Party pushed for measures in many Republican controlled states that depress turnout, and focused these efforts in traditionally Democratic leaning areas or targeted Democratic leaning constituencies. Unless stopped by the courts, Republican controlled states cut polling places in Democratic leaning areas, reduced the number of days for early voting, reduced the number of early voting locations, and passed voter ID laws purposely designed to make it harder for Democratic leaning constituencies to get lawful IDs.

 
We know that the goal was to target Democratic leaning constituencies because the GOP admitted it through the evidence presented in federal court, and both federal and state rulings were supposed to stop both NC and WI from implementing these laws. Both NC and WI ignored these rulings and did it anyway. In WI this likely threw the election to Trump given that over 300,000 voters were turned away for not having IDs (that the courts said they didn’t need to have), and as of now, Trumps vote margin is around 27,000 votes. Voter suppression (and that is what it was) likely played a critical role in the results for FL, NC, WI, and MI.

 

 

I could go into greater detail and deeper in the weeds for every single one of these points, but this is already longer than I wanted to make it, and I have other work to do.
I hope this clarifies things for many of you or at least gives you something to think about. If anyone wants them I can provide links to support every single one of these points.
I have been getting a lot of questions about what I think the Democratic Party should do or what liberals/progressives should do about all of this. I have a lot of thoughts on this matter, but I am unsure if I will put them out into the ether.

 

 

Though I will say this, when there is no hope there is no fear. For years now the left has allowed the more conservative factions to govern the Democratic Party because many believed the stakes were too high (protecting existing gains, the Supreme Court, etc.). Well, that’s over now. The right now controls all three branches of government, and they are already making plans to do what many have feared. So now I suggest that the left should fight back. Band together and fight for what you actually believe in, and don’t be afraid to lose. When the conservatives were out in the wilderness for decades they were not afraid to lose, and it helped them immensely. Democrats can’t just be the ‘not crazy’ party anymore. The party needs to actually stand for what its voters believe in. Enough is enough.

 

 

Benefit of the Doubt

Two things. One, I have long promised the third part of a three-part journey of my wife and I moving to New York City. Two, given the events of the past 48 hours, I just cannot bring myself to write that article yet.

There are no words that I can say that are adequate for how I and so many other people feel right now. My feelings are inadequate in comparison to the despair and pain of so many right now. I can only write from my personal experiences and hope to on some level, gain a level of perspective and empathy for the experiences of others. Walk a mile in someone else’s skin Atticus Finch said. But like the long awaited sequel to the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” published earlier this past year, this statement is limiting.

I don’t know what it is like to be a Black American. I cannot even claim to relate to anyone’s pain or experiences. If it were not for my experiences serving in the military, I am the epitome of entitlement in this country absent having the last name of Kennedy, Bush, Rockefeller or Clinton. Those experiences also give me another status. The status of being a veteran. One of the few remaining statuses, jobs, professions still with net-positive approval ratings in the United States of America right now. One of the others in recent polling was that of a police officer, who we often give the benefit of the doubt.

This is not meant to disparage the law enforcement profession, I’m not writing this piece to comment on the specific facts of the case. Countless violence has taken hold of our nation once again. I write now for the third time about violence in this country on this website. Instead of talking about guns I’m going to talk about people.

While I want so much to hide behind the satire that often characterizes Agreeing Loudly, I cannot bring myself to do so. I’ll get to the point directly.

There is something wrong when a country that comprises of the highest GDP on the planet and half of the so-called most elite universities cannot solve issues or improve outcomes that are clear as day.

There is something wrong when statistics show that law enforcement in America are trained eight times more on firearms than they are on deescalation of violence.

There is something wrong when policing outcomes provide racial disparities that fly in the face of basic sense and logic.

As much as I’d like to try and find silver linings, it’s become increasingly difficult the last few days. I’ll get there, but you’ll have to bear with me.

If you read my biography on this website, or elsewhere, I appear as the model student. When I was teenager, however, I was a truant and rebellious. I was an extremely bored kid in middle America who was not being challenged or engaged. I had a blade pulled on me when I was 18 years old by a neighbor for no apparent reason other than I was a young kid (another bias of this country, assuming members of a certain age must be up to no good) hanging out in the neighborhood that I resided in at the time. AL’s own Pat Meacham can verify this story. My neighbor pulled out a blade on me for “his protection.” I was unarmed and completely freaked out. Luckily, the situation resolved itself.

Not long after that, I was driving to vote in my hometown district in the 2004 Presidential Election when a seemingly deranged Vikings fan, perhaps upset of their loss earlier that day, pulled over his car, assaulted me, and took my keys. His alibi was that I was tail-gating him. Perhaps I was. That’s not the point.

The point is that when I think of those two instances where individuals who weighed more than me, were older than me, were in positions of power over me–I wonder if I’d even be alive today if I did not have white skin. Perhaps others would disagree, but I do not think I would be. More to the point, if I had black skin I’d likely be dead.

I was not perfect at this age, but in each of these instances I meant no harm. For the aggressive individual, I was wishing and hoping for them to give me that benefit of the doubt while I was just living my life at the time. It’s the same benefit I hope for if I happened to be driving with a broken taillight.

And that’s the kicker. The benefit of the doubt.

This country as it currently stands, does not give Black Americans the benefit of the doubt. We give law enforcement that benefit. Many even gave vigilante cop school drop-out George Zimmerman that benefit. Some have even gave Cliven Bundy and his band of federal-land holding “patriots” the benefit of the doubt. We rarely give Black Americans the benefit of the doubt though. And this is the ultimate privilege. Getting the benefit of the doubt.

It is a privilege that allows you to live and breathe and work each day, without having to think about the overall statistical unlikelihood that you will be unnecessarily killed. It is a privilege of human safety and comfort that is essential in modern society.

This country is not asking Black Americans to respect and follow the “rule of law” or whatever passes as the rule of law these days. We are asking Black Americans to be perfect, while nearly everyone else gets to have the benefit of the doubt.

Philando Castile did not get the benefit of the doubt. Others have not. Until this fundamental truth is addressed, these tragic events and their tragic aftermath, whether tangentially related or not, will continue in this country.

The United Center Casts a Long, Uncomfortable Shadow Over Garfield Park and Lawndale: On the Road with Springsteen in Chicago, and the Price We Pay for “Our Most American City”

By Carson Starkey

Little girl down on the strand

With that pretty little baby in your hands

Do you remember the story of the promised land

How he crossed the desert sands

And could not enter the chosen land

On the banks of the river he stayed

To face the price you pay

I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates speak at Roosevelt University (my wife Suzie’s graduate school alma mater) on October 9th, 2014. He was on a tour of America’s campuses, promoting his spectacularly important article “The Case for Reparations” that appeared in the June 2014 edition of The Atlantic. His appearance in Chicago was significant because his article focuses on the long-term imposition of economic misery on the overwhelmingly black neighborhoods of the city’s west and south sides. He spent the first thirty minutes or so of his time at the podium summarizing America’s history of political/economic choices that encourage white people taking from black people (Social Security, the GI Bill, housing ordinances). He pointed out reparations, at least the version he proposed in the article, are not meant to address historically distant outcomes, but rather present day injustices. He explained that we don’t have to talk about individual payments to/legislative spending aimed at descendants of slaves based on outcomes that are hundreds of years old (other arguments for other occasions) because the nonwhite people that have suffered under systematic, legalized cheating are very much alive in parts of America (the people that he interviewed during his research who live in Chicago to this day). After a question-and-answer session during which white liberals delivered statements about themselves that lacked relevance, discernible points, or punctuation, most of all question marks, and consumed substantial amounts of time, Mr. Coates described Chicago in a way that I will carry with me forever. “When my European friends ask me about which cities they should visit when they come to this country, I tell them, don’t go to New York or Los Angeles. Go to Chicago. I say that because Chicago is our most American city, for all that entails, both good and bad.” Amen to that.

I was reminded of that moment, and its many layers of truth, when I made my first of three holy pilgrimages to The United Center on January 19th, 2016 to see Bruce Springsteen perform on the second night of “The River” tour. It was one of those moments, along with the time we spend surveying the demographics of Springsteen crowds, that makes/should make every Springsteen fan uncomfortable. Allow me to explain why that is the case. The United Center occupies its own patch of highly profitable real estate in the Near West Side, just slightly set apart from the West Loop, east of Garfield Park and Lawndale. While the United Center is one of America’s rare exceptions as sports stadiums go in that it owes its existence to private funding, the owners of the United Center (Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and (Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf) fall firmly within the mainstream of the our nation’s mega-rich, as they derive astronomical financial benefits from property tax subsidies (“Nothing But Net Profit: Jerry Reinsdorf, Property Tax Relief, and Corporate School Reform on Chicago’s Near West Side,” January 2013).

If showering billionaires with welfare handouts doesn’t upset you, because that’s just the price of freedom or whatever the socially awkward, celibate, casually bigoted young National Review readers are claiming these days, you might choose to examine The United Center’s location in relation to the neighborhoods around it, specifically Garfield Park and Lawndale. Garfield Park and Lawndale, both overwhelmingly black, are often found among the top ten poorest, most violent neighborhoods in our nation. So of course their residents should be able to cast their gaze regularly upon an enormous monument to obscene, publicly subsidized excess, because they wouldn’t be able to put that same money to use in their neighborhoods, obviously. Because investing money in black people is always welfare fraud. Because white people need The United Center to be of top notch quality so that they can enjoy professional sports competitions and live music concerts…that most residents of Garfield Park and Lawndale can’t afford to attend. Because Chicago is “our most American city.”

As I mentioned two paragraphs ago, most Springsteen fans have to confront at least one other unsettling experience when they attend his live performances-the demographics of their fellow travelers. After we finished our meals in the West Loop, strong recommendation for Kaiser Tiger, we hiked to our gate and stood among the trembling faithful (trembling from a mixture of blistering wind and joyful anticipation). Nothing but smiling white people, as far as they eye could behold. Some were talking about how many Springsteen live performances they’ve seen, which one woman in her early sixties estimated to be around twenty-plus. Some were talking about the urgent need, as this was early in the current tour, for Springsteen to add more dates in Europe because, in the words of an Englishwoman, she wanted “more than anything in the world,” and would “pay any amount of money to hear ‘Born in the USA’ live in London.” Whatever they were talking about, everyone was talking about spending substantial amounts of money, and everyone was white. I won’t insult your intelligence by claiming that I refused to buy merchandise because my baseball hat, t-shirt, and poster (all made in America) are intensely cool. But the truth is that I was uneasy with the fact my musical hero, our most vocally left-wing rock n’roll star national treasure, draws a fan base of such minimal diversity. There is no pithy segue or smooth transition for this conclusion. Just discomfort.

We found our seats. I wasn’t entirely certain about how I would respond to “The River.” It’s never been my favorite album. Prior to this tour, I have always been loyal to “Born in the USA,” “Born to Run,” “The Seeger Sessions,” and “Wrecking Ball,” in that order. Although the more I read about this tour, the more I found that E Street Band members all say that “The River” is their favorite album because it replicates the live concert experience with the greatest authenticity (“Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’: Steve Van Zandt Looks Back,” Rolling Stone, February 11th, 2016, and “Max Weinberg on ‘River’ Tour: What He Learned From Bruce Springsteen,” Rolling Stone, February 9th, 2016).

Suzie and I shrieked along to the first five songs (“Meet Me In The City,” “The Ties That Bind,” “Sherry Darling,” “Jackson Cage,” and “Two Hearts,”), standing and dancing in place with total disregard for rhythm or talent. I won’t spend much time explaining Springsteen’s material that deals with fast cars, attractive women, and weekend road trips because there’s no need to do so. These are the songs that everyone can agree upon for any occasion. If you seek bipartisanship/the spirit of compromise anywhere in America, in any form, put members of different communities, or different political views in a sedan and play “Pink Cadillac.” You will have earned a genuine respite from the crushing sadness of ideological rancor that afflicts our society.

We sat down, as standard stadium rock concert etiquette dictates when ballads are playing, for “Independence Day,” which is the definitive father-son airing of grievances-irreconcilable differences among generations anthem of contemporary Western society. Bruce graced us with one of his famous monologues before he started the song, which captured the attention of every person in the building with the collectively somber reverence usually reserved for presidential speechmaking prior to a major war. The signature “Springsteen: Just the Stories” moment set me up for what followed, undoubtedly because I was swept away with overwhelming joy when he started speaking. Those that know me complain, frequently, that I rely on humor far too often to draw attention, deflect sadness, or derail conversation that I find less than compelling, but I swear on my devotion to collective bargaining, that after the first verse, I was sobbing hysterically. Not quiet sniffles followed by watery eyes that went unnoticed. Choking, gasping, uncontrolled spasms of weeping, chest heaving, cascading streams of tears, cheeks glistening, without a shred of self-awareness. Totally out of nowhere. Suzie didn’t know what to do. Nearby spectators must have thought that I was having a nervous breakdown. I would have assured them, no, not the case at all fellow Americana enthusiasts. Just a supernova of emotional clarity, human compassion, and self-reflection. Every petty, savage, low-stakes argument that I ever had with my father came flooding back…battles over car repairs, the 2000 presidential election, Paul Wellstone, my younger brother, my return from the Iraq War…I was vowing to do better, because I couldn’t imagine feeling this way ever again. I don’t remember when, or at what point in the song exactly, I stopped crying. Not terribly important. What I do remember is feeling exhausted…six songs into the show. That can be problematic if the specific performer you’re seeing is famous for consistently delivering three to four hour marathon concerts.

I pulled myself together, and was composed for most of the remaining songs. I strained muscles in my back, shoulders, ribs, neck, and stomach singing along to “Ramrod” and “Cadillac Ranch” because they are my favorite tracks from the album, and because I live under the comical delusion that my Springsteen impression gets magically better for those particular songs. I thought that I would be okay until at least the fan favorite portion of the show (greatest hits that he plays after he completes “The River” album in its entirety) until we reached “The Price You Pay.” Easy to pin down the reason for this meltdown in retrospect. Story of working class misery, same style as “The Promised Land,” he even uses the phrase in the song. Important note-I always cry while screaming along to “The Promised Land.” One of my top five favorite Springsteen songs. So…maybe I was consumed with sadness about America’s vast economic inequality. Maybe I was thinking about Chicago’s ugly contradictions. Maybe I had other, more subtle, below the surface, selfish reasons for that outburst of tears. All I know is that I “felt” everything, deeply, maximally, and with unbridled severity.

Bruce finished “The River,” and moved on to the fan favorite portion, which is synonymous with “Born to Run” and “Thunder Road,” those marquee climaxes of any Springsteen live performance. Before he reached those two most cherished icons, he threw in “The Rising.” All of the Millenials stood and wailed in unison, as we time traveled back to the heady, exuberant summer days of 2008, when we knocked doors for Senator Barry Obama, when The Boss traveled with Senator Barry, rallying stadiums full of liberals, when Senator Barry himself explained his reason for wanting to reside in the White House (“Because I can’t be Bruce Springsteen,” “Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel Form Supergroup for Obama in NYC,” Rolling Stone, October 17th, 2008), and we shook the pillars of American society with our illustrious optimism born from disgust with Iraq and overt Bush administration criminality. I had to stop smiling like a lunatic, and take stock of it all. Damn Bruce…why does everything have to be so “real” with you?

I was fine during “Born to Run.” No tsunami of emotions. Again, I can’t explain it. I know that it’s supposed to be every Springsteen fan’s favorite song according to the standard music critic/journalist narrative. Sang every word, loved it, but nothing compares to “Thunder Road.” I stood, sang, cried, swayed, hugged, and felt my knees buckle numerous times. There is no drug, prescription or illicit, no artificial substance in the universe that can replicate how I feel when I’m singing that Springsteen song.

After three hours and twenty minutes of crowd surfing, mad dashes between stages, and ZERO set breaks because anything less than one hundred percent effort is for America-hating subversives, it was over. Bruce and the E Street Band stepped away from their instruments, bowed, and walked backstage. We had just “seen the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary E STREET BAND!” That’s Springsteen’s bit at the end of every performance…basically an homage to James Brown, although most reasonably informed fans know that a majority of Springsteen’s live act is an homage to James Brown. Another examination for another day, valued readers, no doubt.

I was disappointed that he didn’t play “Glory Days” or “Born in The USA,” (bucket list goals) but such is the reality of “The River” tour. Too many songs, not enough time in an evening to hit everything before municipal police forces shut down operations, although I would argue that all Springsteen concerts should be legally required to run five hours, minimum. The more complicated problem, as far as seeing those two particular songs, is that The Boss tends to reserve them for his European shows, where the audiences sing with evangelical fervor when they have opportunities to appropriate American cultural experiences. To paraphrase the colonel from “Full Metal Jacket,” inside every European, there is a Bruce Springsteen fan trying to claim American citizenship. I’m not exaggerating when I say that contemporary industrialized society sometimes can’t handle the length and ferocity of live Springsteen performances (“Bruce Springsteen’s Microphone Switched Off at Hyde Park Gig,” The Guardian, July 14th, 2012).

We left The United Center, fatigued, satisfied with our artistic sensibilities, pleased with our intellectual superiority, and filled with security in our status as comfortable white people.Many thanks to Allan Branstiter for allowing public use of that copyrighted term.

We still had to face a world in which a war with Iran (2018, ask Troy Olson) looks inevitable, where The United Center mocks the poverty of Garfield Park and Lawndale with total impunity, and where millionaire welfare checks constitute wise investments but social insurance for working people means big government waste in the language of “respectable” (code for always wrong about outcomes) political/policy discourse. Bruce Springsteen’s concert didn’t and couldn’t solve our problems, and as he would be quick to point out, only we could do that by voting, fundraising, and persuading our fellow citizens. We didn’t have comforting answers, but we had the power of rock n’roll. That would have to suffice as we navigated the perils of “our most American city” in the New Gilded Age.

Let’s hope that Bruce Springsteen and Ta-Nehisi Coates hold a joint event together at some point. The combined fan bases interacting with each other would be worth any price of admission. All proceeds would go to worthy liberal charities. #LeftyLifeGoals #GreatestLiveEventEver

Marco Rubio’s Public Statement on Suspending His Presidential Campaign

By Carson Starkey, Chief Speechwriter for Senator Marco Rubio

Good evening,

I am here tonight to announce that I am suspending my presidential campaign effective immediately. Pause for widespread, slowly cascading applause. After many hours of consultation with Chamber of Commerce lobbyists, American Enterprise Institute board members, Heritage Foundation scholars, Fox News producers, The Honorable Rush Limbaugh, assorted campaign staffers, and family members, I have come to the conclusion that my long-term political career can no longer sustain further damage that stems from exchanging mediocre insults with a man who sells ties at Macy’s. Gaze intently at attractive audience member. In order to ensure that Americans enjoy the benefits of living without social insurance and a protracted, bloody, expensive war with Iran, I am urging every principled conservative to unite behind future President Donald Trump. Dramatic pause, project moderate self-importance. Please disregard every previous public statement that I have made prior to this moment that portrayed Mr. Trump in a negative light. Execute facial expression to convey seriousness. Which I know will not be a matter of controversy, and that brings me to my next expression of gratitude. Hand gesture followed by emotional connection. I want to thank my fellow citizens for not having any interest in cursory fact checking, or even using Google. Continue transmission. This broad phenomenon is responsible for my relatively easy political career, really the careers of most Republican elected officials if we’re being truthful, up to this moment, and it will be the most obvious reason for Mr. Trump’s eventual victory in the general election. Convey somber body language.

I want to assure everybody that, even though I am leaving the campaign trail temporarily, I am doing well, financially and psychologically. Allow three to five seconds for audience laughter. I have secured employment with eight think tanks, three cable news networks, five law firms, and nine investment banks. Bask in self-evident brilliance. Despite the fact that I am totally lacking in marketable skills, and have zero interest in any work that does not involve me reading prearranged cue cards, I am confident that I will be able to amass an enormous personal fortune in the near future while performing “work” of negligible socioeconomic utility. Raise arm to chest level, implement finger point at family member.

I want to thank everyone affiliated with my campaign, especially my super PAC donors-my apology for squandering vast sums of your money on such a monstrously pointless endeavor-and the people who invested so many hundreds of hours trying to reprogram my debate responses, which, much like my hair products, will only improve with time. Pause again for audience laughter, expression of satisfaction. I look forward to returning to Florida, and defeating many more hopelessly incompetent Democrats in statewide elections. Hearty chuckle, engage light-hearted scan of audience front row. Thank you all for coming. Brief pause to heighten anticipation. I’ll be back in 2020 to claim my rightful place in the White House. Rouse audience to moderate excitement. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America. All systems engage charm, firm wave of right hand, end transmission.

To Kill A Mockingbird: 2016 Edition

by Troy M. Olson (with deep regrets)

2016-02-20 00.26.21

Atticus Finch is an over-worked and underpaid public defender with 175 thousand in student loan debt due to the escalating costs of undergraduate and legal education.

The other main characters, Jem and Scout, are the names of his cats, because he cannot afford to start a family. When Tom Robinson is unfairly and unjustly arrested for jaywalking, being shot once in the shoulder during the arrest, chaos breaks out in the sleepy area of Maycomb County, Alabama.

Infuriated by this injustice, activists around the country organize from Maycomb to Mist County in Minnesota, exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble with the stated goal of getting the attention of policy-makers.

In response to this lawful assembly, local white people have been complaining that they were slightly inconvenienced while shopping and buying things they did not need, because protesters were getting in the way of things and stuff…. In response, a counter-protest movement of those claiming to be dedicated to constitutional principles and the values for which this country was founded upon springs up. 

While slowly making his way home late at night to feed his starving, but beloved cats, Jem and Scout, Atticus watches the television and inter-web reports of his local Congressman standing alongside the leader of the counter-protest movement. 

Once Tom Robinson is unfairly charged for jaywalking, public defender Atticus Finch, under pressure from the DA’s office, his superiors at the PD’s office, and the local political machine, considers whether to take the plea bargain rather than pursue a full trial and vindication for Tom, who he knows is innocent of the trumped up charges of a minor crime. 

Fearful of the political and professional fall out and the crowded caseload and court docket in front of him, Atticus rules against his better judgment, seeing few realistic alternatives, and a plea deal is reached.

The End.

Rest in peace, Harper Lee (1926-2016)

May your timeless masterpiece, and its central character, Atticus Finch, continue to inspire us all to work together for a better world.