Conversations from the Ghost of America’s Future Past

America's Future Past
It’s the next night after the 2018 midterms and Carson and Troy recap what we just witnessed….

It’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday night, #HipsterJesus walks into a Brooklyn coffee shop that also serves alcohol at night (because of course they do) and in the corner the camera pans to Carson Starkey and Troy Olson. Carson is nursing a bourbon, and Troy, who had not drank alcohol in eight months, is drinking a Brooklyn Lager and talking about “Joe, Jane, and Union John.” His arms are moving wildly before Union “pounder of pavement” Carson interjects about the 2018 results:

Carson

That was a fine impersonation of the season 2 episode of The West Wing.

Troy

Right. The midterm episode. All that money spent by both sides. Few districts change. Here we are at the end of the road and Dems have barely climbed over the 200 seat mark. The GOP can only deal with 13 defections now…

Carson

Democrats lack a uniform message in Congress, other than restoring what Barry achieved in his first 2 years and refraining from destroying health care.

Troy

So many campaign groups started up in the wake of the ’16 result, so much grift, so few results. My flight to the nonprofit sector was well timed, where we… actually help people out. A foreign concept to investment bankers and real estate financiers and developers and inheritors of extreme comfort.

Carson

The disgruntled citizens… mostly disgruntled and white… are sad that NAFTA still exists. Because Mexicans and The Wall. And WalMart still pays badly. President Trump hasn’t made a deal to fix poverty because the Chamber is busy repealing minimum wage laws.

Troy

But what did we expect? As the Margin of Error pointed out last year, only people that went to Harvard and Yale think Donald Trump is a populist.

Carson

I’d like to think that it’s possible for me to get a job with Sherrod Brown’s presidential campaign as a policy analyst or speech writer. But that’s not certain post-2018. I’m inclined to stay in Minnesota now that Tom Emmer is governor. Too much work to be done here.

Troy

Well it’s good that he won’t have his senate duties to distract him from the campaign trail if he does run now that Senator Josh Mandel is in office. (Troy takes a drink of his lager, then a drink of tea, alternating) At what point did it set in for you that there would be no wave in ’18?

Carson

When Democrats settled on defending Heidi Heitkamp as the least bad option. And she lost. Because that’s what red states mean… tough terrain.

Troy

All those polls showing a generic ballot lead of 10 percent probably hurt. We still won the total ballot by 6 percent but that is not enough in a gerrymandered America.

Carson

We’re still in deep minority position across the states. Republicans outspend Democrats 3 to 1 in the legislatures and governors’ mansions. Which for the GOP, creates an endless pipeline of nutty Sam Brownback-style candidates. Infrastructure being what it is…

Troy

I wish the D-trip heeded our calls to think locally.

Carson

Colin Peterson will assume leadership of a rural think tank designed to “help” Democrats. Mostly to spew nonsense about the importance of the 2nd Amendment and why women are uppity.

Troy

What do you make of the surge in third parties on the left in safer seats? This falls along with my theory that although activism and involvement is at an all-time high, it’s independent and separate from the Democratic establishment, as may have given up on the party. Registration and caucus/convention turnout was down… people seem to be doing what Bernie is doing… a wait and see approach. Neither building the viable third party that is more progressive and populist nor effectively taking over the Democratic Party. Hurry Up….and Wait.

Carson

Well they can’t find regular access to parties, jobs in campaigns or activist groups. I don’t blame them for avoiding the regular channels of political organizing. Lord knows we’re familiar with that. Even if the WFP is a smaller outfit, it’s a platform for ideas. Ones that people believe in.

Troy

Right. I’m relatively convinced that if a neoliberal beats a progressive in the 2020 primary the party is done… sure it’ll limp along for a few more cycles, propelled by boomer lefty outrage… but the numbers will dwindle and so many younger folks will want out. And the resulting aftermath, well if you are well read on political problems in developing countries, if I may use that term here in the way academics and researchers have used it, you’ll know that revolutions are led by under and unemployed professionals and intellectuals. It’ll be fascinating to see neoliberals, Dukes and Earls that had the right last names and believe in the “magic”, let’s call in the Force, against a bunch of Han Solos cynically claiming that “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster…

Carson

Maybe the residents of Williamsburg will be ready to join the military when Tom Cotton becomes President, if only to revolt and re-enact Les Miserables.

It was getting late and Carson had a plane to catch tomorrow morning at JFK, and a campaign to plan for. It was a foggy night and he walked slowly and carefully… with the magic of Bruce Springsteen in his ear and the words of the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone saying “we all do better when we all do better.” Troy watched from sidewalk and the scene looked not unlike this….

Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past

America's Future Past
Carson and Troy bring you a dispatch from the future, discussing what happened to produce the inverse of a complete GOP majority.

The Scene and Setting: cultural treasure (in progressive-populist circles) Carson Starkey gets off-stage after introducing Bruce Springsteen to a crowd in San Francisco. The Bay Area is one of the thriving cultural centers of the People’s Republic of California, the first modern-day state to secede from the United States of America just after Trump’s re-election in 2020. He joins Troy Olson, on assignment from his home in Harlem to build diplomatic ties to the land with the 4th largest GDP in the world.

The Democrats have recently won complete control of all levels of government after the 2028 Presidential, Congressional, and State Elections. Carson and Troy reminisce on how it all happened.

**********

Troy

So what just happened there? What’s your take Professor Starkey?

(note: Carson recently took a job at a Twin Cities area university, his favorite course is an elective on “American History as Told By the Music of Bruce Springsteen”)

Carson

Well, Hillary took a teaching job at Columbia, and avoided public endorsements, which allowed Seth Moulton to become governor of Massachusetts. Keith Ellison became Minnesota’s first black senator after Al Franken retired to become senior producer at Saturday Night Live. Tulsi Gabbard took legislating seriously, stopped surfing, and co-authored Medicaid-for-all w/ Kirsten Gillibrand.

Troy

You’re maybe giving too much credit to the winning team here. I attribute these historic wins for the Democrats to GOP incompetence. Who knew their policies would be widely disliked and disastrous for the country? Well… you knew.

Carson

That’s true. Life got hard for a lot of cable news viewers when they lost SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and minimum wage laws.

Troy

It also helped that rural monopolies by cable companies pushed prices to over $100 per month when they could have just had Netflix for $9 per month. Did these companies really think that no millennials would tell their parents to downsize in this area?

Carson

Right. Disastrous policies forced some hard choices on boomer parents. Some folks lost their Fox News fix.

Troy

The two-front war in Syria and Iran certainly didn’t help in the ’22 midterms (historical note: the first decent cycle per expectations in a decade for the Democratic Party). They should have pursued a draft but of course that would have led to even worse results at the ballot box.

Carson

The National Guard wasn’t ready. Also Republicans shouldn’t have run Dakota Meyer for President in 2024. His limited policy knowledge was surpassed only by Bristol Palin’s ugly bigotry.

Troy

They definitely over-estimated how much Trump had prepared the country for ugly bigotry… at some point people were going to get sick of it. It did not help that golden boys J.D. Vance was unable to beat Sherrod Brown for the Senate, and Tim Tebow was still trying to play professional sports (as of this writing: Tebow is under contract with the Las Vegas Raiders and is likely to be cut this fall)…

Carson

Sherrod Brown…forgot about him after he retired from the Senate to be a Supreme Court Justice. But we finally prioritized the judiciary.

Troy

(Continuing)… Donald Trump Jr’s failed term as Governor of New York didn’t help. Who knew New York state could do so much worse than Andrew Cuomo?

Carson

Lessons learned I suppose.

Troy

Speaking of Cuomo, worst presidential campaign in modern history? 2020. Wow. 5th in the Iowa Caucus.

Carson

He wasted 30 million dollars on campaign ads touting his fleet of collector cars. The donors were furious. But Cuomo moved to Goldman Sachs and soldiered on.

Troy

That’s a write-off for them made easy after the Supreme Court extended the privileges and immunities clause to corporations in the early 2020’s.

**********

Carson

The DNC finally got out of the way of President Sanders, perhaps it was the overwhelming numbers and widespread misery.

Troy

I had my doubts if we were ever going to move on from a one party GOP state, especially after California became its own Republic. Which deep down had to burn many Texans because they didn’t get there first.

Carson

One of the few places capable of that course of action economically. Silicon Valley refused to relocate, it made sense. Regarding Texas, Governor Ted Cruz was unpersuasive.

Troy

Of course the downside to California leaving was that we were officially passed in GDP by China… but I imagine hysterical white people think it’s worth it. Demographic majorities for another decade or so.

Carson

That coal industry recovery never happened.

Troy

Didn’t need to. Trump correctly assumed that those voters would never vote for a Democrat anyway. The real question I have is–how long will these new majorities last and will they finally go after the needed big reforms?

Carson

Medicare-for-all would be a good escalation.

Troy

Let’s hope lessons have been learned. Now is the time. Although I have my doubts majority leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi will push hard enough for it.

Carson

Paired with universal basic income it may be hard. I suppose the revenue for those policies hinge on the corporate repatriation. Which Schumer and Durbin oppose with a bigger cut in the rates.

Troy

So admittedly, I was wrong about that “permanent” minority leader status. Apparently negative 30 favorability ratings nationally do not translate locally. Either way, it has been a lonely White House for President Sanders, not unlike Trump with the GOP.

Carson

The infrastructure is still not there, and he is not built for grandiose moments in the spotlight.

Troy

Fair point. The race is already on for who succeeds him. Do we swing back toward centrist-corporatist-neoliberals? A progressive heir? Does this growing Millennial Party that was willing to follow as long as Sanders got nominated but now is furious because they still have no place in electoral politics unless they run as Republicans bolt?

Carson

Larry David keeps making fun of Sanders, but it isn’t as funny as 2016.

Troy

Everyone looks old and tired. We’re bogged down in 4 fronts now (Afghanistan-Iraq-Syria-Iran), and despite the best efforts of the Sanders administration, we’ll soon enter our 29th straight year at war without a draft… it seems insane.

Carson

There’ll be some super attractive Iran War vet with a square jaw and two kids that runs against Tom Cotton. And progressives will soon be placated with Center for American Progress think tank jobs. The ebb and flow of the game I suppose…

Troy

So I guess we’ve answered the question. We’ll lose our majorities in the ’30 midterms, meaning we blow a redistricting year, and can look forward to President Tom Cotton. Or President Rubio because it’s now a tradition that we pick him to win. Like Chris Berman picking the 49ers vs. the Bills in the Super Bowl for 13 straight years.

Carson

It is fitting that his nickname is Boomer. BA in history from Brown in ’77, which of course leads to a major job in broadcasting for reasons. Meanwhile, no amount of doctoral degrees, community involvement, subsequent pounding of pavement was able to similarly convince the powers that be otherwise about the younger cohorts.

Troy

The game is the game.

Carson

Absolutely, the game is the game.

Troy

And it is a horrible, god-awful game.