Articles

Essays and opinion pieces from our hosts and listeners involving American politics touching on current events, politics, history, and the like.

A Fake News Intervention

by Kevin Kelton

Hi. Come in and sit down. I’m here – we all are here – because we love you and we need to tell you something. This may be a little tough to hear, but hear me out.

We know you and we see you. You are bright, educated, and consider yourself relatively smart, sophisticated, worldly, and informed. You’ve voted Republican most of your life (or at least over the last decade or so) because you love your country and truly believe in conservative political philosophy. While you think of yourself as open-minded and are still somewhat open to voting for the right Democrat, you’ve always hated the Clintons, and you came to particularly resent and despise Hillary during the 2015-16 campaign as you learned more and more about her true evil intent – from her “illegal” email server to her support for Muslim terrorists to the highly corrupt Uranium One deal, her secret concussion, The Clinton Foundation “slush fund,” how she and the DNC cheated Bernie to fix her nomination, the “highly suspicious murder” of that poor young DNC staffer who was about to spill the beans, and all her other “crooked” behaviors that were revealed to you day after day by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, conservative media outlets and blogs, and of course by your close, trusted friends on Facebook and the links with the salacious headlines that they reposted and urged you to read…day after day after day.

YOU WERE DUPED. And you still don’t know it (or do but can’t accept it) because you are still being duped by the same powers that filled your brain with fake news and utter nonsense. You think you were immune to the more far-fetched conspiracy stories. But you’d click anyway, at first just once or twice to see what people were saying. But soon you were doing it regularly – as each click got you more and more intrigued. You say to yourself, oh, I never really believed that stuff.  You just thought they were funny and had a slight “ring of truth,” even though you didn’t really buy into them.

It was just recreational web surfing. It was fun; it was harmless. You could stop anytime you wanted.

But you absorbed it all – fake new story after story after story – and it clouded your judgment and subtly changed your perceptions. Your mind was slowly poisoned, so slowly you didn’t realize it was happening. You still sincerely believe you are smart, informed, and your belief system is right and true. But you have been brainwashed and used by people smarter than you. You are a walking, talking disinformation campaign and you don’t even know it. You are part of a massive, worldwide disinformation pyramid scheme.

You are a Russian bot in human form. And you don’t even realize it.

Consider this an intervention by a friend. You are on a very self-destructive path. You are a disinformation addict, and the disinformation pushers have you hooked just like a junkie. You shoot-up regularly on Twitter, Facebook, and with Fox News and other disinformation cartels who are playing you like a fool and cashing in on your addiction. Only in this case, you won’t die from your overdose. You’ll only kill the nation you love. Look at what happened to Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen – two other “smart men” who got duped and hooked, and saw it destroy their lives. Learn from their mistakes.

We all love you and are here for you. But you need to make a change, and make it fast. So please read these articles and start to turn your life around now. 

Senate Report on Russian 2016 Disinformation Campaign Shows Its Scale and Sweep

Michael Flynn, James Woods, Ann Coulter Regularly Shared Content From Russian Fake News Accounts

Fake News Ecosystem Still Thrives in 2018

Mainstream Advertising Pushing Fake News

Kevin Kelton is a former Saturday Night Live writer and cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast. He also runs the Facebook political group, Open Fire Politics.

Obamacare and State’s Rights

It is 8pm on a Saturday night and the last thing I want to be doing is writing yet another piece about a manufactured crisis arising from Republican attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. I HATE writing these pieces and I HATE these peckerwoods who have spent the past 8 years proving that they like insurance companies better than they like people who buy insurance. I especially hate the Texas judge who dropped a ruling last night saying that absent the individual mandate – which was nullified by a provision of the tax reform bill last year – nothing in the ACA should remain. Hate. Hate, hate, hate.

I bet the only person who hates this more that me is Chief Justice John Roberts, who has done pretty much everything in his power to avoid dealing with the questions of severability in the Affordable Care Act. The guy had to work really hard to find a legal justification for upholding the individual mandate in 2012. He didn’t want to answer the question of how much of the rest of the law should survive if the mandate was struck down so he redefined the mandate as a tax and said it was as constitutional as apple pie and slavery before the 13th Amendment was ratified.

At least that’s how I read it. I’m not a legal scholar. So I will leave the subject of severability rulings to people who are (and believe me, they are alllllll weighing in on the likely next rulings as this case makes its way to appeal).

What I will do is reassure everyone that not changes will take effect at this time. Your insurance election for 2019 will be compliant with the ACA. So don’t stress about that part.

However, it is clear that the GOP does not want to leave even a shred of Obama’s signature bill standing. They are picking at it piece by piece and before long, we will find ourselves looking at one of two outcomes. Either we will have a full scale return to the kind of private insurance market we had prior to 2010, where employers and insurers decided who got to have health insurance. Or we will see some sort of public option made available to people below Medicare age.

I would actually place my bets on the second thing happening because consumers really like being able to buy insurance and they don’t want to go back to a market where insurers are allowed to say “Oh, you had wonky mole once and now you want a health insurance policy? LOL, nope.”

But until we reach the breaking point that ushers in a new insurance world order, we have to proactively protect ourselves from the predatory practices of the insurance industry. Since we can’t lobby the courts to rule the way we want, we have to turn our attentions to state legislatures.

Yep. That’s right. I, Rebekah Kuschmider, a known proponent of a strong federal government, am telling you to abandon Congress and head to your state capitol instead.

The key insurance industry reforms of the Affordable Care Act, specifically must-issue rules for insurers, combined with abolishing annual and lifetime coverage caps, are extremely popular (one poll shows that 81% of people think it should be illegal to deny coverage based on health history). It would not be a heavy advocacy lift to ask state lawmakers to pass such rules in individual states. Building out those regulations without also tying them to reforms that directly address consumer behavior the way the individual mandate did could make them nearly unassailable in the courts. States certainly have the right to protect consumers from abusive or discriminatory industry practices.

But, like with everything else in advocacy, your elected officials don’t know you want this unless you tell them. This is the time to tell them.

State legislative sessions will begin in the first months of 2019. Get online now and find the contact information for your state lawmakers. Drop them a line saying you want to be protected by ACA-like regulations on the health insurance industry and ask them to add that to the agenda for the new year. Then keep emailing and calling until they listen.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” It’s time to be a part of one of those thoughtful, committed groups again. You know how to do it. Let’s get it done.

 

 

Pop Goes The Political Culture, December 9, 2018

Cheaters never win, right Michael and Paul?

Howdy, MPU-inverse! As most of you know, we’re taking it easy for the month of December and not recording regularly. The news, however, is on no such hiatus.

Over the past week, we’ve learned that what Trump really wanted was to build a tacky hotel in Moscow. He was even willing to give Putin a free penthouse to smooth the way to getting all his permits and stuff. His plans were stalled when he accidentally won the election. Now everyone around him is being indicted for financial misconduct and lying to Congress and Bob Mueller about all the financial misconduct.

The true tragedy of all of this is that if Americans hadn’t been so very excited Trump’s rand of boorish racism, he would have lost and none of this would be happening. Trump and Cohen would be building their tacky hotel. Manafort would be working in the shadows of criminal regimes, and Christine Blassey Ford would be able to live peacefully in her own home instead of having upended her entire life in a fruitless attempt to make the Senate think twice about confirming a(nother) sexual predator to the Supreme Court.

But, you know. Emails and shit.

Anyway, here’s what else has been going on in the world while we were all watching Maddow break down the latest criminal filings.

And the Oscar goes to…Not you, Kevin Hart: This week Kevin Hart was invited to host the Oscars. Sweet! Everyone loves a funny Oscar host! But then something predicable happened. People who are familiar with Hart’s off-color brand of humor fell a little tickle in their memory banks and went back to his social media archives. It turns out Mr. Hart is fond of using homophobic slurs on Twitter. 

Gross.

Shortly after this came to light, Mr. hart withdrew from his hosting duties, leaving the Oscar’s host-less. And while I submit that we could simply have a red carpet show followed by posting a list of Oscar winners online and save everyone a lot of trouble, chances are good that the Oscar powers that be are busy reading old tweets from whomever they are considering next.

There are two things that we need to discuss in the aftermath of this. First, we should all know now that our public social media feeds are now part of our professional resumes. If you don’t want your future employment to be affected by past posts, don’t post it. Assume every boss you ever had or ever will have can see your social media posts. Only post what you can live with in the long term.

Second, I flatly refuse the “What? It was years ago and he was being funny!” defense. I hereby declare that the last moment that homophobic humor was excusable was in 1978 with the release of the movie Animal House*. Everything after that is not ok. Kevin hart is a smart man and a good comic and he should know have known better.

In summary, don’t be an asshole on Twitter if you want good jobs later. And don’t make fun of race or sexuality. The end.

*And I’m not even sure about Animal House. Stonewall happened in 1969. Creative people should already have known better by the 70s.

Fox & Friends International: Our newly nominated Ambassador to the UN is Heather Nauert a former Fox and Friends host who has been working as a media flack at State Department. She is best known for talking about US-German cooperation during WWII.

For anyone reading this who is too young to have gotten to WWII in history class or who gets their information from FoxNews personalities, the US and Germany did not cooperate in WWII. Quite the opposite, in fact.  This will not be news to anyone else at the UN, because most countries relay on academic and professional resumes before appointing people to diplomatic posts. Trump apparently reviews headshots. 

Geekout: The new Avengers trailer is out and it is lit.

Speaker Race: The Democrats who voted Nay on Pelosi’s nomination for Speaker of the House are slowly reversing their positions and pledging their support in the final leadership vote in 2019.

Duh.

Voting against Pelosi when she was running unopposed is a nice bit of political theatre. It lets the Members go home and fundraise on the idea of supporting new leadership. They can say “Hey! I tried!” without having actually risked any kind of negative consequence, like, say. a Republican Speaker of the House.

When such a consequence is actually present, these same Members are going to vote for for Pelosi and really? They always were.  Their resistance was performative and transactional. It helped them in their districts and it got Pelosi herself to sit down with them and promise to help them with their other priorities for the coming Congress.

This is how Pelosi plays the game. She lets her caucus beat her up when it will help them at home, so long as it won’t hurt the party as a whole. Once they need to step up and vote with leadership, they do it, because they know if they help her when she needs it, she will help them when they need it.

Nancy Pelosi doesn’t care what you or I think of her. She doesn’t care what Republicans think of her. She doesn’t care what the media thinks of her. She has two constituencies: the 12th District of California and the House Democrats. She will do what she can to gain support from those groups of people. If doing that means the rest of us don’t love her, she can live with that.

That’s it from me for this week, folks. Be careful if you’re in the path of the winter storm on the east coast. Everyone, have a great week!

What the Georgia Runoff Told Us

by D.J. McGuire

Tuesday night was Election Runoff Night in Georgia. The results give some hope – and some concern – to both parties.

For the Republicans, victory was sweet for Brad Raffensperger, who held off a strong challenge from Democrat John Barrow to win the Secretary of State position. For Democrats upset at how Raffensperger’s predecessor (Governor-Elect Brian Kemp) handled the job, the defeat was bitter.

That said, it wasn’t all good news for the GOP. Republicans usually do better in runoffs than on Election Day in Georgia, and this was no exception. However, Barrow’s margin of defeat was more than a percentage point lessthan Clinton’s in 2016.

If the Democratic nominee in 2020 merely repeats that one-percent-plus improvement across the nation, then Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and the presidency goes to them – while Florida would be close enough for another of those hand recounts. If Republicans were hoping this election showed a post-midterm return to normal for them, they’re in for a disappointment.

For the Democrats, the loss was painful, but instructive. Barrow, a former Congressman from east Georgia, actually outdid his former running mate Stacey Abrams in rural vote share, but he underperformedin the Atlanta suburbs. Gwinnett County, which went to Abrams by more than 12 points, went for Barrow by barely more than one. Cobb County actually flipped back to the GOP (Abrams won it by nearly 10 points).

Then there was turnout, which wasn’t even 40% of what was seen on Election Day.

Now that we have Barrow’s defeat to add to the story, some things stand out.

First, Stacey Abrams was a better candidate than initially recognized.Conventional wisdom says Barrow, a white male with rural ties, should have done far better than Abrams. He didn’t – even on Election Day it was the performance of the Libertarian in his race that forced the runoff; his share of the vote was lower than Abrams’ share up-ballot. The fact that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce stayed neutral in the race should have been a clue. As it is, now we have some data behind it.

Secondly, the suburbs matter everywhere. Even GOP-leaning states saw their suburban areas pull away from them. They just had enough rural voters to make up the difference. In Georgia, though, they managed to stem some of their losses here, which was enough to counter a weaker rural presence against Barrow. Democrats clearly saw that appealing to rural voters at the expense of the suburbs has consequences – and not good ones.

Finally, African-American candidates help Democrats. One could call Georgia 2018 a microcosm of the Obama 2012 to Clinton 2016 turnout effect. African-American turnout fell from 2012 levels, enough not just to lower Clinton’s popular vote margin but also to turn the Electoral College against her. Now, we saw an African-American “progressive” (I use the quotes because what most conservatives think a “progressive” is and a candidate who doesn’t earn the opprobrium of the local Chamber of Commerce are two very different things) still do better in Georgia than a moderate white ex-Congressman.

I don’t think it’s just about turnout, though. Democrats are caught in an argument about how to rebuild their coalition. Do they attempt to win back “white working class” voters in rural areas? Or do they look to growing their already large margins about racial minorities and younger voters?

For yours truly, neither is as important as winning over center-right independents and moderate Republicans who stuck to Trump in the hope of getting a standard Republican administration and are struck with horror at the rampant trade warrior instead. Those voters are far less likely to cross over to a Democratic Party trying to outdo Trump on protectionism or isolationism – the kinds of things that obsess Democrats worried about “white working class” voters.

It might just be that African-American, Hispanic, or other non-white Democrats – who are spared the advice about “white working class” voters because (1) too many people shallowly assume they can’t win those voters over or (2) many assume that said voters also have serious racial animus behind their support for Trump – can spend more time appealing to supporters for freer trade and genuine internationalism. Whether those candidates themselves appreciate that in 2020, of course, remains to be seen.

In short, Republicans have reasons to be happy and worried, while Democrats have reasons to be frustrated just hopeful, about the elections to come over the next two years.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Behind the More Perfect Union Scenes

Regular podcast listeners are probably aware that Kevin, D.J., Greg and I are all pretty good friends. We have an ongoing FB message group where we talk about everything from the logistics of setting up recording session to headlines to our ongoing arguments about which Harry Potter book is the best (::cough::Half-Blood Prince ::cough::). Today, we’ve been in near-constant contact, thanks to the combined forces of Kevin holding a grudge and the entire Trump team lying to Congress.

What follows is actual screen shots of a conversation between me and Kevin (I’m in blue, Kevin is gray). He was researching the limitations of Fifth Amendment protections during actual testimony to refute an argument I had made previously, suggesting that you can invoke the Fifth at any time. I was wrong, Kevin was right. Then we segued into Ivanka’s potential jeopardy in the Trump Tower Moscow.  Then…well, see for yourself.

 

There you have it, friends. The intellectual lives of the More Perfect Union cast. Politics, legal analysis, and reality television. We are truly unique in the world of podcasting.

Pop Goes The Political Culture, November 24, 2018

Actual photo of Rebekah and Greg discussing everything Harry Potter.

Greetings, MPU-inverse! It’s been a delightful week of feasting and giving thanks and shopping at small businesses over here. I was hoping that by shopping at Amazon, I would be supporting a future local business but no. No, Amazon decided northern Virginia, just a few miles from where I live was a better locale for a portion of their HQ2. Governor Hogan, Republican and commercial real estate expert couldn’t seal the deal on that big boost to economic growth, whereas Democrat Ralph Northam had no problem. GREAT JOB LARRY! Way to make sure Maryland continues to lag the region in jobs growth!

Grrrr.

The gang and I will be talking a lot about state politics in the next episode so you’ll get to hear more about why I’m really annoyed that Larry “I can’t make economic growth happen” Hogan was re-elected. Until then, here’s all the news that’s not fit to ‘cast!

We Said “Stay Out!”: Many of you have probably read the story of the American who was killed by residents of Sentinel Island off the coast of India this week. The 26 year old called himself an explorer and adventurer and engaged in missionary work as well. But not the good kind of missionary work where he built shelters and dug wells or something useful. The kind where he showed up in a region where he was prohibited from visiting and tried to convert a group of uncontacted peoples with a history of killing intruders.

Christocentric patriarchal colonialism is a helluva a drug.

Opinion on what the guy was doing are mixed but I think we can all agree that the history of Sentinel Island is fascinating. Basically, it’s a small land mass where people live in neolithic conditions. It’s been overseen by various authorities over the centuries. Barring a period where a particularly foul British general was treating the residents as oddities that he could manipulate and “study” at his own whim, the island’s population have kept themselves apart from the rest of the world. They are, in fact, actively hostile to anyone wandering into their territory and they repsond by shooting arrows at them. They even shot arrows at aid helicopters airlifting supplies to them after a tsunami. They don’t like outsides at all.

I read a fascinating twitter thread on them here. They really have no good reason to trust outsiders and and they protect themselves accordingly.

I hope future busybodies like the missionary who died there take note that these people do not want to buy what they’re selling.

Every Pregnancy A Wanted Pregnancy: When the CDC isn’t doing the incredibly important work of making sure we don’t eat tainted romaine lettuce, they also track other significant health data. Last week, they released a report showing that the abortion rate had dropped to the lowest point in a decade. Before everyone starts crediting Trump policies for this situation, take note that the year for which the CDC was analyzing data was 2015. So, thanks Obama!

The CDC just presented data, not any explanation for why the abortion rate was lower in 2015. Much of the report is mind-bogglingly specific statistics and descriptions of methodology but this one phrase really stood out to me:

However, despite the multiple influences on abortion, because unintended pregnancy precedes nearly all cases of abortions,§§§§§§ efforts to help women avoid pregnancies that they do not desire might reduce the number of abortions (83–85).

Recent data indicate that the proportion of pregnancies in the United States that were unintended decreased from 51% in 2008 to 45% during 2011–2013, after a slight increase from 2001 to 2008 (52).

Seems pretty clear cut to me. When pregnancies are wanted or welcomed, they are completed. Create an environment in which more pregnancies are welcomed and fewer people will terminate them. That means better access to contraception for those who don’t want to be pregnant and better quality of life – including higher wages and lower housing, health care and childcare costs – for those who would raise children if the opportunities presented itself.

Those are the answers folks. Birth control or a pay raise. Either one of those things can stop an abortion. We just need the social will to provide them

Harry Potter and The More Perfect Union: Last week on the podcast Greg sullied my good name by saying my taste in Harry Potter books is faulty. He believes that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is superior to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I beg to differ. I also think JK Rowling is on my side on this matter. While she does not name a favorite book, she does admit that her favorite character is Dumbledore. Since Half-Blood Prince is basically ALL ABOUT DUMBLEDORE, we can infer that she also loves that book very, very much. There is hardly any Dumbledore in Goblet of Fire.

Take that, Greg.

The Once and Future Speaker: The Washington Post published a very good profile of Pelosi and her method of securing support in her run for Speaker in the 116th Congress. In her typical fashion, she is addressing each Member of her caucus and finding out what they need to get to yes, then giving it to them. This isn’t the first time she’s done this and it won’t be the last. This whole discussion reminded me of the last internal battle to pass the ACA. I talked about it in a series of tweets this week.

Nancy Pelosi is the most underrated politician and broker of power in Washington today. We have elevated Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton to mythic status in the discussions of progressive women’s rise but Pelosi is sometimes overlooked.

This race for Speaker should show everyone that you underestimate her at your own peril.

Tune in for the podcast when it drops so you can hear us discuss all the important political news and for Greg’s rebuttal to my (excellent and undeniable) point about JK Rowling and Dumbledore.

So How Are Things for the Democrats These Days?

by D.J. McGuire

The election results for the Democrats were good enough to flip the House on Election Night (and the Virginia delegation with it). The post-Election Night results were, if anything, even better. So as Republicans wallow in their defeats, my party should be riding high, yes?

No.

Don’t get me wrong; the fact that there will, at long last, be someoneready and willing to hold the president to account for his behaviors, actions, and policies are a boon not just to the Democratic Party but to the nation as a whole. While my position on the right side of the Democrats – I have referred to myself often as “the conservative feather of the Democratic Party” – leads me to usually recommend caution to the party, I have made no such recommendation regarding Congressional oversight and investigations. This Administration redefines “a surplus of targets” in that category.

That said, the election results have added evidence (and evidence-free yapping) to the arguments within the party about its direction – arguments that usually converge on two options: go left or go center.

I would submit the election evidence clearly points in the direction of the latter. The Democrats in House races that flipped the suburbs blue across the country were overwhelmingly moderate candidates. Likewise, the realignment of the Southwest – halting and painfully short in 2016 – came to fruition in 2018 with moderate candidates ready to take advantage of it (such as Senators-Elect Sinema and Rosen).

Meanwhile, the left’s favorites – Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, and Beto O’Rourke – all lost, although Abrams was at least able to keep the state’s Chamber of Commerce neutral in the race, a sign she may be more practical than some of her most ardent supporters want her to be.

Still, the midterm results should make Democrats hopeful for 2020, yes?

No.

Over the last 60+ years, four first-term presidents saw one (or both) houses of Congress slip from their parties’ hands in midterm elections: Ike in 1954, Clinton in 1994, Obama in 2010, and now Trump in 2018. The first two increased their electoral vote totals in winning re-election (Obama dropped North Carolina and Indiana in 2012, but still won re-election).

In other words, Trump’s defeat in 2020 is far from guaranteed. The House Committees will likely uncover embarrassing and unethical activities – and just because I didn’t include the word “impeachable”  does not mean I’m ruling it out – but denying Trump re-election will rely on winning over once again those suburban swing voters who took the House majority away from his party.

Form my perspective, that means the Democrats have to recognize they need what I call “trade doves” (which just happens to include me) – supporters of freer trade and/or voters who don’t like trade wars. They were key in flipping Midwest agricultural districts (while industrial or ex-industrial ones stayed with the Trump-led, protectionist GOP).

My biggest fear is that, instead, the nominee in 2020 will try to out-protectionist Trump. That is impossible. As the Wall Street Journal noted today, protectionism is the one thing on which Trump has been consistent for over three decades. He really believes this stuff.

The problem for Trump is that millions of Americans are far smarter about this than he is. The problem for the Democrats is that those millions – while they now include a majority of Democratic voters– may not include a majority of Democratic elected officials.

Thus, we could have the nightmare of Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown trying to beat their own trade warrior drums over the fall of 2020, turning off centrist and center-right swing voters in droves in the process. Even Hillary Clinton refused to defend freer trade and trade agreements against Trump’s rhetorical barrage in 2016 – and we know where that got her.

Democrats need to be smart about the next two years – and very careful with whom we nominate. The Republicans’ woes do not automatically translate to future wins for us.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Pop Goes The Political Culture, November 11

Mood board at MPU headquarters this week.

 

 

Welcome back MPU-inverse! I’m sure you all join me in offering thanks for the service of all of America’s veterans. We are grateful for you contributions to global peace and prosperity.

This was an incredible political week where Democrats surged to victory in the House, in multiple governor’s mansion, multiple state legislatures, and possibly in Jeff Flake’s Senate seat in Arizona. We don’t know yet; they’re still counting the votes. As of Thursday, my girl Kyrsten Sinema had edged ahead of Republican Martha McSally and her lead keeps increasing. If you are so inclined, you may feel free to join me in obsessively refreshing the vote totals page, located right here.

We’ll discuss all this plus the dramatic outser of Jeff Sessions on the podcast later today. For now, here’s all the news that’s not fit to ‘cast!

Art Imitates Life: The midterms saw a dramatic increase in women, people of color, LGBTQA folks,  and non-Christians running and eventually being elected to office. This is going to be the most diverse Congress ever seen in all of American history.

The New Yorker has given us a picture of the phenomenon that is worth far more than 1000 words. This week’s cover is a celebration of the new guard of elected representatives of the people of America. All the people. No matter who we are.

Welcome to Congress, friends. We’ve been waiting for you.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

An early look at next week’s cover, “Welcome to Congress,” by Barry Blitt. #TNYcovers

A post shared by The New Yorker (@newyorkermag) on

American Government For Dummies: The elections in Florida have crossed the threshold for automatic recounts, plus, as we know, the initial count is ongoing in Arizona. That means we have several race results still outstanding, while election workers do the foundational democratic task of counting all the votes and double checking them to make sure they were counted correctly.

You know and I know that this is not a scandal or a conspiracy or evidence of fraud. Donald Trump, Rick Scott and others within the Republican establishment do no seem to know this and they are getting very, very upset about it. Fortunately, we all have Dan Rather on the case to explain Election 101 to us all.

As you can see, this is an explainer so simple that anyone could understand it, even a President who can’t read anything longer that 280 character.s If one of you would be so kind as to tweet it to him, I would greatly appreciate it. I would do it myself but I’m still blocked.

WTF: Iconic design house Yves Saint Laurent has released a new line of jewelry right in time for the holidays. The gold toned ear-ring and pendant set fare priced at $345 for the earrings and $795 for the necklace. They feature…penises.

Like there aren’t enough dicks in all of our lives already.

The jewelry is anatomically correct, though the model may have been on the large side of the penis bell curve. Also, the penises appear to be circumsized, which will probably lead to the stupidest controversy ever when anti-circumcision activists get upset about over-priced fake penises not having foreskin.

Meanwhile, if you have always wanted to spend over a grand to pull off the world’s best Dick In A Box moment, here’s your chance.

That’s it for today, friends. Tune in when the new episode of the podcast drops tomorrow and Greg hands the Asshole Governor baton from John Kasich to Mike DeWine!

Hey Dems, Let’s Just Gerrymander States!

After some baffling election results 2016 and 2018 elections, I’d like to propose what should be the Democrats’ new version of gerrymandering: moving state borders to group like-minded, homogeneous groups of voters together.

I’d start by giving the annoying Florida Panhandle to Alabama and adding Atlanta to North Carolina, thereby fixing two problems once and for all. (See graphic.) It would make all four states more homogeneous and avoid the bifurcated cultures – and consistently infuriating election outcomes – that drive the citizens of those states (and the rest of the country) crazy.

I humbly call my plan “kevinmandering.” 

Please feel free to suggest your ideas for new, improved state borders and let’s make kevinmandering the next big political craze!

Kevin Kelton is a former Saturday Night Live writer and cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast.

Pop Goes The Political Culture, November 3

Election Day is November 6!

Hello, hello MPU-universe! We are officially in the last weekend before the election and if you’re like me, you’re busy doing some sort of Get Out The Vote action! Whether you are phonebanking, canvassing, texting, or planning to provide rides to the polls, you are AWESOME! Let’s make this election go down in history as having truly epic participation!

I’m also working with Greg, DJ, and Kevin on the rundown for the podcast which includes discussions about whether or not a president can alter the constitution via executive order (spoiler: no), what it means that the Pentagon is refusing the request to send troops to the border (spoiler: Mattis is better at his job than Trump is), and discussing if Trump has been secretly subpoenaed by Robert Mueller (spoiler: there have been no spoilers leaked).

For now, let’s dive into all the news that’s not fit to ‘cast!

HalloWTF: We just wrapped Halloween, and, as much as we could wish it were otherwise, that holiday cannot go by without an example of costumes of appallingly bad taste. This year is was a bunch of teachers (!?!!??!) who dressed as the border wall and the most racist depiction of Mexicans since Speedy Gonzalez.  Their district superintendent is now looking into the matter.

Costumes like that serve only to make other people feel bad or afraid. If I were Latino or Hispanic, I would feel distinctly unsafe sending my kids school with teachers who did that. It’s not just insensitive, it’s outright hostile.

For anyone saying “What? It’s a joke.” Yeah. It was a bad. mean joke. I’m not saying Halloween has to be serious and overly PC. I’m just saying Halloween shouldn’t be about being an asshole.

It is actually very easy to dress up for Halloween and NOT being wildly inappropriate. You just need to follow these simple rules:

  1. You may dress as a fictional character.
  2. You may dress as an animal or plant.
  3. You may only alter the color of your skin if you are altering it to a color that does not occur in humans (i.e. You may paint yourself green to look like Gamora in Infinity War. You may NOT paint yourself brown to look like T’Challa in Infinity War).
  4. Vintage Nixon masks are always funny.

If you follow those rules, you too can have all the fun on Halloween without making anyone else feel bad.

Deterrent Fail: Remember when some Republican flack was on tv in 2016 and said if we let immigration from South and Central America increase we’d have taco trucks on every corner? And all of Liberal Twitter was like “Taco truck? Tell me more.”

Well, former FoxNews personality and current Don Jr gal-pal Kimberly Guilfoyle has the latest not very threatening threat:

I can’t say the Star Wars cantina is my favorite sci-fi/fantasy hangout option – I’m more of a Leaky Caldron kind of girl – but it’s by no means a place I would shun. It definitely seems better than the cafe in Berlin where the young Nazi started belting out “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” in Cabaret, which seems to be what far-right America is after.

Countdown: As of this writing, there are only 13 days until the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. That is not political or even controversial. I’m just really excited to see this movie.

By the time I sit down to write next week’s column the election will be over and most of the results will be certified. Remember to vote.  And please vote for candidates who stand against racism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. Thank you.

Motivating Millennials

By Kevin Kelton

This Tuesday, Democrats need young voters to turn out in record midterm numbers. Yet news report after news report still tells us millennials just aren’t motivated enough to vote. “I’m too busy” or “Voting won’t make a difference” are among the array of excuses young people give when asked why they don’t plan to cast a ballot.

So let’s try a new tack. Instead of asking them to vote for their own self-interest, let’s appeal to their sense of friendship. The young people I know are incredibly loyal and compassionate to their friends and peers. They care deeply about gender rights, civil rights, fairness, and justice. Maybe appealing to the better angels of their nature can cajole a few to the polls.

Toward that end, I suggest you ask your voting-reticent kids and acquaintances to consider these people on Tuesday morning:

  • Think about your friends who are gay, trans or still finding their gender identity. Do you think it makes a difference to them which party controls congress for the next two years? Will it make a difference to them if there is no check on Trump stopping transgenders from serving in the military? Or from even being considered a real gender? Will it matter to your gay friends if they can be fired or legally discriminated against for the mere act of coming out? Does it make a difference to them if the can continue to get married, or if their current marriage is someday annulled by an act of congress abetted by an increasingly right wing judiciary?
  • Think about your black classmates. Will it make a difference to them if civil rights, voting rights and affirmative action laws are rolled back to the point of being meaningless? You don’t want to vote, but if you don’t vote, they may never get the chance. Republican state legislatures – again, abetted by conservative courts – are increasingly finding creative ways to stop blacks and Latinos from voting. The chance to vote may not mean all that much to you, and we understand. But will they understand if your lack of civic duty robs them of the chance to make their voices heard?
  • Think about your female friends. Will the #MeToo movement be stronger or weaker with a Republican congress? You may be right that both parties are tainted by corruption. But only one party painted Professor Christine Blasey Ford as a hysterical, opportunistic liar. Only one party wants to take away a woman’s right to choose. Only one party continues to fight against paid family leave, increasing the minimum wage (which is particularly helpful to young women and single mothers), and only one party continues to push abstinence as the only acceptable form of birth control. If you don’t want to stand in line for an hour to vote for your own rights, would you stand in line to protect your sister’s rights, or your mom’s, or your best friend’s?
  • Think about the kind man who cuts your parents’ grass or the kind woman who helped raise you and your siblings. It was always amusing that they could barely speak English, and you and your family had to communicate with them with your limited Spanish. Maybe he came here as a young boy; maybe she is a citizen because her parents immigrated here a few years before she was born. But they are good people who became your extended family and you could count on. What will it mean to them to live in an America where their citizenship can be taken away, or their parents or kids can be deported in an instance, suddenly disappearing with no trace? Would you stand in line to vote to help protect their children from suddenly being orphaned by an ICE raid? Is their entire future worth a half-hour of your time?
  • Think about your friends in college (or applying now) who will increasingly be saddled with crushing student debt. Would you take a half hour out of your Tuesday to vote for the party that stands for lower student loan rates, finite payback periods, and a return to the days of low-cost or even free public colleges? Is 30 minutes of your time worth tens of thousands of dollars to your younger brother or sister? Because in many ways that’s on the ballot, too.
  • Finally, think about another friend of yours: the future you. Think about the world you’ll be living in in 20 or 30 years. I know it’s crazy to think about far off things like Social Security and Medicare and pension plans. But do you want to spend your thirties and forties wearing surgical masks out in public, like they do in Beijing? Hooking up is hard enough. Imagine trying it with one of those on. Will you consider voting to protect your lungs and your future sex life? (Or the planet you plan to live on for the rest of your life?)

If you think it’s a waste of your time to go vote, next Tuesday, okay – maybe it is. But is it something you can do for someone else? You’d do almost anything for your best friend, your little brother, your big sister, your LGBT friends, and your minority classmates and work pals. If you’d do anything for them, can you do this?

Because, yeah, maybe it won’t make a difference. But, if enough young people like you think about their friends this Tuesday, maybe it will.

The outcome of the midterms may not mean anything to you, but it means everything to them. It’s 30 minutes, about the time it takes to get your car washed or wait for a pizza to arrive. Give that 30 minutes as a gift to your friends this Tuesday.

Do someone you love a small favor. Vote.

 

Kevin Kelton is the founder of Open Fire Politics and cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast.

 

Pop Goes The Political Culture, October 28, 2018

“Every now and then a madman’s bound to come along.

Doesn’t stop the story. Story’s pretty strong. Doesn’t change the song.”

– Stephen Sondheim, Assassins

It is Sunday in America and we are grieving for 11 souls lost to a mad gunman at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. At the same time we are relieved and grateful that a would-be mass bomber was arrested in Florida on Friday, before he could inflict physical harm on others.

On Facebook yesterday, DJ posted this tweet:

This was my reply to the question:

In the case of a person so unbalanced that the idea of sending bombs via parcel post seems reasonable, no. A mind that damaged could twist any outside force into justification for enacting violent ideation. Remember Mark David Chapman was inspired to shoot John Lennon by The Catcher in the Rye.

But – BUT – the Trump style of hyperbolic and negative speech is what is driving more sane people to be awful in uncountable, tiny ways. He has given permission for regular folks to be their worst selves. They may never commit acts of physical violence but they are using words and small actions to hurt the people around them. His supporters’ everyday acts of hatred are a million paper cuts of harm to society.

For many years, I have been active in gun violence prevention advocacy. What I have learned from that work is that the mass shooter is not the real gun problem. The random act of extreme violence perpetrated by the profoundly damaged human being is not the problem we should focus on solving. Because that is not a systemic problem addressable by policy changes. The mass shooter, the bomber, that person is working at the behest of an internal force that would compel him or her to be violent regardless of outside stimuli. The problem of the deranged killer is the derangement, which is a condition that will demand manifestation and will settle on any excuse.

As I quoted above, “Every now and then a madman’s bound to come along.”

In gun violence prevention, the real problems are much simpler. Keeping guns locked away from children. Keeping guns away from domestic abusers. Keeping guns away from people with ideations of self-harm. The smaller, more everyday problems are less visible, but more solvable.

Similarly, in Trump’s America, the real problem – one that is foundational to our society, and probably most societies –  is not the crazed zealot determined to cause mayhem. It’s everyday community on community bigotry. It’s the sign in the window reading “No Irish Need Apply”. It’s the housing development with bylaws that exclude certain types of people from purchasing homes. It’s the separate drinking fountains and segregated schools. It’s the country club that won’t accept Jewish members. It’s the indigenous nations pressed into unwanted corners of the country by laws they had no voice in creating. It’s the baker who refuses orders from same-sex couples. It’s the school that denies the self-affirmed gender identity of trans students.

It is the us seeking to exclude a them.

We have all experienced the personal struggle to overcome us-versus-them thinking and accept new people into our personal circles. We have all overcome the fear of the unknown to reach out a hand to the stranger who looks truly strange to us. And we all understand that it bring us closer to being the kind of people we truly want to be.

We also know that it is hard work and it is probably against our evolutionary wiring. We wouldn’t be so quick to exclude if exclusion hadn’t been crucial to survival at some point in our ancient past. Being the better person isn’t easy and it is often a fight against our intrinsic natures.

What Trumpism has done is given people permission to stop having that fight and let their intrinsic natures win. He allows us to be our worst selves. He gathers his “us” close to him and tells the madding crowds that yes. Yes, they may openly disdain “them”.

Most of the people who have gratefully accepted his new rules for social commerce would never shoot up a synagogue. That’s not what we need to fear from them.

Instead, they would be the person huffing and griping in line at a grocery store because the person ahead of them is paying with an EBT card. They would be the one who yells at restaurant server with an accent to “Just learn English!”. They would change seats on public transit if a person of color sat beside them. And they would teach their children to do the same.

The top elected official in our country is a boorish, vulgar man. He is unkind and insensitive. He is a walking manifestation of our worst, most trollish impulses. For the people who share his prejudices, the opportunity emulate him and to stop trying to suppress those feelings is clearly seductive. They are happy to mirror the boorishness, the vulgarity, the unkindness, the insensitivity. They feel free to be their worst selves.

The greatest violence Trump has done is to the social compact we once had where we agreed to do unto others as we would have them do until us. The loss of that contract has made us a restive, anxious, and angry society for the moment. We are all bitter and sharp with one another. We are all struggling and no one is happy because, ultimately, acts of unkindness are unsatisfying and leave no joy in their wake.

We feel helpless in the face of the armed madman because he is unpredictable and his periodic emergence is probably inevitable. But we should not feel helpless in the face of small acts of cruelty because we have power over them. We can weigh our own words before we speak. We can stand at the side of the person receiving the cruelty and show ourselves as allies. We can confront others for their cruelty and ask that they stop. We can do that and we should do that. That is what the ideal of a peaceful society demands of us.

I have faith that we all still have access to our better selves and we can walk back from this shadow of cruelty that Trump has cast over us. All we have to do is remember who we wanted to be before a madman came along into the White House.