I Support Bernie Sanders Because I’m A Leftist, Not A Greendividualist

I’m a leftist in the United States, where parties can’t build national power by getting five percent or so of the vote. Under parliamentary systems, that works. It worked for the Greens in West Germany. It works all over Europe. It doesn’t work here.

In the United States, two parties contend in the general election. If you can’t influence a party’s policies before an election, you are shit out of luck and have constrained choices. Being an individualist that can’t work within an organization means you aren’t really a leftist.

Bernie Sanders gets that. He caucuses with the Democrats and helps them build the party organizationally. He runs independent but functions as a Democrat, having learned early on that even local third party scenarios don’t play out well for his policies.

The Greens have had over thirty years to build power. They haven’t because they can’t. They fail to build local power, even in favorable circumstances. Look at Arkansas history, especially in very progressive Fayetteville and Eureka Springs. I was there for those failures. I failed along with them. It don’t work.

Green Individualism is the opposite of leftism. It’s Greendividualism and I say the hell with it.

Wishing away structural barriers that keep leftists out of power is pissing into the wind. It sucks worse for those who stand around you than it does for you. Bernie Sanders is smart. He’s building power outside the party and inside. You don’t need a raincoat to stand with him.

That said, the “Lefties for Trump” slur is also bullshit. It smacks of the Old Left style of analysis: “You are objectively racist in your anti-racist activities.” That’s useless overstatement performed to make the person who says it feel superior. It usually, though not always, comes out of the mouth of someone with class privilege.

People make their choices on both pragmatic and principled grounds. Telling people “you’re really for Trump if you vote Green/Libertarian/independent/not at all” is just mind reading. People hear it, know subjectively it’s false, and correctly reject it.

If you want to influence people away from counterproductive forms of leftism, don’t tell them false things about their state of mind. Say true things about the effects their actions have. Don’t tell people to your left they are really on your right. It’s not true and we all know it.

Sermon or Song? Kesha’s “Here Comes The Change”

In a sexist world, a woman who attempts an equal partnership with a man is likely to be shortchanged. Even a strong woman. Even a feminist woman. It can be done, but the odds are against her.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, like Nancy Pelosi, like Liz Warren, chose to partner with good men who put her career first. They were lucky to make a good choice young.

Kesha, like Tammy Wynette, like Tina Turner, chained young to shitty men who put her career last, chose to break those chains at great personal and artistic cost, for greater personal and artistic freedom.

So ends the lesson of today’s Sermon or Song?

Donald Trump Understands The Constitution. The 9/11 Killers Understood Airport Security.

It’s really this simple:

Building on fire

If you have a can of gasoline, you understand architecture just fine.

If you have an atomic bomb and the plane to carry it in, you understand Hiroshima well enough.

If you can aim a gun, you understand human anatomy splendidly. And if you aren’t any good with a pistol, there’s always a shotgun.

Complaining about Donald Trump being stupid and ignorant while he’s kicking your ass shows he understands playground rules better than you do. Who do you think is going to save you from the bully if there is no teacher on the scene?

I don’t care for horror movies. I don’t watch them. But I read about everything, and I know they teach this lesson:

When the call is coming from inside the house, no one can save you but yourself.

Don’t take that too literally. Horror movies set it up so that the heroine–that’s you, in the current horror show–are stripped of your friends, your family, all the cloud of support around you. That’s how moral fiction works, stripped to the essentials to teach a lesson.

In This Real Life? You have friends. You have family. You have the kindness of strangers. You have human solidarity, one of the three foundations of my own spirituality.  Thanks to all that, you have agency and power. You’d best use them.

Or lose them. It’s up to you. It’s always been you, my love.

Keep On Moving Forward

There are two separate steps in what we call “impeachment”.

The first is impeachment. It’s carried out by the House. That’s the investigation, the preparation of a case. It’s like a grand jury, where evidence is presented and an indictment can be issued. It doesn’t have to rise to the standards of a criminal trial. Since the last House abandoned its oversight duties, the onslaught of oversight requests are the beginnings of that process. Whether there’s a formal impeachment at the end of it, we’re having that now.

Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and Andrew Johnson were all impeached, and rightfully so. Nixon committed actual crimes; Clinton creepily perjured himself; Johnson helped the South regain what it had rightfully lost. All of them committed grave irresponsibilities while in office. There’s no doubt in my mind Donald Trump’s misdeeds rise to that standard. His venality combines the criminality of Nixon, the faithlessness of Clinton, and the disloyalty of of Johnson.

I expect Trump will be impeached, just as those three were.

The impeachment itself is a significant punishment. It has stained all three men’s reputations, not from the vote to impeach, but from the public exposure of their unfitness to hold office. It ended Nixon’s political career. It should have ended Clinton’s–the party should have demanded his resignation once the process was over, so Al Gore could have run as an incumbent, unchained from a shitty man–and it did damage him. Johnson was already weakened.

The second step is trial. It’s carried out by the Senate. No president has ever been convicted by the Senate. Neither will Trump be, barring some smoking gun we don’t know about. He’s obscured the record by obstructing justice.

Nixon deserved conviction. He only avoided it by resignation. Clinton didn’t. His shittiness was revealed to be ugly but truly small, like him. Johnson…I have no strong opinion about what fate he deserved. His misdeeds were purely political.

But that process of trial in the Senate, that is important, not least because it focuses national attention on a process more easily understood than investigation. It allows the facts to be laid out, much like a trial, for judgement.

I’ll follow Pelosi’s lead on whether to impeach. She’s a fighter who’s been Trump’s most effective political opponent.

Till then, keep on moving forward. Forward with investigation. Forward with the next election. Forward with building a fighting Party that doesn’t roll over and pee itself when threatened. Forward with popular mobilization to ensure that.

Keep on moving forward.

A Meditation On A Ritual: Concert Wristbands

I got asked a question today in the form of a statement: “Tell me about a favourite ritual”. I was just going to write a sentence, but I kept adding comments. Here’s what I finally said:

After a great rock show or other event, I keep the wristbands on till they fall off.

We have Drive-By Truckers Homecoming at the 40 Watt, where the coat checkers write the number of your item on your wristband with a Sharpie. I play with the numbers, whether they’re in order, whether the order is rising or falling, how they factor, what they might signify. This year, I got:

  • 168–the hours in a week
  • 93–the passengers who fought back
  • 111–a sixth of the way there

It also lets me have some idea where I was in line each time. 😉

In the days after that in particular, I play with the wristbands, stacking them on my wrist, in date order sometimes, but really in whatever order they fit my arm best, the largest furthest up, each other slid under the next largest, a little showing of each.

They’d last longer if I didn’t, but then, so would I.

From a Detail in “Warrior”, by Gordon R. Dickson

That man sounds like some cheap gangster

Faking up the public anger

Necessary when a coward

Has a killing to move forward

But can’t find the guts within him

In cold blood to kill his victim

So his fear of looking foolish

After threats both wild and stupid

Gives the shove he needs to do what

Worse men do more easily.

So there’s that

For consolation, once destruction

Runs its course:

It could have been worse.

Why Bernie Sanders Has To Run Even If He Can’t Win

"Bernie

So I’m to the left of most of the folks here, which gives me a different point of view on a lot of things. Today I read a story in Slate (which is liberalish but more contrarian than any other one thing) which triggered my memory of a piece from The Jacobin (which is honest-to-god leftist). I read them in the opposite order than I’m going to put them in for you.

From Slate: America’s Brush With Fascism: The second KKK shared a disquieting kinship with European fascist movements. Why did it fail to take over American politics?

From The Jacobin: Bernie Sanders Wants You to Fight: When Bernie Sanders says “It’s not about me, it’s about us,” he’s not just pandering. He’s trying to create a mass movement — because he knows that without one, his agenda doesn’t stand a chance.

The first piece is long, the second is short. If you want the tl;dr of it, here is the end of the first followed by another bit from the second. I’ll put a bit of my own analysis after them:

Continue reading Why Bernie Sanders Has To Run Even If He Can’t Win

The Hermit of Walden Pond Meets the Sage of Tuscumbia, Alabama

This morning in church, the responsive reading from Singing the Living Tradition was #660–just six short!–“Why should we live in such a hurry and waste of life?” from Henry David Thoreau. I do and did respond.

The call: “I do not wish to live what is not life, living is so dear,”

The response: “Nor do I wish to practice resignation, unless it is quite necessary.”