Category Archives: Politics Schmolitics

They Fought the Math, and the Math Won

I wrote this about Nate Silver four years ago, shortly after Barack Obama was elected president for the first time. Four years have dimmed a lot of the optimism and starry-eyed hope on display within it, as I think it has for many people. Still, I stand by every word of that post, especially where it pertains to Silver.

Looking back on it, what I find most amazing is how you could apply nearly everything I said about him in 2008 to this year’s election. Four years ago, Silver made electoral predictions that were mocked and downplayed by professional pundits who didn’t like the outcome they pointed to. This year, with Silver’s profile much higher, the attacks were more pronounced, but the results were the same: When you fight math, you lose.

I supported Obama with reservations. I wish he’d close Gitmo, like he promised. I wish he’d stop sending drones out to kill people–both for basic human reasons and because it creates more terrorists than it eliminates. I wish he’d do more to end our reliance on fossil fuels, and to stop a pointless and destructive “war against drugs.”

However, none of these issues would have been improved by Obama’s only viable alternative. If anything, they would have worsened, and nearly all of the tangible good Obama has done (marriage rights, affordable health care) would have been reversed. For me, it came down to this: The party that opposed Obama spent much of the campaign season trying to rationalize rape, and their presidential candidate did absolutely nothing to distance himself from fellow Republicans who did so. As the father of a daughter, as a husband, and as a human being, I do not want that party making laws, let alone appointing Supreme Court justices.

Another reason why I couldn’t bear the thought of Mitt Romney becoming president was Nate Silver, the man who spelled out Mitt Romney’s demise months in advance. Or rather, how Silver was treated by people who perceived him as The Enemy.

Continue reading They Fought the Math, and the Math Won

Stamped

Of the remaining GOP presidential hopefuls, Newt Gingrich has the ugliest soul.

Rick Santorum possesses some vile views on gay rights and abortion (like thinking rape victims who get pregnant should just accept this “gift from god”), but he seems like such a brutally strange and damaged person that I’d pity him if he weren’t in such a position of power. Ron Paul seems sincere and I don’t disagree with his anti-war and anti-war-on-drugs stances, even if some his other positions bug me (not to mention his ugly newsletters, the racist content of which he’s never explained satisfatorily). Mitt Romney has the nonplussed cheesiness of a local news anchor.

All members of this trio possess varying degrees of harmlessness, as far as I’m concerned. So with Rick Perry out of the race, Gingrich stands above all of them as, hands down, the worst human being of the bunch.

Among them, Gingrich is the most eager practitioner of Bully Politics. This has been a feature of the Republican arsenal ever since Barry Goldwater and part of the general pushback against New Deal/Great Society ideals we’ve seen since those days. However, it’s never been practiced more brutally than now, and never more gleefully than by Newt. When he talks about making kids work as janitors, there is vengeance, and almost glee, in his voice. When he sneers at Juan Williams during a debate, he all but invites the riled-up audience to attack his outnumbered questioner and seems not too concerned about the consequences. He is never happier than when he attacks those can least defend themselves.

When Gingrich called Obama a “food stamp president,” it was an obvious dog-whistle statement. (Subtext: “Remember, guys, he’s BLACK. And he’s gonna give YOUR money to OTHER BLACK PEOPLE.”) But apart from the badly disguised racism, it was also part and parcel with the delight he takes from attacking the least of us, joyfully positing that the poorest among us are the most deserving of our scorn and ridicule.

Hearing this, I had an immediate, visceral, infuriated reaction, for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate at first. Yes, it was a reprehensible attitude, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly it bothered me so much. And then it all flooded back to me, a memory I’d done my best to bury: My family was once on food stamps.

Continue reading Stamped

Kids Witness The Darnedest Political Actions

On Saturday, The Wife took The Kid into The City out for a good chunk of the day, which enabled me to get an enormous amount of work done on my various quixotic projects. I was very grateful for the chance to write uninterrupted, and I hope I can get these things that I’m working on into people’s hands before long. (/tease)

When they returned in the evening, The Kid wanted to tell me all about her adventures that day. First I was told that she had ridden on “seven boats!” over the course of her afternoon. In truth, it was the ferry to Governor’s Island and back. When it comes to a kid’s eyewitness account of something, you usually have to take whatever they say they saw and divide the stated quantity in half.

Then she told me she a “big parade for a contest!” What kind of contest? “I don’t know, but everybody was yelling and singing and waving signs and puppets!” Oh, that sounds like fun. “They were singing, ‘This is denockasee looks like!'”

I asked her to repeat this last part, and she did, but it was no clearer than the first time. She was repeating what she thought she heard–This is denockasee looks like–even if she didn’t understand it.

And then it hit me: She must have seen one of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, since the Governor’s Island ferry terminal isn’t too far from the center of the whole thing. I assume The Wife told her it was a protest, but since she had no idea what a protest is, her brain interpreted the word as contest. And what she heard people “singing” was the old standby chant This is what democracy looks like.

Sometimes I correct The Kid when she mispronounces words because I want her to the right way of doing things, and sometimes I don’t because her misinterpretation is so adorable and she’ll only be this little for so long. This clearly should have been one of the latter instances, and yet I corrected her anyway. That led to her asking me, “What’s democracy?”, a moment that would have been too precious and on the nose for a Family Circus cartoon. All I needed was little squiggles charting her course back from Manhattan with a ghost-grampa watching on.

Democracy, I said, was the kind of government we have, where we elect people to represent us, like senators, or the president.

If this were a TV show or a movie, she would have had some follow-up question that would expose the hypocrisy and helplessness that all of us feel when we resign ourselves to the harsh realities of adult life. Instead, she said, “Oh,” and asked to watch a Harry Potter movie.

The President’s Orders

Hello, this is Capitol Hill Pizza Hut, home of the endless buffalo buffet. May I take your order?

I want to be clear about this. I want a two large pies, one Meat Lovers, one with peppers, mushrooms, and extra garlic. The American people deserve no less.

Okay, that’ll be $24.50.

The Meat Lovers pie is off the table. Never let it be said that this president can not compromise.

You don’t have to compromise. You’re the president; you can order whatever you want.

No, no, just the large pie with peppers, mushrooms, and extra garlic. In the spirit of compromise, however, I might be persuaded to ditch the extra garlic.

If you want extra garlic, you should get extra garlic.

Fine, no extra garlic. You drive a hard bargain, but I think bipartisanship at all costs in all of our best interests.

Okay, so one large pie with peppers and mushrooms.

Make it a medium. With just the mushrooms.

You sure about that? You seem less and less hungry each time…

I will order one breadstick, and that’s my final offer.

If that’s what you want. With one breadstick, your total is 89 cents.

This breadstick will ensure the prosperity of our great nation for years to come.

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, John Boehner

You want to know why I’m willing to risk sending America into the economic abyss? It’s because I made a promise to Grover Norquist I would never vote to raise taxes or the debt limit. I know I’ve done both those things before, like, a lot of times. Seriously, so many times, you would not believe. But I think I’ve matured since then, and I want to show Grover that I can change for him. Things are gonna be different from now on, baby!

But there’s another reason why I’m doing this. I’ve always been fascinated with Weimar Republic Germany. Oh, such decadence and scandal! Such artistic blossoming! Every since I was a young man, I’ve dreamed we could have such a time in our country. Now we have that chance! All we need to do is send the economy careening off into the horizon on a flaming Viking ship, and voila! Instant creative boom! People will be able to create freely once they’re not preoccupied with paying jobs.

What a time this will be! There will be scandalous burlesques and wild jazz music and riotous paintings and mad, passionate love-making in the streets! And also, you’ll need a wheelbarrow to bring all your money to the store to buy a loaf of bread, because inflation will make the dollar worth a quintillionth of what it’s worth now. But you can also spend that wheelbarrow of money at a wondrous cabaret where all your most debauched fantasies come true! Particularly if those fantasies include being beaten to death by roving murder-gangs who want your precious wheelbarrow.

I have plans drawn up for a fantastic nightclub I plan to open once our nation’s financial health flatlines. There will be beautiful girls in bowler hats and garters! Whiskey flowing freely! And I shall MC, prancing across the stage, grapevining with a cane under my arm, and making sardonic comments on how our lousy president got us into this mess! But unlike Joel Gray or Alan Cummings, I won’t put on any weird makeup. Can you imagine coloring your skin in such an unnatural way? Yuck, imagine that!

I shall attract artists, musicians, researchers from the Heritage Foundation…oh, it shall be a naughty good time! Until those jackbooted liberals shut us down AND THEY WILL, YOU MARK MY WORDS! Then I’ll write a novel on a train about how great it all is.

Then I’ll probably move to the Bahamas or something, ’cause this place is gonna be super-fucked. But if any of you guys wanna buy a wheelbarrow, I can give you a good price. Trust me, you’re gonna wish you had one in a month or so.