Mikels Skele on The Road Forward, If Any billie on The Road Forward, If Any Lola Straub on Where To Go? billie on Vote 2016 Mikels Skele on Vote 2016
Here’s my perspective:
Trump won the election. That’s not going to change. The Electoral College has enough Republicans that the victory will stand, even if a few don’t follow through. Republicans have shown a lack of will in standing up to Trump.
The election itself is now being shown to be totally illegitimate. It was manipulated by Russia, and the voting process itself was marred by voter suppression, voting machine irregularities, and (for the House races) gerrymandering (there was also Russian influence on the House races). However, there is no mechanism for dealing with the fact that it was an illegitimate election, so that has no effect on the outcome.
I’m not clear on whether Trump will govern as simply a member of the oligarchy, as half of his cabinet choices seem to indicate so far, or as a dictator, which his reliance upon former generals for other major offices, as well as his continued rallies, suggests. Time will tell. Either way, progress in the US on race relations and other civil rights issues will be set back by decades, not years, and any hope for dealing with climate change before it reaches a catastrophic point is gone. Most social safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing assistance, public transportation, etc., are in danger of being crippled or destroyed. His taxcut-and-spend policies will bring, just as they have every time before (Reagan, Bush) another recession, probably coupled with inflation this time. The Republican controlled House and Senate has shown a remarkable ability to kiss Trump’s ass after pretending vainly to separate themselves from his racist and sexist rhetoric (which was merely a more open version of their own strategies). Don’t look for them to reign Trump in. The Supreme Court will shortly become his rubber stamp, especially after he gets another pick. No hope there, either. It appears that he has a stranglehold on the FBI, as well.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for this situation, and no point at all at assigning it. The 27% of the electorate who voted for Trump have what they wanted; the 28% who voted for Clinton at least did what they could. The unknown percentage who were prevented from voting by Republican suppression efforts can’t be faulted, although there’s certainly room to complain about the other, also unknown, percentage, who didn’t bother to vote when faced with a clear turning point election. The question facing us is where to go from here. I see two possible answers – it used to be three, but one has evaporated.
The first is to form a third party, starting at the state and local level, that is prepared to do the hard work of getting on the ballot and getting people out to vote. The shape and philosophy of that party will have to be decided by consensus, and I’m not sure how that can be done, but do feel it to be necessary. I used to think that a quicker alternative was to take over the remnants of the Democratic party, but I see no hope there now. The blue dogs are still in all positions of power, and their leader, Barack Obama, is at least complicit in withholding information about the Russian influence on the election. These people are too weak to do anything except go back to their failed strategy of appearing conservative enough to retain some tenuous grasp on power. A new party is going to have to have the courage to transcend the whole conservative/liberal spectrum and focus on functionality.
The second is to go back to my roots in the Sixties: tune in, turn on, and drop out. Given the state of affairs in the country now, it may be the most practical, and satisfying, approach.
A day has gone by since I woke up to find that the US had elected its first potentially Fascist president. I took the time to reflect on whether or not to emigrate to Canada – which I actually have a clear path to do, fairly easily – or to remain in a country where half the voters are either racist and sexist and anti-LGBTQ, or perfectly comfortable having a president/vice president combo with these attitudes (which I feel is really no better).
First, let’s get all of the blaming out of the way. Whose fault is it that Trump got elected? Well, there’s the 26.8% (roughly) of the registered voters who voted for him. They bear most of the burden of this. Then there’s the people who voted for third parties, an insignificantly small group, but those who voted Libertarian are fairly likely to have voted for Trump, since his policies and attitudes are similar to theirs in many areas. Those who voted for Stein may not be guilty of the same attitudes, but they did place all the issues likely to impact minorities, women and gays for the next generation way below their desire to remain ideologically pure. Still, I understand their desire to vote for the candidate that most closely reflects what they believe. Finally, there’s the one group that no one seems to be talking much about. That’s the 40+% of registered voters who couldn’t be troubled to vote at all. I have to give some respect for those who voted even if they voted for a deplorable*, because at least they had the honestly to show their sharing or tolerance for such attitudes, and proved that their votes counted. I have no respect at all for those who can’t be bothered, every couple of years to take some time to check the issues and vote. I do hope, though, at some time in the future they can be persuaded to undertake this simple and undemanding task. How about the media? Nope, can’t blame the media. For all their faults, the information needed was out there. Clinton? Nope, she didn’t nominate herself. The DNC? Nope, they acted in the same way they have acted since 1968, working to put the mainstream, establishment candidate in place. I was astonished at the number of people who seemed to think this was some dark, secret cabal that sprang out of nowhere. Clinton was favored by the DNC because she has worked hard and effectively for and with them for decades. Big surprise. The surprise was that Sanders got as far as he did, which is a tribute to him and his supporters (if I do say it who shouldn’t).
Okay, blame is accomplished. Now get over it. It’s isn’t important; the election is over.
Where to go from here? First: make it known that you oppose all Deplorable* actions. Until proven otherwise – and I am willing to judge with an open mind – Deplorable #1 (Trump) must be assumed to believe everything he has said during the campaign. A lot of people who are on the receiving end of Deplorable bigotry and hostility feel very vulnerable and alone right now. Speak up and speak out, even when it makes you seem like some kind of a self-righteous jerk with no sense of humor. Those of you who can, be prepared to provide an actual physical barrier if the occasion arises. Which I hope it never does.
Then we need to organize an opposition. The Democratic party has shown that it doesn’t have what it takes any longer to provide that, which leaves two choices: take it over, as the Tea Party and their big-money backers did to the Republican party, or leave it behind. I’d have to say, difficult though it may be, starting a new party might be easier, although neither route is going to be a cakewalk. It’s not even clear to me that there is a left wing of any significant numbers left in the US. Add up the total votes for Sanders (in the primaries) and for Stein (in the general election). It’s not impressive, compared to the total number of registered voters. There’s always that shadowy, formless presence of 40+% registered non-voters. What would it take to get them out to vote? Not the Green party, or Sanders, so they’re not particularly progressive. Not the Libertarians, so they’re not unempathetic intellectuals with a passion for gold coins and a hatred of the Federal Reserve. Not the DOP (Deplorable Old Party), so they aren’t Deplorables except in the sense that they were too apathetic to spend an hour or so out of this election cycle to keep the Deplorables from winning. Maybe we should find out who they are.
I’m personally fighting the feeling that all of this may be too little, too late. I’m already starting to see people post pleas to try to work together, to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, and to remember that in four years we may be able to rid ourselves of him, so don’t worry, be happy, and won’t it be fun to mock his outrageous tomfoolery? You know what, fuck that. His first nominee to the Supreme Court tilts the balance back in favor of big money, the oligarchy, religious fanaticism and the Deplorable mindset. If he gets a second, we face a generation of a reversion back to the world of the 1950’s, only more intentional and worse. His basket of Deplorables includes the KKK, militia members and the Cliven Bundy group. People are going to get hurt. If you are planning to say, “c’est la vie” for the next four years, you’re starting to turn Deplorable.
Prove me wrong. Don’t make me have to move to Canada. I don’t want to have to relearn the pronunciation of “about”.
*Deplorable is the new shorthand for sexist, racist and anti-LGBTQ.
Early voting has started in many places. Although most will have made up their minds, I’m going to contribute one last essay to the subject of this election, which may well be the last election to have any significant meaning in my lifetime.
There are four candidates running. Three of them have clear positions on a number of issues, one of them has almost no position on most issues, and is quite possibly lying about those he has managed to articulate.
Two of the candidates match my take on issues – and their opponent’s – to within a couple of percentage points across the board. One is Jill Stein, one is Hillary Clinton. I disagree with Stein mostly on science-based issues, and with Clinton mostly on issues of military involvement with the world and the extent of corporate control by the government. Jill Stein has no chance of winning, polling both nationwide and in the state barely into the single digits, so I am voting for Clinton.
The other two candidates I disagree with on virtually every position they have taken; one of them is a typical, outwardly amiable Libertarian, with no thought for anything in particular except the Federal Reserve, Austrian economics and selfishness as a virtue. He also has no chance of winning, but he has a chance to affect the outcome in some states where the outcome is in doubt.
The final candidate is a proto-fascist dictator resembling Mussolini and Hitler more than any person in US history. He is the apotheosis of the entitled white male, unable to acknowledge the consequences or causes of his own words and actions, and caring for no one and nothing beyond himself. He’s the most dangerous demagogue in the US since George Wallace dealt with his first political loss by declaring that he would never be “out-niggered” again, turning from a mild discomfort with racism to being a full-throated racist with ease.
The choice is pretty stark. You can vote for Clinton, who is mildly corrupt in the way that all US politicians are corrupt (yes, including Stein and Johnson) and slightly more progressive than conservative (in the old sense of the word), who will appoint Supreme Court justices that are likely to continue a modest support for abortion rights and the rights of individuals versus corporations and the government, who will work somewhat to reign in the police from their current murderous rampage, and who will be hesitant to start any additional wars and maybe concentrate on concluding some of our current ones. Or you can vote for someone who will turn his disgruntled followers into an army of brownshirts, attacking anyone who tries to stand in the way of his purge of the non-white, non-“Christian”, non-blindly patriotic among us, including, most likely, a large percentage of those who bother to read this. Who’s going to stand against them? Paul Ryan? Mitch McConnell? Mike Pence? They’ve already sold their souls to Trump.
Trump is not an option. I can see a protest vote in a state where your vote isn’t going to count anyway, but where is such a state? Indiana? Clinton is with a few percentage points of taking the state. I don’t say a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump, but it is a wasted opportunity to prevent Trump from getting electoral votes. And if you’re a progressive thinking of voting for Johnson, even if he had a chance of winning, he’s just a kinder, gentler Trump. The Libertarian party, formerly the lifetime cash cow for Ron Paul, is built on a base of a few ideological true-believers and a large mass of racist, sexist, homophobic “sovereign citizens”. It’s Trump light with an anarchist bent rather than a fascist one. Any progressive that votes for Johnson is unworthy of the label. Any progressive who votes for Trump – or refuses to vote at all – in hopes that things will become so oppressive that the people will revolt and bring on the socialist revolution is delusional. The counter-revolution has beaten them to the punch.
Keep what I have said in mind as you go to vote in this 2016 election. A Trump win sets race relations, the status of women, the status of gays in our country back 100 years or more. A Clinton win at least holds the line, and probably advances on some issues. The choice is pretty clear. For those who really believe in Johnson or Stein, go ahead and vote that way if you must, but don’t expect any applause; you’re placing yourself over consideration for the rest of the country and for all those you claim to stand in solidarity with. For those who vote for Trump, whether you agree with his racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic, fascist program, or because you think all of that is okay to “shake up the system”, nothing I can say will change your mind, but I really can’t respect your vote, sorry.
My first job, at about ages 10-12, was caddying for my father when he played golf, usually at the Elks Country Club outside of West Lafayette, still in existence but renamed and under new ownership. The eighteenth green is still right where it always was.
My first official job, though, was at the old Elston Lanes bowling alley, tending the pin machines. I cleared pin jams, maintained the alleys and the pin machines. My right hand got caught in the mechanism once, leaving a difference than can still be just barely seen now, in a slight difference between the knuckles on the right and left hands. I was 14. The lanes are no longer there, the building is gone, and I’m not even sure this is a picture of the right corner.
This job lasted about a year, and then I took a summer job with Food Services at the Purdue Memorial Union at age 15. All I can remember is washing lots of forks and then feeding baskets of them through the dishwasher. I think I sometimes helped set tables in the ballrooms too, though. 3 years later, I was part of the group that took over the Union in a protest against the Vietnam War (and some other issues).
At 16, I started working evenings as a surgery orderly at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Lafayette. Surgery was then on the fourth floor. Part of my job was prepping people (males only) for surgery. I shaved a lot of scrotums, as well as every other part of the male body where hair grows. I also cleaned rooms after surgery, held people who were getting spinal injections with the huge needles they used then (maybe still do), worked with the surgical teams fetching and carrying, and at least once became a part of the surgical equipment when I had to sit under the drapes and hold steady the stump of a leg that couldn’t be held by the orthopedic table while they operated on the hip. Strangely, while I became pretty blasé to the sight of blood and horrible wounds, needles fill me with fear and it is difficult for me to have blood drawn without passing out (I mostly have it done while lying down, nowadays). The morgue was in the basement at St. E’s, and I was once sitting on the gurney with the corpse I was taking down in the elevator when the bereaved family started to get on at a lower floor. They got off again. I also remember jauntily carrying a dismembered leg over my shoulder down that route.
One other thing I remember from my time at St. E’s (or times – I worked there two different times) was the number of D&C’s performed. It was (and still is) a Catholic Hospital, and of course didn’t perform abortions – except that many of the “D&C’s” (dilation and curettage) were in fact abortions, and all of the doctors and nurses (and surgery orderlies) knew it. How times have changed.
I worked at St. E’s for about two years, although there was a time somewhere in 68-69 where I left and then came back later. I can’t remember the exact sequence, but it’s not the mists of time so much as the mists of my experiences with LSD, combined with the ’68 Democratic Convention demonstration, the takeover of the Purdue Union Building, getting kicked out of my parents’ home, falling in love with Janice, and other distractions from the workaday world. After Janice and I got married in the fall of ’69, I got a job at the old Brown Rubber Plant, working in the warehouse driving a forklift. I think I may have been the first person there to actually turn a forklift onto its backside (forks pointing straight up in the air, and me still in the seat). That job lasted only about three or four months and then the factory closed. The building itself is gone, or rebuilt, but there is still a factory there.
Janice and I moved into a “commune” on Rose Street in West Lafayette for the summer of 1970, and I got a job working at the Wabash Valley Education Center, which distributed movies and slides and other media to all the schools in the county. I worked loading them for distribution, repairing them when they came back, and eventually doing most of the scheduling. Strangely, this business still exists, although when I worked there it was housed in two rooms in one wing of Cumberland School (it has a separated building north of the school now). This is the corner of the school it occupied when I was there. I was still working here when our first child, Leilah, was born.
Anxious to make better money , I left WVEC to join a construction crew formed by some friends, doing drywall. I was fair at it, and getting better, when the housing crash hit and the work dried up. We did some work on new construction, this being the one place I remember, although probably not the exact house. It’s where the rich folk live, still, I think.
I went to the unemployment office and hooked up with a temporary job working at Wabash Center, which works with the disabled. My job was painting the walls and tarring the roof and doing other maintenance tasks.
It only was slated to last six months, so I kept looking for work, and managed to land a job at the General Foods factory, working in the warehouse.
I started out stacking boxes off the production lines on pallets and loading railcars by hand with boxes of Stove Top Stuffing and Jello. I managed to get a fork lift job eventually, and that is mostly what I did for the next 14 years. I became active with the union – Local 348 of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, AFL-CIO. I was a shop steward, and held a couple of offices with the union, and wrote and published the local newsletter – The Blade – for which I got in trouble with management on a regular basis. We had one strike while I was there – I was on the negotiating committee – that lasted a couple of months, which is why you won’t catch me crossing a picket line. I also took a year off in 1984 to work as the local AFL-CIO United Way representative, a position that completely soured me on the United Way (I haven’t donated since I left and went back to the factory). Both my second and third children, David and Anna, were born while I worked at the factory.
In 1990, the factory shut down in the downsizing movement, but I had been working part-time just for fun with my friend Dave Alm at his computer shop, and started to work there full time. We were building computers from scratch, and repairing them, and helping people with software, and we also put together a BBS (bulletin board service, a precursor to the internet) and then became one of the first local Internet service providers in the area. I had a great time working there, learning all I could from the old Navy radioman who was one of Dave’s technicians, and on my own. After 10 years, with Janice no longer working outside the home, I needed to look for a better salary and comprehensive health insurance, so I regretfully left there and began working at the Lafayette School Corporation.
We provided IT service and managed the computers and networks for all the Lafayette schools, working out of this building behind where the Old Soldiers Home used to stand, and next to Jefferson High School. It was here that I picked up my MCSA certification – Microsoft Systems Administrator – the first and only actual course I’ve ever taken, which let me start to work on backups, image cloning, networking and the rest of the skill set I’ve used ever since.
My kids grew up and moved out during my time here, and all went to the West Coast, and I wanted to live closer to them, so after 5 years here, I got a job as close to the coast as I could find, with the Harney County School District in Burns, Oregon.
It was a good job, allowing to further broaden my sysadmin skills, and I loved the countryside in the high desert of Eastern Oregon, but the isolation (the county was about a third the size of the state of Indiana, and home to about 7800 people, total) and the fact that we couldn’t sell our house for a good price eventually brought us back to West Lafayette, where I took a pay cut to take another sysadmin job, this time at Purdue University, after about a year and a half.
I’ve worked here now going on 10 years, and this is my last labor day before retirement, so I decided to drive around and get pictures of all the places I’ve worked (except Burns, Oregon). It took me two hours and 66 miles to cover all the sites, which seems pretty circumscribed. It hasn’t been a really exciting working life, but I have always worked for the purpose of earning a living. I know there’s a lot to be said for following your dreams and passions, and I’m glad when people are able to do that to earn their pay, but working just for a living is neither better nor worse than working at what you love, as long as you can also enjoy a life outside of work, which I’ve always tried to do. My best wishes to all who labor for whatever motivation and under whatever circumstances on this labor day, and my hopes that the lot of all workers will begin to improve again, soon.
In 2012, I filed to run for Indiana House District 26. I did all the paperwork, formed a campaign finance committee consisting of me, and a general campaign committee consisting of some friends. I ran as an upfront progressive, socialist leaning Democrat. I limited contributions to no more than $100 per person and refused contributions from corporations and businesses and other organizations. I walked the district, and my friends helped distribute flyers. I made contacts with all the local media and showed up at the meet the candidates events. I did newspaper, radio and television interviews. I even ordered and put up a bunch of those stupid yard signs. I created a campaign bank account and kept all the necessary records to report to the elections commission. I enjoyed parts of it, and talked to a lot of people.
The local Democratic party had not intended to enter a candidate in the primary, so that they could choose one later, but because informed them of my plans and asked for their advice, they came up with another candidate and got him filed before the deadline. I, of course, knew that was a possibility and had only filed the day before the deadline, but the party apparatus went into action and produced someone. One has to admire their efficiency. I never campaigned against the other candidate, and he never campaigned against me, it was a positive campaign on both sides.
On Primary Election Day, I showed up at the Democratic gathering to watch the results. That year, in our district, turnout for the primary was 13%. I lost the primary 537 to 376 votes. In the fall, I voted for my opponent.
Here’s the point of this reminiscence. Anyone can run for office with some work and expenditure of time. But people who are active in the party from year to year have the advantage, and that is understandable. It is not “rigging” the election. It is the way party politics works. Is it corrupt? In some minor ways, yes, but mostly it is just insular and hard to get into.
If you want to reform the Democratic party, you need to get involved and do the grunt work it takes to run a party. Once you’ve got in, then you can run for some down-ballot races. From there you work your way up the ladder – some do it faster than others. But it is the only way to change the party.
If you weren’t doing this work before you began supporting Bernie, and if you didn’t even do boring old Democratic party work after you began supporting Bernie, and all you did was post things on Facebook and finally vote in the primary, you didn’t do what was necessary to get Sanders the nomination. If you actually worked in the Sanders campaign but didn’t coordinate with the local Democratic party, I applaud your energy and willingness to get involved, and would only suggest that you continue in your work by infiltrating that local party. Another alternative, of course, is to start an alternative party, but if you think reforming the Democratic party is too much effort, you’re not going to survive what it takes to start a new party. And if you think that running a candidate only at the national level, regardless of how big your rallies are, is going to result in 52 state parties and innumerable local parties bowing down before you, just take a little lesson from my experience; it doesn’t work that way.
Finally, if there aren’t 538 progressive voters in a district including a major university and a town with a population of 45,000, then progressive politics is going to have limited impact. If there are at least that many, there are at least 161 progressive voters that I really feel should go fuck themselves.
Here’s my campaign brochure, just for reminiscence.
You’re disappointed Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee, I get it. I am too. My vote was one of those that helped him win Indiana. I was happy about getting to vote for someone who closely resembled my own positions on most issues. But it’s clear now that Clinton will be the nominee, and I will wind up voting for her. I think everyone who supported Sanders should also vote for her, but I get that some of you will vote for Jill Stein instead, which is okay by me. It’s a way to continue to make your voices heard. But I can’t take the chance that Trump might win, so I’m not going for the protest vote – too many people I know and love would be severely impacted by a Trump presidency as opposed to a Clinton presidency. Not me – I’m a straight white cisgendered male, I have little to lose; but other people matter to me, too.
That said, what can we really do to use the energy from the Sanders candidacy to make real change? I think we desperately need a third party, but that we shouldn’t wait for someone else to create one. I’m tired of “leaders”. Let’s make our own third party from the ground up.
How? Run for office. Run for local offices in cities, towns and counties. Run for the schoolboard. Run for damn dogcatcher (do they still have those?). Run as an open progressive, but run as independent or democrat or republican or whatever will get you on the ballot with a shot at winning. Or offer your help to a friend who will run. Get together, Everyone running needs a treasurer to deal with the regulations and rules and bank accounts, in most cases. Refuse to take donations from groups or businesses; only take money from individuals. Sanders has shown that this can be successfully done.
When we have enough people in local offices, run some of them for state offices, and start new people in the local offices. When we have enough in state offices, THEN we can declare a third party – the Roots party, or some other catchy name – and actually get on the ballot and run people for national offices. Let’s not wait on some other “national” figure to define how our third party works or who it stands for – let’s work that out among ourselves while we’re busy establishing the groundwork.
Most previous third parties have centered around a specific person, or some national ticket. That’s not how you build a party, not when two behemoth parties have all the rules and regulations made to protect their turf. We need to steal the turf.
It’s time for someone to speak directly to the struggle faced by the white, straight, cisgendered man.
Sure, we have some advantages. We tend to be first in line for jobs, get better pay, get treated with respect, our voices get heard, we dominate the top levels of government and business, and the media and advertising worlds revolve around our perceived needs and desires.
In some respects, though, that is a problem. Frankly, we’re boring. Life comes to us easily relative to anyone else. We don’t face as many day to day challenges, and everyone knows that challenges build character. So what if (as one internet list trying to debunk popular conceptions of maleness has it) we’re tall, strong, masculine, wear clothes meant for boys, love women, love sex, sleep around and have a penis? That and $5.99 will buy you a cup of coffee.
Part of our testosterone fueled maleness requires that we vie for dominance over our fellow WSCMs. How can we stand out when we personify society’s expectations?
Many paths are tried by WSCMs. There’s the outlaw persona, defying conventional norms of behavior in one way or the other. One can become a criminal. But no, that’s kind of expected as the dark side of maleness. Still fits society’s expectations. We can be someone who speaks their mind at all times and damn who gets offended, the “I’m not PC and I’m proud” stance affected by politicians and other comedians. But again, this is just an extension of the privilege society already grants us. How can we escape these maddening boundaries?
Again harking back to internet-speak, try this one simple trick.
Confound expectations. Say and do the last things that society expects to hear or see from you. Wear a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt when out on the town, or to the board meeting if you’ve got the balls to go with that penis. Treat women with respect and listen to their voices the same way you would to another WSCM (but without the thoughts of how you can top whatever he says). Don’t bully people who aren’t of the WSCM persuasion, but step in to keep them from being bullied – what the fuck is all that self-confident, aggressive masculinity going to do if you don’t put it to use? Support LGBTQ, women’s rights, black, brown, Native American and Asian rights, vocally, in writing and in person. Be kind, compassionate, empathetic and loving (I mean you already love women and sex, right, so build on that).
Suddenly, you stand out in the crowd of bland white straight cisgendered maleness. You’re in the spotlight not as a member of the always-spotlighted standard issue WSCM herd, but as a maverick. (Lots of cool women love mavericks). You’ve achieved alpha male status without having to follow anyone else’s expectations. You have relieved yourself of the weighty burden you were born into.