Category Archives: Presidental Election

Votegate: On Thwarting the Popular Vote

Thursday, November 10, 2016

VOTEGATE: On Thwarting the Popular Vote

So, what went wrong? I take you back to the election of 2000, during which I remember a brief interview with a voter in Florida who expressed her disdain for Al Gore by saying, “He acts as if he’s smarter than me.” Her objection to his social graces was legitimate, but hiding behind her complaint was the petulant whine of those who were popular when they were young, but have lost ground to hard-working nerds. Being an athlete of the mind is resented, even though it requires as much discipline as the career of any figure in sports.

As returns came in on election night in 2000, especially from Florida, I kept thinking of that voter, and how her disdain of Al Gore was probably the tipping point of that election. The intellectual contrast between the candidates in the presidential election of 2016 was even greater than the Gore-Bush divide. Astonishingly greater. Hillary Clinton was obviously so much more qualified in knowledge and intelligence than Donald J. Trump that even stalwart Republican newspapers withdrew their support of Trump. In point of fact, if it had not been for the extraordinarily dubious interference of the FBI in this election, Trump would have lost the popular vote by a much greater margin than Bush lost to Gore.

I had predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote by 5,000,000 votes. Obviously, I was wrong. In fact, she received over 6,000,000 less votes than President Obama received in 2012. Despite massive amounts of money contributed to Clinton’s campaign, the vaunted “ground game” of the Democratic party proved to be a pathetic operation.

Trump’s supporters cannot claim, however, that these voters represent a massive number of citizens rejecting Obama’s legacy and choosing an ignorant, amateur politician instead. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by well over 200,000 votes, so one can hardly propose that professional politicians have lost their credibility.

In fact, what I have not seen any account of this election mention so far is that Trump received one million fewer votes than Mitt Romney. If Romney had run against Hillary Clinton this year, and the same number of people had voted for him in 2016 as voted in 2012, he would have won the popular vote by a margin of more than 1,000,000 votes, and no doubt handily won the electoral college.

If anyone should be shaking his head and thinking “What if…,” it’s Mitt Romney. To say that tens of millions of people in this country would lose less sleep with Mitt Romney in the White House, in late January, 2017, is to understate the case.

Instead, the denial of the principle of “one person, one vote” has happened yet once again. For every woman, in particular, who voted for Hillary Clinton, the failure of the popular vote to yield a political victory shows that indeed the system was rigged by the Founding Fathers, and will only serve as yet more hard evidence of the evil power grasping inclinations of patriarchal society.

George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, and still ended up being inaugurated as President of the United States. Bush lost the popular vote because more people respected the thoughtful knowledge of Al Gore; Bush won the electoral college because more people such as the woman in Florida who resented intellectual acuity could not overcome their inferiority complex.

We know how badly George W. Bush’s regime turned out, and this time will be even worse. There is no use pretending otherwise. This next time, however, there may not be a politician able to replicate Obama’s success in defusing the anger of those who have been exploited and betrayed by their government. The famous anecdote in the election of 2008 is that Obama appeared before a large contingent of Wall Street figures and bluntly told them, “I am the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks.”

When the next collapse comes, the question of whether it will be a non-violent revolution or a violent revolution will be the unavoidable issue confronting those who believe in democracy as the rule of the popular vote. I would hope that my fellow citizens would join me in again rejecting pitchforks, but the brutal retaliation of the police state that Trump will soon set in motion, under the covert direction of his blatant FBI allies, might well cause protestors to decide that they have a legitimate right to defend themselves. I truly fear for this country and its young people, especially young women, who deserve so much better than this desultory future.

I should emphasize that I am not predicting an immediate economic implosion. Trump no doubt will launch the infrastructure repair program that the GOP congress denied to President Obama, and the benefits of this program will largely accrue to the states in the Electoral College that voted for Trump. He will most likely retain his initial popularity in those regions of the United States for the next two years or so.

A knowledge economy, however, depends on an economy of the daily goods we consume in international trade. Trump has no idea of how to generate a more equitable outcome to the integration of the knowledge economy and international trade in material goods. In the long run, his inability to coordinate the domestic, as well as international, knowledge economy and the international manufacturing economy will result in an unfathomably sad predicament. I profoundly wish I could say otherwise, but I cannot.

The Coming Implosion

November 9, 2016

THE COMING IMPLOSION

There is no disaster that does not benefit someone, and the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States will mainly serve to benefit one person: George W. Bush. He has deservedly had to endure a dismal rating in evaluations of the nation’s best presidents, but there is no chance that Bush will ever again finish last in any future rankings. That spot is already reserved for Donald J. Trump, who will send this country – and perhaps the entire global infrastructure of economic affiliations – into a tailspin from which it may well not emerge until the next century. Intertwined with that implosion will be an environmental collapse that will now only hasten in bringing concomitant misery to species everywhere on the planet.

While sexism and racism certainly influenced the outcome of this election, it must be emphasized that many of those who voted for Trump did so out of legitimate grievances about the failure of the Obama administration to concentrate on the creation of jobs that paid a living wage. At his party’s final rally of the campaign, President Obama said that “no one could see how bad the Great Recession would be.” I’m hardly the first person to point out that Obama is kidding himself if he really believes that ludicrous excuse. Many people understood all too well how bad it was, and Obama only made things worse by appointing to powerful positions in the U.S. government the very people who were responsible for the mess in the first place. I find it astonishing that he still does not have a clue about this crucial error. Obama’s inability to assess the enormity and gravity of the situation in 2008 caused more suffering in “ordinary” people’s lives than he can possibly imagine, and they got their revenge (which is no more than a gullible fantasy) in today’s vote.

In choosing to focus on health care reform in his first term of office, instead of substantial job creation, Obama created an opportunity for a narcissistic bully to mount a racist campaign in 2016 that succeeded in playing discontented people for suckers. And they will regret their choice. In four to eight years they will bitterly regret it.

Nixon in 1968 and 1972; Reagan in 1980 and 1984; George H.W. Bush in 1988, and his son in 2000 and 2004. My fellow citizens in this country seem to be incapable of learning from their mistakes. Under President Trump, there will be a major recession within the two and a half years, and it will only be the first of many. You wanted another Great Recession, eh? Don’t worry, you will get what you voted for, and don’t expect those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton to feel sorry for you. We will be too busy trying to salvage our lives to care about your homelessness and malnutrition. In voting for an ignorant, racist bully who has no idea whatsoever as to how to govern public institutions, you have put the entire social fabric at peril and this time you will deserve the resulting havoc it causes in your lives.

Pantsuit Astronaut Nation

Sunday night, November 6, 2016

Pantsuit Astronaut Nation: A Minor Coincidence of a Possible Celebration

Some days of the year become clotted with historical associations, and to have your birthday coincide with that date can be more poignant than expected. Whether overlapping with public triumph or large-scale tragedy, it can be difficult to ignore a private calibration, and for some citizens the upcoming election day will bring its own peculiar chronological intersection. Out of curiosity the other day, I did a quick search for those born on November 8, and one particular name popped up: Margaret Rhea Seddon will be celebrating her 69th birthday on Election Day, 2016. I suppose she is not a household name, but that is the unfortunate nature of a society obsessed with sports “heroes” rather than those whose commitment to knowledge and service require more risk, coordination, and mental and physical stamina than most of us are willing to undertake. Dr. Seddon, in point of fact, is not only a physician, but served as an astronaut for several years.

I have never met Dr. Seddon and I have no idea of how she intends to vote, but her knowledge of the medical field as well as hands-on experience in scientific exploration and outer space adventure would have been very welcome at some point in the past three months. Indeed, her absence from the conversation is emblematic of the crisis in contemporary politics in the United States.

It is not only Dr. Seddon’s suggestions for how to improve Obamacare that I would have liked to have heard at the one of the debates, but also her perspective on how to address the medical needs of an aging baby boomer population. I would also like to have heard her pose a question to both Clinton and Trump about their plans for astronomical research and space travel, as well as their environmental plans.

Perhaps I make too much of this coincidence of a birthday and the terminal date of a national election. Maybe I’m a hopeless feminist sympathizer, and perhaps it will make no difference to the first woman astronaut to work in orbit under the next president to know that her commander-in-chief is a woman, too. As I vote, however, on Tuesday morning, I want to affirm the possibility of that shared bond.

Happy birthday, Dr. Seddon: fellow citizen in the distance; fellow voter waiting in anxious expectation. As I said above, I have no idea of how you might vote, but it is a vote that I would respect because I know it would be a thoughtful decision on your part.

In the odd chance that you might have a literary friend who is trying to figure out a present for you on your birthday, then I may recommend the poet-scientist Miroslav Holub?

The Margin of Victory: Over 5,000,000 Votes

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Margin of Victory

Donald Trump recently sent out a message to his followers: “Our effort to defeat Hillary Clinton and turn this country around is more than just a campaign, it is a movement. In all 50 states, proud Americans are standing up and joining our movement by the millions. Many of them have never been involved in politics before.”

Let us imagine that Hillary Clinton sent out a similar message. Suppose her campaign spokesperson said that “many of the people who have never been involved in politics before” are suddenly registering and voting. Do you truly believe that Trump would not use that statement as evidence that voter fraud on a massive scale is taking place? He most certainly would launch on a massive advertising loop, and it would be an effective lie.

Now it may well be true that the core of Trump’s supporters are people who have never been involved in politics before, and short of concrete evidence anyone who accuses Trump of engaging in fraudulently recruiting voters for his cause should be ashamed of themselves. His advocates deserve equal respect as legitimately recognized members of the electorate.

Respect must be mutual, however, or it means little. The overwhelming majority of people who are voting for Clinton, in fact, are individuals who have voted in Presidential elections before. In many instances, this will be the tenth or twelfth time that they have compared Democratic and Republican candidates. They have a lifetime of experience at making this decision, and it is not a spur-of-the-moment matter. Their overwhelming preference should not be castigated as the outcome of a rigged election.

It is, in fact, not Trump but the Democratic party that should justifiably be concerned about a rigged election, especially after the FBI’s dubious conflation of Hillary Clinton with the disgraced husband of one of her primary aides. Supporters of Hillary Clinton should disavow paranoia, however, even though it is true that in numerical terms an election can be rigged. In predicting that Trump will lose by over 5,000,000 votes, I doubt that even the enthusiastic willingness of the KGB to serve as avatars of intervention will be enough to reverse the outcome in the loser’s favor.

If Trump wants to protest about a rigged election, he should consider the fact that “In the 2012 election, Republicans lost the popular vote for all House candidates by more than 1.4 million, but still won a majority of seats.” (Source: Doyle McManus) Controlling a legislative body with only a minority of total voters voting in one’s favor can hardly be said to be a legitimate extension of democracy fulfilled. Such a distortion, Mr. Trump, is what a rigged election looks like.

Finally, Donald Trump is not merely unfit to hold public office; he needs to be held accountable for the damage done to public civility as a CUI, a Candidate Under the Influence: in this case, the influence of narcissistic ambition. As the date of the 2016 General Reckoning reduces itself to a single digit countdown, Trump seems to have no comprehension that his proclamations of a “rigged election” verge on incredulity. Surely he is aware that his behavior resembles that of individuals who are psychologically incapacitated, but I fear that is not the case. I suppose that gap is the most painful part of any self-delusional state of non-recognition. One cannot advantageously hold the mirror up to the form and pressure of the age, if all wants to see is one’s own perpetual power.

If Mr. Trump had been a mediocre candidate, he probably could have pulled off an equally deplorable imbalance of minority rule as the above outcome of the House of Representatives’ elections. He was, however, such a despicably unfit candidate that one can only wonder what sad, tormented clown tempted him beyond his power to resist. In his case, he was as powerless as an alcoholic to refuse the proffered glass, and he needs to check himself into a clinic to detox immediately.

Darkness at the Center of Wisconsin

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Darkness at the Center of Wisconsin

https://www.yahoo.com/sports/news/fan-wears-barack-obama-mask-with-a-noose-at-nebraska-wisconsin-040333264.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3887230/Football-fan-Wisconsin-Nebraska-game-asked-remove-offensive-costume-showing-President-Obama-noose-neck.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

The story is that the fan was asked to remove the “offensive components” costume.

That’s all?

Why was the fan not immediately investigated for making a death threat against the President?

This is not a “costume,” but a death threat, and the specificity of advocating the execution of the President is made all the more clear by the fact that it is not the person wearing the costume whose hand is holding up the noose, but the arm of a person standing alongside the depiction of President Obama. In the photograph, an arm wearing a red sleeve juts into the air at an angle that can only mean that the white fist jerking the noose upwards belongs to another person. It is a blunt portrayal of a racist execution.

This is not an issue of free speech, which would include the right to wear a prison outfit with a mask of Obama, just as free speech includes the right to chant “Lock her up,” as Trump’s partisans do whenever Hillary Clinton’s name in mentioned. One may not like a message, but free speech allows messengers safe passage. Provocative and outrageous speech is protected by our Constitution. However, in depicting the execution of President Obama, the individuals at a football stadium in Wisconsin flagrantly transgressed the boundary of free speech.

Death threats are not free speech, especially in an image meant invoke the heyday of the KKK. Within the context of a newspaper associated with the KKK all but giving its straightforward endorsement to Donald Trump, this so-called costume represents crude propaganda at its most harrowing level.

If there is not at least a brief detention and interrogation of the fan and his “prop assistant” for making a death threat against President Obama, then it is fair to say that this costume represents the values of a cadre within the Secret Service; in this instance, the person in charge of the Secret Service has the obligation to act in a manner that proves otherwise.

I would note that a report that Secret Service conducted an investigation in an instance that involved a far less public venue.

Playing with Fire and an Obama Effigy

Why should this incident in Wisconsin be treated with any less seriousness?

The failure of University of Wisconsin officials to understand the gravity of the image is quite remarkable. Simply asking a person to remove the “offensive parts” of the costume represents a lack of courage in standing up to a bully. In making a statement that was nothing short of a death threat against the President, the person wearing the costume and his assistant forfeited their right to remain at the game and should have been removed from the stadium.

The University was probably afraid of being accused of censorship. There is an easy answer. The people were removed from the stadium in order to have their identities firmly established by police officials so that the Secret Service could begin their investigation.

Finally, we should all take note: the desire expressed by these two people in the football stands in Wisconsin is not limited to President Obama. First him, then his supporters. If anyone is so naïve to think that the two people who concocted this outfit will be satisfied with President Obama’s death, then they need to review 20th century history. As the poet Don Gordon said, “We are only on leave from Auschwitz.”

As a postscript that occurred to me a couple hours after posting this, I think it is fair to say that those who doubted the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate would most likely be the ones inclined to defend this person’s advocacy of a Presidential death certificate as free speech. “If attacking one end of a life spectrum doesn’t work, then try the other extreme,” would seem to be their preference.

I do look forward to the conclusion of the current general election, and the chance to concentrate on books of poetry again. To neglect the havoc generated by a fascist with international ambitions would be an unforgivable omission on my part, however.

CORRECTION: The original post for this commentary mistakenly stated that the football game took place in Nebraska, whereas the University of Nebraska was playing a road game in Wisconsin.

No Longer “Secretly Waiting”: Election Spam

Sunday, October 23, 2016

No Longer “Secretly Waiting”: ELECTION SPAM (or why the Postal Service Is Grateful for Social Media)

After I found a parking spot in my neighborhood this past Wednesday, I noticed that the mail truck was one car behind mine. I hailed the postal worker and asked why she was still delivering mail so late in the day. “Did you have to cover another route today, too?” “Oh, no, it’s the election. I’ll be delivering mail til at least 7:00 p.m.”

As I walked to my rented residence, I thought of how workers at the Post Office must be grateful that social media has played an increasingly prominent role in recent elections. The Citizens United decision enabled even more money to flow into advertising revenue streams, and without social media the average postal delivery person would probably need a moving van to contain each day’s shipment of propaganda.

With barely more than a fortnight to go before the 2016 general election, the likelihood of Donald J. Trump becoming the next president has become a long-shot proposition. For the moment, a potential catastrophe has been averted, but it is only a temporary respite. Anyone who believes that Trump’s supporters will simply fade away and lose interest in politics is kidding themselves. One judicious reminder of the Trump Effect can be found in Adam Kirsch’s recent review of Volker Ullrich’s “Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939” (translated by Jefferson Chase; Alfred A. Knopf). Kirsch’s final sentences seem to be equally directed at the current political turbulence in the United States, in which one candidate openly decries his obligation to acknowledge the legitimacy of any process that does not result in his election.

“(I)n the end Germany decided to see Hitler just as he saw himself; the country matched his psychosis with its own. What is truly frightening, and monitory, in Ullrich’s book is not that a Hitler could exist, but that so many people seemed to be secretly waiting for him.”

One aspect of social media that will help future historians recount a parallel development in the United States is how it reveals the transition between those who are “secretly waiting” and the open allegiance of public fanaticism. The first challenge, though, will be to preserve this material, since the electronic basis of these communications makes this material easily disposable. In the interests of preserving for future records one example of this election spam, I am posting an example of the appeals that are circulating within the ranks of those who are no longer “secretly waiting.” They are utterly unlikely to go back into hiding.

“Dear Fellow Lover of America,

“I am writing you because I trust you love this country as much as I do, and yearn for our government to restore the dignity of the Constitution. All Constitutions are not created equal, and the original Constitution of the United States is the best Constitution ever written. Unfortunately, over the past several decades, this original Constitution has suffered the equivalent of hacking by agents directed by the International Banking System. These setbacks, however, will soon stop, should we all come together and recognize the Hero in our midst. Donald J. Trump alone can save our Country, but it is up to us to anoint him. This is why I am asking you to join me in accepting his offer to become a Trump cardholder. On a personal level, I have to admit that this is what I have waited for ever since the mailman, in 1956, delivered my first “Magic Kingdom” card from the Mickey Mouse Club.

“That, however, was just a childhood fantasy. Now I have the chance to be part of a TRUE, GENUINE, ACTUAL “Magic Kingdom.” The TRUMP Black Card…. I’m …. I’m …. I’m at a loss for words. I am so grateful that our leader in the crusade against Crooked Hillary is never at a loss for words. Great words, in fact. Words so big and huge and chock-full of winning that all I have to do is to put this card in my wallet and I, too, discover…. well, in truth, I am not sure what will happen next, but I am sure it will be great.

“We just have to stand firm against the Liberal Media. Because they are the enablers. They have already rigged the election. It was rigged against Bernie Sanders. It was rigged against George McGovern. Real American heroes. They spoke out against the War, just like Trump did. And let me tell you, Trump is going to destroy ISIS. He is going to send them scurrying like rats to Aleppo. Which we know has already fallen. It’s toast. Like Crooked Hillary’s campaign to be president. And speaking of rats, we will take care of Paul Ryan afterwards.

“Forgive me for being so brief in praising our nation’s great fortune in having Trump as our next President. But it will take work. That’s why you need to join me in knocking on doors for the next two weeks and telling all those people with Hillary Clinton signs on their front lawns that they need to wake up and realize that they are voting for a LOSER. I can’t believe how many of these signs are popping up now. Where did all the Trump placards go? We know the answer to that question. Crooked Hillary has hired people (illegally here, of course) to steal our signs. Hey, they go low, we go lower. Let’s start by questioning the intelligence of the average Clinton voter. As I said, go lower.”

Lower and out,
Mike Rinse (Name changed to protect actual sender’s identity: any living person with this name is not to be confused with the author or disseminator of this message, which was not formally approved in any manner by the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.)

A “Rigged” Ephebe Election: Q.E.D.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A “Rigged” Ephebe Election: Q.E.D.

When Donald Trump claims that the election is rigged, he is referring to the one that will conclude on Tuesday, November 8. “Large scale voter fraud” is taking place, according to Trump, although he has not offered any concrete evidence to support his allegation. But why should he provide any evidence? “Evidence” in Trump’s domain is simply reiterated accusations. Why bother with evidence when all one has to do is make grandiose statements along these lines: “Isn’t it painfully obvious to anyone not brainwashed by the ‘dishonest and distorted media’ that Clinton’s campaign is engaged in an unprecedented level of duplicity?” Trump’s campaign strategy is to keep asking questions phrased in that manner until people give up hope of ever getting an answer to their request for evidence.

Along with a growing majority of American voters, I myself remain immune to Trump’s contagion, but what if one were to succumb to it and find oneself being bombarded by such messages as the following, which I have obtained from (redacted) sources that must remain anonymous. With considerable trepidation for the consequences I might face for giving you this insight into the logic of the Trump campaign, I pass this document along to you. Please note that this is a piece of satire, and that the Scholastic company and the vote it conducts should be regarded with the highest possible respect.

* * * * * * * *

FROM: (Redacted)

TO: My Devoted Horde of Deplorables

SUBJECT: Voter Fraud in the Scholastic Survey

Since Hillary Clinton’s surrogates demand evidence of widespread civic corruption, the (redacted) will now provide it, and we need look no further than the recent mock election held by Scholastic, in which school children are asked to vote for their preferred candidate. This synchronic sampling of the general population’s currently ineligible voters is remarkably accurate: since 1964, its outcome has conformed to the pattern of their parents’ voting in the General Election.

The Scholastic survey is in lockstep with the larger conspiracy against (redacted). According to this so-called educational corporation, the current crop of ephebes is continuing to disregard the tradition of “Only white males need apply” for the job of President. After selecting Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, the nation’s K-12 voters have decisively chosen Hillary Clinton, or so Scholastic is claiming, though they provide no evidence whatsoever that the children voting in this survey are legally entitled to be in this great nation of ours. Without any attempt at verifying their voters’ legal status. Scholastic has given its imprimatur to the claim that schoolchildren have picked the winner for the 14th consecutive time.

One is loathe to spoil the happiness of Hollywood-addled liberals, but let’s be honest, before being honest becomes a crime under Crooked Hilary. Such a streak of prognostication defies credibility. Let’s take a quick look at the outcomes of the past Scholastic-sponsored elections. Since 1964, these young future voters have enthusiastically endorsed Richard Nixon twice (1968 and 1972), Ronald Reagan twice (1980 and 1984), and the Bush family three times (1988, 2000, and 2004). If given the opportunity to act as thoughtful citizens, schoolchildren born since 1950 have demonstrated, in the majority of instances (7 out of 13), that they recognize the right choice. How to account for deviations in the current election, as well as the past two? Three misfires in a row can only mean one thing: a nefarious hand is at work. Let us not be distracted from facts, folks: “She is the Devil, and she has tremendous hatred in her heart.” What more need be proved?

The (redacted) is not surprised that the schoolchildren have picked Hillary Clinton. (Redacted) saw it coming four years ago when Scholastic announced that students had selected Obama over Romney, and indeed their preference prevailed. According to “Business Insider,” (redacted) warned the American public that Romney’s defeat was a “total sham and a travesty.”

It is still not too late, however, for real Americans to stand up and stop this insanity in 2016. Though the Scholastic election most certainly was as rigged as what the Clintons and the mass media have in mind for the election on November 8, the schoolchildren’s vote is only another trapdoor in the Hall of Horrors run by the Democratic party.

Only adult votes ultimately count, and America is counting on us to act like adults and accept the wonderful paternal leadership offered to us by (redacted). Don’t be childish and fall into the trap of a rigged election.

Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize (Part Two)

Monday, October 17, 2016

I went over a list of winners of the Nobel Prize in recent decades the other night and found many admirable and extraordinarily deserving authors: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz, Harold Pinter, Wislawa Szymborska, VS Naipaul, Samuel Beckett, Toni Morrison. Unfortunately, Graham Greene and Robertson Davies were not listed.

On the other hand, I also found that Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott, and Seamus Heaney were given this honor. Anyone complaining about the selection of Bob Dylan needs to be sentenced to six months of reading only the poetry of these three poets. Nobody else. Just these three. Brodsky for a week. Walcott for a week. Heaney for a week. Repeat again, then get serious. Brodsky for two weeks, Walcott for a pair, followed by Heaney for a pair.

In contrast, I could maintain an exclusive, six-month reading regimen with any three of the first set of writers I listed: Paz, Szymborska, and Morrison, for instance. Or Naipaul, Beckett and Marquez. Six steady months of that rotation and I would come out of it a better writer and reader. Six months of Brodsky, Heaney, and Walcott would leave me desolate and bored. Numbed by the anesthesia of imaginative vacuity. Heaney’s “Digging” is an example of a so-called canonical poem I dread teaching. The equation of the pen with the shovel? Did no one who read an early draft of this poem point out to Seamus how obvious, how unsurprising, this is? I do want to emphasize that I have given Heaney a more than generous amount of my time and attention in considering his work. Despite my misgivings about the quality of his poetry, I did attend one of his readings once, when he appeared at UCSD after winning the Nobel. Unfortunately, his poems were just as safe and banal as I anticipated.

As much as I find Heaney’s poetry uninspiring, I would never engage in the kind of ad hominem attack that implicitly accuses Bob Dylan of being responsible for the rise of neo-fascist politicians in the United States. “A world that gives Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize is a world that nominates Trump for president,” wrote Mr. Tim Stanley (The Telegraph, October 13). Excuse me, but Dylan’s accomplishment in setting poems to music is no more responsible for Trump than Seamus Heaney’s devotion to his art was responsible for Margaret Thatcher.

The conflation of Bob Dylan and Trump is an outrageous smear, and Mr. Stanley reveals himself to be a more feasible applicant for a position as an advisor to Mr. Trump than a reliable cultural critic. Would it not be far more accurate to say that a world that awards Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature is a world that elected and re-elected Barack Obama, and will soon affirm Hillary Clinton to be his successor? Bob Dylan’s writing does not diverge into a pair of roads, one leading to Trump and the other leading to Obama and Clinton. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/13/a-world-that-gives-bob-dylan-a-nobel-prize-is-a-world-that-nomin/)

The No Handshake Honeymoon of the 45th Presidency

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Art Theater on Fourth Street in Long Beach graciously hosted a screening of the second debate on Sunday evening, and the theater was about two-thirds full. It was much more enjoyable, but also more sobering to watch the encounter on a big screen. Trump’s inordinate pacing around and his hint of physically stalking Clinton stirred up a palpable sense of discomfort in the audience, and it was reassuring to realize that I was not imagining Trump’s imperiousness.

We knew as we took our seats that it was not going to be a pleasant evening, and the event began with unusual awkwardness. The candidates came out on stage. Hillary nodded as they were about eight feet apart, and Trump then pivoted, and did a little skip step to move more center stage, which only made their refusal to greet each other formally more comic. There was considerable laughter at the theater, confirming my decision about the advantage of watching it with a larger community.

In commentary published after the debate, Chris Cillizza bewailed the lack of a handshake between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as they commenced their second debate. “Maybe I am old-fashioned. But I thought it was tremendously depressing that Trump and Clinton couldn’t bring themselves to shake hands at the start of the debate.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/09/winners-and-losers-from-the-2nd-presidential-debate/

Call it an adumbration of the 45th Presidency of the United States: the no-handshake honeymoon. Why make a pretense of it? When Hillary takes office on January 20th, she’ll know what Barack Obama should have realized eight years ago: The GOP will do everything in its power to undermine her policies. Bi-partisanship is a bad joke at this point, and to expect anyone to act otherwise is being unrealistic.

Truly, Mr. Cillizza, why would you shake hands with someone who says that if he is elected, he will appoint a special prosecutor with the goal of sending you to prison? This is not a policy disagreement. This is a reprehensible fantasy of personal vindictiveness. The outrageous part is the larger context: how many bank officials have gone to prison after bankrupting the nation? The economy completely collapsed at the end of the Bush administration, and only the willingness of taxpayers to bear the burdens of redeeming this catastrophe saved the status quo. Bush and Cheney lied and started an unnecessary war, and yet no prosecution ensued. Does Trump want a special prosecutor to investigate Chris Christie for Bridgegate?

Let’s be blunt in reminding ourselves what we heard during the second debate. Trump called Hillary Clinton “the Devil” and said that she has “tremendous hatred in her heart.” The lack of a handshake is not depressing. It’s just common sense to keep your distance from someone who wishes you ill.

Post-script (Monday, mid-day): I am hardly the only one who is noticing that Hillary Clinton is preparing for a different kind of “First 100 days.” “The campaign against Trump seems to have deepened a trait of (Hillary) Clinton’s: a pessimism about the possibility of political persuasion.”
http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/clintons-coming-struggle-with-trump-supporters

The “Stamina” Gap between Hillary Clinton and the American Worker

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The “Stamina” Gap between Hillary Clinton and the American Worker

Donald Trump has raised the question of the “presidential look” of Hillary Clinton. What he means by this is unadulterated sexist bullshit. Hillary is not a male; therefore, she is not “presidential.” Of course, even Mr. Trump knows the counterproductive limits of that crude dismissal, so of course he turns his attention to a claim that Hillary Clinton lacks stamina.

Her response in the first debate was defined within her personal capacity to serve as a public official with a very demanding schedule. Since she is the candidate under scrutiny, one could understand her inclination to keep the parameters individual; but in stopping there, and in only talking about her personal stamina, she missed an opportunity to diffuse the critique that Hillary Clinton’s campaign to be President is “all about me,” as if it were a referendum on her self-worth and how much she has endured in order to be a famous feminist.

If she is faced with the question of stamina again, she would be well advised to turn the discussion to the stamina of American working people, for it is we who deserve praise for our resilience. Privileged people such as Donald Trump, who had wealth handed to them as start-up entrepreneurs, have no idea of how much stamina is needed to endure a tax system in which real estate manipulation provides people such as Trump a domestic tax haven that is nothing short of scandalous. Trump is clueless as to what is entailed in trying to survive on unemployment benefits, or the psychological toll exacted on marriages in which one of the spouses becomes long-term unemployed?

If Trump is popular amongst some portions of the American electorate, it is in no part due to the exhaustion of American workers. Even those with immense stamina are not indefatigable, and I fear that the numbness of economic exhaustion has brought about a “thousand yard stare” – the look that soldiers get when they cannot take another step or even hear another order. Too many workers have been asked to do too much for too little reward for too long. The result is that any fast-talking con artist who comes along with jingoist promises has a good chance of securing their vote.

Clinton needs to address the needs of these workers with more than promises of job training. What are her plans, for instance, for the millions of truck drivers who will be unemployed after self-driving trucks merge onto the freeways of commerce? And what about the thousands upon thousands of people (especially in the Baby Boomer generation) who have never found any employment in the aftermath of the Great Recession?

It is not Hillary Clinton’s stamina that needs to be discussed, but the extraordinary capacity of American workers to do more than should be expected of them and to wake up the next morning and do it again. A temperament of self-discipline and willingness to consider the needs of others is at the heart of one’s capacity to endure and renew a community’s sense of shared prosperity. Without that sense of social stamina, the non-stop onslaught of social presentations by politicians is just a circus side-show. It is our stamina as working people that deserves to be touted, and then made the center of attention in every policy decision.