Russia will not save us

To be clear, Russia will not save us, but anti-Russian sentiment will not save us either. A number of Democrats seem pledged to run 2018 on a Russophobic platform, betting a win on their rage-against-Donald Trump’s-legitimacy strategy.

Yet Democrats have been testing this line of attack since last Fall. We certainly have seen an enormous burst of progressive action since that time, with millions hitting the streets and phones to oppose Trump. But it seems the vast majority of activated constituents were triggered by Trump’s specific plans on health care and immigration, or by his broad-strokes affronts to liberal sensibilities (see: racism, misogyny, incivility).

But has the anti-Russia tack of party messaging itself worked out well for Democrats?

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Doesn’t seem so.

Pegging Trump as Manchurian Candidate or Useful Idiot or Corrupt Mastermind may sound like a functional strategy to folks who still want to blame November’s tragedy on Comey alone, but the strategy has not been working so far.

And while it certainly is possible that any one of these paranoid conspiracies may turn out to be true, it is far more likely that we discover Trump is just an asshole with a lot in common with the assholes running Russia. It could be devastating if the conspiracies that Democrats build up come undone in the months preceding the election.

Even if those conspiracies hold, and even if those conspiracies brought voters out against Republicans in the mid-terms, the new Democratic coalition would be built on anti-Russian sentiment and nationalistic fear. That isn’t conducive to accomplishing any of the policy agendas that could give progressives lasting electoral credibility.

Thankfully, there are some amazing things we can organize around.

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The Last Crime in Politics

Mike Pence used a private AOL account to conduct public business as Governor of Indiana. He also criticized Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server during her tenure as Secretary of State.

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In a decent world, Democrats would charge that public officials should use public accounts to manage public business. They would suggest that using  a “.gov” e-mail address that is automatically preserved makes sense to maintain the transparency and integrity of our elected officials and our public institutions. Unfortunately, Democrats decided that simple measures like using a publicly administered e-mail account were either wholly unnecessary or justifiably bypassed on account of inconvenience.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, it is unlikely–though possible–that any laws were broken. Yet records that are required to be filed when leaving office were only retained when compelled by court order. The process undergone by Clinton — which involved private counsel determining what is and is not public record — was certainly not convincingly above-board.

In the case of Mike Pence, the private e-mail account itself was almost certainly legal. Like Clinton, he retained private legal counsel to determine what records would be transferred to the state. However, because he did not traffic in classified information the way a US Secretary of State does, and because he was not subject to federal records laws, it is even less likely he broke any laws. The only other real difference: Pence used an AOL account, while Clinton had a personal server installed and managed in her basement.

This should be simple. Democrats should expect elected officials to use publicly administered communications systems. Democrats should expect that public employees determine what is and is not public record, not privately retained legal counsel and personal aides. Democrats should expect their party members to engage in ways that are convincingly trustworthy, even if the law does not require it.

Democrats should be able to criticize Mike Pence for managing his communications as governor in a manner that will leave constituents wondering if records are accurate and complete.

Yet Democrats only have one choice: having wasted their credibility, they can only attack him as a hypocrite. Unable to prove herself through governance, this is the legacy of the Hillary Clinton’s scandal-plagued campaign: on issues like transparency, campaign finance, trustworthiness, corporate influence, and corruption, hypocrisy is the only charge Democrats can credibly lobby against Republicans.

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If the Democratic elite (and their social media handlers) are reliable for one thing, it’s some serious self-owns. Maybe one day they will realize that “the things you hate about our party are true about both parties” isn’t an especially strong outreach message.

 

Whose Unity?

There is a lot to be said about the DNC Chair election. I won’t say most of it, but I will say this:

In the months proceeding Trump’s election, our Democratic President staged an internal war against the agreed-upon frontrunner. In the name of stopping a concession of power to the left flank of the party, Ellison was smeared as anti-semetic, anti-Israel, too black, too Muslim, and insufficiently able to “get things done.” Left critiques of Perez were, alternatively, that he was insufficiently progressive and insufficiently versed in electoral politics.

In the end, the calls for unity are aimed at the lefties who saw in Ellison a progressive capable of motivating young people and independents, with impressive electoral credibility to boot. Once again, the calls for unity breeze past the party insiders who intentionally fostered discord, allowing brazen character attacks in service of their candidate to go unchallenged.

The product of Obama’s efforts is a party chair, weak-voiced and insufferable, who represents the very establishment that difficult-to-win voters detest. A labor secretary who couldn’t win the endorsements of labor at a time when Big Labor’s constituents are gearing up to sign bargains with the devil in the oval. A new face on the same hollowed out shell of a party that lost in 2010, in 2012, in 2014, in 2016. A pliable lanyard for the centrist political operatives and lobbyists who saw dollar signs in Perez as they cast their ballot. A cipher for the gutless loyalists who sacrifice ideals to “unity” of a party that can’t agree on the confirmation of torture advocates, support for public education, or lowering drug costs.

We are told the black muslim who wins in a majority-white district on the edge of the rust belt and predicts Trump’s ascendence is not the leader of the moment. We are told this by the very people who insisted this moment would belong to Hillary Clinton; these ghouls who insisted they loved Bernie Sanders but couldn’t suffer his supporters. They still want our votes yet will not have our voices. They will insist that Tom Perez speaks for us and will shout us down when we disagree.

The losers still win in the elite rituals of the Democratic Party, and they remain sore. Thank God the passionate organizers and candidates I’ve seen step up since November aren’t waiting around for any cues.

They will tell us

They will tell us that this is not the place.

‘This is not the time,’ they’ll say
as we interrupt their rituals,
their sacred routines.

We will be too loud
when they drink their coffee and
too in the way as they go to work
and to buy groceries.

They will be late because of us.

They will grow tired of negative things–
have grown tired already.
They will ignore and complain of the need for ignoring;
complain of the blur of coarse words
and cursed images on their screens.

They will utter silly words in deference
to evil things and
find new words to feel better for it.

They will choose their battles
and dance with ghouls and cling
to their convenience and
their consistency.

They will laugh to keep from breaking as
the world breaks around them and we desperately
scream:

Brother! Sister! We need you!

But they will not come,

and
tomorrow I am one of them.

Your anger will be foreign to me and I will dance with ghouls for need of dancing.

When that time comes:

puncture my laughter and drag me where I am needed.

 

For All

Many of us who found some degree of liberation over the past 8 years will see familiar burdens return with today’s inauguration. Since President Obama took office I gained the right to serve in the military and the right to marry. Now a man who would electrocute me until my sexual tastes change is a heartbeat from the Presidency. I am far from hopeless, but I am scared.

Yet there are many who felt terror every day that Barack Obama occupied the White House. Palestinians had their homes stolen and were brutalized by an Israel we funded. Yemeni people were terrorized by American bombs dropped by Saudi jets that our military fueled. Al Qaeda now holds weapons we shipped overseas because flooding rebel militias with more artillery is the only response we could dream up in Syria. Hondurans were granted a repressive and violent government that we helped to install. When they sent their children here to seek refuge, we sent them back to the chaos.

When Haiti needed doctors we sent soldiers. We deported more people than we ever have before while we cheered President Obama for his progressivism. We held families in cages in detention centers while we figured out what to do with them. We kept children from their mothers and fathers. We allowed corporate security to sic dogs on Native protesters protecting their sovereign land. We released tear gas on communities demanding justice for loved ones murdered by their police. We foreclosed on millions of families while bailing out the banks that exploited them in the first place. We continued to illegally maintain a prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. We tortured and jailed whistleblowers who revealed our military’s crimes. We advocated for fracking around the world while our earth shook and water flamed and our carbon budget inched closer to zero.

So today I hope that we will stand up for the dignity, security, and humanity of those who need it. I hope that we can discover a Solidarity with the vulnerable people we’ve ignored. I worry that our efforts will narrow as our situation becomes more dire. I hope that instead we will find more compassion, more sisterhood, and more *anger* going forward.

I hope we expand our definition for justice, and I hope we fight harder than ever before.