If you hold liberal values, you should vote!

by Emrys Westacott

Some people whose political views are liberal and progressive say they will not vote in the 2020 US election. They detest Donald Trump and his Republican enablers like senate leader Mitch McConnell; they oppose Trump’s policies on most issues–the environment, immigration, health care, voting rights, police brutality, gun control, etc.; but they still say they won’t vote. Why not?

One justification sometimes given for such a stance is: It has to get worse before it gets better. Yes, Trump and co are ruining much that is precious and causing a lot of suffering; but that is what has to happen to provoke revolutionary change. People will only be goaded into action when things become sufficiently dire.

To this, I have two responses. First, if you really believe that, then you should vote for Trump. If you want to see the country driven into a ditch, he’s clearly your man! Just look around. Why leave the job half done? Read more »

Defeating Trump takes precedence over everything

by Emrys Westacott

America is a truck rolling down a hill towards a cliff. The downhill slope is the erosion of democratic norms; the cliff is the point where anti-democratic forces become powerful enough to crush democratic opposition by authoritarian means. The re-election of Donald Trump would very likely see the country sail over that cliff.

In this situation, anyone who believes that it would be a good thing to preserve what remains of American democracy and, if possible, to strengthen it and extend it so as to better realize the nation’s professed ideals, should want to see Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress soundly defeated. So anyone who has a vote should use it accordingly. Each such vote is a hand on the wheel trying to steer the truck away from disaster. To vote for Trump is to help push the truck over the cliff. To refuse to vote for Joe Biden (the presumptive Democratic candidate), especially in swing states, is effectively to stand by and watch as disaster threatens.

I understand the frustration progressive-minded people feel with a candidate like Biden. I feel it too. Once again, as so many times before, we are asked to vote for an establishment politician whose record does not indicate any deep commitment to really challenging the status quo, because the alternative is so much worse. There are only two arguments to support withholding one’s vote; but both of them are bad. Read more »

A Sentimental Bond with the Product: Joe Biden, the Past and the Future.

by Michael Liss

I’ve been thinking a lot about Joe Biden recently. Joe Biden and nostalgia, Joe Biden and memory. Joe Biden and Mad Men.

There is a wonderful scene to close the first season as Don Draper pitches an ad campaign to two exceptionally nerdy guys from Kodak. The boys from the lab want to talk technology, but a plastic and metal “wheel” is decidedly unsexy. Stumped at first, Don puts in a few of his own 35mm slides and an idea emerges. The lights dim, and images of happy moments with wife and kids, some posed, more not, each appear on the screen, with Don providing narration:

Well, technology is a glittering lure. But, there is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product. My first job, I was in-house at a fur company, with this old-pro copywriter, a Greek named Teddy. Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is new. Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product. Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. … Teddy told me that in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards, takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel. It’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.

I’ve never had an itch to see Joe Biden as President. I do like him. A lot of Americans of a certain age like him, friendly and familiar and a bit worn, like a favorite old jacket you take out every fall when it gets a little chilly. The country could do a lot worse than elect Joe Biden. He has the temperament and the policy chops: former Chairman of both the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees, former Vice-President, former glad-hander, back-slapper, and deal maker. Republicans who mocked him during the Obama Administration were often secretly relieved when the occasionally aloof President would send Joe to work the back-rooms and rope-lines. Joe got it done.  Read more »

Trump TV

by Leanne Ogasawara

Why would she do it?

Maybe she wanted to give the middle finger to her husband?

Maybe she wanted to send a sign to his base voters?

Why didn’t someone stop her from wearing a jacket that said, “I really don’t care.”

It was all another day of Trump TV. Another day when all eyes were on Trump. Another day when headlines ran with his name splashed across the front page all over the world. Another day when memes were shared on Facebook and twitter. And another day people expressed feeling incredibly offended over and over again.

Another day indeed–as this came on the heels of what was already a big week at Trump TV, given that the star of the show had just surprised all his viewers with news that he was stepping in to solve the problem of the detained children. Yes, he was solving a problem that he had himself created. The only possible way he could get more media attention after creating the problem was by inexplicably solving the problem, pretending that he had no idea why any of this had happened… And then the jacket.

The jacket was good for two full days at least. Read more »

On the Future of American Politics

by Ali Minai

072815_baierIt is only the fall of 2015, and the United States is already in the grip of the Presidential campaign for an election that is still more than a year away. Since the emergence of 24-hour news, and especially with the explosive growth in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, each successive American election cycle has become increasingly like a reality TV spectacle rather than a serious political event, culminating in the current ascendancy of an actual reality TV figure – Donald Trump – as the leading candidate from the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Millions are now watching Presidential debates purely for their entertainment value, and the American political system appears to have become a joke. But, of course, appearances are deceptive in this case. Anyone who pays attention to events around the globe understands that electing the leadership of the world's only superpower is extremely serious business with global consequences. And this is arguably more true today than at any time in history – even during the World Wars and the Cold War – because, while those challenges were dire and existential, the problems the world faces today are no less serious but even more complex. These problems – climate change, demographic and socioeconomic imbalances, the rise of jihadist militancy, mass migrations, etc. – all are, to a large extent, products of our hyperconnected, supercharged, always-on brave new world powered by the relentless march of technology towards ever higher activity, productivity, and connectivity. All of them, without exception, can be addressed only with global strategies, and not through piecemeal policy-making by national governments. But, at precisely this delicate moment, the world finds itself paralyzed with petty rivalries and feckless indecision. A lot of this is simply the inescapable product of history, but it is impossible to deny that increasing political dysfunction in the United States is a major risk factor for the many potential catastrophes staring us in the face. Anyone concerned about these dangers should care deeply about the political system of the United States and its prospects of recovery from its current funk.

Read more »