Politics, USA

A Guide to the Rigged Election

What follows, as best as I can imagine, is a list of the beliefs that a person would need to hold in order to believe that the 2020 presidential election was rigged by Democrats in order to produce a Biden victory:

  • First, I suppose you’d need to believe that a majority of the American electorate truly supports Donald Trump.  I guess it wouldn’t need to be a majority.  It wasn’t in 2016.  But nevertheless, you’d need to believe that support for the president is significantly greater than what the reported election results currently suggest.
  • This would mean that you’d need to believe that the polls were wrong.  Which they were.  Once again, the polls seem to have dramatically miscalculated Donald Trump’s popularity.  So, I suppose you’d need to believe that the Democrats successfully rigged the polls, too, but then failed to rig the election results in a way that would reflect the fake polls that they created.
  • What is more, while successfully rigging the presidential election, you’d need to believe that Democrats were for some reason not as successful at rigging important races for the House and Senate, which would’ve actually allowed Biden to carry out his presidential agenda.  You’d also need to believe this in spite of the fact that those Congressional elections, in theory, should’ve been easier to rig.
  • Or, perhaps you believe that Democrats purposefully allowed Republicans to pick up seats in Congress to throw people off the scent of their rigging of the presidency.  Quite the sophisticated plan.
  • But also, the plan couldn’t have been that sophisticated, as Democrats also forgot to tell their ballot-filler-inners not to fill in their fake ballots on camera, and to tell their late-night-illegal-ballot-truck-drivers not to deliver all 130,000 illegal ballots at the same time!  Maybe somebody else was in charge of that part of the plan.
  • But again, there must have been some level of sophistication to organize all that rigging in states that literally have thousands of polling places that employ tens-of-thousands of election judges.  As well as to coordinate the rigging effort between states since there is no one swing state that could flip the electoral college back in Trump’s favor.
  • Perhaps you believe that coordination took place amongst the “Blue Wall” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, considering their proximity to one another.  These states would’ve given Trump the presidency, and he only lost them by about 200,000 combined votes, which really isn’t that many.
  • But this might be difficult to reconcile with the fact that you didn’t have similar concerns when Trump won these states back in 2016 by only 77,000 votes—states which are historically difficult to win for Republican candidates, hence the name “Blue Wall”.
  • Of course, your focus is on Pennsylvania, which would’ve been impossible for Joe Biden to win (even though that’s the state of his birth) if not for the cheating of the Democrat-controlled city of Philadelphia.
  • This is because you believe that for some reason only Democrats are capable of cheating, even though the Republican Party has spent decades trying to make it more difficult for Americans to vote (it’s not cheating if you make the rules).
  • But you also must believe that a significant number of Republicans are in on the rigging, too, especially in Republican-controlled states like Georgia and Arizona. 
  • And don’t forget Fox News!  They were the first ones to call Arizona for Biden!
  • Or maybe you’re just against mail-in voting, or question the legitimacy of states counting ballots received after election day, even if those ballots were postmarked by election day.
  • But this would also complicate your belief that the majority of the country is actually for Trump, since it would basically mean that your guy’s election victory would depend on depriving countless Americans of what, according to the rules at the time, were supposed to be legally cast ballots.
  • But what everyone seems to agree on is that Trump has a right to bring evidence of election irregularities to the courts—a fairly normal procedure in the aftermath of a close election.
  • But if the judges were to rule against him, that would mean they must also be in on the rigging, despite the fact that one of the most important accomplishments of Trump’s presidency was his record-setting appointments of conservative judges to the federal judiciary.

This, to me, seems to be at minimum what a person would need to believe in order to believe that the 2020 presidential election was rigged by Democrats to produce a Biden victory.  That and that most of our political and journalistic institutions at a local, state, and national level are so thoroughly corrupted that, no matter who’s president, our democracy is beyond saving. 

The only other alternative is to believe that Donald Trump—one of the most controversial and divisive presidents in history—narrowly lost a democratic election, fair and square, to a Democratic candidate who was slightly better than the Democratic candidate that Trump narrowly defeated four years ago, fair and square.  And that, obviously, sounds impossible.

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Politics, USA

Election 2020: Reacting to the Results

Let’s start with the most important thing—Trump lost.  They may not have officially called it yet at the time of this post, but they will.  And that’s huge.  For many voters, that was their #1 issue.  Certainly, that was the #1 issue for me.  I have friends who said the Senate was more important.  I disagree.  Trump’s presidency was too toxic and too dangerous, and I’m so relieved that it’s soon to be over.

But I’m also disappointed.  Not because I thought this was going to be the second coming of the Blue Wave.  I was skeptical about Florida, doubtful about Iowa and Ohio, and never really believed that Democrats were poised to flip Texas this time around.  But I did expect Florida to be closer, and I didn’t expect Michigan and Wisconsin to be close.  I may not have expected a Biden landslide, but I did expect a more definitive Biden win. 

I expected that because of the polls, which once again, proved to be garbage.  And I don’t want to hear about “margins of error” or how even an 89% probability of a Biden win—as projected by 538—leaves an 11% chance for a Trump victory that didn’t even happen anyway so technically the polls were right!  Wrong.  Just like in 2016, the polls grossly misled Americans on what we were to expect from the 2020 election, and in doing so, again helped to validate the misleading narrative propagated by Trump that otherwise credible journalistic institutions are purveyors of “fake news” and not to be trusted.  I should also add that I have no idea what’s wrong with the polls or how to fix them.  But it’s not my job to know that.  It’s the pollsters’ job, and their bad at it. 

Like many Americans watching on election night, I began to feel that this was 2016 all over again—hope flaring up and then slowly burning out in swing state after swing state as polls closed across the country.  Safe to say that when I passed out drunk and despondent on my couch a little before midnight, I was terrified that I would awake to four more years of Trump’s America.

In hindsight, I should have been more patient.  After all, I can’t even count the number of times in the weeks leading up to the election that I was told that we probably wouldn’t have a clear winner on election night, and that those early results might be skewed towards Trump due to the politics around mail-in voting.  But when you combine the terrible polling, my 2016 PTSD, and the fact that I’ve been anxiously anticipating this election for a few days short of four years, it was kind of hard to be chill.

So, while Biden’s next-day emergence did eliminate the realization of my worst nightmare, a significant part of me is still really disappointed with what are now mostly the final results.  Here’s why:

Donald Trump may have been defeated, but Trumpism was not.  My hopefulness that this election would result in a resounding rejection of the toxic ideology of which Trump is both a cause and a symptom, proved to be overly-optimistic.  Barring a sudden surge of integrity from the Republican Party, Trumpism is probably here to stay, if not as the dominant ideology of the modern American right, certainly as a powerful and influential strand.

The razor-thin margins in so many states also enabled Trump to carry out what is potentially the most destructive outcome of this election—the further subversion of public faith in our democratic institutions.  Trump’s Thursday night press conference was despicable, but it was hardly surprising.  He’s been transparently laying the groundwork of this ploy for months, calling into question the validity of mail-in voting, particularly in the “Democrat-run” cities that would predictably turn out against him.  He is now seeking to reap the benefits of his own propaganda, and unfortunately, his supporters are buying into it, and establishment Republicans are shamefully going along with it.  A sad irony from a man who kicked off his presidency under the slogan “American First”, and is now selfishly doing everything in his power to leave the country cripplingly divided in his wake.

It’s also worth noting that the antics we’re seeing from Trump and his supporters are different and much more damaging than anything we saw from Democrats after Trump’s 2016 victory.  Democrats certainly weren’t happy with the results of that election, and remain frustrated with a system that continues to give the electoral advantage to their political opponents, but they did not conspiratorially question the system that produced those results.  The electoral college may be bullshit, but it’s the system we got, and Trump won it fair and square.  Most Democrats could admit that.  And while the impeachment and attempted removal of Donald Trump was perhaps a bit more conspiratorial, evidence-based allegations against an individual president and his campaign team are not nearly as unprecedented or dangerous as Trump’s evidence-less indictment of our entire democratic process (For the record, I never supported the Trump impeachment.  I always preferred to remove Trump from office the same way he got in—democratically).

Speaking of democratic institutions, it brings up what I think is one of the biggest questions that we as a country need to answer following this election—do we want to be a real democracy yet, or what?  If we truly believe that the right to vote is so goddamn important, are we ready to start treating it that way?  I’m not even talking about the electoral college.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to get rid of it, and based on some of the demographic shifts we’re starting to see in states like Arizona, Texas, and Georgia, perhaps Republicans should be considering getting rid of it, too.  

But what I’m talking about is making voting easier and more accessible for all. Mail-in voting should not be controversial.  It has been and continues to be a convenient and reliable way to extend greater opportunity to vote to more of the American electorate.  That is not to say that we shouldn’t work hard to ensure its authenticity and security.  We should, and despite the president’s baseless claims of widescale fraud, we do.

And how is Election Day not a federal holiday?!?!?  What a joke.  That legislation should pass Congress tomorrow without so much as a combative blink.  I mean, how can we call ourselves the world’s greatest democracy when people still need to rush to the polls over their lunch break?  Unless, of course, those people can instead vote early.  Or by mail…

And this one is on Republicans.  That’s not a partisan take—it’s just a fact.  Republicans want to make this country less democratic (small “d”), which, to be fair, can be a defensible position.  I for one am not one of those, “no matter what, make sure you vote” people.  I want you to vote if you think like I do, but if you don’t, I’m perfectly happy to let you stay home.  I’m also not a fan of uninformed voting.  If you don’t feel qualified to vote in a particular election or on a particular race, then maybe you shouldn’t?  Like, if I don’t know anything about the two people running for judge in District Random Number-Random Letter, then I probably shouldn’t put my thumb on the scale.  Yet, how many local races were swung this year by uninformed voters randomly circling the names of candidates due to some misguided sense of civic responsibility?

But Republicans are antidemocratic for all the wrong reasons.  They know that the poor and underprivileged are less likely to vote for them, so they purposefully make it more difficult for those people to vote, mostly by exploiting the fact that they’re poor and underprivileged.  Again, how can we call ourselves the world’s greatest democracy when the people most screwed by the system are the same people who experience the most obstacles in casting a vote to change that system?

Unfortunately, opportunities for electoral reform—or any other Democratic initiatives—may be limited due to the underwhelming performance of Democrats in down-ballot races.  And while I’ll maintain that the presidency was the most important prize for Democrats in this election, their probable inability to flip the Senate dramatically limits what they can do with that prize (still holding out hope, Georgia!!!)

But I want to end on a positive note—something that’s got lost midst all the noise of rollercoaster results and Trump temper tantrums.  That something is Kamala Harris.  Kamala Harris is the daughter of immigrants.  Kamala Harris is a woman of color.  And Kamala Harris is the first female vice president in the history of the United States of America.  That deserves to be celebrated.

If nothing else, I hope we can all recognize that.  That just for a moment, we can take off our partisan hats, collectively rise to our feet, and give that American accomplishment the standing ovation it deserves.  No matter what you think of Kamala the politician, she represents progress for this country.   She represents the long overdue culmination of a decades-long effort by both parties to put a woman on a successful presidential ticket.  For millions of young girls across the country and the globe, and especially for young black and brown girls, she represents a transcendence of what is even possible.  You can oppose Kamala’s agenda tomorrow, but tonight, you should celebrate her.  If we’re able to do that, especially for people who did not vote for the Biden-Harris ticket, perhaps we can begin the work of healing this country after an incredibly divisive end to an incredibly divisive presidency.  It’s my sincere hope that a significant slice of the 69 million voters and counting that went for Trump can demonstrate that ability.  But if not, things might get uglier before they get better. 

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Economics, Immigration, Politics, Religion, USA

Don’t Vote For Trump: A Final Plea to Potential Republican Voters

This blog post is not a Biden commercial.  I mean, if you’re asking me who I think you should vote for in the upcoming presidential election, I think it’s Joe Biden.  But I also realize that if you’re a lifelong Republican voter, a Biden vote might not be something you’re considering.

But that’s okay!  I’m not here to convince you to vote for Joe Biden.  Vote for Independent candidate Brock Pierce!  Vote for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen!  Vote for Kanye West!  Write in Mickey Mouse!  Leave all the bubbles in the presidential part of your ballot blank!  But, please, just please, don’t vote to re-elect Donald Trump.

I write this post only because I have faith in most conservative people.  I firmly believe that Trump’s 2016 electoral victory couldn’t have happened without the support of a significant number of kind-hearted, rational-minded conservatives who—in spite of their skepticism towards Trump—voted for him because he was the only Republican on the ballot.  My hope is that after the disaster that was the last four years and the potential reclamation opportunity that lies ahead in the post-Trump Republican Party, those people are willing to consider doing something different in 2020.

I should mention here that if you’re considering voting for Donald Trump not in spite of his racist dog-whistling but because of it, then this blog post isn’t for you.  If you truly believe that this country is being destroyed by Mexicans, Muslims, and urban blacks hellbent on burning down suburbia, then give your vote to Trump.  He’s certainly worked hard for it.

But if you’re one of the conservatives that’s more representative of the conservatives that I know and respect in my life—the conservatives who believe in things like traditional Christian values and limited government—then I’m here to tell you that Donald Trump not only is not the lesser of two evils, but is instead the gravest threat to the ideals you hold most dear. 

I’m not a Christian myself, but I have a lot of Christians in my life, most of whom are better people than I am.  They’re kind, compassionate, and committed to living a life modeled on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  But knowing what I know about Jesus, it’s hard for me to understand how any self-proclaimed Christian can vote for a candidate like Trump. 

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What would Jesus do?” the answer is, “the opposite of Trump.”  Can you imagine Jesus doling out mean nicknames on Twitter?  Can you imagine Jesus demonizing the frightened human beings seeking refuge at our borders or the non-violent activists crusading for social justice?  Can you imagine Jesus interrupting Joe Biden’s tribute to his dead son in order to mock his other son’s past struggles with substance abuse?  Jesus was a humble servant of the poor and the oppressed. Donald Trump is a self-absorbed narcissist who has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to empathize with the plight of the less fortunate.

I mean, do we even believe Trump is really a “Christian”?  He mocks evangelicals behind their backs, he can’t quote a single Bible verse, and when it comes to perhaps the most important issue to many devout Christians—the issue of abortion—Trump used to be pro-choice!

But even if he has “evolved” to a more staunchly anti-abortion stance, Donald Trump is not pro-life—not for struggling Americans, not for desperate refugees, and not for the unnecessary victims that have died from COVID-19 under Trump’s abysmal leadership during the pandemic.  Donald Trump will say what he thinks he needs to say and do what he thinks he needs to do in order to win votes—whether that’s throwing red meat to his racist supporters or tear-gassing protestors to clear the way for a photo op in front of a church that he doesn’t attend.  But for these reasons, even if Donald Trump does believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, his words and actions still make him one sorry excuse for a Christian.

But not all Republican voters are devoutly religious.  Many are motivated by a secular ideology based on free markets, fiscal responsibility, and limited government.  Once again, I’m here to tell you that while Joe Biden may not be your guy (unless you want him to be 😉), Trump is not your guy either. 

Trump can’t go a day without screaming about the “radical socialists” that he believes to be in control of the Democratic Party, but the truth is that the size and scope of government has only expanded under Trump.  After three years in office, Trump had already ran up nearly double the deficits of second-term Obama, and that was before he signed the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill—the largest economic aid package in American history.  Just the other day, Trump tweeted his support for anothergo big or go home” stimulus package that could be just as sizable as the first.

To be fair, I support both of these stimulus packages, and I’m glad our president does, too.  But I’m not a fiscal conservative, and clearly, neither is Trump. 

Donald Trump’s demonization of “socialism” is also comical considering that he has more authoritarian tendencies than any president in modern history.  Remember the days when Congressional Republicans used to excoriate Barack Obama for signing treaties with Iran or shaking hands with Raúl Castro?  Where the fuck were they when Trump was sucking up to Vladimir Putin or exchanging love letters with Kim Jong Un

Trump’s expressed admiration for dictators abroad and constitutional abuses at home are far more dangerous than anything coming from the “radical left”.  I mean, I have a certain respect for libertarian ideology, but honestly, when it comes to the things threatening our liberty, what should we be more afraid of—Biden using tax dollars to give healthcare to poor people or Trump ordering unsolicited federal troops to invade American cities?  As Joe Biden would say, “C’mon!”

And all this stuff barely cracks the surface of the deep trench of terrible that is Donald Trump.  I haven’t even got into his incessant lying, his baffling ignorance, his promulgation of conspiracy theories, and his subversive attacks on journalists, scientists, and soldiers.  And even though I think most sensible conservatives agree that at the very least Donald Trump has moved the Republican Party in an undesirable direction, I still fear that too many of them will hold their noses for another Trump vote in 2020.

And that would be a huge mistake.

A vote for Donald Trump would solidify the Trumpist takeover of the Republican Party, launching them further down the terrifying path of authoritarian populism and dog-whistle politics.  It would also be a potentially lethal blow to the Republican reclamation project that would almost certainly take place in the event of a Biden victory—a project aimed at returning the party to a more honorable brand of politics like those practiced by small-government libertarians and compassionate Christian conservatives.  It would be a heck of an opportunity, too, considering the likelihood that Joe Biden would only be a one-term president

And I would be so happy to see the return of that Republican Party.  Not because it would turn me into a regular Republican voter—I’m too big of a “libtard” for that—but because I’d be so happy to return to the days in which both of the dominant parties can at least occasionally feign legitimacy.  The days in which, in spite of my differing opinions on certain issues, I can at least claim to have an intellectual and philosophical respect for the leading voices on the other side of the proverbial aisle.  But that cannot happen without first getting rid of the man whose illegitimacy makes that impossible. 

A third-party candidate or a blank section on a ballot is not a wasted vote—it’s a protest vote. It’s sending a message to the two dominant parties that if they want to earn your support in the future, they need to nominate candidates that better reflect your values.  The Republican Party needs to hear that message this year, and they need to hear it from their own.  They need to hear it from you.  The stronger the disavowal of Trumpism, the more swiftly the Republican reclamation project can begin.  I’m going to use my vote to help make that happen, and whether it’s Biden, Brock, Mickey, or Kanye, I hope that Republicans will, too. 

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Minnesota, Politics, USA

Why I’m voting for Joe Biden

For people who know me, it might surprise them to learn that in the four presidential elections in which I’ve participated, I’ve never voted for the Democratic candidate.  I’ve voted for a lot of Democrats for other political offices, but when it comes to the presidency, I’ve always had a reason to cast my vote differently.

In 2004, my reason was that I was an idiot.  I was less than one month removed from celebrating my eighteenth year on this planet, and was equipped with a set of provincial attitudes that characterize the worldviews (or lack thereof) of a lot of teenage boys from outer-ring suburbs.  I cast my inaugural ballot that year by filling in the bubble next to the name of Republican incumbent George W. Bush.

By 2008, I had been thoroughly liberalized by my college education, and even though I was very much hoping for a Barack Obama victory in both that year and his subsequent reelection campaign in 2012, I never voted for him.  Accompanying my dramatic swing to the political left was another quintessential ideological development for a college-aged kid—a growing disillusionment with the establishment.  I decided to use my voice to cast a vote of dissent towards the two-party system, voting for Ralph Nader and the Green Party in 2008, and some guy from the Socialist Workers Party in 2012.  I obviously knew these candidates had no shot at winning, but hoped that a vote for a progressive candidate could signal to the Democratic Party that, if they wanted my vote in the future, they would need to embrace a more progressive agenda.

I used a similar rationale in 2016 when I cast my vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.  Once again, this vote was less of an expression of my desire of who I actually wanted to win the presidency, and more of an effort to use my voice to help influence a political shift.  To be clear, my politics had not swung back to the right.  The emergence of Donald Trump had me more convinced than ever that right wing politics in America had gone off the deep end.  I was, however, convinced that Donald Trump was going to lose the election, and thought that as the Republican Party sought to rebuild after such a train wreck of a presidential candidate, I’d prefer that party to move in the direction of libertarianism rather than further in the direction of whatever the fuck they had come to stand for under Trump.

But Trump didn’t lose. 

And while Trump’s electoral college victory shook me as a person, it’s not what shook me as a voter.  What shook me as a voter was how close Trump came to winning the electoral votes from my home state of Minnesota.

Minnesota has the longest running streak in the nation when it comes to electoral votes cast for the Democratic candidate for president.  There’s a bit of an asterisk next to that streak, as Minnesota was the ONLY state to send its votes to the Democrat in the 1984 Reagan landslide, undoubtedly because the Democratic candidate was Minnesota’s own, Walter Mondale, and voting for someone simply because they’re from our home state is the most Minnesota thing ever.  Nevertheless, the Republican Party has not won the electoral votes in this state since Richard Nixon did it in 1972.

But Trump came damn close.  He lost Minnesota by 1.5 percentage points, or just over 40,000 votes in 2016.  And if a few more Minnesota voters would have played with electoral fire like I did, he might have won the state.

Which is why I won’t be playing with fire in 2020.

Part of my rationale for the third-party vote has always been that, regardless of how I vote, Minnesota is a safe blue state.  I could use my vote to influence other changes that I want to see in politics and still feel confident that my state would be sending all ten of its electoral votes to my preferred candidate.  That’s not the case anymore.

President Trump’s frequent visits to Minnesota this election season have not been for the hotdish.  Minnesota is now a certified swing state, and that should change how we Minnesotans approach the polls.  Our votes are now objectively more important than those of voters from safe blue states like New York and California, or safe red states like South Dakota and Arkansas, and with that added importance comes increased responsibility.

And I’m feeling the weight of that responsibility. 

In a different scenario, Joe Biden would be EXACTLY the kind of candidate that would push me towards a third-party vote.  He’s too moderate, too old, too establishment, and has a political history that includes too many offensive comments and just enough disturbing allegations. 

But in this election, the stakes are too high.  Minnesota is in play and the alternative isn’t John McCain or Mitt Romney.  It’s a person that, I believe, is far and away the most hateful, incompetent, and dangerous person to occupy the Oval Office in modern U.S. history.  And even if that guy manages to squeak out another electoral victory, I won’t be one of the voters that lets him win my state on my watch.

So, I’m voting for Joe Biden.  I don’t even view it as a choice between the lesser of two evils.  I view it as a choice between one guy that’s evil and one guy that’s not.  Joe Biden is a flawed and frustrating candidate for a lot of reasons, but deep down, I really do believe that he’s a good person.  A person with morals and integrity and compassion.  A person who meets the standards of #MinnesotaNice.  A person who’s said and done bad things, but should not be defined by them.  I hardly feel the same about Donald Trump. 

To those who have similar feelings towards Trump but will vote third-party anyway, I did not write this piece to shame you.  Voting is a deeply complicated and personal thing, and as a regular third-party voter myself, I fully understand the reasons one might hesitate to lend their support to the Democratic Party or the candidate they’ve nominated.  But I also know that if Trump were to win Minnesota and I had not done everything in my power to prevent that from happening, I’d feel regretfully complicit.  If you think you might feel the same, then perhaps a vote for Joe Biden is worth your consideration, too. 

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Education, Politics, USA

How To Brainwash a Student Trump Supporter

It was pretty clear after the first few days of school that a Trump Shop had opened up in the town where I teach.  From “Keep America Great!” hats and swim trunks to “Trump 2020” sweatshirts and COVID masks, dozens of students arrived to school decked out in election-year gear, undoubtedly hoping to trigger the snowflake teachers that run most of their classrooms.  Credit to the Trump team, I guess, for building a brand that’s hip, with it, and wow amongst a certain population of teenager trendsetters.  And while it’s true I’m dismayed by the fondness so many of my students have of our current president, I’ve also commented to colleagues that it makes it easier for me to identify the kids I need to target for political conversion. 

Much like the title of this write-up, the last line of the above paragraph is a joke. I don’t want to brainwash students.  I want to teach students to think for themselves.  If a kid chooses to believe something simply because he presumes that it’s what I believe, then I’m not doing my job. 

However, like a lot of good jokes, there is some truth to it—not in a political, “vote for Joe Biden or you fail my class!” kind of way, but in the way that so much of the essence of Donald Trump conflicts with the values that school buildings everywhere are seeking to cultivate.  There is no curricular conspiracy against Trump the president, but when it comes to many of the beliefs and behaviors that make up Trump the man, they are alarmingly antithetical to the values we want to instill in our young people. 

Kindness

Donald Trump is hardly the first president capable of being less than kind, but he is also uniquely capable of being mean.  The Twitter wars that have consumed so much of Trump’s time and energy during his presidency go beyond political mudslinging.  They represent the kind of mean-spirited name-calling that we have been discouraging in our children since pre-school. 

Well before “Sleepy” Joe Biden, Trump has employed a laundry list of nicknames to mock his political opponents.  They’re “creepy”, “crooked”, “wacky”, “deranged”, “shifty”, “heartless”, “phony”, and “slimeballs” just to name a few.  He’s made fun of men for their small stature (“Little” Marco and “Mini” Mike Bloomberg), questioned the intelligence and mental stability of women (“Crazy/Low IQ” Maxine Waters and Gretchen “Half-Whitmer”), and continually insulted indigenous Americans with his use of the name “Pocahontas” to mock Elizabeth Warren.  They have a name for this kind of stuff in elementary school—it’s called bullying.

To be sure, Trump is also the recipient of his fair share of mean-spirited mockery, which should be discouraged, as well.  Especially those insults that have no place in politics like disparaging Trump for his physical appearance.  However, while cheap insults are to be expected from liberal comedians and late-night talk show hosts, they should not be the norm for the occupant of the Oval Office.  And in a school setting where we work hard to help students resolve their differences civilly, it’s not helpful that the conflict resolution modelled by a president whom so many students look up to is mostly made up of language that would land him in the principal’s office.

Leadership

Leadership is important in our schools on many levels.  It is important for teachers to show students what it means to be an adult and a professional. It is important for older students and student leaders to be good role models for younger students and impressionable peers.  And it often involves carrying yourself in a certain way in a public setting that might differ slightly from how you carry yourself in a private one. 

The current pandemic is a great example.  Like most Americans, I’m pretty imperfect when it comes to the practice of mask-wearing and social distancing in my personal life.  And while I’m a firm believer in the gravity of this virus and the necessity of these measures to limit its spread, I’m sure that in a school building of hundreds of professionals, there are those who are more skeptical.

Nevertheless, when it comes to our collective time on the clock, I have seen nothing but the utmost professionalism from my colleagues.  Mask-wearing, social distancing, and regular cleaning of hands and surfaces are employed in every corner of the building per the mandates and guidance provided by the state.  Even the students have been remarkable in their compliance with procedures that many of them question and none of them enjoy.  Sure, I’ve had to occasionally tell students to please pull up their masks, but overall, I’ve been extremely impressed with the willingness of young people to do their part to help keep our school opened during the pandemic. 

Which is more than I can say for our president.  It took the president months to explicitly endorse mask-wearing—an endorsement largely undermined by all the skepticism he had already sewn about the pandemic’s severity.  While schools like mine are working hard to provide the safe, in-person learning that the president said he desired, the president is holding indoor rallies that violate state COVID-19 restrictions and have little-to-no enforcement in regards to social distancing and mask-wearing.  With that kind of leadership, it’s little wonder why the U.S. is the leading the world in both cases and deaths and why so many people in the U.S. are resistant to pandemic-related precautions. 

Which is not to say that Trump’s task is an easy one.  The pandemic has left political leaders with the unenviable, lose-lose decision of either shutting down schools and businesses or risking the further spread of a virus that has already proven to be immensely lethal, especially to society’s most vulnerable. But when it comes to what many consider to be the president’s most important job, protecting the health and safety of the American people, and doing the bare minimum like encouraging mask-wearing, social distancing, and heeding the advice of medical professionals, Trump’s leadership has been abysmal. 

Thoughtfulness

One of the main skills I seek to cultivate in my Social Studies classroom is encouraging students to be thoughtful.  I want students to ditch their black-and-white worldviews and see the varying shades of gray—to interpret a complicated and complex world with the nuance it deserves.  Donald Trump is incapable of that. 

Aside from colorful and creative insults, there are only a handful of adjectives that Trump uses with any regularity.  Everything is the “best” or the “most” or the “worst” or the “least”.  Things are either “good” or “bad”, “great” or “horrible”, with little room for a more measured in between.

There was a lot to be appalled by in Donald Trump’s early-August interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios.  People were rightly offended by his ineptitude surrounding the virus and his childish unwillingness to recognize the legacy of John Lewis.  But for me, the part of the interview that had my head most violently shaking in disbelief was when the subject turned to foreign policy (approximately 16:26-22:22).  The vagueness and imprecision in Trump’s language, his name dropping of countries like India and China, the boasting about his reading ability and meeting attendance—all of it left me with a complete lack of faith that this man understands the world complexly. 

Which isn’t to say that I do.  I couldn’t begin to tell you about the religious and ethnic tensions that complicate the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, or the geopolitical forces that drive policy decisions about South and East Asia.  But I don’t think the current president can either. 

And when you combine that with Trump’s complete and total lack of humility, that’s kind of scary.  Thankfully, the president almost certainly has a team of advisors that understand the world with far more complexity than he does, but it’s still pretty disturbing that the man ultimately making the final decisions has a worldview that appears so incomplete and simplistic.

Presidents should be intellectuals.  Even if we disagree with them politically, presidents should provide a model of what it means to be intelligent—to possess vast knowledge about the world, its issues, and its people, and what it means to be a perceptive and thoughtful person.  Once again, as this kind of role model, Donald Trump leaves plenty to be desired. 

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  It’s being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and consider their perspectives and experiences, even if they don’t reflect your own.  It is an essential skill that students need in order to make evaluative moral judgments about things like justice both in history and in the present time.  And while empathy won’t always lead us to change our beliefs, it still has the power to strengthen and refine them. 

It’s hard to imagine a less empathetic political figure than Donald Trump.  On the contrary, Trump seems unable to make any issue he comes into contact with about anything other than himself.  Just the other night at a town hall, Trump was asked whether or not he believes that there’s a “race problem” in America.  His response: “I hope there’s not a race problem.  I can tell you there’s none with me.” 

Empathy and conservative politics do not have to be mutually exclusive.  It is possible to recognize the tragic plight of refugees while still advocating for a secure border.  It is possible to acknowledge the racism and inequities still experienced by black people in the United States while also questioning some of the goals and tactics of groups like Black Lives Matter.  But that’s not what Trump does.  Instead, Trump seeks to demonize, divide, and desperately cling to the disgusting blend of fear-mongering and racist dog-whistling that he hopes will scare enough white voters into giving him a second term. 

I teach a lot about empathy in my U.S. History class.  We are constantly seeking out multiple perspectives in an effort to understand how experience and identity shape the way that people perceive history.  We look at the American Revolution through the eyes of the powerful, the disenfranchised, and the enslaved.  Manifest Destiny through the eyes of white settlers, Native Americans, and Chinese immigrants.  The Vietnam War through the eyes of the president and the public, the soldiers and the parents, hawks and doves in Congress, the Vietnamese in the North and the South, and the Hmong. 

Studying these perspectives not only helps my students to understand history, it helps them to understand each other. It helps them to understand the different ways that we all perceive the history we are living right now due to the varying intersections of our experiences, our identities, and our current seat (or lack thereof) at the proverbial table.  Empathy is among the most important virtues we seek to instill in our students.  It’s just so sad that we have to work against the White House in order to do it.

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I don’t think that it’s possible for education to be apolitical.  While objectivity is something to strive for, teaching as a profession is just too personal and too tied up in our values to ever be completely void of bias.  Even if it were possible to teach a curriculum with complete neutrality, the decisions about what to include in and exclude from that curriculum are also value judgements that are not neutral at all.

However, what I can say is that when it comes to American politics, my teaching does not and should not have any desired political outcomes.  The goal of education is not to turn students into Democrats or Republicans—it is to help them become good people. 

Neither liberal nor conservative ideology has a monopoly on what it means to be a good person.  At my school, there are students from across the ideological spectrum that have the potential to be the kind, thoughtful, empathetic people we need to lead the next generation.  Unfortunately, teaching them that skillset also implicitly means teaching students to be very unlike the man whose name is emblazoned on so much of their merchandise.  If that’s brainwashing, so be it.

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Politics, Race, USA, World

The Transparency of Trump’s “Chinese” Virus

Let me start with a concession: the Coronavirus did originate in China. To that degree, the president’s use of the term “Chinese virus” is accurate. I’ll follow it up with another concession: the Chinese government is deserving of criticism for its handling of the initial outbreak. Though recent governmental efforts have led to a vast reduction of new cases inside the country, it’s reasonable to think that more effective measures early on could have helped to prevent some of the worldwide chaos that we are experiencing now.

Those concessions withstanding, Donald Trump’s recent rebranding of COVID-19 as the “Chinese” virus is disgusting. It’s a transparent attempt to tap into the racism and xenophobia that animates much of his base, and perhaps worse, a shameful act of cowardice during a time when strong leadership and accountability couldn’t be more important.

I’ve repeatedly resisted the urge to call Donald Trump a racist. I’m a firm believer that that term should be reserved for people who truly hold hatred in their hearts for different “races” of people, not people who are racially unenlightened. Trump is definitely the latter, and while he may not be the former, he sure has no problem exploiting the racial hatred of others.

There had already been an uptick in discriminatory attitudes and behavior towards Asian-Americans since the Coronavirus outbreak began, and that was before the most influential person in the country decided to get in on it. Trump knows that his words will contribute to this ugliness, but he doesn’t give a shit. That’s because he’s already made the political calculation that his best hope for reelection lies in crafting the same xenophobic narrative that won him the presidency four years ago. Much like the boogieman of the Central American migrant was his ticket to victory in 2016, he believes that the boogieman of the Chinese virus will salvage his reelection campaign in 2020.

And that’s what makes Trump such a fucking coward. This was Trump’s chance to step up and be the brave “wartime president” that he imagines himself to be in his egomaniacal fantasies. This was his opportunity to be a leader of a nation in a time of crisis. But Trump has not been the strong leader we need.

Strong leaders accept responsibility for their shortcomings and promise to learn from their mistakes. Trump tries to rewrite the history of his own incompetencies and searches for scapegoats to deflect the blame. Strong leaders seek to bring diverse peoples together and unite them around a common struggle. Trump reads the words of unity from a script but can’t suppress his divisive impulses the second he’s asked to speak form himself. Strong leaders are champions of the most vulnerable. Trump victimizes them.

There are some governmental measures spearheaded by Trump that are worth commending. The weeklong, albeit, overdue efforts to get Americans to embrace social distancing and self-quarantining will hopefully help to flatten the curve. The massive stimuluses for American citizens and businesses will hopefully help to head off the enormous economic losses that are resulting from nationwide societal shutdowns. But these are things that any American government would have done anyway, regardless of who’s in charge.

Make no mistake, when it comes to the main responsibilities of an individual president in a time of crisis, Trump has been a total failure. Rather than providing leadership and inspiring confidence, Trump has been a fountain of misinformation, contradictory claims, and now blatant bigotry. We’ll make it through this crisis in spite of him, but when we do, and Trump tries to make the case later this fall that it was his courageous leadership that helped the country prevail, please, America, don’t fall for it.

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P.S. If you want to see a difference in leadership styles during a time of crisis, just do a little comparison between the Twitter’s of our former president and our current president.  No partisanship necessary.

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History, Politics, USA

Sacrifice in the Time of Corona

Americans are no strangers to sacrifice.  We make sacrifices in our personal lives all the time—for friends, for family, for work—putting aside personal desires and ambitions in order to support the other people that frequent our existence.  We’ll surely be making many of those sacrifices in the weeks and months ahead, as we struggle to adjust to the life-altering circumstances imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.  But in addition to the personal sacrifices, there lies an opportunity, and perhaps a necessity, for our country to reacquaint itself with a type of sacrifice that we may have grown distant from—a larger, more collective sacrifice for the greater, national good.

There are periods in our country’s history when a sense of national sacrifice was much more salient.  During the Second World War, Americans in every community showed up to support the “war effort”.  They planted victory gardens, and limited their consumption of meat, dairy, and gasoline.  They turned out their lights early, and collected and donated resources like rubber and aluminum.  They spent billions of dollars on government war bonds.  And while some of this sacrifice was a result of government mandate, most accounts suggest that an overwhelming majority of Americans supported the war effort not because they had to, but because they wanted to.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appealed to a national sense of collective sacrifice, and Americans willingly answered his call, becoming a vital component of the American military victory abroad.

Another president made a similar appeal a few decades later. John F. Kennedy ascended to the presidency during the formative years of the Cold War—a time when every aspect of American life seemed to be under imminent threat.  In his inaugural address, Kennedy famously challenged his fellow Americans to, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”  This call to duty inspired a generation of Americans to seek careers in public service as teachers and soldiers and government officials, hoping to contribute to something larger than themselves.  The efforts of this generation were essential in the decades that followed as the United States pulled away from the Soviet Union in their various Cold War competitions, and became the world’s sole superpower, a designation it still holds today.

This sense of national sacrifice for a greater common good has not completely disappeared from the American ethos, but it has faded significantly.  Elected leaders today might be adept at making promises—most of which they can’t or won’t keep—but rare is the politician who will ask Americans for something in return (other than campaign donations).  It makes sense, in a way.  A call for sacrifice doesn’t win elections, so campaigns stopped making them, and as a result, Americans grew unaccustomed to hearing them.

But as positive tests for the coronavirus continue to multiply by the day, a call for sacrifice from our elected leaders is exactly what we need, not only to protect ourselves as individuals, but to do what’s best for the collective whole.

The importance of this last part cannot be overstated. If what we think we know about the disease is true, then the coronavirus does not pose a grave health risk to the majority of Americans.  As a relatively young person in relatively good health, it seems that even if I were to contract the virus, I’d probably be fine.  It might leave me feeling pretty crummy for several days, but in all likelihood, I’d survive.

BUT THIS IS NOT HOW I SHOULD BE THINKING.  Even if the coronavirus does not pose a lethal threat to me as an individual, it can still use me as a vehicle to inflict lethal damage on others.  I may be able to weather the disease, but if I infect others, who infect others, who infect others, eventually the virus will find a host that is much more vulnerable than I, and it may find several of them.

This speaks to the role that each of us must play in limiting the spread of this virus.  It’s why we need to wash our hands and avoid touching our face.  It’s why we need to work from home and practice social distancing. It’s why we need to reduce or eliminate our trips to the store, the bar, the mall, and the gym.  To put it shortly and bluntly, the more we are willing to make our own lives suck, the more likely it is that other lives won’t end.

To be sure, our government has to help us out, too.  The economic losses that will be experienced due to this virus can only be mitigated by a massive government stimulus—bailout-style payments to big businesses, small businesses, and individuals that will help to prevent further economic crisis.  Still, government will not be able to do its part if we don’t first do ours.

It is our national duty to not expose ourselves to the coronavirus, or if we do, to not expose ourselves to others. It is our national duty to protect the faceless fellow Americans whose lives will be saved by our actions, or lack thereof.  We must reawaken the sense of national sacrifice that inspired past generations of Americans to think beyond themselves in times of crisis, or just times in general.  We must do our part to not become a link in the chain.  We must do our part to help “flatten the curve”.

It’s hard to know what the coming weeks might hold. The last few days have been the most tumultuous days since, for most of us, ever.  And while things may not be great for much of the immediate future, most Americans can take solace in the fact that, if not for their sacrifices, things would be even worse.

We are all literally in this together.  This disease does not target Democrats over Republicans or Muslims over Christians or Americans over any other human being on the other side of some arbitrary border.  It’s a crisis that reminds us of our common humanity.  It’s us versus it.

We need to move forward with that collective mentality—one that places the greater, national good over selfish comforts or desires. And if we’re able to make those sacrifices, for ourselves and for each other, just like generations of Americans before us, we’ll win.

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Why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in the Super Tuesday Minnesota Primary

I like Bernie Sanders the candidate.  I really like Bernie Sanders the person.  I really, REALLY like Bernie Sanders the cranky, disheveled, old man hellbent on carrying out a revolution even if he dies trying (and he might!).  However, despite his irresistible likeability and his front-runner status, I’ve been unconvinced that he represents the best option for Democrats in their efforts to unseat Donald Trump in 2020.

And I’m still not convinced.  This write-up is way less about convincing others to think like I do and way more about figuring out what it is that I actually think.  And at the moment, I think that I think, despite his obvious weaknesses, Bernie Sanders has as good of a chance as anybody to take back the presidency for the Democratic Party.

Common sense suggests otherwise.  If, like me, you agree that the most important quality in any potential Democratic nominee should be that candidate’s ability to defeat Donald Trump in a general election, then a self-described “democratic-socialist” hardly seems like the best fit.  When I cast my vote for Bernie on Tuesday, I will do so with this reservation very much weighing on my political conscience.  However, while it’s not enough to quell my worries completely, deeper consideration of this concern has me questioning if it’s really as common sense as it seems.

The prevailing thinking goes as follows: Donald Trump is an extreme right-wing candidate who has alienated many moderate Republican supporters.  Therefore, the Democratic strategy should be to nominate somebody left-of-center—a candidate who can turn out the Democratic base, united in its opposition to Trump, and perhaps also attract some more moderate conservatives who are fed up with the chaos of the Trump presidency.  To nominate a progressive candidate, particularly one as radical as Bernie Sanders, is to forgo that potential moderate support, and by consequence, lose the election. Moderate Republicans may be able to hold their nose for a Joe Biden vote, but they will NOT vote for a socialist.

This all makes sense, and undoubtedly describes many individuals in the electorate who would view Bernie as a deal-breaker when it comes to casting a Democratic vote.  However, it is also based on a questionable assumption: that this is how the majority of the American electorate actually makes its decisions.

People plugged into American politics know where they lie on the political spectrum.  So do people who write about American politics and say things like I said two paragraphs above.  But for a lot of American voters, the political spectrum doesn’t always seem to be the best indicator in determining how they might vote.  Bernie Sanders has much more in common ideologically with Hillary Clinton than he does with Donald Trump, yet the numbers suggest that at least 1 in 10 voters that supported Bernie in the 2016 primaries went on to vote for Trump in the general election. Different numbers also suggest that the key voter group that cost Clinton that election might have been former Obama voters who also opted for Trump.  And while surely these voters each have their unique reasons to explain why they voted the way that they did, on a macro level, it doesn’t make a whole lot of ideological sense.

Which leads us to another fact that we know about American voters: while some vote with their mind, many others vote with their gut.  They vote less based on what a candidate believes, and more on how that candidate makes them feel.  Anyone that has ever seen a Trump rally should know that this is true about Trump voters, and the rabidity of the Bernie Bros suggests that its true for many of those voters, as well.  Not all Bernie supporters are radical socialists.  Many are just people who perceive him to be an authentic truth-teller that represents a refreshing departure from the status quo.  And they’re not wrong.

Bernie’s crossover appeal also extends to his message.  I’m not sure how it plays in Florida, but his appeal to working class people resonates loudly in states vital to Trump’s 2016 victory.  Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin—all states won by Donald Trump in 2016, and all states in which Bernie Sanders could fare well in 2020.  And while his policies are very different, the populist undertones of Bernie’s campaign are not that dissimilar from some parts of the promise to Make America Great Again (just not the racist and xenophobic parts).

Once again, I am not even convinced of my own position.  Part of me still very much feels that I should cast the “safe” vote for a more moderate candidate.  But I’m also reminded of what happened around this time in 2016.  Bernie Sanders was surging in Democratic primaries, but ultimately came up short of securing the nomination.  His failure to do so resulted from many of the same preoccupations that surround his candidacy today—concerns that his democratic socialism made him unelectable, and that it was safer to go with the more moderate, establishment choice.  After Trump secured the Republican nomination, the “safe” choice seemed like an even bigger no-brainer.  Surely the relatively moderate Clinton would defeat the radical, right-wing demagogue in the general election.  And we all know what happened next.

Come November, I will vote for the candidate that receives the Democratic nomination, no matter who that happens to be.  For the most part, I like all of the candidates on the Democratic side, which is a lot more than I can say about the buffoon that will once again represent the Republicans.  The big question continues to be which Democratic candidate has the best shot at an electoral victory.  My mind tells me one thing, my gut tells me another, and on Super Tuesday, I’m going with the latter.  Feel the Bern.

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Thoughts on the Trump Impeachment

I don’t like Donald Trump.  Never have.  He doesn’t have the qualities that I appreciate in a person, let alone a world leader.  In most cases, he’s the opposite.  I like kindness—Donald Trump is mean.  I like an intellectual—Donald Trump is shallow. I like people who take the high road—Donald Trump always takes the low road.  I like people with a certain degree of humility—Donald Trump is a braggadocious buffoon who never shuts up about how great he is.

None of these things are impeachable offenses.  Donald Trump, after all, was already all of these things long before the 2016 presidential election, and people voted for him anyway.  That said, the argument that the Trump impeachment is an effort to undo the “will of the people” doesn’t really hold water.

Removing a popularly elected president is exactly what impeachment was designed to do.  It’s a safeguard that the framers wrote into the Constitution not just as a check on the executive, but as a check on the people themselves, whom many of the framers had very little faith in when it came to intelligent decision-making.  Plus, if Donald Trump were to be removed via this constitutional process, he wouldn’t be replaced by a collective executive made up of Nancy Pelosi and the Squad.  He’d be replaced by the ultra-conservative Mike Pence, who would carry out the rest of the four-year term secured by the 2016 electoral victory.

Still, if a popularly elected president is to be removed from office, it’s got to be for the right reasons. It’s got to be because the president’s actions fit the description laid out in the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

I’ve got some major objections to the ways that House Democrats have went about making that case.  That begins with their lack of credibility.  The word “impeachment” has been in the mouths of House Democrats since the day Trump took office, and now that we finally find ourselves in a situation where Trump’s actions might be objectively impeachable, the word has lost all of its power.  It’s the classic parable of the boy who cried wolf—when the wolf finally showed up, nobody believed it.

The other major issue that I have with the Democratic approach is my belief that they are over-playing their hand.  That’s not to say that they don’t have a hand to play.  Overall, I found the impeachment hearings to be highly effective in illustrating the problematic nature of the president’s actions, and utilizing a group of witnesses who were credible, professional, and non-partisan.

But while I heard enough in the testimony to be convinced that Trump did indeed offer a “quid pro quo”, and that he did indeed suspend military aid to Ukraine in order to force an investigation into a political opponent, manipulating taxpayer money and placing American foreign policy initiatives in jeopardy in order to try to better his own reelection possibilities, I would concede one major point—there is no “smoking gun”.

In her opening statement of the impeachment debates, Nancy Pelosi said that the House was there to discuss “the established fact that the president violated the Constitution.”  This simply isn’t true.  The evidence and testimony certainly point in that direction, but there still is nothing to undeniably prove it.  Even key witness Gordon Sondland admitted that his assertion of a quid pro quo was based on a “presumption”, and with something as serious as impeachment, it seems iffy to proceed on a presumption, even if it’s a pretty strong one.

What is more, while this charge would constitute a serious abuse of presidential power, I can’t help but feel that House Dems are still overstating its gravity.  In his floor statement on the day of the impeachment vote, Congressman Adam Schiff reiterated the testimony of Professor Gerhart a few weeks prior, who stated that if Donald Trump’s actions were not impeachable, “then nothing is impeachable.”  Schiff went on to ominously warn that, “The president and his men plot on.  The danger persists. The risk is real. Our democracy is at peril.”

I agree that Donald Trump’s actions on Ukraine do represent something that, in their essence, seek to undermine the foundations of American democracy.  I also agree that Donald Trump is a unique brand of dangerous, and that his words and actions are all too-often reminiscent of those leaders who have undermined democratic societies throughout history.  Still, as I was listening to Schiff’s floor speech, as well as the statements of many of his Democratic colleagues, I can’t help but admit that my first reaction to much of what they had to say was, “Really?”  Is Trump’s failed attempt at a quid pro quo really the worst crime imaginable when thinking about what constitutes an impeachable offense?  Are Trump and his men really plotting to destroy American democracy and transform the United States into a fascist dystopia?  Or does this type of language do more to reinforce the Trumpian narrative that Democrats’ hate for him is so powerful that it prevents them from rational thinking?

I don’t consider myself a member of either of the two major parties, but I absolutely view the Democrats as the lesser of two evils, and I don’t think it’s close.  However, in order to convince the public that Trump is guilty of abusing his presidential power, Democrats cannot overstate their case.  Democrats have to be the party of rationality and nuance, because if they’re not, they make themselves indistinguishable from the disingenuous and unintelligible demagoguery that is constantly taking place on the right.

Congressional Republicans have been unsurprisingly awful throughout the entirety of the impeachment proceedings.  Impeachable or not impeachable, Trump did something wrong, and the Republicans know it.  If you want to carry out a fun thought experiment, imagine if, with all the other details constant, the person on the other end of the phone call with the Ukrainian president had been Hilary Clinton. Republicans would have their hair on fire, and would have lost their voices from incessant participation in “LOCK HER UP!” chants.  But of course, since it’s Trump, Republicans have once again sold out the principles they supposedly stand for in order to defend this president.

The idea that Trump is actually concerned about corruption in Ukraine is laughable.  It is abundantly obvious that the only reason Trump has any interest in Ukrainian corruption is the hope that he can tie it to his most likely opponent in the upcoming election, and have the 2020 equivalent of “Hilary’s emails” should Biden secure the nomination.  It’s also pretty clear that Trump was withholding military aid in an effort to force that investigation, and just because it didn’t work doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be condemned for trying.

But for Republicans, that admission would feel like too much of a concession, so they continue with their transparent strategy to try to refocus the spotlight on overzealous Dems, and when pushed, double-down on their dishonest assertion that the president “did nothing wrong.”  If they really believed that, they’d be onboard with Democrats in calling on Trump to let top White House officials testify.  The fact that they’re not shows that they know what Trump knows—if those officials testify and tell the truth, Democrats will have the definitive proof they need to show that Trump did what they think he did.

It’s also worth stating that the evaluation of the president’s actions should not be dependent on whatever the Biden’s may or may not be guilty of in Ukraine.  In all likelihood, the appointment of Hunter Biden to a lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian company, and the demands of then Vice President Joe Biden to fire a prosecutor who was investigating that company, is just a case of terrible optics.  There is no evidence to suggest anything different.  But if there were to be an investigation, and that investigation were to reveal the Biden’s were up to some kind of sketchy business, would that really change the nature of the charges against Trump?  At the end of the day, Trump would still be using the power of the executive to advance his own personal interests.  The fact that there would be a “there there” in the case of the Biden’s would not make that any less true.

But in spite of my beliefs that Trump did abuse his power, and that that abuse of power perhaps rises to the level of an impeachable offense, there is still one major element that is lacking in order for me to feel comfortable with impeachment—the support of the American people.

Technically, that support is already there.  A recent poll showed that 52% of respondents supported the articles of impeachment, with 43% opposing.  But something as big as impeachment, and ultimately removal from office, should not result from a slim majority.  As the articles of impeachment move to the Senate, if Democrats are to have any shot at a conviction, they need to convince more Americans of the dangers of the Trump presidency.

In one sense, this is a practical necessity.  In order to obtain the 2/3 majority for a conviction, Republican senators are going to need to feel more heat from their constituents, but if the opinions of voters on impeachment continue to depend on partisan allegiances, then that is not going to happen.  In another sense, it just feels like a broad consensus should be the expectation if a president is going to be removed from office.

It is highly unlikely that any dramatic shift is coming, either in the Senate or in the electorate, that would result in the first successful conviction on impeachment charges in the history of the country.  The Senate trial will likely go as we expect it to go—most-to-all Democrats will vote to convict, most-to-all Republicans will vote to acquit, and Donald Trump will go on to serve out the remainder of his first term in office.  Which is why I have been saying from the beginning that the most important takeaway from these proceedings will not be the inevitable results in the House and Senate, but the way those results play in the minds of voters heading into the 2020 election.

And this has to be the goal moving forward.  Americans don’t need to be convinced that Trump should have or should not have been impeached by the House.  Americans don’t need to be convinced that Trump should be or should not be removed from office by the Senate.  Americans just need to be convinced that what Trump did was wrong.  They need to be convinced that these actions, whether impeachable or not, are just the latest in a series of actions that are selfish, immoral, and unpresidential.  This may not result in a Senate conviction, but if done effectively, it would result in the removal of Donald Trump by a different method—democratic election—which continues to be the most practical, legitimate, and satisfying means to remove this president from an office that he has done so much to disgrace.

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Weighing in on Ilhan Omar v. Donald Trump

I voted for Ilhan Omar in 2018.  I have mixed feelings regarding her House tenure thus far.  I’m very proud of what she represents, but sometimes unsure about how she’s representing.  But while she certainly has her flaws, and is still self-admittedly learning and growing, Ilhan Omar and her three “Squad” colleagues deserve every American’s defense against the recent verbal attacks that they’ve suffered from the Twitter-fingers of the president.

To rehash: In a recent tweet regarding these four Congresswomen, Donald Trump said, “So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally come from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world…now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.  Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”

Before moving forward, it is worth noting that only one of these four women (Omar) is foreign-born, and all of them are American citizens.

And that was just the beginning.  As the Twitter war ensued, and expanded into other mediums, Trump proceeded to call these four women, and Ilhan Omar in particular, “disgraceful,” “disgusting”, “Radical Leftists”, “Communists”, “Anti-Semitic”, “Anti-America”, “pro-terrorist”, “racist”, mislabelers of racism in others, and perhaps most prominently, people who “HATE our country.”

Specifically in regards to Omar, there are shreds of sentiments that I agree with in these otherwise intolerant statements.  I agree that Omar is “radical”, in the sense that her views oftentimes fail to reflect the recognition of complexity and nuance that I believe is necessary to describe our reality.  I agree that certain comments from Omar indeed fall under the category of “anti-Semitic”, or at the very least, unknowingly rhyme with anti-Semitic tropes.  I agree that “racist” is a word that is thrown around far too loosely by many on the progressive left, and that more nuanced language is needed to describe the differing perceptions of racial reality possessed by the modern American public.

That last sentiment is why I will once again stop short of labeling Trump as a racist.  I still do not believe that Trump harbors real hatred in his heart for Somalis, Latinos, or any other “race” of people.  Instead, I prefer to call Trump “racially ignorant”.  I really do think that he is almost completely unaware of the racially charged language that he uses.  That or he purposefully uses that language as a tool to try to rile up the real racists in his base. It’s not textbook “racism”, but it is still hugely troubling.

As noted, Ilhan Omar has made some ignorant and discriminatory statements herself, specifically in regards to Jewish people.  The big difference between her and Trump is in their reactions.  Omar unknowingly played on anti-Semitic tropes in statements that she made regarding pro-Israeli lobbyists.  She was officially disavowed by her Democratic colleagues in Congress for those statements, and in return, offered a seemingly genuine apology in which she claimed to be “listening and learning,” and thanked her “Jewish allies and colleagues” for “educating [her] on the painful history” of anti-Semitism.

Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t see a need for listening or learning.  Trump is constantly offering up coded language about blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and other historically marginalized groups, and when confronted about it, does not apologize, but instead chooses to double-down.  In this most recent case against Omar and her women of color colleagues, Dems are again proposing an official disavowal of Trump’s hateful language, much like they did with Omar.  Most Republicans are conspicuously silent.

And this seems to validate one of Trump’s primary defenses: “People agree with me”—the idea that since many Americans agree with Trump’s less-than enlightened reflections, that that makes those reflections okay.  There is no sentiment that gives me less faith in our democracy than this one.

I have been a consistent opponent of the calls for President Trump’s impeachment on the grounds that, 1) The Mueller Report found insufficient evidence regarding the initial crimes that is was called upon to investigate, and 2) Despite potential obstructions of justice, I’d rather see Trump defeated democratically via our election process.   That said, this particular Trump statement, as well as myriad other statements that I have heard personally and impersonally from Trump supporters, makes me worry that we still live in country in which a significant amount of people will vote for Donald Trump not IN SPITE OF the racist things he says, but BECAUSE of them.  I don’t think that represents the majority of our country, but as the 2016 election proved, Trump doesn’t need a majority to win a second term.

Ironically, Trump won that 2016 election on a four-word slogan, “Make America Great Again”—a slogan that suggests that 2016 Donald Trump was dissatisfied with the state of affairs of his country at that time.  Over the last few days, many have pointed out the inconsistency and hypocrisy between this slogan and the accusations of anti-Americanism that Trump has hurled towards the four Congresswomen.  “Make America Great Again” doesn’t seem to suggest a love for our country as it is, nor a patriotism towards the diverse, multicultural nation that the United States has become, an element of our country that many people love.  Instead, much like many of the comments of Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Tlaib, “Make America Great Again” represents a criticism of certain aspects of our country.  “Make America Great Again” is an expression of dissent.

But I’m not here to condemn dissent.  On the contrary, I firmly subscribe to the belief that dissent is one of the highest forms of patriotism that one can express—that if you truly love your country, but are unsatisfied or displeased with certain characteristics that it holds or actions that it performs, you do not passively accept those flaws, but instead, challenge your country to be better.  Ilhan Omar seems to understand this.  As she said yesterday, the provocative statements that she has made do not come from a place of hate, they come from “a place of extreme love.”

That is why Ilhan Omar and her allies are so valuable in our Congress.  It is not because their dissent is always righteous or always right, but because it gives us a perspective that our democracy has so often lacked.  From women.  From people of color.  From the sons and daughters of the foreign born, or those born abroad themselves.  For groups that this country has historically failed, and in some ways, continues to fail today.  These are perspectives that are always worth considering. Trump is not evil for lacking these perspectives, but he might be for his refusal to understand them.

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