Sunday, November 13, 2016

Entering The Bumpy Transition Post-Election And The Casualties of Democracy

It's been a rocky ride this week, post-election, here in the United States.

At 5 days after "The Big Vote," Hillary Clinton's popular vote count exceeds Donald Trump's by 600,000 votes (as the counts keep coming).  But, it doesn't matter, because of the Electoral College. We have a President-Elect in Donald Trump.
60 Minutes even shared him with us.

But we have more than that. We have 60 million people who are thrilled by their win & the hope for change, and another 60 million folks who are afraid we just fell backwards by miles with our attitudes and acceptance of others. Don't forget the 5-6 million people who voted "none of the above," as well as 46-47% of people who didn't even bother to take the trip to the polls to cast their vote.

In just 5 days, we have over 200 episodes of hate crimes (including KKK parades) in the name of Trump. We have violent riots and peaceful protests by the Clinton crew. We have speculations as to who is going to be on Trump's Transition Team, and some of them are less-than-unifying choices.
There are people who feel true fear after 18 months of ugly, slanderous campaigns filled with outwardly-prejudicial remarks by one of the candidates.

There's both-sided over-generalization of "us" versus "them." No, ALL Trump supporters are NOT bigots--economic reasons ruled some voters. No, ALL Clinton supporters are NOT baby killers. But we have friends "unfriending" each other on social media, with people finding many emotional similarities between 9-11 (2001) and 11-9 (Election Day 2016).

So far, America is far from feeling "great again."  

Yet these aren't the only casualties of the election. There's another biggie:
Planet Earth, herself. My long-time friend Jason Hawke has a thing or two to say on the subject. I've known Jason for decades now, since Parsons Elementary School. Playground politics for Jason are a thing of the past these days as he is both Associate Professor & History Chair at Roanoke College. Jason knows a bit about history and government. Likewise, he has a thing or two to say about President-Elect Trump and where in the world our world stands in this bumpy new place--and how exactly we got here. Jason--a master of satire, data, details, & insights--has been kind enough to allow me to share it here. You can also find him at Medium to read, respond, react to, and share this piece.

How 131,000 People May Have Just Doomed the Planet

Regardless of how or why one voted in the 2016 US presidential election, or how one interprets the results and what they say about our national mood or culture, there was one clear loser on November 8: Planet Earth.

Rather infamously at this point, elected Republicans and their backers in the fossil-fuel industry have made a science of denying the science on climate change. Despite an overwhelming consensus among professional climate scientists — and upwards of 95% of academics agreeing on any subject is otherwise unheard of — the American Right insists that there isn’t any evidence of a warming planet. Or maybe it is warming, but human industrial activity isn’t responsible. The pseudo-scientific logical fallacies that undergird this nonsense are legion, but perhaps none so absurd as the display several years ago by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). The greatest mind of the tenth century beheld a snowball he had brought to the floor of the United States Senate, like some community-theater Hamlet lamenting poor Yorick, and declared global warming not to be. As Stephen Colbert would mock at the time, he had had lunch that day, so thus world hunger could not exist.

Insofar as there exists any science, or more properly, “science” that calls into question the trend toward catastrophic, man-made climate change, it comes almost entirely from think tanks (or “think tanks”). Such “think tanks” often have cuddly Orwellian names that create the impression they are impartially working in the public interest. In fact, if one follows the money to the sugar daddies of such “institutes” and “centers,” the trail ends at Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, and the like. One imagines the profit motive of such organizations plays no role in the sort of research they encourage. That research, in turn, is the thin reed on which rests any Republican pretense that science informs their opposition to climate-change mitigation.

Other appeals to logic, such as they are, may resort to the idea that the ancient paternalistic sky god would never allow puny humans to destroy his creation (never mind that Scripture is pretty clear that he expects us to take care of it; man, will he be pissed when he gets back). Or that Earth’s climate has changed many times during its long geological history; because if you want to deny climate change, the planet is billions of years old based on science, but apparently and conveniently quite a bit younger when you want to force Creationism down the throats of public school children. Or that we could never through our actions destroy the planet. The purveyors of this last bit of casuistry presumably intend “disintegrate” or “pulverize” when they say destroy, and in that sense they are correct. But of course that isn’t the question. The question is whether we can make the prevailing climate inhospitable for agriculturally based civilization. If you’re at all a fan of iPhones, indoor plumbing, or Klungar the Warlord not using the skulls of your loved ones as drinking vessels, you’re also a fan of agriculturally based civilization, whether you realized it or not.

Most Americans are aware of all this, at least intuitively. An overwhelming majority of Americans think climate change is real, a problem, and driven by human activity. Mother Earth is bleeding out in the conservatory, we’re Colonel Mustard, and fossil-fuel consumption is the wrench. We get it.

One recently important person who does not get it is the man elected president thanks to losing to his opponent by a projected two million votes. (Fun fact: when the Electoral College was designed, only white men with property had the franchise and leeches were a legitimate, mainstream medical treatment…I digress). President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. He is reportedly considering a climate skeptic to head his administration’s global warming efforts (one imagines that will be a sweet-ass, do-nothing job!). He has threatened to end American financial contributions to combat climate change and withdraw from the global accords engineered and signed by President Obama. And he has promised to unleash America’s fossil fuel resources including clean coal which, much like Santa and the Easter Bunny, is a mythical beast no serious person over the age of eight should believe in.

On the other hand, those of us who still think things like reality and evidence ought to matter know that time is running out if it hasn’t already. Four years of inaction would be bad enough. Four years of actively and intentionally making things worse will be cataclysmic. We get it.

And no one gets it more than the Green Party. First, there’s the name: that’s not an accident, you know. The single most important issue for them is the environment. The American manifestation of the Green Party describes itself as “eco-socialist” (not to be confused with ecosexual, which I refuse to believe is a thing because the alternative is just horrifyingly ridiculous). You show me a folk-music festival with attendees wearing hemp clothing and smelling of patchouli, and I’ll show you a de facto Green Party committee meeting. But seriously, unlike Chardonnay liberals who go to 40-megawatt, self-congratulatory U2 concerts and annually stroke a $40 check to the World Wildlife Fund but can’t be bothered to sort the recycling because Misty has soccer practice in ten minutes and Jesus who has the time for all that shit, the Greens don’t just talk the talk. They’re serious. I admire them for that.

Which is why I’m super pissed off at them for helping to elect Donald Trump president.


No, wait: hear me out before you hoist me on that 100% recyclable petard or boil me alive in organic soy milk. They are not solely responsible for electing him, and not even all Greens are at fault to the extent that others are. First, there’s the 60 million people who voted for him, ignoring the dire warnings of people who have not forgotten the lessons of history but are condemned to watch others repeat them. Cable news channels and the Republican Party are responsible for getting and allowing him on the general election ballot in the first place (hell, $2 billion in free media and even I might amount to something). The roughly six million voters who participated in the 2012 election but couldn’t be bothered this time around are culpable, too. Republican state governments share in some of that blame, as does the Roberts Court that aided and abetted voter suppression by invalidating key portions of the Voting Rights Act. Russian hackers as well as everyone’s favorite “transparency” zealot and second-favorite alleged sexual offender didn’t help, nor did FBI Director and prop comic Jim Comey.

And finally, sigh, Hillary Clinton herself. Yes, she is the victim of a 25-year-long smear campaign. Yes, the media blew the email story out of proportion in its quest to appear objective. Yes, as the first woman to be a major-party nominee she had to execute a high wire political act, while down below her opponent emceed the political equivalent of a $1-Bud-Light-25-cent-wings-mud-wrestling-tournament night at Buttslappers! Bar and Grill (that isn’t trademarked, so far as I know; all I ask is some acknowledgment). And she had to try to energize a party that’s already bereft at the thought of their popular and charismatic president riding off into the sunset. Much of it was unfair.

But she also didn’t run a particularly good campaign. In my nightmares for years to come I will hear the voice of Donald Trump saying “and you can tell them…” You know the rest. Thanks to that ad running on an endless loop, you know the next line, its parsing and inflection. It’s now like the Brady Bunch theme for people of a certain age, a cultural artifact etched on my gray matter. In mass media she made a very effective case why Trump should never be president. With all those gobs of campaign money, she never made a very good case why she should be. Yes, yes: brilliant and detailed white papers at her website that actually spelled out how her policies would make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who might otherwise wrap their hopes up in a loud but hollow Trumpian primal scream. Great. Did I mention Misty has soccer practice? In SIX MINUTES?! AND STILL CAN’T FIND HER GODDAM SHIN GUARDS?!?! And, let’s face it, much like the last Democrat who won the popular vote only to lose the election thanks to an arcane system the rest of the world rightly regards as bonkers, she’s wooden, a highly competent wonk who’s not very good at articulating that whole vision thing.

And, in retrospect this outcome was foreseeable to anyone paying attention. Trumpism, like Brexit, is a terribly wrong answer to perfectly legitimate questions the elites on both sides have ignored for too long. The current neoliberal-globalist consensus has created enormous wealth, but in developed countries those gains went mostly to the elites themselves, while regular folks of all persuasions (get over yourselves, white people) got crushed by the system. Hillary basically promised to be a more equitable caretaker of that system: inspiring! Trump — himself no less elite than Clinton — promised to blow the system up, however unrealistically and dishonestly. His cabinet is largely shaping up as a collection of oil barons, Wall Street bankers, D.C. lobbyists and other insiders, save for Yosemite Sam impersonator Sarah Palin. There remains the distinct possibility that the people calling the con man a con man may be proven correct, and those who ignored such warnings and voted for him anyway did so at their peril. But I’m sure Mexicans are somehow at fault for that, too.

So plenty of blame to go around.

And I get why Greens don’t like or trust Clinton. She is in her bones a DLC centrist; too close to Wall Street; late to the game on certain social justice issues; too much of an interventionist on foreign policy. Sure. Fine. But you’re the Green Party, right? You care first and foremost about the Earth, and understand that, unlike with other types of policy consequences, if we ruin the planet there are no do-overs? You knew that on that issue she’s actually pretty good, and certainly better than the only other person with any realistic chance of winning this election? I know: one day the Great Third-Party Pumpkin will return to the pumpkin patch, and the enlightened masses will defy all polling data and deliver a stunning plurality to the Greens (see above re: clean coal).

This was not that day. And now a climate denier is the most powerful person on a planet in peril.

Instead of “Jill not Hill,” the Greens might have understood in a close election that the real choice for environmentalists was “Hill not Hell.” It can be enormously satisfying to extend a middle finger to “the system” and vote for someone obviously unqualified for the presidency based on some misguided sense of principle. I know; I’ve done it. Problem is, in 2016 people had the opportunity to do that, but for a major-party candidate with an actual chance of winning. And this election was always going to be close.

How close? In Wisconsin, Trump prevailed by about 27,000 votes; 31,000 Wisconsinites — Wisconsinians? Wiscondominiums? — voted for Jill Stein. In Michigan, Trump’s margin appears to be less than 12,000 ballots; in that state, 51,000 voters picked Stein. And in Pennsylvania they’re still winding up the tallies, but the only outstanding precincts are in Philly and its vicinity, with up to another 80,000 provisional ballots in Philadelphia proper. Once all of these are counted, Clinton is sure to end up well within 49,000 votes, the number of Pennsylvanians who cast Stein as their choice.

That’s 46 electoral votes. Had they gone to Clinton, she would be the next president. 278 Clinton, 260 Trump. Ballgame.

Greens probably detest when people tell them they’re throwing their vote away. I detest that, too. It’s their right as citizens, and they can vote how they want. Plus, about 130,000 Green Party voters didn’t throw their vote away: they inadvertently helped elect Donald Trump, and thus may have thrown away not their votes, but the planet.

Clinton/Trump divide image from; Twitter Boxing photo from Hawke's sinking city image from

No comments :

Post a Comment