Monday, November 21, 2016

At least one point of optimism

Sure, the election results were terrible, and President Trump, despite receiving an initial benefit of the doubt from some in the mainstream pundit-sphere, seems intent on stocking his administration with the kind of loyalists and sycophants that at best would support a kleptocracy and at worst will be quick to start wars and trample the Constitution.

And then there are the clowns, the white nationalists using this as a signal to climb out from under their rocks (or mother's basements) and start making Nazi salutes. That Trump condemns a broadway show and NOT these deplorables implies he's either oblivious or despicable (and both are bad)

But in a search for a silver lining, one thing I do feel a little comfortable about is that progressive change can still be made. While there won't be any progress from a federal level (there might even be pullback) on issues like equal rights and gun safety -- my hope is that we'll still be able to drive change by leveraging corporate influence.

The federal government may not be on the side of freedom for the next few years -- but powerful examples now serve as a template for driving change.

The nonsense legal attempts by Indiana and North Carolina to restrict the rights of the LGBT community met with swift resistance. But the resistance didn't just come from typical activist groups:

Example 1 - North Carolina

Opponents of North Carolina's HB2 "bathroom bill" - which prevents transgender people from using restrooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificate - are being joined by some very powerful partners.

Former Solicitor General and Prop 8 litigator Theodore B. Olson has authored an amicus brief supporting the Justice Department's effort to block HB2, and 68 major corporations have signed on. These companies include American Airlines, Apple, Cisco, eBay, General Electric, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, NIKE and Salesforce.

Example 2 - Indiana

A new study from Visit Indy — Indianapolis's convention and tourism organization — found that Indiana lost at least $60 million in revenue after lawmakers there passed the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave businesses the greenlight to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds.

In both of these cases, while the state government felt beholden to appease the will of troglodytes and bible-thumpers, they didn't anticipate opponents marshaling corporate resources against them so effectively. Turns out that corporations that need to compete in the modern economy, both for talent in their offices and customers (particularly the ones that have money), look as though they may take an increasingly active role in pushing back against discriminatory and/or bigoted policies.

If some of the particularly nefarious parts of the Bannon/Trump agenda (i.e., Muslim registry) come to pass -- my sincere hope is that while we who would oppose it can't pin our hopes on the official checks and balances within the government -- we can exert enough influence on and from within the business community to block such awfulness.

Because if it comes to a fight over protecting people's rights, we don't have the seats in congress, the supreme court, or the White House. But we do have more money and more shares of stock -- and we'll have to use whatever weapons are at our disposal

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Way Too Late Election Thoughts

At this point, there have been far too many thinkpieces on Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, what Trump's victory means, what it doesn't mean, and how no one really knows what it will mean. There have been columns, and responses to those columns, and responses to the responses.

They've infiltrated my podcast feed, my twitter feed, and they're all over my facebook feed.

So what's one more.

Look, I was totally stunned by the election results. I'm a politics fanatic and listened/read all kinds of stuff over the last two years (enough to even go to Breitbart routinely -- though it's tough getting the stench off my hard drive) -- and I felt so confident we'd be talking about Clinton transition today.

I wish we were -- but we're not. We're talking about Donald Trump's transition to his presidency. It's still barely believable as I type it. And even as I try to avoid seeing any more news about it, as if that would somehow mean it wasn't actually happening, my blinders can't completely block out the massive, neon 'TRUMP' logo forcing its way on my mental image of the White House.

I wanted to write down some thoughts in the immediate aftermath, but I was insanely busy at work and my 2 year old doesn't really want to spend her nights talking politics. That helped. The election has made me feel all kinds of different feelings (nearly all of them negative) -- and sitting down at a keyboard last Tuesday night would've resulted in something you'd expect from the Unabomber.

I'm ashamed of the election -- not that the result didn't go my way -- but because it means that cynicism has delivered a crushing blow against hope.

That the Republicans, who have obstructed and stymied any and all efforts by President Obama to address any problem, are now poised to control all three branches of the federal government, almost feels unfair.

Many Americans are upset that the government isn't doing a better job to help them, and I get that, but to ignore Republican behavior in creating that atmosphere is frustrating. Between the Obamacare repeal efforts, shutting down the government, refusal to even consider filling a Supreme Court vacancy -- this is a party that has done far more than its fair share to destroy the chance of a functional federal government.

That is their wont -- but for them to be rewarded for it by those who are angry at the dysfunction -- well, it's like a town with a crime problem firing the police chief and hiring the local mafia boss to clean things up.

Make no mistake -- I am distraught at the agenda the Republicans are now salivating over. I'm distraught that they'll take the legacy of President Obama, and all the good he's fought to achieve, and rip it to pieces -- turning our country into the Ayn Rand Fantasy Camp Paul Ryan has been dreaming of (where the only things the government provides are paved roads and a box of shotgun shells).

But what's even worse -- if that's possible -- is where President Trump could force our country to go.

Now I've already listened to a bunch of pundit takes suggesting that Trump will 'evolve' or 'grow' into the job -- once he sees how much power and responsibility he has. Or that the Republican party leadership will work to rein him in. That's a great idea, and wonderful wishful thinking that I hope comes to pass, but my response to that would be -- have you not been paying attention to anything he's done?

The man is 70 years old and near as I can tell, has never had anyone tell him he's wrong. Now he's just succeeded in breaking all the norms of politics and defeating the two biggest political dynasties of the last 30 years. You mean to suggest this is someone who will change what he's doing? And by the way, the Republicans who noticeably ran away from him in their elections (examples: Mark Kirk, Joe Heck), lost.

Trump runs the Republican party now - and I don't see him willingly handing over the keys.

If this were only about Republican policy (or whatever policy Trump actually believes in), it wouldn't be so bad. I'm a white male with a pretty decent job -- that's a good recipe for success under Republican rule.

But it's two elements of his victory that are significantly more scary.

One -- is the penchant for nationalism at the expense of globalism.

I don't know much about what Trump really believes, but the man is an ardent nationalist. The electoral wind at his back rode in on a nationalist tide -- it was right there in the slogan -- 'Make America Great Again'. This is a stark contrast to Obama (and my own) world view.

I look at the global market and see greater interconnected world as a source of stability and prosperity. The more you trade with everyone, the less likely you are to want to blow them up. It's not complicated -- you figure that out anytime you play Civ.

Trump -- it appears -- doesn't agree with this world view. America needs to be number one, and this is a zero sum game. It's odd to hear the President-elect talk about trade with other countries as if its zero-sum, and that we need to win and others need to lose. That, plus his emphasis on halting immigration, withdrawing from defense agreements like NATO. These are all signals that, to Trump, if you're not first, you're last.

It's not just the U.S., lots of other countries including France, the UK, have seen an increase in nationalism. What worries me most, is that Nationalists need a foil, an enemy, someone to direct the negative energy at. During the election, it's easy for Trump to scream 'Lock Her Up!' as Clinton is a great enemy to rally around. But now that he's running the U.S., and the Republicans have unobstructed power at the federal level, who will play the bad guy?

China? Mexico? Illegal immigrants?

Trump is making a lot of economic promises -- and when those promises (4% GDP growth!) don't come to pass, someone will have to take the blame.

Trump has also shown that he can't accept losing face - and putting that all together presents scenarios that I'd have considered unthinkable.

Two -- is that there really isn't anyone who would stop him

In an ideal world, if Trump went too far in his nationalism or his aggressiveness to the point of danger, we'd hope that our legislature would band together across party lines to stop him.

But this election has only demonstrated the degree to which Republicans value party unity over American principles.

During Trump's run, he's pushed an absurdly large number of irresponsible ideas into the mainstream (too many to name here). In response to this, while a couple Republicans disavowed him entirely, the vast majority wouldn't let that get in the way of letting the ends justify the means.

Maybe a few of them made some statements -- but they all voted for him. He received 90% support from Republicans. This despite views on immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, that are distinctly un-American at best and dangerous at worst. Republicans viewed this with a collective pause, and then went right ahead.

Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and others have made their true feelings known. Many of us won't forget.

I wish there were a better outcome in store for us. Perhaps I'm wrong in my dismissive attitude to a Trump change of heart, and I absolutely hope I am. But there are dark clouds ahead for the federal government -- and the key for those of us who now find ourselves and our philosophies in harms way owe more than just some blog posts and tweets in protest.

There is still work we can do, and still progressive change we can create (remember there are 50 state governments and thousands of city/local ones). If nothing else, maybe such a challenge can persuade some of us to do more than vote once every four years.