November 3rd: What Lies In The Balance

November 3rd: What Lies In The Balance

In just over a week, Americans will cast their ballots and decide once and for all who has the grit and guts to lead their nation into the mid 2020s- Fat Don or Sleepy Joe. As well as that, they will also be voting on 1/3 of the Senate, all of Congress, district attorneys, and more. Basically, a lot is up for grabs. Now, I don’t want to simply state that this is the most important election of all time because people say that every election. But I do want to highlight what lies in the balance when Joe Biden says “the soul of the nation” is in question this year because he’s absolutely right on that count.

First of all, with regards the Senate and House of Representatives, plus other lower-scale governmental jobs, there is an ongoing tug of war between cultural liberalism and conservatism. This applies to policy, how forces such as the police are dispensed (i.e. Black Lives Matter), and even the attitudes propelled into the zeitgeist. Will they ratify the President’s assertion that law and order has never been more important or challenge the systemic models by which racism thrives? Will a calm tone be struck that attempts to offer compromise on these counts or will the flames of vitriol be stoked? Remember Trump is as much a symptom of the divisiveness of politics and increasingly entrenched cultural welfare as he is a perpetuator of it. Defeating him alone won’t restore faith in government. Many souls folded in his backing last election across the GOP.

Second of all, there’s the question of the Supreme Court. With Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett at the forefront now, it may already be too late for the Democrats to do anything. Even in the case of a Blue sweep in November, a change in power wouldn’t occur until late January. On the other hand, perhaps there will be a chance to delay this and vindicate the process proposed by Republicans when Obama had a chance to nominate six months out from election (as opposed to a mere six weeks). You know, play fair?

Thirdly, there’s the honour of the electoral process at hand. With Trump already lambasting mail-in voting, a sinister suggestion hangs in the air that he may not accept the results of the election or perhaps will declare victory before some votes are accounted for. Indeed, the suspense could last a lot longer than a single night. We could be seeing the next Gore v. Bush and if it comes to the Supreme Court as it did in December 2000, God help us all.

To those who say, well he will have to leave if he loses, I would extend a message of warning. What exactly has this man done by the books so far? How many times should he have been foiled but managed to slip by? Do you even remember this year started with an impeachment? With Republicans gerrymandering districts for congressional advantage, I simply wouldn’t be surprised if the whole electoral process becomes mired in deceit and controversy. Even the Carter Centre is monitoring the US election now and usually, they keep an eye on the most corrupt governments in Africa. So, where exactly are the standards? Let’s stop being surprised all the time.

Lastly and most obviously- yes, the person in charge really does make a difference. In the past, I used to think speeches and rhetoric were not actually all that important to a president’s legacy; that that was fluff for the media and history books. I don’t feel that way anymore. Trump has changed America in many ways but the damage begun before he was even elected, when he descended that escalator in the summer of 2015 and made a speech referring to Mexicans as “rapists” pillaging the good nature of the US.

This is a president who’s refused to criticise white supremacy; whose campaign staff has colluded with Russia; who’s basically followed the 2nd act of The Interview, failing to finish the movie and realise he’s being groomed by the North Korean dictator; and who’s enflamed anti-Asian sentiment with his use of terms like “Kung Flu”. And of course, “grab them by the pussy”. All that, without even touching on his Twitter.

For all his faults and stammers, Joe Biden is a compassionate human being. He’s made mistakes with regards his support of Iraq and his handling of the Anita Hill trial in the early 90s, but I honestly believe he’s learned from them. And even if he doesn’t pass a single credible bill during his tenure as president, his election would mark a notable shift from an aggressive leadership to an empathic one. He’s lost close family members, including his first wife, in tragic circumstances and has learned lessons in life Trump can’t possibly relate to.

For those who would defend the President on the basis that nice men don’t necessarily get the job done, consider exactly what job this man has done and what job it is he should be doing. Leadership used to involve, whether you liked the leader or not, at least some measure of respect or dignity. It wasn’t all about postulating and being stubborn for the sake of strength of appearance. Compromise, whether you like it or not (and this applies to liberals as much as it does conservatives), has always been key to politics. It’s very rare that a great leader has been born out of iron-clad or extremist ideology. Tact and strategy is a far more valuable asset in a president than a hilarious Twitter account.

I can’t argue Joe Biden will be a great president but if elected, he will strike a conciliatory tone where it matters, take foreign policy seriously, put public health above “freedom” with the Coronavirus, and yes (cheesy as it may sound) “restore the soul of America”. For now, that’s more than enough.

Sleepy Joe vs. Fat Don: Our Panel’s Discussion

Sleepy Joe vs. Fat Don: Our Panel’s Discussion

Andy

With the election less than two months away, it’s time for the candidates to knock their game up an extra gear. And one surefire way to get their peeps talking is through the debates, the first of which is expected to close off this month. Now, some folk (such as Nancy Pelosi) don’t think Joe Biden should even dignify such discourse with the Mad King but he seems intent on holding his opponent’s feet to the fire nevertheless. 

Is this a good idea? Here to discuss this with me are two former MA History, UCD classmates of mine- Matthew O’Brien (PhD student, Washington Walrus co-founder) and Declan Clear (our London correspondent). Fellas, what are your initial thoughts- should Joe debate Trump or stay locked in his basement with his toffees and unfinished Sudoku puzzles?

Matt

Wow, an email thread – how 2000s of you, Andy! 

I mean, Biden is going to have to debate, right? He has remained quiet enough over the last 6-months since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee in what seems like a lifetime ago. 

So much has happened since then, and continues to unfurl, seemingly on a daily basis. I only see that escalating between now and the election. And, if the recent suggestion from Anthony Scaramucci that senior Republican figures are going to abandon Trump at the electoral alter can be believed, it’s only going to get juicier. 

Biden will need to robustly address the social and cultural frustration and disconnect that has become a tenet of public discourse since the public execution of George Floyd, and that has in many ways defined this election cycle. 

While the debates will presumably have an eerily unfamiliar format this year, the battle for who can clock up a greater number of non sequiturs, memes, gaffs, etc., will be an enjoyable subplot. 

Declan

There is 100% a need for a debate despite what Nancy Pelosi might say. I do worry about Biden and the debates as he is making a lot of gaffes and lost his cool more than once on the campaign trail. Plus I’m sure Trump will try and push his buttons . Social media memes and gaffes aside (which I am 100% sure Trump will come out worse from), the tone that Biden takes will be interesting: will he aim to appeal to the Bernie supporting left or will he try tap into the moderate voter?

While Matt has pointed to some of the rumours (“the recent suggestion from Anthony Scaramucci that senior Republican figures are going to abandon Trump at the electoral alter”), I feel one of the strengths of Trump is that the Republican Party are more united ahead of the November election. Some of the arguments around the races within the Democratic Party this past month and the gap between the likes of Bernie supporters/ the left of the Democratic Party vs the moderates creates issues. 
A left leaning vocal democrat movement might push American moderates to go with what they might see as the safe bet in sticking with the current administration. Obviously there is a lot of time between now and November but I think the election is far less clear cut than the apparent majority Biden will win by according to many main stream news channels. 
The horrific murder of George Floyd will undoubtably have a huge impact on this election but which side will it impact more? Will it drive BIPOC people to the polls to vote Trump out or will it come help his law and order narrative?
The real question is will Trump once again silence the political experts? 2020- the so called battle for the heart of America is a stage set to far surpass the drama of 2016. 

Andy

Good points.I fear that a debate could be a no-win scenario for Biden however. Yes, he will look the part in comparison to the tyrannic wreck opposite him but will he draw the media’s attention away? I doubt it. I don’t know if the issues that matter to liberals will become more important as people pay attention. It may simply revert back to charisma, character, and vague notions of authenticity.

If he chooses not to debate, that will of course lend Trump a different kind of victory too. Biden’s too scared to get out.
But seeing as he’s willing to go head to head and assuming he doesn’t fall asleep or try to kiss a female moderator or something, how can Biden tackle Trump? How does one fight someone devoid of reason- whose campaign is epitomized by emotion? What can he learn from Hillary, Jeb, and others who’ve been slain by this man?

Declan

I think Biden needs to appeal to a wider base then the mainstream democrats are currently targeting in the debates. I think he needs to come across strong on condemning violence across the board. The shooting of 2 LA Sheriff department cops last weekend is something that Trump is obviously lording over and blaming the democrats for. But it will be interesting to see how the democrats react to this. 

While the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans across the USA is not compareable to the incident in anyway or the shooting in Dallas in 2016 of a number of cops, a lack of compassion from Democrats might play into Trump supporting law and order. Then again Biden needs to be careful not to upset the movement that has emerged from BLM. 
While Biden should in no way start posing with a Blue Lives Matter flag he needs to at least show that he does support the police and the military. Otherwise Trump could say Biden only cares about appeasing liberals and BIPOC people!! further mobilising his white voter base. 
What is interesting is despite the number of developing stories about Trump, the virus, etc, the one issue which has now become embedded in every part of American life is the debate over BLM. The true question is who will it help! Will it be Biden unifying the nation or Trump pushing the gap between Black and White even further. 
Hard to believe that in 2020 race relations are at its worst since the Rodney King Riots. 

Matt

Lets also not forget that BLM has existed as an organisation since 2013, and that movement has been building to its crescendo, which appears to be 2020. A lot of scholar activists, and highly respected scholars like Robin Kelley have posited that there is something different this time, something more real about the activism taking place. When you break the scale of these demonstrations down, it’s pretty phenomenal; not to mention this is all happening to the backdrop of a pandemic that will usher in monumental social, cultural, economic, and political behaviours. The pandemic has served to magnify the iniquities of US society, and usher in critical dialogues on concerning the politics of care. As Declan said, the debate over BLM is ubiquitous, and is an issue which will largely define this election. 

Biden’s response has been largely milquetoast, and part of me cannot help but think that he feels that in selecting Harris as his running mate, this will placate those fighting for social justice. Biden was always going to score better with Black communities, and while the Democrats can’t rest on their laurels as they did 4-years ago, I think it’s a fairly safe assumption that Biden will win the Black vote. I’ve no doubt that Harris will speak eloquently on the issue of race, and the contemporary discourse on law and order. As Andy teased out, the question of emotion versus logic will be a critical factor throughout. I don’t believe we fully clasped that in the last election cycle, but we sure see it now; it’s inescapable. 
On the theme of that somewhat despondent time 4-years ago (lets not forget Brexit, too), Andy has prompted the comparison between Biden and Clinton. Most of the mainstream media outlets approach this in a very similar way: Biden will outperform Clinton with white male voters; Biden will outperform Clinton with older voters; Bidden will outperform Clinton among working-class voters; Biden will outperform Clinton with women; Biden will outperform Clinton with younger voters. The latter is broadly considered to be true because it seems the Bernie Bros have formed a consensus to “Settle for Biden” – which has created a rather hilarious Instagram account. As all three of us have discussed in the past, the presence of celebrity voices of support in politics can be grating – Clinton was unabashed in rolling out Jay-Z and Beyonce, among a litany of others. This strategy is phoney and saccharine. Lets hope Biden doesn’t do the same. 
As far as Trump’s campaign goes he really seems to just have one thing going for him: Law and Order. A few weeks ago there was an Atlantic article (not the one about Trump calling the glorious dead losers) that drew historical comparisons to Nixon’s Law and Order campaign in 1968. The funny thing is that Nixon inherited this rhetoric largely from the actions of the Johnson administration’s War on Crime, which evolved into the War on Drugs under Nixon. This was marshalled at a precarious stage of the nation’s history and had a number of markers that helped create the narrative, which mainly pivoted on police and state sanctioned violence to quench violence in the streets. While it worked with Nixon’s “silent majority,” I am not so sure the pallet is there among the wider US public – perhaps I’m giving them too much credit, who knows? 

Andy

The “lame stream” media as actually lame people call it has, to a certain extent, exacerbated this division between chaos and order. Interestingly, each side sees the other as the chaotic one.

Black Lives Matter and the issues concerning race relations have always been pertinent in the US. In recent years, the spotlight has intensified, partially due to increased coverage with camera phones and partially due to a more zealous call for accountability on the parts of liberals. I think the election of Trump really stoked a flame in the culture wars. People felt so cheated and perhaps even ashamed of their political inactivity before that they fervently moved to take up arms (in a socio political way).
We see this in the BLM movement and even in the #metoo movement. Trump represents more than just one man’s vision for America. (If he even has one.) He represents a constituency of emotional appeal for the ways of old and an end to the perceived climate of political correctness being ushered in by the “radical left”. 
I think we’ve touched on the pulse of what matters this election season but let’s consider a couple more questions to conclude this session.
1) Does defeating Trump defeat Trumpism (i.e. the cultural values of his support)?
2) Just as an afterthought- Even if Biden wins, will Trump sail away calmly into the night?

Declan

1, No a. Trump defeat will not change the cultural values of his support; they have always been there. Trump just put them in the public eye. 

2.  If Trump is defeated, he will leave. I know a lot of people are like will Trump accept the result etc. I reckon if Trump loses he will retire to his tower with his bucket of KFC and 24 piece Chicken Nuggets and get about planning a golf tour. Mind you the tweets will be fun.

I would be interested to see how the Democrats react if Trump gets reelected- will they allow the party to become more radically left or will a moderate emerge from the doldrums and tone down the narrative which a very small vocal minority of the party have pushed to the front of the agenda.

Andy

I can’t see it being a smooth transition, no matter what. Perhaps, years down the line, Barron will even try to avenge his father. What say you Matthew, on the first two questions and what Declan brings up as regards Democrats’ reaction should Trump succeed?

Matt

In response to the first question, I agree with Declan. Trump’s politics unlocked Pandora’s box as it were… his actions, and the fact that they come from the office of the President help to legitimise this further. The thing about ‘isms’ is that they’re totally malleable and relatively indestructible… they’re almost zombified. As Declan said, those values have always been there just below the surface… but in a weird way, I think for all of the hate Trump has whipped up, it has focused people a little more, given more people a reason to pause, and think,”wait… what? Is this really happening?” We need to continue to be appalled by what Trump says and does, because the more comfortable we get with his Janus-faced behaviour, even making light of it, the more he will get away with in the future. 

As for the second question, I also think Trump will leave office if defeated at the polls. However, I think his post-presidency will be torrid. The DOJ have been biding their time, massing their evidence. We know that they cannot investigate a sitting commander in chief, but when it comes to lame ducks, it’s open season!   

Andy

And there you have it! Tuesday, November 3rd is not far away so for any Americans who may be reading this, be sure to register and vote- early, if possible. 

The first of three debates between Joe Biden and Donald Trump will take place September 29 with one scheduled also between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. The stakes are high and the ratings will surely be HUGE!
Join us next week as we rank the best and worst outfits of Kim K in 2020 so far and discuss what Kendall had hidden away in that clutch!

Will Corona Response Be Trump’s End?

Throughout history, it’s often been the case that great crises produce great leaders, should they meet the challenge of their time. Lincoln prevailed in his efforts to pass the 13th Amendment during the bloodiest war in American History. Franklin D. Roosevelt saw America through both the Great Depression and World War II. Even John F. Kennedy, to a less significant extent, bolstered his legacy by navigating the Cuban Missile Crisis (although it must be said, this was a crisis he had a hand in creating). In trying times, petty squabbles are usually put aside, and people do something quite rare; they support their leaders.

That support can be inspiring albeit brief. After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush’s approval ratings rose to 90%. His father’s also peaked during the Gulf War, a decade before. In both cases, those numbers quickly dwindled. I would like to suspect the same will happen for Donald J. Trump, whose approval ratings have somehow risen, despite a disastrous response to Covid-19.

I would like to think that because…

The effects of his inaction and bluster are palpable. As I write (Easter Sunday), the death toll in the US resulting from Covid-19 has reached 20,000. Unfortunately, that will continue to rise and many more will continue to be incapacitated to some extent or another. Hospitals are overwhelmed and there are not enough face masks to go around. Trump’s position has shifted considerably from a month ago when he glibly downplayed the extent of the crisis; something a lot of people did, but not those with top-level intel. I’m glad he is now taking it seriously and yes, perhaps it could’ve gotten a lot worse but really, with a competent president, it could’ve been a lot better.

Before this crisis, Trump had already made a mockery of the Oval Office and committed himself to the status of being the worst US President in history. However, a lot of his legacy was also built on the fragmentation of politics and polarisation of liberals and conservatives. The latter, fervent in their beliefs, would not give an inch even if it meant ignoring treason on their leader’s part. That’s pretty despicable and we can get into it another day but what’s fundamentally different about this crisis, is that politics simply shouldn’t enter the equation. Trump’s response is not political dogma; it’s sheer incompetence. Economically and emotionally, neither liberals or conservatives will be spared. The figures speak for themselves.

Alas though, I suspect he might survive this…

His election in 2016 was a fathomless affair so who’s to say this will finally be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? He’s defied reason and become exception at every other turn. Maybe, ideological differences will continue to outweigh any other perceptions. Maybe, this will still not give credence to the importance of a comprehensive health care system. Plus…

Well, you might have heard that Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic race last week. This was a surprising turn for many although even if the primaries weren’t delayed, he was unlikely to succeed (being 300 delegates behind). Effectively, this has rendered “Sleepy Joe” the Democratic nominee. Again, I would like to think he would be a shoe-in to defeat Trump but his interviews thus far have been… they’ve been disastrous. Let’s not beat around the bush. He’s clearly out of his wits; uncertain of what he’s quoting, what he’s saying, and what exactly is going on. Is this a harsh assessment? Yes. But a necessary one. Joe. Needs. To. Get. His. Shit. Together. Hillary Clinton lost to Trump after all. Joe Biden, like her, is perceived by many as an establishment centrist but he’s a) “another old white dude” and b) less smart.

Now, Bernie’s supporters should do what they can to help him get elected. Although he has an iffy track record in several departments and is a less than ideal substitute for a progressive, he is a lot better than Trump. He will be reasonable, he may even work with some of those progressives, and yes, restoring a sense of normality would be a good thing. More importantly though, there’s just too much at stake to take a risk at another four years. Joe and his cohorts are right when they say the character of America would be fundamentally changed by a second term.

I’m not a big fan of theoretic propositions or what ifs when it comes to history. That way lies some Back to the Future II madness. But what if we actually tried to learn something from this crisis. It’s a devastating and frankly depressing time and one which should not be trivialised. To that extent, I’d like to specify that I’m not referring to some vague spiritual reawakening on mankind’s part or for the celebrities involved in that “Imagine” cover to reconvene and do better. I mean, what if we learn to appreciate and prioritise what matters on a practical level: the health care system. For too long, America’s rolled the dice on this one and sorry to say, it’s coming back to bite them on the ass. Politicians have sold out their peoples’ future and now innocent, less well-off people are suffering in the masses.

This crisis couldn’t have been avoided completely but it could’ve done with a steady pair of hands and a calm, reassuring voice. Like Obama’s. Trump is no leader. He’s not a unifier. He’s not smart. He’s not willing to learn. His ego means more to him than the lives of his people. That’s a hard truth for people to accept but we’re running out of time for bullshit. Again, politics shouldn’t matter. How could they in this situation? There’s no use left in blaming all those who voted for him in 2016 but it’s time to start thinking about what it’d be like to have, if not a genius in the Oval Office, a decent individual?

Super Super Tuesday

Super Super Tuesday

Or “The Washington Walrus’ Guide & Insight to Super Tuesday”.

What makes Super Tuesday so super? And why have we, The Washington Walrus, elected to add another “super” into the mix? Yes, this was no fortuitous matter. For you see, while the media and pundits have been endlessly speculating on the ramifications of the debates and results from recent primaries/caucuses, the fact of the matter is that everything could go topsy turvy this Tuesday coming. Here’s a few questions we’ve submitted and answered ourselves to shed some light.

What is Super Tuesday?

It’s like the Wrestlemania of the primary season for Republicans and Democrats. Since there’s nothing going on with the former party, the latter will be granted the full glare of the spotlight when 14 states (and the American Samoa caucuses) go up for grabs.

What are these states?

There’s Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

How many delegates are up for grabs?

A thousand, three hundred and thirty four! To put this in context, 100 have been granted so far (with 54 more shortly as South Carolina is decided) out of a total 3,979. So while it’s not a complete deal breaker, it’s a very strong indicator of where the stars align.

What state has the most?

California with 415.

So should the candidates not put more effort into the likes of California than say, Maine?

Now, now. Maine’s 24 delegates may seem meager in comparison but the little things matter and come the general election, you’ll want to make sure you’ve covered more than just the east and west coast. Hillary learned this the hard way. After all, the electoral college is still a thing.

What is the electoral college?

Ughh… we’ll get to that at another time.

So why is so much emphasis placed on Iowa?

As aforementioned, the media revel in a good post-results analysis and while this may not account for what happens Super Tuesday, it’s important to see who has momentum. Iowa, as the first state, is something of a springboard. When Pete Buttigieg prematurely announced his victory (quite unfairly and somewhat inaccurately), he got the spotlight to shine just a little brighter on him. Sleepy Joe, on the otherhand, with his lack of success, quickly got painted as a candidate in decline.

Who’s leading right now?

Without South Carolina’s results accounted for, Bernie Sanders is leading at the moment with 45 delegates; Mayor Pete’s in 2nd place with 25; Sleepy Joe with 15, Elizabeth Warren with 8, and Amy Klobuchar with 7.

Who’s going to win Super Tuesday?

With a diverse range of states, nobody exactly wins, although a victor will be painted as such. It’s a little hard to call. Bernie Sanders has recently been topping polls nationwide so my money would be on him. This could be a turning point for the trailing Joe Biden however, who’s asserted he has a better chance of winning over Trump supporters and more moderate democrats. Mayor Pete too, is angling this territory whilst Elizabeth Warren’s settled into the gap between Bernie and them. In the end though, it’ll probably be a mix with Pete and Biden (and possibly Warren) hanging on through to the end of March.

What about Bloomberg?

His debate performances thus far have been so terrible that his camp could even do with getting help from Jeb! 2016 (don’t forget the exclamation mark). He has a tonne of money though, so you can’t exactly rule him out.

When exactly will we know who the Democratic nominee is?

The primary season ends in early June, although we should have a good idea by the end of April. Then, of course, there’s the shadowy league of super-delegates to deal with.

What are super-delegates?

Nobody quite knows. It is said they were born from an occult-like, yet beige, experiment in the woods when leading Democratic establishment figures realized they could lose the run of things after several disappointing election results. Actually, we wrote an article back in 2016 about them if you’re interested but what you need to know is that at 775 members (this year), they make up 1/5 of the total delegates and vote after the primary season is over. They’re criticized largely because they can potentially muck up things and could undermine the nomination of, oh let’s say, Bernie Sanders, should he prove problematic to the party’s core members.

When is Super Tuesday?

This Tuesday. We already mentioned this.

Ah.

Indeed. Any other questions?

Yes, why is this site called the Washington Walrus? 

Washington- cause we deal primarily with American politics. Walrus- to suggest a degree of majesty.

I don’t know if they’re all that majestic-

We said a degree of- that concludes this article!

 

 

 

Can Bernie Do It?

Can Bernie Do It?

We are a week out from the Iowa caucus now and my hopeful 2015 self should be starting to re-emerge in full blossom. Bernie Sanders is leading. Not only there. But in New Hampshire. Momentum is growing. The attacks are escalating on him, yes, but they don’t seem to be having the desired effect. And yet, I’m filled with trepidation when anyone speaks the warm and effervescent words “President Sanders”. I should stop them. I raise a finger as if to offer counsel but I just cant. Hardship must be learned in the battle fields.

I speak metaphorically, of course, with a dash of drama thrown in. After all, the 2016 election wasn’t that long ago. I still remember it well. I remember thinking: Holy cheese and crackers, he could really do it. If social media’s anything to go by, nobody’s voting for Hillary. Like that Kevin Spacey character from House of Cards, she can remain a part of the old Washington tapestry. Kevin Spacey sure does seem like a nice guy in interviews though…

What a fool I was. Not only did it turn out that my liberally-infested social media actually accounted for f- all in the grand scheme of things but apparently Kevin Spacey was also somewhat demanding on film sets. Ah, to have that cocky gleam brought back to my eyes; that penchant for hope that made 2008 a magical year for so many. But alas, it is not 2008. It’s not 2016. It’s 2020. We’ve seen the election of Donald Trump. We’ve seen Brexit come to pass. We’ve seen Bolsanaro turn a blind eye to the Amazon fires in Brazil. We’ve seen similar fires ravage the landscape of Australia and be ignored by political leadership. We’ve seen both Game of Thrones and Star Wars butchered to death. We should probably just give up and hope Sleepy Joe doesn’t make a faux pas in the debate against Donald Trump.

It would be easier that way but even though I’m skeptical of what I read on social media these days, I am hopeful to a reasonable degree. Why? Because somethings have changed for the better since 2016. Hillary may have got the nomination back then but the momentum of the party came from the rallies of Bernie Sanders. Three years later, we were given a wide and much more liberal-leaning Democratic field than we could have imagined, debating the best ways to tackle the climate change crisis without a major candidate’s proposal falling below the Greenpeace B grade. The year before, the Democrats also took the House back with cultural change highlighted in the election of representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.

Despite becoming a household name, Sanders has had, in some respects, a tougher climb this time around however. Whilst a breath of fresh air in 2015/16, by the time candidates were declaring early last year, he was one of several leftist options. Warren was leading him for the most part. Even, Kamala Harris managed a strong ascent for awhile. Joe Biden, of course, became the presumptive nominee even before he had announced. Plus, the rise of woke culture meant he had to deal with the impossible contention of being “another old white man”; a deal breaker for some people we can’t find a politically correct word for. He also had to account for some volunteers of his sexually harrassing others in 2016, as if he personally shepharded every single person involved in his campaign. The criticism was feeble and his moral consistency never wavered; that’s why he managed to succeed.

In recent weeks, the attacks have gotten more desperate. First, Elizabeth Warren affirmed that in a private meeting in December 2018, Sanders had told her he didn’t believe a woman could be president. She quickly tried to downplay the importance of this, which seemed unfair considering anyone alive would know how big a splash this would make. Sanders outright dismissed the validity of this statement anyways, leaving speculation to hang in the air although to many, Warren’s allegations came across as calculated given her falling poll numbers. Then Hillary Clinton, most calculated of all politicians, said that “nobody likes” Sanders, criticizing the culture around “Bernie Bros” and calling him a “career politician”. This may have boosted his numbers, if anything because a) people saw this as a child-like insult, b) people countered that he had done in excess of 30 rallies for her in 2016 (far more than she did for Obama in 2008), and c) not that many people like her (even Trump probably thought to enter the backlash for a minute before returning to his Mc Cheese Burger). And then, Bernie had the audacity to share a video of popular podcaster Joe Rogan saying he’d “probably” vote for Sanders, which many pointed out, was wrong because Joe Rogan has said made some controversial comments about trans people in the past. Bernie’s team responded by saying that just because he valued the endorsement does not mean he agrees with everything Joe Rogan says. I mean, it was hardly an endorsement from the KKK.

So, the attacks don’t seem to be landing. The latest polls show Bernie leading Buttigieg and Biden in Iowa. There is a good chance he could win the primaries and go onto becoming the Democratic nominee. His battle with Trump will be a whole other challenge thereafter. I don’t believe there are any proper controversies that are worth taking this man down. Unfortunately, I’m not part of the crowd with the loudest voices. Taking into account those cases above, anything seems to be on the cards for a stir. Bernie could lose half of his online California following by dismissing a vegan sandwich as “gross”. Maybe he’ll stand on a grasshopper? Who knows? For now, most people seem to be wising up to the vapid nature of woke criticism but just remember any previous election in US history; things get dirty and viscous. Is it worth discarding an A candidate if we discover a little tip-ex over the minus part that follows? Is it worth jeopardizing the future of the party over impossible standards and loose lips that okay, sometimes say the wrong words (or the right words the wrong way)?

The idea of “President Sanders” is not an impossibility. It is not going to be a walk in the park either. Just as the Republicans have united to win elections when unity was called for, so should the Democrats follow suit. And I mean this too for if Warren or Biden or Buttigieg (somehow) gets the nomination. The hope that defined Obama’s rise twelve years ago was a noble but surface concept; the jaded US of today needs something a little more tangible.

The 2010s: A Premature Evaluation

The 2010s: A Premature Evaluation

Hindsight Is Key

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History… suggested that with the end of the Cold War, humanity had reached an end/block point to the ideological evolution of the 20th century resulting in a broad acceptance of Western liberal democratic values. It was a stupendously general claim to make and one that would be criticised as new problems rose to take the place of the old. But if you take a step back, you’ll see how it is sometimes crucial for our understanding of history to get a broad overview before splitting stones because back then the US had very much started a new chapter of its story.

Hindsight is key for any proper historical evaluation. This article will simply not be able to capture the essence, key themes and ideas of the last decade; at least, not in a lasting way- primarily because, we don’t know what’s going to be important six months from now, let alone in 20 years. New information always becomes available and our core values change with each generation. Obama may be considered left of centre today but for future generations, he could be positively right-wing. Heck, Richard Nixon (the most flabbergasted of Republican presidents) established the Environmental Protection Agency.

Enough dawdling though; this context is important for the purpose of humility but it does not advance the story of the 2010s. What was this decade all about? How did America get from point A to point B? From Hope to Trump.

A New Generation

The millennials came of age this decade. Cast in the shadow of global austerity measures and economic hardship following the Financial Collapse of 2008, theirs (I say theirs, ours really) was a generation fraught with a unique level of anxiety. Many degrees were becoming increasingly less advantageous as job opportunities dried up and the unpaid internship net widened. It’s no wonder why, in this context, a sea of resentment festered; particularly against Boomers who wreaked prosperous opportunities in less tech-automated times whilst ignoring the most pressing issues facing the youth of today. As such, we’ve seen more people living at home for longer, trying for MAs, and adapting to a range of career positions; fluidity and creativity all the more pertinent.

Wall Street

Did the Obama administration fail this generation then by following in Bush’s lead in bailing out the banks? Intentions are certainly important; Obama did save America from the brink of a depression but the seeds of discord were planted in 2009 and the early 2010s. If millennials were to be denied the opportunities of their fathers or grandfathers, they’d at least strive to make their voices heard- which they very much have; for better and worse.

With regards the better, they (and Generation Z) have called for increasingly liberal stances on issues such as student fees, climate change, and health care. Whilst not altogether effective yet, the knocking on the government’s door has been getting louder and louder in recent years. How else would one explain the sensation that is Bernie Sanders; a candidate who probably wouldn’t have prospered this way in the 2000s. In another area, they have been more effective; calling for increased diversity in workplaces, media, and arts. Today’s music, TV, and film scene is a lot less white than it was 20 years ago.

With regards the worse, millennials are often seen (seen, don’t cancel me) as petty and entitled by the older generations (who in turn, have seemingly forgotten their responsibility to rear and guide their children). Is there truth to this? It’s a wild stereotype that’s limited but keeping in mind, the general overview from the intro, I’m inclined to believe that for all the good done with social media justice, there is an equal and lamentable drive for over-reaction. It is far too easy to get a rise out of people on social media or to have their television or film contract reassessed due to some stupid but ultimately unimportant remarks made in the past. On college campuses, speakers are protested for merely holding non-liberal views and as a result, many fear the very idea of free speech is under threat (especially when the term “hate speech” gets added to the mix). Outrage is an industry in and of itself.

Millennials can be said to be tolerant of anything but intolerance. Again, generally. At first glance, this may seem amicable and perfectly reasonable. Look at the strides made by the LGBTQ community this decade; today, people assess sexuality and gender in a far broader context than ten years ago. On the other hand, judgment has become popular and forgiveness is in short supply. This is not meant to advocate some false equivalency of opinion between liberals and conservatives but rather to point out that to effect change among certain groups, it is sometimes wise to speak rather than shout, listen so as to at least be cordial. This is as much a question of generational divide as it is political ideology; a great gulf has split people on subjects ranging from health care to gender neutral bathrooms. I believe we should let decency prevail where political correctness fails because there are numbers to be gained from the other side, especially in 2020.

With all that in mind, I don’t think millennials can be faulted for their intentions. Climate change does need to be addressed and for this reason alone, there is more hope to be found with 20- to 30-somethings than with our elders. The question looming over the 2020s on this issue, among others (like gun control) will be did they manage to tackle the problem effectively as well as righteously.

The Culture Wars (On Steroids)

To explore this generational/ideological gulf further, we must assess why and how everything became so political. What do I mean? What talk show today doesn’t feature a joke about Trump? What books or movies or genres of music do well with one camp or with another? This isn’t exactly a new idea- the culture wars have long been prevalent in American society but nowadays, even a movie like Star Wars: The Last Jedi is read by some as a feminist assault on traditional cinema. The reactions to divisive projects like this are often downright ridiculous but they do have origins tales of their own; for just as diversity promised to enrich America’ cultural experience, there were those who felt the pendulum was moving a little too fast and in places with a little too much force (e.g. female reboots, politically correct re-workings). With the recent reaction to John Legend’s version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, it’s fair to say that “woke culture” (to broaden this horizon) was given a bit of a slap in the face. The condemning of past opinions too (like John Wayne’s on race relations), while right, also seem trivial and petty. Will it be a case that liberals have to learn to pick their battles or will a dignified if self-righteous sense of morality prevail?

John Legend and Kelly Clarkson’s new version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has been criticised as an example of the left pandering to minute sensitivities and PC culture.

Of course, the culture wars don’t matter to most people and outrage (built on Twitter feeds) has never truly reflected the actuality of common opinion. Clickbait journalism and not-even-trying-to-be-objective-anymore news stations have amplified once barely prevalent tensions. Controversy sells and as long as people relinquish their sacred duty for critical thinking (on the left and right), the battleground will continue to get muddier.

It’s also become harder to blend opposing facets of oneself. You vote Blue so you must adhere to every liberal constitution, right? Your favourite movie is Moonlight and you drive a hybrid? Where the divide between Democrats and Republicans has intensified on the actual issues, so too have the values associated with social liberals and conservatives. It may not come across on your social media field but there have been gay republicans and fervently religious but vegan democrats. Contradictions may arise if you take everything literally but people aren’t just what they wear, what they vote, or what they listen to. The idea of groupthink and identity politics may be useful for our understanding of certain privileges and economic disadvantages but it is fundamentally important to remember the individuals (sometimes) trapped within.

From Hope to Trump

So far, we have largely explored the emerging tide of liberal values among millennials as well as their shortcomings. While their voices may be heard across social media and campuses however, the real power now lies with a bizarre authoritarian right wing. Is this a reaction to political correctness? A reaction to an America older white people don’t recognise? To the failure and stalling of democracy? Obama? It’s hard to pin it down to one reason but most people would agree it is indeed a reaction.

Let’s go back to 2010. The economy is poor and health care legislation has been passed. The Republicans have amped up their objection to an 11. Will they undo Obama’s key piece of legislation? No. But they will use it as bait to take back both the House and Senate later that year and for the next six, make Obama’s presidency as much of a struggle as possible. Every time, a shooting occurs, they will keep focused and ensure protection of the NRA… I mean, the 2nd Amendment. Every time, a liberal piece of legislation comes forward from Obama, they will block it because they understand it to be good politics; the attack strategies of the last twenty years have worked, so why not? Thus, Obama is confined to foreign policy measures and acting where he can. To many, he appears weak.

Obama’s team is not willing to give up that easily however. There are cards to play and victories do emerge, even if they take time. One such victory was the assassination of Bin Laden in 2011, which undoubtedly helped push the re-election campaign along nicely. Beating Romney the following year also cemented his popularity, meaning he could argue his case to the public more frequently. The Iran Nuclear Deal and Gay Marriage followed in 2015 and all things considered, Obama had done a pretty good job with what he was given. So why was there such a fundamental shift in 2016?

For one, people underestimated just how important the appeal of Obama, himself, was. Hillarys politics may not have been miles off his but she simply couldn’t inspire the loyalty he did; he was one of the greatest orators of all time. As well as that however, Obama was unable to translate his messages across as those of the Democratic establishment. After all, they lost handily in 2014, even before Trump entered the picture. Perhaps because, for all their gesticulation, they couldn’t advertise themselves half as well as the GOP. Confidence it seems can be as toxic as it is appealing. That’s where Trump comes in.

Trump won, not because of the substance of his arguments but because of the way he projected them and himself. The Republican field toppled in the debates of late 2015 and all the while, throughout the primaries, we fooled ourselves into thinking this was some kind of joke. Brexit should’ve rang alarm bells. Trump getting the nomination should have too. But like an age-old tragedy, we followed the path blindly and suffered as a result.

If Trump wasn’t a traditional conservative, it didn’t matter at all. As stated earlier, Nixon established the EPA; so clearly this party’s open to whatever. And just like that, they all relinquished honesty and their duty for the sake of power (… Paul Ryan). The Democrats, on the other hand, may not have exactly appeased their camp but they did little to persuade voters, who could be turned, why theirs was a better one to join. Many liberals simply took to labelling Trump supporters stupid, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and so on. This continues to be a mistake, in my view, and a crucial one differentiating many working class people struggling with every day economic opportunities from the elitist self-righteous liberals who know nothing of them.

Trump’s impeachment may get rid of the man but it won’t get rid of the problem because he’s as much a symptom of the ills dominating the bi-polarity of politics this decade as obtuse NRA support or further tax breaks for the 1% are. In a strange way, it’s odd that it’s taken so long for a clown to ascend to the throne considering the acrobatics and pantomime politicians perform but if anything should be clear to the Democrats now, it is that their battle will not end in 2020. Complacency has always been their problem.

A New Left

There is a spark of hope to be found in the Democratic Party however as we end the 2010s. For just as the right has moved beyond any nuance of centrism, the left has recognised its need to stake its own ground too. The campaign of Bernie in 2016 mobilised a movement the corporate Democrats simply didn’t understand; one that has already flourished with the election of candidates like Alexandria Occasion Cortes last year and the adoption of more liberal stances in the election field this year. The party is undergoing a period of transformation, having essentially spent the last 30 years meeting their adversaries in a compromised middle. Whether this will prove wise remains to be seen. Two schools of thought are currently battling it out to see who can take back those Trump voters; the more centrist likes of Joe Biden and the others like Bernie/Warren. Again, we see the political and the cultural dominoes of America falling in tandem.

As I’ve often stated in pieces on this site, I believe the issues should remain central to Bernie’s and other’s campaigns, not the bait Republicans masquerade as issues (e.g. patriotism) nor the scandals that get blown out of proportion (e.g. Hillary’s emails). So far, they seem to be on track but as the other elections of the 2010s have shown, the Republicans aren’t bad at winning.

In Summation

How strange the Clinton-Blair years now seem to us in a world turned upside down. Forests are burning, debts are rising, automation threatens millions of jobs, racism appears more openly acceptable, and James Corden has a chat show. The 2010s have been a scary time and they’ve only gotten more so; the fresh fruit of the Obama years now rotten to its core. Were we misguided by hope as we may be now? Possibly. I think, more likely however, voter apathy and perennial compromise by liberals beset on preaching without acting led to desperation.

In times of economic upheaval and vulnerability, radical ideologies become all the more appealing. That is not to say we will face a direct parallel with the 1930s and devolve into a fight between fascism, democracy, and communism but this sharp split is somewhat reminiscent. It will play out dramatically in next year’s election, which will be about much more than electing a new president; it’ll be about ratifying the course American culture will head in under the auspices of ideological, generational, and human values (or as Joe Biden put it, the “soul of America”).

The 2010s are yet foggy and there was a great deal more I could have explored (e.g. foreign policy, keyboard warriors, police brutality, #metoo, etc.) but a feint trajectory permeates this hew nonetheless; one linking our apathy and disinterest to upheaval and renewed activism. The people of today speak of politics far more than they did ten years ago. This is both a good and bad thing.

The Democrats and Climate Change

The Democrats and Climate Change

The concern surrounding the climate change crisis seems to finally be reaching its target audience, the world. This is in large part thanks to Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her powerful campaigns as well as a growing consensus on the part of liberals that bold action is needed ASAP. So which Democratic candidate has the most to offer future generations in this debate and which plan should we be standing by? It may be a matter of simply adding the numbers against scientific projections but unfortunately in the world of Washington, political capital is just as important.

Bernie Sanders, the wild haired independent from Vermont, has naturally put up the largest number in his addresses to tackling this issue. His plan would involve spending $16 trillion over the course of 15 years, aiming for zero emissions from transport and power generation by 2030, while supporting the Green New Deal proposed earlier this year. Elizabeth Warren is rated highly by GreenPeace too; she too desires 100% clean energy and has tied her approach into a more general economic restructuring. Some candidates like Andrew Yang and Beto O’ Rourke have also discerned where funds should be appropriated for coastal inhabitants being relocated and measures being implemented like sea walls, acknowledging that the crisis is already at hand. Indeed, most of them agree that clean energy, disaster relief funds, and taxation will be necessary to some degree or another; where they differ is in funds (Bernie’s plan costing the most, Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion among the least) and attainable goals by time (Bernie’s being the most ambitious with the likes of Julian Castro’s or O’ Rourke’s 2045/2050 in contrast.

They’re all more or less admirable approaches and where specifics arise, like Biden’s plan for half a million renewable power stations, there is some room for hope. But not too much. Yes, there has been a 17% growth since 2013 in Americans seeing climate change as a major threat and yes, there is a rise in renewable energy in parts (e.g. in wind turbines in Texas). Unfortunately, there’s also been an increase in energy consumption, with 2018 seeing a significant spike as a result of post-recession spending (with the last peak year being 2007). As of last year, petroleum and natural gas still dominate this consumption, with renewable sources adding up to a mere 11% (Energy Information Administration). Plus, although 3/4 Americans now believe in climate change (a still embarrassing figure), only 56% Republicans surveyed in August (by AP VoteCast) agreed, with even less (41%) believing human activity was a factor in this.

The odds are not great, especially with the way the Senate is tilted currently and time is running out for the nation that produces 15% of the world’s emissions. To effectively tackle the crisis, a World War 2 level of mobilization will be needed. Perhaps in an economic model of some kind then, we can place our best faith. After all, wind and solar and hydro-electric energy make sense, whether you believe the science or not. Coal is not making a comeback, despite what Trump may have suggested and fracking is coming under an increasing amount of scrutiny. Over half the candidates are for a ban in that area (Castro and Klobuchar support limiting these resources).

The next president, God willing, will face America’s and the world’s greatest challenge. For all the fear-mongering rhetoric the right and idiots would associate with such a statement and what Greta Thunberg has said, the reality is alarming. So should the candidates propose these measures with an air of restraint, lest they alienate voters, or put it out on the line, with the severity it deserves? I hope it will be the latter. After all, the Democrats finally started to impeach Trump, they won the House handily in 2018, and they’ve brought ideas like Sanders and Warren’s into the mainstream (a far cry from five years ago). Hillary tried to walk the line, the same way so many Democrats have in recent decades, positing a centrist alternative to issues the Republicans had the mic on. This time, the Democrats need to be strong and unapologetic because for all the urgency of their other priorities, e.g. health care, climate change is the only one with a non-negotiable time frame.

The Battle of the Democrats Begins

The Battle of the Democrats Begins

17 months yet remain till the deciding vote is cast for the next president of the United States, if indeed, there is one (and if there is indeed still a democracy). Just about every key Democrat figure you’ve heard of has their thrown their name into the ring with over 20 candidates now declared. With this wild assembly threatening the already weakened image of the excuse-me-sir-is-this-gluten-free party, a plan is now more important than ever. This is why there will be two Democratic debates held this week… yes, two… and with 10 candidates apiece. Will they resolve some differences and set a standard goal with which to hammer the incumbent? Or will they sully the already murky waters of their objectives and philosophies? Let’s investigate.

Debate #1 (Wednesday, 26 June)

Candidates: Elizabeth Warren; Beto O’ Rourke; Cory Booker; Amy Klobuchar; John Delaney; Tulsi Gabbard; Julian Castro; Tim Ryan; Bill de Blasio; Jay Inslee

Essentially the B-side to the following night’s debate, this is Warren’s chance to shine among a field of relative obscurities (on the national stage). She is seen as a far-left choice by some and too economically-minded by others but her rising stardom coupled with her no-nonsense resolve makes her an inviting alternative to Sanders, whilst also carrying the torch of those determined to see their first female president. In my opinion, she could make for an excellent president (polling behind Biden and Sanders) but her anti-Wall Street sentiments and lack of (let’s say) wackiness gives her a challenge of image for the undecided. Unfortunately, I could see Trump painting her as a weak-minded loopy socialist of some sort.

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As for the others, I don’t want to exactly disparage or dismiss them but when your strongest challenger shoots for Dukakis-like photo ops (see below) and just lost a Senatorial race to slimy Ted Cruz, it’s difficult to see them going far. Still, Beto O’Rourke is an affable candidate, in many people’s minds, and his youthful image could provide a much desired contrast to the dinosaurs dominating American politics today.

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Like Hugh Grant after an emotional confession in the rain

Debate #2 (Thursday, 27 June)

Candidates: Marianna Williamson; John Hickenlooper; Andrew Yang; Pete Buttigieg; Joe Biden; Bernie Sanders; Kamala Harris; Kirsten Gillibrand; Michael Bennett; Eric Swalwell

The media’s attention will undoubtedly be placed on drawing distinctions between Biden and Sanders; the two front-runners wrestling for the soul of the party. Will the more centrist slick politics of the former VP fare well or will the should-have-been nominated choice of the left topple him? For many, it’s essentially Clinton-vs.-Sanders part two. Biden, however, is no Clinton. Yes, he is not as liberal as Sanders or Warren but he’s also not as rehearsed and guarded as the former Secretary of State. Biden’s appeal lies in his compassion and relatability; something someone who’s been as involved as he has (and for as long as he has) should not have. People like him. He could probably hold his own against Trump the way others might not. His main problem, in these debates and the primaries, will be in overcoming controversies relating to past decisions (certain votes, Anita Hill) and behavior (the whole massaging people’s shoulders thing) but these are essentially overblown by the woke no-context trolls of the internet. Let’s remember, before we injure another promising candidate, that people’s attitudes were different in the ’80s and ’90s and that whatever any of these people have said simply does not compare to what the current president is actually doing.

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Enough about Joe though. Let’s move onto Sanders. He was my own preferred candidate back in 2016 and a part of me would love to see him become the next president but honestly (and sorry), some of the magic has worn off. It may be the fact that the democratic base has become more liberal (thanks in large part to himself), making him just another voice among the throngs; it may be that some of his ideas (free tuition) just don’t seem practically attainable; it may even be that I’ve just heard his message too often- but the level of excitement surrounding his run just isn’t what it felt like four years ago. Perhaps, I’ve become jaded. I don’t know. The important thing to remember is, and you can find this in the polls, that he stands a very good shot. Some liberals need to be reminded that although yes, he is another white old man, he has been the most committed champion of their causes (something his team keeps prodding about on social media). His fans, then, also need to be reminded that it does no good to act like a whiny little bitch and refuse to support whoever beats him. Let’s also not make age an issue. Biden’s one year younger than him and Trump is 73.

Bernie Sanders Delivers Policy Address On Democratic Socialism In Washington DC

Besides those two, some of these candidates are intriguing, if not yet convincing. Pete Buttigieg, for instance, is a 37-year old gay/veteran/liberal mayor, who’s drawn a lot of attention for his eloquence. He sounds smart and he can’t be pinned down to one specific picture; almost the perfect contrast to Trump. The problem is nobody really knows what he’s all about. Remember kids, identity politics isn’t everything. Then there’s Kamala Harris, one of the earliest candidates to declare. A former prosecutor, she’s a tough one, who for all her law experiences, gains all the more credibility in her attacks against Trump. Andrew Yang has meanwhile discerned himself from the rest, putting ideology aside, to focus on universal basic income and the decreasing number of jobs available in America. This seems common sense but pundits and commentators sometimes forget how crucial economic matters are to voters’ minds. This is worrying, of course, because the economy is actually doing well, thanks to Obama, but credited by Trump to Trump. Democrats can’t let the president seize this victory.

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And lastly…

It’s early days yet. Although I’ve only focused on a few candidates, everyone has a chance to shine up on stage. Nothing’s guaranteed. Someone could, for instance, fart and break down right there and then. Someone could do a George Bush and run two words into the one. Someone could do an Al Gore and look smarmy for just a moment too long. Anything’s possible.

In some ways, it’s ridiculous that these debates are happening as early as they are and in some ways, it’s a good thing. The Democratic party has not tended to unify as solidly as the Republicans have in the past. After all, look how quickly everyone abandoned their principles and got behind Trump in 2016? Despicable but remarkable. The democrats need to stop shooting their own. If Biden’s a little too centrist for you, so what? He’s a lot better for your country than Trump is. Is Warren not exciting enough? It doesn’t matter. She’ll get the job done well. Democrats failed to resolve the conflict between their own ideals and the bigger picture back in 2016 again. If they fail this time, then America will truly be granted the president it deserves.

“You’re #cancelled Bro”-Cancel Culture

“You’re #cancelled Bro”-Cancel Culture

Part One- John Wayne Rediscovered

Recently, an old Playboy interview with John Wayne from nearly 50 years ago was rediscovered which revealed some horrendous beliefs he held about race relations, white supremacy being a good thing, and homosexuality. This sparked outrage with the usual suspects who a) don’t contextualize anything and b) know nothing about John Wayne. Now, let me preface this with the painfully obvious but excruciatingly important detail that I am, by no means, defending John Wayne or what he said. In fact, I’d even go so far as to posit that his opinions were particularly racist for a racist white guy in the early 1970s. They were vile, stupid, and yes, offensive but- they were not made by someone alive or of our generation or even the two before it.

john wayne

If you have ever watched a single one of Wayne’s movies, you simply wouldn’t figure him for some kind of liberal. You might even, to take a very minuscule leap, gather that he was of a very old, patriarchal, white-bred kind of background. That doesn’t make what he said okay but to be shocked or outraged by someone’s words, I would at least attest that you’d have to have thought of them in some other kind of context. Basically, it’s not that surprising to learn an old white star, who was by then in his 60s, held some bigoted beliefs. And it doesn’t make much sense (and this is the fundamental point) to make a career of sifting through an old star’s interviews from decades ago with a modern lens of morality. Years from now we will undoubtedly be judged for what we did, yes, but for the likes of Wayne, we should probably still be able to enjoy his output while acknowledging that he wasn’t exactly a symbol of tolerance.

 

Part Two- The Rise of Cancel Culture

The modern trend of social justice, in the forms of #metoo, political correctness, and cancel culture has risen and taken storm as a result of frustrations built upon years of a lack accountability on the part of powerful figures. The courts can be slow to deliver proper punishments, if any, in even the most high profile cases. Political systems have been infected with a slew of problems, so cumbersome that they’ve become almost insurmountable. And even shows like The Big Bang Theory continue to thrive despite the fact that they are clearly dreadful. In such times, the mantle of social media can appear attractive. It has given a voice to the voiceless. It has helped promote awareness of issues we never would have thought of. It even gets you quick customer service where all other avenues fail. It’s also dangerous however.

The problem with social media is not so much that it can present biased, clickbait visions or news pieces, without much resistance, but that it’s populated with the worst kind of people you could ever listen to. Any given day on Facebook, I can scroll through my newsfeed, and find a barrage of comments on an article that has obviously not been read in full or countered. Too many people don’t want to have their viewpoints challenged so they cling to familiar publications or channels (like liberals for the Huffington Post and conservatives for Breitbart) and ignore that which falls between, taking in sensationalist headlines which eventually build up a picture of someone or some idea without much shade or nuance.

I don’t want to get into bi-partisanship however. I’ve impressed the above point only to account for the lack of accountability people afford themselves when they interact with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. They react instinctively and without good measure when allegations arise, which brings us back the way of cancel culture. Let’s take the not-so-comfortable example of notorious racist Liam Neeson. The thing about Neeson is he’s not our classic idea a notorious racist. Some say he’s just another human being who admitted to a detestable moment in his life, when he sought vengeance for a friend of his who had been raped, by roaming the streets and looking for a “black bastard to kill.”

2018 NYFF - "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" Premiere, New York, USA - 04 Oct 2018

Let’s unpack this slowly and carefully. First of all, it was racist and horrible and I don’t think anyone can expect any black person to take this account without offense or anxiety. After all, this is the kind of hate many have had to deal with their whole lives, resulting in unwarranted arrests of murders. Neeson’s story, however, was not happened upon by some journalist. He told it himself, as a way of admitting his own guilt, clearing his conscience perhaps, and illustrating the the deep-rootedness of bigotry in society. He felt shame, yes, but he also said he could’ve killed someone. So, do we #cancel him or at least, evaluate the details of his story first?- because it if both a typical and untypical example of prejudice influencing a person’s mindset.

Putting aside whatever conclusions you may come to, the problem for me with this story, was how it got reported and discussed by the majority of people in social and regular media. For one, many seemingly missed the point where Neeson asked for the details of his friend’s attacker (height, hair, etc.) as well as the details of the story as a whole, and focused immediately on the headlines. For another, people called him an “idiot” for simply bringing the story up which granted was stupid, given he was promoting a movie. If we can’t discuss difficult topics like this however with some grace, how can we begin to actually solve them?

 

Part Three- Art and Morality

Woven into the tapestry of this debate on cancel culture is the thread of modern morality and “wokeness”. Can we separate art from the artist or do we need to stop making excuses for facilitating the careers of harmful individuals like R. Kelly?

Undoubtedly, a few good things have arisen in this current climate of social justice. The #metoo movement, for instance, finally got a great many people to pay attention to the rampant culture of sexual harassment dominating work spaces. It impressed upon men, in particular, that if you behaved a certain way, you would be held to account (not that it’s been wholly effective or noticed everywhere). We’ve come to appreciate that racism is systematic beyond the plain and obvious insults and attacks of past generations. We tolerate less so that more are accepted. We’ve also come to confront an issue that never seemed like much of an issue too; toxic fandom.

In a sense it’s easy enough to cancel a celebrity like Neeson or Kevin Spacey by refusing to entertain any more of their work. With someone like R. Kelly, it’s tougher because he had a large fan base and produced many hits, for himself and an array of other artists. A radio station can withdraw “Ignition” from the airwaves but they can’t exactly strip it of its appeal. And what about Michael Jackson then? The controversial Leaving Neverland documentary, which aired in our parts last week, saw two fresh allegations presented over the course of four hours against the late King of Pop. Are people really going to forget or condemn songs like “Billie Jean”? Some radio stations have already begun to stop playing these, on the basis of this wound being “too fresh”. Many of his fans however, on the opposite end of this spectrum, are flat out denying the validity of these allegations. Their concerns aren’t without logic but as documentary favorite Louis Theroux has pointed out, they can act “willfully blind” in the name of their hero.

MJ

That’s where we come to the idea of toxic fandom as a tide fighting against #cancel culture. It’s a lot easier to stand by an artist like Michael Jackson who’s greatly influenced you than it is to accept the allegations leveled against him. It’s almost too much to bear for people who want everything about this icon to be pure and unquestionable. In this sense, perhaps the trend of social justice is doing us a necessary, if painful service, like ripping a bandage off. We need to learn to accept our favorite stars might not be as great in their personal lives as they are in their art which has been true throughout the course of history.

Balance will be the key to all of this and it will take some time but I don’t think it’s necessary to discard the works of these fallen giants. After all, MJ opened a lot of doors for black artists in the industry. That can’t be taken away from him, just as Cosby’s influence on comedy can’t be eradicated. The fans don’t need to feel guilty for enjoying these people’s work but they should accept that deification of such figures gives way to a toxic and irresponsible culture, where abuse of power rests comfortably and heartache inevitably follows. In extreme cases such as theirs, we cannot turn a blind eye to their conduct (alleged or proven) but we should also not shackle ourselves to the notion that every celebrity, politician, or Twitter provocateur deserves to be cancelled and erased from history. Nuance is key, redemption is possible, and forgiveness is not at all a weak act.

Collusion & Shit Storms: Trump’s 2018 In Summary

Collusion & Shit Storms: Trump’s 2018 In Summary

At the Washington Walrus, we recognize that it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with the latest in baffling tweets, nonsensical decisions, and eh… “reverse psychology” employed by the Trump Administration. One story may change from one end of the day to the next. So, we thought, it’d be handy to save you the hassle of sorting through this all and give you the main talking points that dominated this presidency in 2018 (year 2) with some colorful commentary.

January

  • Fire and Fury is released. Although Michael Wolff’s first-hand account is un-sourced and speculative, it manages to grind Trump’s gears immediately. Mike Pence, who believes gays can be cured with shock therapy, decries it as a “work of fiction.” Later on this year, his family will release a book about his rabbit, Marlon Bundo.

    marlon bundo
    The Pence’s book was met with John Oliver’s rival companion, A Day in The Life of Marlon Bundo, which told the story of a gay rabbit.
  • Trump presents the “Fake News Awards” via Twitter. The New York Times and CNN dominate the evening.
  • Government Shutdown 1/3- this time over government funding.

February

  • Government Shutdown 2/3- over funding again. Eventually, things clear and a budget proposal is launched with major tax cuts for the rich.
  • Former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, starts facing a tough year when he acknowledges payment (on his own behalf) to Stormy Daniels in 2016.

March

  • Trump fires Rex Tillerson and hires former CIA director, Mike Pompeo, as new Secretary of State. Gina Haspel takes over his role meanwhile.
  • Trump, against advice, calls Putin to congratulate him on his re-election.
  • White House issues memorandum on Mattis’ military policies to the effect that they support disqualifying transgender people from military service.

April

  • Increased scrutiny on Stormy Daniels’ affair. She files a lawsuit on claims Trump’s made.

May

  • Ends temporary protected status for Hondurans.

June

  • Department of Homeland Security reveals that between April 19 and May 31, nearly 2,000 children were separated from adults at the Mexican border. Trump tries to blame others, including Democrats for what easily ranks in his top 3 evil policies to date.
  • Describes Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as “very dishonest and meek” after G7 summit.

July

  • Scott Pruitt resigns as EPA head.
  • Robert Mueller indicts 12 Russian intelligence officers over hacking Democratic emails.
  • Trump advises Theresa May to sue the EU over Brexit negotiations. It’s quite a month for him.
  • Trump and Putin meet at a summit in Helsinki. Trump states he knows no reason why Russia would’ve interfered in the 2016 election. Putin gives Trump a football as a present. Trump throws it to Melania, saying it’ll be a present for Barron. The world watches stunned.

    President Trump And President Putin Hold A Joint Press Conference After Summit
    Perhaps the most shocking moment witnessed on live TV since Janet Jackson’s nip-slip at the 2004 Superbowl.
  • Iran’s President, having said a war between the US and Iran would be the “mother of all wars” is hit with Trump’s latest constipation tweet: “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” It was all caps, so you know he means business.
  • Cohen claims Trump knew of June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between campaign officials and Russian lobbyists promising “dirt” on Clinton.

August

  • Press Secretary, Sarah H. Sanders calls the press the “enemy of the people”.
  • Manafort and Cohen are both found guilty of 5 counts of tax evasion.
  • Trump says in an interview with Fox that if he was to be impeached, the market would most surely crash. He’s taken a lot of credit for the economy this year.

September

  • The Senate Confirmation hearings begin for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. This lasts through to October. We learn he likes beer and studiously marks his calendars.

    Lista-The-Tears-of-Brett-Kavanaugh
    “I like beer!” The impassioned plea of a former frat boy and Supreme Court Justice. He also has the Ronald Reagan hair-do going on.
  • Trump claims before the UN General Assembly that his administration has, in less than 2 years, accomplished more than “almost any other” in history. They laugh at him. Trump says he wasn’t expecting that reaction but that it’s okay. It’s not really though, is it?

October

  • Kavanaugh’s confirmation by a hefty 51-49 affirms for many that the #metoo movement still faces limits.
  • Trump campaigns in anticipation of the mid-term elections.

    maxresdefault (5)
    A campaign rally for Trump supporters.

November

  • Jeff Sessions resigns and is replaced by Matthew Whitaker.
  • Trump fails to attend a WW1 memorial ceremony in Paris with other world leaders due to weather.
  • Despite expressing concerns over the disappearance of journalist Khashoggi, Trump declares loyalty to Saudi Arabia.
  • Defends Ivanka’s use of private email.
  • Cohen pleads guilty to lying to Congress over Mueller/Russia investigation.

December

  • George H.W. Bush’s funeral reminds us that the president doesn’t have to be a villain. Not by virtue of Trump however. He looks strikingly out of place.
  • Cohen sentenced to 3 years for tax evasion, violation of campaign finance laws, and deceiving banks and Congress.
  • Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, resigns, after Trump tweets that troops will return home from Syria with victory over ISIS being assured.
  • Government Shutdown 3/3 over funding for the Border Wall.

    pelositrumpap_hdv
    Pelosi and Schumer (not pictured) has a meeting before the press with Trump. It went supremely well. Meanwhile, Pence contemplates the possibilities of a Marlon Bundo movie.

 

And there you have it! Quite a year, huh? Of course, this only scratches the surface. There was also the beginning of a trade war with China and many other resignations/firings. Or how about that meeting with Kim Jong Un? Yes, even though it was one year, a lot happened but what seemed to dominate thematically and quite literally were:

  1. Trump and his team’s lies unfurling under the weight of the exhaustive Mueller investigation.
  2. Trump’s sense of indignation and hostility growing exponentially with any who disagreed with him.
  3. Trump’s needs for appraisal at any cost- be it by others lying to him or by him lying to others about things he has (but hasn’t actually) accomplished.

These themes will probably course over into 2019, a year in which the stakes will undoubtedly be amplified considering the momentum of Mueller’s investigation and the fact that the Democrats will take lead in the House of Representatives. But will it be an easy road for liberals then? Or will Trump’s base fight back, feeling the victims of persecution in both a political and cultural war? And what can Trump do/say to shock us at this point. Well, here’s a few things for 2019 we predict:

  • The “Fake News Awards” become an actual 3-hour long televised event on Fox with in-memoriam slides for celebrities Trump feels were wrongly accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Trump tweets spoilers for the Game of Thrones’ finale having gotten Eric to secure a copy. Eric, meanwhile, feels he has done his father proud and gets a gold star.
  • Attacks nations that don’t pay their dues on the international stage, like Wakanda, which he mistakes for a real country. Marvel play ball.
  • Promotes Barron to an advisory role. Eric looks on with jealousy.
  • Delays the 2020 election on account of “important things” needing taken care of first. Democrats, gridlocked on the issue of whether Harry Potter promoted a diverse-enough school experience, fail to challenge him on this.
  • Claims the wall has been built but is invisible. It’s best not tested though because while it will not prevent you crossing as such, it will inflict a terrible curse on you and your family.