The Hangover, Part II: National Thoughts
Whatever the outcome, I thought the election results would be something that didn't fit the narratives being peddled by the media on the left and the right- and sure enough, that thought turned out to be more or less correct. There's good news and bad news to be had all over the political spectrum and some interesting possibilities out there- assuming we have politicians and policymakers talented enough to actually take advantage of them. (My Magic 8 Ball says: "Unlikely.")
Let's start with the overall good news stuff though:
Ranked Choice Voting had a good election showing. In general, I feel confident in RCV in that I think it would reduce partisanship and allow more independent voices to break into politics. I like that and I hope it continues to spread-- it's one of the more realistic political reform efforts out there that I think could really make a difference. (Unlike say, abolishing the electoral college or the ever present dream of "getting money out of politics.") If you combine this with Congressional reapportionment (House representation should grow with population and we've been stuck at 435 for nearly a century now. Changing it doesn't require a Constitutional amendment) and getting states to allocate their electoral votes by Congressional district (two states already do) and we might be getting somewhere... better.* And right now, when it comes to American Democracy, I'll take better.
Mississippi won this election. I can't think of another state that had a trifecta quite like Mississippi- they got a brand new flag and ended a weird-ass remnant of Jim Crow that had a strange electoral college type system for electing Governors. And they legalized medicinal marijuana! +3 for the Magnolia State.
Drugs also had a good showing: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota** legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. (South Dakota also legalized medicinal marijuana in a separate mesasure.) Oregon legalized psilocybin for 'supervised therapeutic uses.' (D.C. decriminalized psychedlic plants as well.)
The big one here: Oregon decriminalized all drugs. I know a few people from Oregon and anecdotally, they seem to be of the opinion that this is going to be a total disaster- but if states are going to be "laboratories of democracy" we've got to start somewhere with dealing with drugs, because God knows the War on Drugs ain't working. If this works and we can transition to treating drug addiction as a health problem and shift enforcement away from posession and toward dealing and manufacturing (where it should be, imo) then we might have something here. But unless states are willing to really prosecute dealers and makers- and given Oregon's political climate, there might be "reasons" to believe that prosecuterial shenanigans are going to easier on dealers and makers than they should and if that's true, then we might have problems.
Five years hence, if this is seen as a policy failure, then we're going to have to confront something potentially monumental: if decriminalization and treatment don't work, then what will?
Okay, let's talk parties-- first up, Democrats and Exhibit A:
Latino Dem congressman in Arizona bluntly says what polls have shown for some time: the overwhelmingly majority of Latino voters *do not know* the term "Latinx" and practically none use it, and if you want to win their votes, you should talk to them as they talk about themselves. https://t.co/Z6VYlyYftp— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) November 4, 2020
Identity politics is dead, long live identity politics? While the general data seems to back up the notion that President Trump got shit-stomped in the suburbs, what was surprising was that he made up for that elsewhere with inroads in the Latino vote in certain places. Now granted, 'inroads' doesn't mean 'win', but in a game of percentages, it doesn't take much to move the final results and honestly, it's probably by Trump won both Texas and Florida. (It turns out that your own lived experiences might just transcend the color of your skin more than the Establishment/Media/Cultural Zeitgeist would have you believe-- who knew!)
(On the whole: I don't have a lot of skin in the game of the whole Latinx thing, but I feel like this Tweet more or less nails it. I can see how maybe, just maybe, it feels like white upper middle class college types trying to police a language that isn't theirs. That might be an entirely fictional perception, I'll acknowledge, but I can see it being absolutely true.)
The problem for the Democrats is the same as it has been for a decade or more now: how can you reconnect with the regular people of this country? Because if the post-election reckoning behind the scenes is any indication, there's a difference of opinion here that needs to be resolved if the Democrats want to get anywhere beyond the Presidency. They need to be able to win in all 50 states. Yes, Georgia and Arizona turned blue. Congratulations, but unless their state houses turned blue in a redistricting year, do you really expect that they're going to stay that way? Let me drop another tweet in here:
That remains the challenge for the left, that it still hasn't figured out, not just in Brazil but across the democratic world: how to reach beyond students and the affluent/highly educated to persuade ordinary people they care about their lives & can make them better. That's it.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 16, 2020
Tattoo this Tweet somewhere onto your collective brains, Democrats, because this is the problem that you have to overcome if you want to get anywhere and not get stuck in the Establishment web of technocrats and hangers on. If ordinary people are convinced that the 'ruling class' does not give a shit about them, they're going to vote for someone who wants to burn the Establishment right down to the ground. The Tea Party, Occupy, the 2008 Financial Crisis, President Trump, the College Admissions Scandal and even once you get outside the activist core of the BLM movement, Black Lives Matter should all have been fucking gigantic red flags for the Establishment of this country. If you do not figure this shit out, someone else is going too. And worse yet: we could end up with an intelligent populist who won't use Twitter and will make you beg and pray for a second Trump term.
I am not particularly interested in that, Democrats, so please, get your shit together and learn something from all of this?***
(But wait, you say: Biden won! Sure, he won. Go look at Twitter and check the reaction of the Leftist Twitterati to his cabinet picks. "Underwhelmed" is the verb that springs to mind. And in the absence of the vaunted Blue Tsunami, he has a mandate to govern from the center and not the Left.)
Because of these shifts in the Latino vote combined with the inability of the Left to broaden its base away from metropolitan elites and college kids (by no means is this a problem confined to this country)- I'm going to make a bold prediction: the seeds of a political re-alignment have been planted. The next four to eight years are going to be critical to seeing if it grows and who benefits the most from it. (See: this article and this article for further thoughts.)
Next up, Republicans.
So, the biggest problem for Republicans remains President Trump and will probably remain President Trump for awhile to come. Most everyone who has ambitions for 2024 is going to be in wait and see mode now and if he wants to pull a Grover Cleveland and give it a go for 2024, he probably could. Whether he would win or not, I don't know- whether he wants to, I don't know. But the fact that it's a theoretical possibility essentially means the Republican Party has to deal with him for awhile longer.
The other thing is that they want to hang onto Trump's voters. I don't know how possible this is- but there's a reason a lot of Republicans were perfectly happy to go along with the barrage of lawsuits and conspiracy theories we've had to deal with for the past month or so. They can't just Dump Trump at the earliest opportunity. The divorce has to be managed carefully. (Was any of this, you know, responsible? Probably not- but you don't get to complain about their shitty lawsuit avalanche when the Left and the Media spent four fucking years screaming about Russia- because it had to be Russia, it couldn't be the fact that your candidate didn't even bother to go to Wisconsin or Michigan after the convention in 2016. Just like now: It had to be voter fruad, it couldn't possibly be the fact that your candidate mishandled a global pandemic- though admittedly doing very well with the whole vaccine thing- and acted like a certifiable lunatic on national television at the first debate. Couldn't be that at all. Has to be leftist deep state voter fraud conspiracy. Q told me so.)
For all the general disdain I have for Mitch McConnell and for all that I don't care about him being in a fifficult position, there was only so much of this he was going to tolerate. At the end of the day, he was going to let Trump have his day in court, but when you strike out in court, then he's going to move on and focus on what matters to him: keeping his Senate majority. You can also bet your sweet boots that President Trump knows this as well. If his temper-tantrums wind up costing the Republicans the majority in the Senate then he will have gone from the President who save the Senate (and, depending on which Conservative commentators you read, [insert dramatic movie voice here] "and the Republic itself!") to the President who lost them the Senate in what can only be described as a fit of pique.
TL;DR they don't like Trump, but they want to keep his voters. They're gonna be dancing on this balance beam like Simone Biles for the next two years at least.
For what it's worth, I don't think the Republicans are going to welcome the Establishment Never Trumps back either-- some elected Washington types might, but the majority of the party won't. (Some of the things Mitt Romney has done over the course of the past six months have got me wondering... but I really feel like the Republicans would have to be in a very different place by 2022-2023 to make a Mittens 2: Electric Boogaloo even a remote possibility.)
Who right now is winning the race for the most prescient Republican Politician out there? I'd offer two names: Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri (who is working with Bernie and AOC to get direct checks in the latest round of COVID stimulus- so as to directly help actual working families.) and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. I know people aren't really dipping their toes into the other side's pond these days, but if you didn't watch his GOP Convention Speech you should dig it up and do so. There's a long way to go until 2024 and everyone's got their eyes on former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, but maybe it's Senator Scott they should be looking at. I don't know if he'd want to run for President, but someone in the GOP needs to be asking him because he could potentially be a game-changing nominee for the Republicans.
There is a window of opportunity here if Republicans can make the right moves to take advantage-- I think Senator Hawley senses it as well- and although I know nothing about him on any other issues (except on a piece he wrote awhile back that touched on some very deep cuts of Christian theology that I can't recall at the moment)- his instincts here are 100 percent correct and the Republicans should follow his lead. There's the Establishment/People In Charge and then there's the rest of the people in the country and their voters are absolutely up for grabs-- but only if someone starts lobbying for and making policies that make their lives better- you would hope the Democrats would be first to the finish line on this, but they've got other problems that might distract them.
Which bring us finally to Exhibit C, The Best of the Rest (or, why 'Defund The Police' is a really shitty slogan.)
Words like 'socialism' did not play at all for Democrats in places like South Florida where there are people who've actually fled 'socialism' in other countries and aren't all that interested in importing into the United States. The fact that wages for the lower quartile of wage earners increased under Trump also probably didn't help, but the biggest self-own for Democrats which made Christmas come early for Republicans was Defund The Police.
And before you start- don't at me with, "Well, once you explain to people what it really means..." If you have to explain it to people, it's a shitty slogan and you've already lost the argument. The entire concept annoys me because it's based on a fundamentally false idea: that police stepped up and gobbled up the budgets of social services and mental health resources because they want to arrest crazy people and transients when the real fact of the matter is that politicians of both parties have spent decades failing to address real issues in our society (like mental health, housing, racial disparities in policing) and things they don't feel like paying for properly- where do they go?
Oh that's right. The police. The fact is that we're not solving these problems, we're criminalizing them which is why police budgets are going up- but you also can't substitute one for another. You've got to do both. If you can create conditions where police have the resources to divert calls to resources that might be better able to handle them, then over time, you can change the role of police in our society. Which is fine if that's what people want. But only a Zoomer or a Millennial who have grown up their entire lives in a country with falling crime rates would think abolishing the police is a good idea. So, what to do?
Try this on for size: you could get rid of 50-70% of traffic offenses on the books right now and advance racial and economic justice in this country overnight while not impacting the safety of our roads in any meaningful way.
You could decriminalize marijuana on a Federal Level and expunge the records of anyone arrest for marijuana and get them out of the prison system and advance racial and economic justice in this country.
You could end the militarization of police forces- since it doesn't have an impact on crime rates and advance racial and economic justice in this country.
The three things I've just listed don't fit on a bumper sticker, but you can absolutely win votes and elections advocating for them.
A potential realignment is now on the table. It is the Government Versus The Governed, the Establishment Versus The Rest Of Us. Whether or not it takes hold in a serious way, I think it will blur the lines between the parties and harsh the mellow of the narrative generating machine. Increasingly, the more time I spend on Twitter, the more I'm convinced that it's increasingly irrelevant in many ways and as more anti-trust action comes down the pike, I'm sure in five years or so, social media could look very different indeed and it's corrosive effects may be ameliorated somewhat.
In the meantime, this was a stranger election than I ever imagined. But one thing we can absolutely hold our heads up high about: America spoke. What exactly it was trying to say is open for debate, but we all stood up and did the thing. And whatever you feel about the results- that part is pretty cool.
*For a given value of better. I'll take any marginal improvements to the system that empower actual voters.
**SOUTH DAKOTA... Jesus, that makes me rage so much. South Dakota thought "oh hey, Sturgis is a good idea this year. In the middle of a global pandemic." SOUTH DAKOTA LEGALIZED MARIJUANA. Meanwhile, Iowa is... behind the curve, as usual.
***AOC made good points about the Washington gerontocracy lacking the digital competency to effectively regulate big tech, but she made a baffling one about Establishment Dems lacking the digital competency to win elections and that was... bizarre. Were a lot of pols really getting out there and doing Twitch streams and TikTok videos? No, probably not. But please don't tell me that they lack digital competency... because ever fucking YouTube ad for six months was for Ernst versus Greenfield or Hinson versus Finkenaeur, so the politicians themselves may not know, but somebody does.
Biggest problem Democrats had this cycle seemed to be chasing moonbeams. They poured obscene amounts of money into trying to take out Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and it was like pissing money through a bucket with a hole in it because guess who still have their jobs? Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham. Not to say that they should have tried to tilt at those windmills- Mitch being the bigger windmill, imo than Graham, but the amount of money was disproportionate to the actual results. Resources that could have been better spent elsewhere in hindsight.