Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Run, Bernie, Run!

Why should Bernie keep running? I can think of three good reasons. Perhaps you have others. He could still win the nomination. At this point it's a long shot. But stranger things have happened. The role of super delegates is a little wacky, and worthy of a post all by itself. Suffice it to say, the super delegates will not determine the outcome. If Bernie were to actually run the table in the latter half and overtake Hillary, be assured that there would be significant migration of super delegates. (Then why have them, you ask? Good question. Different post.) Bernie's presence keeps Hillary's message closer to the heart and soul of the democratic party A Bernie nomination is definitely a long shot. Even with Bernie victories, Hillary will keep picking up a share of delegates, and the math is looking bad for Bernie. There is lots of chatter for Bernie supporters to get in line with the nominee-apparent, Hillary. Stuff and nonsense. Even if it was beyond a long shot (and it may be in a few weeks) I'm happy to see the insurgent go all the way to the convention. I wish Howard Dean had done so in 2004. Howard dropped out as it became apparent that Kerry would be the nominee. He did so in the name of party unity. But it also meant that Kerry started triangulating early towards the general election. And his campaign started sounding downright republican. I was proud to be a Howard Dean delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. That meant I got to hear Obama's inspirational keynote address in person...the address which set him on the path to the presidency. Amidst that brilliant rhetoric, Kerry painted himself as a war hero. And he was a war hero. But more important, he came home from Vietnam and became an anti-war activist. The campaign downplayed that side of him. Kerry had true liberal credentials. He was the only senator up for reelection who voted against DOMA. But you didn't hear about that from the campaign. It is a road which Hillary could go down very easily. It would be a big mistake. Hillary's politics don't entirely align with mine. She is more hawkish than I am. Her past history with incarceration and the death penalty are definitely to the right of my views. She also has true liberal credentials. She has a long history of fighting for health care, women's rights, minority rights, children's health and safety, and more. If we are to win in November, we must win by staying true to our core values. In the words of Harry S Truman,
"Given the choice between a real republican and someone who acts like a republican, people will vote for the real republican all the time."
Even as the math becomes more and more difficult, stay in there fighting for your guy as long as he is fighting the good fight. As you fight that good fight, please do so in the manner of your candidate. Fight on the issues with civility. Though Bernie's rhetoric has gotten tougher, he still treats his opponent with respect. Hillary is not evil. Bernie has never called her evil. You shouldn't either. The "Evil Hillary" trope buys in to 25 years of right wing Hillary-bashing. The latest is a kinda clever Lord of the Rings bit (I've seen two versions of it) which paint Bernie as Frodo and Hillary as Saruman. It's clever and amusing, but ultimately its a false analogy. (Though I might be able to buy into the idea of Trump as Sauron). If you want an exhaustive breakdown of the analogy, check this out at Blue Virginia Blog. We need progressives at every level of government, from alderman to senator Bernie's political revolution is not going to happen from the top down. If we can keep the progressive fire aflame, perhaps we can change the political narrative. Bernie's political revolution includes regulating Wall Street and overturning Citizens United. That won't happen without a friendly congress. If a future President Clinton nominates....let's say...Barack Obama for the Supreme Court (I can dream) you KNOW that the current Senate won't confirm him. If a future President Sanders calls for legislation to break up the big banks, this Congress will send that bill to a committee to die. Bernie is succeeding in ways no one imagined ten months ago. Typically, candidates who count on expanding the voter base as a means to victory are disappointed by their enthusiastic base, many of whom never bother to vote. In caucus states, Michigan, and a handful of other primaries these folks have defied tradition and actually gone out to vote. Let's hope that it is the beginning of a lifelong habit for these new voters. We know they'll come out and vote if Bernie is the nominee, but what if its Hillary? For the sake of a progressive congress, and state houses which can reverse outrageous gerrymandering, let's hope so. Bernie supporters, you are dreamers. We need dreamers. Keep the dream alive. And please, dream with your eyes wide open.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Little Collective Wedding Memory

Happy Anniversary to my husband, Martin. I'll have to tell him that some other way, as he doesn't read my blog.

It is not just our wedding anniversary. Over 320 couples were married on this day, two years ago. , Judge Friedman opened a window of Marriage Equality in Michigan, thanks to the first big victory in the DeBoer v Snyder case. That window lasted a bit less than 24 hours. The DeBoer v Snyder case was combined with three others, went to the Supreme Court, and ultimately won Marriage Equality across the U.S.

There are lots of wedding pics being shared on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter today.

To many people, weddings are about big extravagant events planned for years.

The "planning" for ours (and I don't mean Martin and I...I use a very big collective "ours") goes back to Evan Wolfson's pioneering work on Freedom to Marry, and many years of activism, and many disappointments. It goes back to April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse fighting for their kids, and a community full of people supporting their fight. And it culminated in Judge Friedman issuing a judgement full of empathy for the humanity of our community and scathing to a government preventing us from recognizing our relationships.

These pictures have people in jeans and jackets, as we had to wait for the doors to open on a cool spring day. They are pictures from a conference room in a county building, as we all had to move quickly before another part of the judicial system would slam the door on us.
We were surrounded by friends...but rarely family. Sometimes it was because our families shun us. But even those of us who had supportive family could not get them here quickly enough, whether across the state, across the US, or even around the globe.

These pictures which are being posted are not traditional wedding pictures. There is no wedding photographer, only friends with cellphones. Our wedding flowers were brought to us by friends like Kristin Schrader who realized, "It's a wedding. People will need flowers", and handing them out to whoever needed them.

Instead of a big wedding reception with an open bar we had Kevin Sharp stand outside the county building with coffee, keeping people warm and awake (many of whom had been waiting in line since before sunrise). Kevin and (his now husband) Rusty did not have the appropriate papers available to get married that day, but shared the day anyway.

Our witnesses, official and otherwise, were a community full of people experiencing something they never thought they would have.

Our weddings on that day are not the stuff for Modern Bride Magazine. (Is there such a thing as Modern Groom Magazine?) But our weddings were the heart and soul of what weddings should always be all about. Love conquering all.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hillary and Nancy

There are many folks who, like me, are going to vote for the democratic nominee for president. As for WHO that nominee should be...well...that's a long story. I believe both candidates have great attributes, and both have a few weaknesses they would have to contend with in a general election. I've been supporting Bernie since he entered the race. However, as the primary season moved to my state of Michigan, I wavered.

My Facebook wall was the home of an incredible, civil discourse on the merits of each candidate. I refused comments about why I should NOT vote for someone. I insisted on arguments to vote FOR one of the candidates. I encouraged people to share their passion.

And in the end, I voted for Hillary on Tuesday.

On Friday Hillary said something very stupid.

She praised Nancy Reagan's record on HIV/AIDS.

I've heard lots of explanations about this.

  • The idea that she was conflating AIDS with Alzheimer's just doesn't parse. Her commentary was clearly about HIV/AIDS, and substituting Alzheimer's makes no sense.
  • Apparently MSNBC had made a similar statement in their obit piece. They claimed that Nancy saw the light after her dear friend Rock Hudson died, and worked to get the administration to change its tune. Unfortunately this is just revisionist history, and hard to believe that Hillary would repeat it.
  • She was just trying to be nice to a fellow former first lady on the occasion of Nancy's funeral. While I personally could never say anything nice about Nancy, I understand this. But just leave it at her advocacy for stem cell research, and wasn't that new White House china beautiful.

I was pretty angry about this.

  • In 1981 Nancy Reagan's commentary on New York's Pride Parade was, "What do they have to be proud of? They should be ashamed."
  • In 1984, concerning AIDS, she wondered why there was all this fuss over a self-inflicted venereal disease.
  • Her "Just Say No" campaign flew in the face of everything we know...and knew...about addiction and public health. That alone probably cost thousands of lives.

No I have no love for Nancy. But I understand the need for diplomacy at a funeral. There's a lot that could have been said without causing so much anger and pain to those of us who were living the hell of caring for dying friends, watching them die horrible deaths, shunned by their families, their communities, their churches, their government, and sometimes even their doctors.

Hillary touched a very raw nerve.

I want to get past this, because she will probably be the democratic nominee. (Just stop Bernie Bros. I didn't say anything bad about Bernie. And if he proves me wrong, I'll be supporting him...again....see paragraph one). If she is the nominee, I have to feel good about that.

She apologized almost immediately. She apologized for misspeaking. That's about one step better than the I'm-sorry-you-misunderstood-me type of apology. And certainly better than no apology at all. Her statement was a short apology followed by a laundry list of all she has done for HIV/AIDS in the past, and all she will do in the future.

For me, it fell flat. Many people lauded her for apologizing. The message I kept hearing was "get over it" and "move on". This message was from Hillary supporters, most of whom did not live through the hell I lived through during the reign of Ron and Nancy. (Short sidebar here...My senior recital took place during that time. I commissioned a work by my friend David Colson which he titled "Ronnie's a Jerk, and so are you"). Hillary opened a wound and followed it with a self-serving apology which did nothing to acknowledge the pain her statement caused. You don't get over anger (or hurt...or grief) by being told to "get over it". The first step is acknowledging the pain.

Hillary put out a second apology on Saturday. This is how it starts:
Yesterday, at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, I said something inaccurate when speaking about the Reagans’ record on HIV and AIDS. Since then, I’ve heard from countless people who were devastated by the loss of friends and loved ones, and hurt and disappointed by what I said. As someone who has also lost friends and loved ones to AIDS, I understand why. I made a mistake, plain and simple.
I want to use this opportunity to talk not only about where we’ve come from, but where we must go in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS. That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.
It really is worth reading. It took her a day, but she got it right.

Apology number two was clearly more thoughtful. I'm sure it was run by all the top campaign staff. It may have been penned by someone else (Are Robby Mook's fingerprints on it?). But she did more than apologize. She acknowledged the pain she caused. And (please do read it) she acknowledges the real heroes of the era, including the GMHC and ACT UP.

Am I ready to "get over it"? Well...the whole thing remains a bit unsettling, so I can't say I'm over it. But I am ready to "move on". Hillary created a painful moment, but she has also begun a real healing process.

Kudos to you, Hillary.

Now we can get back to the important work of nominating someone to take on the republican candidate. Whoever is the republican nominee is part of the continuing problem with our public health response to AIDS. We need to restore AIDS education money. We need to make anti-retrovirals affordable for all who need them, both those infected, and those most at-risk for infection.

We have two candidates who have different approaches to that end. We can continue the dialogue about the best approach. But, as Bernie said in an early February debate, "On our worst days, I think it is fair to say, we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate".

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Why Is Donald Trump So Popular...And So Dangerous?

Ask a complicated question, expect a complicated answer.

I'm going to take a break from examining the Bernie vs. Hillary dynamic to look at the other team.

When Trump entered the field last year the whole spectacle was taken pretty lightly. It was revealed that he had paid to have a crowd at his announcement. He is a showman and celebrity who appeared to be looking for attention. It was even a bit of a surprise that he was running as a right wing republican, as his public persona seemed centrist, or even a bit left of center. His lifestyle seemed completely at odds with the evangelicals who dominate the right wing.

I was afraid from the start, but not for many of the ugly reasons which have surfaced.

First, how the hell did an arrogant, elitist billionaire become so popular. Many people have proposed answers to explain his popularity, and I agree with many of them, even though they can contradict each other.

He is an authoritarian

Indeed, there is streak of people looking for authoritarian leadership. We live in a dangerous world and there is an appeal to someone who says with authority that he has the answers, even when they are ludicrous. One poll suggests that this is the single trait which crosses all of his support.

He is racist

Racism is very much alive in America. We see it in the most overt ways (murder of young black males) and the most institutional (people of color have a harder time getting job interviews, let alone jobs). The many ways of racism are not just another blog post, they are entire books. I recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates Between The World and Me. For all the racism in our country, it had become socially unacceptable in most places to be openly racist. This is a good thing, of course. However, Trump is giving these people a voice.

He is Xenophobic

One need to point no further than his two famous policy proposals: Building the big beautiful wall which Mexico will pay for, and banning muslims from entering the US.

He is Islamaphobic

See above, as well as his database of Muslims and mosques. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, many Americans still want to blame 9/11 and all other terrorist threats on the entire Islamic faith.

He is a Celebrity

This has to be mentioned. Many Americans regularly choose not to vote. However, Trump crosses over from the world of politics to the world of popular culture.

He rails against government

There is (rightly) a huge frustration with government on all levels. From an obstructionist do-nothing legislature to local governments whose revenue has dried up (starved by state and local governments) and unable to provide some of the most basic infrastructure.

He is a Demagogue

This word gets thrown around a lot. Its meaning is pretty simple. A demagogue tells the people whatever they want to hear. The worst part of this is that it signals a lack of principle. A demagogue tends to be someone who wants power at any cost.

If all of these seem rather ugly...well...I agree. In fact, this list is not only why he is so popular, but why he is so dangerous. He puts forward very few actual policy suggestions. Rather he speaks to peoples fears and anger. If those fears and anger were to actually be transformed into policy blacks, gays, transgendered, muslims, latins, and more would be marginalized.

Would they become policy? As Jimmy Carter noted, he is malleable. As long as there are checks and balances a demagogue is more concerned about holding and assimilating power than any particular policy. That can mean he could be anything from a ineffectual president, to a tyrant. I say, why take the chance?

There is one more thing about him that is profoundly concerning to me. And this concerned me from the moment of his announcement.

He is a businessman who thinks government is just another business.

We, in Michigan, have seen how well that works out. Here's what happens with almost every government function:

  • Cuts take place in the name of "balancing the budget", because that's what businessmen do.
  • After you starve an entity (city, schools, mental health, etc.) that entity fails.
  • You declare the failure and proclaim that private enterprise can do the job better.
  • Because you made the entity fail, it is a persuasive argument.

And before you know it you have charter schools, Flint water systems, crumbling roads, and a pathetic mental health system.

Government's mission is not to make a profit. Government's mission is to

  • Provide necessary services and infrastructure. 
  • Keep us safe (fire, police, and military).
  • Regulate for the public safety and welfare.
  • Protect the civil rights of all.

Businessmen make terrible leaders in government. The combination of Trump in the White House and a conservative majority in the House and Senate would become a nightmare of privatization.