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We Were Wrong

We Were Wrong

Apart from voting, I sat out this election. I didn’t argue with anyone about it. I stayed off of Facebook and Twitter. I spent zero time fundraising, phone banking, canvassing, convincing family members in swing states to go to the polls, writing articles, or forwarding chain emails. I had a very good reason. I always believed that one candidate was grossly unqualified to be president, and the other was a corrupt, rotten, politically feckless prevaricator, and it was not always clear which was which.

trumpBut I won’t deny I spent many hours obsessively checking FiveThirtyEight and Politico for minute movements in the polls. I secretly hoped Hillary Clinton would be our next president. Not because of any love for Hillary Clinton, but because of my love of the Republic and the long-standing political norms which are now threatened with collapse under a wannabe strongman with authoritarian tendencies.

I thought she would win. The media though she would win. The pollsters thought she would win. All but one of my friends thought she would win. Benjamin Franklin Elementary School thought she would win. Dixville Notch thought she would win. The global financial markets thought she would win. Trump’s advisors thought she would win. Trump himself probably thought she would win.

We were wrong.

We were wrong because we are all ignorant.

We were wrong because we didn’t think about the people in the heartland.

We were wrong because we spent months insulting those people and their concerns, instead of taking them seriously.

We were wrong because we thought that policy or reason or social norms would dictate the outcome, not economic malaise, uncertainty or stress.

We were wrong because we don’t have any friends or colleagues or internet connections outside of our own bubble.

We were wrong because we think that personality, character, or qualifications should matter more than branding, charisma, and confidence.

We were wrong because we thought this was a historical moment, but we had a misguided view of history.

We were wrong because we spent all this time talking about the 1%, and it turns out that we were the 1% that America was really concerned about.

We were wrong because we listened to the media, and the media listened to us, and no one listened to the voters.

A couple people were right. Michael Moore was right (and I hate myself for linking to his website and giving it any legitimacy, I really do). Nate Silver was right, that Trump had a legitimate chance of becoming president due to polling uncertainty. Peter Thiel was right. One of my best friends I alluded to above was right from the first day Trump announced his candidacy. I called him last night to ‘concede.’ He told me: “Trump hit a nerve. Everyone who was paying attention saw it. But no one wanted to see it.”

If Brexit and this election teach us anything, it’s that the people in democracies really are sovereign. And their voice matters more than the “experts,” the “elites,” the “establishment,” or any other word you can slap on the bubble of those of us who are fortunate enough to be economically secure.

We owe an apology to the 59 million Americans who thought differently. Not because they won–they could still be wrong. Their reasons may be malevolent. Their beliefs may be crazy. They could still be the caricature of ‘middle aged white America’ that everyone seems so intent on blaming.

But we owe them an apology because we didn’t take them seriously. They have had their character questioned, their intelligence insulted, their concerns dismissed, their beliefs maligned, the worst about their intentions assumed. More importantly, many of them have had their incomes reduced, their jobs outsourced, their cost of healthcare increased, and their economic opportunities curtailed.

Clinton made a lot of mistakes in this election. Most notably, she didn’t visit Wisconsin once. If that doesn’t speak to the very arrogance that defines the concerns of everyday Americans with the elite, I don’t know what does.

Trump is the least humble man in America. But he has singlehandedly brought thundering humility and shame upon the entire elite class: the media, academia, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, career politicians, lobbyists, Wall Street, the military brass, Silicon Valley.

We need these institutions now more than ever. If we have any hope of keeping Trump’s maniacal thirst for power in check, we need these institutions to stand up to him. We need them to brush themselves off and get back to the serious work of holding those in power accountable. Because Trump isn’t an outsider barking at the fringes anymore. He has a mandate from the American people to rule, with the full force and power of the United States legislative and executive branches behind him, with the judicial sure to follow.

Trump isn’t going away. This is just the beginning.

November 9, 20162 commentsRead More
An American in Denver: Part II

An American in Denver: Part II


As these four days are drawing to a close, I find that I have seen the far-left side of this city’s politics that has not been covered in the mainstream news coverage of the Democratic Convention.  I also got a glimpse of what may be a problem for Barack Obama’s Colorado chances in the fall.

On Tuesday, I attended a forum hosted by the Progressive Democrats of America, a self-described Political Action Committee working within the Democratic Party.  However, it was clear from the onset of the day’s events that the group rested well to the left of—and arguably outside of—the Democratic party’s platform.  The guest speakers were Tom Hayden, a well-known anti-war protester and former California State Assemblyman, and Jim McDermott, a Democratic congressman from Washington.

Both Hayden and McDermott endorsed Barack Obama, but in both of their talks there was a call to greater action regarding some of the more extreme viewpoints in the Democratic party today, including a faster and more certain withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and an immediate impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  To acclamation, Hayden lauded a book about the impeachment of Bush, and at one point he recommended that the audience “Learn more about 9/11 truth,” referencing a collection of “alternative explanations” for the September 11th Attacks.

At one point, a man in the audience jumped to his feet and demanded that Hayden or McDermott speak to the fact that “McCain is a war criminal and he should be tried as such,” and protested something else incoherently; he was cheered by many in the audience but neither speaker directly responded to his questions (although Hayden knew him by name).

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to see Rage Against the Machine in concert—they performed for free at the Denver coliseum alongside The Coup and the Flobots, a local Denver band.  I didn’t know at the time that the concert was organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).  However, in between bands, as people protested the war, veterans spoke on stage in full dress uniform, and Jello Biafra revved up the crowd with angry epithets toward the Bush administration and corporate America, it became apparent that the concert was a stage setter for what was to become the main protest against the Democratic convention this week.

Biafra, known by most as just “Jello,” was the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys and was right at home in this crowd.  He wore a t-shirt reading “F___ the Iraq War,” and walked with a crutch.  Now at 50, he is hardly different from the anti-right icon he established himself as in the 80’s.  Herein lies the biggest problem for Barack Obama this November.  The crowd of more than ten thousand screaming fans that came to hear Rage Against the Machine could not get enough of Jello’s far-left, and ultimately anti-Obama rhetoric.  To Jello, Obama is no different from McCain, and the two main political parties are two sides of the wrong coin.  The message Jello presented was clear:  “It’s better to vote for who you know will lose than to vote for who you know can win, but is wrong.”   By advocating third party support among this crowd, Jello did more than isolate his message from that of the mainstream Democratic party—he potentially lost the Democrats thousands of votes in November.  And in a battleground state like Colorado, far-left activists like Hayden and Jello can be the difference between a Democratic victory and defeat.

IVAW’s actual veterans presented a humble and moving image.  In full uniform, they stood at attention as taps was played.  For the full duration of the song, ten thousand screaming Rage-heads were silent.  The Veterans presented the audience with the open letter that they expected to deliver to the Democratic Convention that day.  It requested that Obama call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, full veterans benefits, and full reparations to be paid to the Iraqi people.

When Rage Against the Machine finally took the stage, the crowd went wild.  Then, four songs and many broken eardrums later, the band stopped and prepared for The March.  As the Denver Post reported, as many as three thousand people, led by Rage Against the Machine and Iraq veterans in uniform, marched from the Denver Coliseum to the Pepsi Center–a distance of 3 miles in blistering 80-degree heat–to protest the war and deliver IVAW’s letter to the Democratic National Convention.

As it turns out, the protesters, who had been advocating non-violence as a mantra throughout the concert, were overwhelmingly peaceful, and little incidents occurred during the march.  Hundreds of Denver police officers were present.

I did not go on the march, but to witness the events leading up to the march, including a rock concert that began at 11 in the morning, was a unique experience in itself.  I had no idea I was going to be at the kickoff event for the biggest protest against the Democrats–ironically, the party I’m going to support in November!  I never understood why anti-war activists would protest the Democratic convention instead of saving their resources for the Republican convention.  I can only hope that the RNC is more heavily protested next week.

And finally, on Thursday, the last day of the convention, I made it over to Union Station, and found myself in a mob of MSNBC fans.  MSNBC had set up a two-platform scaffold off of Wyncoop, and throughout the day as Chris Matthews was broadcasting live, hundreds of people gathered next to the platform, on national TV.  Some took the opportunity to make silly faces and wave Barack Obama signs, but some tried to take advantage in more serious ways.  During Hardball, a group of 9/11 Truthers gathered and began protesting.  Matthews said on air:  “There are a bunch of nutjobs behind me who believe that September 11th was a conspiracy…real nutjobs.”

Well, I had a chance to see these nutjobs up front.  About five people wore shirts that read “9/11 was an inside job” and an overweight, angry little man with a megaphone chanted “NINE E-LEVEN WAS AN INSIDE JOB,” over and over again, like a broken record.  The crowd thoroughly enjoyed this display, not because they agreed but because the “movement” was so easy to make fun of.  Even the man who held the “Drop Acid, not Bombs” sign got in on the fun.  A bunch of women started dancing to the rhythmic beatbox of conspiracy theory.  At one point, the crowd started their own chant:  “Get a life!  Get a life!”  I never got to see Obama speak in person, but the MSNBC protesters made it all worth it.  It was a true Denver experience.


August 29, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
An American in Denver: Part I

An American in Denver: Part I


My first day in Denver was busy and long.  In the morning, I took the light rail with a friend from the suburbs downtown.  The difference between the outskirts of the city and the downtown area was staggering.  Hollowed out factories, run down cars, and strip malls dissolved into a labyrinth of shimmering chrome, glass and steel.  With the temperature hovering at ninety degrees, getting off the tram felt like stepping into a pressure cooker.  The sun beat down, multiplied by the glass cityscape which acted like a tanning mirror.

We had to make it to City of Cuernavaca Park to enter ourselves into a lottery to get into a concert Wednesday night.  It wasn’t a must-see, but it was a see-if-we-could, so we walked a mile and half, past Coors Field and the edge of the main city.  We knew when we were approaching the park when the smell of smoke overpowered the smell of diesel fuel.  Pretty soon, we were surrounded by tents, food stalls and people with long hair, tye-dye shirts, and sandals, who sported peace signs and handed out flyers against the war.  The day-long vigil during the lottery consisted of a middle aged black man extolling the  virtues of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the crowd of all-white, mid-20s next-generation hippies, the UC-Boulder crowd, the Rage Against the Machine liberals of today’s Colorado.  After entering the lottery, we left, passing by the booths set up in the park—the Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Tear Down Guantanamo Coalition, the Weed is Safer than Alcohol booth, and the popular “Bush is an Idiot” bumper sticker stall.

I suspected that these same people would be protesting later that night at the convention.  It occurred to me that the Democratic National Convention would bring all types out of the woodwork, and they all would descend upon Denver for the week.  I found that I was not far off.  Walking down the 16th Street Mall, the main thoroughfare in downtown Denver, we passed all sorts of types.  A bunch of young men handed out Trojan “love rings,” while a woman pinned me with a “Quesadillas for Obama” button.  Obama merchandise was everywhere, and you could buy an Obama hat, an Obama tie, an Obama bag or an Obama watch.  On one corner, a lonely threesome of McCain loyalists huddled together against the cold Democratic onslaught, gingerly holding McCain signs.  A block later, five protesters boldly held up bright yellow and black signs proclaiming “Jesus Saves” and “Homos are Going to Hell.”  Apparently, not everyone in Denver–from the restrained to the not-quite–was so excited about the Democratic convention being in town.  Aside from these colorful folks, there were cops in riot gear, a group of yellow t-shirt soldiers who branded themselves “CopWatch,” and a Tote Bag Brigade–about five middle aged women who sang the national anthem on infinite loop and sold American flag tote bags to the crowd.

We found a place to eat with a street view, and the passerbys ended up being more interesting than the food.  Hundreds of people wore credentials for the convention.  The street was red, white and blue, from flags, shirts, hats and a rottweiler.  A band sponsored by Rock the Vote played out of a medium sized van, with four players on the roof and the drummer stuck in the trunk.  In the middle of lunch, about forty middle-aged women stampeded past, pumping Hillary signs high in the air and chanting “Hillary is Down, but Not Out!”  It seemed like a damaging display of party disunity, but I didn’t give it much thought.

We then took the tram to Auraria, the campus for three Denver city colleges.  The campus is on the outskirts of the Pepsi Center, and we were hoping that we could cut through the back of the Center to get a glimpse of the action at the convention that day.  Unfortunately, our lack of credentials doomed our attempt from the beginning.  For a mile around the Pepsi Center, chain link fences and security barriers had been set up.  However, there was a “designated protest area,” we were told, so we decided to give that a try.  We walked along the perimeter of the fence and wound up in a parking lot, far out of view of the actual convention center, where a group of pink-clad old ladies yelled into a megaphone about who knows what.  I believe the actual protest involved the presence of the police on site.  I wondered why anyone would bother protesting, if they were guaranteed to be stuck in the middle of no-man’s land, with the media and convention itself completely unaware of their presence.

After walking around the Pepsi Center and unable to get in, for today at least, we decided to head home and watch the first day of the convention on television.  However, being in Denver helped set the mood for what I think will be a very exciting four days here.  Tomorrow, we will check out the non-Pepsi Center convention action, including a series of talks on women in politics.  Will update soon!


August 26, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More