Democrats Keep Control of the Senate

W.J. Astore

Democracy Is Saved!

I woke up today to the news the Democrats will keep control of the Senate through 2024. Democracy is saved! I guess the Russian bots didn’t steal the election this time around, nor did election deniers mount a coup against democracy. The status quo prevails in America. What great news for all workers, all those who are struggling to make ends meet, to learn that nothing has fundamentally changed in the best of all possible countries.

Heck, it’s even good news that Republicans are likely to gain a narrow majority in the House, thereby demoting Nancy Pelosi to House Minority Leader. I can look forward to House impeachment proceedings against various Democrats, because such proceedings are truly what working-class Americans want and need from their government.

President Biden promised to take action to codify Roe v Wade into law if the Democrats won, so I suppose he’ll weasel his way out of this promise if the House tips Republican. Not that his action was going to change anything, since Biden refuses to touch the Senate filibuster.

What we can look forward to is two more years of divided, do-nothing government in Washington, DC, with politics being dominated by Donald Trump’s new run for the presidency against Sleepy Joe and Giggles Harris. Happy days are here again!

Of course, a “divided” Congress will still come together to support massive Pentagon spending and a blank check of military aid to Ukraine. Nothing unites Democrats and Republicans like weapons and wars.

What you won’t see, of course, is a higher federal minimum wage, single-payer health care, or anything else the working classes could truly use. America, of course, is an oligarchy and Congress and the President serve the oligarchs. As George Carlin memorably said: “You have no rights” — and no say.

Ready for a depressing repeat?

One clear result from this election is Joe Biden’s commitment to run again in 2024, when he’ll be 82 years old. Truly, anyone can be president in America, as long as the oligarchs sign off on you. Biden running again reminds me of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the early 1930s, when Paul von Hindenburg, also in his eighties, ran against and defeated a certain Adolf Hitler in 1932. Of Hindenburg it was said that the men around him “shoved him — with dignity.” And I suppose the operatives around Biden will also shove him about, with (or without) dignity, as age takes its inevitable toll on him. 

Biden will likely keep Kamala Harris as his vice president, not wanting to admit his mistake in picking her. Put charitably, Harris has been a non-entity as VP, so she’s perfect for the job, but if Biden runs and wins in 2024, there’s a decent chance she could become president during Biden’s second term. Of course, the oligarchy vetted and picked her exactly because she’s predictable and obedient to power. But some people will crow about how amazing it is to have a Black Asian female president when her views and allegiances are almost exactly the same as a white Catholic male president like Biden. But, you know, diversity!

So it’s two more years of hearing Democracy is in peril because Trump is running again when we all know or sense that whatever democracy we had ended in America decades ago, and most certainly by 1980. (Of course, America was founded as a republic by a bunch of privileged white guys, who weren’t exactly trusting of democracy, seeing it as mob rule.) Still, I like to think there’s hope in America, because more and more people are waking up to the harsh realities we face as a people. Don’t tell me I’m wrong about this; I’d like to keep a scintilla of hope, if only to preserve my own sanity, which will be sorely tested in the run up to the 2024 election.

So here’s to another two years of “democracy,” American-style, meaning no democracy at all. I wonder why an obvious con man like Trump gains so much traction here in the land of the not-so-free?

Are Joe Biden and Donald Trump Too Old to Serve?

W.J. Astore

President Joe Biden turns 80 this year. If he chooses to run and is reelected in 2024, he’ll be 82 and will serve as president until he’s 86. His Republican rival, Donald Trump, will be 78 in 2024 and is overweight and perhaps obese. Biden, meanwhile, is moving more slowly and appears to be experiencing signs of age-related cognitive decline. Leaving aside their politics and policies and personalities, are either of these men truly fit to be president?

We all age differently, of course. But it used to be said that being POTUS was the toughest job in the world. Younger men like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush aged noticeably in office due to the strains of the job. Yet pointing out the rigors of the presidency, and raising questions about whether men in their 80s are truly capable of handling such rigors, exposes one to claims of bias based on age.

A lot of jobs have mandatory retirement ages. My dad was a firefighter and he had to retire at 65. While we don’t expect the POTUS to climb ladders or charge into burning buildings or carry bodies, there’s still something to be said for the difficulty of men in the twilight of their lives serving as the “leader of the free world.”

(I say men here because women live longer and often age more gracefully. But I think it’s also true in the U.S. that a woman “pushing 80” would be dismissed out of hand as too old for the presidency; societal bias against older women still exists, though of course older women can cling to power with the same tenacity as men: just look at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.)

I remember the bad old days of the Cold War when Soviet leaders were mocked in the U.S. as a gerontocracy of sorts. So when Leonid Brezhnev died at the age of 75, he was briefly succeeded by Yuri Andropov (died at 69) and Konstantin Chernenko (died at 74 after serving for just over a year as General Secretary). Then the much younger Mikhail Gorbachev took over at age 54 and more than anyone helped to revolutionize U.S.-Soviet relations.

In a way, Joe Biden is the U.S. equivalent of Andropov and Chernenko, a time-server who was elevated by his party as a caretaker. “Nothing will fundamentally change,” Biden said of his administration, a promise he has indeed kept. Those same words could have come from Andropov and Chernenko.

The problem for the Democrats is that there’s no clear younger heir-apparent to Biden. Harris? Mayor Pete? Gavin Newsom? (Newsom, like Mitt Romney, has presidential hair but little else.) Where is the Democratic equivalent to Mikhail Gorbachev?

The Republicans have their own issues, the main one being the cult of personality surrounding Donald J. Trump. But what really empowers Trump, besides his own craftiness at cons and culture wars, is the weakness and hypocrisy of the Democrats. When your most likely opponent is a “no hope, no change” figurehead in his early 80s, even Trump appears by comparison to be a change agent of sorts.

America truly needs fundamental change, someone like Mikhail Gorbachev, a leader willing to face facts and tell harsh truths. Someone with a fresh perspective and the energy to convey it. Both Biden and Trump are too old, if not in their bodies, then in their thinking, to be the reformer America so desperately needs.

Liz Cheney Loses

W.J. Astore

The big news in U.S. politics today is Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, losing her House seat to a Trump-backed challenger.

Liz Cheney has recently built a reputation as the “sensible” Republican, calling on other Republicans to reject Trumpism, alternative facts, fake news, and all the rest of Trump’s baggage. She was an outspoken critic of Trump’s role in the January 6th Capitol riots. She broke from the Trump cult and was punished for it.

Liz Cheney concedes defeat

Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is indeed strong, but I don’t see him as a cult-like leader. I think many of Trump’s followers are with him because of the lack of viable alternatives. Trump’s strength, in other words, is the weakness of his competitors, including Republican has-been challengers like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, but especially of Democrats like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi.

There’s been much hype in the mainstream media about Joe Biden having finally found his groove, with legislation being passed that is supposed to address climate change, to lower prescription drug prices, and to make health care more affordable. But when you look closely at what Biden has signed into law, the benefits largely disappear. Provisions to address climate change include massive handouts to the fossil fuel industry. New regulations to lower drug prices won’t come into effect until 2025 at the earliest, and only for a small number of drugs. (The cost of insulin will remain high for anyone not on Medicare, i.e. anyone under 65 without excellent health insurance.) Subsidies for health insurance are available but drive people into the “marketplace” where they can buy private for-profit health care plans that include high co-pays and deductibles.

In short, the Democrats, the main opposition to Trump, are up to their usual tricks, promising to make things better for the working classes while doing the bidding of their owners and donors. It’s Democratic actions and inaction, more so than the wonders of Trump’s personality, that drive so many people to look to Trump as a viable alternative.

The Democrats could win back many of Trump’s supporters if they simply kept their campaign promises. Those included, among others, a $15 federal minimum wage, significant student debt relief, a public option for health care, and family-friendly benefits for child care, family leave, education, and the like. They simply haven’t done it, and won’t do it, because the quest for corporate money and donors continues to drive policy.

So the Democratic playbook for this fall is the same as it’s been for years: scare the people into voting against “crazy” Republicans. Indeed, the Democratic establishment has actively funded more extreme right-wing candidates, boosting their chances in primaries against more moderate Republicans, because the Democrats assume they’ll have a better chance defeating the “crazy” right-wingers in November. One might ask Hillary Clinton how that worked out for her campaign in 2016 as she boosted Donald Trump against candidates like Jeb Bush, knowing in her heart that Trump would be far easier to defeat. What happened there, Hillary?

Trump, of course, has always been a sly con man. In a sense, he isn’t a hypocrite. What you see is what you get with Trump. With the Democrats, what you see is not what you get. We keep being told that Biden is accomplishing great things, that he’s channeling FDR (!), when it’s obvious he is what he’s always been: a centrist law-and-order Democrat who’s loyally served Wall Street, Big Pharma, and similar big money and corporate interests for virtually his entire 50-year career.

Those Americans who choose to follow Trump, in short, are not a bunch of irredeemable deplorables, they’re not gullible cultists, they’re not bigots, racists, and white supremacists. Not in the main. They’re Americans looking for answers, caught in a vise, being squeezed by the uncaring powers around them, including their own government, and including politicians like Liz Cheney.

Liz Cheney’s father didn’t prevent the 9/11 attacks. He got America involved in two disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that killed and wounded tens of thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi people. He was a director of America’s military-industrial complex that harmed so many of the sons and daughters of parents who became Trump supporters because they were tired of endless wars that served no one but the friends of Cheney. And Liz Cheney used her father in campaign ads that touted her as a patriot against the corruption of Trump.

That obviously didn’t sit well with the people of Wyoming.

There’s an increasing sense of desperation in America, a growing sense that things are getting worse, that we’re headed for Dickensian times of hardship and exploitation. And Democratic “solutions” aren’t even half measures. Nor was signing up Liz Cheney as an ally to rail against Trump and his MAGA followers.

The answer — and we’ve heard it before — is hope and change. Real hope and real change. We had a candidate and a movement in 2008 who seemed to embody true change, but as soon as he won the presidency, he disbanded his movement, kowtowed to Wall Street, and passed a Republican health care bill that ironically became known as Obamacare. After that record, you can see why so many Americans decided they “won’t get fooled again,” and why more than a few Obama supporters switched to Trump in 2016.

What’s the answer? One thing is certain. It’s not “centrists” like Liz Cheney — or Joe Biden. The voters have spoken.

Please, Joe Biden, Don’t Run in 2024

W.J. Astore

I watched Joe Biden as he tried to answer simple questions from Jimmy Kimmel and it just made me sad. Comedian Jimmy Dore skewers sputtering Joe here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVG6-qWjXMo

And I use the word “sputtering” because Biden apologists still like to suggest that Biden’s problems are attributable to a stutter, which Biden overcame decades ago. Watch Biden speeches from the 1980s to when he was Obama’s Vice President and you hear a person who can speak fluidly, if often not honestly. Joe’s ability to speak clearly and to remain focused had obviously declined by 2020 when he campaigned. It’s likely, given the demands of the job, that his acuity will continue to trend downwards, as Ronald Reagan’s did in his second term in office.

What’s to be said here? First, it’s hard to believe Biden’s handlers thought it was a good idea for him to go on TV in a somewhat unstructured environment, but I guess they did. Second, Jimmy Kimmel showed a lot of class in not exploiting Biden’s incoherence. Third, to state what’s obvious, at least to me, Joe Biden shouldn’t run in 2024. He’s not currently up to the rigors of the duties of the office he occupies, and only Benjamin Button ages in reverse. If the DNC and Joe’s wife and family allow him to run again, it will truly be shameful.

The scary thing for true-blue Democrats is the apparent alternatives, Kamala “Giggles” Harris and “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg. They hit certain diversity targets, but neither is inspiring. Both in their own way are political lightweights. Both, however, are beloved by party operatives because they’re willing to take orders from the owners and donors. Harris is a Clintonite and Mayor Pete is the ultimate square-checking apple polisher. Here’s hoping both fade away and quickly.

Perhaps Michelle Obama will enter the fray as the great Democratic savior. At the very least, she could save Joe Biden from a possible second term that would likely be even more disappointing if not disastrous than his first term is proving to be.

Disclaimer: Sorry, this isn’t about Trump. If Trump runs again, I won’t vote for him. Why? Because Trump is a man who serves only himself. So please don’t spin my worries about Joe Biden as some kind of weird endorsement of Con Man Donald. It isn’t.

Joe Biden’s Early Report Card

Joe Biden and his alleged nemesis

W.J. Astore

Joe Biden’s been president for a year and a few months; it’s time to award him a provisional grade for his performance as president.  Here are a few factors to consider:

* Biden ended the Afghan War.  Sure, it was a disordered ending, a pell-mell evacuation, a calamitous collapse that saw Afghan innocents killed in a final drone strike (nothing new about that, I suppose).  But he did end a twenty-year war, so credit to him for that.

* Biden was able to pass an infrastructure bill, though it was disappointingly small.  Still, America truly needs to invest in its infrastructure (rather than, for example, nuclear weapons), so credit again to Biden.

* Biden kept his promise to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court.  The court is still overwhelmingly conservative, so her presence won’t make a critical difference to decisions, but dare I say, it’s about time the court looked more like the diversity of America.

* When Biden announced his candidacy, the first thing he did was meet with Comcast executives and other high and mighty media- and business-types.  He told them nothing would fundamentally change under his administration.  That’s a campaign promise he’s kept.

* Another promise Biden has kept is sizable increases to the Pentagon’s budget.  If you’re part of the military-industry complex, you’re probably more than satisfied with Biden’s budgets.

* Finally, some people assert that Biden has stood firm against Russia and Putin, marshaling the West against Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine.  I beg to differ with this assertion, but more on that below.

Now, let’s look at where Biden has failed or proven to be a disappointment.

* Biden has kept none of his progressive promises, which is unsurprising, given his track record as a senator from Delaware.  No $15 federal minimum wage.  No public option for health care.  No student debt relief (just moratoriums on payments).  On these and similar issues, Biden’s defenders place the blame on obstinate “centrist” senators like Manchin and Sinema, or they blame the Senate Parliamentarian for ruling against the $15 wage increase due to a technicality.  It’s all special pleading.  When their own Senate Parliamentarian got in their way, the Republicans simply replaced that unelected person with someone more tractable.  Chuck Schumer could easily have done the same.  Manchin and Sinema can be cajoled or coerced if Biden had the will to do so.  But “centrist” Democrats adore Manchin and Sinema because they serve as convenient scapegoats for why Biden can’t be more progressive.

* Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan died a meaningless death, but, once again, this was more by design.  Recall Biden’s key promise that nothing would fundamentally change under his administration.

* Again, withdrawing from the Afghan War was a sound decision, but it was poorly implemented.

* The Russia-Ukraine War: Biden has gone all-in with his military approach to the war, meaning more money for the Pentagon, more weapons for Ukraine, harsh sanctions that hit ordinary Russians the hardest, and rhetoric that declares Putin to be a genocidal war criminal.  Diplomatic efforts have taken a back seat to efforts to effect regime change in Russia.  Some people may see this as tough and hard- minded; I see it as provocative and incredibly foolhardy.  Brinksmanship with Russia risks nuclear war, with Biden’s harsh rhetoric leaving little room for a negotiated settlement.  More than a few people see the U.S. as weakening Russia in a proxy war in which Biden is willing to fight to the last Ukrainian.  Toughness is not about more weapons and war; it’s about finding ways to build fewer weapons and to end war.

* Inflation is reaching new highs and many Americans are struggling economically, but Biden’s main approach here has been to blame Putin.  Unlike Harry Truman, the buck never stops with Joe Biden.

* The Biden team made a disastrous choice for his vice president.  Biden has no affinity with Kamala Harris, and Harris herself has wilted on the world stage.  High staff turnover suggests she’s a polarizing figure and a poor boss.  The only good thing about Harris, from the Biden perspective, is that people dislike her more than they do the president.

* Biden’s unpopularity.  Predictions for the midterm elections this November are dire for Democrats.  It’s possible, even likely, Republicans will regain both the Senate and House, leaving Biden a lame duck for his final two years in office.  Few if any Democratic candidates are seeking Biden’s support or planning to ride his coattails to victory.

* Biden’s mental status.  Biden will be 80 this November.  I’m not an expert on dementia.  But I’ve seen plenty of speeches by Biden where he’s become forgetful; when he can’t remember words; when he gets frustrated.  I feel for him.  He can read from a teleprompter but get him off-script and he becomes unpredictable and says nonsensical things.  Occasionally, he looks lost or at a loss.  Something similar was happening to Ronald Reagan in his second term.

Always looming in the background and foreground is the party of Trump.  To my mind, the best way to defeat rightwing popular authoritarianism is to have leaders who answer to the people rather than to corporations and oligarchs.  The Democratic Party is venal and corrupt, which allows Trump & Co. an opening to play a (false) populist card.  The Democrats, as presently led by Biden, Schumer, Pelosi, et al., are easy foils for authoritarian dipshits like Trump.

Trump would be far less dangerous if the Democrats actually believed and acted on their various campaign promises to help people rather than oligarchs and corporations.

The ultimate grade of Joe Biden’s presidency will depend on whether through his actions and inaction he gives Trump an opening to win the presidency in 2024.  Assuming Trump wins again in 2024, Biden’s final grade will be an “F.”

His provisional grade?  First, I’m not a Democrat.  Second, I despise Trump, a man totally unqualified to serve the public in any capacity.  Overall, my grade for Biden is a “C-,” and on less generous days I’m inclined to give him a “D.”  He is a man who’s often out of his depth, a man well past his prime, a man who perhaps shouldn’t have run in 2020 and who most certainly shouldn’t run again in 2024, given the demands of the presidency. (Recall that when Biden suggested a run for the presidency in 2020, Obama told him, You don’t have to do this, Joe. Not exactly an inspiring vote of confidence!)

What do you think, readers?  What grade has Joe Biden earned so far in your opinion?  

Reforming America’s Elections the NOTC Way

Jeffrey G. Moebus

Joe Biden versus Donald Trump in 2024 is a grim “choice” indeed for most Americans. America’s duopoly gives us candidates who promise that “nothing will fundamentally change” in power relations in America, meaning your voice will never be heard in the halls of power. How do we change that? Jeffrey Moebus has a dramatic proposal worthy of careful consideration. Read on! W.J. Astore

The NOTC Way, by Jeffrey Moebus

As it stands right now, in every federal election to be held in 2022 and 2024, Americans will have five choices.  They will be able to:

1.  Vote for the Democrat.

2.  Vote for the Republican.

3.  Vote Third Party.

4.  Write-In. 

5.  Not Vote. 

What if there was a sixth choice?  

What if on every ballot for every federal election there was also a designated spot for “None Of These Candidates,” or NOTC?  

This presents the argument that “None Of These Candidates” should be on every ballot of every federal election, and proposes a nation-wide campaign to give the American Voters a real Alternative to ~ and an actual Antidote for ~ what America’s Ruling Political Class will give them for choices in 2022 and 2024:  To make “None Of These Candidates” a mandatory choice on every ballot in every federal election held in the United States for Election2022 and Election2024.  

Its ultimate purpose is to give a meaningful vote to that cohort of Totally Forgotten Voters who have been disenfranchised since the beginning of elections in America, and to offer a very quick, simple, easy, and low cost solution to that problem.  

ASSUMPTIONS.  It is assumed, first of all, that there will indeed be elections in those years; which, face it folks, at this point, no one can honestly, realistically, absolutely, positively guarantee.  And second, that the choices presented to the American Voters will be, at most, some subtle but suitable variation of the present, as follows: 

1.  The corporatist, crony “democratic capitalist,” neoconservative/neoliberal, post-modern “liberalism” and “conservativism” of the Carter-Reagan-Bush I-Clinton-Cheney/Bush II-Obama-Biden breed [which includes any “anti-Trump” Republicans intent on maintaining some semblance of a non-Trumped GOP].     

2.  The populist, nativist, neo-mercantilist, protectionist, proto-national socialism [with its attendant racist, sexist, xenophobic, patriotist wrapped-in the-Flag-mouthing-the-Bible noise while wiping their butts with the Constitution] of Trump, Trumpatismo, the Trumpatistas, and its inevitable gaggle of Greenes, Proud Boys, and Apprentice Emperor-Wannabe Spawns. 

3.  The noisy but intellectually, ideologically, and politically bankrupt and bereft neo-progressive, proto-democratic socialism of the “socialistic democrats” of the Sandersista/Warrenite, “Squad,” Green New Dealer ilk, and their Spawn.  

BACKGROUND.  The seed for all this was planted back in the first week of November 2016, as that Presidential Campaign began to finally, mercifully grind its way to its conclusion.  It suddenly became painfully obvious that if Clinton and/or Trump were the very best that our Ruling Political Class [RPC] could come up with to be America’s next President, then this Nation, this Country and Land, and, above all, this “We, the People” were in deeply serious, seriously deep trouble.

And it wasn’t just that – from the headlines, polls, blogosphere, and social media – that it was easy to conclude that Donald Trump was the patsy in a conspiracy to put Hillary Clinton in the White House.  Because, at the same time, it was just as easily concluded that The Hillary was part of a plot to ensconce The Donald.  Take your pick. 

But what was far, far more to the point was that it grew increasingly evident that, less than a couple of days to the election, more people wanted neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States, than wanted either of them to sit in the Oval Office come January 20, 2017. 

That, on the one hand, many people will vote for Clinton – because, and only because, they don’t want Trump as President – rather than because they actually do want her to be President.  And that, on the other hand, many people will similarly vote for Trump – because, and only because, they don’t want Clinton as President – rather than because they actually do want him to be President. 

Which raised the immediate question:  So who does somebody vote For if they want neither Trump nor Clinton ~ nor any of the Third Party candidates ~ as their next President?  Stated differently:  How do these people vote Against all the candidates that the Ruling Political Class has deigned to gift them? 

This becomes more relevant when the results of Trump v Clinton are explored: 

In 2016, 38.6% of all Eligible Voters [EVs] did not vote for anybody to be President.  

Of the 61.4% of EVs who did vote for President, Hillary Clinton got 48.2% of the votes, and Donald Trump took 46.1%.  Which means that only 29.6% of all EVs in 2016 voted for Clinton, and but 28.3% of them voted for Trump.  Which means that only 57.9% wanted Either of them in the Oval Office, and that between 70.4% and 71.7% of eligible Voters wanted Neither of them, respectively.  

In other words, 7 out of 10 Americans eligible to choose the next President of the United States four and a half years ago actively voted Against both The Donald and The Hillary; or, said another, kinder, gentler way, did not actually vote For either of the two. 

So the actual final tally for the 2016 Presidential race was: 

Not Voting 38.6 %
Clinton29.6 %
Trump28.3 %
Other  3.5 %

If “Not Voting” had been represented at the Electoral College in that election, it would have collected 471 Electoral votes to Clinton’s 51 and Trump’s 15.  In other words, “Not Voting” won in a landslide.  

One thing the Exit Pollsters missed that day was asking voters: “Did You vote for Trump [or Clinton, as the case may be] because You don’t want Clinton [Trump] to be President?  Or because You actually, really, and sincerely want him [her] to be in the Oval Office?  Or something else?”  

That would have given a clue as to how many people in 2016 voted not For Trump, but Against Clinton; and vice versa.  And perhaps explained, particularly, just exactly what happened in all those “swing States” that everybody just knew was Clinton Country, but turned out to be not quite. 

Fast forward to Election2020:  66.7% of Eligible Voters [EVs] cast their vote for President: Joseph Biden received 51.3% of the popular vote, and Donald Trump received 46.9% of that vote. 

Which means that only 34.2% of all eligible American voters in 2020 voted for Biden, and but 31.3% of all EVs voted for Trump. 

Which means that only 65.5% wanted Either of them in the Oval Office, and that between 65.8% and 68.7% of eligible Voters wanted Neither of them, respectively. 

So the final popular vote percentages for 2020 were: 

Biden34.2 %
Not Voting 33.3 %
Trump31.3 %
Other  1.2 %

Which, not merely incidentally, but very emphatically and categorically BELIES ANY CLAIM BY ANYBODY OR ANY PARTY, PERSPECTIVE, OR IDEOLOGY ~ BIDEN’S AND HIS, TRUMP’S AND HIS, OR ANYBODY ELSE’S AND THEIRS ~ HAS ANY KIND OF A “MANDATE” FROM ANYBODY TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING IN THIS COUNTRY.  It also indicates that Biden’s plans and pleas for “Strength Through Unity” are going to be a very tough sell; and not just out in the hinterlands of Flyover Country.  

In any event, if “Not Voting” won in a landslide in 2016, it was a bit closer in 2020:  With 270 the magic number, “Not Voting” would have taken 278 Electoral College votes to Biden’s 162 and Trump’s 98. 

Again, there were no Exit Pollsters asking voters: “Did You vote for Biden [or Trump, as the case may be] because You don’t want Trump [Biden] to be President?  Or because You actually, really, and sincerely want him to be in the Oval Office?  Or something else?”  

And that would have given a clue as to how many people in 2020 voted not For Biden, but Against Trump; and vice versa.  And perhaps explained, particularly, just exactly what happened in all those “swing States” that at least some folks just knew was Trump Territory, but turned out to be not quite.

#NOTC22/24:  The  Real Alternative and Antidote for Americans in 2022 and 2024 

Another poll that has never been taken but needs to be is one that asks voters who did not vote for President, “Why didn’t You vote for President?”; with the possible answers being: 

1.  I didn’t vote, period.  [An obvious follow-on question being “Why?”]

2.  I didn’t have anybody that I could vote FOR.

3.  I didn’t want to give my vote to anybody because I was equally AGAINST all the candidates, as well. 

4.  Other: ____________________ . 

Such a poll would have provided some interesting details as to what at least some Americans believed, or thought, or thought they knew, or actually, really understood about American politics, elections, government, and governance at that time.  After all, in 2016 at 38.6%, those non-Voters were a significant plurality; and in 2020, within a percentage point of the winner. 

Does that fact not tell us something about the American system of choosing who its supreme political leaders shall be, and, by extension, about America’s system of government and governance?  And what the American people think about it?  At least when it comes to choosing a President? 

People don’t vote for lots of reasons.  There are those who share Emma Goldman’s sentiment that “If voting could actually, really change anything, it would be illegal.”  Or they remember Papa Joe Stalin’s timeless admonition that “It’s not who votes that counts; it’s who counts the votes.”  Or, they can only concur 100% with George Carlin’s “Don’t vote.  It only encourages the mother-fuckers.” 

THE PROBLEM.  But one other reason folks don’t vote is because there is no candidate that they can, in all honesty and sincerity, actually vote For,even if it is just Against somebody or even Everybody else.  So the question becomes: How can these people make that judgment and conviction known in a way that has any actual impact in the real world, which Not Voting does not and can not have?  How can these people make a vote of conscience, and thus give voice to their beliefs, desires, and intents?  And, more importantly, how can they get their votes to count; Papa Joe’s reminder notwithstanding?  

THE SOLUTION.  In Election2020 again, Voters had five Choices.  They could: 

1.  Vote for Trump.

2.  Vote for Biden.

3.  Vote for a Third Party candidate.

4.  Write-In their own candidate.

5.  Not Vote. 

What if there was a sixth Choice?  What if on every ballot there was a designated spot for “None Of These Candidates,” NOTC

This sixth Choice would have been a very real, viable, formal, and forceful alternative to Choice 5 in that it is a way to be very explicit for those who are Against every available candidate that America’s political system and its ruling elites have bequeathed unto us.   Against them, and the platforms, programs, promises, platitudes, past and present performances, and social, cultural, economic, legal, and political worldviews, mindsets, operating paradigms, and the systems and structures that come along with them.  

And it does that in a way that simply Not Voting simply can not do. 

Option 6 would enable those who feel that way to openly express their conviction, and make it actually be counted not simply as just another  non-action of another non-Voter, but as one who voted for NOTC, for “None Of These Candidates.”  

Note:  Voters in Nevada have had the “None Of These Candidates” option in all federal, state, and local elections since 1975; and not by writing it in, but simply by pulling a lever on a voting machine just like every other Candidate.  

In 2016, “None Of These Candidates” received 28,863 Nevadan votes, while Clinton took 539,260 and Trump got 512,058, a difference of 26,202.  One wonders how those numbers would have changed if “NOTC” wasn’t an option and all [or even some] those NOTCers voted for either one or the other. 

In 2020, NOTC-NV took 14,079 votes to Biden’s 703,486 and Trump’s 669,890, a difference of 33,596.  Apparently, Nevadans felt they had a bit more of a choice this time than last. 

OBJECTIONS TO OPTION 6.  There are a number of immediate and obvious objections to NOTC being an option on ballots:  

1.  The biggest objection will no doubt come from the Ruling Political Class itself with the denunciation of the effort to the effect that “If You don’t like our candidates and the platforms, programs, and promises they are proposing, then do like we did, get organized, find money, and come up with Your own.”  Ie, start another Third ~ or is it fourth, fifth, or sixth ~ Party [see Objection 3 below]. 

To which the rest of us can simply respond:

“Look.  We all have neither the interest in, nor the time nor inclination for all that simply because we all have much, much more important things to do besides come up with candidates and their platforms.  We are all too busy trying to live our lives, pay our bills, plan for our futures, and deal as best we can with the total mess You people and Your politicians and all their non-elected bureaucrats, appointees, advisers, and other experts have made of this nation, its government, its system of governance, its economy, and civil society.  We are particularly busy paying our taxes, for which we Citizens are getting an increasingly less and less of a suitable return on our ‘investment’ in our governments than ever.  

“Plus, it is not our job to come up with suitable candidates and platforms.  After all, that’s what we have a Ruling Political Class for, isn’t it?” 

2.  Another objection would be “Well ~ not that it would or could ever possibly happen ~ but what happens if ‘None Of These Candidates’ actually wins an election?  Or forces a run-off?  Then what?”  

“Then come up with a brand new slate of candidates and run the election again, with NOTC remaining a choice.  Presumably the fact that NOTC either won the election or forced a run-off would [or at least could] send a very loud and clear message to the RPC that their reign of unbridled power ~ at least when it came to this particular federal election ~ is over.  At least for now.” 

3.  A third ~ and the weakest ~ objection could be from those who would claim that NOTC would undercut efforts by Third Parties to have a real impact in elections, and thus government and governance, by taking support and votes away from them, their candidates, and their agendas. 

At this point ~ and with very, very few exceptions as far as actually, really impacting the outcome of any election over the past 120 years ~ any votes for any and all Third Party Candidates are essentially wasted, other than providing the voter with the personal satisfaction of voting her or his conscience, and of, somehow, “sending a message.”  That is a principal reason that the PRC would be so quick to recommend it, as noted in Objection 1 above. 

And in present day America, no Third Party built on any particular ideology and focused on any specific issues, by itself, is in a position to have any effective impact whatsoever on any election whatsoever, let alone on how the government is run after the election. 

If, on the other hand, NOTC was a choice on all ballots; and if all Third Party voters would add their vote to all those Americans who reject both of the major party’s candidates by voting NOTC; and if the RPC had to then go back to the drawing board for another election with different candidates and a different set of promises:  If all that happened, Third Partiers would have a much bigger say in how things are run in this country than they do now, or have ever had in the past. 

THE PURPOSE RESTATED.   The purpose is simply to provide an alternative and antidote in 2022 and 2024 to whatever kept one-third and more of the electorate from voting in federal elections in 2016, 2018, and 2020.  It is to provide an option for those who do not have a candidate they can honestly and sincerely vote FOR, by enabling them to specifically and directly vote AGAINST all of the candidates.  And it provides a way of doing that that Not Voting, or voting Third Party, can not now and will never do. 

NEXT STEPS.  There are two possible ways that “None Of These Candidates” can be mandated to be included on all ballots for all federal elections in 2022 and 2024: 

1.  The ratification by 38 States of an Amendment to the Constitution to that effect.  Given that it took less than 10 months for the 21st Amendment ending Prohibition to go from being proposed by Congress to being ratified by the then-required only 34th State, this could happen very easily if a critical mass of conscientious, concerned, and committed Citizens determined to make exactly that happen in plenty of time for Election2024.

2.  The mandating by State-established process and procedure [legislative action, voter referendum, etc] that NOTC be available as a choice on all ballots for all federal elections held in that State.  This could happen very easily if a critical mass of conscientious, concerned, and committed Citizens determined to make exactly that happen in their State in plenty of time for Election2022; particularly in those states with US Senate elections.

3.  If all else fails, organize a nation-wide, state-level, grass roots campaign to encourage voters to write-in “None Of These Candidates” on their ballot on election day.  Particularly in those States with U.S. Senate elections in 2022, and then everywhere in 2024.

CONCLUSION.  Given the numbers of Registered Voters who didn’t vote for anybody for President in either 2016 or 2020, a very strong argument can be made that, for a significant number of Americans, the RPC had effectively eliminated the last, ultimate, and final refuge of the American voter: the so-called “lesser of two evils.”  In those elections, that option was clearly not available. 

Instead, we, the Electorate, were bequeathed with a choice between two lessers, and a great deal of evil, no matter which way the elections turned out.  

And so, the question remains: How could those folks who wanted none of those three as the next President have made their votes count?  And count far more than any Third Party efforts?  The answer is: By having “None Of These Candidates” as an official choice on the ballot.  

And the way to ensure that Americans have a real Choice in 2022 and 2024 ~ and thus a real Alternative and Antidote to the reality-tv extravaganza that American politics, government, and governance has become ~ is to make #NOTC22/24 happen on a national level on every ballot in every federal election those years.  Again, making it happen one State at a time; and again, with a priority on those holding U.S. Senate elections in 2022.

If this makes sense to You, seems worth exploring further, and particularly, if You have any feedback to offer on it, please contact me at notc.alaska@gmail.com.  Also please share it with anyone You think might find it of interest.  Thank You for Your consideration. 

Jeffrey Moebus, a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant, spent two years in Vietnam in the 1960s and two years in the pre-Operation Desert Storm Middle East in the 1980s.  He lives in Sitka, Alaska on the sailboat he brought up from San Francisco Bay ten years ago this summer, and is the POC for Veterans Against War [Sitka Platoon] at vaw.sitka@gmail.com.

Deplorable Leaders

W.J. Astore

America’s “leaders” believe they are in-the-know, and the rest of us are know-nothings who can be pushed around or ignored.

Perhaps the most honest thing Hillary Clinton ever did was to speak of her “basket of deplorables” after which she dismissed them as “irredeemable.” This is exactly how Hillary and most of our “leaders” think. Anyone who’s skeptical of them, anyone who asks for proof, anyone who’s willing to resist, is thrown into a “deplorable” basket and dismissed.

It will work until it doesn’t; indeed, it’s already not working. But the system is not about to give in. At the presidential level, America’s likely candidates for “leader of the free world” in 2024 are Joe Biden and Donald Trump, or, as my wife likes to joke, ODR versus ODR. Old Demented Rotter versus Old Divisive Rotter.

Let’s take the “old” part first, since ageism is an instant rejoinder. It used to be said that being President of the U.S. was the toughest, most demanding, job in the world, making enormous demands on physical stamina and mental acuity. Eisenhower was considered old when he left the presidency at the age of 70, replaced by John F. Kennedy at the age of 43. If Biden is reelected in 2024, he will be 82 that November, and Trump will be 78. Both men are well past their prime. Are they truly ready for the rigors of the office? Do we trust either man to be able to complete another four-year term in office?

Now, let’s take the “D” part. Many observers have noted Biden’s mental decline; it was readily noticeable in 2020 when he ran as a candidate in the primaries. Sadly, mental decline often accelerates with age, sometimes unpredictably. Reelecting Joe Biden in 2024, assuming he runs again, will likely lead to his vice president taking over for him during his second term of office. Trump, meanwhile, is a divisive leader whose personal motto might be “divide and rule.” A leader should bring people together for their mutual advantage, not tear them apart for his own advantage.

And now the “R” part, the “rotter.” Neither Trump nor Biden is a champion of workers, of the poor, of the vulnerable. Neither has much empathy. Both are deeply compromised. It’s a common failing of “big fish” politicians to have so little regard for the commoners that they rule, but surely we can find candidates that are, dare I say, less rotten?

“Leaders” like Hillary Clinton are fond of denouncing large swaths of the American public as “deplorable.” Is this not a classic case both of projection and of profound narcissism? How do we move beyond ODR versus ODR in 2024?

What a country! (Azeen Ghorayshi / BuzzFeed News)

Joe Says No

Joe Says No

W.J. Astore

Clearly, the unofficial motto of the Democratic Party in 2021-22 is “Joe says no.” And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s President Joe Biden or Senator Joe Manchin.

Joe, as in Biden, says no to ending the Senate filibuster. He says no to Medicare for all. He says no to a single-payer option for health care. He says no to a $15 an hour minimum wage. (I know — it was allegedly the Senate Parliamentarian who said no here, except this person is both unelected and easily fired.) President Joe says no a lot, even though his campaign promises and pledges included a $15 federal minimum wage, a single-payer option, and so on.

Joe, as in Manchin, says no to the Build Back Better program. He says no to more affordable prices for prescription drugs. He says no to extending child tax credits. He says no to paid family leave. (Joe said family members on leave might go hunting instead of caring for their kids.) Like President Joe, Senator Joe says no to reforming the Senate filibuster.

Joe and Joe say no a lot, especially to policies that would help working Americans.

What do they say yes to? They say yes to massive spending on weapons and wars. They say yes to fossil fuels, including offshore oil drilling, fracking, and coal. They say yes to corporate agendas and corporate lobbyists and corporate cash. They say yes to higher drug prices. They say yes quite often, actually, but not to us.

When the Democrats lose the presidency in 2024, Joe Says No should be their epitaph. No to the workers, no to the middle class, no to helping the less fortunate — and no to a fairer, more just, America.

(With thanks to my wife for coming up with the pithy, Joe says no, slogan.)

Are You Ready for Four More Years of Trump?

W.J. Astore

I had no idea America elected Joe Manchin and the Senate Parliamentarian as the two most powerful people in our country. Senator Manchin has been the convenient obstacle and scapegoat for the corporate Democrats. He’s allegedly blocked tougher action on climate change. He’s helped to defund efforts to make community college free, to extend Medicare, to lower prescription drug prices, and so on. The Senate Parliamentarian, meanwhile, who is in fact unelected and has no real power, ruled that hiking the minimum wage is something that simply can’t be countenanced under budgetary reconciliation rules. I think I got that right, not that it matters. It’s all a smokescreen, it’s all BS. The Democratic Party, like the Republican, answers to the owners and donors. It is doing exactly what it’s been told to do, abandoning all its progressive promises (it never had any principles) in the false name of compromise and bipartisanship.

And this is exactly why Donald Trump will be reelected in 2024.

Not that the corporate-owned Democrats care, mind you. Things are actually easier for them with Trump in office. They can raise more money off their fake “resistance” to Trump, and they can wash their hands of tax cuts for the rich and more and more corporate-friendly deals, blaming them on Trump when of course the Democrats too support all these things. For that matter, so too does the Supreme Court. Justices like Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett weren’t just picked because they lean against abortion: they were picked because of their pro-business sympathies. Joined by Justices Roberts and Thomas and Alito, corporations can count on winning cases in their favor by at least a 6-3 margin. Corporations are people, my friends, and they rule us through the political parties they own and the court they have packed.

If many Americans don’t know this, they certainly sense it. They know politicians like Biden and Harris are phonies. They are so phony that people actually prefer a twice-divorced wife-cheater, con man, and reality TV host like Trump for his authenticity. At least Trump speaks their language and apes their grievances.

Former President Obama, meanwhile, gives speeches blaming the voters for not voting. He says with a straight face that we can’t always get what we want, but that if you don’t despair and keep voting blue no matter who, you may yet get a few crumbs after 2024. Who believes this anymore?

Hillary Clinton and the DNC were so bad in 2016 that America elected a failed casino owner with a fake university named after him. Biden/Harris and the DNC are so bad now that in 2024 America will elect a bloviating dictator wannabe and coup-plotter who threw his own VP under the bus as president. Yup, the same guy again. Maybe this time Ivanka will run the World Bank or possibly the State Department (can she be worse than Mike Pompeo?).

That blurry man is returning — and so too is his daughter. Not so sure about the guy on the right

America has become a very bad joke — worst of all, the joke’s on us.