Author: Douglas

A Statement In Solidarity With George Ciccariello-Maher

Sometimes, the takes are such drool-dribbling nonsense that it is hard to craft a response. But for the likes of Zaid Jilani — and in defense of Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher — it is worth the effort to try.

Jilani’s piece is a mess from beginning to end. From claiming that it was a student who gave up their seat in first-class to a soldier — it was, in fact, an older businessman — to the notion that George’s call for “the spirit of John Brown to visit upon North Charleston” was a call for “vigilante mass murder”, the piece is a masterclass in lacking basic reading comprehension.

(This is to say nothing of the citations Jilani uses from websites like The College Fix, which has both structural and financial ties to Betsy DeVos and her coterie of right-wing anti-public education causes.)

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fake News

The first thing you notice about the newly-launched Free Telegraph is its politics. But then, with headlines like, “Vice President Mike Pence To Campaign For GOP Gubernatorial Nominee Ed Gillespie In Virginia”, and. “Leaked Memo Shows Rhode Island Dem Gov Gina Raimondo More Focused On PR Than Leading The State”, it does not particularly stand out from the panoply of conservative news media that has populated the internet in the era birthed by the Drudge Report and whelped by Fox News.

No different, that is, except for one thing: the site is funded by the Republican Governors Association, a 527 organization — so named after the section of the tax code that governs its existence — dedicated to the promotion and election of Republican gubernatorial candidates across the United States. This might not have been much of a problem, except that the website did not initially list its affiliation, only making it visible once it became clear that the Associated Press was going to run a story about the site’s true origins.

Such a story might seem strange, but the war over what constitutes “news” or “newsworthiness” is one that has raged for years.

Between Ta-Nehisi Coates And Us

Something I have always said about Ronald Reagan is that his “greatness” depended largely on the haplessness of his opponents. Whether it was a fading Gov. Pat Brown, whom Reagan defeated in a nearly one million vote landslide in the 1966 California gubernatorial election, or former Vice President Walter Mondale, whose 1984 annihilation by Reagan is unlikely to be repeated by any presidential candidate, the Gipper had a talent for drawing the weakest opponents as he blazed his path through American political history.

If the incoherent balderdash that the New York Times published from Thomas Chatterton Williams is any indication, Ta-Nehisi Coates has much of the same kind of luck.

Williams places his piece within the German concept of sonderweg, the notion that the German people traveled a particular path on the road from a collection of nation-states to the democracy that it would eventually become. While this was seen as a positive thing prior to World War I — in that Germany did not experience the kinds of sociopolitical upheavals that, say, characterized France’s transition from monarchy to republic to empire and back again — the rise and fall of the Third Reich transformed this historiography into a profoundly negative inquiry with a simple question: what prompted Germany’s turn towards fascism? It is hard to disagree that such a discussion casts a pall over German life as a whole since the war, as the debates around the rise of far-right formations such as PEGIDA and the Alternative For Germany party continue to  show.

Williams argues that Coates is at the helm of such a push in the United States, except that the all-encompassing issue is white supremacy. It is from here, however, that Williams’s argument goes terribly awry.

Really, Ralph, You Don’t Have To Do This

Democrats never learn, do they?

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is running for governor of Virginia. The same Virginia that white supremacists descended on for their mini-version of the Nuremberg rallies, and the same Virginia that Heather Heyer gave her life defending from the same. Donald Trump’s response to the rally and Heyer’s death was to state that there was violence “on many sides” and to condemn the efforts to remove Confederate monuments.

After all of that, though, Ralph Northam still believes that Trump is someone that can be “worked with”.

When Democrats don’t compete, Roy Moore is the result

It was difficult to fend off a fit of laughter reading Ben Jacobs’s wrap-up of the Alabama Republican primary for the U.S. Senate special election coming up this December:

Moore is as sui generis a product of the Yellowhammer State as white barbecue sauce and Bear Bryant.

Let’s start off with a couple of glaring mistakes here.

The Yellowhammer State might be Alabama’s official state nickname — as five seconds on Wikipedia will tell you — but no one really calls it that. The state’s license plates have had “Heart of Dixie” emblazoned across them since 1954. The signs welcoming you to the state’s borders used to say “Welcome to Alabama, The Beautiful,” but now read a simpler, more widely known message. Furthermore, the famed white barbecue sauce is mainly served at ‘que joints in the far north central part of the state, centered around Decatur and Huntsville. As it is, you would be hard-pressed to find white sauce at Dreamland or Archibald’s in Tuscaloosa, or Lannie’s in Selma.

(White sauce is also terrible, but I am digressing.)

Democracy Is More Than A Ballot Every Two Years

….and do other stuff, too.

There is a common sense about democracy in the United States.

We elect people to government. By and large, we allow them to do their work. If we like their work, we re-elect them. If we do not like their work, we sometimes get angry, but that anger is mostly confined to the ballot box every two to four years. The power and agency afforded to one in this system is largely based on class: the wealthy are sought out for consult and decision-making, while the working class is almost entirely shut out of such channels of power completely.

This common sense complicates the everlasting tensions between the Left and the electoral process.

On one hand, the crafting of this two-party system is not natural, and is the product of a long line of decisions taken by the privileged and powerful to limit the acceptable realm of solutions to the problems plaguing our society. Barriers such as onerous signature requirements and the lack of alternative electoral options — such as fusion voting or proportional representation — means the choice that one is presented with on their November ballot often constitutes shades of the same. As such, socialists are right in denouncing the American political process as a kind of sham: democracy for the bosses and authoritarianism for the worker.

Yet national mythologies and common senses are rarely formed without at least some acquiescence from the working class, and it is no different with the electoral process. The truth of the matter is that, for now, the ballot box is the way that a plurality of the working class marks their political preferences. Because of this, socialists cannot afford to completely dismiss the electoral process, lest we be out-of-touch with the class that we seek to elevate, liberate, and emancipate.

So then, what is to be done?

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Because the Comeback™ would not be complete without a celebration of displacement and gentrification.

In case you have been living under a rock, Detroit Is Coming Back™.

For years, Detroit has been the poster child of American neoliberalism and austerity. In Michigan, the state is allowed to appoint officials that supplant those who have been duly elected by popular vote in times of financial distress. These officials, known as emergency managers, are granted sweeping powers to do whatever it takes to “balance the books”, even if it means shredding the public sector and the services that they provide to the working class. The institution as a whole is not simply an attack on services; it is an attack on democracy itself, especially since emergency managers have the power to remove “uncooperative” elected officials.

Realizing this, Michiganders went to the polls in November 2012 and rejected Proposal 1, which ended the authority of emergency managers in the state. Not to be deterred, Gov. Rick Snyder — who had campaigned for the office in 2010 on being “One Tough Nerd” and “running government like a business” — and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature passed Public Act 436, which made mild modifications to the previous statute but kept in place the emergency management system.

The emergency manager for Detroit had one job: make the city safe for capital again. Kevyn Orr, the corporate lawyer who was appointed as Detroit’s emergency manager in March 2013, took to the job with aplomb. Union contracts were cancelled, retirees saw reductions in their benefits, and city services were sold to private firms. Orr directed the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to cut off water to those who were behind on their bill, adding another layer of cruelty to working-class families in a city devastated by capital flight and a toxic brew of violence from white supremacy and spatial segregation.

The financial bankruptcy may have ended in 2014, but the social and moral bankruptcy continues amongst those who rule this city. Talk to any long-term Detroiter and they will tell you the same. But if you are unable to make it to this city — a gem full of culture, great food, and even better people — then I direct you to a shining example of such elite turpitude: Detroit Homecoming.