#NeverTrump

I keep expecting someone to step out from behind a potted plant and say, “Smile! You’re on candid camera!” and then all of America will laugh and breathe a sigh of relief. After the nervous giggles pass and we finish pretending we knew it all along, we will go home and think long and hard about what would have happened had the whole thing been true.

And by “the whole thing,” I mean Donald Trump.

About an hour ago I learned that Ben Carson endorsed Trump. I was never a Carson fan, but from what I understand he isn’t a bad guy or anything. And clearly he’s brilliant, right? He’s a brain surgeon for crying out loud. He’s apparently also popular among “evangelicals,” which may just be the most over- and improperly used word in American media today.

Right now I’m watching a clip of a young black man being sucker punched in the face at a Trump rally by a long-haired man in a cowboy hat. This just a week or so after the Guy in the Red Hat went verbally psycho on Black Lives Matter protestors, and a couple of weeks after Chris Christie’s takeover by Trump-loving aliens.

Have I mentioned the KKK or “small hands” yet? No? Well there are those things, too.

Where’s a potted plant when you need one?

I’m about 99% sure that in 20 years we’re going to find out (assuming there’s no hidden camera, anyway) that this was all a conspiracy. I don’t know if Democrats paid Trump to run to ensure a Democrat would win, or if Trump is paying people to vote for and/or endorse him, or threatening their families, but something fishy must be going on here. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

Because that alternative is that there are a whole lot of people in America willing to vote for someone who, whether he himself is or isn’t, doesn’t mind giving off the air of a misogynistic, jingoistic, racist megalomaniac.

The hateful and insulting comments, the atrocious proposed policies, the lack of knowledge and experience to hold the most powerful office in the world, and all those other, more obvious scary Trump traits are one thing. The hate and violence and anger at his rallies and among his supporters are another. The “get ‘em out of heres,” and the “I want to punch him in the face,” and the screaming, punching, “go home” sign-wielding Americans frighten me, sadden me, overwhelm me, embarrass me, and sicken me. They drive me to an eschatological place I don’t want to be.

I get it to a certain point. He’s an outsider. He speaks him mind. His aura is one of success and confidence. He’s sort of like the bad boy/girl you might date in high school. You know what almost universally holds true about those relationships? They end. You don’t marry the bad guy/girl, or if you do, you regret it/get divorced/change the person/change yourself. Four to eight years of damaging, dangerous, and damning governance is a lot of regret. It’s also a long time to stay married to someone you can’t stand. That leaves two options: change him or change yourself.

I won’t say Trump won’t or can’t change. His efforts at self-moderation these last few days have been apparent. Clearly he gets that he needs to be “more presidential,” but in the end, he ends up right where he started: acting as the lowest common denominator. I won’t pretend to know Trump’s internal affairs, but if I had to guess, I’d say the odds of him changing are pretty darn low. So then, will he change me? Will he change us? Change America? I’d like to think he can’t. That even if elected that we’d somehow stand strong against him, singing Kumbaya in front of the White House while patchouli wafts through the air and babies coo from their mama’s and daddy’s slings and front packs and toddlers munch on homemade gluten-free granola.

But I never have liked the smell of patchouli and my kids are far too big for slings and front packs. I can also hear the bullhorn now: “Get ‘em out of here!”

It’s scary folks, really scary. This isn’t about electing a politician with whom we disagree, even on very, very important things such as cluster bombs. Perhaps it sounds extreme, but I would go so far as to say that this is about good vs. evil. Not that Trump is evil, or that Trump supporters are evil. No, I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is, have you ever read Lord of the Flies? Remember Piggy? When you put a lot of non-evil people who have some not-too-kind ideas together in a big melting pot and stir them together—viola!—you get something pretty darn ugly.

Since I still don’t see a potted plant anywhere around, and since I may not ever know if there’s a conspiracy or not, I’m going to have to assume that this is real. Trump himself may be fake—I suspect that in many ways he is—but the voters… the voters are real. If they are both real and numerous enough to put Trump in the White House, I will be so scared, so sad, and so morally wounded that I may have to learn to bake my own granola and enjoy the smell of patchouli. But I’m still not putting my kids in a front pack.

 

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Disconnected Generations?

My vote this election season will go to Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton.

According to comments made earlier this month by feminist trailblazers Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright, this makes me either a boy-crazy political infidel (Steinem) or someone worthy of a special place in hell (Albright). Judging from the reaction these comments received, I apparently am not the only one who felt angry, bemused, belittled, and befuddled by these statements.

Albright appears to have gotten somewhat of a pass for her oft-repeated statement that there is a “special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.

But Steinem was taken to task on Twitter for her comment, made while speaking to HBO’s Bill Maher earlier this month, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

Young feminist voters created the hashtag #notherefortheboys to let Steinem know just how far off base her comment was.

#Notherefortheboys clearly demonstrated the disconnect between those who gave birth to the second wave of feminism and those who are riding on it today. Slate magazine writer Christina Cauterucci had this to say about the schism:

These unfortunate statements about young women and the backlashes they triggered reveal a common thread between ageism and sexism, which intersect in ways specific to progressive movements. Some older women are convinced that younger women take for granted the struggles that preceded them and aren’t yet wise enough to lead the movement; some younger women believe that their forbearers are out of touch and old-fashioned, hampered by the racism, heterocentrism, and class divides of feminisms past.

Cauterucci is on to something here.

womensfacessized

Why a Pro-Life Christian Supports Bernie Sanders

Today I’m happy to feature fellow political junkie, Lucas Jackson, as a guest blogger. Lucas takes on the oh-so-sensitive issues of both abortion and politics, and makes a strong argument for why he, a pro-life Christian, is voting for a pro-choice candidate, Bernie Sanders. Lucas and I would love to hear your thoughts on this; you can leave your take on the issue in the comment section below. And if you want to contact Lucas personally, you can reach him at jacksonlucas149@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Why a Pro-LIfe Christian Supports Bernie Sanders
By Lucas Jackson

Jesus isn’t running for president.

Neither is Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Dietrich Bonhoffer and William Wilberforce also aren’t on the ballot.

No matter who we support he or she will be very flawed.

I’ve watched almost every debate, followed the political cycle religiously and read up on the candidates’ records extensively.

And my takeaway is that the candidate who best embodies my values as a Christian – and it’s honestly not that close – is Bernie Sanders. And while my perspective below is a Christian one, I feel strongly that much of it may resonate with people of other faiths or more secular backgrounds.

Make no mistake – Bernie Sanders’ position on abortion troubles me, and his rhetoric on that issue is largely unhelpful. He calls pro-life Republicans “extremists” and gives no ground to the other side. Marco Rubio showed the type of dialogue the abortion issue in our country so desperately needs at the Republican debate Saturday night, saying that he recognized the right of women to control their own bodies and respected that right but views it as less than the right of an unborn child to life.

But the reality is that the Supreme Court is not going to fundamentally change abortion in America – only a revolution in our political and economic systems will.

Our political system must change because right now it gives us two parties that selectively choose when life matters. We need a realignment that brings together people of conscience on the right and left. But it also must change because it’s corrupt, and our government, like any of us, cannot serve two masters. Abortion will be sacrificed like any other non-financial issue to political expediency when the powers that be (for lack of a better phrase) decree it.

We need an economic revolution that puts the needs of people first and gives women and families the resources they need to both prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce the economic hardship associated with having a baby and raising a child.

Sanders is not perfect. In most ways he has not yet converted his message of anger at Wall Street and Washington into a hopeful, unifying message of what the future in America can be. He has not elaborated on his foreign policy views nearly enough and stumbled when asked about them in the last debate. As far as my views on gun control are concerned, he’s not as strong as Hillary Clinton.

But Sanders is running a campaign that resonates with my most deeply held Christian values – loving our enemies, serving the least of these, telling the truth, acting with humility. When Jesus overturns the money changers’ tables in the Temple, Sanders says “exactly,” he doesn’t say “yes, but what could they offer me in the way of campaign contributions or speaking fees?” When Jesus says “love your enemies,” Sanders passes up opportunity after opportunity to take advantage of political moments to attack his main rival. He will not run a negative ad. He doesn’t have a Super PAC to run one for him.

When given the chance to savage Clinton – already struggling with the issue of trustworthiness – over her State Department emails, Sanders said “enough about the damn emails.” When confronted about his staff accessing Clinton campaign data, Sanders offered an explanation of what happened and noted he’d fired the staffer. When the debate moderator persisted and said “will you apologize?” there was an audible gasp when Sanders turned to Clinton and said, “Yes. I’m sorry.” Politicians just don’t do that.

When Jesus and page after page of scripture calls us to walk humbly before our God, Sanders seems to be the only political candidate in either party whose campaign is based on something other than “look how great I am.” He rarely praises himself. When he talks about his record, it’s usually to defend it or emphasize facts. Compare that to the other candidates in both parties and the contrast is surprisingly shocking. He is campaigning on an idea, not for his own glory. (I personally think Rand Paul in many ways matched Sanders in this respect, but he’s no longer running.)

And my God, he tells the truth. He does seem to avoid exaggerating or twisting facts, but what is really remarkable is that for all the criticism that his health care and anti-poverty proposals are “unicorns and rainbows,” he’s actually got it exactly right – he says clearly that he can’t get these proposals passed under the current Congress, that the only way we are going to fundamentally change our country is if millions of Americans engage in the political process and demand change. He’s right.

I admit, I also agree with a lot of his policies. Wall Street tanked our economy and controls our political system. Our criminal justice system and economy are corrupt and racially unjust. Climate change is real, almost certainly man-made, and serious. And so on.

But what attracts me to him most of all isn’t that I agree with his solutions, it’s that he’s addressing the actual problems in our society. Agree or disagree with his proposals to fix these problems. But what must be recognized is that Bernie Sanders is offering solutions that actually meet those problems head on, rather than solutions that are politically expedient.

I find his message of revolution to be deeply Christian. Jesus’ message was one of radical love. President Jesus would not accept millions of children living in poverty. He would not accept 30 million Americans without health insurance. He wouldn’t accept the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in our political system.

And that’s what’s so important about Sanders – his message isn’t just that we should fight child poverty, it’s that we shouldn’t accept the idea that poor children are a fact of life. In that sense, he’s not just challenging economic policies or political realities, he’s challenging the fundamental assumptions that underline our political system and our society. That’s what’s so radical – and so Christian – about Sanders.

In challenging our political system, he’s begun to recognize that the solution to our problems doesn’t lie solely on his side of the political spectrum. He’s winning independents who are voting in the Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire, where some undecided voters are choosing between Sanders and Trump, he’s recognizing that our disastrous trade policies have devastated working families on the right and left. There’s space there to forge an unlikely coalition, the type a corporate, pro-trade Democrat like Clinton could never forge. And Sanders went to Liberty University and spoke eloquently about the possibility of working together to fight poverty even when there’s disagreement on abortion and gay marriage. It would have been easy for him to reject the invitation from Jerry Falwell Jr. to attend. But he went.

There are other candidates with redeeming qualities. John Kasich has a unifying message in an otherwise angry primary field. Chris Christie deserves enormous credit for talking about how being pro-life means being pro-life for people after they’re born, like the 16-year old drug addict lying on the floor of Juvenile Hall. “I’m pro-life for her,” Christie said.

Ultimately, we need a President who will challenge the idea that childhood poverty is acceptable. Who will unify people across religious and political lines, rather than turn politics into a team sport. Who will govern effectively with the Congress he or she has, but inspire and lead the country to elect the Congress it deserves. Who will stand up and say that the dignity of human life must be protected, all human life, from the womb to the villages of Iraq and Afghanistan to death row to the streets of Chicago. A President who understands that family values include letting women bond with their baby after it’s born rather than sending them back to work three minimum wage jobs within a week or so after giving birth. A President who radically rethinks how we interact with the rest of the world. A President who is actually pro-life and not “pro-birth,” and understands that abortion rates decline when we address poverty, when we take care of mothers and families, when we end the school to prison pipeline that destroys families.

Until that President comes along, the best I can do is Feel the Bern. And there’s no shame in that.

sanders-2016-feel-the-bern

A Primer on Fast Track Trade Authority for People of Faith

In what the Obama Administration called a “procedural snafu,” the House last week refused to extend a four-decade old program that grants protections to workers displaced by global trade. While this longstanding program has traditionally been popular among Democrats, the trade deal it would usher in if passed is one they fiercely oppose.

Image via pogonici/shutterstock.com

While the procedural details of what exactly transpired in the vote are fairly complex, the take-home message is this: the House successfully shot down a contentious piece of legislation, commonly referred to as Fast Track, that would grant the president executive powers to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress. And once that happens, President Obama would certainly use his fast track authority to speed along passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a proposed free trade agreement with 11 other nations along the Pacific Rim that would affect 40 percent of the global economy. The TPP would be the most expansive trade deal reached in history, and President Obama has made its success a top legislative priority in his last term.

It’s also one of the most divisive political issues on the Hill right now. Here’s why:

You can find out why, and read the rest of today’s post, by visiting Sojourners.

Realizing What Matters

In my family, politics runs the gamut from Tea Party to Green Party, from Fox News to Al-Jazeera. My family is the melting pot of voter registration. And I’m not talking about see-them-at-weddings-and-funerals family, but close family who are deeply loved as well as deeply intelligent and opinionated.

This could be tough. It could cause awkward silences, silent fuming, exasperated incomprehension, and ruined holidays. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case. We instead understand that our love for one another has absolutely nothing to do with where we fall on the political spectrum. That we are all worthy of respect, even when disagreements arise, and that some things are simply better left unsaid rather than fought over.

Over the last year or so, I have come to view my political leanings and affiliations in a very different light than I did, say, ten years ago. For the record, I have a lengthy history of marching on various capitols for various causes, both “conservative” and “liberal.” I previously co-hosted a political talk show, and loved the back-and-forth with my co-hosts, callers, and guests. I have been an elected official, and I have worked at the White House. I have made and carried protest signs, signed petitions, and been part of many, many political advocacy groups. I have cried and worn a baseball cap and sweats for days when “my” candidate has lost.

I have found, however, that I am no longer interested in this mold of politics. I am instead much more interested in recognizing the motivation behind various so-called political beliefs, and how individuals can work within the structure of their daily lives to be a living, breathing example of those motivations.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for the types of things I mentioned above. Of course there is. But as I begin to recognize and name the emotions behind my beliefs, and as I begin to better understand where other people are coming from, even on issues where I completely disagree with them and they with me, I see very little need for political wrangling in day-to-day life.

I can count my motivations on one hand: love, justice, mercy, faith, and the belief that we are all God’s children worthy of dignity, respect, and equal treatment. If someone else feels all those things but disagrees with a foundation in faith, that person and I should not move forward from that difference in a way fraught with vitriol. That fictitious person and I should instead move forward by emphasizing the places where we agree, and by acknowledging where our end goals are the same. If another fictitious person should choose to leave out the words “equal treatment,” I have no business hating or condemning them, because after all, isn’t that what my motivations specifically rally against? I can disagree with them, of course. I cannot, however, direct judgment towards them.

We must all work towards the good we believe in. The best way to do that is through living out the impetus for having those beliefs. We live in a world where people do have ill intent. Where selfishness reigns supreme, and self-interest is too often the reason for decisions made. If we have in our lives people who are instead motivated by good, whether we agree with them or not, we are lucky indeed.

For further reading:

A Politics of Love, Part One

Defining a Politics of Love

The Separation of Church and Hate

Why I’m No Longer Mad at Monsanto

Guest Post: Politics of Love

This has been a crazy week for me. My oldest graduates from high school tomorrow, and I am a mess of logistics and tears. Writing has not been possible, other than grocery- and to-do lists. Turns out, though, that today I would rather share words someone else has written. Words that I find so true, and that, to me, are in accord with the red letters.

This post is from Andrew Hanauer (yes, my husband, but also a freelance writer and human rights ninja). You can find his blog here.

A POLITICS OF LOVE

In 2006, when Americans were asked their opinion of George W. Bush’s massively illegal NSA spying program, 75% of Republicans said they supported it while only 37% of Democrats agreed.  Today, after it was revealed that President Obama is overseeing a nominally legal but largely similar surveillance program, only 52% of Republicans express support for it, while a stunning 64% of Democrats agree.

In other words, Americans, in large numbers, care more about the (D) or (R) next to the President’s name than they do about what the President does.  And that is deeply disturbing.

There is plenty of blame for this to go around.  The right-wing echo chamber that defended President Bush with a vigor matched only by its hatred for President Obama.  The wing of the Democratic Party that is convinced that Barack Obama is special and different and that his words have meaning even as he breaks promise after promise.  The media that focuses incessantly on the partisan sniping in Washington and ignores the larger truth – that the two parties largely both support a system of corporate and military power at the expense of the vast majority of the world’s people – and thus propagates this system in which Americans yell and scream at each other over which corporate-owned party should be in power.

The great tragedy of the Obama administration (for those of us lucky enough to use that word in the sense that I mean it, and not in the context of our children being shot by drones) is that it has not only furthered and deepened some of the most disturbing policies of the Bush administration, but that it has also deadened opposition to those policies by connecting them to the smiling face of a supposedly progressive leader.  And now we not only are stuck with these dangerous policies, with a President who believes he has the right to kill an American citizen without trial, but we are left with meaningful opposition only from the libertarian Right and apparently the 36% of Democrats who don’t think Barack Obama is a deity.

This is the danger of the Church of The-Lesser-Of-Two-Evils.  This is what happens when we stop trying to create the world we want our children to live in and settle for hoping that the leader who seems less willing to destroy that future will beat the other guy.  For years, we have been told we have to vote Democrat, give our money to Democrats, knock on doors for Democrats, argue with our relatives about how great the Democrats are, all because the alternative is so much worse.  The realization that what we are experiencing now is a slow death – through climate change, Wall-Street bailouts, and the erosion of the rule of law – rather than the dreaded quick death of Republican rule is what has prompted me to leave the Democratic Party.

It’s a relief, honestly.  I feel a little bit freer for the lack of attachment to an institution that is not worthy of the hopes and dreams I have for our country.

Inevitably the question then becomes: but what if your vote is the difference?   Yes, I will vote for the lesser of two evils if I have to.

But this is about so much more than voting.  Voting is a civic duty, but it should be merely a small piece of the work we do to improve our community, our country, and the world.  Our contribution to the struggle for human rights and social justice is not defined by who we vote for.  Throughout history, change has almost always come through the hard work of building credible movements and institutions, of pushing from the outside until those on the inside are forced to make changes, of envisioning change and then demanding that it come about, rather than hoping it is given to you by the lesser of two evils.

Inevitably the question then becomes: what do we attach ourselves to instead?

Good question.

Given everything that is going on in the world, it’s easy to just stand outside and yell in anger.  There is a lot to be angry about.

I think, however, that for that anger to make any sense, it has to be traced back to the love that exists at its roots.  We are angry at the perpetrators of the financial meltdown because we love the families who were illegally foreclosed upon.  We are angry about the drone program because we love the innocent people victimized by it and we love the concept of a foreign policy that is predicated on peace and not militarism.  We are angry about wiretapping because we love the concept of a country in which civil liberties are protected and government is open and accountable.  Without this love, the anger leaves us as participants in a pointless competition, in which each “side” tries to “win” and is angered at the other side’s actions.  The pointlessness of that game as it plays out in the United States is made clear by the realization that, much like Oceania and its opponents in Orwell’s 1984, the two “sides” are really two halves of the same system.  And it is that system that needs to change.

Which brings us to what I call “A Politics of Love.”  If we are going to change that system, we have to remove ourselves entirely from the Democrat/Republican debate and start with a positive vision for the country and for the world.  We have to invite everybody to contribute to that vision, even if we don’t agree with them on every issue, and we need to push our politicians to make laws that help make that vision a reality.   This concept is not about singing Kumbaya and pretending that the corporations and politicians who profit from the corruption of the current system can be engaged in meaningful dialogue.  On the contrary, the change we need in this country will come only through the force of our will, through determination, through a clear-eyed understanding of what we are up against.  It will come through a lot of hard work.  But it will only come through love.  And if we are to transform the world through love, we first have to stop identifying ourselves by party and start identifying ourselves as members of a universal human family, particularly when the party with which we have been identifying is so demonstrably unworthy of our allegiance.

When Howard Dean said that “rednecks driving pickup trucks with confederate flags on the back should vote for me because their kids need health insurance, too,” he simultaneously intentionally and unintentionally illustrated how important this concept of politics is.  Yes, we need to start a movement that recognizes shared values and human rights, that reaches across racial, ideological, and geographic divides and challenges the status quo.  And no, obviously, calling people “rednecks” is not the best way to do that.  But what Dean was getting at is that the forces that create inequity in our health care system are not the same as the people voting for politicians who uphold and deepen that inequity.  That’s an important concept, and, perhaps just as importantly, given the policy record of Democrats, those so-called rednecks aren’t the only ones voting for politicians who wreak havoc on the poor and vulnerable.

In the coming days, I will be writing more about what a Politics of Love looks like.  In the meantime, I am doing my part by removing myself from the false partisan dichotomy that leads a country to change its mind about the violation of its civil liberties simply because the President authorizing the violation has a different letter next to his name.

That (D) is no longer magical to me.  It is, after all, of little comfort to the victims of American militarism, or to the Palestinians, or to the Congolese.  It is of little consequence to ice caps determined to melt.  It is not a holy symbol, not a badge of anything of particular value.

It is just another tool of division at a time when the 99.99999% of the world’s people opposed to the status quo need unity more than ever.