GOOD NEWS, SORT OF

Posted in Rants on March 30th, 2016 by Ed

Amid Trump hysteria it has not attracted much notice that Bernie Sanders has won five straight Democratic contests. Granted, that comes after a string of seven straight Clinton wins so it's not champagne time by any stretch of the imagination. But five wins beats five losses.

The problem is that those five victories did not do a lot to the numbers because few delegates represent those states. Compare the seven won by Clinton (her delegate count is in the left column, pledged only) to the five won by Sanders (right column) and it's clear that not all wins are created equal in this process.

uhoh

What his campaign is banking on is that the worst is over and the election now moves into their candidate's wheelhouse. The Alabamas and Utahs and Texases of the primary process are done with and the remaining states are solid Blue on the whole. If he's gonna do well anywhere, this is where you would expect it. Here's an overview of the remaining contests. In this table and throughout this post we're going to ignore the superdelegates in parenthesis; they're likely to support whoever wins the majority of pledged delegates, just as they did in 2008. For now they are sticking with Clinton. If Sanders catches her, most of them will jump ship once again.

The Democratic Party process has 4051 total pledged delegates (PD), meaning the magic number for a majority is 2026. Currently Sanders has 980 and Clinton has 1243. It's not a small margin, but neither is it insurmountably large. To win the majority of the 4051 total PD count Sanders would need 57.22% of the remaining 1898 PD as of today's date. He's been winning with large percentage majorities in the recent races. Can he keep it up? If he doesn't, he's going to be in trouble by the end of April.

Dem Del

There are two contests before April 19 – WY and WI – with 100 combined PD. For the sake of argument let's say the candidates split those 60 (Sanders) and 40 (Clinton). That would keep the status quo in place until April 19-26, during which six races will occur. Two of the states, NY and PA, are very large with 247 and 189 PD respectively. If Sanders does not win 60%-plus of the delegates available on April 19 and 26 the math for catching Clinton becomes very difficult. California and New Jersey would represent almost all of the remaining PD after April 26.

The Democrats do not use Winner-take-All rules, so the reality is that both candidates' PD total will inch steadily higher as these races unfold. If Clinton scores a decisive win in a large state at this point, though, it would not be the end of Sanders but the odds would start looking very long. On the other hand, wins in places like New York (where Clinton currently leads significantly in an admittedly small sample of polls). He not only needs to find a way to win, but he needs to win by a margin large enough to start catching up. California is narrowing but Clinton leads there as well.

Without those two, the road to a majority is hard to see. Not only winning but winning by a 3/5 majority is a tall order for any candidate. Stranger things have happened, though, and despite falling onto the back burner over the past few weeks the race is far from over. By the end of the day on April 26 we should have a very good idea of how realistic it is for Sanders to catch up. I wouldn't bet my paycheck on that happening, but I wouldn't bet it on Clinton either at this point.

DON'T LET IT BE A BLACK AND A WHITE ONE

Posted in Rants on March 29th, 2016 by Ed

Ice Cube, before he became a comic prop in family vacation movies, understood a fundamental truth about race and law enforcement 30 years ago that still has not sunk in with a lot of Americans.

Ready? All of the issues with race and law enforcement apply regardless of the race of a particular officer. Cops use more force against black suspects. White cops. Black cops. Male cops. Female cops. Cops. That's the point – it's a systemic problem, not a "Few bad apples" problem.

And on the other hand, without a gun they can't get none
But don't let it be a black and a white one
Cause they'll slam ya down to the street top
Black police showing out for the white cop

Sure, it would be a good idea (for any number of reasons) for police departments to hire a diverse group of officers. But "We have black cops too" doesn't mean that issues of race and law enforcement go away. It's still there. If cops generally perceive that black male suspects are a threat, that can go as well for non-white cops as for white ones. Three of the cops who beat Freddie Gray to death, to cite just one example, were black. They didn't stand there and watch the three white cops beat him. They didn't say "Hey you know this seems to be an excessive amount of force." They participated. Whether they were "showing out for the white cops" or behaving how they would have behaved if all of the cops involved were black is conjecture. What isn't conjecture is that black cops, like white, Hispanic, Asian, left-handed, and Turkish-Romanian cops, were part of the problem. Because the problem is bigger than cops. The problem is with the system. We repeat the lie that it's just a few bad apples, one or two loose cannons here and there, because it transfers responsibility from the system to the individual. And when the problem is the individual…oh well, what are you gonna do, right? See also: mass shootings.

Cities are racing to appoint black cops to top positions in troubled departments. Chicago recently jumped on the bandwagon, appointing an unknown, inexperienced (administratively) beat cop named Eddie Johnson as Superintendent in response to public uproar that has already taken down the Cook County State's Attorney in the recent Democratic primary. Look, it makes no sense to begrudge the city promoting a beat cop, a black cop, or a black beat cop to a position of authority. It's probably not a bad idea. The problem is that when these appointments are made, it's not hard to picture everyone in the Mayor's office and Police HQ slapping their hands together and exclaiming, "Problem solved!"

It's not a solution. It is, at worst, window dressing and, at best, a red herring. The problem in Chicago is not that there weren't or aren't enough black cops in the upper ranks. The problem in Chicago is that the police department has proven itself totally rotten, corrupt, conspiratorial, and willing to go to any length to protect its own. Top to bottom. The whole thing. Maybe Eddie Johnson will be a good Super, maybe he'll be gone in six months. Who knows. The point is that appointing him, or anyone else, does not solve the problem. And these appointments of black cops to high ranking position at a time when police departments are reeling from being asked to answer for the massive numbers of unarmed black suspects they bring to the morgue feels a lot less like a legitimate effort to bring diversity to leadership positions and a lot more like a cynical PR ploy to allow the old, white, reactionary base on which urban politics still depends to say "We appointed a colored, what more do you want."

BEYOND DESCRIPTION

Posted in Rants on March 27th, 2016 by Ed

The "Anybody but Hillary" defense of voting for Trump is already bubbling to the surface. It's unsurprising, since it sounds much better than "I don't like brown people but I'm smart enough not to admit it." It will be popular among the usual suspects who were going to vote Republican no matter what despite protests about evaluating the candidates on their merits. You know. Old white people.

In the long run it isn't consequential because 2012 already proved that there aren't enough of them to win an election. The logic, or the implied logic, is pretty interesting though. Whenever I encounter someone who talks about what a nightmare the Bill Clinton years were, I really push them on specifics. Was it the rapid economic growth? The balanced budget? The lack of full-scale wars? Of course Bill wasn't personally responsible for everything positive that happened during his two terms. I'm just trying to wrap my head around what exactly was so bad. It inevitably boils down to 1) He banged an intern, which is important because Reasons, and 2) He humiliated the country by using diplomacy with other nations rather than pulling his dick out and waving it around screaming AMERICA #1 SUCK IT. Nothing rankles these people like a perceived lack of Ass-Kickin' toughness.

Policy-wise, about the worst thing old white people could expect during a Hillary Clinton presidency is for personal income tax levels to stay where they are (Let's briefly ignore the fact that in the name of the god Centrism, she'll probably sign a few gratuitous tax cuts just because). It is very difficult to wrap my head around a level of narcissism and a provincialism of worldview that could leave someone unable to conceive of anything worse than…not getting more tax cuts. But probably getting more tax cuts anyway.

Really? You can't think of anything worse? You'll vote for literally anyone to avoid voting for someone with a proven track record of blowing up small countries (Which Old White People like!) and a level of fiscal liberalism about as powerful as Ronald Reagan's? I mean, I can think of much worse things than that. War. Famine. Genocide. Destruction of the planet. The breakdown of civil order. Worsening economic and social inequality. The loss of personal freedoms in the name of religious dogma. Paying full sticker price for a Dodge Charger. Really, any remotely imaginative person should be able to think of hundreds of worse things than four bland, middlebrow years of Hillary Clinton protecting the status quo.

But not your parents. For them, nothing could equal that horror. For some reason. Look, it can't be explained. Just because. Go clean your room.

NPF: NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

Posted in No Politics Friday on March 24th, 2016 by Ed

An anecdote of such great interest from Vincent Cannato's American Passage that I don't think my words can do it justice:

Frank Woodhull’s experience at Ellis Island began in 1908 when he returned from a vacation to England. The Canadian-born Woodhull, who was not a naturalized American citizen, was heading back to New Orleans where he lived. As he walked single file with his fellow passengers past Ellis Island doctors, he was pulled aside for further inspection. The fifty-year-old was of slight build with a sallow complexion. He wore a black suit and vest, with a black hat pulled down low over his eyes and covering his short-cropped hair. His appearance convinced the doctors to test Woodhull for tuberculosis.

Woodhull was taken to a detention ward for further examination. When a doctor asked him to take his clothes off, Woodhull begged off and asked not to be examined. “I might as well tell you all,” he said. “I am a woman and have traveled in male attire for fifteen years.” Her real name was Mary Johnson. She told her life story to officials, about how a young woman alone in the world tried to make a living, but her manly appearance, deep voice, and slight mustache over her thinly pursed lips made life difficult for her. It had been a hard life, so at age thirty-five Johnson bought men’s clothing and started a new life as Frank Woodhull, working various jobs throughout the country, earning a decent living, and living an independent life. Mary Johnson’s true sexual identity was a secret for fifteen years until Frank Woodhull arrived at Ellis Island.

Johnson requested to be examined by a female matron, who soon found nothing physically wrong with the patient. She had enough money to avoid being classified as likely to become a public charge, was intelligent and in good health, and was considered by officials, in the words of one newspaper, “a thoroughly moral person.” Ellis Island seemed impressed with Johnson, despite her unusual life story. Nevertheless, the case was odd enough to warrant keeping Johnson overnight while officials decided what to do. Not knowing whether to put Johnson with male detainees or female detainees, officials eventually placed her in a private room in one of the island’s hospital buildings.

“Mustached, She Plays Man,” said the headline in the New York Sun. Despite her situation, officials deemed Johnson a desirable immigrant and allowed her to enter the country and, in the words of the Times, “go out in the world and earn her living in trousers.” There was nothing in the immigration law that excluded a female immigrant for wearing men’s clothing, although one can imagine that if the situation had been reversed and a man entered wearing women’s clothing, the outcome might have been different.

Before she left for New Orleans, Johnson spoke to reporters. “Women have a hard time in this world,” she said, complaining that women cared too much about clothes and were merely “walking advertisements for the milliner, the dry goods shops, the jewelers, and other shops.” Women, Johnson said, were “slaves to whim and fashion.” Rather than being hemmed in by these constraints, she preferred “to live a life of independence and freedom.” And with that Frank Woodhull left Ellis Island to resume life as a man.

That's a pretty powerful statement of how limited the prospects in life were for women in the 19th Century. Not much has been written about Frank Woodhull, but you can find the archived original news stories with a simple Google search.

HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN

Posted in Rants on March 24th, 2016 by Ed

Donald Trump and his supporters are absolutely right about one thing when it comes to immigration.

Hold on. I'm going somewhere with this.

It is correct to say that in the United States, and to an even greater extent in Europe, existing laws on immigration are poorly enforced. What they don't understand, though, is that immigration laws have never been enforced strictly, here or elsewhere. It is today and always has been a matter of political expediency to write strict immigration laws and a matter of economic necessity to enforce them with great laxity.

During the first great American hysteria over immigration in the mid-19th Century – the target of opportunity was the Irish, although over the remainder of the century it evolved to Italians, Poles, Slavs, and all nationalities of Eastern European Jews – restrictive immigration laws were passed not infrequently in Congress. And anti-immigration elites (and labor leaders like Samuel Gompers, who feared the dilution of wages) were regularly incensed to see how poorly those laws were enforced. Weak enforcement was, and is, no accident. During the Industrial Revolution, massive amounts of raw physical labor were needed to mine the coal, pour the steel, work the powerhouses, and many other varieties of hard, physically demanding, often dehumanizing work. Since few Americans could be found willing to work themselves to death for wages that ranged from mediocre to scandalous, the captains of industry of the day understood that they needed another source of labor. Eastern Europeans in particular – not a small of stature people by nature – were ideal candidates. And that's why I live in the United States right now, because sometime around 1910 a guy who looks kinda like me was willing to do literally any job for a chance to live here.

The country admitted millions of immigrants who should have been, by the strict letter of the laws, sent back to Europe. But big business has a tendency to get what it wants in this country, and they wanted bodies. Waving those bodies through the gates without too much regard for immigration laws first made our economy great, then made our society great.

Things are no different today excepting the direction on the map from which the immigrants are arriving. Business needs low cost labor for manual and other unskilled work. Political populism demands strict immigration laws to keep the nativist and xenophobic tendencies in the electorate satisfied. Everybody with power gets what they want – politicians get votes, industry gets labor. In a rare example of wants coinciding, the immigrants get what they want as well. As best anyone who has studied the matter now or historically can determine, what they want is little more than a chance to work like dogs for very little money in return for living here.

So, Trump is not wrong when he says immigration laws are enforced haphazardly. What he is too thick or too politically savvy to mention, though, is that people like Donald Trump are the exact reason that this situation exists. Capital wants labor, and American teenagers are not going to pick fruit in 85 degree heat for 14 hours per day with little complaint. If immigration laws were enforced at the level of the employer – imposing severe penalties for any workplace found employing undocumented immigrants – the problem would disappear. Of course that option is not on the table, because everyone in a position to affect these matters understands how crucial that low-wage labor is to our economy. Those guys stand in the Home Depot parking lot every morning at sunrise because someone is going to give them money in exchange for work, not because they enjoy the view.

The incentives are today what they have always been: win votes with rhetoric and laws, keep the cheap labor coming – and the money flowing – with indifferent enforcement. If our economic oligarchs didn't want and need immigrant labor, the wall would long since have been built.

WORD CANNON

Posted in Rants on March 22nd, 2016 by Ed

I put a lot of effort into plowing through the transcript of Donald Trump's open ended interview with the editors of the Washington Post, and then more into trying to think of what to make of it. Despite the fact that it will be unpleasant, please do try to read it. You have to see it to believe it. It's…it's nothing. It's like a cannon that fires random batches of words at people. A representative passage:

HIATT: But just – given the Supreme Court rulings on libel — Sullivan v. New York Times — how would you change the law?

TRUMP: I would just loosen them up.

RUTH MARCUS: What does that mean?

[Crosstalk]

TRUMP: I’d have to get my lawyers in to tell you, but I would loosen them up. I would loosen them up. If The Washington Post writes badly about me – and they do, they don’t write good – I mean, I don’t think I get – I read some of the stories coming up here, and I said to my staff, I said, “Why are we even wasting our time? The hatred is so enormous.” I don’t know why. I mean, I do a good job. I have thousands of employees. I work hard.

I’m not looking for bad for our country. I’m a very rational person, I’m a very sane person. I’m not looking for bad. But I read articles by you, and others. And, you know, we’ve never – we don’t know each other, and the level of hatred is so incredible, I actually said, “Why am I – why am I doing this? Why am I even here?” And I don’t expect anything to happen–

"What would you do?"

"Something."

"What's something?"

"I don't know, I'll have to ask someone else."

About a third of the country is really excited at the prospect of this person getting in the White House.

OK, one more excerpt, the telling one:

But—and honestly, you know part of—I always say we have to be unpredictable. We’re totally predictable. And predictable is bad. Sitting at a meeting like this and explaining my views and if I do become president, I have these views that are down for the other side to look at, you know. I hate being so open.

So we should have a mentally unstable egomaniac – the Joker, in essence – running the military and the world's largest nuclear arsenal. You gotta keep 'em guessing! Be random and unpredictable so they never know what we might bomb the shit out of next! Who's "they"? Ah, it doesn't matter. We are best served by the rest of the world thinking we are lunatics, like North Korea.

I don't even know what to say anymore. Read the transcript and if any part of you is not deeply alarmed by it, go to hell. This is like the Battlefield: Earth of presidential candidates – if you don't understand immediately and on a fundamental level why it's terrible, I'm not going to be able to explain it to you. Just go away to one of the places in this country set aside for garbage human beings. Try Mississippi.

CAN'T FIND THE WORDS TO SAY

Posted in Rants on March 21st, 2016 by Ed

Most of the rants you will encounter about The Kids These Days focus on their supposed sense of entitlement, their sensitivity, or their shortening attention spans. Over the past five to eight years I've noticed consistently something much more worrisome.

Having taught an Intro to American Government course at least three times per academic year, and sometimes four, for some time now I know which parts of the course students will get easily, which ones will take a little more effort, and where some of them will fall off the bandwagon. Increasingly I've come to realize from blank stares that there is a basic problem in some cases with understanding the language I use in class. I don't mean that I have a dense accent or that I mumble; I mean over time I've realized that entire classes of students will be ignorant of the definitions of fairly basic terms. For example, I have had entire classes – and it's not just that they don't want to speak in class, since I call on them and try to make them come up with an answer – unable to define the following:

– Deference
– Meritocracy
– Contentious
– Bicameral
– Substantive
– Precipitate (as in to cause an event)

Of those, only bicameral could be considered a Term of Art unique to the subject. The others are just..words. They're words that I use without conscious thought and the idea of any adult high school graduate being unable to make sense of them doesn't occur to me. And without getting into specifics, this is merely a sample of words I have to stop and define routinely and for which entire classes are unable to divine the meaning. On an individual basis I get asked to define words on an exam or in a lecture all the time, some of which…I mean, if a student does not know I'm glad that he or she asks to have it defined, but…I've had to stifle the "Are you serious?" reaction a handful of times. You would too, trust me.

The issue is, I have no desire to talk down to college students, treat them like kids, or dumb things down to reflect lowered expectations. So part of the problem might be that I simply talk to them like adults who are in college – at a good school; not Harvard, but certainly no worse than Good – and that assumes that they came to college with a basic level of knowledge from high school. Given what goes on in high schools, that may be a flawed assumption. On the other hand, part of me looks at that list and thinks, c'mon…

So add to the litany of problems with The Kids a shrinking vocabulary. Despite the anecdotal nature of this post, the data reinforce my conclusion – vocabularies are getting worse with time. It may not be rocket science; students' attention spans shrink, the amount that they read decreases (unless you count Snapchat, YouTube videos, and memes), and they simply aren't exposed to many attempts to communicate with them on an adult level in writing. And that's where you learn words. You learn them by reading, and reading things that aren't crap. We simply don't do that much anymore as a society. It shows.

GO YOUR OWN WAY

Posted in Rants on March 20th, 2016 by Ed

The Republicans are getting more frantic about the prospect of Trump winning their nomination. Various semi-secret "meetings" are being held to consider increasingly desperate-sounding options – a Cruz-Kasich "unity ticket", convention shenanigans, rule changes, and so on – and that hardly can be interpreted as a positive omen. When a group of people priding itself on refusing to change finally gets around to admitting that there is a problem, it's likely already too late. But what if they do succeed in coming up with a means of denying Trump the nomination? Aside from those riots he has promised, the assumption is that Trump would continue as an Independent candidate. If he's as rich as he claims to be, certainly he could afford to do so (especially given that he doesn't have to pay for media exposure).

The problem with the Trump-as-Independent (or some GOP savior running as Independent after Trump secures the nomination) is the fundamental issue of ballot access. Every state and territory has its own rules and deadlines for who can appear on the November election ballot. The Republican Convention is scheduled for July 18-21, by which point 11 states' deadlines will have passed.

Deadlines

Go ahead and try to conceive of a scenario in which a Republican or Independent Trump wins the election without being on the ballot in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina. I'll wait.

That would leave two remaining options. The first is to run what would be at least partially a write-in campaign. Texas, with its early May deadline, at the very least would end up requiring write-ins. The second would be to use an existing third/minor party that has already secured ballot access. Even this Hail Mary strategy is problematic, though. The Libertarian Party leads current U.S. third parties with ballot access in 34 states. That's less than 2/3 of the states. The Green Party isn't going to help (and is in only about 20 states). The wingnut Constitution Party would be a logical home, but they're barely in a dozen states (they claim 15, although other sources list fewer).

The upshot is that Trump as an Independent, assuming that his quest for the GOP nomination is thwarted (if at all) at the convention in mid-July, would be running solely as a spoiler. He wouldn't even be on every state's ballot, and the idea that he's going to win an Electoral College majority with a mishmash of write-in and Independent votes borders on silly. In any scenario in which Trump and another Republican are both running it's inevitable that they will split the right-wing vote and lead to a Democratic blowout in the Electoral College. If you have wondered what the Republican Party's strength would be without the Tea Party, this will provide the answer.

I can't wait.

BEEN THERE

Posted in Rants on March 16th, 2016 by Ed

I really like Bernie Sanders.

Beyond liking him I have great respect for how well he has done in this election. On paper we would not expect the campaign of a 74 year old Jewish Vermonter who has been in Congress for 25 years to get a presidential campaign off the ground let alone have some success. He has energized left-wing voters and raised issues that need raising, requiring the other candidates (especially in his own party) to take those issues seriously. His presence has been nothing but a positive.

Long-time readers know my feelings about Hillary Clinton. I have no opinion about her as a person but border on despising her as a politician. I don't care to sift through all the Election 2008 posts to prove that to you if you're a new reader, but now in 2016 I feel no differently about her. She's a weathervane, an neoliberal on economics, and, like her husband, more than willing to get in line with the interests of neocon foreign policy hawks and law enforcement when she feels it will benefit her. She has the "right" position on a lot of issues too, but the amount of baggage it comes with is substantial.

All that said, at this point it appears very unlikely, although not impossible, that Bernie Sanders is going to win the Democratic nomination. Before you get in a tizzy about crooked rules and superdelegates, be aware that Clinton leads Sanders by a considerable margin in pledged delegates. That is to say, if there were no superdelegates she'd still be winning. We saw in 2008 that superdelegates are a bandwagon crowd when both candidates are viable. They backed Hillary until she started losing; when Obama took the lead, they backed him. Were Sanders to take an Obama-like lead this year, I firmly believe they would jump ship on Hillary again. They're in it to pick a winner, not to impose their will on the Democratic Party or pay back favors to the Clinton family.

Upcoming primaries on the West Coast will feature states in which Sanders is likely to be strong. Needing nearly 60% of the remaining pledged delegates to catch Clinton in that category makes his victory unlikely at best, though. He doesn't just have to start winning every contest, he needs to start winning every contest handily. It's possible. But it's not probable.

As that becomes increasingly clear, here comes the flood of "If _____ doesn't win the nomination, X% of (Democrats/Republicans) will not vote for (actual nomination winner)" stories. You've already seen them. We saw them in 2008, when Clinton supporters allegedly were going to vote for McCain or not at all rather than Obama. We saw it in 2012 with every GOP contender's fans and Mitt Romney. And it's all bullshit. It's a false narrative. People say, mid-Spring, that they're so mad they won't vote for Clinton if Sanders loses. They'll throw tantrums. Then they'll get over it, and by November they'll show up and vote for her. They won't feel good about it. But that doesn't matter, practically. Everyone who has been through more than one election cycle realizes that this process is not one that feels good or that gives us our ideal preferences. It's one that gives us two choices and we pick the one who isn't a complete lunatic. It's a bad system; at present, however, it is our system. I don't like it. Nobody cares whether I like it.

If life was about getting what we wanted and having great choices, we wouldn't be getting out of bed at sunrise to go to work right now. I don't like Hillary Clinton, nor will I feel particularly excited about voting for her, but when the other candidate is running with the support of actual white supremacists you just kind of suck it up and pick the less-bad one. The amount of white privilege that goes into a statement like "I'd rather stand on principle and end up with Trump than blah blah blah" is too obvious to dwell on here. If you lack the self-awareness to understand why, ask someone who isn't white and when they're done silently loathing you maybe they'll explain it and help you out.

In the end – of the election process, that is – there are some people who will waste their vote on a third party candidate who isn't going to win or skip voting altogether. That's their right, obviously. But despite Republican wishful thinking claiming otherwise, the vast majority will get over it and vote for Clinton. Especially when Sanders, as every major party candidate in memory has done, endorses the frontrunner and asks his supporters to support her moving forward.

I understand how they feel, the Sanders people. In 2000, my second presidential election, I was a staunch Naderite. I know all the arguments because I've made all the arguments, about principle and corporate Democrats and how the system won't change if we continue to reward it. That was 16 years ago. The current Republican candidate(s) make George W. Bush look like FDR. The stakes are high, and this is not a joke. We have to live with what happens here, whether it is our ideal outcome, an outcome we don't like but can live with, or one that puts some of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues at risk of having to hope for the best under a candidate openly supported by and supportive of neo-Nazis.

In reality it probably won't matter; Trump is going to get blown out regardless of what you or I choose to do as individuals. But on the off chance that you live in one of the handful of places where your choice might actually matter, think hard over the next few months about how much your Principle is really worth to you. Pay close attention to Trump/Cruz and ask yourself if you can't summon the strength to vote for a lame, DLC corporatist Democrat to decrease the chance that those men won't soon have control of the White House with a pliant Republican House majority.

Choose wisely.

SECOND VERSE, SAME AS FIRST

Posted in Quick Hits on March 16th, 2016 by Ed

If you're looking for interesting non-fiction reads you could do substantially worse than Vincent Cannato's American Passage: The History of Ellis Island. It gives a good historical overview of the island itself but, more interestingly, a tour through 19th and early 20th Century nativist / anti-immigration movements in American politics.

The striking thing is to compare historical examples to the modern equivalent on full-throated display through the Trump campaign. The rhetoric of anti-immigration rabble-rousing has not changed in 150 years. Not one bit. A simple ctrl-F find and replace for the relevant nouns – Irish, Italian, Oriental, Mexican, A-rab, etc. – would fit the material seamlessly into any period in American history. And this is true across classes as well, from the highbrow arguments about "stock" and "moral tone" from your Henry Cabot Lodge / National Review types to quasi-economic "They Took Our Jorbs" rhetoric to the lowest kind of racism and xenophobia. The modern anti-immigration movement is the latest iteration of an ideology that hasn't had a new idea in two centuries. If the "terrorist" angle feels new, refresh your memory on what "anarchist" meant in the context of Gilded Age politics.

Most ideas evolve over time, if only incrementally. You almost have to admire the immutability of xenophobic rhetoric. Almost. It's like the Rock of Gibraltar of being an asshole.