FITS THE DESCRIPTION

I saw something shitty last week.

I'm at an event with thousands (literally) of high school teachers and college faculty. I was sitting in the lobby drinking coffee at a convention center when a man walked in. He was old. And black. He looked really disheveled. But that's hardly out of the ordinary. He had crazy, untamed hair (common among Old Man Professors; 10% of the men here have his haircut). He was dressed very badly, essentially in an untucked rumpled shirt and pajama bottoms (We are all extremely dressed down, because we have very long days and the emphasis is on dressing strictly for comfort; I haven't worn pants without an elastic waistband the whole time).

He had no badge, so the security guard – note that this was a locally staffed person from a temp agency, unaffiliated in any way with the event or its organizers – told him he couldn't come in. He explained that everyone has to come in without a badge the first time because you have to go inside to register and get your badge. You know. Pretty logical.

I had just done this exact thing the previous day. Thousands of other people did it too. The vast majority were disheveled. Many were also old. Many were also dressed like hobos. But few were also black.

The security guard kept telling him he could not enter, and finally he just came in. He had explained himself at least three times. She kept physically getting in front of him and trying to block him. He said multiple times, don't touch me. She did not. But she went into full, SIR, I'M ASKING YOU TO LEAVE mode. Within 10 seconds she was on a walkie-talkie calling for a police officer. A cop showed up.

So here, for the millionth time, an armed police officer was brought to confront a black man doing exactly nothing wrong, and exactly what everyone around him was also doing. The cop did not do anything. But he was there, and armed. Even if there was a 0.0001% chance the situation could have gone badly, that's 0.0001% higher than when I walked into a bland convention center to register for an event I was invited to be at. And odds of 0.0001% eventually get someone if this scenario is repeated often enough.

The whole time I'm watching this and thinking, this is how people end up getting shot. The wrong cop shows up on the wrong day in the wrong mood and confronts something less than total obedience from a black man and the tasers and guns come out, or someone ends up face-down on the ground with a knee in their back, or someone ends up in handcuffs.

There was no reason at all for that cop to be there. And it's not his fault he was there; it was his job to show up when called. The problem was that another middle aged white woman looked at someone and concluded that because he is a black man the police needed to be summoned.

Stop calling the police on black men who aren't doing anything other than existing. Thanks.

OUT OF TOUCH

Universal health care – in whatever flavor one envisions – is a popular idea and Democrats had success in 2018 with many congressional candidates who emphasized it. So it's extra puzzling why the national leadership is so timid about embracing it. Everybody understands that it's not something that could be accomplished with a magic wand or without concessions in the legislative process; but the inability / unwillingness to at least declare confidently "This is a goal we have, we want to achieve this" is really telling. Alex Pareene (ex-Wonkette, for those of you into that) has a great take in The New Republic regarding the incomprehensible "let's try to please everyone" position congressional Democrats are trying to stake out on prescription drug prices.

I mean, even Trump gets this. He runs around saying "We need lower drug prices!" He's not doing anything to actually bring that about, and in fact he's done as much to protect the pharmaceutical industry as any president including George W. Bush. But he gets that people want to hear it. He gets that it's an almost embarrassingly easy political point to score. "Let's lower those drug prices!" Nearly everyone who isn't a pharma executive or salesperson can relate! Easily!

Instead – segue! – they're stuck in their inevitable, terminal cycles of technocratic fixes that A) nobody understands and B) are obviously designed to protect drug industry profits because the biggest priority seems to be not upsetting drug companies. And that mindset, the mindset of tweaks and tax credits and complicated, unworkable, Wall Street friendly administrative nightmares, is one the party absolutely needs to get beyond. Samuel Moyn's review of the new book by Cass Sunstein makes this point well. As Mike Konczal notes, "It is dangerous to approach the economy – now, with so much on the line, with the threat of the far right near – as a set of glib information problems, instead of one shot through with instability, massive imbalances of resources, deprivation and pervasive private power."

How they are not campaigning by shouting "The drug industry sucks! Nationalize that fucker!" is beyond me. They're letting Trump – DONALD TRUMP – beat the from the LEFT on this issue. The nature of our policy making process, of course, makes it impossible to guarantee delivery on such a bold promise. But for fuck's sake, will someone at least aim a little higher? Give people something aspirational to think about? A higher ideal that speaks to people in language other than bureaucratic "Well first we'll set up some exchanges" kind?

Of course not. Let's just nominate Joe Biden instead and try to guilt the Democratic base into being excited about it. Worked great in 2016.

THE RABBIT HOLE

A random Twitter user named Gwen Snyder offered the world a simple observation that more or less blew half of the internet's mind last week.

As someone who gets contacted / threatened by a lot of random weirdos, Gwen apparently got fairly adept at checking people out on Facebook to see what kind of nut she's dealing with. I get a lot of weird contacts too, although nothing that ever made me legitimately worried that I might be in danger – more the 'obsessive internet guy who wants attention' variety. But I do usually look at profiles when someone is really pestering me; not the one comment telling me I'm an asshole type, but the kind that sends private messages by the dozens. Usually it's obvious with one glance that the guy (it's usually a guy, but surprisingly not always) is standard issue alt-right garbage. Lots of Facebook timeline posts about white genocide, lots of "snowflake" memes, etc.

Gwen points out something I never knew, which is that if you look at which pages a Facebook user has "Liked" it lists them in chronological order. This is different than the "likes" a person makes on regular posts – it doesn't track those in any way other users can see. But if you like pages (Chicago Bears, Gin and Tacos, CBS News, whatever) it lists them in the order you liked them. So she found that it was easy in many cases not only to see that the person bothering her is now into the white nationalist discourse, but how they got there.

She takes us through the example of a guy in Philadelphia whose "likes" began with normal "middle aged urban white guy" preferences – the local news networks and newspapers, local elected officials (both parties), Philadelphia sports teams, and some generic "we support our police" type stuff. Then he discovered Fox News and everything changed. Soon it was a parade of Fox News personalities, then the more prominent right-wing internet presences that Fox promotes (Turning Point USA, Ben Shapiro, Brietbart, etc.) Then came the hardcore Trump sites – not just Trump himself, but the "we love our hero president" meme factory groups on Facebook. Then, especially once he crossed the threshold into Breitbart territory, came the explicitly far-right / white power stuff.

It literally tracks step-by-step the process of this guy becoming a white nationalist threatening to kill people on Twitter, whereas he was once a normal Average Joe who liked going to pancake breakfast fund raisers for the local Fire Department and thought his Democratic mayor wasn't half-bad. We've all seen people we know go through this process but couldn't really quantify it. It turns out that Facebook tracks the evolution pretty systematically.

Fox News absolutely is a gateway drug. It's not just what Fox itself covers – it's the way it introduces addicts to the broader universe of the right wing internet. And it doesn't take long before the user is introduced to the Harder Stuff. The journey from Fox & Friends to explicit white supremacy is surprisingly short.

As Gwen demonstrates toward the end of her thread, this kind of progression doesn't go unnoticed. Her "friend" was identified quickly by local white power groups in Philadelphia and followed on Facebook. They know a good potential recruit when they see one – and they know where to look.

SECRET SAUCE AND THE SUBURBS

I had a lot of fun with the latest full episode of Mass for Shut-ins. Amanda Kolson Hurley visits to talk about her new book Radical Suburbs, which looks at various attempts at creative urban planning in the suburbs. Unfortunately we don't like to learn anything as a nation so more often than not suburbs have either terrible planning or (more often) none at all. But some people are starting to come around. More people than ever are thinking about all that Gray Space, all those empty malls, all those parking lots, all those eight-lane roads nobody can walk across.

There's also one of my favorite tales about a very rich man who was very obsessed with eating and became extra-very obsessed with a particular sauce. What he did to get a taste of it is pretty amazing even by Gilded Age standards.

Hit the link to listen through your browser, or subscribe on iTunes/etc.

MISSING THE POINT

If you follow on Facebook – and have been following for a long time – you probably recognize the name Chuck McKiernan, which is the online alias of a long-time reader and friend. He was suspended from Facebook for 72 hours recently for posting the following comment:

Of course when Facebook says "Someone from our review team confirmed…" what they mean is, we have some kind of algorithm that caught this. Because if a human, at least any human conversant in the English language, looked at that comment they would understand it immediately. Read it. Is anything even remotely unclear about the meaning or context? A child would read that and understand that it is sarcasm. This is the kind of thing that appears (or at least appeared!) in middle school English textbooks to demonstrate the concept of satire. Take a ridiculous claim and pretend to take it seriously to emphasize how silly it is.

On the other hand, Facebook recently announced in the wake of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack that it will begin cracking down on white supremacist content on its platform. Predictably they announced that for public relations purposes and then it turned out that the policy is toothless window-dressing. For instance, Facebook confirmed that Canadian white supremacist Faith Goldy's videos about "white replacement" and "Eurabia" and various other prominent white nationalist tropes is…A-OK. So Facebook will crack down on white supremacy as long as the content explicitly shouts THIS IS WHITE SUPREMACY or WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO COMMIT ACTS OF VIOLENCE FOR WHICH WE WILL BE YOUR INSPIRATION FOR LEGAL PURPOSES. It's the cheapest kind of head-in-sand denial, like insisting that something isn't racist because it doesn't include explicit racial slurs.

I've gone to Facebook Jail a couple times, always for something utterly ridiculous and innocuous. Social media cannot self-regulate. Its mechanisms and policies for doing so are broken, the worst possible combination of denial of their real problems and comical over-reaction to minor issues. Did your post mention "Self Harm" in even an obviously unserious way? Ban! Did anything you said make someone else feel bad? Bullying! Ban! But if you want to take videos of Notre Dame cathedral on fire and doctor it to include audio of people shouting "Allah Akbar!" and distribute it…well, that's fine. No issues there.

When a major industry demonstrates conclusively that it cannot regulate itself there are only two choices. One is to throw up our hands and let them effectively set public policy by allowing them to regulate themselves. The other is to regulate them.

CENTRAL TENDENCIES

Every writer has an "idiolect," or a personal vocabulary of distinguishing words that they use a lot, or common words they use hardly at all. For example, Shakespeare rarely used the word "also" for some reason. In all of his writing the word appears a total of less than 40 times. His contemporaries used it as much as we use it today, which is to say: constantly. Shakespeare, for reasons known only to him, just did not use the word much. Maybe he didn't like it, or maybe it reflects some extreme hyper-local dialect of English he learned.

One of the things that stands out about my own writing is how often I use the word "accordingly." Another thing I say a lot – intentionally – is "modal."

I apologize in advance if this is information you already know, but I've had the experience several times in the last year of very intelligent people – editors, journalists, people in the publishing industry – send me edits on things I've written indicating that they are not clear what modal means. It is possible that in an academic field in which everyone is used to dealing with data sets I encounter that term regularly enough to assume it is common. But when people who know the language highlight it and say "This isn't clear, please explain" it obviously is less common elsewhere.

I say "modal" a lot because when people say "average," they almost always mean "modal." It's a pet peeve. Allow me very briefly to explain the most familiar measures of central tendency in data and explain why you see a certain kind of news story in political journalism that incorrectly substitutes average for modal.

Average (or mean) is widely understood. Add up the salaries of a group of 10, divide the sum by 10, and that is the average salary. Unfortunately average is also used in non-data contexts as an adjective meaning "ordinary" or "common." That is bad.

Why? Well here's a true story – of the 11 players on my high school football team's defense, our average net worth today is well over $5 million. Seriously. Ten of us make totally unremarkable incomes doing normal jobs, and the eleventh guy made over $50 million playing in the NFL. On average, we're all worth seven figures!

So, averages can be very misleading. Especially in smaller sets of data.

Median is the middle value that divides a set of observations in half. If the median household income in the US is $56,516. That means 50% of households earn less and 50% earn more. Imagine every observation in the data lined up in a row; the median is the one right in the middle.

While the median household income is $56,000, the average is $79,000. See? High values – people making billions of dollars – skew the average toward the right (on a simple graph).

That brings us, finally, to mode. The mode is the most commonly observed value in a data set. This generally is only useful – but then tends to be the most useful – when the data are categorized subjectively. For example, say we decided to categorize households as Rich, Middle Class, and Poor based on some subjective cutoff points. Count up the total number in each category; the one with the most is your mode.

Another great example of when mode is useful is academic: grades. Say the Dean wants to know how my students did in a course. There are 20 students. I calculate everyone's grade as a percentage of all possible points. I say, "The average grade was 80%." But what does that mean? There are almost infinite combinations of 20 percentages that will average to 80%. Maybe 16 students got 100% (A+) and 4 got 0% (F). Maybe all 20 got exactly 80% (B-). A better way to reflect the performance of the class would probably be to say, 16 students got an A+. But 4 students enrolled and never showed up, so they got an F.

That brings me to the reason I think about this daily: news stories about the "average" voter in the United States.

There is no "average" voter because several of the important variables for "measuring" voters are categories like race, gender, educational attainment, and so on are not continuous values. You cannot "average" race or the attainment of degrees in the American electorate. What you could do, just as one example, is to say that 44% of the electorate falls into the category of "White, no college degree." Therefore, the "Cletus Safari / Diner Enthusiast" guy constantly being interviewed in the media is not average; he cannot be. He is the modal American voter, as long as the criteria of interest are race and education.

It's a petty hill to die on, and most people understand fine what is meant in common usage when a journalist refers to the "average voter." But it is incorrect as well as silly – because we have a perfectly good term for what he or she actually means.

wE’rE a rEPuBLiC nOt A dEMoCRacY

15+ years and I believe this is the first-ever use of lowercase letters in a post title. Groundbreaking! Thank you for sharing this important moment with me.

I have a minor hit up at The Baffler about the most irritating phrase chanted by right-wingers and what it means. I don't want to spoil things for you, but it doesn't mean anything.

Even if you don't read it, I can't exhort you in strong enough terms to click through just to see the graphic. I promise you will not be disappointed. Try it right now.

See? I wasn't lying.

QUIT LIT

Internet-era tradition mandates that upon departing from academia, one must write the equivalent of a “Goodbye cruel world” note, a vituperative recounting of the lengthy list of slights, wrongs, and injustices we begin compiling on the first day of grad school. This genre is sometimes referred to as Quit Lit. I have no doubt that anyone who knows me expected the Quit Lit equivalent of Remembrance of Time Lost, filling volumes. I am sorry to disappoint. There's no anger, just a bit of sadness.

I like teaching. I like being a professor. I’ll miss it. I think I’m good at what I do, so in a sense it feels like a waste not to do it any longer (although who knows what the future holds). Academia will not miss me; there are hundreds of talented people out there waiting to fill a void on the tenure track. That, fundamentally, is the problem.

The thing called “fit” is real and the job market is abysmal, especially for people like me who are middling at best on paper. I am by any measure extraordinarily fortunate to have landed a tenure-track job, any tenure-track job. That said, it was a bad fit. I was not happy and I didn’t want to be there. Ideally I could have moved on to another institution where the fit might have been better. Unfortunately I could not make that happen.

If you read no further, before I tell the longer version of this tale, I want to emphasize that my colleagues at various institutions have all been kind and professional. My department chairs were fair and reasonable. The students were, well, students. That comes with the territory.

What this all boiled down to is that it was massively detrimental to my health and well-being to live in a dying Rust Belt city by myself. And my “solution” to that problem – moving to Chicago and driving seven hours round-trip to work – was never anything but a stopgap that negatively affected me in different ways.

***

In the fall of 2011, in what has been an annual ritual for the past decade, I applied for all of the available academic jobs in my field. For some reason I actually got several interviews that year. Unnamed School in Peoria, IL, interviewed me early in the process and offered me the first and only tenure-track job I’ve ever been offered. I took it, obviously.

Everyone in academia tells you, “Take the job. You have to take the job.” Tenure-track jobs are rare, hard to get, and almost universally seen as the end-all of academic existence within the field. The logic behind the advice is hard to dispute. However, there is a big catch: everyone else only has to tell you to go there; YOU actually have to do it.

People have attempted to debate me on this – usually people living in Chapel Hill, Athens GA, Portland, Boston, California, Atlanta, and the like. – and I have no desire to debate it any further, but I knew the second I visited for the interview that Peoria was going to be bad. Anyone who lectured me that it’s “not that bad” or whatever, all I can say is: knock yourself out. Move there. Move there by yourself at age 33, no kids and no spouse. Let me know how your mental health is after two or three years, and what your social life is like. There is nothing to do and nobody to do nothing with. Faculty who move there with a spouse or kids do alright. Faculty who do not tend to have a pretty rough time.

There are dozens of medium-sized cities just like it and they are all the same. Everyone with the ability and wherewithal to leave leaves. You are left with people who can’t get out, are too old to leave, or both. The economy is dying and gets worse every year. Again, if you choose not to believe me on this point there’s nothing more I can say except, go give it a try. In the summer of 2012, that's what I did.

After three years of living there, I was miserable and it was affecting the way I interacted with everyone around me. I was irritated and irritating. Unpleasant to be around. I spent ungodly amounts of time on social media, just to try recreating the feeling of interacting with other people. I didn't want to be, at less than 40, a grumpy, shitty old man who others disliked working with or being around.

In a Hail Mary bid to improve things, I moved to Chicago in 2015 and began commuting. Felt better immediately. I think I got back on track as far as being effective at my job and easier to work with. Not being depressed all the time helps, it turns out.

However, my routine was both a vast improvement on living in Peoria and untenable as a long-term strategy. For the past four years, I wake up at 4-something on Tuesday morning, drive three hours, teach 3 classes, spend Tuesday and Wednesday nights sleeping in my office (which, believe it or not, is poor quality sleep), teach 3 more classes on Thursday, then drive home 4 hours with traffic. I get home around 9 on Thursday evenings and essentially passed out for that night and half of Friday. It's tiring. I live out of a suitcase, factoring in the trips down to Texas on weekends to see Cathy (for whom and for whose patience I am eternally grateful).

I chose to do this. It was better than my alternative. Still, I was tired all the goddamn time and drinking the equivalent, between coffee and energy drinks, of 8-10 coffees worth of caffeine per day. My blood pressure went up 30 points in the first 2 years. I was happier, which was great. But I also knew I couldn't do this forever.

In 2017, I reached the real decision point, which was Tenure Time. Either I was making a commitment to the university – including moving back to Peoria – or I was moving on. After ruminating for what seemed like forever, I decided I was not moving back there or, more importantly, spending the rest of my life in a place that was deteriorating even in the short time I was there.

I also made the decision in the summer of 2017 that I was not going to get another academic job. I still wanted one, but I concluded that it was not going to happen. Too many excellent candidates fighting for too few jobs, and no way for me to really stand out among them.
So, I needed another plan.

I stopped doing my academic research altogether. Couldn’t see how it would benefit me anymore. If x publications didn’t get me a job, x+1 wouldn’t either. Instead, I decided I would use my last 1-2 years at the university doing the teaching part of my job – I never slacked on that, and gave it 100% to the last day, which is today – but replacing the research and “service” (don’t get me started) with trying to ramp up a writing career. When I made that decision I had never been published in a media outlet (only self-publishing) and I had never been paid to write anything, ever.

I was starting from scratch and not at all confident that I could make it work. But I decided I had to get creative in finding ways to generate income for myself. With the help of Mike Konczal, my best friend going on nearly 3 decades, I got in touch with some editors and pitched a few freelance pieces. Once I got the first one, everything felt easy after that. Ten-plus years of blogging made me pretty effective as a writer within certain subject areas and in a particular style. The money isn’t great but it’s something. After two years of this I’ve published over 50 pieces, slowly increased what I can get paid for it, and established some useful contacts.

More importantly, I devoted a lot of time to finally, finally putting together a book proposal for a non-academic book. I’ll say more about that when the time comes but the simple fact is, “a writer” is all I’ve ever really thought of myself being. If I do not try to make a go of it now, I never will and I’ll always regret it.

I also started a podcast, another thing I talked about forever but never tried. “Talk about it a lot but never try it” is a bad habit I fell into for, oh, 35 years. I started it from scratch and was surprised by the modest but tangible success I have had with it.

Neither podcasting nor writing freelance pays a lot. However, in less than 2 years from the moment (summer 2017) I decided to change directions, I am making about what I made as a professor. Let me quickly point out that this says a lot more about academic salaries than anything else. In seven years the faculty at my institution got two 1% raises. Think about that, and ask yourself in what other profession that would be considered acceptable.

***

Long-term, I have no idea if this works. I could end up tending bar, doing this forever, or magically landing another teaching position. Or all three. I don’t know. I’m 40 and I don’t know if what I’m doing will work. Fortunately I have no kids or spouse to support financially. I can take the risk. Writing and telling stories are the only things I’ve ever really been good at, fundamentally. Now's the time to see what I can do with that.

Academia is a weird thing. I began grad school in 2003. From 2003 until today, all I’ve done or thought about doing is being a tenure-track professor. And make no mistake, being a tenure-track professor is just about the greatest job in the world. But there's more to life than a job, and that's the rub if you're not an elite academic: you can get A Job, but you can't get a really good one. You can maybe be competitive for the ones that people who have a choice in these matters do not want. I ultimately decided against sacrificing all the other parts of my life to have what amounted to a middling academic job, living in a crap place and making the same salary for 40 years. I kept asking why I would do that and I had no answer.

Teaching is great. I will probably find some way to teach again – a community college course here or there, or whatever – in the future because I will miss it. I will not miss the politics of the profession and its delusions of "meritocracy." I will not miss having no leverage over what I get paid, where I live, or any other conditions of my employment. But despite those sour notes, I will miss being a professor. I’ll miss the classroom, the students, the colleagues, and the conferences even though all could be frustrating as well as rewarding.

Thanks for hearing me out, if you did. Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way, especially my faculty mentors during grad school, Marjorie Hershey and Ted Carmines. Thanks to everyone at University of Georgia who not only temporarily employed me as an adjunct but also helped me on the job market and in my career in every way I could have hoped. Thank you to everyone who put up with me in Peoria; the department deserves a colleague who is 100% committed to being there instead of looking for a way out and spending as little time on campus as possible – and they have one now. That is better for everyone, including me. I will miss going to the office, but I will not miss sleeping in it. I'm exhausted after four years of this, and the three years of talking to myself that preceded it. This whole interminable experience was unhealthy and wore me down mentally and otherwise. I am happy for it to end, despite all the things I will miss.

I’ve said enough over the years about the things about academia that suck. People tolerate the lows because the highs are great. My last day and last class are still going to be sad. I feel extremely strange about this, because I have spent so much time – nearly 20 years – focused on Being a Professor. The adjustment to life beyond that is not going to be without turbulence. It is possible, and I am living proof of this every day, to make a decision that is equal parts painful and absolutely necessary.

Let’s see what happens next. I’m excited.

100% ODDS

I have a new podcast episode – a Minicast about a small group of Lotto Enthusiasts who tried to guarantee themselves a jackpot by buying every single ticket in a Virginia lottery in 1992. We've all wondered about that at some point. Can it be done? Only one way for you to find out. And I know you're curious.

I use this anecdote when introducing probability in my research methods courses. Don't panic, though. I removed all the math for your listening pleasure. Get the episode on iTunes or listen through your browser via Stitcher.

ASS BACKWARD

I hate to refer specifically to the comments of a writer I actually like – whose writing about why nobody On The Internet owes people their time helped me a great deal when this stuff was getting less fun for me – but there's a Twitter thread that captures a lot of what's wrong with liberal/centrist politics right now. She's hardly the only person to make arguments like this. It's just recent, and got a lot of circulation due to her high profile.

To summarize briefly if you don't care to wade through the entire thing:

1. Pete Buttigieg is good and we should like him even though his stances on the issues are bad
2. Bernie Sanders is bad ("cancelled") even though his stances on the issues are good

As best I can tell, Mayor Pete is likable so it's OK if he takes crappy positions aimed at appeasing the white suburban 50-plus Democratic base alone. Bernie is mean, or was mean to Hillary, or has supporters on the internet who are mean, or something, so it doesn't matter that he is about the only elected official standing up for something the writer of that tweet claims is important (felon re-enfranchisement).

This isn't about liking or disliking either Buttigieg or Sanders. That's not relevant right now. What makes this worth reading is that this is just stupendously dumb logic. It is so completely and obviously backwards that I will just assume anyone who agrees with this line of thought realizes it is illogical and just doesn't care.

The issue of letting the incarcerated vote (in the 48 states that do not currently allow it) isn't even a policy proposal; it's a question that came up during a media appearance. It is an absolute slam-dunk for any Democrat seeking to demonstrate that they as individuals and the party as a whole takes criminal justice reform seriously. Instead, most of them did what they always do and back down to appease uneasy white suburban voters. Two years from now they'll be asking, "Gosh why didn't black and hispanic voters turn out to vote for Mayor Pete? We tried everything!" To someone like this author, a Philips Exeter alum, it might seem self-evident why Pete deserves the benefit of the doubt. To the rest of us worried about the future, he just sounds like a guy who doesn't know what he stands for and reads West Wing monologues.

Issues are important to a lot of people. Not the symbolism of having a president who is Cool and Smart but won't actually advocate for anything. If that's the goal, nominate Beto or some model from the fashion runway. Nominate a celebrity everyone likes. If the candidates' positions don't matter, then go all-in with that theory. When the only thing that matters is that the elected official has a D next to his or her name, you get Rahm Emanuel and Andrew Cuomo. You have to be pretty goddamn comfortable in life, and thus unaffected by their worship of the status quo, to think that's the best we can do.

I get that a lot of voters, perhaps even a majority of voters, make decisions based on subjective Likability stuff that is nonsense. But there are a ton of candidates available, some of whom qualify as Charismatic or Likable and some of whom qualify as people who actually support useful and creative policy ideas. It is way, way too early in the process to decide that there's no chance to get a candidate who has both, so we need to simply accept another smiling empty suit and resign ourselves to platitudes.

Lastly, the phrase "There is no perfect candidate" is quickly becoming the "It's not a democracy, it's a republic" of people who support shit candidates. It is beyond obvious that no candidate is perfect; that's not an argument in favor of supporting a bad one when there are so many options available. If the car is rusted out you don't shrug your shoulders and say, "Well no car is perfect I guess!" You look at one of the other cars on the lot. If the rust bucket really does turn out to be the absolute best option available, somehow, then buy it. But be very wary of anyone telling you to suck it up and buy it because that's not merely as good as it gets, but it's as good as things ever CAN get.