Sunday, November 11, 2018

Nationalism is the opposite of patriotism--French President Macron

"It is autumn. There are not many of the old hands left. ... He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come." Erich Maria Remarque.

"Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. ... You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun." Dalton Trumbo.

One hundred years ago today, at the eleventh hour, the guns fell silent in the greatest war in history till then. The European hegemony was over. But past was prelude and the worst was yet to come, due to economic disparity, isolationism, imperialism and nationalism giving rise to a whole class of people left feeling hopeless, ready to take an insane gamble on lying demagogues such as Hitler and Mussolini who with reckless promises of a return to greatness, transformed the displaced into cultists. Thus the mindless, chanting masses became fervent fascists thanks to the control of information by the state, whereas the real press became the enemy of the people.

President Trump cancelled a scheduled trip to lay a wreath at the Aisne-Marne American cemetery of fallen Marines and soldiers 50 miles from Paris yesterday due to some rain, and instead spent six hours of free time at his suite doing nothing. Meanwhile world leaders Macron, Merkel and Trudeau made trips to cemeteries and battlefields a similar distance away to pay respect to their fallen soldiers.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The 2018 Election Cycle

The recent elections were a great success for the Democrats, and a needed palliative for the stressed Republic.  The results irreversibly set the Republican party on a downward spiral where it will have to re-invent itself in a number of years, a sad state for the great party of Lincoln, our greatest president.  It's going to have to grow a backbone, develop or remember a sense of principles first and maybe read or re-read the blueprint for our country, the constitution.

The great achievement of all the Democratic volunteers and voters who came out was to win a double digit majority in the House in order to achieve a much needed and hitherto not present check on our out-of-control, incompetent faux president.  It is unfortunate that there really was no realistic path to retaking the senate for the Democrats, leaving in place the outsized influence of the extreme-right Federalist Society, which controls the list of judges promoting some sort of Christian understanding of and application of the law that is primarily underlaid by some personal belief in a biblical sense of justice in our secular nation, that the lazy president uses exclusively to nominate judges to the federal bench.  The Democratic success in the election lies in how close the party kept the Senate ratio in preparation for the 2020 election, which presents a far more favorable path to the Senate majority for the Democrats.

On a national scale, Democrats flipped seven governorships while losing none of their own, six state legislative bodies were flipped from red to blue and about 300 individual state legislative races replaced a Republican incumbency to a Democrat, boding well for the party's future.  In Virginia's eleven Congressional Districts, three districts were flipped from red to blue despite the extreme Republican gerrymandering of districts after the last census, including the one I worked on where Democratic challenger Jennifer Wexton ousted Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock in a formerly rock-solid safe Republican seat.  The ratio of Virginia representation in the House switched from 7-4 Republican to 7-4 Democratic.

Individually, I delighted in the turning out of his governorship Scott Walker in Wisconsin, a union-busting, lying ("As long as I am governor, I will always cover pre-existing conditions.") GOP SOB in Wisconsin, and the flipping of my boyhood home of Staten Island from red to blue, thereby eradicating the last Republican Congressional District in all of New York City.  I have been disappointed in the apparent results coming out of Florida and Georgia, where racism, and corruption and racism, have driven the incomplete results so far.  Unquestionably, Tuesday was a great day in the struggle to make America great again after a couple of extraordinally dark years.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Flipping the Tenth: The first congressional seat to flip.

Election day dawned raining steadily and I drove to my assignment handing out sample democratic ballots at the River Bend Middle School polling place 35 miles west in Loudon County.  I stood under a temporary shelter shoulder-to-shoulder with my republican counterpart for three hours, handing out blue sample ballots while Mark handed out green sample ballots as voters approached the precinct.

My encounter with Mark was amicable, after all we're both Americans although we were diametrically opposite politically (he voted against republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock in the primary in Virginia's Tenth Congressional District because she was not aligned closely enough with Trump, although she voted in accord to his directives 98% of the time) and we would ask voters as they passed by if they wanted a sample ballot, blue for democrats or green for republicans, and offer forth our respective samples and the voters would take one or the other or both or decline altogether in a very interesting dynamic.  Usually voters would make a beeline for one ballot or the other, giving the undesirable ballot a small but noticeable berth, while a few voters would reach out for both, although they were the same except for color and the oval darkened next to either the democratic or the republican candidates.  Mostly older persons, especially men, would take the green ballot and younger persons, especially women, would take the blue ballot, all unfailingly polite although a few had stern looks at me, or Mark.

At least three times a family with trailing children would come up and the man would take the green ballot while the woman would come over and take my blue ballot, and then the family would enter the voting place together.  Then my relief came and I drove home to watch the returns, happy to end my canvassing and polling in an effort to contribute to flipping the Tenth, in order to present a check to the ongoing abuse of presidential power that the republicans in both houses have refused to do.  And the first returns were good, as the Tenth was the very first congressional seat to flip from red to blue, within 45 minutes of the polls closing.

As the night progressed and the democrats proceeded to take the house by double digits some disappointment set in, such as when the racist gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis (he referred to his African-American opponent as a "monkey") was voted in by Floridians, but also the union-busting Scott Walker lost his governorship in Wisconsin.  Ultimately, the president lost the house massively and thereby received a needed reality check to his king-like countenance and imperial demeanor and actions such as setting in place policies to tear children from their mother's arms at the border and caging them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Flipping the Tenth: The day before

The Monday before election day I canvassed in Virginia's Tenth Congressional District to the west of me for three hours, completing my assignment of knocking on 47 doors (or at least walking by them) in the hopes of speaking to 75 registered voters inside those houses.  I was working a list that had been worked for the two days prior, with notes of conversations the Jennifer Wexton campaign volunteers had with persons who opened their doors and check marks for the designation, Not Home. My instructions were to knock on every door in the hopes of speaking to a person in those Not Home houses, and to converse again with those who had been actually contacted either or both of the two days before.

I was dubious about re-canvassing houses where the people had already said the day before that they were voting for Wexton or against Barbara Comstock, the two-term republican Congresswoman. My common sense doubt proved itself at the first two houses where occupants answered.  At the first, a child answered and declared who I was and who I was working for and asked to speak to her mother.  The young girl went off to get her mom, leaving the door ajar. A moment later the door invisibly closed and I heard the lock click.

At the next house where the door opened, a trim well groomed elderly man listened to my preamble and came out on the porch with a hard look on his face and announced that this was the third day in a row "you people" have come by and noting my University of Colorado cap I graduated from that university), said "You must have come straight from Colorado [where they have legalized recreational marijuana], been smoking' that weed, and think that if you bother me enough times I'll do what you want.  Take me off your list!"  My thoughts flashed back to my second day of canvassing where such a menace-laden situation had developed suddenly and the occupant threatened to shoot me.  I learned a long time ago (during my policeman days) that the best initial response is deescalation and I hurriedly and pointedly made scribbling marks on my clipboard, and looked up at him and winked.  His visage softening a little with hints of mirth, he said, "I have never voted for Comstock but by God this could put me over the edge.  Now, when you leave, young man, be careful going down those stairs so you don't fall or I'll surely get sued."  I apologized, said I could understand how he would feel annoyed, lamely blamed all those voters who stayed home in 2016 because the outcome was so "certain" and, uh, I was merely following orders.  We got to talking about old times and departed a few minutes later as friends waving goodbye to each other.  But I thereupon junked the experiment of chatting up yet again persons in houses where a pollster had already talked to the occupant(s) that weekend, marking the Not Home box as I walked by the house.

This quickened the completion of my dedicated list on this rain-soaked day, and all other persons I spoke with were positive and some even grateful that I came by.  I am very encouraged and fairly confident that this district will vote blue today after four decades of being in the republican column.  My reward for my final canvassing effort in the Tenth was running into my Congressman Don Beyer at the Wexton HQ, about to go out and canvass himself for Wexton.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Flipping the Tenth: The final Sunday

On a beautiful fall day I travelled twenty miles outside of the beltway to canvass in Virginia's Tenth Congressional District, held by the GOP for four decades. Not after tomorrow!

In an affluent compact subdivision of narrow culture-de-sacs sprouting off secondary through-roads like buds off a branch, I knocked on 59 doors in the hope of speaking to 81 registered voters and had a response from about half the houses.  The energy to vote was palpable as, unstated, a referendum on Trump two years in.  The door-answerer in a couple of houses gave me guarded, laconic answers to my conversational questions about how they were inclined to vote and I got the message to back off and I thanked them for speaking with me and left, realizing the favorable contrast of polite tight-lippedness to the unhinged threat to shoot me in the initial exchange, as happened to me further west in the district on my second day of canvassing.

I ran into a lot of pockets of fervent occupants on my dedicated who had plans for the whole household to vote for the democratic challenger Jennifer Wexton against the republican incumbent congresswoman Barbara Comstock. A man who answered at one house where I was seeking four registered voters said that he was a fifth occupant of the house, and all five were voting for Wexton.  Is that a signal of what's coming down tomorrow, or an outlier in this "safe" red district?

We're all Americans, and all (except for Indians) immigrants.  We all work together, and get together to point towards a greater future for our country, like the great cross-pollination of southerners and northerners, city-dwellers and rural boys, easterners and westerners in the great American wave of soldiers who swept across the Pacific and the Atlantic in WW2 winning that tragic conflagration by cooperating magnificently for a more humane world by the Greatest Generation, my parents and for many Americans, their grandparents.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Flipping the Tenth: The last Saturday

My earlier predominant impression from canvassing for democratic challenger Jennifer Wexton in Virginia's Tenth Congressional District, currently held by two-term republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, referred to in her district often as Barbara Trumpstock, was reinforced today when I knocked on 39 houses in an attempt to speak with 59 registered voters about committing to vote on Tuesday.  About half the houses listed on the dedicated list answered their doors and the motivation to cast their vote was palpable as many putative voters expressed an eagerness to vote and disclosed detailed plans to do the deed ("I'm going to vote at 6 a.m.  Thank you for coming, I admire what you're doing.").

I didn't have any tense interchanges, although one woman was watching me from inside her car at the curb as I walked up to her house, just drove away from me as I asked her child when she came out of the house after I knocked if her mother was around and she said yes, she's in that car, and I respectfully walked up to the car.  I'm just trying to save your nation for myself and mine and also for you and your child, mom, both minorities, and your child is very polite and you are very rude.  One man on the same block in this affluent subdivision 15 miles outside of the beltway, came out onto the porch when I stated my purpose in knocking and shook my hand, announcing that he was a republican but he was voting democratic "this one time."

One man recently here from Texas asked how Wexton was doing and when I said polls showed her up ten points, effusively said he was glad to hear that and he was voting for her.  I urged him to make sure he made a plan to do so and went on to another house where four voters were listed as occupants and I spoke to yet another occupant who said the four listed voters were out but all five of them were voting democratic.  On the other hand there were a couple of houses where the door answerers pithily said they had already submitted their private ballots and I got the message.

There were a couple of houses where I spoke to twenty-something potential voters and they both sheepishly said they didn't know anything about the issues or candidates but they would ask their dad.  Lame!  They'll live for decades with the choices imposed upon them by others, as the stacked supreme court will attest to, as the future slowly unfolds.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Flipping the Tenth: The penultimate weekend

When I came home on Saturday after canvassing in Virginia's Tenth Congressional District, working to unseat two-term Congresswoman Barbara Comstock from this seat held by the GOP for four decades, I walked in my house to the news that the worst attack on Jews in American history had happened even while I was knocking on doors to put a check on Trump.  In this political climate of hatred and divisiveness driven by constant odious comments from the top, now realized in murderous actions by lunatics inspired by such rhetoric, I knew I had to go west to canvass in the tenth again on Sunday.

The campaign HQ of Comstock's democratic opponent, State Senator Jennifer Wexton, was humming.  Delegates Jennifer Boysko and Kathleen Murphy were there to knock on doors for the candidate.  I received a list of 43 houses with 60 voters to go contact in a subdivision full of closed end blocks emanating off a windy main road.

The block long neighborhoods were full of houses displaying American flags, vehicles sporting Tea Party license plates, and barking dogs in yards and houses signaling that a stranger was on the block.  I always went to the end of each cup-de-sac and then worked my way back towards my car, knocking on the designated doors as I backtracked.  I generally got a favorable response, as there were several voters in households on my list who were motivated to vote the democratic slate, seemingly as a negative reaction to the president with Comstock acting as his surrogate on the ballot.

The only overtly negative response I got was at one house where I was speaking with a 20 year-old listed voter when his father came to the porch and intervened, saying the household knew the positions of the candidates and he'd already voted in response to their positions on partial-birth abortions.  His glare told me that he was not a Wexton supporter and I asked his son if that was his position too.  The young man announced that he was not voting because of all the "noise" out there and I thanked them both for speaking with me and walked away, wondering if I had just started a war in that household or perhaps inadvertently put a vote, the son's, in the Comstock column when his hard-visaged father got through with him.

Vote on November 6th!