Monday, December 4, 2017

Stop The Sh*t And Give Us A Future

“Could you do it any better, big shot?”

How many open receivers can a quarterback miss for you to start complaining? After a while, you get to thinking that the answer to the question is yes, even I could do it better, and that's not my job, I'm just an obscure retired Jewish pediatrician from Berkeley. Or at least I could have done it better when I was younger. The older I get the better I was.

But when it comes to politics, and when you look at the Democratic Party, you know, it's hard to think I couldn't do it better. Their proposed rally cry is “A Better Way.” OMG. Former RNC Chair Michael Steele, opined, “I don't know what the Democrats battle cry should be, but 'A Better Way' isn't it.” Then he guffawed quietly.

No fucking shit. Following the Clinton era's clearing of the field – they wrecked havoc on the party, IMHO, even before the electoral malpractice for which Robby Mook and others should suffer eternal banishment – the Dem gerontocracy comes up with that. The Bernie-Warren wing isn't much better. I got a fund-raising call the other day from a guy running against Republican Ed Royce down south. I asked him, “What's your platform.”

He said, “I'm the progressive in the race. I supported Bernie Sanders. I'm running on economic justice.”

I gave him a hundred bucks, but while “economic justice” is true enough and would be a dog-whistle to bring out the Bernie base, it's just not a national winner. It's oppositional. It's just like Hillary's singling out every group she could except straight white people and saying, “I'm for you.” If you're “for” somebody, then you're “against” someone else. Ideology doesn't win elections, and to my mind it really shouldn't. Quality of the leader and the specific policies are better indicators of future performance.

So OK, big shot, you don't like “A Better Way,” and you don't like “Economic Justice.” So, what would you do if you could be influential and not just an obscure Jewish retired pediatrician (OJRP) from Berkeley? (And by the way, if you are going national, don't say “Berkeley.” Kiss of death. Try “Oakland.”)

I think you need to go both negative and positive, and I think you need two slogans. Against something, but then able to say, what would you do? The negative one: “Stop The Sh*t.” The positive one: “Help For You To Help Yourself.”

Stop The Sh*t” isn't too mysterious. And the asterisk is essential, even if a bit coy. It brings a smile to the lips instead of a snarl, and it names what needs to be named in a mildly scatological phrase. Maybe someone would alter it to “Stop The Crap.” But that's the message.

The challenge would be to name the shit because there is so much. It's tempting to focus on the Trump persona, but focusing on it the way Hillary did would be to make the same mistake twice. The crassness and narcissism of this injured and twisted person is obvious and repellent, but that is not something to be dwelled upon. You really don't have to. In person, a few laugh lines maybe, like “I hate to be unpatriotic, but I think the NFL should respect the issue of concussions.” Rather, I'd treat the electorate as a jury, and follow the advice of a successful lawyer friend of mine. He never drew the conclusions for the jury. He just marshaled the evidence, made the argument, and let the jury fill in the last sentence for itself. It gave them a sense of working with him, rather than being told by him what to do. Much more powerful. In Revenge of the Suburbs, people can draw their own conclusions on his personality and character, they don't need you to tell them.

But what they do need you to tell them is the details of what this Administration is doing, the horrible details one by one by one. Don't drill down on legislative failures the way the analysts do in diagnosing a “failed Presidency,” because Presidents can do a lot on their own, and Trump is doing so. Now that the massacre of taxes has occurred, that charge looses its bite, anyway. This list is so long, so long, as doctors say when looking for white cells in infected urine, TNTC – too numerous to count. But you can't be intimidated. Break it down, spin it out, in a measured way – here's what they are doing to America. The things that affect us all first – EPA, Interior, and if they really spike NAFTA the way they threaten, the price of flat screen TV's. And by the way, use of private airplanes to get to private residences – just throw the spice in for taste.

The tax bill deserves unremitting attention. What they're doing to the poor, to the middle class, to those who want to get an education. And then what they're doing for the rich. It's pretty easy to make the case, really. How much Jared and Ivanka and Don, Jr. will make from the tax bill. More and more on Louise Linton kissing dollar bills. Don't hit Trump directly, just let it seep in.

And then conclude, “Stop The Sh*t!” And keep laying it out, time after time. It takes repeated hits with the hammer to drive that nail into the wood. Keep at it. Stopping the sh*t is pretty much all you can try to do in 2018, anyway.

That's the easy part. The harder part is the positive part, which might not be all that necessary for the possible wave election in 2018. But more will be necessary in 2020, beginning but not ending with with a decent candidate.

Which, then gets us to the positive. If I ran the zoo which is the Democratic Party, if I were, say, Mayor of Los Angeles or Governor of somewhere, I would lay out one important role of government, “Help Those Who Will Help Themselves.”

You start with stopping the sh*t, of course. Back to Obama on the environment, back to Obama on health. Government needs to do things for everyone – we all breathe the same air, we are all dependent on the same environment in a small planet – and we need to work together. We also need a policy for things everyone deserves, like not to be hungry, not to be fearful, not to be homeless, and not to go without health care. But beyond those two bedrocks – the common good and the basic human rights in our rich society – we need to provide for the welfare of individuals and the welfare of our future society.

The true infrastructure of our society is our human capital. Yes, we need safe bridges and better internet communication, no question. Yes, we could improve our highways – driving through Oakland and on the freeways around here is a disgrace. That would create jobs in doing the work, although it's not clear how much economic activity the projects themselves would promote, probably not much. We need better bandwidth and laws that will provide better and cheaper digital infrastructure. These extensive projects are worth doing, but what we really need to do is to promote a human infrastructure that enables those willing to work to improve themselves to do so.

OK, education and training have always appealed to me. But think not only of the righteousness of the cause, but who it would appeal to. Those left out communities who voted Trump. Those more conservative Hillbilly Elegy people – voters – who don't want to give money away to wastrels. Anyone who is concerned about the kids, and anyone who is in middle age and thinks he or she could learn and improve. Anyone who understands where the future lies.

OK, it would cost money. Reverse the Trump tax cuts. Just reverse them. We can't reverse the huge wasted outlays of the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War – thanks, Bush-Cheney, Trump hasn't completely erased the memory of your horrible Administration – but with outlays for education and training come true growth, not the false growth promised by trickle-down.

Stop The Sh*t And Give Us A Future.” Nice ring to it.

Budd Shenkin

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