Mental Masturbation Disguised as a Candidacy

For a couple of weeks I’d seen Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig on the tube talking about a potential run for President. The election reformer in me liked what I was hearing. Then I heard a talking head, whose name I don’t remember, on Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast get really irate over Lessig’s proposition. Despite being liberal, she seemed practically insulted by what Lessig had planned. I found her over the top until I gave it more thought. 

Lessig’s idea is to have a referendum presidency. If elected, he would pursue one goal and one goal only, campaign finance reform including the overturning of the Citizens United SCOTUS decision. Once he has achieved his reforms he will resign, handing the presidency over to his VP. 

The idea, of course, is absurd. The world won’t stop while Lessig pursues his single issue agenda. Nations fight amongst each other. Natural disasters occur. Economies go in the toilet. What does Lessig plan to do while these events swirl around him? As far as I can tell, not a damn thing. 

And this is where I understand the Slate panelist’s irritability. As a country we’ve got big problems and we need a President fit to take them on. Lessig represents the bizarro-world polar opposite of Donald Trump. Where Trump has a “just trust me” approach devoid of intellectual rigor, Lessig is an egg head intellectual reinventing the presidency to suit his experimental parameters. 

Lessig has officially declared his candidacy and I, for one, wish he’d just go away. Running for president shouldn’t be some university social lab exercise. Intellectual masturbation should be confined to journal articles and talk shows. It has no place in running to lead a troubled nation. 

What do you think? The bar is open. 


Has the Dog Whistle Turned into a Bullhorn?

For the past several years, Republicans have been accused of engaging in dog whistle politics. They say messages that to the casual listener sound innocuous but carry a more insidious message only bigots and racists can hear. 

Along comes Donald J. Trump and his message is loud and clear. Illegal immigrants crossing our southern border, predominantly Hispanic, have many murderers and rapists among them. Now, to be fair, Donald has been repeatedly misquoted as applying this statement to ALL Hispanic immigrants. This was never the case. When he first uttered the statement in his announcement speech he was explicit about the target of his slur. 

I’ve long been puzzled about why law abiding Hispanics are not offended by people cutting in line. Why does their ethnic identification with these criminals override their outrage? (And make no mistake, illegal immigrants are by definition criminals. They may be some wonderful people but they’ve committed a crime by evading our normal immigration process.)

Then a famous poem by Martin Niemoller popped into my head:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Perhaps Trump’s message announced over his bullhorn has folks worried about the slippery slope? There are already folks on the right who have taken Trump’s message and broadened it to greater restrict legal immigration. There is now talk of ending birthright citizenship. Where does this notion, born of concern over the legitimate problem of illegal immigration, end? How much risk is there that Trump is sparking a toxic mix of nationalism and xenophobia? 

What is refreshing about Trump may also be dangerous. There is no guessing about what he is saying. He speaks clearly. There are no dog whistles. It remains to be seen whether what comes out of his bullhorn is good or bad for America.  

What do you think? The bar is open. 


BLM in the Hood

BLM in the hood, yo! Folks be gettin’ in the faces of gang bangers saying “stop the violence!”

Naaaah, I’m just kidding. The BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement doesn’t address blacks killing blacks: the leading cause of violent black death in the country. BLM doesn’t address ghetto crime which puts black bodies in the path of police bullets. BLM doesn’t address the connection between the black incarceration-new-Jim-Crow phenomenon and why blacks get in prison in the first place.

BLM is all about evil white supremacy and nothing about black self improvement. Most sane mothers tell their kids “you can’t control other people. All you can control is yourself.” BLM wants a change in others behavior but never talks about change in poor black neighborhoods.

On Larry Wilmore’s “Nightly Show” two out of three panelists were enthralled by BLM, one even claiming the leaders of BLM deserved a Nobel Peace Prize. One poor lone brother said “why don’t we clean up our own house first?” Of course he got booed.

The next time BLM disrupts a progressive candidate’s event, I hope the candidate pulls a Chris Christie and says “until you hold your own accountable, sit down and shut up.”

Now that we’ve lost Bill Cosby as a credible spokesperson, we need someone new to tell black cats to stop killing other black cats and then maybe the “white problem” will get a bit better.

What do you think? The bar is open.