A View From The Bottom

by Pat Raphael

One great benefit to the unscheduled life of a Street Person is the hours and hours available to do whatever we choose. It seems that only a person with much time to waste, has time to direct any attention to the clown college audition that some call the presidential race. Many of our friends and neighbors who are too tightly scheduled to see the race as we do, may value a view from the bottom, as we take a look at those seeking the highest office in the land. On June 7th, primary day, California gets their say at the polls. How will we vote?

While many are running for the office (over 1,500 filed intent-to-run paperwork with the Federal Election Commission), our process obviously does not give a damn about ideas outside of the two-sided coin we’ve always been offered — never mind that it’s the same coin, at least in Republican and Democrat we are appeased with the illusion of choice. For years now, politics in America has grown more polarized, and extremism has fully set in to the political parties. My view from the bottom is clear-eyed, so I won’t fall into the mental laziness of creating a false equivalency to spread blame on all sides. The left has their blame to bear: their timidity that often offers tepid go-along-to-get-along plans in the face of foamy-mouthed screamers of the right. The professor on the left with his facts and figures wants to convince your head, while the ol’ ball coach on the right only has to rouse up your emotions with a fiery speech. The prize for both is the “low information voter”, and it is clear that the pull from the right is more effective at setting the tone, and creating the agenda for both parties. In a primary process that has to contort through this reality, it is no surprise that these are the best from whom we’ll have to choose. [read all about it in this prescient 2012 analysis of our political system: “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism” by Thomas Mann].

On one side, enjoying all the ink that my pen bleeds — whether good or bad — the Drumpf. The king of the low-informationers, he has managed to create a political career out of screaming what the party used to whisper in hushed tones. The old tool was a dog whistle, and it took finesse to hear the very deniable tune being blown. The Drumpf has no use for subtleties, and his electorate has rewarded him for it. His new tool is an air-horn, and by not mincing words where a politician would cringe, he is left as the most authentic candidate still standing. Now he enjoys a fact-free-zone, cause even when the press call him on his crap, his supporters only see the ‘liberal media’ coming after their ‘truth-teller’.

On the other side, the decision was made a long time ago: it is her turn… she has waited long enough. She is the type of connected insider that Washington knows and loves — let the party line up behind her and raise her up as the first female president. Only one little pesky detail standing in the way: the American People and the electoral process. Now this Bernin’ bush is setting the primary process ablaze, and he is showing just how undemocratic the presidential (s)election really is.

These are the exact three people that the process deserves. Not what the American people deserve, because almost any other system would likely result in better candidates, but this is what our primaries produce. As we pay attention, we quickly realize that the whole process requires a page-one-rewrite. Looking first at the private political organizations (Democrats and Republicans), we see that giving this much power to private entities, creates too many artificial hoops for the candidate to jump through before ever standing in front of the people. Even after jumping through the hoops to get the party blessing, the candidate still has little room to be independent of any parts of the party platform. Then the voting begins, and quickly it becomes clear that the true electorate the candidate should be courting are the delegates and super delegates that are going to do the actual voting at the conventions this summer. Shrillary 2008 will tell you how unfair that this is, but in 2016 it is the Bernin’ bush left with the momentum and the votes, but not the nomination.

If after all this, you are inclined to cast a primary vote, which clown gets to graduate? Do you choose the biggest loudmouth? At least he’s not a politician. The biggest plus the Drumpf has in his favor is that he is an unknown. He seems to go with his gut, and he is offering his business acumen and marketplace instinct as proof that he deserves the highest office in the land. If you are sick of politicians who only say what you want to hear, he at least sounds like he doesn’t care about niceties. He has already secured his party’s nomination, so this summer be ready to hear about all his failed businesses, that he is lying about being a billionaire, about his father Fred the clansman arrested at a clan rally in central park. Then he will have to answer about the aggressive stance of his company’s real estate developments when it comes to displacing private property through the state power of eminent domain. Undoubtedly we will hear much about his trade policy and how much it will bring back American manufacturing jobs. Just don’t look closely and see where dozens of his products are manufactured. He ‘feels’ right, so it doesn’t much matter what the facts are. He will be the greatest jobs president simply because he says so. Drumpf wins: Trump/Powell 2016.

Or maybe risk is not your thing. You might want the status quo to continue plugging along uninterrupted. Maybe for you it is alright for the free-market policies of our republican-lite president to continue for a third term. In that case, Shrillary is your gal. Something about her sounds like every nagging girlfriend you’ve ever had, and her haters her really hate her. That is why she doesn’t have to move too far right, since ain’t no winning the fox noise crowd to her side. But in this bizarro political cycle that we are going through, this is one of her positives. She has been in the public eye for over twenty-five years, so there isn’t much about her that might surprise us. We either hate her or can tolerate her. It makes no sense to bring up her years of lovin’ (and going along) with every war the neocons have come up with, while throwing in a few of her own. From Libya, to Honduras, to Russia when her foreign policy judgement comes into question, we see just another hawk. The lawyer types may look at her business and all the millions she makes just for being a connected insider, and not see a smoking gun. For those types, that lack of hard evidence mean there’s no corruption. For everyone else, we wonder out loud why being in office suddenly qualifies her for tens of millions of dollars to speak on Wall Street — then we understand how the shrewd business men on The Street only invest where there is a potential for return on their investment. At that point it becomes clear that since we ain’t bought and paid for her, Shrillary is not our candidate. Shrillary wins: Clinton/Sanders 2016.

Now to the Bernin’ bush. The guy who has had power in Washington for decades. The ideas that have electrified his candidacy are nothing new. If you go point by point, you will see that he basically is restating the issues brought up by the occupy movement. In that sense the Bernin’ bush is just like all the other politicians: he is saying exactly what we want to hear (the same way we said it), with little mention of a clear path that will take us to the goals we hear in the speeches. Though I doubt his capacity to accomplish those lofty goals, rhetoric matters. In the same way that we give Drumpf sh/t because of his inflammatory rhetoric, we rightfully ask why does he think that these are the things he must say to attain political power. We are similarly encouraged that the Bernin’ bush thinks he has to mouth the speech of the people as a way into office. The sad reality is that our process does not have a way for a man (or woman) of the people to capture the public sentiment, and ride that into power outside of the blessings of the two party system. In the current state of our “democracy”, power is only granted after first traveling through the current power circuitry and if found acceptable, one is allowed to exist and to grow. It is obvious that the Bernin’ bush has not done so. Had he gone through them (or considered their prerogative), he would not set his sights on eliminating money from politics, or changing the current electoral process, or breaking up the banks, nor reforming their most profitable public-to-private pipelines of money such as healthcare, prison reform, and drug decriminalization. The Bernin’ bush presents an enticing option for those who want their vote to carry the weight of principles. The Bernin’ bush wins if he gets nominated, but we know that the process is not our own, and we are only allowed to play along in their game that they created. So sorry Bernin’ bush, no nomination for you. But as a weak consolation prize, you can at least claim to have advanced the dialogue to include the voice of the people. We’ll keep playing their game, then get pissed that they keep winning.

Most likely, Street People don’t have a damn left to give over this election. Historically turn-out has always been low for primaries, but even lower when by the time we get to the late primary states, and the process has already selected a candidate. Past election data shows that the lowest income segment, also has the lowest election participation rate. Perhaps the reason we do not want to get our hands dirty with so messy a process is because we are paying attention and see it for the undemocratic mess that it really is. My choice, I would pick the only candidate for president who have sat with me and smoked a blunt: Scroggie 2016 (scroggie16.com).

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