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DEMOCRATS, THE CLIMATE CRISIS, AND THAT OLD SOFT-SHOE

Did you catch the Democrats on Cable News Network the other night discussing the climate crisis? Too bad—you missed some great dancing. Not a debate, but a return to a series of town halls where they interact with the studio audience and a moderator but not each other, it seemed to be set up in the early summer pyramid format, with the front-runners in the middle, sloping downward to the least popular candidates in the polls around teatime and closing time at the disco, save for Amy Klobuchar, who somehow bogarted her way into the middle past Kamala Harris, who I heard had some droopy polls, but nothing that would put her below Klobuchar’s 2%.

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AND THE SIGN FLASHED OUT ITS WARNING : THE DEMOCRATS DEBATE, NIGHT FOUR

I got everything done yesternight in time to get the TeeVee on in time to watch a little punditry. The big topic of the moment was whether Kamala Harris would reprise her assault on Joseph Biden; after a few modest spins on conventional wisdom, somebody said that she had better not, she had better watch her backside, because now that she had become a frontrunner of sorts, somebody, probably Tulsi Gabbard, would be coming for her. Give that woman Prophet of the Year.

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WHY DON’T YOU AND HIM FIGHT? THE DEMOCRATS DEBATE, NIGHT THREE

And finally it was time for another debate to help America choose the Democratic presidential nominee for next year’s election. I’m never sure who sets each debate up—The network? The party? Some nonpartisan commission of wise men?—but this time the debate moved networks, to CNN. This time they modified the drawing procedure to ‘seed’ the top four candidates so that two would be on each night, and—surprise, surprise—Joseph Biden ended up onstage with tormenter Kamala Harris and the two leading progressives, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were on together the first night.

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AND BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON WE WEPT: NIGHT TWO OF THE DEMOCRATIC DEBATES

So off we went. Again the evening began with pocketbook issues, which this time were not met with the same sort of discursive quasi-opening statements as the previous night. In other words, they mostly answered the questions they were given, yet another minor miracle in American politics. They all pretty much agreed on this, as they did on health care, though this night said topic, instead of morphing into a discussion of abortion, stayed, roughly, on topic. A show of hands of those who wished to abolish private health insurance got two takers, Sanders and Harris, but everybody raised their hands for covering illegal (or, as Democrats insist on saying, ‘undocumented’) immigrants.

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MY JAW DROPS—IT’S NIGHT ONE OF THE DEMOCRATIC DEBATES

Then came one of the most singular moments of American debate history, when the moderator called for short answers to the question of what is America’s biggest threat, and, amazingly, they all followed instructions, the downside being that, having slept through shorthand class, I can’t tell you what candidates Castro and Ryan said. However, Inslee brought the house down by saying ‘Donald Trump’, Delaney went with China (but ended up babbling on about how it was really Iran), Klobuchar went along with China, as did Booker, but Klobuchar threw in Iran, Booker climate change. De Blasio thought it was Russia, Gabbard nuclear proliferation, and Warren and O’Rourke went with straight climate change, no chaser.

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MEET 5 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

Don’t worry about my health or losing sleep.  Despite the affair beginning at my supper hour and continuing on past my bedtime, thanks to the miracle of the digital video recorder, I didn’t lose a minute of sleep; in fact, I may have gained a few minutes when Bernie Sanders started in explaining what he meant by democratic socialism.  So, herewith, my report cards for all five of them, presented in order of appearance, which I’m guessing was a pyramid with the most popular in the polls getting the middle spot and working downhill to my suppertime and bedtime for the less popular.

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OUR WORST PRESIDENT

The chart of presidential greatness was nicely delineated into “Great”, “Near Great”, “Above Average”, “Average”, “Below Average”, and the two “Failures”, Grant and Harding.  As for the greats, in my memory those were FDR, Lincoln, and Jefferson.  Near greats were ones such as Old Hickory, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ike Eisenhower.  I was quite surprised that George Washington not only didn’t make the greats, he didn’t make the near greats, and I believe he had actually slipped down into the average group, I am sure to the chagrin of my elementary teachers.  Finally, about the time I applied for Medicare, I read a book which explained the phenomenon to me, so I’m hip to the jive now, but at the time America’s great myth had not been punctured to me.

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BERNIE SANDERS AND THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

In 1972 one could buy a board game called Who Can Beat Nixon?  I never succumbed to the very real temptation, and I imagine that it might have been a nice investment for sale on eBay these days, but I suppose that each player selected a primary candidate and off you went campaigning.  That the game was thought to have commercial appeal is an indicator of how much Democrats wanted to get rid of Dick Nixon.  There has been something of that level of obsession in the party for succeeding Republican presidents, perhaps excepting Ford and Bush 41, but I think never with quite the urgency that I sense toward The Donald.  And, indeed, the polls, for now, are showing that Democratic voters are valuing electability over ideology.

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I LOVE A PARADE, OR, HOW MANY DEMOCRATS, PART 2

But punditry took this very seriously and reacted with a spate of commentary bewailing that the Democratic Party’s supposed leftward lurch had made it all too difficult for a ‘pragmatic’ Democrat to win the nomination (in case you’ve missed it, the media’s favorite dichotomy this year is ‘Socialists’ vs. ‘Pragmatists’ in the Democratic Party), a subtheme being that the head-in-the-clouds Socialists think, presumably mistakenly, that The Donald is so unpopular, so beatable, that a true progressive can be elected and get to work on a real Left agenda.

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HOW MANY DEMOCRATS IS ENOUGH?

I’m not sure how we even get to two dozen as of now.  Time featured fifteen of them on its cover last week, and even one or two of those weren’t actually Democrats—I’m never sure where to put Michael Bloomberg.  When one got around to the actual article, their fifteen plus everybody else who got even a passing mention didn’t really get us up to two dozen, but perhaps we’ll get a stray state legislator or two eventually.

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HAPPY OLD YEAR’S DAY 2018

Another year over, and what have we done? Yes, 2018 is at an end. We can look back at the past, and forward to the future, and celebrate an arbitrary date chosen to begin a new year – January 1. People will make (and break) resolutions, promise things will be better in the new year, and proceed to do the same things the way they always do them, because the new year isn’t magic. There is no reason to expect things will change, because New Year’s Day is an imaginary day…oh, the day actually exists, but there is no reason to believe things start over that day. It’s really just another day to which we have chosen to add significance.

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RIGHTS – HOW DO THEY WORK?

At a meeting today, I was listening to a millennial give a speech about important things. Really important things. And he had figured out they were important, which is sort of what he talked about at the beginning of his very important talk. He stated that his generation doesn’t know where rights come from. They just think they were part of the natural process, and that they will always be there. I sat up and took notice. Why? Because that is a phenomenon I have noticed myself. Not just about ordinary rights, either, like speech or religion or not having soldiers quartered in my home (I use that one every day, I tell you. Just yesterday, I had to turn away an army who wanted to camp out in my spare bedroom.) They don’t understand about the specific rights that pertain to them, the amount of work that went into gaining those rights, and the danger to those rights if we are not eternally vigilant. They have no idea that rights were not always there, or that rights could go away.

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I’M NOT POLITICAL

There is a strange phenomenon that I encounter on a regular basis – people want to talk politics! Oh, wait, no, reverse that. I find it strange when people living in a democracy, or more accurately a democratic republic, say “I’m not political”. They clap their hands over their ears if you so much as mention the local school board election; if you get to the level of Senators or Presidents, they will rudely hum, sing, or burp until you stop. They treat you as a pariah, someone weird and out of touch, if you know who is running for the City Council, and if you can name both of your senators, you are regarded as ready for the insane asylum, complete with straight jacket. Don’t even get me started on what they want to do to you if you can name senators from other states.

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Politics, Society6 for 2
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Does religious freedom mean the freedom to decide what kind of Christian you will be? Some people believe this – that religious freedom applies only to Christians. Others are somewhat magnanimous, extending that freedom to all the religious. Then there are actually those who think, gasp, that religious freedom extends to everyone, including the non-religious, and includes the freedom not to believe. (By the way, this is what the authors of the First Amendment believed, but you won’t find that in Scalia’s “original intent”).

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HAVE YOU BEEN SERVED?

The shunning of those who do not agree has a long history, dating back to as far as we have records. Refusal of service for those you dislike or disagree with has been on the Republican wish list for some time, and in a recent Supreme Court case, they got at least part of what they want (more on that in a later column!) when the court allowed a baker to refuse to make a cake for a gay couple. In addition, a number of so-called religious freedom acts have been enshrining the right of people to refuse service to those they disapprove of on religious grounds…usually same sex couples, but also women who want birth control, mixed race couples, trans-people, and any others who meet the definition of religiously unacceptable. Many on the left are using this as justification for refusing service – we’re simply doing to them what they have demanded. Just make it on religious grounds, some say. Others say they have an ethical imperative not to serve evil people.

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THOSE DAMNED COASTAL ELITES

Hi, there, “coastal elites”. A message for you from flyover country. I’ve been living here for most of my life now (like, decades!) and I have been watching with fascination as the pundits have been fingering you for being out of touch, misguided, and contemptuous of those of us here in the heartland. I would just like to add my voice to the mix, as someone who has actually lived in flyover country (unlike most of the people writing the pieces about flyover country, who have mostly flown over, and decided to stop over for a night or two and talk to the first six people they met before they hopped back on the plane to write a piece about flyover country from the enormous experience they had just acquired).

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THE DOVISH WING OF THE WAR ON TRUMP

About that time, I found myself wondering whether these street protests were going to become a regular feature of the Stable Genius’ tenure in office, as with the Vietnam and civil rights era protests; extended campaigns such as these require a considerable attention span and public stamina, qualities which meseems are difficult to find huge quantities of in America today.

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