Throw Your Vote Away

fissureTo say this has been an interesting presidential election season would be an understatement.  Regardless of who is declared president after the polls close three weeks from tomorrow, this is almost certainly a tussle that historians will pick over and analyze for decades to come, if not centuries.  They’re apt to do that when an election reveals deep fissures in society, as has this one.

But of course there’s more to it than that.  Donald Trump’s candidacy is not just about a political outsider emerging as the champion of ostensible insiders (mostly white males) who have come to see themselves as disenchanted, frustrated outsiders amid long term changes in the national economy, culture, and demography.

Among other things, it’s also about a startlingly unqualified person taking the reigns of a major party against the wishes of that party’s leadership; an unleashing of various bigotries that have forced comfortable Americans to stop pretending racism and sexism aren’t real problems; and the dramatic erosion of lines separating entertainment and politics.

Amid this whirlwind of upheaval, Hillary Clinton now seems very likely to win.  Our Lady of the Establishment looks ever more presidential, partly in contrast to Trump’s glaring ineptitude, but mostly because so many people find The Donald to be utterly contemptible.

Under more banal circumstances, her victory might have been most noteworthy for the United States electing its first female president nearly a century after the 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote.  under current conditions, it will now largely be seen as a moment when simple sanity held sway over startling lunacy.

Regardless of how high the stakes appear, however, there are still only two good reasons why you should vote for Hillary Clinton:

  • You believe she would be a good president
  • You don’t believe she would be a good president, but you live in a swing state and don’t want Donald Trump to become president

For these two reasons, tens of millions of people will vote for Hillary Clinton, and I applaud them.  I really do think it’s important we avoid the wretched shambles of a Trump presidency.

However, neither of these reasons apply to me or many other millions of voters.  When such is the case, we should recognize it and vote accordingly. Continue reading Throw Your Vote Away

Guest Blogger Scott Pilutik: Donald Trump’s Attack on the Constitution

Image credit: NRO (from out Donald Trump’s democracy-threatening moments is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.  But I fear some of his more egregious ideas are being normalized, and thus becoming progressively less dangerous-sounding the second, third, and thousandth time they’re uttered.

Two from last night’s debate in particular are worth mentioning: (1) Threatening to jail your political opponent should you succeed to the job, and; (2) Smearing defense lawyers with their client’s crime.

Neither critique is new.  “Lock Her Up” will be on the future K-tel greatest hits version of Trump’s campaign, and criminal defense attorneys are hardly strangers to populist condemnation (when you get a chance, thank Law & Order’s Dick Wolf for his malignant contribution to this perception).

However, threatening to jail your political opponents is a common feature of banana republics and dictatorships, and it’s sad that people feel the need to even point this out.  Sad!  Hillary Clinton was cleared by the justice department.  People need to get over it and be less selectively outraged.

Furthermore, when Trump hauled Kathy Shelton into his shit-flinging circus, he implicitly assailed the Sixth Amendment’s guaranteed right to defense counsel in criminal trials.   In 1975, Clinton was appointed defense counsel to the man Shelton accused of rape.  It’s the type of job that few people want, but which is absolutely necessary in a functioning democracy.

Our Bill of Rights contains a number of counter-intuitive features that are intended to cement boundaries that can’t be breached by the whims of majorities: First Amendment freedom of speech guarantees the right of even KKK members to march in a parade; the Fourth Amendment prevents illegally obtained evidence from being used against otherwise-guilty criminals at trial, thereby serving the larger goal of keeping police forces honest; and the Indy 500Sixth Amendment promises that no person will be left defenseless at trial, even rapists, murderers, and, say, Nancy Grace.

These and many other features were installed for good reasons by people who acutely understood the damage that results without such protections.

It is precisely these unpopular protections that “Make America Great,” and what made our Constitution the model for so many democratic nations.  The people who assume unpopular roles within the constitutional scheme are vital and, indeed, heroes.

Which is why it’s not only ironic but dangerous that Trump marches under the banner of patriotism while he promises to govern by his angry, impulsive id, and erode these protections.

Scott Pilutik is a lawyer and Rangers fan living in New York City.

Continue reading Guest Blogger Scott Pilutik: Donald Trump’s Attack on the Constitution

Talking to a High School Student about Racism

high-schoolRecently, a high school student contacted me because she had questions about racism in America.  Specifically, she wanted to interview me for a school project on the topic of institutional racism.

Institutional racism is a tricky subject, and I did my best to introduce her to the complexities and nuances of something that often flies under the radar.  Many white Americans are unaware of the issue, or have trouble understanding it if they are aware.  And so after I answered her questions, I decided to re-print our Q&A.

Here is my conversation with a high schooler about racism in America.


Thank you very much for helping me with my project by taking the time out of your day to answer a few of my questions on the following questions/topics.

How do you define institutional racism?  And how prevalent would you say it is in modern North American society?

We normally associate racism and bigotry with the intentional actions of an individual or group of people.  But institutional racism is the result of larger social forces that can be difficult to detect.  Instead of one person or a few people doing or saying something racist, institutional racism comes about when society at large expresses racism in more subtle and impersonal ways. Continue reading Talking to a High School Student about Racism

One More Thing: The Trump Revolution Will Not Be Televised

the-establishmentOn Monday I published an Open Letter to Trump Supporters.  I tried to reach out, not as a Clinton supporter (I’m not), but as someone concerned that Trump presents some unique flaws and weaknesses.

I published the essay at 3 Quarks Daily as well as here.  Particularly at 3QD, which has a much larger readership than my site, I got a lot of interesting and robust feedback in the Comments section.  Really good dialog from smart people on all sides of the issue.

It now occurs to me that while I touched on a lot of good points in my effort to engage Trump supporters, I actually failed to address the one issue that will resonate most with many of them. Continue reading One More Thing: The Trump Revolution Will Not Be Televised

An Open Letter to Trump Supporters

open-letterLet’s be honest.  This probably  isn’t the type of website that attracts many Trump supporters.

But that’s not just a Public Professor thing.  It turns out that online or off, most Clinton supporters have minimal contact with Trump supporters and vica versa.  It’s a national phenomenon that speaks to the profound geographic and social segregation of partisan America.

Indeed, it’s probably a bit pointless for me to post an open letter to Trump supporters here.  But honestly, I’m not sure where else to turn.  After all, I don’t get to hoist monthly essays onto any Republican-leaning websites, and what follows is bound to be a bit too long for that modern day version of a Letter to the Editor, the beastly maelstrom known as a Comment Section.

So if you happen to be among that slim minority of Clintonistas who has real and meaningful interactions with Trumpatistas, feel free to share this with them, he said, like pen pal in want of a postman.

Dear Trump Supporter:

I get it.  Clinton supporters can be insufferable, condescending elitists. Continue reading An Open Letter to Trump Supporters

On Not Having Children

Forgot ChildrenDuring your 20s and 30s, when you don’t have any children, it is inevitable that people will periodically ask you: “Do you want to have kids?”

It never mattered who asked.  Family, friends, or lesser acquaintances, men or women, married or single, parents themselves or not.  I always had the same answer.

Yes, just not now.

During my mid-30s, I began to append a caveat: If I didn’t have any children by age 40, I probably never would.  I didn’t want to be an old dad.

But the realization, that I’d rather not be a middle aged gray beard huffing and puffing while I try to keep up with the little rascals, opened a door.  Whereas I’d previously assumed I wanted kids, just not now, the 40 year old expiration date I adopted forced me to question my pat answer and ask myself if I really wanted them at all.

After spending a couple of decades saying Yes, but not now, I finally realized something.  There was never a “now” because I never actually wanted them.  And I probably never would. Continue reading On Not Having Children

The Two Party System is Officially a Nightmare

Teenager For BarryMuch has been made of the fact that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two most loathed presidential candidates since the birth of polling.  Each of them has managed to alienate roughly half the country.  About a quarter of Americans despise both of them.  They make Barry Goldwater, Michael Dukakis, and Mitt Romney look beloved.

There has been a lot of focus on why these two candidates are so widely reviled.  Simple partisanship doesn’t seem to adequately explain it; fewer than a third of American view either of them favorably.

The Washington Post and ABC News tell us that Clinton-haters typically see her as a corrupt, untrustworthy flip-flopper, while Trump-haters hate too many things about him to list here, but it largely boils down to him being perceived as an inexperienced hatemonger.

Fortune magazine dispenses with the specifics and instead points to Clinton’s and Trump’s long and choppy resumés as repulsing the masses.  Despite whatever accomplishments they may have racked up over the years, the thinking goes, voters simply can’t get past the many “bad” things each candidate has done.

However, I’m less concerned with why exactly these two candidates are so widely detested.  On some level, the why doesn’t really matter; what’s more pressing, I believe, is the how.  In terms of American political mechanics, how could this happen and what does it mean?  How did we get here, and what can we learn from it?

The one common mechanical process in almost every aspect of American politics is the two-party system: an extra-constitutional artifice that long ago hijacked government.  And it is through those double swinging doors that we have stumbled into our current political purgatory.

This bi-polar orgy of villainy signifies that America’s two-party system itself is badly broken; indeed, this scenario might not have emerged if there were additional healthy political parties.

Let’s start with Donald Trump. Continue reading The Two Party System is Officially a Nightmare


orange catHotter.  I need it to be hotter.

I’m sitting in the backyard of my sister’s carriage house apartment in Orange, California, a circle of jolly boutique and micro brew quaintness amid the sprawling shit hole that is Orange County.

Of course nowadays, most any place in America afflicted by people is a shit hole.  Indeed, even a quotient of the unpopulated spaces is beginning to emit a fecal stench, as if the human foulness emanating from the peopled portions of our nation is so strong as to waft and stain everything around it, like a halo of shimmering, homo sapiens stank.

I want it to be hotter.

After all, there are no more distinct places in the United States, or precious few at any rate.  Instead, there are just types.  The urban playground loaded with bars and restaurants, and kickball and skeeball leagues for childless 20- and 30-somethings; the poor and working class black and brown food deserts that gird the yuppies and empty nesters; the little towns hemorrhaging people, stragglers holding onto the local bar like shipwreck survivors grasping a buoy in the ocean; the increasingly opulent college towns full of precious students, microcosmic training yards for the urban playgrounds; the tourist spots offering up overpriced drinks and glossy nostalgia; and all of it bound together by highways, those endless concourses of fast food, gasoline, and the occasional pile of roadkill.

But all of those types are just islands scattered about the uber-type, that oceanic wasteland of suburbia and its relentless waves of roads, strip malls, and tract housing, repeating itself over and over again like the backdrop of a cheap 1970s cartoon where a boring bipedal cat, arms outstretched, chases a smarmy little mouse who’s certainly got it coming, but predictably manages to perpetually escape the fanged horror it deserves, thus prolonging the crankshaft repetition of house tree fence; house tree fence; house tree fence . . . Continue reading Hotter

Why You’re Going to Vote for Trump and How You Can Win a Free Ticket to Mexico

2+2=5I was very, very wrong, and now it’s time to pay for my mistakes.

The good news is, when I pay, you just might be the one to collect.  My loss can be your windfall.

The catch? You too will have to publicly debase yourself


How did it come to this? You and I publicly shaming ourselves on the internet, each of us desperately hoping to salvage a little bit of joy as the world burns around us?

It’s all because of that goddamned Donald Trump.

Trump is about to claim the Republican presidential nomination, and a whole lotta pundits got that one wrong.  Legions of professional gabbers, from every corner of the political spectrum, badly missed the mark, assuring you that he’d never be the GOP candidate.

Despite their wishful thinking dressed up in high falutin’ gibberish, it’s happening anyway; Trump is poised to become leader of the pachyderm pack.  And so a lot of the yakkers had to make amends.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post literally ate his words.  Pass the salt and pepper.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times and David Byler of Real Clear Politics each created a laundry list of everything they got wrong, which like most analysts, was quite a lot.

Perhaps the oddest mea culpa came from polling wunderkind Nate Silver, who explained away his spectacular failure by saying that he had acted like a barbaric “pundit” instead of staying true to the “scientific method.”  Rather than relying on statistical modeling to figure out if Trump would win, Silver says he just made “educated guesses.”

Since Silver never really explains why he traded  true reason for such wild tomfoolery, I’m just gonna assume he went on a months-long bender.

Normally, it would be very easy for me to look down my nose at these losers.  After all, I’m not a statistician or a professional talking head.  I’m a historian.  And if there’s one thing studying history has taught me, it’s that trying to predict the future is pure folly.

What were these dullards thinking? Guess the future? Good luck with those crystal ball shenanigans.  Studying history has shown me, time and time again, that the future is unknowable.  The past is a mystery and the future is an illusion.  So allow me, in full haughtiness, to point a sanctimonious finger at these morons.

Except for one thing.  It turns out that I’m one of those morons.  I, too, am a loser. Continue reading Why You’re Going to Vote for Trump and How You Can Win a Free Ticket to Mexico

The NRA Supports Terrorists

Omar Mateen“The NRA does not want terrorists or dangerous people to have firearms,” National Rifle Association Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Baker said last November after the Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

I have no doubt that’s  true.  After all, why would the NRA want terrorists to have firearms?  It’s difficult to imagine a reason.

Baker went on to say: “any suggestion otherwise is offensive and wrong.”

Well, it’s not my intention to offend anyone, but honestly, I don’t care if I do.  Because it is increasingly obvious to most rational observers that while the NRA may have good intentions, its actions facilitate domestic terrorists’ acquisition of firearms.

The NRA likes to prattle on about how gun control laws won’t keep guns away from criminals.  But in the case of Orlando, Florida shooter Omar Matteen and other terrorists, we’re not talking about mere criminals. We’re talking about enemy combatants: people who have effectively declared war on the United States and seek to overthrow the constitution, including the 2nd amendment the NRA cherishes above all else.

As has been widely reported, the FBI investigated Mateen three times for possible terrorist links and activities.  Mateen variously pledged support to ISIS, Hezbollah, and a branch of Al-Quaida  called the Nursra Front.  These three groups all oppose each other, which illustrates Mateen’s incoherence.  However, the groups also all have something in common: they are all hostile to the United States, and the federal government lists them as terrorist organizations.

Nevertheless, Mateen legally purchased two guns from a shop run, ironically enough, by a retired New York City police officer who worked out of the World Trade Center on September 11.  Continue reading The NRA Supports Terrorists