Beyond the Vote

What if instead of the Democratic Party pushing absolutely mediocre democratic candidates, who run to the center every time the right moves further right, we started thinking beyond Trump and “getting back to normal”?

Does anyone actually believe normalcy will return? Let’s acknowledge that the current president is simply a vulgar symptom of larger societal issues that have plagued for a long time, and find alternative solutions, wherever they may be found.

We could’ve started with a candidate who cares about working families, but watercarriers for the DNC always pin their hope and dreams on centrist politicians who stand for nothing.

I get it. The GOP is worse. Fine. But let’s also not scold critics of the other side because it might ‘play into Trump’s hands’. Trust me, if Biden loses, it won’t be because of leftists not voting. Think of the 40% of non-voters.

Galician Elections 2020 for Anglophones

As I rest my brain from reacting to the failed state of the United States; its ineptitude at controlling the coronavirus given ample time, money, and other country’s experiences to prepare, rising unemployment, continuing police brutality against people of color, and an uninspiring democratic challenger, I look toward things closer to home. My partner, who is Spanish, cares little for politics and I truly can’t blame her. But in the interest of things Galician, especially written in English, I’d like to preview the upcoming regional elections this year.

Election Day is today, when people head to the polls under less-than-ideal circumstances. The elections were supposed to be held in early April, alongside the Basque Country (Euzkadi) elections. President Feijóo postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic. Vote by mail requests nearly doubled from 2016 for obvious reasons. For Americans who are used to years-long affairs, these are quite short. I only started noticing campaign posters two weeks ago.

Map of Galician municipalities and provinces via Wikimedia, heavily modified by me.

There are 75 seats in the Galician Parliament for the four provinces. Each province gets 10 seats with the remaining 35 distributed according to population. In the last regional elections in 2016, the seats were distributed thus: A Coruña (25), Pontevedra (22), and Lugo and Ourense, our province (14 each).

Every party puts forth a list of candidates for each province, with their respective head of list, cabeza de lista, as their priority candidate. After the votes are tallied, parties are awarded a number of escaños, seats in the Galician Parliament depending on its vote share. If a party doesn’t cross a 5% vote threshold in that province, they don’t win any seats.

Other than being a multiparty parliamentary system, what interests me is this list system. Voters vote party, rather than a particular candidate. And a head of list or other candidate could theoretically win a seat to represent the province by voters from out of their immediate area.

There are numerous parties contesting the Galician elections in 2020 and I’ll highlight a few of them.

Welcome to the Parties

Status Quo and Insurgent Parties

Partido Popular de Galicia (PPdeG)

The Popular Party of Galicia is the conservative, center-right party that has governed Galicia since 1989 aside from 2005-2009, when a coalition between PSOE and BNG briefly held power. Unfortunately, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the current president, is expected to retain an absolute majority, despite his old ties to a Galician drug smuggler, despite funding cuts to public education, despite cuts to public health, etc.

Partido dos Socialistas de Galicia (PSdeG–PSOE)

The Socialists’ Party of Galicia, like its national formation which heads the Spanish Government in coalition with Unidas Podemos, is not much socialist as it is the traditional center-left party. Think Democrats, my Yankee readers. While it is true that they defend universal public health, there are still elements within PSOE who are very amenable to business and capital. Gonzalo Caballero from Pontevedra has been leader since 2017. Without reading up on him so much, he seems to have become leader in circumstances like president Pedro Sanchez, that of a prodigal return.

O Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG)

The Galician Nationalist Bloc is a at once a left-wing and nationalist party with Ana Pontón as its spokesperson. Different than the Catalan independentists, BNG calls for further autonomy for Galicia, recognition as a historical nation within Spain, and promotion of the Galician language. It was formed in the eighties by communist and socialist parties that were in favor of more home rule for Galicia. After reading even a quarter of Castelao’s Forever in Galicia, I am pretty partial to his and their ideas of true federalismo, something that a plurinational Spain would do well to adopt to better serve its diverse population.

Galicia en Común (GeC)

Galician in Common-Anova Mareas is the Galician left-wing coalition of Unidas Podemos, the once-fabled protest-turned-party that burst onto the electoral scene with wins in the 2014 European Parliament elections. Democratic socialist, anti-austerity, left populist. The national party are in coalition with PSOE in the national government and Communist Party and United Left ministers Alberto Garzon and Yolanda Díaz being in government is a good thing. The Galician bloc has incorporated various municipalist movements, or tides, mareas, from the 2015 local elections. After former spokesperson in Congress Yolanda Díaz joined the government, Anton Gómez-Reino from A Coruña has been at the helm. Unfortunately for Unidas Podemos at the national level and Galicia en Común at the local level, support has diminished in favor of PSOE and more probably BNG

Far-Right Populists and Weathervane Right-or-Left-of-Center Neoliberals

There is of course Vox, the far-right illiberal party that became a powerbroker in the Andalusian elections of 2019 and helped the first non-socialist Andalusian president gain power there. Anti-immigrant, deniers of gender violence. A lot has been written about Vox’s threat to Spanish democracy in the international anglophone press. Since it is my blog, I don’t need to be impartial. They are like those Americans who call millennials snowflakes, threaten people of color and immigrants with violence, cry wolf about how they are being censored, that there is a vast conspiracy of globalists, that there is a culture of silence and Spain must return to some form of proto-fascism. They are disgusting.

Cidadáns, the Galician arm of Ciudadanos, or Citizens, is also a recent neoliberal party originally formed in Barcelona. Originally billed as a social Democratic party, the party has swayed left or right based on political calculation and what alliances seem to be prudent for the party given each election. The formation collapsed at the last national elections and Albert Rivera resigned as party head. I’m not sure how much support they have in Galicia. We’ll see.

Smaller Parties

What’s Going to Happen?

We won’t know for sure until after all the ballots have been tallied, but all major polls point to another absolute majority for PPdeG and four more years of Feijóo. What is more uncertain are a few things.

  1. Does Caballero’s PSdeG–PSOE or Pontón’s BNG come in second to lead the opposition in Parliament?
  2. Given BNG’s rise during the campaign, how well does Galicia en Común fare? Do they lose half their seats?
  3. While Vox will probably not have much support, many are hesitant to write them off completely. How much support to they have amongst an aging, more conservative population than the rest of Spain?

Playing Against A Stacked Deck

“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.” — D.H. Lawrence from his Studies in Classic American Literature

A thing I’ve noticed on Twitter, besides the obvious Bernie Bro myth and especially after the Super and Mini Tuesdays, is the disgust by some liberals when those on the socialist left say they will withhold their vote for Biden in the future. I’d like to unpack this a bit. To be very clear, I don’t know what I will do if Joe Biden is the democratic nominee. I’m not saying yes to voting, and I’m not saying no. What I want to do is try to explain why some on the left need to withhold their vote come November.

For the last few months, from afar in my corner of Galicia, I’ve watched with resignation as the American media and the DNC elites have manipulated public opinion against Bernie Sanders, while scaring everyday voters into believing Joe Biden is the one to take on Donald Trump.

I will call out my own biases before I get into everything. The nation, now more than ever with the omnipresent coronavirus and its lethality, needs:

  • Universal healthcare in the form of Medicare for All, guaranteeing free-at-the-point-of-service to anyone and everyone residing in the United States. This is even more obvious with the pandemic. There is nothing radical about universal healthcare and would only align us with most major industrialized countries.
  • Climate action in the form of A Green New Deal. This is a no-brainer. Anyone who squawks about how we will pay for it is either engaging in a bad-faith argument, does not understand the consequences are already being seen and experienced around the world and even in poorer communities than their own, or does not value human life and a thriving biosphere for future generations. Or they’re billionaires who will blast off to Mars or somewhere else before it gets really dire.
  • The further democratization and progression of American social, civic, and political life. Here is my catch-all for making the country more equitable to all, in the form of stronger unions, better wages, more police accountability, tuition-free college, cancelling student debt, dismantling the carceral state, abolishing ICE, etc.

Many people believe Trump is an existential threat to the world. Words like fascist, white supremacist, or nationalist are used. I use them. In a sense, I believe all are valid and true. Closing the border to vulnerable immigrants, whose own countries were destabilized by our own government (some from the Obama administration) is odious. Given the impending climate catastrophe, there will be even more refugees and the world needs to move beyond the conventional paradigm of the nation state to accommodate these issues.

But I will call out bullshit when I see it. Joe Biden will not return us to normal. If he even wins the nomination at all (the political and nepotistic baggage of Hunter Biden and his post at a Ukrainian firm has more implications than Hilary Clinton’s emails), his obvious cognitive decline in the last four years is a huge liability. His continued contempt for the working class and millennials is antagonistic. Plus, back to normal is actually pretty terrible for many people. Largely, white democratic moderates were thrilled during the eight years of the Obama regime. I was one of them for many years. I voted for him twice. But politics was de-emphasized for many who saw him as a decent man. Let’s remember Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the bombing of a handful of Muslim countries,

If you’re reading this, you might have found this through Micro.blog or Twitter. There is a large concentration of white moderate technologists on those sites. Perhaps you consider yourself on the left. Perhaps you think we’re out of our minds. Well, maybe. But here it is: there is no normal anymore. We are facing a choice that has global ramifications for better or worse. We cannot go back to centrism or rely on elites to dictate what is politically possible. The future is unwritten and remains in our hands.

This is not a post villifying the electorate for turning on Bernie Sanders. I get we’re all shell-shocked from four years of Trump. But I have seen, again from afar and from interactions with friends and family back home, how utterly manufactured this democratic primary process has been. Matrix fans might call it the red pill. But reading Marx, understanding our historical antecedents, and marinating in independent left media gives more perspective than the neutral horse-race mentality of the bought, billionaire-funded mainstream media.

So if you’re still reading, thank you. If you’re asking us in good faith why some would ever abstain and not “Vote Blue no matter who”, hopefully I can add another voice to that. Let me walk you through why the socialist left feels so dispossessed of any real power, and why a possible demonstration of our collective leverage might be to withhold our vote in strategic situations. Again, I am not trying to advocate this particular thought. I don’t know what I will do. Harm reduction voting might need to take place as well. There’s still a lot of primary to go, and everything is very much on unstable ground in these times.

Democratic Elite Consolidation before and after South Carolina

With the Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada primaries, there was already something strange going on. They scrapped the last major poll of the Des Moines Register before the caucus, apparently due to a complaint from the Buttigieg campaign. Some reporters who had seen results said Bernie was in first with his largest lead. That is not insignificant.

Then there is the night of the Iowa caucus. Pete Buttigieg declared himself the winner without any of votes being counted. Some, not me, will explain this away by saying the Buttigieg campaign had favorable internal data. Okay, but if it was so good, why not wait? Regimes in other countries have been toppled for less. Bolivia comes to mind. And it was wrong anyways. Bernie Sanders, in both the first caucus vote and the re-alignment, received more of the popular vote than Pete.

So why did he do this? Media narrative, I assume. Iowa is not a delegate-rich state nor is it representative of the democratic demographics of the country at-large, so the narrative driven by the media is super important going forward into the New Hampshire primary. For people paying attention, earned media is huge for momentum in these early states. In a crowded primary race, it was important.

How about the Iowa app, created to facilitate precinct captains and the Iowa Democrats to count votes and do strange (I’d argue unnecessary) delegate math? It was created by the mysterious tech startup Shadow and their think thank ACRONYM. I won’t get into the details about this. More ink has been spilled elsewhere and I’ll link to some at the bottom of each section. Regardless, ACRONYM’s founder Tara McGowan’s husband worked for the Buttigieg campaign in Iowa. Conflict of interest? Yes. Also, linked to the app/think tank are the Pod Save America crew. Google it. They waved it off with some phony outrage on the episode after Iowa. But my question, since the beginning, is this: Will anyone be truly held accountable? America basically caught the Iowa Democrats fixing or manufacturing results.

Despite the numerous irregularities of all that went down, Troy Price, the former head of the Iowa Democrats said the party would not re-evaluate the false delegate math. As of today, Sanders has over 2,000 more votes, 1 less state delegate equivalents, and oddly, 2 actual delegates less than Buttigieg. That’s a head scratcher.

You can say all these things are unfortunate circumstances or you can it for what is is; an attempt to rig the Iowa caucus in favor of someone who toes the Democratic Party line more than Bernie Sanders. It’s not a tinfoil hat scenario. It’s Occam’s Razor.

The democratic endorsements pushed Joe Biden into the spotlight.

  • Pete Buttigieg came in 2nd in both Iowa and New Hampshire and 3rd in Nevada. But after South Carolina, he drops out and the next day throws his support behind Biden. This is the guy who said Joe Biden was not right for the times and that a new generation needed to take up the mantle.
  • Beto O’Rourke called Joe Biden a return to the past. Suddenly, at exactly the necessary time (you know, when Bernie Sanders was looking to run away with the contest), Beto endorses Biden. Hmm.
  • Amy Klobuchar endorses Joe Biden.
  • Kamala Harris, who called Joe Biden out in an earlier debate on his racist, segregationist opposition to school busing, endorses him as well.

Biden was practically written off before the South Carolina primary. Conventional wisdom was that Biden just loses primaries. He has for all the previous presidential primaries. Obama picked him to assuage white voters for his own run in 2008. It was strategic.

And here’s a thing that annoys me to no end. Like Hilary, Biden is a manufactured avatar of a ‘good politician’. Collectively, we whitewash the horrible shit they have done as politicians. You know who hasn’t engaged in support of toppling the Honduran government or opposed busing or wrote the crime bill that has left countless black boys and men behind bars so much so that our prison population exceeds China’s? Bernie Sanders. Enough said.

Joe Biden has baggage. His brother, his son, himself. These are all liabilities that will absolutely be weaponized by Trump. Indeed, he’s already started. Can we just side-step this whole mess and vote for the policies who most of the democratic electorate agree with (minus the DNC)?

I decided to cut this short and not bother with links. You can find all of this easily. I might take this down at some point. But here it is. I would love to hear any comments or criticisms in the comments.

Intentions for the Next Decade

Years ago, firmly settled into my evening routine among the stones in Sierra Leone, I painted the words providence in the wilderness on my bedroom wall. Not much an artist, I used words and phrases plucked from anywhere to decorate and inspire me. A mix of something in Malcolm X’s autobiography and Robinson Crusoe, I thought I was being philosophical.

I thought it represented my past-self’s idealized trajectory; starting with being a young, confused, but lively person in the world and maturing into someone confident, more focused, spiritually satiated, sure of things. I naïvely thought age and interestingly curated living arrangements would help me with finding that providence. The years pass and I count more grey hairs in my beard, but I feel no closer to that mythical providence in the wilderness than all those years ago.

Which isn’t to say things are bad. Things are great for me, actually. But maybe it is this dual thinking that grinds on me occasionally; that I take on too many externalities, like the state of U.S. domestic politics or global opinion on the existence of a dying biosphere, that are very much out in the wilderness for me.

So, enough with resolutions or promises. I know myself. I need better habits and routines. But since I have rarely had those, I feel more comfortable bringing a few intentions to the coming ten years.

  • Read more for pleasure, less for knowledge
  • Don’t be afraid to show yourself
  • Be mindful of spreading your general positivity too thin
  • Create something
  • Cut out distractions

Happy 2020.

Bernie Is Running, Thank God

Bernie Sanders finally announced his run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Even in a crowded field, I think he is the right person for the task of taking down Trump.

Meagan Day had a good article on his announcement and why we should support Sanders over at Jacobin:

Some progressive voters may want to gravitate toward another candidate in the crowded field. But don’t be fooled — if you seek economic and social justice, you should support Bernie Sanders for president.

Why? Because there’s a class war raging, and Sanders is the only one running who sees it, and who wants to build working-class forces to fight back.

Day also addresses this liberal desire to endorse someone plays more identity politics:

In a race where progressivism is in vogue, his platform will be hard to run against without changing the conversation. Other candidates and their proxies will argue that Sanders can’t represent the interests of women and people of color because he’s an old white guy. But whatever the importance of symbolic representation, the social-democratic reforms Sanders proposes would do incomparably more to materially transform the lives of hundreds of millions of ordinary women and people of color.

Yes, he’s old and white. He’s also been using the same language on class, corruption, and inequality for decades. We don’t need a symbol; we need a movement. With Bernie, the vestiges of 2016 and the enthusiasm around bold progressive ideas of this election cycle can leverage his campaign to be that movement’s electoral foundation. In a video announcing his run, he asks for one million volunteers. I think the Democratic Socialists of America will endorse him sometime, and there are ~50,000 members with real grassroots organizing power.

Go, Bernie, Go.