Thursday, April 28, 2016

Elect Oral

Elect Oral

As I canvas America, meeting those friends and colleagues with whom—just a couple years ago—I could engage in raucous political debates, I find that the “Establishment” is strong and coalescing. The Clinton-Bush conglomerate that has delivered America to its current, unprecedented level of economic, social, and technological greatness (wealth disparity, esoteric last-stand anti-Trans HBs, and ISIL notwithstanding), is fighting to reclaim its rightful place as the unifier of the world’s splintering resolve against entropy.

Reasonable Republicans and daring Democrats, having fought like spoiled siblings over manufactured and overwrought issues for three decades since the Reagan coalition collapsed, are looking more like a nineties-era PHouse “heads and tails” foam party. We’re quietly groping each other, agreeing that oral is acceptable.

Given our choices, namely (yet, unnamed) the populist insurgent anger-mongers who’ve hijacked our respective parties, we accept Hillary for what she is: good enough to swallow.

The GOP with its arcane convention party rules and the Big Ds, with their more openly “rigged” superdelegate system, have circled their jerks around their brands and around the preservation of America’s warts-and-all, au naturale greatness.

In 2016, one does not merely decide to run for President. Rather, a thoughtful and introspective leader is called years before to begin a campaign. They build a resume and ideological superstructure.  They organize alliances, they affect grassroots, they endure the scalding heat of political firewalking, they pledge and are hazed in sticky pan-hellenic sometimes-secret parties: they pay their dues.
Politics is ugly and success requires doing questionable things in bathroom stalls and parking lots: compromise, deal-making, posturing, overlooking indiscretions of others whose bellies burn with the correct ideologies even as their loins burn when they pee.

Recently, I was invited to explain the concept of the Electoral College to a millenial, Berning, comrade.

“Elect Oral?”


America is not a democracy. We have always had gapstoppers—checks, balances—to prevent the mob from itself.

The two great American parties, following in this same tradition, have evolved with a set of rules similar to those that the Electoral College protects. When outsiders—who may or may not muster the organizational skills to master the system that exists for the nomination of a party’s candidate—decry an “undemocratic” system, we would like to remind them that nothing in the party’s rules claim to be democratic. Ultimately, the party’s job is to choose the candidate most likely to deliver success—a slate of policy results—in both the top-ticket elections as well as those down-ticket. Over time, this process has become more transparent, but that a primary election isn’t about electing delegates to the convention has never been promulgated by either party. True, the election of “pledged” delegates to the conventions most often coincides with popular vote, but not always.

I wonder if the party crashers in the two parties—those who seem unaware of the rules—are equally obtuse about the Constitution. Anybody with a sense of history, an understanding of civics, or an attention to detail would understand this.One has clearly never read the constitution, the other, it seems, wants to throw it away.

The Republican party is not a democracy. It is a responsible policy-centered NGO that is maintained by a web of interdependencies to myriad constituencies and members. It engages in politics to maintain itself and America.

The Democrat party is not a democracy. It is a responsible policy-centered NGO that is maintained by a web of interdependencies to myriad constituencies and members. It engages in politics to maintain itself and America.

America is not a democracy. It’s a constitutional, federal republic protected by the rule of law and sustained by measured, sometimes imperfect progress.

For candidates who’ve never been elected to a position of state or national executive leadership, how they conduct a campaign is a telling test of their skills. This was a poignant argument for Obama’s election in 2008 when questions were proffered regarding his ability to manage America. A campaign is a metaphor for how one can govern and administer the office they seek. Structure and details matter. If a leader is outmaneuvered by a more organized campaign and then claims (erroneously) that the “system is rigged” or “undemocratic,” I wonder how they will react to an Ayatollah or neo-Czarist or legitimate financier (whose success, for example, is tied to the solvency of American industry) whose values and senses of “fairness” may not align with his or her own. Pathetically, I  bet.
For 240 years since Philadelphia, or for 150 years since Appomattox (wherever your timeline may start), Democrats and Republicans have been the protectors of our union. They have been the forcers of continuity; the strength of that continuity—measured, sustained, constrained progress—has propelled America to its greatness.  

With respect to the impending contested convention in Cleveland and the piling on of uncommitted superdelegates on the Democrat side, understand that superdelgates are politicians, and politicians generally try to agree with voters and follow the will of the voters. Whining to the contrary is, at best, disingenuous. Superdelegates, much like “pledged” delegates know that they have elections of their own they have to win. They are not merely unaccountable, obtuse party hacks. They are invested in the success of the system—of the party: of its allies: of America.

We pay dues, not covers. Our leaders have paid their dues, not merely the price of admission. The faux-libertines with their entourages of unruly pitchfork-wielding scorched-earthers could easily enough become guillotiners or concentrators. With either of these non-establishment rabble-rousers—Socialist Democrat-feigners, Fascist Republican-feigners—we are bankrupted.

In either doomsday scenario, the progress and continuity of American economic, technological, cultural, and human rights leadership in the world will be set back. In one case, by ill-meaning ignorance. In the other by well-meaning ineptitude.

To save our nation from the insurgents and as frustrating as incremental political evolution may be, we must get behind the establishment. To save our nation and our Constitution, we must think like our nation’s forebears did in order to prevent us from being screwed.

“Yes, Elect Oral.”

Friday, April 22, 2016



"I can't believe she's gone!"
“Oh, you're awake?"
"Well, of course I am now."
"I still can't believe she is gone. I just can't believe it." His eyes were glistening while mine rolled. He had been watching TV coverage for the five hours since we got home. It was now six in the morning and the CNN coverage showed no signs of abating. Neither did his apparent ability to consume every endless minute of that coverage.
At this point, craving little more than a water and some hangover-reducing Advil, I decided upon the least-resistant course which meant not indulging in the million ways to say "Shut the fuck up and go to sleep, you crazy fuck!" and decided to feign emotional complicity. "I can't believe it either," I mumbled almost barfing on my lie. I did believe it; he had awakened me every thirty minutes since I tried to pass out to give me an update. I knew unequivocally that it was fact. CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC had all confirmed it, what was there to not believe? What I wanted to say was that "I don't care, now come over here and blow me."
"It really is a loss."
"Such a loss." For some reason, I felt increasingly compelled to comfort him in this, the darkest moment of his life up until the day his Nanny died. I averted my attention in the direction of his gaze, toward the television. The looping video of red flashing lights abounded and filled the room. I imagined I was still at the concert from the night before, listening to the "The artist formerly known as..." sing his signature tunes. I hummed a riff of "Nineteen ninety nine" in my head as I flashed forward to the present and watched him hugging himself, rocking forward and backward on the edge of the bed. He started crying again, I wished for doves to appear and relieve me of my melodramatic misery.
"She was the 'People's Princess'," he repeated Wolf Blitzer's corny commentary.
"It's true," I agreed. I did agree with this.
"And those poor boys…orphans."
"Technically, they are not orphans," I couldn't resist the opportunity to tamp down on the spiraling drama. "They still have a father who, independent of this, happens to be the next King of England."
The response landed with the thud I expected, but I was self-satisfied for a moment.
"He is a horrible, ugly monster." He won that round. "They might as well be orphans."
By this point I knew that I was up for the long haul and that slumber would elude me for the near future, at least until the coverage paused.
I rolled out of bed, made a horrifyingly unappreciated big deal of arranging the unattended morning wood in my boxers--I was gorgeously invisible--and slogged into the kitchen where I grabbed a Michelob Light and some pain reliever. I would need both of these to make it through what promised to be an excruciatingly long morning.
We had been boyfriends for over a year and had already moved on from the monotony of monogamy to drinking buddies. He was adorable, if not a handful. I found that ignoring the fact that I knew he had hooked up with other guys wasn't difficult. I expected that, at some point soon, he would be forced to overlook the same improprieties on my end. I had no reason to expect that we wouldn't be together forever; we dwelt nicely together on each others' arms. When we had sex it was fun. When we didn't, it was ok too.
The currently recounted hysteria notwithstanding, I loved him. When I looked in his brown eyes and when I touched his curly auburn hair, I was reminded. When we sat side by side slamming Jaeger or lied side by side in my bed, spooning, it was confirmed as unmitigated truth.
Just the day before, a mutual friend intimated that he had hooked up with him. I had no reason to disbelieve, but was generally unfazed. I allowed our friend to suck me off as penitence. That's how it worked. That's how we worked.
I returned to the bedroom with two beers. I decided to make the best of the situation. I dove into his soul and forced a compassionate tear as I untopped a bottle for him and handed it in his direction. He took it and looked at me with deeply emotional, silent thanks. I played silent connect the dots with the freckles on his cheeks.
I kissed him on the cheek. "You OK?"
For the first time, and certainly not the last, he explained to me his desire to be a princess. He told me about the way his parents loved each other. He told me that he wanted that. I wanted that for him. He had been watching the relationship of Diana and Charles since "The Wedding." I was not sure if he was regurgitating trivia he had heard over the last several hours or if he had genuinely watched them with the intensity that he seemed to exude.
Though we had never actually discussed this topic, it made perfect sense that he would be so engrossed. He wanted a fairy tale. Though I wasn't sure I could provide it, or that I was worthy of such fantasy, I knew he should have it. I knew that he would.
He went on to tell me about her work with AIDS victims, her friendship with Mother Theresa and Sister Elton. He talked about landmines and the children whose obliterated limbs attested to the need for a Princess who'd champion such a worthy and overlooked cause. He talked about Will and Harry. He told me about Lady Parker Bolles with the unabated disdain and personal torture of a woman scorned. He elaborated on glass slippers and lacy, sequined trains.
On into the morning, he persisted. I tarried.
A six pack past dawn, and as a weatherman finally broke into the story with the first Doppler radar reading of the cycle, we knew that thunderstorms would keep us in the house all day.
I ordered a pizza, threw "Purple Rain" into the CD player, and laid beside him for the long haul. We killed a twelve pack and a large pepperoni. We recounted the high points of the previous evening's concert, our mutual love for royalty, and agreed that storybooks needn't be fiction. We had sex. We did not disclose our mutual knowledge of each others' failings. I told him I loved him back.
By noon he was asleep in my arms as I cried by myself for a Princess that I would never know. I kissed his head as he snored.
Twenty years later, when his name remained a green cursive tattoo on my chest, when I was little more than the "boyfriend formerly known as..." he called me when my grandmother passed away, "You okay?"
I cried by myself for a Princess who I would never be.