It’s our big Birthday Week, so we’re compiling some of our best posts over the first year (!) of our existence. Today, we’re highlighting some of our favorite blogs about the thing we cover most at Discourse Blog: politics. And to mark the occasion, we’ve taken down the paywall from an exclusive collection of posts that were previously available only to our paid subscribers. They’re now free for all of you to read! (Look for the words “UNLOCKED” in the headlines.)
We’re absolutely thrilled to have made it to a year, but we need your help to get us to our second birthday! If you appreciate the work in this post, please consider becoming a paid subscriber so we can do even more of it. Subscriptions start at just $8 a month.
Now let’s take a look at the past wild year in politics, as seen through our blogs.
“Normal” is dead, if it ever existed, and it’s not coming back. What’s left to do is make sure our organized response isn’t also what the powerful are expecting: selfishness, apathy, taking what we’re given out of desperation. Normal was their time, this will be ours—if we’re willing to fight for it.
As unsatisfying as it may be, the defeat of Bernie Sanders and everything we’ve seen since is a reminder that a movement to challenge the behemoth of corporate neoliberal hegemony can’t be built from the top. It must start from the bottom. And after Bernie Sanders, that’s exactly where we find ourselves.
Nobody knows where this thing is headed. Everything feels overwhelming and surreal. But we cannot lose sight of the basic moral truth at the center of the past week’s events. There is one side fighting for a better society. There is another side trying to crush that fight. When you sift through all of the supposed complications, all the back and forth, that basic truth is what remains. Either you side with the people, or you side with the cops. Nothing else matters.
This does not absolve us of our personal decisions: if you traveled from New York City to another place in the month of March or April or May you must live with the fact that you were demonstrably culpable in the spread of a virus which continues to kill. But the lion’s share of that burden must rest on the people whose negligence and denial made the abandonment of personal responsibility incredibly easy. It was their job to keep us safe, healthy, and employed in spite of human natures’ endemic stupidity, and they failed. The only thing we can do now is deny them the chance to take a victory lap over the 22,000 bodies they stacked up like cordwood in the back of trucks. Thanks to their failure, the rest of the country has barely begun to count.
The next time that people wonder why our leaders betray us so often, they should think about how little we actually demand of them. We unilaterally disarm ourselves over and over again. We tell ourselves that now is not the time to ask questions, that there will be a better moment to push, that the system is the system and there’s nothing to be done about it. And then we see our political leaders go on vacation during a time of mass unemployment and housing insecurity. We witness the supposedly progressive party choose two cops to preside over this specific moment in history. We watch Wall Street and Big Tech cheer as, yet again, any significant threat to their grip on our lives appears to have faded. If you think there is no connection between all of these things and the fact that masses of ordinary people gladly echo the message that it is routinely dangerous to question the choices our politicians make, you are fooling yourself.
Ginsburg was a woman in her late 70s when Barack Obama and Democrats had a majority in the Senate. She had survived multiple serious health scares. Knowing what was at stake, she chose to continue serving on the Supreme Court, a position that by definition has massive consequences for U.S. politics and the people in this country. She was taking a very big risk. It didn’t pay off, and what comes next might mean disastrous things for this country, and—not for nothing—the legacy she had spent 87 years building. The myth of both RBG and the Supreme Court are two of many myths created about the history of the American government. They are pedestals held up by the comfortable and powerful, creating a tunnel vision that obscures a possibility for something better. And as we careen toward something far worse, I’m questioning whether what we had was ever any good.
Chody, as much as he doesn’t deserve to be reelected this November, isn’t the kingpin here. The systems that will continue to run and hum and arrest and punish people will remain in his absence. It’s so easy to feel like his indictment is an indication of justice because that is how these systems survive. They dole out some form of “justice” to maintain themselves — to prove to critics and reformers that these systems do work and that they can police themselves, despite us knowing, historically, that this is not true. It has never been true, but they do it anyway because this is how they appease our hunger, time and again. They starve us and every now and again give us crumbs so that we don’t ask for more.
That’s the thing about this obfuscation on both sides: There was something to be done about it once, but we’re long past the last exit. The Republicans could’ve, oh, I don’t know, not driven themselves so far to the right that eventually a populist TV huckster could come along, be more right wing, and, except for some throat-clearing from the National Review, deliver the policies (and, more importantly, courts) that conservatives have always wanted. And even now, the leaders of the Democratic Party could do more than tell voters that they’re praying to God to deliver us a “strong Republican Party,” unlike the rude one we have now, and free us from the evil of Trump.
October 21, 2020: ‘Will People Still Care When it’s No Longer Trump Doing It?’ by Samantha Grasso (UNLOCKED)
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with channeling this outrage into action, but it is wrong to assume that we’re voting for a Biden administration that won’t just revert back to a status quo that swaps extremist immigration policy for “polite” and “fair” ICE arrests and detentions and “justified” family separations and deportations. Under previous administrations, I’ve had extended family die or remain separated from one another while waiting to be allowed to live in the U.S., and this is the way things will stay under an administration that doesn’t care to change that reality.
Oh man. This lady is going to be… a lot. It’s easy to look at Marjorie Taylor Greene, the openly QAnon-supporting congresswoman-elect from Georgia, as an aberration that may go away in the 2022 midterms. Unfortunately for all of us, I think that’s a fantasy. Taylor Greene and her ilk are here to stay.
Congratulations to these people and more who are likely to be confirmed (though, for Tanden, who’s to say). This has become the narrative around Biden’s nominations — that it’s impressive that he’s looking outside the typical circle of Good Ol’ Boys to select people who, as a direct result of their gender or their ethnicity or race, would have been explicitly excluded from previous positions. It’s good, we’re told, because it shows that the U.S. believes in and actively promotes the equality of women and people of color and immigrants. These candidates are blazing trails and illustrating that you can come from the most marginalized of backgrounds and still eventually one day be invited into the upper echelons of government and power. It is a nice sentiment, if you completely disregard the actual positions and job responsibilities and histories of these people.
It bears repeating every time something like this happens: It’s OK, even good, to call mean people bad names. You can use bad words! (As an aside, the funniest thing about all these people mad about O’Malley Dillion’s remarks is that they can’t even say the real word. You’re adults!! You can say fuck!!) These people don’t want to give Americans another measly COVID relief check. They have no interest in extending relief to those who rent homes and now, without a source of income, are facing evictions just after Christmas. This is as good as saying they want a vast swath of Americans to die as part of the economic aftermath of this pandemic, after they already sentenced hundreds of thousands to die of the actual virus. If you can’t use the word “fuckers” to describe the public figures who’ve made this ethos their reason to get out of bed in the morning, what are you left with?
You will notice that we are now speaking about guns and force and violence. That is because what we are seeing today is a baser form of politics than the U.S. has supposedly practiced in the past. For 240 years or so this country has believed in a foundational myth that the strength of its institutions were enough to insulate it from the chaos that plagues most other nations when people realize that power by and large only comes through force. This myth was so strong that it endured through a literal Civil War, because the “right” side won. Many, many Americans still believe in this myth — that the Constitution is good, that our processes are strong, that our government is secure.
Racist police brutality is embedded in the foundations of this country, and we’ve seen that play out on a massive scale over the course of the last year. Not only have we witnessed police murdering Black Americans (obviously not a new development), we’ve seen a large scale, militarized, no-holds-barred reaction to the movement to end police brutality, and end police departments as a whole. In DC, the response to the Black Lives Matter protests looked like the cops were preparing for war. Curfews were enacted. Protestors were tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets, tasered, assaulted, had ribs broken, and lost eyes. Cops even used pepper spray during a vigil for Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old Black man who was killed by police in Aurora, Colorado in 2019. As many, many, many people pointed out yesterday, if Black Lives Matter demonstrators had tried to storm the Capitol, they would have been dead by the time they reached the doors.
Today, as the Trump era closes and the Biden era opens, I found myself thinking about W.E.B. Du Bois.
What do Manchin, Sinema, King, Virginia’s Mark Warner, and other centrist lawmakers actually want? None of this is about the specifics of any policy. It’s about being able to say you talked to a Republican and watered down legislation for no reason other than that it’s what supposedly looks right, because only far-left fanatics think that helping people is more important than having a cordial relationship with your good friend John Cornyn. These politicians might portray themselves as the ultimate dealmakers, the ones who will grease the wheels of a recalcitrant legislature and bring about a glorious reign of imperfect but still noble compromises on behalf of the regular folks out there. In reality, they’re a Do Nothing Caucus, a group of cynical scammers more concerned with the praise they’ll get on CNN than with actually improving the lives of their constituents.
February 22, 2021: ‘It’s Good to Know What You Can Get Away With In Washington,’ by Jack Crosbie (UNLOCKED)
I do not want this blog to downplay how bad Neera Tanden’s tweets are, because they are truly terrible. But it’s also funny to me what you can and can’t get away with in Washington. Like Donald Trump, Tanden’s most lasting public record may be a largely incoherent Twitter feed filled with personal grudges and absolutely no restraint, but her actual impact on the realm of politics was as just another creature serving the hypocritical, nonsensical status quo of her chosen party.
Another month, another attempt by our state’s government to kill us. And it will be workers, not yet a priority to be vaccinated, who will have no choice but to work around unmasked customers, and live with, and die by, the consequences of Greg Abbott’s actions. When will our leaders just admit that they want us dead instead of pretending that everything they do is for our safety and in our best interests?