Category Archives: US Elections

This is oh-so-poignant

As almost-always, The New Yorker gets the alternative view:

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Amanda Petrusich’s account is equally worth the visit:

High noon on the day after a Presidential election: historically, a moment in which political signs are dislodged from lawns in either satisfaction or disappointment, not freshly planted in them. And yet on Wednesday morning the artist Nina Katchadourian, known for her intelligent explorations of systems—sorting, mapping, charting, coding, arranging, translating—was preparing to complete her latest showing of “Monument to the Unelected,” a collection of fifty-eight lawn signs touting the campaigns of those who ran for the country’s executive office and lost, from John Adams (1796) to Mitt Romney (2012). The installation had gone on display on the front lawn of the Lefferts Historic House, in Prospect Park. Now Katchadourian had a new sign to add to the scrum, and it was not the one that many of those gathered with her in the park hoped it would be.

This side of the Atlantic, I have a very disappointed daughter. Her Hillary 2016 tee-shirt, proudly worn around London for the last couple of weeks, after undermining the US diktats against alien support, has to join the 20o8 iteration as another failed vaunt that gender equality was reaching presidential status.

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The Pert Young Piece will be around in 2020, 2024 and so on. She’ll be proclaiming her same partisan allegiance, and — with luck and some sanity in the Democratic Party — a similar gender bias.

How does Elizabeth Ann Warren fit?

Failing which, I have an American-born grand-daughter — tough as old boots (you should see her as an inside forward on the soccer field) — who should be coming ripe about three decades on.

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Filed under US Elections, US politics

Meanwhile, a bit of American decency and good news

dfe98e-20161108-omar11Ilhan Omar is now a member of the Minnesota House of representatives, representing House District 60B.

None too many days ago, Donald Trump was telling the world how Somali immigration represented a threat to the State of Minnesota, and — by extension— to the entire United States.

The lasting success of the United States is the ability to nurture and integrate talent from around the world. Why, even the grandson of a Kallstadt draft-evader and  barber’s apprentice can make it to the White House. We’ve just got to become used to it.

Cue the coda of  The West Wing: Episode 4.01 — “20 Hours in America part 1″. Peter Lien, son of a Vietnamese refugee, has been elected to Congress.

BARTLET: Leo, meet Congressman Peter Lien, Texas 22nd. Peter, this is Leo McGarry, U.S. Air Force, 144th Fighter Wing.

LEO: Pleased to meet you, Congressman.

BARTLET: Peter’s family fishes in Galveston Bay, but they don’t catch marlin. It’s a sore spot, and he doesn’t like to talk about it. Peter’s 34 years old.

LEO: I’m sorry it’s been two months and we haven’t been able to get you up here until now.

LIEN: No, please. It’s a bust time. If there’s any help I can give you in Texas…

BARTLET: Ordinarily I would tell you that Jim Coor was a good public servant, and you’ve got big shoes to fill, and he was and you do, but obviously you have a bigger symbolic responsibilty then that.

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: But you biggest responsibiltity isn’t symbolic, right?

LIEN: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: What is it?

LIEN: It’s my district, my country, and the Congress of the United States.

BARTLET: Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends.

LIEN: Thank you, Mr. President.

Or, in real life, the real President lists the contributions made by Asian-Americans.

To cheer us up, there’s imminent mid-Terms on Tuesday, 6th November, 2018.

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Filed under The West Wing, United States, US Elections, US politics

Hillary and Trump beneath the Upas tree

The prolificly-mischievous George Steevens perpetrated one of his literary hoaxes, allegedly translated from the diary of a Dr Foersch, a (fictitious) Dutch surgeon, in Java. He invented  the upas-tree:

Erasmus Darwin, physician and scholar, a figure of some standing in botanical science and the author of several botanical works including The Loves of the Plants (1789), was another of Steevens’s victims. The London Magazine for December 1783 (pp. 511–17) carried Steevens’s description of the upas tree of Java which could kill all life within a distance of 15 to 18 miles, his source being an entirely fictitious Dutch traveller. Darwin was taken in and admitted the upas tree into his Loves of the Plants, from which Coleridge derived information…

That from the Dictionary of National Biography.

Once invented, the upas-tree had a life of its own, and became a metaphor for deadly power and influence. Southey had it, perhaps as the first, as the punch-line of Thalaba the Destroyer:

Enough the Island crimes had cried to Heaven,
The measure of their guilt was full,
The hour of wrath was come.
The poison burst the bowl,
It fell upon the earth.
The Sorceress shrieked and caught Mohareb’s robe
And called the whirlwind and away!
For lo! from that accursed venom springs,
The Upas Tree of Death.

Byron reckoned that Thalaba the Destroyer was one of Southey’sunsaleables, but that didn’t get in the way of borrowing the Southey reference in Childe Harold, Canto the Fourth (verse CXXVI):

Our life is a false nature — ’tis not in
The harmony of things, — this hard decree,
This uneradicable taint of sin,
This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree,
Whose root is earth, whose leaves and branches be
The skies which rain their plagues on men like dew —
Disease, death, bondage, all the woes we see —
And worse, the woes we see not — which throb through
The immedicable soul, with heart-aches ever new.

Our modern Upas

… is the toxic media.

  • We have it in the tabloid press (the British version might seem uniquely venomous, but — sadly — not).
  • We have in the shrill populist excess that is Fox News.
  • We have it, in excelsis, in the vowel evacuations of the shock-jocks.
  • Above all, it is the proliferation of web-sites and social media even further beyond the pale than Breitbart.

In this dispensation, anything short of vitriol is soft-soap.

How many times in recent weeks have we encountered hand-wringing despair such as this from Paul Waugh:

No one is pretending that either Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are perfect or all-wise, far from it. As the two candidates with the most negative poll ratings in history, the voters seem to be choosing which is their least worst option, via the least worst form of government. Here’s just one example: Trump’s repeated lies are well documented (a Newsweek reporter last night tweeted 100 of his worst ones, from business to politics to even fibbing about his golf score). And yet he polls ahead of Clinton for honesty. For many voters, their loathing of Hillary outweighs their distaste for Trump.

Today’s edition of The Guardian was a fine effort, with several articles of enduring worth. For now, I’ll stick with the First Leader:

… the only alternative to Mrs Clinton is Donald Trump. It needs to be said again, at this fateful moment, that Mr Trump is not a fit and proper person for the presidency. He is an irascible egomaniac. He is uninterested in the world. He has fought a campaign of abuse and nastiness, riddled with racism and misogyny. He offers slogans, not a programme. He propagates lies, ignorance and prejudice. He brings no sensibility to the contest except boundless self-admiration. He panders to everything that is worst in human nature and spurns all that is best.

Fear and Loathing revisited

Beyond the valid charges made by The Guardian, Trump is a prime example of a media creation, a thing spawned by his own monomania. Hillary Clinton is a lawyer and a politician.

And therein lies the difference.

Clinton still works within accepted patterns, professional disciplines, of behaviour. When use of a private email is a crime, we are all guilty. Every one — especially a successful, practising political operator — has their “private channels”.

Trump, though, is a fraud, a bully, a liar.

He is poison.

But he survives this far by anti-toxin imbibed from long sojourn under the Breitbart/Fox upas tree.

So I am reminded of the fable Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin generated from the upas tree:

Deep in the desert’s misery,
far in the fury of the sand,
there stands the awesome Upas Tree
lone watchman of a lifeless land.

The wilderness, a world of thirst,
in wrath engendered it and filled
its every root, every accursed
grey leafstalk with a sap that killed.

The king sends a slave to collect the poison:

He brought the deadly gum; with it
he brought some leaves, a withered bough,
while rivulets of icy sweat
ran slowly down his livid brow.

And, mission accomplished, the slave expires.

The king now uses the poison:

The king, he soaked his arrows true
in poison, and beyond the plains
dispatched those messengers and slew
his neighbors in their own domains.

If Trump beats the odds, he too is capable of such savagery.

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Filed under Byron, Comment is Free, Guardian, Literature, Oxford English Dictionary, United States, US Elections, US politics

“Estimate $4,000,000–6,000,000”

The art-work that Norman Rockwell did for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, edition date 4th November 1944, is up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York:

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There’s an essay on the subject, with consideration of other Rockwell comments on elections, by Lisa Pisano on line here. She says:

Occurring in the midst of the Second World War, the election dominated the national discourse as Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican governor of New York, challenged the longstanding Democratic incumbent president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for the office. Though the war had turned in favour of the United States by late 1944, Roosevelt faced considerable hostility from those who disapproved of his signature domestic and foreign policies. Rumors concerning the President’s failing health also surrounded his campaign. For the first time in over a decade, more Americans than ever had to ask themselves, “which one?” […]

In Which One?, Rockwell depicts a resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa standing in a voting booth, poised to cast his vote for one of the two candidates. Indicated by the array of political pamphlets that line his pocket and the morning newspaper he holds, the voter has clearly attempted to educate himself on his choice, yet the bemused expression on his face reveals that he remains stymied by the task and he continues to weigh his options on this rainy November day.  

I’ve also just seen a piece by  for The New Yorker‘s Cultural Comment, niggling at Rockwell’s constant theme: little crises of American experience

Consider “Which One? (Undecided Voter; Man in Voting Booth),” from 1944—the last year, before the present one, in which a Presidential election was contested by two New Yorkers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Thomas E. Dewey. […]

The undecided voter is a smartly dressed middle-aged gent, inviting demographic speculation. When younger, he must have been something of a dandy. When still younger, he may have come from nothing much—rising in the world, as Americans, or at least white Americans, frequently did back then. He likely works in upper-middle management somewhere—no higher, one suspects, given a self-conscious raffishness that’s a bit incongruous at his age. He holds out against conformism.

So: a cinch for F.D.R. in past elections. But now, in 1944, the man wonders whether Republicanism might be better styled for his enhanced station in life. (You know he belongs to the country club.) […]

Being conscientiously informed on “the issues,” as evidenced by the Cedar Rapids Gazette that the man holds and by the brochures that protrude from his coat pocket, doesn’t settle anything. Does it ever? Aren’t our votes always episodes of autobiography, not about what we know but about how, and as what, we opt to see ourselves?

In 1944, as today, once the Primaries are out of the way, Iowa receives minimal attention from Presidential candidate. That’s because the State has just six votes in the Electoral College, of the 270 to guarantee a victory. It was a whit more significant in 1944: ten Electoral College votes of the necessary 216 majority. It is, however, a “swing state”, going for the winner some three-quarters of the time: Obama in 2008 and 2012, Bush in 2004, but Al Gore in 2000.

Iowa went for the Dewey/Bricker ticket in 1944, one of the dozen states that defied the lat FDR steamroller.  It was a 547,267  (51.99%) to 499,876 (47.49%) split.

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Filed under Elections, New York City, New Yorker, Norman Rockwell, United States, US Elections, US politics

Serving us right

I have here one of those catch-penny “anthologies”, what more precisely could be a “bog book”.

51es1w31oplIt’s by Matthew Parris, and entitled: Scorn: The Wittiest and Wickedest Insults in Human History.

Like many of its kind, it disappoints more than it illuminates. You will already have knowledge of many — if not most — of the entries; and among the rest there are several that leave you puzzled. The best that can be said of it is that a purchase would ensure the continuing comfort of Mr Parris (a “national treasure” wannabe) and his llamas.

This was the point at which severe doubts arose in my mind:

Democracy has been served – the people have spoken, (sotto voce) the bastards.
Wendell Willkie on hearing of his defeat by President Roosevelt

The quotation is well-known enough. The attribution seems plain wrong.

A more proper, and credible attribution would be to Dick Tuck, the Democrat Party fixer and constant irritant to  Tricky Dicky Nixon:

It may be that Dick Tuck has angered Richard Nixon as much as any other man alive. As relentlessly as Inspector Javert trailed Jean Valjean, as doggedly as Caliban followed Prospero, as surely as a snowball seeks a top hat, Prankster Tuck stalked his quarry from one campaign to the next. “Keep that man away from me,” Nixon ordered his staff, who were seldom able to oblige. Ultimately, Nixon paid his adversary the highest compliment: in the 1972 campaign, the White House decided to employ a Dick Tuck of its own.

all_the_presidents_men_book_1974Since the Nixon White House’s “Dick Tuck of its own” was Donald Segretti (for more on whom, see the Woodstein masterpiece, All the President’s Men), I’d reckon Tuck won hands down.

Tuck had made many a play on Nixon until, in the 1966 mid-terms, he made a primary run for the Democrat nomination for the California Senate. He came third out of eight. Tuck was a favourite of the press reptiles, because he was ever-ready with a zinger. When he had lost the nomination he was asked his reaction. That was the cause of  “The people have spoken, the bastards.”

Willkie, by the way, might be seen as the prototype for the Donald Trump — as decent as the latter is nauseating. He was the previous time the GOP had put a businessman on the Presidential ticket. As FDR’s opposite number for the crunch election of 1940, he was almost a titular figure — but he did remarkably well, taking 45% of the vote (though only ten States for 82 votes in the Electoral College). Roosevelt obviously liked and respected Willkie, and used him as an unofficial ambassador to wartime London.

All that apart, I frequently nod along in agreement with Matthew Parris’s liberal Tory columns for The Times. Which is another reason why I find this book unworthy.

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Filed under History, Matthew Parris, sleaze., Times, US Elections

Hung for a sheep as a goat?

ldRather enjoying the little spat (as reported on the BBC news web-site) arising from the Trump campaign’s claim to be “winning”. Obviously a meme borrowed from the Liberal Democrats here in the UK (heroes to zeroes on a single parliament).

To repeat the obvious, boy-wonder, chip of the old block, Eric Trump plucked a graphic out of the aether, to demonstrate the same phantasy that the all-winning Liberal Democrats have nurtured these many years. It demonstrated — but of course — how the Trump machine was steamrollering the American continent.

Unfortunately, the graphic he had chosen was lifted from fivethirtyeight.com to show how men were trending for Trump:

538

As compared to women:

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Then the fun began: and it went quite silly. I was reckoning on “…if only goats voted” (based on USDA graphic for distribution of goats in the USA, showing a frightening concentration in Trumpish Texas), but then I recalled …

John Kennedy’s first outing as a Democrat politician wannabe was Massachusetts’s (then) 11th Congressional District. Patrician JFK worked his Irish-American patch assiduously, but was less-than-convincing with his accent and a hotel as his registered address, so he enrolled himself with the Knights of Columbus. The pay-off was candidates had to parade on St Patrick’s Day with a “relic” or token of Irish ancestry. Kennedy got landed with leading a goat. The JFK Presidential Library has the evidence:

goat

It was the goat what won it, and the rest — as they say — is history.

 

 

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Filed under BBC, Elections, History, United States, US Elections, US politics

Here’s to you, Robert Zimmerman

Two neat comments—

Heading out on Highway 61:

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Source: New Yorker morning cartoon, by David Sipress.

And here’s a couple who’ve done rather well in life:

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Source: Tweet by Miche Doherty @miche, “Irish actor with geekish tendencies. Citizen of the world.”

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