Valley Forge 2018: Cold War?

Are these the outlines of a new cold war on a warming planet? Make it not so!

It was prior to September 2001 when the system was blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again”

— Dan Coats (R) , Director of National Intelligence, July 2018

is a 30+ year new media development pioneer & veteran who served several years in the US Peace Corps. His earliest political memory is arguing the merits of RFK, McCarthy, and Humphrey on the playground with his 2nd grade classmates in West Lafayette, IN. Ask him about his avatar (or maybe not).

Part of our 21st Century Citizenship series

Part II of a series–you can read Part I here.

 

What we need to do between now and the election to get out of political Siberia like our forefathers in 1778, and Ukraine in 2004. 

Creative Politics is dedicated to being fiercely non-partisan, the voice for the radical center fed up with the idiologues on both sides.  We have nothing but love for our Trump-supporting fellow citizens, provided they’re loyal to the United States, not part of Putin’s fifth column, irredeemable veriphobes, or total pumpkinheads.  In fact, we believe that much of what candidate Trump said and said he was going to do, what you voted for, was right (more on this on an upcoming post), not least of which is the ongoing need to shake up the system, hard and fast, before the tree of liberty’s source of nourishment is taken from our hands.

But it will be the unhackable premise of this site, shared by many conservatives, moderates, libertarians, and independents, that opposing Donald Trump is not a partisan issue; it is an existential one, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is whistling tunelessly in the dark. As far as we are concerned, Donald Trump is the definition of a clear and present danger as the Supremes defined it, the real “enemy of the people.”  He is relentlessly anti-science and enlightenment when we can least afford to be, a classic authoritarian, taking his strongman cues from all over the world, a pathological liar who has debased truth almost to a dangerous point of no return, a mentally unstable malignant narcissist, a traitor in league with our most implacable enemy, an even more grotesquely incompetent and lazy executive as president than he was from the beginning to the end (excluding emoluments) of his “business” career (some of which, fortunately, has helped spare us worse), who now stands inert in the face of by far the greatest threat ever to humanity, even though he knows it exists and knows how bad it is, which he diabolically only uses as a reason to make it worse, abdicating American leadership and values–nothing could be more un-American than fatalism–in the process.

For members of this community, as problematic as any of these characteristics, whether he is pretending to be a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican, is that he is a inveterate divider.  Not by virtue of the color of his skin, or because he unreasonably insisted on doing the job that majorities of the American people twice elected him to do, but as a deliberate strategy.  Some supporters claim he’s just lashing out at all the unfair criticism that has been leveled at him, but he was a divider during the campaign, from its very beginning, when the media was his not-so-secret Santa, giving him hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of free, unfiltered coverage, including full broadcasts of his rallies, and devoting more time and space to Hillary’s emails and the Clinton Foundation than all of his scandals combined.  And he was a divider from his first day in office, when every sentence successfully written on a teleprompter was trumpeted by the enemies of the people as “presidential,” his “pivot,” like the persistently proud parents of an unruly four year-old, which, of course he was–a four year-old, and their child.  So no, this is no corner he was backed into: this is who he is, who he was, and only my faith prevents me from saying always will be. Not the man who campaigned as the “dealmaker” who was the only one who could bring the two sides together.

Can supporters name one action he has taken to acknowledge and accommodate the majority of Americans who voted against him, and their values and beliefs, as opposed to his “base?” Can they name one real policy he has implemented (as opposed completely manufactured ones, like standing for the flag) that a majority of the American people agree with?  If so, please tell us in comments below. It’s hard enough to hold together the most diverse–and therefore strongest–nation on earth in the best of times, but when the man who holds the office that’s supposed to speak for, and unite, all Americans, instead relentlessly divides them?  Some say it is naive to talk about unity, that there has always been division, and compel us to look at what division has accomplished when one side has strong-armed the other into some new form of “progress.”  I say it is those people who are naive, in light of the breadth and depth of the challenges hurtling towards us; they are like generals making the classic military mistake of fighting the last war, instead of the one in front of them, which looks to me like multiple WWIIs, all fought on our soil.  For a believer in creative politics or radical centrism, he is the precise, literal antithesis of what we believe is essential..

With this in mind, how can we, the people, inspired by the examples of our ancestors and brethren overseas alike, do what the current regime will not: defend our democracy.  We have a few thoughts, starting with those most actionable and urgent for the election that’s upon us. Things get done when they get done for a reason, and everything we’re about to share applies to this election and beyond, because make no mistake: this work continues, even more strongly, on November 7, as we work to excise this cancer entirely, not just slow or stop its spread, in 2020. Besides, a lot can happen in two weeks in politics–just ask Hillary Clinton.

Top-Line, Bottom-Line

It was the disparity between exit polls and reported results that led to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004.  Our response to this disparity in our own election that year? Come up with a moving castle collection of rationalizations, of course, and undemocratically ban sharing top-line exit poll results with the public, lest said public start to think our elections are less than on the up and up.  Today only 28 states even publish exit poll results.

Unfortunately for the true elites, the genie’s out of the bottle now, despite our government’s remarkable, willful incuriosity and unwillingness to turn stones that puts us well below the birds in intelligence.  So we need to bring pressure to bear on the news organizations that have the top-lines and are sympathetic to our cause–MSNBC, for example–to break with protocol, share these results for every race, and let the heretofore patronized unwashed decide for ourselves whether there are shenanigans in the electoral plumbing.  Donald Trump can’t be the only one allowed to break norm after norm without consequence. Let’s make this happen.  

And let’s not let the powers-that-be make up just-so stories about the “shy Trump voter” or the “Republicans who won’t talk to exit pollsters because they don’t like or trust the media” again, if we are overwhelmed, as the Congressional Black Caucus was in 2000 and 2004, by the odor of rodentia when exits and “actual results” are compared.  There is zero, and I mean zero, scientific evidence behind such self-serving assertions–you can read the post-mortem analysis of the 2004 election by the exit pollsters here–see if you can find anything harder than “possible” or “likely” with regard to these conjectures, followed by no “corroboration,” as post-Kavanaugh Republicans like to say.  Had the Ukrainians accepted such logic, candidate and Putin pawn Yanukovych would now be enjoying his third or fourth term in office.

Basically, the tautological proof offered is that the exits differed from the “actuals,” and since there couldn’t have been fraud involved, therefore this must be the explanation, even though, as you’ll see from the report, this level of overstatement of Democratic support did not occur in either the election before or the election after.  Meanwhile, there’s plenty of hard evidence that exit polls routinely overstate the percentage of Republican minority voters, and that they routinely miss many cell-only early voters, who are overwhelmingly younger and more Democratic, as early voting continues to grow and continues to be more Democratic in general.  Hmmm.

We Are All Anonymous

First we were told it was two states, then seventeen, then twenty three, then thirty nine–oh and that’s ‘multiple’ jurisdictions/state in many instances–but they weren’t really successful in breaking in anywhere and they didn’t really do anything.  Now, thanks to the latest Mueller indictments, we know, at a minimum, that the Russians stole the registration information of more than half a million voters (not to mention the entire Democratic database and strategy, which they handed over to any Republican Congressional candidate who asked). What’s next?  

As the No. 2 power, the signature aesthetic of Russian operations is to leave as little trace as possible of their activities, unless they want them known–they are known to be masters of the null set and deniability. Raise an emoji if you really believe that the Russians hacked into voting systems in multiple jurisdictions in 39 states and did nothing more than check them out for kicks. Raise another if you believe they didn’t install malware for future use (that would be now), just like it’s now acknowledged they have in our power grid.  Raise three emojis to the wind if you really believe the IT departments of every local election system really know whether the ghosting Russians have compromised their systems or not, or that our federal government has thoroughly vetted this for themselves.

We’re talking some very scary stuff, not the least of which is that thinking about it can make you wonder if you’ve lost your mind to paranoia.  Fortunately, we believe there are geek-free ways we and you can play a part in making sure:

  • Talk to friends in the tech business, hackers if you know them, Anonymous best of all.  Ask them to check the security of your local voting system; ask them what questions you should ask local authorities about it, what answers are red flags, let us know what questions they recommended–and what the answers mean–here.
  • Contact your local election board and ask them
    • What voting software they’re using for each and every part of the process, including its version, whether it’s current, how often (and how) it gets updated
    • What security measures they’re taking to protect their system
    • Any other questions your techie friends recommend
    • Whether their system includes and generates a voter-verified paper trail (i.e. where each vote generates a printout that the voter verifies is accurate)–not necessary for paper ballots, of course.  
    • If the answer to the last question is no, demand that this be changed by Election Day or risk charges of fraud–even in the case of older machines, this can be done by adding VVPAT printers that can be shipped overnight, at a cost estimated at $500/machine in 2003, with the expectation price would decline as demand ramped (which it has)
    • If they claim they can’t afford it, demand to know the total cost, and put together a GoFundMe or Facebook fundraiser–tips here–with your friends to raise it, even if it’s only for your precinct.  The number of fundraisers that have hit goals in the millions in 24-72 hours is legion, and it’s a lot better use of your money than giving it to a politician (more on this below).  Let them know that India, with a lot more people and a lot less money, will be installing VVPAT on every voting machine in the country by 2019,  then remind them of what their mothers used to say when they didn’t want to finish their dinner.   And post your fundraiser here so that everyone in the community who might contribute knows about it, and knows they’re not alone.
    • If they claim that only a few people ever even look at their paper receipts to verify them, point out that only a few people checking are needed to detect tampering or malfunction.
    • Do not let them tell you that there’s nothing to worry about because their systems are “air-gapped” or not connected to the Internet.  This is bulls*** (sorry, foxholes call for strong language).
    • Demand a full forensic audit of the voting machinery after the election, even if the vote is outside the margin of error for a recount (hackers who change votes know what those margins are now, and will deliberately exceed them)
  • Join us in creating a publicly-available nationwide database of what every jurisdiction is using, rated by security experts (the Russians and other hackers already know–so should we)
  • Ignore the gloom and doom of those who say there’s no way to protect our election systems; we may not be able to stop the hacks, but by actually paying attention, knowing the level of protection we ‘enjoy,’ and holding our election administrators to account, we can sure as h*** know with a high degree of confidence whether they happened–and act accordingly.

No Horseshoes

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

And no hand grenades either.  Look at 2000, 2002 in Georgia, 2004, especially in Ohio, 2016, especially in PA, WI, MI, and FL.  Then look at 2008, 2012, and, as it turned out, Ukraine in 2004. The difference? Our elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2016 were close enough to steal.  The others weren’t. To prevent fraud or be able to catch and prove it, we need to not only beat Trump-loyal Republicans, we need to beat them by a lot. Here are some of the ways we think can best make it happen, now and going forward, until the task be thoroughly finished, which we have adopted or will be adopting ourselves:

‘Lit’ Them Up

This will be the first election where the number of eligible Millennial and Generation Z voters outnumber the baby boomers.  In the last mid-term, only 22% of them voted.  In this election, 38% say they are enthusiastic about voting, 55% say they will definitely or probably vote, and another 25% are at least considering it.  These two generations lean heavily Democratic and even more anti-Trump.  It’s safe to say that if they voted at the same rate as their elders, or anywhere close, Democrats would swamp Republicans all over the country.  So at a minimum, send this little PSA (http://bit.ly/dear_younguns) to everyone you know under 30, and ask them to do the same.  It’s both funny and brutal, but these are brutal times and they could use a little humor.  After last week’s events, this little meme is worth passing along too (http://bit.ly/gun_millennials)

Vote Anyway

If you live in a deep red or deep blue area, your vote is still important for two key reasons, so vote anyway.  First, given how gerrymandered the House is and how grotesquely undemocratic the Senate has become (Los Angeles County is bigger than 42 states; those states have 84 out of the 100 senators while LA County shares two with the rest of California, and no, this is not what the founders had in mind), it’s going to be important to run up the total votes in each house in favor of the Dems (the last time these Senate seats were up for vote, Dems received 10 million more votes in them than the Repos did), so that Democratic representatives have a moral high ground to stand on when, for example, they have to stop Trump from confirming any more extremist judges at any level (more on this in part III).  

The other reason to vote which applies especially if you’re in red country, is to put your Repo representatives on notice that they are no longer “safe,” and can’t afford to hand off large sums of campaign cash to their colleagues in tougher districts anymore (surprisingly, it doesn’t take much to spook a politician into believing there’s a chance the people might want change).

Vote Anyway, II

Call or contact everyone you know and ask them if they’re registered to vote.  If they say no, send them vote.org, which will make the registration process–and every other step of the way–as easy as it can be for them.  If they say no, and the registration deadline has passed, or no, and they don’t have the right ID (and can’t get it), send them vote.org anyway, tell them to register anyway, so they’re signed up for the next election (and all future ones, provided they don’t move), and tell them to go to the polls anyway and cast a provisional ballot, which they have a right, by law, to do.  

After the election, join us in demanding that states and districts provide a full accounting of all provisional ballots, who those votes were for, and why they were rejected, if they were rejected. Let’s make this a moral wake-up moment to show America just how far the Repos have gone to prevent legitimate voters (who ought to be auto-registered and be able to get an ID for free, online–more on this in Part III) from casting ballots, just to undemocratically cling to power.  As for your friends, the old saying, “sow an act, reap a habit” is for real–having voted once, even provisionally, they will be more likely (and be registered!) to vote in the next election, which is the Big Kahuna (or the Big Mac, for those who religiously follow Dear Leader).

Give Self, Not Cash

You’re probably already being bombarded by email with pleas from candidates for money–Democrats do, finally, recognize some value to new media, for fundraising, to blow more money on TV ads that nobody watches, because the condultants they’ve hired get a cut of every ad buy.  Don’t give them any. Volunteer instead. Your presence as a real person doing anything is worth far more than whatever tiny fraction of a hack TV ad your money will buy. If we’re going to come together as a nation again, we’re going to have to start communicating with each other directly, not through dueling TV ads and low-hanging social media zingers.  And if the Democrats keep giving all their time and attention to the big corporate donors, even though they’re now raising more total dollars from you and me, or continue to behave, in general, as if they’ve been gelded, all the time you’ve spent as a volunteer, learning the ropes, campaigning, is going to come in handy when we start primarying and replacing them, and it’s your turn to manage a campaign or become a candidate yourself.  

If you do feel you have to give money, give it to a group that has a real relationship with the voters, not a political party, one of its committees, or a candidate (we could really use a Consumer Reports/Charity Navigator for this–want to help?). If you feel you have to give something to a candidate, find out how much they’re spending on their ground game vs TV (it had better be a lot, because most of the people still watching broadcast TV are over 65 and probably Trump supporters, ie money wasted, not what we want in our public servants), and find out what they’re using the Internet for in their campaign (if it’s really still just a fundraising vehicle for them, the back of the hand is in order).

Have Brain, Will Travel

Every office where you live is held either by your party or the other guys? Boo hoo, that’s no reason not to get involved anymore, thanks to three new groups making blue waves this fall.  Join Swing Left–they’ll match you up with a Republican Congressperson within driving distance you can help get rid of. Join Flippable–they’ll do the same thing for you at the state level, which is going to help blow up every Republican gerrymander after the 2020 census.  Join Sister District, which also focuses on the state level, but more on actions you can take from the comfort of your own home. Or join all three like we did.

People often worry that they’ll do more harm than good if they campaign in districts outside their own (condultants like to encourage this belief as a way of shaking more dollars out of you instead, to flush on more TV ads and get more money for themselves).  I don’t believe it, and if a grassroots champion like Beto O’Rourke is trying to get my mom, who is about as far from a Texan as you can get, to come on down for the final run, I think I’m in good company. Here’s what my experience has been everywhere I’ve been:  Do a little homework on the place you’re thinking of going, especially in areas of passion for you, be ready to work that knowledge naturally into conversation (e.g. by asking directions or other questions about your area of interest), and as long as you’re sincere, really sincere, you may well find you get a better reception than a lot of locals do.  I haven’t been in a place yet where people didn’t appreciate someone from outside of their community taking the time and interest in their history, their highlights, their way of life. And we need a whole lot more of that in our country right now.

Keep Reaching Out

It may seem hopeless, but keep reaching out to and talking to your Trump-supporting friends, especially in these tense times, particularly in areas of common ground (when you throw aside political personalities and ideological labels to focus just on the problems we face and how to solve, I have yet to meet a Trump supporter I don’t have significant common ground with). There are definitely some ice-breakers–Net neutrality, for example, which 90%+ of Americans support, including, by definition, a lot of Trump supporters, many of whom, I suspect, know that without it, the establishment could’ve cut off an insurgency like Trump’s at the knees, like despots do in other countries where Net N is not in play.  You probably agree, in broad brush strokes, that a lot of the things they feel need to be fixed or changed, you do too, even if, at first, you don’t agree much about what those fixes should be. Ironically, I suspect Trump has made federalists out of a lot of blue-staters; the Trumpies were already there.

If you keep engaging, if you keep giving them information in a non-incendiary way, if you’re ready to cool things out if they get hot, it’s very likely their support for him will follow Hemingway’s Law–for a long time it’s going to decline gradually, maybe so gradually you can’t see it, and then collapse.  When that happens, especially when it’s on the verge of happening, most likely when the credit card bills for his reckless economic sugar high come due, it’s going to be really important for our country that as many of us have these relationships as possible, because you can bet your bottom casino chip he will be telling his supporters that we are responsible for his failures to his supporters, as he always does, and that’s going to be a real moment of danger.

Reach out too, to your friends overseas, especially in Europe.  A lot of them have had a lot more experience with the Soviet-style tactics that Putin engages in than we have, at least more experience than we’re aware of, and they may have some helpful advice for us in dealing with it, which would be great to have you share in comments below. It might also be energizing and enervating, in a good way, to know how much the rest of the world is rooting for and counting on you.

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Don’t let he who shall not be named distract you anymore; ignore him (we’ll soon be putting out a post on how impactful that could be).  We’re going to be following our own advice, to the max. As of today, the only political posts we’ll be making on Facebook or other social media will be links to blog posts or other activities from our site, Creative Politics, or from other forward-thinking groups we work with, like

  • Our American Voice, the after-school civics program where kids from grades 3-12 learn how to apply the lessons of the founders and other movement leaders in our history to effect real changes in their own communities
  • Citizen U, a Library of Congress-funded initiative that’s seeking a return to the origins of public education in way that couldn’t be more relevant for our time; integrating civics and civic learning into every classroom, every subject and every grade level K-12
  • 21st Century Citizenship, an initiative begun by Frank Islam, a Muslim Indian-American who came here with $35 and created a $300M company that employed more than 2,000 Americans, and is now doing everything he can to give back to the country he loves.  What is 21st century citizenship? Sign up for our newsletter to find out, learn every month about inspiring exemplars and powerful programs you can participate in while we build out and polish the associated site.

When you consider all of the above, it may seem like there’s too much to do, and too little time to do it.  But boiled down, it really isn’t–here’s a simple pre/post-election checklist you can use; please share it with anyone and everyone you think it could help (http://bit.ly/pre_e_checklist). Here’s how I look at it: each year, the federal, state, and local governments together take 30% of your income in taxes and fees. For most of us, that’s more than we pay for our mortgage every month.  Shouldn’t we be willing to spend at least as much time as we did in buying our home, refinancing it, and the upkeep we continue to preserve and increase its value, to do everything we can to insure the right people are in office to spend that much of our money in the right ways?

And speaking of everything, we know there’s been a lot of chatter in the last 2-3 weeks, much of it planted by the Repos (no matter how many times conservatives claim otherwise, the media is not liberal, even if reporters are, socially at least), noise that seems to be designed to get us to abandon all hope where the Senate is concerned, and perhaps even prepare us to accept a rigged, hacked result in the House as well.  Don’t believe it. It’s largely based on polling that shows a closing of the “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans since the Kavanaugh hearings in early October. The problem with this analysis? There’s a difference between being “enthusiastic” and doing something about it, and during the last 18 months when that gap existed, things were getting done, especially by women (whom men will never out-organize), and there’s nothing that Republicans, waking up in mid-October, can do about that, except pour their last-minute money into seats they thought were safe.

We’re not going to guarantee a Democratic Senate, even a Democratic House, only that we’d better do everything we damned can to make that happen, or the consequences, as Rudy Giuliani would say, will likely be “more than we can bear.”  So finally, in the name of focus, pick a senator, any senator, and do what you can.

My pick to zero in on in the final days is Beto O’Rourke, for just the kinds of reasons I’ve described above. From the start, his race has reminded me a lot of a famous one from my youth–Feingold vs Kasten.  Like Beto, Feingold was a relative unknown up against an oily, not well-liked, but cash-loaded, Republican incumbent, Bob Kasten.  Like Beto, Feingold made up for his lack of cash by traveling repeatedly to every county in the state, including the conservative ones, and cutting quirky ads to get the most bang for his missing buck.  Like Beto, nobody thought he would win. There are a lot more conservatives in Texas than Wisconsin, you might say. But Feingold didn’t have the Internet or small donors from around the country (Beto has been killing Cruz in fundraising), and Texas isn’t red at all, if Hispanics, African-Americans, and younger voters actually show up at the polls.  

And the real reason Beto and other Dems seem to be falling back in the polls right now isn’t a “closing of the enthusiasm gap,” it’s because at this time of year, a lot of pollsters start shifting their reported and promoted results from registered to “likely” voters, with “likely” determined by previous established voting patterns, tweaked to however the pollster thinks those turnout patterns are going to be different (and most pollsters don’t enjoy time spent on limbs).  If they’re wrong, and people show up they aren’t expecting, all bets are off, which is why doing a lot more than voting is going to be key for all of us in the coming days. In Part III of the series, we’ll look ahead past Election Day, to the ways in which the fight for our democracy needs to continue and expand, no matter what the official “results” may say.

Baker’s gear from the successful 2004 uprising in Kyiv, TRR; o, the irony…and damn, now Blindspot knows where we live…

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