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Why I’m still a Democrat

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I have friends who hate the Democratic Party. Frankly there are aspects of it that annoy the hell out of me, too. The wokeness is such a turnoff, with its intellectual narrowness, smug superiority and obsession with race. At its most ridiculous extreme you get a situation like the one in San Francisco, where a woke school board decided to rename schools named after George Washington and Abraham Lincoln because they were deemed to be “racists.” Even in ultra-liberal San Francisco, that shocked a lot of people, and it looks like those school board members will be recalled.

I can’t really blame people who leave the Democratic Party, although I do think that because of Trump, the Republican Party is an even worse choice. Some of my friends would never admit to being Trumpers, nor would I ask because it’s none of my business, but I suspect they are. I admit to being a never-Trumper and a never-Republican. But my loathing of the Republican Party preceded Trump and will last after he’s gone, and for a very simple reason: As a gay man, I’ve been aware for the last 40 years that the Republican Party wants to kill me.

Hyperbole? No. Fueling the Republican Party since the 1970s has been the odious, dangerous conservative-Christian movement in America. That includes evangelicals, Pentecostals and extreme Catholics. These people peddle the pathological lie that gay people are (fill in the blank: satanic, going to hell, depraved, hated by God). There are elements within this lunatic cult that believe God sent AIDS as punishment for gays (which always makes me giggle: Does God send tornadoes to trailer parks because she hates evangelicals?). These sociopaths make no secret of the fact that they would like to eliminate gay people from America. They may not come out and call for the murder of gay people, although some of them do call for our forced incarceration or segregation. But at the root of their rhetoric lies the simple, atavistic desire to rub out gay people, and as we’ve seen in Hitler’s Germany and anyplace that ISIS controlled, such a desire, if unopposed, leads inevitably to genocide.

I don’t expect non-gay people to understand this. We gays have been hunted down by the straight majority our entire lives. We’ve been ostracized and made to feel demonized even when we know we’re good people. This hatred of gays is accurately called “homophobia” but it’s been systematically organized into a movement called the Republican Party that is the party of hatred and death. I truly believe that, at the heart of every homophobe is a kernel of pure evil.

This is why I remain a Democrat and not a Republican. For all the complaining I do about the Democratic Party, I never forget the many blessings it has given us: an end to child labor, labor unions, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Endangered Species Act, the environmental movement, the minimum wage, women’s rights, gay marriage, fighting climate change, supporting trans rights—the list goes on and on. Republicans opposed every single one of those initiatives because of the evil that has putrefied their souls.

This is why I’m proud to be a Democrat. I call myself a “moderate” Democrat because I believe in the moderately left-of-center ideals propounded by Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and President Biden. But make no mistake, I loathe the woke people as much as the Republicans loathe them. We need to reform our party by bringing it closer to the center, and the way to do that is by rejecting the reverse-racism and arrogance of the wokes.


It’s a hideous lie to say Republicans are more gay-friendly because of Trump

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I don’t particularly like the San Francisco Chronicle’s political columnist, Joe Garofoli, because he’s always taking cheap shots at Gov. Newsom, whom I admire. I suspect he’s secretly a crypto-trumper.

Especially obnoxious was his headline yesterday: “GOP gets gay-friendlier—thanks to, yes, Trump.”

You read that right: Donald Trump, protector of LGBTQ people, is making the homophobic Republican-Evangelical Party gay-friendly!

Now, I have to say Garofoli may not have written the headline; his editor might have been the culprit. And Garofoli wasn’t actually responsible for the subject of his column, whom he quoted: Charles Moran, managing director of the Log Cabin Republicans.

The LCRs are a rather queer (in the old sense) group of gay rightwingers. For all their 40-plus years of existence, they’ve puzzled and infuriated the vast majority of gays, who wonder why anyone gay would support an outfit that wants to obliterate LGBTQ people.

The weirdo headline was based on Garofoli’s interview with Moran. It stemmed from his statement that “One of the best things about [Trump] is that he helped get the Republican Party beyond the hang-up around LGBT equality issues.”

Now you, Dear Reader, might be scratching your head in wonderment about how Trump moved his party beyond their gay hang-up. Well, Moran’s thesis is that Trump wasn’t as horrible toward LGBTQ people as most Republicans might have been. And so, in Moran’s fever dream, because he wasn’t as Hitleresque as other Republicans, he actually helped the Republican Party toward gay acceptance.

There’s so much wrong and dishonest about this that it’s hard to know where to begin, starting with Trump’s alleged gay-friendliness. To set the record straight, the Trump regime “gutted LGBTQ+ rights,” says the decidedly conservative-leaning USA Today newspaper. The article details some of the more homophobic things the Trump regime did, including

  • Removing all mention of LGBTQ people and issues from the White House website
  • Barring transgendered people from the military
  • Pushed for exemptions that would allow health care providers to refuse care to transgender people and those with HIV/AIDS
  • Banned U.S. embassies from flying the rainbow flag to mark global Pride Month
  • Outlawed the words “transgender” and “diversity” in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports
  • Stopped data collection for LGBTQ+ kids in foster care
  • And, of course, appointed some of the most rightwing, homophobic fanatics to the Supreme Court—justices whose anti-gay rulings will turn back the clock on LGBTQ rights for decades to come.

Do you remember that scene from The Caine Mutiny when the Jose Ferrer character tosses a glass of water into the face of the Fred MacMurray character? That’s what I’ll do if I ever have the non-pleasure of meeting Charles Moran. The guy is a tool, a liar, and a self-professed apologist for the infamies of the homophobic Trump Party, which are legion. Mr. Moran may say to himself that he’s not a single-issue voter, and that the mere fact that he’s gay doesn’t prevent him from voting Republican. I can accept that, although it rubs me the wrong way.

But for Moran to claim that Trump pushed the Republican Party in a gay-friendly way is appallingly dishonest spin. It’s the kind of propaganda we’ve come to expect from Republican extremists, and it’s sad that San Francisco’s paper of record, the Chronicle, has chosen to plaster those rightwing lies on its own pages.


Defund the defunders, or how a truly stupid slogan is destroying the Democratic Party

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(I also posted this today on my blog at the Coalition for a Better Oakland.)

Barack Obama is against it. Joe Biden is against it. Two-thirds of the American people are against it.

What is “it”? Defunding the police—surely the stupidest, most damaging political slogan in recent American history.

No one is sure where the slogan originated. According to one version, it started in Minneapolis, after the George Floyd murder, when a group called Defund MPD” [Minneapolis Police Department] was formed. The group describes itself as “a Black-led multi-racial coalition of people and organizations in DC who share a common vision of a city without prisons and police.”

No more prisons and police! Imagine that. This swords-into-plowshares vision surely is as old as human aspiration itself. Isaiah prophesized, “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” But he also based this prayer on a proviso: it would not happen until a time when “a king will reign in righteousness, and rulers will rule with justice…[and] My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes.”

Have we reached that point, here in America? Are we living “in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes”? Far from it. “Violent crime is rising in American cities,” The Economist wrote just two days ago. Here in Oakland, we know all too well that “The city of Oakland is in the midst of a violent crime wave,” as the Oakland Police Officers’ Association reported last week. We can debate the causes of this spike in violent crime, which is happening across the country, but what is not debatable is the public’s alarm. “78% of Oakland residents want more police officers,” according to a poll cited by Mayor Libby Schaaf when she presented her 2021-2022 budget, which would largely protect Oakland Police Department funding.

In modern American politics, nothing ever gets 78% support, so for Oaklanders to want a fully-staffed police department is historic. But the will of the people apparently counts for nothing among the defund crowd on the City Council, on the Police Commission, and in radical cults like the Anti Police-Terror Project. In those bastions of woke-ness, an attitude of “We know better” prevails. Damn the public’s desire for safety! Damn the public! We elites of the Left know better. Leave everything to us, and the lamb shall lie down with the lion.

Sorry. We, the public, aren’t buying it. The defund crowd is on the run, and they know it; but, ironically, that makes them all the more dangerous. Like a cornered rat, they bare their teeth and make snarling noises, threatening anyone who comes near with a mauling. We know that the defunders have already cost Democrats scores of seats at the local and Congressional level in the November, 2021 elections. We know, also, that “Democratic operatives are warning lawmakers to steer clear of any defund-the-police rhetoric since it could hurt them in the midterms.”

Is that what the defunders want—a Republican wave that destroys the fragile Democratic majority in Congress and leads, frighteningly, to a Trump restoration? The defunders claim to be liberals, but honestly, what they sound like is nothing less than crypto-fascists.


The world according to Carville

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The always-insightful James Carville gave a talk the other day, covering a variety of topics. Here are his main points, with my “take” on each.

Why Democrats aren’t as good as Republicans at messaging

Republicans always revert to the ferality of human beings: their primal fears, the reptilian instincts for killing and survival that still exist in our limbic brains. Whether it’s fear of “the other”–queers, brown-skinned foreigners, Antifa, Islamic terrorists–or, one of their favorite memes, fear of “big government,” Republicans know how to make frightened people even more frightened. A frightened person will generally circle the wagons around himself, his family and his peer group, and react with hostility to everyone else. This is the essence of Republicanism or, to call it by its proper name, Trumpism.

Democrats by contrast like to emphasize the interconnectedness of the world, its brotherhood and sisterhood. We’re all one; let’s sit around the campfire, roast marshmallows and sing Kumbaya. That surely is a very positive message, and the only one capable of bringing about world peace. But it’s a very easy message to satirize. This is how Republicans are currently making such hay with their ridicule of “woke” Democrats. So in the messaging wars, Republicans have the advantage.

How woke messaging is hurting Democrats in the polls

As I just wrote, “wokeism” is being used successfully to paint Democrats as out-of-touch eccentrics, who feel superior to everyone else. Woke people use phrases like “social justice,” “non-binary,” “cultural appropriation” and, yes, “woke” itself—silly phrases that sound like they were invented by some ivory tower-sheltered sociology assistant professor. Real people don’t use the language of “wokeism” and real people—working class, not super-educated—are the ones Republicans have recruited to such effect in recent decades. All a Republican candidate has to do is remind his factory-working voters that Democrats look down upon them as simple-minded idiots.

Should Democrats give Joe Manchin a harder time for opposing the elimination of the filibuster?

First, what does “give him a hard time” mean? Schumer could strip him of his committee assignments, the way the House stripped Taylor Greene of hers, but the only thing that would do would be to drive Manchin into the Republican Party, which would probably increase his popularity in West Virginia. Others have argued that Democrats should get tougher about doing away with the filibuster by using arcane Senate rules. But not all Democrats are in favor of that; even Biden currently opposes it. So it’s not clear what kind of “harder time” Democrats can give anyone. Besides, the ultimate get-around of the filibuster would be to win elections. If Democrats can’t do that, then tinkering with the filibuster is the least of their problems.

Should we even care about Trump voters as we look to the future?

This is a big question. Some 70 million Americans voted for Trump in 2020 and they continue to back him to the hilt. It’s tempting for Democrats to give the finger to these people and tell them to go hell. I have those temptations myself. I feel towards them the way I feel towards people who won’t get the vaccine. “I hope you get sick and die” would be one way to describe my thinking. At the same time, the rational voice inside me points out that, if Republicans get sick, they’ll spread the virus to Democrats and Independents as well, so wishing illness upon Republicans, while emotionally satisfying, is hardly a logical path forward.

Same with Trump voters. I have two words for them, and they ain’t “Merry Christmas.” But the rational voice inside me says that we have to live side-by-side with these people, and if we’re to avoid going to war with them, we have to figure out how to do it peacefully. This means convincing them of our beliefs. Some of them will never, ever concede their mistakes; evangelicals in particular are beyond reasoning with, and so we probably can write them off. But so many other Republicans are potentially convertible. I think of some of my own relatives who teeter-totter on the red-blue fence. They’re “get-attable,” as Franklin Roosevelt used to say of Stalin. So for these reasons, we should care about Trump voters.

The bottom line, for me, is that politics is a never-ending task. If we care about our country, and if we value the ideals we profess to believe in, we have to wake up every day prepared to do battle. Every election represents a potential tipping point. A Democratic sweep in 2022, and then again in 2024, might buy us years in which to recover from the injury four years of Trump inflicted upon America. That’s worth fighting for.


The Father of Oakland’s “Reimaging Public Safety Task Force” has a new idea: “Abolishing the police”

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Anand Subramanium is the managing director of a social justice organization, Policy Link. He was co-facilitator of Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, the City Council’s infamous study group that has been associated with slashing the Oakland Police Department’s budget by up to 50%.

Subramanium and Policy Link have come out with a webinar that should scare the bejesus out of everyone concerned about crime and public safety. “Policing Can’t Be Reformed. Why Defunding and Abolishing is the Common-Sense Approach” is the title.

It’s a long webinar, some 90 minutes in length, and I’ll have more to say about it in future posts. But for now, I want to start with something that actually surprised me: Subramanium takes the basic tenets of modern police reform he once championed in Oakland and now alleges that none of them actually work.

Here are some of his claims:

Body cams should be rejected because they raise “privacy concerns.” Now, communities of color and police reformers have been demanding body cameras for years, only to be opposed by cops and their unions. But finally, police departments—under enormous pressure—have yielded, and begun providing their cops with cameras. That’s a good thing, right? Not so, according to Subramanium. His group doesn’t like body cams because a criminal suspect’s “privacy” might be violated. So throw away those body cams.

Ditto for Tasers. For years, cop reformers demanded that police use Tasers instead of guns to control non-compliant suspects. Now, Subramanium complains that Tasers “can be lethal.” So throw away the Tasers.

Nor does Subramanium think much of community policing. The police reform crowd has been demanding community policing for a long time, under the theory (which seems true to me) that if cops get to know residents, and vice versa, relationships of trust will more easily be built. But here’s Subramanium complaining that community policing is “vague,” only “PR,” and has somehow “tokenized” people of color. So throw away community policing.

Subramanium is even against so-called “bias training” for cops, which is designed to prevent them from racial profiling by making them aware of their own internal prejudices. Look: bias training, provided by psychologists and others, has become a gold standard of police education. The Oakland Police Department trains its officers in this way, and so do most other big city departments. But Subramanium is against such training. Why? It’s “unproven” and “easily ignored,” he argues. So throw away bias training.

How about “reform-minded police chiefs”? This, too, has been a demand by police reformers. We have one here in Oakland, LeRonne Armstrong, who has proven his willingness to work closely with police reformers. But Subramanium says “reform-minded police chiefs” don’t do any good, because their positions are “political,” because of “police unions,” and because the “entrenched culture” of police departments thwarts them in their efforts.

To learn all this, you might think Subramanium is some kind of rightwing militia type. Body cams don’t work. Tasers don’t work. Community policing doesn’t work. Bias training doesn’t work. Reform-minded police chiefs don’t work. In fact, according to him, nothing relating to current methods of police reform works.

And since nothing works, Subramanium demands the complete “Abolishing” (his word) of police departments! Not just partial defunding. Not just letting social workers handle mental cases and letting cops fight violent crime. Complete defunding leading to abolishing police departments is what Subramanium and his Policy Link group want.

Why didn’t Subramanium tell Oakland that when he was steering the Reimagining group? Why did he hide his radical plans?

Well, to paraphrase Churchill, Subramanium had, at least, a policy, albeit a very wrong, incoherent and dangerous one. I can hardly believe anyone could possibly think abolishing the police is sane, especially in Oakland, where violent crime is at its highest level in a decade.

But actually, the anti-cop rhetoric being hurled at cops may be resulting in something Subramanium and his Abolishing crowd want. Chief Armstrong reported yesterday that ten (10) officers have left OPD in the last three weeks, plunging the department to its lowest staffing level in six years. Maybe that’s Subramanium’s secret strategy: Make policing so odious for cops that they quit.

As for you, oh Average Oaklander, where does all this leave you? Not to worry. When you’re mugged, you can always call a social worker where a computer voice tells you you’re No. 17 in line, with an expected wait time of 127 minutes, during which you can choose to listen to a variety of music, or none at all.


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