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Talking about politics is so 2017. Unfortunately, it seems to be unavoidable. Probably because it’s still 2017.

There’s just so much political to talk about. Donald freaking Trump is president. I mean, that’s crazy, man. It’s crazy. He hasn’t even been president a fortnight, and so much has happened that people feel like they have to comment and argue about. I go on Facebook and literally 80% of my feed is about Donald Trump. It’s worse than when he was campaigning!

I feel like I should just try to forget Donald Trump is president, but that would require staying off the internet altogether, and I’m not really prepared to do that. The other thing is that as unpleasant as all the political talk is, it distracts me from what’s going on or not going on in my personal life. I’d write more about what’s going on in my personal life, but most of it involves my daughter, who is now an adult, and really, over the last few years I’ve tried to write less about anything that could be construed as an invasion of my kids’ privacy. Probably one of the reasons I’ve written less, period. Because my whole life centers around my kids—unfortunately! Suffice it to say, I’m facing some challenges as the parent of an adult. I’d tell you more, but that would definitely be an invasion of her privacy and therefore make me a worse person than I already am. I know none of you wants that.

So it’s sort of a toss-up—do I think about my failures as a parent, or do I think about America’s failures? America’s failures it is! That doesn’t mean anyone else wants to read about it. But is anyone reading anyway? Doubtful.

One of the advantages of living in Oregon has been that I haven’t had to call any of my congresspersons to ask them to oppose some crazy thing Trump has done, because they already do it automatically. Unfortunately, this knee-jerk opposition will include opposing Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Since I much prefer Gorsuch to the other dudes Trump was considering, I would like to ask my congresspersons to reconsider their reflexive opposition to every single thing Trump does. Unfortunately, I’m still a socially awkward dullard who hates to use the phone, so it looks like I shall be abdicating my responsibility as an informed citizen. Yeah, I’ve already given up. I just know I’m never going to pick up a phone and try to talk to a complete stranger about Supreme Court nominees. I may as well plan to give up carbs again. (I’m never doing that, btw.)

In November I voted to re-elect Ron Wyden as a senator from Oregon. I believe that made him the first Democrat I have voted for in the last 20 years. What can I say? It’s a strange time. The bar for candidates has been lowered to “not a complete nutter.” Ron Wyden and I disagree on a lot of things—maybe most things—but he strikes me as a person of integrity and someone interested in defending civil liberties, which is an increasingly rare cocktail among politicians, and also, he is not a complete nutter. So really, there’s my decision right there. I believe this is the first time I have ever voted for an Oregon politician who won something. So that’s kind of cool.

Anyway, I like Senator Wyden. I do think, however, he’s gone a little overboard with his opposition to Neil Gorsuch. I mean, I’d expect him to oppose anyone Trump nominates, but what he said was,  “Gorsuch represents a breathtaking retreat from the notion that Americans have fundamental Constitutional rights.” Obviously, he’s coming from a place where any Republican nominee must represent a breathtaking retreat from the notion that Americans have fundamental Constitutional rights, but I really wish he and the rest of the Democratic opposition in the Senate would try looking at things from a place where Republican nominees could be a lot worse. I mean, that’s the place I’m at. Donald Trump is in the White House, kids. When that’s your base line, it ought to change your perspective on some stuff.

If Democrats decide to block Gorsuch as payback for what the Republicans did with Merrick Garland, it will be no worse than what they (i.e. the Republicans) deserve. What the Republicans did in the case of Garland was disgraceful. Personally, I’m happy not to have Garland on the Supreme Court. These “law and order liberals” are the worst of both worlds, as far as I’m concerned. But the President is the President until the next guy becomes President, and there’s just no excuse for refusing to hold a hearing for his (or, theoretically, her) nominee. Unless said nominee is a serial killer or incompetent, said nominee should probably be confirmed too, but that perhaps is an overly quaint notion.

So if Democrats want to get back at Republicans for blocking Garland, I understand completely. Since that’s the childish way American politicians do things, I suppose I shouldn’t begrudge them the satisfaction. But I’d advise them to wait for the next SCOTUS nominee (assuming there is one—there are some awfully old people on the court these days), who is bound to be worse. Revenge is a dish best served cold, after all. Actually, I suggest that when the next vacancy comes up, they say something like, “Nah, it’s too close to the election. We should let the next President decide”—no matter how far away the election is. Because, as I said earlier, that argument is bullcrap. But also as I said earlier, Republicans will deserve it.

As a friend said on the Facebook, Democrats should certainly not be under the illusion that any magnanimous gesture they make here will be appreciated or reciprocated by the Republicans. (Why would it be? If the situation were reversed, magnanimity would be equally wasted on them.) They should confirm Garland because it’s the right thing to do, but that’s almost irrelevant in this day and age. I’m arguing that it would also be the strategically advantageous thing to do because a) as Trump nominees go, we could do a lot worse than a dude who’s skeptical of executive branch power and a critic of “overcriminalization” and b) it may not impress Republicans, but it will impress moderates, whom Democrats will need if they want to win some more elections.

I mean, Democrats will win more elections. It’s not like their party’s dead in the water or something. Their presidential candidate, an extremely unpopular person, won the popular vote! But showing a little bi-partisan good will goes a long way with moderates, of whom I think there are probably more than ever these days. We’re a week and a half into this administration, and ordinary Americans are already sick and tired of fighting. We can’t keep up this breakneck pace indefinitely. Does Trump look like he’s going to stop doing crazy stuff anytime soon? I don’t think he does. So save the outrage for the crazy stuff. You can’t take it up to 11 for every normal Republican thing that happens. This isn’t Mitt Romney’s America. (You should be so lucky! Harumph!)

But I reckon that, as always, the debate will come down to abortion. We can whittle away at the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments all we like, but as long as abortion remains legal or gets illegal, that’s all anyone will care about. Bah! It’s enough to make me contemplate my own personal problems.

There’s been a lot of talk about “fake news” since the election. So much talk that “fake news” no longer means “fake news” but “biased articles we don’t like.” Personally, I don’t have a problem with fake news. I can tell when news is fake, and if you can’t tell when news is fake, then I don’t have a lot of confidence in your ability to deal with real news, so I give up on that score. I have even less of a problem with biased news. I expect unbiased news reports about as much as I expect Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor to walk into a bar. I assume that reporters are biased; I factor it into my analysis of their reporting. What bothers me more than fake news and biased news is crap news, i.e. “news” about stupid crap that doesn’t matter to anyone and drowns out issues that are actually relevant to people’s lives.

A prime example of crap news is whatever dumbass thing the President-Elect just tweeted about that makes no difference to anyone but only shows what a dumbass jerk he is. WE ALREADY KNOW HE’S A DUMBASS JERK. THIS ISN’T “NEWS.”

The crap news that is bugging me right now is this business about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, saying that schools need to have guns on campus to protect students from grizzly bears. All the liberals are like, “OMG GRIZZLY BEARS THAT’S SO STUPID,” and all the conservatives are like, “OMG THAT’S A GROSS DISTORTION OF WHAT SHE SAID,” and really, both of them are correct, but the most correct response would be “OMG EVERYONE SHUT UP ABOUT GUNS AND BEARS SHE CAN’T GIVE A COHERENT RESPONSE TO A RELEVANT QUESTION ABOUT FEDERAL LAW REGARDING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES”—but that last one is more than 140 characters, so good luck.

I have four kids, three of whom are still in public K-12 schools (the fourth is at a public community college) and two of whom have disabilities. I’m as interested in the success of my disabled children as I am in my other children’s, and I’m grateful to be living in a day and age and society in which we’ve collectively made efforts to ensure that disabled students get appropriate educations. However, I am not naïve about the limitations and drawbacks of the current system under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I am totally open to new and different policy proposals for ensuring that disabled students have access to an appropriate education.

From what I’ve read, i.e. what I’ve managed to glean from reports that aren’t obsessed with her unnatural fear of grizzlies, Betsy DeVos’s general philosophy seems to be that the federal government should have less control over education and states and locales should have more. That is a general philosophy that I happen to share. No, I’m not some kind of wacko who thinks school districts should just hold bake sales and hope for the best. I’m neither a purist nor a fanatic, but I am skeptical that the federal government, as far removed as it is from most citizens’ lives, can effectively micro-manage the educations of all students. Just a healthy skepticism, that’s all I have, not a partisan axe to grind or a political hobby horse I want to ride.

The fact is that my family does just fine under the status quo. We’re above-average in terms of income and financial resources; my husband and I are both college-educated; one of us is a full-time caregiver. We have many advantages over other families, particularly when it comes to providing for the needs of our disabled children. We can supplement our children’s public education. We can afford to live in a good school district with good schools. We can afford private therapies for our children with disabilities. We can afford babysitters to watch our kids while we go to endless IEP meetings and fight with the school district over what services they’re going to provide. We can take time off work to go to these meetings. If push comes to shove, we can afford to hire a lawyer or advocate to help us navigate the process of getting our kids the services they’re legally entitled to. The federal government doesn’t need to change anything on our account.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of families in this country who don’t enjoy the same advantages we have. Whatever their neighborhood school is, no matter how awful, they’re stuck with it. Whatever the school district offers in terms of services for their disabled children, no matter how inadequate, that’s what they’ll get. These are the families who aren’t being served by the current system because they don’t have the resources to navigate it. So yes, I’m very interested to learn how a “federalist” (i.e. local) approach to education would benefit students across a spectrum of needs. I’m philosophically biased toward federalism and local control to begin with, so you don’t even need to work that hard to sell it to me—but you do have to sell it. You can’t just say, “Leave it up to the states,” like it’s some Jedi mind trick. That doesn’t even work on me, let alone all the folks who think “states’ rights” is just another way of saying “slavery” or “segregation.”

I’m not super-convinced that anyone in Washington really wants to have a substantive discussion about education policy, though. I haven’t seen reports of any particularly substantive questioning of Betsy DeVos by anyone in the Senate. I see that she can’t explain what she plans to do (or not do) to improve the lot of American students, but I also see that some dumbass from Connecticut wanted to spend his five minutes asking her what she thinks about guns in schools WHEN IT’S NOT THE EDUCATION SECRETARY’S JOB TO KEEP GUNS OUT OF SCHOOLS OR PUT THEM THERE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT SHE THINKS. Honestly, does anyone think Sandy Hook could have been prevented if the Secretary of Education (whoever he/she was at the time) had just been more pro-active about keeping guns out of school? I meant that to be a rhetorical question, but just in case anyone’s raising their hand, let me just say NO GRIZZLY BEAR OR PSYCHOPATH HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION. Whether or not there should be guns in school or no guns in school is certainly debatable. By all means, have that debate. MAYBE IN YOUR STATES OR LOCALES, WHICH ARE IN CHARGE OF GUN LAWS.

I should probably not call the senator from Connecticut a dumbass when I’ve never met him and he’s probably a perfectly lovely person who happens to feel strongly about gun control for understandable reasons, but golly, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and not everything can be about gun control.

I should also probably note that Trump talked on the campaign trail about banning gun-free schools, as though this is something the President should even be able to do, let alone actually do. To this I can only say NO PRESIDENT HAS EVER BEEN STOPPED BY THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION AND THIS COUNTRY REALLY NEEDS TO HAVE A COME TO JESUS ABOUT EXECUTIVE POWER. FORWARD SLASH RANT

The reality is that it probably doesn’t matter who the Secretary of Education is if this is the level of discourse we’re going to have about education policy. A meaningful discussion of the most important issues will take longer than the 45 seconds the public is willing to spend on it. SO FINE JUST TALK ABOUT BEARS.

So Donald Trump was elected President of the United States last week. Needless to say, this was unexpected in many quarters, including mine. I wish “silly” were all I felt right now. But what are you gonna do? Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, my initial thought was, well, let’s hope I was wrong about a hell of a lot more than Trump’s chances of winning the election. I mean, I do fervently hope that. Unfortunately, my mistake here was not underestimating Trump. It was overestimating the voting public. But that’s water under the bridge.

I had been bracing myself for four years of President Hillary Clinton, and I must have done a spectacular job, because last week I was numb. I felt nothing. Not sadness, not disappointment, not anger. I think I must have worn myself out with anger over the last year or so, because I had nothing left in the emotional reservoir. I was nothing but purely dumbfounded. I think, also, that I’m the type that tends to be calmer in a crisis than in a state of uncertainty. So I said to myself, “Well, okay. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out.”

So far, it isn’t encouraging. Reince Priebus has been named chief of staff. Fine. Yawn. I mean, Reince Priebus, like most Republicans, is still dead to me and all, but fine. But Steve Bannon has been named “chief strategist and senior counselor.” This does not bode well for the Trump presidency having a different tone from the Trump campaign. Hillary was right to say in her concession speech that Trump deserved a chance to lead. But for me to have any confidence in Trump’s ability to lead requires that he distance himself from the alt-Right and its racist, xenophobic, morally bankrupt agenda. It would appear that Trump is not interested in doing any such thing. All signs indicate that he’s just going to keep doing what he’s been doing. I still have a tiny door of my mind open to the idea that he may change and end up surprising us all, but it’s very tiny and Steve Bannon keeps standing in front of it. Very hard to let in rays of hope. Sad!

The conservative Republicans who argued for supporting Trump in the election said that if worse came to worst–if Trump turned out to be as crappy a president as the rest of us thought he was going to be–we could always impeach him. That was a lot funnier before last Tuesday, when it was just candidate Trump Republicans were rolling over for. Needless to say, I am not holding my breath for a Republican campaign to impeach President Trump. But, you know, there’s still that tiny door Steve Bannon is standing in front of. It’s possible that there are some congressional Republicans who intend to keep an attitude of constant vigilance. I can’t see or hear them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there at all. Trump hasn’t been inaugurated yet, after all. Maybe they’re just saving their strength, honing their pitchforks in secret, waiting for their opportunity to strike.

This is where I would ordinarily break out in sarcastic laughter, but like I said a few sentences ago, it’s not funny anymore. This little dream is all I have.

The thing that is currently driving me crazy is when some (some) Democrats go on about how horrible the next four years are going to be, what an unprecedented evil is about to take over the White House, and then they say something like, “But if we impeach him, Mike Pence becomes president.” ::shudder::  I’ve encountered statements like this on Facebook, Twitter, and actual real-life conversations with otherwise normal-seeming liberals.

Kids, you know Mike Pence is not my guy. He would not have been my first (or second or third or fourth or fifth) choice to be president. But if we’re going to work together on this keep-Trump-from-destroying-the-republic project, we’re going to have to get the narrative straight. Is Trump the worst person ever to be selected to rule the free world, or is he actually better than a true-believing social conservative like Mike Pence? The last two Republican presidential candidates were also social conservatives. Would they be equally horrible replacements for Donald Trump? Would you really rather have Donald Trump than anyone who opposes gay marriage and abortion, even though Donald Trump supposedly has the most racist political agenda since George Wallace? Is that your final answer?

People used to joke about Joe Biden being President Obama’s insurance against assassination. As far as normal, i.e. not alt-Right, Republicans are concerned, Mike Pence isn’t any sort of insurance. Paul Ryan would do cartwheels if Donald Trump got bored and resigned and Mike Pence became president, as would every other Republican I know–including ones who voted for Trump. (Note: I don’t know any alt-Right folks outside of Twitter. I live in a true bubble. Envy me.) As I said (or implied) earlier, I don’t think anyone’s champing at the bit to bring impeachment proceedings against their own party’s president, but if push came to shove, no Republican in their right mind is going to lose sleep over Mike Pence becoming president. Perhaps that just confirms in your mind that they are horrible human beings, because you keep saying as bad as Trump is, Mike Pence is somehow worse.

Let me get this straight.

Trump is just like Hitler, but bring on the pogroms because God forbid we have someone in the White House who might appoint a Supreme Court justice who might in a million years be inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion is what makes women human, and if you don’t get that, you have no business being anywhere near the nuclear codes. Trump might round up all the Muslims into concentration camps, but at least we won’t have someone in the White House who wouldn’t bake a cake for a gay wedding. At least we won’t have gone that far. As long as Trump is running the country, everyone who isn’t a white male is in grave personal danger, but at least we won’t have a president who believes there’s such a thing as biological sex and that “males” and “females” should use different bathrooms, because that would be awful. You may as well set the Constitution on fire! Goodbye, Bill of Rights! Trump is the worst thing to happen to the country ever, but what really makes him the worst is that his replacement would be even worse!

This is an excellent strategy for getting people to take you seriously. No one will ever guess that you’re mentally twelve and know nothing about history or how the government works.

Let me wax like our current president and be clear: I don’t have it in for Roe v. Wade, I’m okay with gay couples being married, and I really don’t care who uses what bathroom. I have bigger fish to fry. I should think you would too, but maybe not, since you’ve determined that there’s no advantage to be gained by getting rid of President Trump if he isn’t going to be replaced by someone of your choosing. Believe me, I would like to start all over too, but we can’t. This is the hand we’ve been dealt. So what shall we do?

Well. We could start by toning down the rhetoric just a tad–or, failing that, we could try applying it to ONE PERSON AT A TIME, and maybe pretend to understand the difference between a reasonable, i.e. not insane, person with whom we disagree on policy and a demagogue/megalomaniac who only ran for president because he wanted the attention. JUST A SUGGESTION.

The good news is that no matter what happens with the presidency, I think we’re going to pull through this, America. And if not, I’ve heard Jesus is coming. ::fingers crossed::

 

Yesterday, against my better judgment, I answered a phone call that turned out to be someone from the Trump campaign soliciting a donation. (In my defense, I’ve been expecting a rather important call from someone whose number I don’t know, which is the only reason I picked up the phone.) This gentleman thanked me for my support of the Republican candidate and asked if I would be willing to offer additional support during the home stretch to ensure that Hillary Clinton is defeated. I told him I’d never donated to Donald Trump and had no intention of starting. He then tried to tell me how awful it will be if Hillary becomes president. I interrupted him to say I couldn’t possibly care less, because I was too tired and annoyed to say what I was really feeling, which was “Tell your boss that he can enjoy my donation IN HELL.” Still, when I hung up, Mister Bubby said, “Mom, you totally dissed that guy.” No, not really, son, but am I ever sick and tired of hearing how I have to vote for Trump or America is doomed.

First of all, America is probably not doomed. I mean, not yet. Well, it might be doomed. It very well could be doomed, but America has survived quite a lot in its short history. I see no reason to think it can be brought down entirely by the likes of Hillary. I remember when her husband was elected in 1992. I was at college, and the morning after Election Day, someone had written on the wall, “We’re doomed.” And yet here we still are. We survived eight years of Bill Clinton, eight years of George W. Bush, and (almost) eight years of Barack Obama. Will Hillary be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? I suppose it’s possible, but pardon me if I’m skeptical. It’s not that I think that things can’t get worse, that a president can’t do real damage. I just think the damage Hillary will allegedly cause has been greatly exaggerated. America may get battered a great deal over the next few years, but she will probably survive.

Instead of worrying so much about America, these Republicans should worry more about themselves— because it’s the Republican party that’s really in trouble. So many alleged conservatives say that while Trump is surely not an ideal candidate (an understatement if there ever was one), he is nevertheless the only thing standing between us and the apocalypse Hillary Clinton is guaranteed to bring about. I’ve already talked about why this argument is illogical and crazy, but I guess I’m going to talk about it again because it keeps being it.

Trump is not a conservative. He is not even really a Republican. Not in the sense that he has any loyalty to the Republican party or to any of the ideals the Republican party has historically claimed to represent. To him the Republican party is a vehicle to satisfy his ego and his narcissism. He doesn’t care what other Republicans want. He cares only about himself and his own aggrandizement. If this wasn’t painfully obvious from the beginning—as it should have been—it should be excruciatingly obvious now that he is actively trying to sabotage the re-election campaigns of individual Republicans who have been insufficiently deferential to him personally. If he had any intention of enacting a conservative agenda—particularly those hypothetical Supreme Court appointments Republicans are selling their souls over–sabotaging other Republicans is the last thing he would be doing, because enacting a conservative agenda requires a Republican congress. But Trump clearly doesn’t care if he has a Republican congress or not. What are some reasons he might not care? Well, he might plan on junking the constitution and becoming a dictator. Or maybe he doesn’t think it matters what he does, as long as he can be president while he does it. Neither of these things bodes well for Republicans or conservatism.

If Trump is elected, he will not govern as a conservative. He will not. Unless you define “conservative” as “acting like a jerk.” For the sake of this blog post, we will not be defining conservatism in this fashion. So if Trump is elected, who will save America from the dire consequences of not having a conservative president? Not Congress, because if Trump is president and Republicans manage to keep control of the House and the Senate, Republicans will be doing whatever Trump wants to do, not the other way around. And we’ve already established that Trump himself has no commitment to a conservative agenda.

The way Democrats usually fight a Republican presidential candidate is to tell everyone he’s going to outlaw birth control and throw Grandma off a cliff. But it is very difficult this year to argue that Donald Trump is going to do something like defund Planned Parenthood or reform Social Security—because he’s said he’s not going to do those things. All the Democrats have on him is that he’s a repugnant piece of human garbage. It must be tough. For some reason, Republicans want to get this repugnant piece of human garbage elected in exchange for absolutely nothing. Hillary will probably be a bad president. I don’t dispute that. She will certainly not be the kind of president I, as a limited-government conservative, want. But neither will Donald Trump. Donald Trump will also be a bad president because he is so much like Hillary Clinton, only more racist and more misogynist. If he is president, the Republicans will own his racist, misogynist, big-government authoritarian administration, and while that may not mean the end of America, it will mean the end of the GOP as a vehicle for limited-government conservatism, and it will be the beginning of the end of the GOP as a viable party in the long term.

Republicans will be better off with a bad president they can openly oppose than with a bad president they have to support—and they will have to support him because they already feel obligated to support him now and he’s not even elected yet. If Republicans spend the next four years supporting a racist and misogynist authoritarian, they will demonstrate that they have no intention of appealing to any constituents who are not white males. White males are certainly an important demographic; they have served Republicans well over the years. But they are not as important as they were when no one else could vote. And as a percentage of the electorate, their numbers are shrinking. If the Republican party wants to win elections in the future, they have to start persuading people who are not white males to vote Republican. They can only do that by showing how their governing philosophy serves the interest of all Americans. They can only do that by addressing the concerns of people who are not white males. You do not address the concerns of people who are not white males by supporting a racist, misogynist, authoritarian jerkface. The Republican party was already in trouble before this election. For the last 30 years support for Republicans has gone down among all demographic groups except for white men, and Republicans have done little to nothing to reverse these trends. In this election cycle they have done everything they can to make things worse. They’ve decided they don’t even need women anymore. This is not the behavior of a political party that is destined to survive.

Frankly, I am no longer invested in the Republican party surviving. I think it has shown itself to be rotten at the core, and it probably deserves to die. But I assume Republicans do want to survive. I assume they want to win elections in the future. If so, they have to start caring about something besides winning elections. They have to stand for something that isn’t big government lite with a side of racism and misogyny. They have to repudiate Donald Trump and Trumpism. They have to be willing to exchange a handful of angry white male voters for a broader coalition of other voters. This election is lost. It’s too late to do anything about it. But if Republicans ever want to win another election, they must stop hoping against hope that a miracle will occur this year and Donald Trump will be elected because Donald Trump getting elected is the worst possible thing that could happen to Republicans. Republicans need to face that reality and move on dot org. They’re going to be in the doghouse for at least the next four years. Hopefully they use that time constructively and learn something from their mistakes. But I for one am not holding my breath.

I’ve been catching up on my political podcasts while doing dishes and laundry (and catching up on neither of those). It’s been easy to fall behind lately, for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s cute to listen to a couple of conservative pundits talking a few weeks ago about how there’s still hope for the Republicans this year, and sometimes it’s too painful. Yesterday I was listening to Thomas Sowell give the case for voting for Trump, even though he’s patently unqualified. Thomas Sowell is undoubtedly smarter than I am, in more ways than one, but he has a giant blind spot when it comes to the lesser-of-two-evils saga that is Clinton vs. Trump.

Sowell’s argument (at least at this particular time) was that this election is like being in an airplane that’s about to crash. If you jump out of the plane, any number of things could happen: your parachute could fail to open, you could land in the middle of the ocean and drown, you could land in the middle of an inhospitable landscape and die of exposure or wild animal attack or whatever, etc., etc. None of it looks good. Your chance of survival is slim. But if you stay in the plane, you’re definitely going to die. According to Sowell, voting for Hillary is staying in the plane, whereas voting for Trump is jumping out and hoping for the best.

This argument has a certain logical appeal, if you’re a conservative (or if you just think Hillary is really, really horrible). It’s similar to the argument I hear most often from people who claim to find Trump distasteful but feel they have no choice but to vote for him because Hillary would be worse. But this argument disregards the following:

a) Donald Trump lies.

b) Donald Trump reneges on his promises.

c) Donald Trump has no particular loyalty to conservative principles or to the Republican party.

Those three things are facts. They’re as certain as death by plane crash. They have been amply demonstrated over his many years in business and public life. They aren’t worth trying to dispute. Most reluctant Trump-supporters will admit that voting for him is purely a gamble–it’s jumping out of an airplane–but no matter how dire the possibilities, the gamble still beats what they (claim to) know will happen if Hillary becomes president.

The problem, though, is that we’re not electing a dictator (regardless of what Trump would like to believe). We still have three branches of government, with the accompanying checks and balances and whatnot, and Congress still a) makes the laws, b) confirms Supreme Court appointments, and c) overrides presidential vetoes. (They do some other stuff too, but you get the picture.) No president–not even a President Trump–can just do away with Congress.

Not that no one has ever tried, of course, but Congress remains stubbornly with us nonetheless. At least for the time being.

So what are we sure would happen if Hillary became president? Well, it would depend a lot on which party controlled Congress. If the Democrats take back the Senate (which seems plausible) and the House (which doesn’t), perhaps she’ll be able to do quite a bit of damage, as far as conservative Republicans are concerned. But as long as there are Republicans in both houses of Congress, and certainly if there is a Republican majority in either house, she will face significant opposition. She’ll probably be as ham-strung as Pres. Obama has been the last seven years. No, Pres. Obama hasn’t been nearly ham-strung enough for some people’s tastes, but he’s certainly accomplished less than he wanted to, and less than his supporters wanted him to. Most importantly, Republicans in Congress have provided arguments against his agenda. Pretty crap arguments in a lot of cases, but still–there was opposition, opportunities to articulate conservative principles as an alternative (even if they were sometimes–and spectacularly–squandered).

There’s no reason to think things would be different with President Hillary Clinton, unless you think Hillary is magic. (Most Republicans don’t believe Hillary to be magic.)

On the other hand, let’s say Donald Trump becomes president. Unlikely and gross, but just for the sake of argument, let’s say he does. If Republicans don’t control both houses of Congress, Trump is going to have a tough time enacting a conservative agenda, even if he’s inclined to do so. And there’s no indication that he is so inclined. Quite the opposite, in fact. Without Republican majorities to worry about, Trump will be free to cut whatever deals he wants with Democrats, and there’s no reason to think those deals would be anything close to what Republicans would want. (Obamacare, after all, was nothing close to what Democrats wanted. Chew on that for a bit.)

Trump is not himself a conservative. He doesn’t care about what conservatives want. He doesn’t care if the Supreme Court tilts right or left. Why would he? The argument that he would surround himself with “good” advisers is pretty weak, considering that Trump repeatedly ignores the advice of people working on his campaign. He’s too arrogant and narcissistic to take advice as a candidate. Why would he suddenly humble himself if he became leader of the free world?

And here’s the clincher: there’s also no indication that Trump wants a Republican-controlled Congress. He’s pissed beyond reason that Republicans are pulling their support in the wake of these proliferating sex scandals. To him, party loyalty is a game that he plays to make people dance for him. He toyed with supporting Paul Ryan’s and John McCain’s primary challengers, even after Ryan and McCain had endorsed him, just because he liked feeling powerful. And now that Ryan has (sort of) abandoned him (without actually rescinding his endorsement), Trump wants to punish him. He wants to punish everyone who’s been insufficiently enthusiastic about supporting a sexual predator for president. He wants Ryan to lose, and he wants other Republicans to lose. He’s happy to encourage his supporters to vote for him and against Republicans down ballot. He doesn’t care about a conservative agenda. He doesn’t care about a Republican agenda. The only agenda he cares about is his own, and if you think that will change once he becomes president, well, as Sarah Palin once said, you’re living on a unicorn ranch in fantasy land.

There’s a worse-case scenario, though, in my opinion. Let’s say Trump becomes president and the Republicans retain majorities in the House and the Senate. This seems the unlikeliest of all scenarios, but it’s the scenario Thomas Sowell and other Republicans are pulling the ripcord for. Republicans have not stood up to Trump as their presidential candidate. Why would they stand up to Trump as their president? Paul Ryan felt he had no choice but to support his party’s candidate if he wanted to remain Speaker of the House. Is he suddenly going to stop wanting to be Speaker of the House when Trump is the Republican president? I mean, I know he initially said he didn’t want the job, but apparently he’s gotten pretty attached to it. The time to give it up would have been July, not January 2017 or later.

Republicans will be expected to support their president (just as Democrats were expected to support President Obama), and it won’t matter that Trump’s agenda bears no resemblance to theirs, any more than it matters now. Once Trump is elected, he’ll have no reason to even pretend to care about what conservatives think. (And I don’t think he’s doing such a hot job of pretending now.) Conservatives will have to pretend to care about what he wants and support whatever crap thing he wants to do because, apparently, what these guys care about the most is preserving their own power, and if Trump helps them do that, they’re not going to go against him. (No matter how many women he gropes.)

What this means is that what would be present in a Hillary Clinton presidency–conservative opposition to the president’s scary, scary agenda–would not be present in a Trump presidency. And there is zero reason to believe that Trump’s agenda would be less scary or authoritarian than Clinton’s. (In fact, it could be worse, for all we know. Worse than burning alive in a plane crash? Maybe!) The GOP as a vehicle of conservative policy is already more or less dead, as far as I’m concerned, but with a Trump victory, it would not be just merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead.

So in other words, stay in the plane or don’t stay in the plane, but don’t kid yourself about what’s possible versus what’s probable.

About a year ago, Mona Charen said something like, “If we end up with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our nominees for president, we will have proved that we are not a serious country and probably unfit for self-government.” This was back before anyone had cast a vote, when conservative commentators were still under the illusion that Trump’s campaign would eventually fizzle out (because…come on), allowing for an actual statesperson to win the GOP nomination. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out. But I think Mona Charen had it right.

A few weeks before the Republicans officially nominated Trump at their convention, but after it was clear that there was no political will to block his nomination, I took the relatively meaningless action to change my party registration to “none.” I’m not a Democrat, and if Republicans care more about not pissing off some white supremacists than they do about limited government, personal liberty, and (at the risk of sounding corny) character, then I’m definitely not one of those either. (I mean, obviously the Republicans were always less committed to limited government and personal liberty than they claimed to be, but when you’re not even willing to pay lip service to those things anymore, I  guess that’s where we part ways.) So I’ve become one of those insufferable people who can’t bring themselves to vote for the lesser of two evils. Believe me, I’m not proud of it. But it’s who I am.

So I’ve been watching the Republican implosion with some detachment. I am not emotionally invested in the GOP’s survival. As far as I’m concerned, they can all go to hell.*

*Except for Senators Ben Sasse (NE), Jeff Flake (AZ), Mike Lee (UT), Mark Kirk (IL), Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Representatives Mike Coffman (CO), Barbara Comstock (VA), Charlie Dent (PA), Frank Upton (MI), Carlos Curbelo (FL), Bob Dold (IL), Mia Love (UT), and Governor Brian Sandoval (NV), who have never endorsed Trump. (I am only counting elected officials here. Republicans not currently holding elective office who opposed Trump before it was cool can also stay out of hell, FWIW. But the rest of them–dead to me. IN HELL.)

To me it has never been much of a silver lining to know that one day Trump supporters were going to rue the day they endorsed him. I don’t believe Trump true-believers will ever rue anything; they’ll just blame his downfall on the unfaithful “cucks” (of which, I guess, I am one). As I’ve said before–maybe elsewhere, but maybe also in this space, before I became so disgusted with life that I couldn’t bring myself to write about it), this election has accomplished the thing I thought was impossible: I have become more cynical about my fellow human beings. It’s hard enough to accept that a significant fraction of the people in this country a) are straight up racist and/or b) just want to watch the world burn. It’s much harder to watch previously-decent-seeming people, including friends and relatives, argue that the only thing standing between us and total annihilation is a corrupt, race-baiting dirtbag, because at least he’s not Hillary Clinton.

I know it drives Democrats crazy when people say Trump and Clinton are equally poor choices. Frankly, I’m loath to say that myself. I tend to agree with P.J. O’Rourke, who said that they’re both unacceptable, but Clinton is unacceptable within normal parameters. I tend to agree with that, and yet I still can’t bring myself to vote for her. If I lived in a swing state, I might be tempted, but since I do not, and since Hillary Clinton is destined to take Oregon in any case, I feel free to choose an even lesser evil than she.

It must be very frustrating for Democrats to have a candidate who is so poorly situated to attack Donald Trump on so many fronts. Hillary has this going for her: she’s probably not a racist, and she’s probably not mentally ill. That’s not nothing, of course–in any other election year, it would be, but not this one. Her temperament is fine (that’s a winning slogan), and she’s not a racist, but by every other measure, she and Trump are a bit pot and kettle. The main difference is that she’s used her career in public service to enrich herself, increase her own personal power, and bully others, whereas Trump has done all those things without being elected (or his spouse being elected) first. (And if you think he’s going to stop once he’s elected, you’re an idiot.)

This latest news about Trump being caught on tape boasting about sexually assaulting women is gross, of course. Hillary would never do that. Bill would probably never do that–boast about it, I mean. He’s certainly sexually assaulted women. Hillary stood by him, for reasons none of us can know and, in my opinion, aren’t our business. But as a Facebook friend of a Facebook friend put it, whatever peace she made with his infidelities, she only made peace with Bill; she made sure the women paid. No one forced her to participate in personal attacks against his accusers. She says now that “women should be believed,” but the unspoken asterisk is “unless you’re saying my husband is the one who groped you, in which case you’re a lying whore colluding with our political enemies.”*

*To be sure, Bill Clinton had political enemies dead set on ruining him. I would never dispute that. But if you don’t want to get impeached, maybe try not breaking the law, see how that goes.

So I think Hillary would be better off not bringing this issue up. I mean, it’s not like she needs to. She’s already not-racist and not-crazy, and that seems to be enough this year.

Unlike a lot of conservatives, I have never disliked Hillary on a personal level. I don’t find her “shrill” or “annoying.” No, she doesn’t have her husband’s charisma. Few people do. Actually, I find her relative awkwardness somewhat charming. (Speaking as the awkward spouse of a charismatic person, I guess I relate to her.) I remember during the impeachment crisis, Larry Elder said, “I think Hillary has the heart of a lion.” Yes, she does. Unfortunately, that in itself does not make her a good role model in general.

I think that at least some of the animosity toward Hillary can be fairly attributed to old-fashioned sexism or misogyny. It isn’t that there aren’t things about Hillary to dislike, but the intensity of the dislike that has always been there, even before we had such detailed evidence of her personal flaws, has never seemed reasonable to me. It’s unfortunate that she’s the first female presidential candidate (and will probably be the first female president) because so many people will be out to get her not only because they hate her politics but because they hate her. Her supporters will inevitably characterize opposition to her in terms of sexism and misogyny, which will not be untrue, but it will hardly be the whole truth. (It would have been much better if the first woman president had been a conservative, because then we’d know that people were only opposing her because she was a heartless bitch, and not because she had the wrong set of chromosomes.)

A fair number of Republicans are calling for Trump to drop out of the race, which would be hilarious if it weren’t so infuriating. As though Trump has just now crossed the un-crossable line. Give me a break. You knew he was a dirtbag when you decided to support him. You gambled on more disgusting evidence not coming forward, which was stupid. I hope you feel very stupid. I hope you feel like punching yourself in the face, and I hope you actually do it because it would save me the trouble. There’s no replacing Trump at this point, and even if there were, there are so few Republicans who haven’t tainted themselves by their association with him. You’ve demonstrated that you value your personal power more than any conservative principles you may claim. You don’t deserve to lead this country because you’re not leaders. You’re cowards. Cynical cowards, which is the worst kind.

But I truly don’t understand Democrats calling for Trump to drop out. They should just accept the gift Republicans have given them this year (and will probably keep giving, for years to come). Maybe they think it’s just too easy. They like having to work a little on their negative campaigning. I don’t know. What I do know is that if it had been any other Republican running against Hillary, they would still be claiming that she was far preferable to that horrible person who wants to take away Grandma’s Social Security and make birth control illegal, so I wish they’d spare me their indignation.

I was going to call this “Vote Trump or Baby Jesus kills this puppy,” but I didn’t think the post could possibly live up to that title.

So I’ve been pretty bummed since the Indiana primary. I didn’t realize I was entertaining any vestiges of optimism in my soul prior to the point when Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race. Ted Cruz was the source of my optimism, ladies and gentlemen. What has this world come to?

Of course, John Kasich is out now too, but whatever. Do you know, 2016 was supposed to be the first presidential election where there was going to be more than one candidate left standing by the time Oregon’s primary rolled around, and I was actually going to have a choice between (or among) two (or more) candidates? Now all my dreams are officially dead.

Just kidding. Most of my dreams died ages ago, but I’m sure I still have one or two lurking in the old subconscious. Of course, I won’t know what they are until someone or something finally kills them, but they must be there, because if this election has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse.

Back in September or October, Mona Charen said something on her podcast like, “If the United States chooses Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as their nominees for president, we’ll have proved that we’re not a serious country and are probably unfit for self-government.” And I thought, surely it will not come to that. Well, that’s what Mona Charen herself thought, and look where we are now. I know a lot of you gentle readers are Hillary fans. Some of my best friends are Hillary fans. Some of you may even be my best friends. I will acknowledge that Hillary has government experience where Trump has none. I will also acknowledge that she appears to be, for the most part, mentally stable. I mean, as far as I can tell, which is more than I can say for some presidential candidates I know. I won’t pretend those two things aren’t assets in her favor. But good Lord, what a pretty pass we’ve come to when millions of Americans are voting for someone strictly on the basis of her not being demonstrably insane.

It’s not that I dislike Hillary on a personal level. It might be pure contrariness on my part, but I never got why people hated her so much–except for the obvious reason, of course. I have to admire her moxie. Not to mention her chutzpah. And I don’t find her voice shrill or her laugh annoying. I would much rather spend an hour shooting the breeze with Hillary Clinton than with Barbara Boxer or Harry Reid. (I don’t have strong feelings about Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer.) Unfortunately, she’s thoroughly corrupt and a congenital liar. I don’t think she murdered Vince Foster (or anyone else), but there’s not much else I’d put past her. As I’ve said before, probably in this very e-space, I’d feel like the veriest chump voting for her. But I still feel less sick to my stomach about her winning this race than the alternative.

Of course, the likelihood of Donald Trump winning the general election is so small that it’s hardly worth considering. But that isn’t stopping many Republicans from hitching their wagon to him, on the off chance that they can prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency–as though a Hillary Clinton presidency were the worst possible thing that could happen to this country. In my opinion, would Hillary Clinton be a bad president? Yes. Would she be worse than Barack Obama? I don’t know. Possibly, possibly not. As Hillary might say, what difference at this point does it make? When the alternative is Donald Trump, who is a) an emotionally unstable, volatile, unprincipled bully and b) not remotely qualified to hold any governmental office, let alone be leader of the free world, Hillary Clinton looks less like Satan’s very own begotten and more like a necessary evil. Or maybe just an inevitable evil. (I don’t mean “evil” in the Satanic sense, but just the generic, it’s-an-expression sense.) Say what you will about Hillary, but you can’t argue that she’s less qualified to be president than Donald Trump. You might think she’s a worse person with worse ideas, but you can’t say she’s less qualified. (Personally, I don’t see how one can argue that she has worse ideas, since who really knows what Trump’s “ideas” are?)

But as I said before, Trump isn’t going to win this election, even if he had every single Republican on his side (which he won’t, because he won’t have me). Elections aren’t decided by loyal Republicans. They’re decided by the kind of people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean to be president. Not to mention that Donald Trump seems to be the one person in America voters dislike more than Hillary Clinton. I never thought I’d see the day when anyone would take that honor, but here we are, and congratulations to him. I guess.

I’ve heard some Trump supporters say that they don’t even actually want him to be president; they just want Republican party leaders and/or “the people in Washington” to know that they are angry and fed up with business as usual. To which I can only say, what are you, twelve? By this logic I should start a write-in campaign for Hitler, so people will know I’m REALLY upset. Because I am. I really am.

In fairness, I’m not convinced Trump himself wants to be president. I believe he’d like to be elected president, but as for doing the actual job, no, I don’t think he’s interested. I would not be surprised to learn that he plans to pick someone competent as a running mate, and then on the off (very off)-chance that he is elected, he will come up with some excuse to resign and let the non-crazy person take over. But I don’t care who his running mate is. I don’t care if Abe Lincoln or Ronald Reagan himself resurrected from the grave and agreed to be Donald Trump’s running mate. Any Republican politician who endorses Trump is dead to me. Chris Christie–dead to me. Marco Rubio–dead to me. Nikki Haley–dead to me. Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan–already dead, but in theory, extra dead to me. (I should not imply that Lincoln or Reagan would necessarily endorse Donald Trump, but who knows these days? Calvin Coolidge, I’m sure, would not endorse Donald Trump. But they don’t make them like Calvin Coolidge anymore.)

Ben Carson (never officially alive but now quite officially dead to me) has said that even if Trump turns out not to be a good president, “it’s only four years.” (That should go down in political endorsement history.) Interestingly enough, that’s how I think of a Hillary presidency now. It’s only four years. I mean, probably. It could be eight, but whatever. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Rephrase: What’s the worst thing that could happen that we can be sure wouldn’t happen on Trump’s watch? The question is unanswerable.

The time to pick a side is over. Better to get your affairs in order and hold your loved ones close.

 

 

So apparently the whole world’s gone crazy. Just kidding, it’s only about a third of Republican voters across America who have gone crazy, and I’m not sure “gone” is the appropriate word. They are just revealing the full extent of their crazy, letting their freak flag fly at full staff. Do you know how difficult it is to say “freak flag fly”? I even say it wrong in my brain as I’m typing. But that’s not the point. The point is that a third of Republican voters are a) straight up racists, b) complete loony toons, or c) racist loony toons. I mean, I always knew there was a faction of racist loony toons in the GOP, but I always figured that the percentage of genuine loony toons in either of the two major parties couldn’t be above 15 percent, and I reckoned that the Republican platform was too wussified to satisfy most racists, especially the loony toon variety. That’s what third parties are for. I mean, if I were a racist (who was also a little cuckoo), I would not settle for some pansy Republican, even if he did work for Pat Buchanan once. I guess that just shows what I know about American racists—or rather, what I knew about American racists. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, I know a lot more. Thanks a lot, Donald Trump. Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with democracy!

So. There’s that. It’s an interesting time we live in, isn’t it? I didn’t think I could be more depressed than I was on Election Day 2012, but oh my goodness, how wrong I was. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy this second Obama administration more because January 2017 is looking more and more like a f***ing nightmare.

To tell you the truth, I am not really afraid that Donald Trump will actually become President. I find that highly unlikely. As I was telling some friends the other day, elections are decided by people who thought Mitt Romney was too mean. I realize that Hillary is not popular, but she does have a couple things going for her: a) she probably isn’t a racist and b) she doesn’t send out drunk tweets at 3 a.m. insulting whoever pissed her off that day. I’d say that’s enough to give her an edge in the general election, even if she is a chick. In fairness, it’s entirely possible that Donald Trump isn’t actually a racist but just plays one on TV (and radio and Twitter and all public platforms). Also, he might not actually be drunk when he’s on Twitter. It’s probably just his personality, which I think has its own entry in the DSM-V. But that’s neither here nor there. What is here and also there is that Donald Trump is an unstable narcissist and a bully with stronger-than-average totalitarian instincts. He’s wholly unsuitable to be President in terms of both character and temperament, not to mention being deficient in relevant experience—unless he’s planning to bribe two-thirds of Congress just like he’s been bribing politicians his whole career. Which might actually be his plan. It would not surprise me. But only because I’m completely incapable of being surprised anymore. Not after Chris Christie endorsed Trump the other day. Put a fork in me, America, because I’m done. As Jar-Jar Binks used to say, MY GIVE UP. What more can happen?

My son, who’s been very interested in this election, kept asking me who I’d vote for if Trump and Clinton were the nominees. At first I just said, “I hope it will not come to that (please, God).” But since it’s started looking more and more like that’s exactly what it will come to, I’ve said I will either vote for nobody or I’ll vote Libertarian, WHICH I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE, mainly because third parties are for loony toons and dreamers, and a dreamer I am not. (I take it back—partly. I did vote for a Libertarian once, for state senate, I think. He didn’t win, so whatever. Voting in Oregon is sort of pointless.) That answer is most disappointing for Mister Bubby because he knows as well as I do that voting third party is a waste of franchise—poor-spirited and not a little bit masturbatory (though I don’t use the word “masturbatory” in front of my fifteen-year-old son—I’m genteel that way). But I don’t know what else to do. I won’t vote for Donald Trump, and I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I am physiologically incapable of doing either. It makes my soul hurt to think about it.

I know what you all are thinking—well, the Democratic portion of y’all, anyway: What’s so bad about Hillary? Well, I’d like to say she’s not that bad. Compared to Donald Trump, she seems downright Reaganesque. But she’s not actually Reaganesque. She’s actually Clintonesque, which is not a recommendation. Might she be the lesser of two evils? Well, worst case scenario, door #1 or door #2, maybe Hillary is the lesser of two evils, but here’s the thing about Hillary: while she is neither a racist nor suffering from a form of mental illness—two of the more underrated virtues in our time—she is still nakedly corrupt and a congenital liar and should probably be in prison. No, we won’t argue about it. To tell you the truth, I have always kind of liked Hillary, on a personal level—never enough to vote for her, naturally, because her politics do not align with mine, but I’ve always believed (and continue to believe) that a lot of the animosity toward her is born (at least in part) of old-fashioned misogyny. She doesn’t have her husband’s charisma, but I kind of find her lack of charisma charming in itself. I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of one’s more-charismatic husband. (Not that I would ever compare my husband to Hillary’s husband because my husband is not an incontinent creep.) So I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Hillary. Even after all I’ve learned about her over the years, I still have a lingering fondness for her. I can’t help it. (Just as I can’t spend five minutes watching Bill Clinton work a room and not find him perversely charming, in a ya-big-galoot kind of way. Certainly not in any other way. ::shudder:: ) If I’d had my druthers in 2008, Hillary would have been the nominee, and not because I thought McCain could beat her (although I think he probably could have), but because I thought she would make a better President than Barack Obama. (A low bar, to be sure, but without low bars, how much would I be able to achieve in my own life? Low bars are underrated.)

But after all these years, I think I know Hillary pretty well. I know what she is. I don’t trust her not to do things that are unethical and/or illegal. If I voted for her, I wouldn’t be able to complain about her later (almost inevitably) abusing her power (as 99.98% of politicians are wont to do, but especially the ones whose last name is Clinton) because I knew what she was when I voted for her and I was basically asking her to abuse my trust. Not to pre-blame the victim (that would be me), but I like to fancy myself cleverer than that.

I know many of you gentle readers are Hillary supporters, and I don’t begrudge you your Hillary support. We see the world differently. When Hillary abuses your trust, I will not blame you. I know that’s a real load off your mind. You’re welcome. I’m hardly under the illusion that the Republicans I’ve voted for have never abused my trust. I just didn’t know beforehand that they would do so. That would be the difference. At the risk of sounding like a self-indulgent third-party loony toon, it’s the principle of the thing. You shouldn’t be upset with me. At least I’m doing my part to siphon votes away from the Donald. For that you should be eternally grateful (if you’re not a racist loony toon).

Interestingly enough, I do not feel a great deal of animosity toward Donald Trump. He sickens me, but a lot of people do that. I’m not angry with Donald Trump, who’s just being himself. I’m angry with everyone who voted for him. Because seriously, what the hell, people? WHAT. THE EVERLOVING. CRAP. This isn’t the freaking circus. For the first few months, before the voting started, when it was just polls telling us Donald Trump was the Republican front runner (mostly because every Republican and his/her dog decided to run for President this year, so the basically-sane, non-racist vote was split 37 ways), I was merely confused. Baffled, that is. I did not get it. I assumed Trump supporters were just, I dunno, deluded, or possibly not very smart. (That may well be the case.) But I’m of a different mind now. I think Trump supporters are less stupid than they are destructive. They’re pissed off at any number of things—immigrants particularly, but also the bad economy and stagnant wages and whatnot–and they want to watch the world burn. They can vicariously live out their worst fantasies via this racist-blowhard-slash-dirtbag. It feels good to them. (It is also not a little bit masturbatory, not that you’ll catch me saying as much to my fifteen-year-old son.) But that doesn’t make it less gross.

Well, that was a load off my chest. I hardly know where it came from. After four years of political apathy, this post has been quite an emotional workout. And possibly very offensive. I’d blame Obama, but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Actually, I think I should blame the low-carb diet my husband talked me into doing with him this month. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say, I’m on Day 3 and I pretty much hate everyone now. Everyone, but especially salad. (You know what else I hate about Trump voters? THEY ARE PROBABLY EATING BREAD RIGHT NOW.) It’s not as bad as the liquid diet I was on after the jaw surgery. I’m not hungry, just extremely unfulfilled. I have a lot more to say about that, but it’s getting late and I’m just going to pull the trigger on this thing, even if it’s wrong. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow. If you don’t see me tomorrow, possibly I have died inside. Died a lonely, bitter (and probably still ten pounds over my ideal weight but nevertheless probably not racist) Republican. Gentle readers, adieu.

So apparently the Iowa caucus was on Monday, and yesterday Rand Paul dropped out of the race. That surprised me, since I understood he was expected to do well in New Hampshire. Well, now we’ll never know, will we? Rand Paul has never been my guy, despite the internet quizzes that tell me we are very much in alignment on several issues. I appreciate that Rand Paul is the only Republican candidate with a robust understanding of the Fourth Amendment, but on the other hand, well, it’s difficult to take him seriously. That might be a personal failing of mine, but that’s neither here nor there, since we won’t have Rand Paul to kick around the rest of this primary. Maybe he ran out of money. Or maybe he just has better things to do. He is a senator, after all.

And this morning I read that Rick Santorum is also calling it quits. It came as something of a shock, like when Yogi Berra died–up ’til then I’d had no idea the cat was still alive. It’s good news, though (Santorum quitting, not the demise of Mr. Berra), since we could use fewer Republicans running for president. I appreciate his contribution to this cause. If only more of them would follow suit.

I have not been paying a great deal of attention to this race because a) I haven’t been paying much attention to the world in general since 2012, and b) nothing interesting ever happens anyway. Well, with the exception of Donald Trump’s campaign, which has been not so much interesting as horrifying. But it’s too easy to sit here and make snide remarks about Donald Trump. I prefer to work on pretending he isn’t there. If I ignore him long enough, do you think he’ll go away?

Historically, I have advocated that we choose presidents based on who would win in a fistfight. I thought Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were rather evenly matched in that regard, so I can’t say this method would have served me any better than the traditional one in 2012. This year is a little easier. For the Democrats, Hillary would win, hands down. Probably with both hands tied behind her back (with handcuffs, as they probably should be). For the Republicans, it’s a much closer call. For one thing, there are about 47 of these guys in the ring (plus Carly Fiorina). I didn’t even realize Rick Santorum was there until he wasn’t anymore. One thing’s for sure: Trump would be knocked out fairly early. He acts like he’s all ruthless and crap, but push comes to shove, he’s just another multi-millionaire who probably can’t be bothered to pick up his own socks, plus he whines whenever he doesn’t get his way, and that’s when someone–probably Jeb Bush–is going to sucker punch him. Jeb Bush doesn’t look like a tough guy, but I find it hard to believe he could grow up with W and not learn how to hold his own in a brawl. But he would probably get knocked out by Chris Christie.

Speaking of Chris Christie, I remember when he was a conservative favorite and people actually wanted him to run for president. Was it only four years ago? That part I don’t remember. What I do remember was Frank J. Fleming’s assertion that Chris Christie “would eat your candidate for lunch. Then he would eat his normal lunch.” Presently, Gov. Christie does not appear to be eating anyone’s lunch, normal or otherwise, but that’s just in the real presidential race. In the hypothetical take-it-to-the-octagon presidential race, Chris Christie would acquit himself rather well. Size matters in the octagon. But I reckon we’d find him surprisingly agile for a candidate of size. He’d probably dominate for a good portion of the contest. Lost opportunities.

But that’s not actually what I meant to talk about. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted this thing on the Facebook. For those of you too lazy to click, it’s the Presidents of the United States ranked by hotness. Oh, sure, now you click. Anyway, I could quibble here and there–Bill Clinton is ranked way too high, and there’s no way Jimmy Carter is hotter than Gerald Ford–but it seems more or less legit. So I wondered, what if we chose presidents on the basis of hotness? It’s an interesting question because a) what is hotness, really? and b) it’s pretty slim pickings in the political realm, as far as hotness goes, so you really have to use your imagination.

Again, I think it’s easy to decide the winner of the Democratic primary: it’s Martin O’Malley. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with me there.

I mean, come on.

Martin O’Malley

Right? I mean, before I looked him up on the internet, I would have said Hillary was a shoo-in. Because seriously.

Bernie Sanders

Right.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary looks great for 70, or whatever she is, but she’s no Martin O’Malley–sorry, girlfriend. I say he wins the primary and the general, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Republican primary is much, much trickier to judge. It’s a shame Rand Paul dropped out because he’s probably the best looking of the Republican candidates. (Believe me, I was surprised as you.) But let’s be scientific about this, i.e. gather some data.

Jim Gilmore

Yes, Jim Gilmore is still running for president. I checked. Not a bad-looking guy, by any stretch. Definitely doing better in this poll than in others. But what’s the competition like?

John Kasich

Also still running. You know, he has decent features, but something about him reminds me of the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-Files. It may be clouding my judgment.

Jeb Bush

Say what you will about the Bushes, but you can’t argue with the DNA. They’re an attractive family. Jeb’s looks have improved with age, and fortunately he’s not competing with his brother here (or his father, for that matter). I see a lot of Bar in him, actually. Overall, not too shabby. Don’t count Jeb out.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson is also a reasonably handsome fellow, though the glasses give him kind of a nerdy, mild-mannered look.

But while I was looking up photos of him on the internet, I came across this younger, smoother version of Dr. Carson.

Hello, ladies! Too bad this contest wasn’t being held 30 years ago, amirite?

Chris Christie

When you’re looking for “small” images of Chris Christie, the pickings are pretty slim (no pun or particular irony intended). Gov. Christie is an imposing figure, and he does have that teddy bear thing going for him, but I can’t pretend he’s in my top three.

Ted Cruz

I have tried and tried and tried to like Ted Cruz, mainly because a) he seems to be Trump’s main competition and b) he’s Jay Nordlinger’s guy, and I love Jay Nordlinger and want to love his guy, but I find I just can’t. There’s something about him that just rubs me the wrong way. He gives the impression that he finds a significant percentage of the electorate to be morons, and at the same time he keeps pandering to said morons (cynically, and I don’t mean that in a good way). There’s something slippery, almost Clintonesque about him. I’m probably being unfair. I can’t claim to be paying the closest of attention to everything that’s gone on in this race, and to call a Republican “Clintonesque” is pretty rude. At least he’s better-looking than Clinton, but admittedly, that’s not saying much. Most of the time he looks kind of goofy to me.

But this picture I find very flattering. I like his nose. He reminds me a bit of Jeremy Northam here. If he could just always be shown from this angle, he’d make a very fine President indeed.

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina has either an advantage or a disadvantage being the only woman in the group. Male hotness and female hotness are such different balls of string, if you know what I’m saying. (I’m not sure I do.) Carly’s an attractive woman, but can she go head-to-head with Martin O’Malley? I just don’t know.

Marco Rubio

Then there’s Marco Rubio, who is exactly eleven days younger than I am, but I always think he looks about fourteen years old. (It seems weird to vote for someone younger than me, even if it’s only by eleven days. It seems especially weird when I could probably pass for his mother.) Aesthetically, he appeals to me more than Ted Cruz does, most of the time, and unlike Ted Cruz, there is no angle or lighting that is especially beneficial to him. He pretty much always looks exactly like this. Does that make him more trustworthy, or just sort of a freak?

After eight years in the White House, he might finally look as old as I do. He will either have matured into greater handsomeness, or we will find a portrait of his withered visage in his attic. Meanwhile, I just can’t decide how I feel about him.

And then there’s this guy.

Donald Trump

Yes, that is the most flattering photograph I could find of him. I’m just going to say he looks very wealthy here.

Frankly, I just can’t decide. In the nice-guy-with-glasses category, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are about even, with maybe a slight edge to Ben Carson because he makes that goatee look good. Personally, I have to say I’m partial to Jim Gilmore. I can’t explain why. But for someone to compete with Martin O’Malley, I may have to go with Carly Fiorina or Marco Rubio (his youth has to count for something), or possibly a cardboard cutout of Ted Cruz from that very flattering angle. But I’m not confident about any of these choices.

What do you think, gentle readers? How would you rate the presidential candidates, according to hotness? Feel free to offer your assessment of historical presidential hotness as well. Could Walter Mondale have beaten Ronald Reagan? Of course he couldn’t have. But what about Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson? That’s a much tougher call.

First, a trip down cinematic memory lane. [(Relatively) Mild Language warning : turn down the volume or don’t play at all if little pitchers have big ears or you yourself are especially sensitive. Also, worm guts.]

It may come as no surprise to you that I don’t own a gun. There are no guns in my home. There were no guns in the home I grew up in. My father grew up on a farm in Idaho, so I reckon his home had guns. At least one. I mean…you’d need one to shoot a horse or something, right? I seem to recall him mentioning a rifle at some point. Anyway, my father did not take any guns with him when he left Idaho. My mother’s family did not own any guns. My mother was afraid of guns because her ex-husband threatened her with one once. That will do it, I think. I’ve never had any particular desire to shoot a gun. I was never any good at those shooting games either. We did play with water pistols, though. I think somewhere in our family album there’s a photograph of my father crouched behind a wall with a water pistol, ready to ambush one of his unsuspecting children. But that’s neither here nor there.

It is highly unlikely that my husband and I will purchase a gun any time in the foreseeable future, because it would not be safe to keep one in our house as long as our autistic son is both curious and clever enough to figure out how to retrieve it from its secure location. I believe that it’s possible to store guns in a home safely. But Elvis was unscrewing the child locks at age two. He’s almost ten now, and he’s not only smarter but his manual dexterity has gotten much better. I don’t trust him with a gun. Not because he has violent tendencies, but because he’s never seen the damage an actual gun can do. He understands danger, and he understands pain. He has a panic attack every time one of us uses glassware because he’s seen glass break. If he understood what a gun could do, he would be the world’s safest person to have around guns. But he doesn’t understand what a gun can do. More to the point, he doesn’t understand death. It would be extremely foolish for us to own a gun under these circumstances, considering that we don’t really need one.

We live in a very safe neighborhood. No one is stalking any of us (that we know of). No one has threatened us. The government has definitely overstepped its bounds in recent history, but not in a Stalinesque way (yet). So I think we’ll be okay.

That said, I have nothing against guns personally, and nothing against the idea of owning them. I can easily imagine scenarios in which I would prefer to have a gun than not have a gun. I think that one of these days it would behoove me to learn how to use one. I’m not super-anxious to do so because shooting a gun does not hold any special allure for me. I don’t have some badass lady action hero fantasy I’m dying to live out. (I can’t speak for my husband. And yes, I meant for that last bit to be as ambiguous as it sounds.) It just seems like a practical skill that could potentially be very useful. Especially when the Apocalypse starts to come ’round.

I know people (admittedly, not many) who keep guns in their home. I don’t have a problem letting my children play over there because I know these people aren’t idiots and they store their guns safely. I don’t worry about any kids getting their hands on them. I also don’t worry that my friends are secretly psychotic and could turn on us at any moment. I trust that they use their guns for legitimate, legal purposes.

I remember hearing about the school shootings in Jonesboro and at Columbine. Jonesboro was right before I had my first child. The story broke while I was at work–at a newspaper, as it happened, so I remember it coming over the wire. Columbine was after I’d quit my job to take care of my daughter full-time, and I had nothing better to do than listen to news/talk radio all day. So I heard these stories at the same time everyone else heard them. I remember being profoundly affected, emotionally, by both of them. I was especially horrified by Jonesboro because the shooters were so young–eleven and thirteen years old. I specifically remember thinking how horrible it must be to be the parents of those boys. How do you raise a murderer? How do you go on with your life after the child you love has taken the lives of other children, or the life of anyone? Can you love your child after that? I can’t even think about it. Columbine broke my heart because I heard the live reports and the voices of the survivors still frantic or in shock over the experience. And I was angry, too. Because what makes a kid think it’s okay to murder his classmates and teachers? What makes him think that doesn’t make him a monster? Or what makes him think it’s okay to be a monster?

Those last questions are kind of dumb. There isn’t a good explanation for why some people choose to do evil. It isn’t something non-evil people can understand. And because we can’t understand it, we can’t really predict it–except in the sense of being cynical and pessimistic enough to understand that evil is bound to happen and it’s mostly luck that keeps it from happening to us. (Is that cynical and pessimistic, or is it just realistic? It depends on your point of view.)

Here’s a thing I never wondered in the midst of any of these school shootings: How on earth did these kids get their hands on those guns? I assumed they got their hands on them the same way any murderer does, i.e. by buying or stealing them–in other words, whichever way was easier. If they’d used plutonium, I might have wondered, hey, where’d they get that plutonium? Not because it’s illegal for most citizens to own plutonium (just as it’s illegal for middle schoolers to buy guns), but because plutonium’s kind of scarce and its homicidal features require a certain level of education to use effectively. There aren’t a lot of legitimate home uses for plutonium. None that I’m aware of, in fact. But guns are fairly prevalent in this country, for better or worse. They’ve always been prevalent here because it’s always been normal for Americans to have their own guns. I reckon back in the day on the frontier, it would have seemed pretty stupid for a person not to have a gun. At least, that person would probably not have survived for very long. (Unless they wanted to join an indigenous tribe, but then they still would have had to fight off the other white people who chose not to join up with the indigenous peoples…and who would have had guns. Of course, the indigenous peoples would also have had guns, eventually, so it’s not like you could have just opted out of the gun culture without putting yourself in grave danger. But I digress.)

I no longer listen to news radio or watch television. I get all my news from the internet, and contrary to popular opinion, I do not spend all day on the internet. So the first I learned of the Newtown massacre was on Facebook–which is a horrible place to learn about anything. I read the news story, but my reaction was not as visceral as it was with the school shootings in the ’90s, simply because I was not experiencing it “live” the way most of America was. It took a bit longer to sink in, but I couldn’t stop it from sinking in. How terrified those children must have been. How devastating for those parents waiting to hear if their kids were safe, only to learn that they would never be reunited with them. Most of those kids probably had presents already waiting for them under Christmas trees, and those presents will never be opened. Again, what kind of monster murders children? But not once did I wonder, “Where did that bastard get the gun?”

He stole it from his mother, as it happened, but what does that prove? That she should have been wiser about where and how she stored her guns? That she never should have taught her son how to use one? I’m not really comfortable criticizing murder victims, so I can’t go there. I’m really just angry at murderers. But maybe I’m missing the point.

Plenty of people have asked, “Why do you NEED an assault weapon?” But far fewer people ask, “What IS an assault weapon?” Well, it depends on who you ask. If you want a legal definition, it depends on which law you’re referring to. “Assault weapon” has no consistent, specific definition. An assault rifle is fully automatic, i.e. it fires multiple rounds (bullets) continuously when the trigger is pulled once. This is the “machine gun” effect like you see in gangster movies. Full-automatic firearms have been severely restricted since the 1930s. You can’t just go out and buy one. The military has full-automatic firearms. Also, people who make movies about people who use machine guns. They are not the first choice of either hunters or criminals; they are just too much trouble (and too expensive) to get. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004 did not include assault rifles or other full-automatic firearms because full-automatic firearms were already as regulated as they could be and criminals weren’t using them. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban covered certain semi-automatic firearms that possessed the cosmetic features of a full-automatic firearm, not the operational features. If it had the operational features, it was classified as a Title II weapon, the regulation of which fell (and continues to fall) under the National Firearms Act of 1934.

Most guns used in crimes are semi-automatic firearms. Most guns used for any reason are semi-automatic firearms. The technology dates back over a hundred years. If you want a gun to kill people, you should probably buy a semi-automatic. By the same token, if you want a gun to defend yourself (or others), you should probably buy a semi-automatic. I would argue that you definitely NEED one, if you’re planning to defend yourself against somebody who is using one to kill you. Do you need one with the cosmetic features of an assault rifle? Eh, probably not, but then again, why not? As long as you’re not going to shoot an innocent person with it, I don’t really care.

So there’s also the issue of high-capacity magazines. Why does anyone NEED a high-capacity magazine? Well, you tell me. Maybe there’s an optimal number of rounds that one should be able to fire before having to reload. Ten, apparently, is too many. Is five too many? I wouldn’t know. I’ve never needed any bullets, ever. So I have a hard time doing the calculus here, not only because my calculus is super-rusty, but because I don’t really think it matters how many rounds are in your magazine unless you are having a shootout with a bad guy, in which case you would optimally have at least as big a magazine as he does. I don’t know. I don’t have strong feelings about the magazine issue. Make it seven rounds, make it five–I really don’t think it will make much difference. Especially not if the guy brings two guns. Which he might. (It’s been done before.) Especially not if he’s shooting at a bunch of unarmed people.

After Newtown our neighborhood elementary school had a meeting with the principal about school safety and security. Our current principal has been big on school security from the get-go; some parents thought he went a little overboard. But some parents at this meeting demanded that more be done in the wake of this recent tragedy. They wanted armed guards. They wanted armed teachers. I mean, this is the suburbs, but it’s the Portland suburbs. I wouldn’t have expected so many PTO moms to be on the same page as Wayne LaPierre. I reckon individual communities can decide for themselves what type of security their schools need. Personally, I don’t think our neighborhood elementary school needs an armed guard. If we’re going to hire more personnel, I’d just as soon they give us back our librarian and music teacher (and okay, maybe the P.E. teacher too).

I think we’ll be okay without armed guards. At the same time, I’ve never really understood the point of gun-free zones, except to advertise that you’re unarmed. It doesn’t bother me that no one at our school is armed; the odds of a horrifically violent incident are still rather slim, regardless of how close to home the evening news hits. At the same time, it wouldn’t bother me to learn that so-and-so who teaches fifth grade carries a semi-automatic pistol around with him. Does he have a concealed carry permit? Has he been trained to use a firearm? Then I’m okay with it. That’s assuming he’s safe to be around children to begin with. If he’s a homicidal maniac, then I don’t trust him with a stapler around my kid–or with his bare hands, for that matter.

I understand why people get freaked out about guns. My mother was a little freaked out by guns, as I told you. I don’t find them especially cuddly myself. On the other hand, if some criminally-minded person were assaulting me, I don’t think there’s anyone else I’d rather see than some normal person with a gun. Under the right conditions I find the presence of guns very reassuring.

I really like it when police officers have guns. In some countries the police don’t carry guns, and I don’t really understand how that works. I guess it works if the criminals don’t have guns either, but I can’t envision an America with zero guns. Maybe we’d be a better, more peace-loving country with fewer guns, but it’s a little late for that, considering there are hundreds of millions of guns in the U.S. and no way to get rid of all of them unless we repeal the Second Amendment and take extreme police-state measures to confiscate all of them. Even then, I am skeptical that we would be able to get rid of all of them. (And what would we do with them then? Melt them down and make a sculpture dedicated to the brotherhood of man? I guess that’s an idea.) The easiest ones to get will be the ones owned by law-abiding citizens. Criminally-minded gun-owners will probably not give theirs up quite so readily.

But let’s say we manage to round up all the guns, even the ones owned by criminals. I’m not super-comfortable with a society where only the government has guns. That seems kind of creepy to me. Yes, I realize other countries do it like that, but if I wanted to live in those countries, that’s where I’d be. I know, I sound like Archie Bunker now. Well, fine. I don’t feel like Archie Bunker. I feel like a paranoid liberal with a healthy distrust of executive power. If it’s possible for paranoia to be healthy. I don’t know. I’ve changed my mind about a lot of issues over the years—abortion, taxes, capital punishment, education, universal health care…tons of issues—but my position on gun control is basically the same as it was when I was sending money to Amnesty International and ordering anti-Bush t-shirts from the back pages of The Progressive. People scoff at the idea that Americans would ever need to protect themselves from their government, but I don’t see what’s so Idaho-redneck-survivalist about it. What if Mitt Romney had won the election? Wasn’t he going to put us all back in chains? (I jest, but for a lot of people, it isn’t a joke at all.)

Yesterday I read this article comparing gun-rights advocates to abortion-rights advocates. The two groups are similar (the argument goes) because they react to every proposed regulation as though it’s an assault on liberty itself. So the NRA and other Second Amendment enthusiasts can seem a little kooky at times. “Waiting period? Gah! Hitler!” (Not unlike “Waiting period? Gah! Handmaid’s Tale!”) But at the same time, gun control advocates tend to talk as though there are no laws regulating guns, or that the only thing standing between us and peace on earth is the right gun regulation. You know what I say to a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban? Meh. It didn’t decrease crime while it was in effect, and crime hasn’t increased since it’s expired. So, yeah. Meh. We already have hundreds of laws regulating guns. Guns should be regulated–they’re dangerous! But anyone who’s inclined to knock off a liquor store or murder his fellow citizens isn’t going to be too persnickety about buying his firearm from a licensed gun dealer. So good luck with that. Law-abiding citizens already jump through plenty of hoops to get their guns. It’s the people not jumping through the legal hoops that are the real problem, and setting up more hoops for the law-abiding citizen isn’t going to be any skin off the criminal’s nose.

There are two issues here: 1) the practical problem of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous persons and 2) the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms. No one’s proposing anything new. Not that I’ve heard. We’re talking as though there’s something new going on—a new assault on gun rights, or a new restriction on gun sales that will actually have some effect on gun-related crime—but there’s nothing new. It’s the same old stuff, for the fifty billionth time. I get bored, but only because otherwise I’d tear out my hair.

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