Monday, August 01, 2016

So what do we do now?

There are, mercifully, only a few months remaining in Campaign 2016. We're into the worst phase of it now where passions and rhetoric are at their most intense even though any opportunity for most of us to take meaningful action to affect things has already passed.*  All that's left to see is a sad sequence of escalating expressions of desperation and powerlessness. All that's left to actually do, though, is observe the circus and try not to get into too many fights on the internet.  

We're pretty sure we know how the national picture is going to wind up.  Most likely Hillary Clinton will be President. The Democrats have a fair (though not great) shot at taking the control of the Senate. The House will definitely remain very strongly Republican. For all the hype we've heard about "Political Revolution" on the left or the "end of the Republican Party" on the right, the 2016 result is likely to leave us with more or less a continuance of the status quo.  So it's all a big let down, right?  Not necessarily.

Sure, if we view the election cycle through the narrow perspective we're offered by cable news; as a set dramatic narrative; it's a bit of an anti-climax.  But real life doesn't follow these false structures. There's no beginning, middle, and end to the news. It's just a bunch of stuff that happens. There's no grand finale. There's always only the question of what happens next.  So what does happen next? Maybe now is a good time to start thinking about that.

During the Democratic National Convention last week, Rolling Stone put out this interview with Jane Sanders. Here, she talks about seeing Bernie's supporters at the convention.
I've had a lot of reactions to it. We met with the delegates the first day, and there were 2,000 people there, and it was really heart-wrenching. I couldn't not let tears come down. I tried not to, but all I could think was, We let them down.

[Tearing up] We did everything we could, but we didn't win. And they were so sad about it. People have been making it sound like they're mad, and they should just get over it. No they shouldn't! They shouldn't just get over it! What do you expect? How do you turn on a dime? We understand that. We understand that we earned their support and their trust. Now Hillary Clinton has to earn their support and their trust. And we will hold [the Clinton campaign] accountable because we are endorsing her. We are that much more committed to making sure [she follows through on her promises], instead of saying, Oh, it's politics as usual, people change. We're not going to let that happen. Not without a big fight, if anything. If the Democratic Party starts backing away from the platform, ever, we will fight like crazy to support the work that all of these millions of people did.
Okay, so, spoiler alert: Hillary Clinton will not "follow through on her promises" made to the Sanderses at the convention. But when she does not do that, this is no more the end of history than election day is. More things happen after that. So what next? 
We are focused on the issues, and we're winning momentum. And I think some people might not understand that. He had no choice but to step down. His feeling was that Donald Trump is too dangerous to not defeat. So his choice was to endorse — but, at the same time, fight like hell to keep the revolution alive, and keep alive the issues that we all stand behind. So we need [our supporters]. We need them engaged, and we need them to participate.
Don't think that matters? Look again at your not-at-all dead Republican Party and its iron grip on the legislative branch. To help with that, here's one of those explainer cartoon deals posted to The Nib by Andy Warner. It's about how badly House districts across the country are gerrymandered. More to the point, it's about how a carefully organized and nationally coordinated campaign capitalized on the "Tea Party" insurgency to solidify the Republican grip on state legislatures and Congressional districts across the country. If the forty something percent of Democrats who voted for Bernie Sanders this year are looking for something more productive to do than merely "falling in line" behind the party they're trying to change, a good way to start would be finding candidates from among their ranks for state and congressional offices now. 2018 is not so far off.

But don't take my word for it. Here's what President Obama told the convention on Wednesday
Democracy works, America, but we gotta want it, not just during an election year, but all the days in between  So if you agree that there's too much inequality in our economy, and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders' supporters have been during this election. We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done.

That's right, feel the Bern!

If you want more justice in the justice system, then we've all got to vote, not just for a president, but for mayors and sheriffs and state's attorneys and state legislators. That's where the criminal law is made. And we've got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed. That's how democracy works.
Here in Louisiana, chances are already slipping by.  Last week, Stephanie Grace pointed to a pair of open Louisiana house seats where the sole candidate who qualified to run for each will win by default. Granted those particular Jefferson Parish districts aren't exactly ripe pickings for young socialists. The Orleans Parish School Board may have been a different story. Unfortunately we won't find out this year as three of those seven seats are uncontested.  Anyway, the larger point is that opportunities exist to make a case simply by making a challenge.  The right gets away with that sort of thing all the time. David Duke isn't going to be elected Senator. But his entry into the race already has pundits talking about "what it means" that his candidacy exists at all.  The only way to know if you have a voice is to try speaking up once in a while.

Of course not everyone is required to run for office in order to have a voice or a stake in public policy. (Many of the elitist twerps who spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton last week seem not to understand this but that's a topic for another post.)  We all have our roles to play in "the discourse." Some of us protest in the street. Some of us write angry letters to the editor. Some of us get into fights on the internet. Some of us might even show up at the City Planning Commission next week as they take up an issue that directly pertains to our quality of life. At least, that's what Susan Guidry says.
Pending before the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) are nearly 200 pages from its staff outlining changes to the city's zoning codes, a framework for short-term rentals as they're being used now through websites like Airbnb. The staff report suggests four types of short-term rentals: "Accessory" or owner-occupied homes renting out two spare rooms or three rooms in half a shotgun double; "Temporary" homes rented for no more than 30 days a year; "Commercial" vacation homes in commercially zoned corridors; and "Principal Residential" rentals, or entire homes in residential neighborhoods.

Whole-home rentals would require a conditional use permit under the proposed zoning laws and would be subject to density restrictions. Four rentals would be allowed per residential block in Bywater, the French Quarter, Marigny and Treme. Three per block would be allowed in most other residential areas, and two per block in Lakeview, New Orleans East and Algiers. Non-residential or "commercial" neighborhoods would have no restrictions. The CPC objected to whole-home rentals in a previous staff report, but another draft put them back on the table at Mayor Mitch Landrieu's request.

Once the CPC votes on the latest recommendations, their fate lies with the New Orleans City Council. District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry told Gambit whole-home rentals pose "the biggest threat to the quality of life of our long-term residents." Head says those types of rentals should be "heavily regulated." Guidry and Head own rental property in New Orleans. Both say they have no plans to use them for short-term rentals.
Not to get too far into an STR digression in this post, but also see this Next City op-ed that expounds on Guidry's statement.  And then go down to the public meeting at CPC on August 9 if you are free that day. Take your neighbors with you if you have any left. Maybe what you have to say will make a difference. Whether it does or it doesn't, though, there will be the question of what to do next. Be ready for that too.

*Apart from voting on Election Day which, I agree with Atrios here, isn't as big a thing as you may like to believe.

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