Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Wednesday Night Debateball

Not sure how to handle this Senate debate tonight since it's playing opposite Game 7 of the Greatest World Series Of All Time. The debate only runs an hour this time. And it's on CSPAN. So you can watch it on demand later if that's how you want to hack it.  It's less fun to tweet that way, though.

But somebody has to pay attention to this debate.  With so few witnesses, it will be difficult enough as it is to verify that it's even happening.   
The only spectators allowed in 400-seat Georges Auditorium will be the production staff and five guests from each campaign.

“We just elected to have a closed production,” said Vicki Zimmerman, Raycom’s regional news director.

When asked if Duke was the reason, she said, “I’m not going to elaborate any further than I already did.”
As I'm typing this, I can look over at Twitter and see a group of Dillard students are at the campus now protesting against David Duke's inclusion. They seem particularly focused on University President Walter Kimbrough.  For his part,Kimbrough (AKA @HipHopPrez on Twitter) has questioned Duke's invitation himself.
Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough on Wednesday accused the host of the U.S. Senate debate of manipulating poll results to ensure white supremacist David Duke would qualify to increase TV ratings.

"Pretty clear polling rigged as (Donald) Trump would say for ratings," Kimbrough said in a tweet. "Any protests become part of reality show masquerading as news #WakeUp".
The debate, featuring six candidates, will be held at Dillard University, a historically black university. In an interview Kimbrough softened his stance about the poll being "rigged," but he maintained "it's a valid question to ask, when the latest poll comes out and (Duke is) at 2 percent," he said referencing a recent poll by the University of New Orleans. 
"It's a valid question to ask," he's just throwing that out there. But, hey, he's got a point.  Any debate that refuses to put totally legitimate candidate Kaitlin Marone on the stage has to be considered "rigged." The fact that they're trotting Duke out there is just further evidence that democracy is in peril.

I do hope the protesters make an effort to disrupt the debate.  Anything is better than having to watch that field of dead weight candidates recite their stupid scripts for an hour. Here's what that looked like last time, in case you missed it. An outburst or two from the crowd might liven that up.  Duke, himself, will just be an oddity. 

Speaking of which, here is an Esquire article out today about Duke's (mostly unwelcome, it seems) presence at this year's Deutsches Haus Oktoberfest.
It was 6 p.m. on Friday, October 21, and Duke was late. Jan, a young, white cop with a crewcut, was standing stoically near a beer vendor when I asked if he'd seen the candidate. "Have you seen him lately?" he shot back, his eyebrows raising. He says it seems like Duke has had a lot of work done, "but it's not good work. He looks like he just got out of a coffin, he looks like a corpse, that's the nicest way I could put it."

He wasn't making fun of Duke when he said this. He wore a pained expression and a faraway gaze, as if recalling some kind of science-fiction trauma he couldn't quite make sense of. "He's a weird-looking person," he said, shaking his head, "I couldn't get past that." When Duke was here last week, Jan explained, a couple of his colleagues talked to him, but he couldn't stomach it, so he just walked away. He sighed. "I don't know how you're gonna do it."
The good news is after this election is over, Duke will have to go back to his crypt and stay there until the next comet comes by or whatever. In the meantime, he's out there grossing people out. But that's nothing out of the ordinary in 2016. 

Regarding that, the Esquire reporter also spoke to Edwin Edwards who had the following to say about Duke and about how is appeal relates to Donald Trump's.
"He's a very intelligent fellow, if a person with his philosophy can be intelligent," Edwards told me over coffee in his home office in Gonzales. Edwards is 89 now and five years out of prison, with a 38-year-old wife, Trina, who he met while behind bars (she wrote him letters), a three-year-old son, Eli, conceived using his frozen sperm, and two donkey-sized collies, Brooke and Belle. "We didn't have a very acrimonious election," he told me. When he was asked at the time if he and Duke had anything in common, Edwards famously replied, "we both have been wizards beneath the sheets."

"When he ran against me and whenever he was running, he always capitalized not just on people who didn't like the race problem, but people who didn't like government, as Trump is doing," Edwards told me. "He has captured, in my opinion, the attitude of many people in America who just are fed up with the government."
That's a very important point by Edwards.  The Duke phenomenon in the 1990s wasn't just some freak show.  It represented a massive section of the GOP coalition. I wrote a longish thing about this last January, in fact. Back then David Duke didn't present himself as some "alt-right" character. He ran as a Republican and tailored his rhetoric to dovetail with the platform tenets of the party's mainstream.  This was remarkably easy to do. That fact, moreso than Duke's past (or "baggage" as Steve Scalise termed it) was the most disturbing and revelatory aspect of his political career. 

Similarly, Trump's success exposes many uncomfortable truths about the present day Republican party that aren't going to just disappear after Trump loses next week.  All the "serious" people are mortified by Trump, of course. But here's Oyster writing a few months ago to remind everyone of the seemingly obvious point that Trump did, in fact, win the nomination.
Sure, in retrospect, the 'conditions' were right. After all, outsiders Trump/Cruz/Carson garnered most of the primary vote. The anti-establishment sentiment was there. Plus, the GOP was due for a comeuppance, as it had played with fire for too long, having whipped its fringe elements into fury (over the existential peril of illegal immigration) and never really 'delivering.' There's also widespread anxiety due to macro-economic structural faults in our late-stage capitalism. (Will we ever grow again at a fast clip without a bubble? A discussion for another time).

But don't let anyone tell you this was inevitable or obvious in hindsight. For Trump, an unelected rookie, to successfully reinvent the rules of national campaigns on his own terms, overcome apparent blunder after blunder, and crush establishment choices like Jeb, Walker and Rubio as well as maverick Ted Cruz (the conservative's conservative)... that's just bananas. Not to mention that party mandarins, conservative media 'thought leaders', Super Pacs, and even other candidates allied to defeat him. Trump was heavily outspent in early primaries, but he won anyway.

How are we to understand this?

Well, we'll take some time to unpack this important moment in American political history. Let's quell the urge to understand too quickly or reflexively fit Trump into old models or agendas.

Tonight, I will offer one analytical tool that I think may be useful. Ask yourselves— would Trump have been successful if he eliminated the xenophobic and racialist appeals in his rhetoric and (scant) policy talk? My view is no. He could've changed almost anything else about his platform and candidacy (and often did). But the blunt warnings of Mexican invaders, thieving Asians, and the black president in league(?) with foreign terrorist cells... etc were the MOST vital components to his successful primary run.
Oyster is telling us two things there, actually. He's telling the campaign's success is due to both the the "conditions" present in the electorate and the unique qualities (I hesitate to say talents) possessed by the candidate.  This is the case in any election. But what all of this also says is that in 2016, the Donald Trump campaign moved enough Republicans to the polls to make him the nominee.

In my view the questions that raises about the party and about the state of U.S. politics this year than it does about the freak show are more significant and enduring than the freak show of Trump's personage. It's important that we don't remove the character from its context.

Otherwise we end up with idiot Democrats who run ads based on the fact that her opponent was once physically touched by one of the freaks and expect voters to impute some sort of meaning from that. Which is why Oktoberfest was a dangerous place to be this year. (This is from the Esquire piece.)
Harbison was far from the only one shooting sickened looks in Duke's direction at the festival. When he tried to shake the hand of Catherine Farnsworth Gensler, a 53-year-old teacher from Duke's hometown, she glared up at him like he was some combination of an ISIS fighter and a Maroon 5 band member. She refused to extend hers, but he grabbed it anyway. "I don't support him," she told me, and then she turned to him. "I don't support you, I'm sorry." Duke seemed startled. "What?" he asked. "I don't support you," she said. "That's fine, that's alright," he told her. "But I'm gonna get a lot of votes. I think I'm gonna win this time."
We can only hope Ms. Gensler never runs for office against Caroline Fayard because that will definitely come back to haunt her if she does.

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