The Educated Voter

We recently had a primary in New York City for mayor, several district attorneys (including the one that will almost certainly be prosecuting Trump, Inc.), public advocate, comptroller and a few other positions. In a moment when democracy is under ruthless attack, on the ropes, face swollen, one puffy eye closed, a mix of snot and blood dripping out of the nose, we New York voters had very little information on the individual candidates we were asked to choose between.

The few debates were not super enlightening, articles of substance about the candidates were hard to find. There was a flood of large format, glossy, paid advertising from the candidates, choking the old mailbox. Some of the material contained things that ruled out a given candidate, like the endorsement of a certain well-known Nazi-type, but the rest of the Democratic candidates all sounded like true champions of equality, justice and decency.

As always in the primaries, you take your best shot at voting for a candidate that seems to represent your views, knowing that almost certainly you will get some corporately selected piece of shit to hold your nose and vote for in the actual election, even in an anarchist jurisdiction like New York City. Politics, as we know, is a nasty business, driven by expensive advertising, largely attack ads stirring up fear and loathing and let the best brand marketing win!

The lack of information continues. The last update on the close, important Manhattan DA race was four days ago when 83.9% of the precincts reported the day after of the primary and the top two candidates were separated by less than four percent, the margin of error. One of the two has already said she will not recuse herself from any investigation involving her big campaign donors and wealthy close friends. What could go wrong?

A digression, one of the candidates in these primaries was my best friend from kindergarten, a guy I have only seen once since then, some time in first grade when our mothers arranged a surprise play date. My mother and I walked up the hill from the turnpike and there was a woman and a boy in the distance, near our house. When we recognized each other (he must have known what he was there for, he was standing in front of my house) we began to run toward each other, like in romantic, slow motion commercial from back in the day, hugged and started laughing. The guy was attending a yeshiva, I was still in our old school. His mother, who turns out to still be alive (at 95, I think) and a Cuban Jew, made the first meat sauce I’d ever tasted. Man, it was delicious over spaghetti. My mother began making it after that and to this day, when Sekhnet’s tomatoes are ripe, I make it with vegetarian “meat” [1]. Thanks to rank-choice voting I was able to vote for my old buddy, though he wasn’t my first choice, based on what I could make out of his positions.

I keep thinking, and writing, as though the facts of the case are really the central deal, that most voters actually care, spend the time to learn about the candidates and use the best information they can get to make an informed choice, select the best people for elected office.

If it was not clear before now, it is now perfectly clear — in the war of whipped up emotions vs. dry, fact-based intellect, passion wins over any form of logic. In politics, in advertising, in the world as we know it. As Mr. Hitler clearly, and approvingly, set out in his otherwise rabidly raving Mein Kampf, a lie works best when it is bold, infuriating and repeated over and over. When a Big Lie is exposed as a total fabrication designed to enrage people, call the fucking liars who exposed it the ACTUAL BIG LIARS, their lie about the lie is the BIG Lie — call for their execution!

We recently had a president who, weeks before the election, secretly paid off two women to dummy up about sex the NY Times characteristically notes they “allegedly” had with the guy. You always pay $130,000 for a non-disclosure agreement for someone who alleges to have had extra-marital sex with you, why wouldn’t you? It’s just standard caution, especially for a politician. Then, also right before the election, his fraudulent “university” was shut down, a tiny, pennies on the dollar, $25,000,000 settlement paid out to defrauded students in NY, with no admission of wrongdoing. (Also, once he was president, his fraudulent charity was shut down, for illegal expenditures of charitable contributions, but, you know, seriously, who among us hasn’t had a fraudulent charity shut down?).

We’ll give him a pass on whether there was anything fishy (or illegal) about 140 known contacts (collusion, sure, chargeable criminal conspiracy? insufficient evidence found) between his campaign and a hostile foreign government. This hostile foreign power openly favored him and released information intended to damage his already hated opponent at key strategic moments (“Grab ’em by the pussy” meet “Hillary’s fucking emails!!!”). We’ll pretend he was exonerated by Mueller for obstruction of justice as well, that his attempts to change the results of an election he lost were just what any real winner does when people say he lost, that it’s normal for a competitive white man to send a violent mob to disrupt the final certification of an election that infuriated him, an election he actually won “in a landslide”.

Ordinarily payments by an adulterer to silence paid sex partners, a finding that your “university” was a fraud, as well as your charity, would be enough to do a certain amount of damage to your candidacy. Yes, it was the perfect storm in 2016, the most hated (though exciting) man in American politics running an aggressive, sometimes ugly, campaign against the most hated (though competent) woman in American politics. A plague on both of their houses, and we are stuck with the bill.

And still I sit here, virtually every day, after reading, listening to a few podcasts, watching a few people I respect in the media, trying to coherently set out the details of what is going on around us, as if coherence is even still a thing in America.

Many people I know feel this practice of mine is a form of masochism, since there is so little you can do about any of it, why keep feeding on the toxic details? We know what the GOP has finally become, the radical, anti-democratic party of obstruction of government. We know the despicable, unprincipled players well, Mitch, McCarthy, Lyin’ Ted, Lindsey, et al, a pack of craven, cynical shitbirds stinking to the heavens. Does it surprise us on Wednesday when they confidently say the opposite of what they said Monday? When they make a solemn vow in 2016 that they break, without consequence or remorse, when the time comes to do the opposite? Are we sad, and sickened? Sure, about 60% of us are.

I like to think we are not doomed, not hostages to those whose enflamed passions will not allow them to look at the larger picture, ratchet down the rage and help us all attend to the massive problems we all face. I prefer to believe that most of us are inherently decent people, no matter how many millions might be easily misled. Most people don’t like liars, crooks, smug, provocative pussy grabbers. We need to keep our focus, and not look away, there is a lot of work ahead if we’re to save ourselves from the worst of us.

The earth is on fire, under water, rocked and ravaged at every turn. There is massive poverty, even in the richest nations on earth, particularly in ours. People still die because they can’t afford the medical treatments that routinely save and extend the lives of wealthy people. Citizens in some areas can’t drink their lead-infused drinking water without taking dire health risks. Our military veterans, “thank you for your service”, kill themselves at a rate of 600 a month. People die every day because police claim they are rightfully in fear of their lives, even when the person they are afraid of is handcuffed and lying face down on the pavement. Women, will you ever get the Equal Rights Amendment added to the fucking constitution?

Like I said, I like to think we are not doomed, pretend that my own doom is likely not a done deal. It is our privilege to be optimistic, to look at the worst and see the possibility of a better outcome, until all of our privileges, and our breath itself, are revoked. And if they are revoked tomorrow, let us live today with a full appreciation of this miraculous beauty and our great potential for goodness, in the face of the ugly as the worst sin you can imagine.



To make it with meat, add chopped fake meat (or the real stuff, if you insist) to the skillet when you are caramelizing the onions, garlic and peppers/carrots. You want to sear it a bit (brown it, as my mother would say), before you add the tomatoes and start cooking it into sauce. This gives the sauce maximum deliciousness. The simple recipe is here.

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