Trexit

Given that Clinton appears to have won the popular vote by upwards of a million votes, some among the pundits are bandying about the idea of changing the allocation rules for the electoral college. These rules are established by the individual states. A multi-state pact is already evolving which will require electors from participating states to cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote. That pact will be triggered when states representing 270 electors agree to the pact.

Is it too late?

I recognize that this mirrors the attempts by Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz to reassign the allegiances of delegates to both party conventions after the delegates were won in the primaries by Clinton and Trump (respectively). Remember those arguments by the “never Trump” delegates that they were not bound by law to vote according to the primary results?

I was astonished and dismayed by those efforts, which I saw as undemocratic. Now, however, as we see how woefully unprepared Trump is to run the presidency – not least due to the fact that apparently the only smart people he knows are actually members of his family or alt-right white supremacists – is it too late for the Electoral College to reject his ascendancy to the Oval Office? Or could the greatest aberration in our electoral system actually redeem itself, and grant Clinton the honor that she so deeply deserves?

Oh, Tay, Can You See?

Microsoft put up a speech-bot name ‘Tay’ on Twitter last week, and it took less than twenty-four hours for it to become a sexist Nazi. While labelled as “artificial intelligence,” Tay did not actually understand what it was saying – it merely parroted the speech of other users. On the /4chan/pol feed, that includes a lot of dialog that most of us would consider inappropriate.

What distresses is that Microsoft hoped to have Tay demonstrate the conversational skills of a typical teenager. Well, maybe it did!

In a recent dialog on the “liar Clinton,” I probed for specific proof, and received back the standard Fox News sound bites. When I described the Congressional hearings on Bengazi, the accuser had the grace to be chastened. This is typical of so much of our political dialog: people parrot sayings without availing themselves of access to the official forums in which real information is exchanged. The goal is to categorize people as “us” or “other,” with the goal of justifying arrangements for the distribution of power that benefit the “us.”

Donald Trump is a master of this political practice. Apparently his campaign doesn’t do any polling. He simply puts up posts on Facebook, and works the lines that people like into his speeches.

So I worry: did Microsoft actually succeed in its demonstration? Most American teenagers don’t understand the realities of the Holocaust or the difficulties of living under a totalitarian regime. In that experiential vacuum, do they actually evolve dialog in the same way that Tay did – with the simple goal of “fitting in?”

Somewhat more frightening is that Donald Trump appears to employ algorithms not too different from Tay’s. For God’s sake, this man could be president of the most powerful country in the world! He’s got to have more going on upstairs than a speech bot!

Fortunately, many teenagers, when brought into dialog regarding offensive speech, actually appreciate receiving a grounding in fact. You’d hope that our politicians would feel the same.

Climbing the Mountain of Healing

After eight years of fear-mongering and greed under the Bush Administration, on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, I stood in the conference room at work to watch the proceedings. Breathing more easily, I felt the will of Christ stretch itself across the nation to join with that of our new president.

I caught a clip of the Tea Party responder to this year’s State of the Union (a motivational speaker named Root) warming up the crowd at a Trump rally. While I can’t call it a message, the energetic peak of his oration was the statement “This is war!” That is one way to look at society, as a struggle to the death of factions in a world where there is just never enough. To survive, we have to find that mythical figure epitomized in our history by Washington, Lincoln or FDR: a great general and leader to whom we can entrust our lives.

The problem is that fear is a deeply ingrained physiological habit. It is a way of relating to the world that destroys reason. When the enemy is gone, the habit remains and turns inwards. For some, the escape is into substance abuse, but for others it finds release in seeking enemies among their fellows.

Again and again, our society has raised up representatives to heal those divides, and those representatives suffer terribly for our sins. Jackie Robinson and the Central High Nine were all abused for the privilege of entering the lily-white citadels of baseball and education, and understood that they could not respond in kind. I heard one of the Central High Nine speak on his experience, and while my first reaction was outrage, it was closely followed by awe at the strength and discipline he had demonstrated.

Barack Obama spoke about this problem in his confrontation with the bigots in the federal legislature who declared early on their intention to oppose him at every step. His response was of the type. It was captured for me in a photo: During one of the budget stand-offs with the House, he invited the Speaker to play golf. The event was memorialized on one of the greens with Obama crouched low over his ball, pointing to lay out the line to the hole while looking over his shoulder at Boehner for agreement.

I write this today because I find myself dumbfounded by the political analysis of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Obviously among the Republican front-runners we find those parroting the legacies of FDR (Trump) and Washington (Cruz). Their are bombastic and shallow, but raise fervor in their frightened partisans. There is much to be alarmed by in this phenomenon – it was the root of fascism in Europe. I consider it to be a cancer in the body politic.

On the Democratic side, we were promised a different dynamic, a dialog informed by reason. After the first Democratic debate, one headline characterized it as “The Adults Take the Stage.” But there are significant differences between the candidates, and these are not just in substance but in tone. The pundits have tried to characterize these differences, and now tend to settle “forward thinking” and “heart” on Sanders while saddling Clinton with “hanging on to the past” and “head.”

Sanders earns these designations for his fiery railing against the monied class. This appeals to the youth of our nation, those whose disdain for politics has allowed the establishment to secure its privilege by buying the House and Senate in off-term elections. Sanders promises a radical departure from the past, a storming of the castle to take back the wealth of the nation. He yells and gesticulates, demonstrating a strong emotional connection to his program that promises dedication to its achievement.

I have already expressed my discomfort with the similarities with the Republican front-runners.

I see Hillary struggling with her characterization. The body politic does seem to want passion, but when she projects it in her campaign stops, it rings false. That is picked on by the pundits, who have now taken to comparing her to Bush. But I believe that comparison reflects a deep and systemic misunderstanding of the disease facing our nation, and the fact that the temperament that makes Clinton so attractive to me at this time is simply incompatible with the politics of the males in the field.

Consider this: if you had liver cancer, would you feel encouraged by an oncologist who said “This is war! Your liver is evil! I’m going to take it out and stomp on it! And – oh yeah – thanks for putting my daughter through college.” Or would you like to be given sympathy and encouragement with specific options for treatment along with a description of side-effects and costs.

In other words, would you want a warrior or a healer?

In Hillary, I see the latter. Although I see it in Obama, it’s typically a feminine proclivity. Have some sympathy for her as she struggles against the burden of the pressures that have kept women from full and equal participation in our body politic.