Category Archives: 45

Tell It Slant — With Lemonade: A Book Launch at Haverford

Adapted from Tell It Slant, by Emma Lapsansky-Werner, with Chuck Fager:

George Fox: not a friend of the arts.

For most of the three-plus centuries since the founding of Quakerism, Quakers had viewed the arts as snares and “distractions” from listening to the Word-of-the-Divine within.

George Fox threw down the marker as early as 1678:

All ye Poets, Jesters, rhimers, makers of Verses and Ballads, who bend your wits to please novelties, light minds, who delights in jests and toyes, more than in the simple naked truth which you should be united to, you are for the undoing of many poor souls, it is your work to tickle up the ears of people with your jests and toyes; this proceeds from a wrong heart … which is a shame to all that be in the modesty and pure sincerity & truth and cleanness of mind. …  

Fox had preached against the visual arts, too:  Continue reading Tell It Slant — With Lemonade: A Book Launch at Haverford

Biden In Crisis: What Did Jim Clyburn Say? (And What about Bernie?)

AP News: Clyburn’s discussion of a ‘mini-primary’ fuels more talk of whether Biden should end his campaign.

[NOTE: My first post on the great debate fallout freakout (After the Debate: Keep Calm. Chill the [Bleep] Out. Head Down, Beat Trump.) was posted on June 29.

That was less than a week ago, but it seems like a month or two. The  key question that came up for me in the immediate aftermath was simple:

What Will Jim Clyburn say?

Clyburn, the senior Black member of the U.S House, essentially saved Biden’s campaign in 2020. Would (and could?)  he do it again?

His first comment was staunchly supportive: On the morning after the debate debacle, he compared Biden’s performance to “strike one” in baseball; not good, but not yet a “strikeout.” He told people to “chill out.” Sounded like he was on board, and I think he was.

But Clyburn didn’t get to be where he is by blind loyalty; his input may be crucial, but it’s not the only factor in a fast-moving political upheaval. He, like other insiders, was watching to see what happened on several other fronts:

Continue reading Biden In Crisis: What Did Jim Clyburn Say? (And What about Bernie?)

After the Debate: Keep Calm. Chill the [Bleep] Out. Head Down, Beat Trump.

Don’t panic.

Today, I’m remembering the Nevada Democratic presidential caucuses on  February 22, 2020.

Molly at the Nevada Democratic caucuses, February 22, 2020, near Las Vegas.

I attended, with my daughter Molly, who lives in Vegas. She was a delegate.  I didn’t vote of course, but cheered on my favorite, Bernie Sanders, and was thrilled when he won the day. I was even more pleased when the chattering media heads gasped and said Bernie’s win had brought him to the brink of winning the nomination, a prospect which scared the bulk of them, “progressives” included, almost into coronaries & strokes.

All the pundits could think of was to equate Bernie’s chances to about half of those of the late Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, an anti-Vietnam war candidate who had been my hero in 1972. McGovern lost that election to Richard Nixon, in a record landslide; he carried only the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, where I was then living.

I wasn’t buying that scenario; but Molly was. She voted for Joe Biden, who finished out of the running in the Nevada caucus. But Molly stuck with him: her judgment was that he was the one who could beat Donald Trump.

So we know how that all worked out, and won’t rehash that story. But a couple news items from it leaped back to mind as this weekend arrived, and most of the liberal and even many “progressive” pundits were still reeling from the fallout from the Thursday Night debate debacle, and crowding around entrances to cardiac and stroke units, clutching their pearls, beating their chests, digging through real estate listings for Montreal and Auckland and such, and playing endless variations on the post-debate theme of “Joe’s Gotta Go, or We’re all doomed. (And how are we gonna defenestrate Kamala on the way without anybody noticing??)”

The chorus is loud, the rhetoric apocalyptic,  and the fever has run rampant in such august precincts as the editorial board of the New York Times.

Clyburn and Biden. Got the job done.

But it’s not universal; for instance, include me out. While I agree that Biden’s debate performance was dismal, depressing and discouraging, I found myself holding back, remembering the 2020 Nevada caucus aftermath, and repeating one question, like a mantra, which was:

“What will Jim Clyburn Say?”

For those who don’t remember, Rep. James Clyburn stepped forward in 2020, a couple days after the Nevada caucuses, with a loud and emphatic endorsement of Biden on the eve of the next primary, in his home state of South Carolina.

Clyburn’s endorsement changed the course of Biden’s campaign, from a series of pathetic losses to a turnaround string of primary victories, built on the solid support of southern Black voters, which swamped Bernie’s momentum and vaulted Biden into the lead, the nomination and (give or take a few coup attempts) into the White House.

Through the hours of peak panic on Friday, I listened to one broadcast/podcast after another in which a long line of pundits called for Biden to be replaced, preferably by tomorrow. But soon I began to notice something: all the ones I was hearing were white; and virtually all the people they were talking about, who should, they said, be pushing Biden into retirement, were also white.

Not that these chatterers were indifferent or hostile to Black Americans; by no means. Yet their default in what they saw was an emergency was a panicked and unrepresentative chorus of and by white people.

I’m a nobody, just a listener in all that throng. But the question occurred to me before I fell into troubled sleep on Thursday, and recurred when I awoke the next morning: what would Jim Clyburn say to this chorus baying for Biden’s replacement? And why wasn’t that at the top of the chorus’s song sheet??

It wasn’t a matter of precedence; there are other senior Congressmen who have served many terms yet earned little stature. But Clyburn occupied a pivotal position in 2020, and to my mind he still does.

And he did speak up on Friday. He compared Biden’s performance to “strike one” in baseball; not good, but not yet a “strikeout.” He told people to “chill out.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, House Minority Leader, was reserved, and pointed out Friday morning that Biden was to speak at a rally here in North Carolina, a pivotal swing state, at noon, and wondered if his performance would improve on the Thursday disaster. By all reports, Biden’s speech in Raleigh came through as fiery and clear, and was met with all but nonstop cheers from a large crowd.

Not bad. I wonder if Jeffries was encouraged; I was. I  nodded at this comment from another Black politician of some eminence, Barack Obama:

Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. [Obama famously flubbed his first debate in the 2012 campaign against Mitt Romney, on October 3, 2012; but he came back to sweep two more debates — and win re-election.] But this [2024] election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself. Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight — and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit. Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.

For that matter, Clyburn’s call to cool down was punched up a notch by another official who had a bad debate experience, Pennsylvania’s Senator John Fetterman.  After suffering a very serious stroke midway through his 2022 campaign, Fetterman, still newly in recovery, faced a live debate with Republican Mehmet Oz on October 25, 2022.

I listened to it, with what I thought was full sympathy, yet Fetterman’s delivery was still full of cringeworthy moments. He stumbled repeatedly with garbled words and jumbled sentences. It was, in a word, awful.
Nevertheless, he continued to campaign, and beat Oz handily.
Yesterday, with characteristic pungency Fetterman told those calling for replacing Biden to “Chill the F— out,” adding:I refuse to join the Democratic vultures on Biden’s shoulder after the debate. No one knows more than me that a rough debate is not the sum total of the person and their record.”

And if I try to listen between the lines, I hear Clyburn, Obama and Fetterman warning the guillotine chorus against trying to rush Biden to the scaffold (and shove Harris out the window) without taking full account of the segments of the Democratic base that were and still are critical to their being there, and their chances to stay.

And there’s no between-the-lines coyness in Biden’s rival in my 2020 visit to the Nevada caucuses: Bernie Sanders.

On Friday Sanders rejected calls for Joe Biden to end his presidential campaign. He agreed that Thursday’s debate had gone poorly, but there was time to retool.

Bernie and Biden April 2024. Working together.

“He’s not a great debater, he’s not necessarily a great speaker,” Sanders said. “People are just gonna have to say: Okay, you know what? Yeah, he’s old. Yeah, he’s not as articulate as he should be. But you’re voting for somebody whose policies will impact your life.”

Asked about the New York Times’s editorial board call for Biden to quit, and whether a different nominee could win the election, Bernie refused to speculate. Biden needed to get more specific about how he’d “improve the lives of working people,” not step down.

“Biden is the candidate,” he said. “I suspect he will be the candidate. I’ll do my best to get him elected.”

Which is also what Bernie did in 2020, after Biden overcame his early Nevada surge. And by the way, the reporters talked to Sanders not in Washington, but in Wisconsin, where he was in the midst of a week-long barnstorming tour, campaigning for Biden.

Loyalty. Eyes on the prize.

Head Down, Beat Trump.

Democrats have what some call a “deep bench” of younger leaders, many of whom I admire. But none as yet has either the universal name recognition, the nationwide organization or the funding base to mount the national campaign necessary to stop Trump.

Someday, one or more may well have them; I hope so. But now they don’t. And Amazon Prime at its most hurried can’t deliver them this week. If there is a credible replacement for Biden, I do not see him or her. Contemplating the alternatives now being bruited about brings to mind a remark attributed to several respectable Supreme Court justices (we once had many): “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”
No, and neither is a national Democratic presidential campaign.

Further, there are other factors to take into account. One is the relentless grind of the news cycle: As the Bulwark’s Jonathan V. Last points out:

Maybe two weeks from now head-to-head polling will show that the debate didn’t matter.
We often over-weight events in the moment.

Hyperbole? Consider: in July we’ll be practically inundated with major news. Among the predictable “blockbusters” are:

A resistance classic: a 2020 Houston billboard praising Trump was revised under cover of darkness; and its message is current again.

> A Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity. No matter what it says, it will likely dominate the airwaves and the screens for days; and then there’s July 4th, with special sales.

> On July 11, the first former president will be sentenced for 34 felony convictions in the pornstar election hush money case. Again, whether Trump gets prison time or not (full disclosure: I’m hoping he gets the slammer, and a jail haircut), that will be talked about intensively before and after. This will be followed in short order by

>The Republican convention, in what Trump called the “horrible” city of Milwaukee. Beyond the unprecedented spectacle of its coronation of a convicted and sentenced felon, there will be the parallel, bizarre unveiling of his craven Veep pick, followed by this person capping their long season of self-abasement with a choreographed grotesquery of public devotion and loyalty to a certified criminal, megamillion fraudster, rapist , racist, tax and golf cheat, a ceremony of ritual humiliation and ignominy, beside which the raunchiest drag performance would be a summit of refinement.

A 2024 Milwaukee message.
> Besides all these near-certainties, hurricane Beryl, the first of the season has now formed and is heading for the Caribbean and the southeast.
> And before August arrives, the Olympics will blanket everything in corporate exploitation of athletic talent.
> Not to mention, there will surely be new polls to haggle and agonize over.
Stir these into our ever-shortening attention span, and Jonathan Last is likely not exaggerating how distant this debate may seem when the dog days arrive.  After all, if a significant chunk of the pro-choice public think it was Joe Biden who overturned the Roe decision, who knows whether there will be any long-term impact of this past week’s debate debacle?
Daughter Molly reports that she’s not sure at this moment, this time around. No shame. Yet in sum, I find myself agreeing again with James Clyburn: “Stay the course.” If Biden can give a series of coherent, aggressive speeches between now and when the GOP deluge arrives in Milwaukee, and the panicked pundits do their deep-breathing exercises, Biden may not hit it out of the park, but with singles and doubles, and some better defense, this motley Democratic team might eke out a win after all the innings (and the postgame entertainment) are concluded.

First Trump Post-Conviction Poll

Reuters: United States

Exclusive: One in 10 Republicans less likely to vote for Trump after guilty verdict, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/one-10-republicans-less-likely-vote-trump-after-guilty-verdict-reutersipsos-poll-2024-05-31/

By Jason Lange
May 31, 2024

WASHINGTON, May 31 (Reuters) – Ten percent of Republican registered voters say they are less likely to vote for Donald Trump following his felony conviction for falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll that closed on Friday.

Continue reading First Trump Post-Conviction Poll

Mark Robinson Update: Saggy Pants Worse Than KKK (& More)

The Washington Post

By Hannah Knowles
 — March 20, 2024 

[Excerpt] Planned Parenthood. Men with saggy pants. People who tore down Confederate flags and monuments. The Rev. Al Sharpton.

Mark Robinson, the GOP nominee in one of this year’s most competitive governor’s races, has declared them all comparable to or worse than the Ku Klux Klan in social media posts that have drawn little attention.

The posts are part of a long record of comments ranging from provocative to bigoted that are getting more scrutiny as the campaign heats up in North Carolina — and that some Republicans worry will be a liability in a battleground state.
 Continue reading Mark Robinson Update: Saggy Pants Worse Than KKK (& More)