Category Archives: Opinion

Nationalism Today, Fascism Tomorrow

Nationalism is dumb.

Nationalism everywhere
Nationalism… If only it had more memes.

Oh, sure, I’m all for apple pie and the Star Spangled banner, fireworks, and hot dogs on Independence Day – but the racism, xenophobia, and outright bullshit are a deal-breaker for me.

Just to be clear, the “nationalism” I’m talking about is the Webster’s variety, or:

Nationalism (noun): “A feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries.

Emphasis mine, of course.

See, you can justify a lot of crazy things by throwing the word “patriot” around. Don’t like Muslims, refugees, or the LGBTQ+ crowd? Well, you’re not prejudiced, you’re patriotic.

Tired of feeling bad about being a white male, constantly put down by all the brown people in society and their liberal, Marxist policies? They may call you a bigot, but deep down in your heart, you know you’re really just a God-fearing patriot.

Think everything will be fine with America as long as women can’t get abortions and students aren’t allowed to learn about climate change in schools? Don’t worry, you’re not an idiot, you’re just a concerned, hard-working, American patriot.

That’s really what nationalism is about, right? If you believe your culture, your nation, is really better than everyone and everything else, you should be a good little patriot, fighting against all other ideologies and calling people “cuck” in the comments section.

I realize I’m being a little dramatic, but allow me to support my point of view with some facts.

Nationalism is Trendy, and Nationalist Groups are Popping up Like Weeds

It would be hard to miss the constant bleating of the Bullshitter-In-Chief, or the rhetoric machine cranked up by the far-right these days. While it’s tempting to blame Donald Trump, the real problem has been a constant and growing concern for years now.

The Southern Poverty Law Center actively tracks the numbers for various hate groups in the United States. By their definition, hate groups have, “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” This can be anything from the KKK, to that group of old Baby Boomers who meet at the Legion hall and bitch about Sharia law undermining western values.

As of now, there are 917 active hate groups in the United States. That’s down from the peak in 2011 at 1,018, but a significant increase since 2014, when the number dipped down 784. 130 of these groups are chapters of the KKK, and 193 are black separatist groups, just to give an idea of what that ‘917’ means.

The SPLC keeps a full map of hate groups across the country, which I strongly encourage everyone to check out. But the real kicker for me is that of the 917 groups listed, 663 are considered, “anti-government ‘patriot’ groups.”

These groups are spread all over the country; Alaska and Hawaii are the only states that don’t show any activity on the map, but this is likely an error of omission rather than proof that no such activity exists. California has almost 80 hate groups, while even my home state of Fuck-Off-In-The-Middle-Of-Nowhere Idaho has 12.

That example I gave before, about crotchety old people complaining at the Legion hall? Even that’s not an exaggeration – I based it on Idaho ACT for America, which has two chapters, and is itself part of the larger “ACT for America” organization.

Even college and universities, stereotyped as strongholds of liberalism, aren’t protected from the sewage-laden tide of nationalism.

For months, if not longer, white supremacist and nationalist groups, i.e. groups on the ‘Richard Spencer’ end of the political spectrum, have been recruiting on college campuses, and the rhetoric has been chilling. CNN had a story just last month about this – watch their video, and listen to the people they interview.

These people – these nationalists – don’t think of themselves as hate groups. They think of themselves as the oppressed, as the downtrodden, as defenders of American values and the white, Christian way of life.

Seriously. Watch the CNN video.

“We are being replaced in our own country,” Nathan Damigo, the founder of Identity Europa, said. In his mind, and in the minds of people like him, they’re not attacking other people, they’re just opposing the false narrative of contemporary society! They’re not spewing propaganda, they’re just providing alternative facts!

These groups are everywhere, by the way. This was put up all over my local university campus just today:

Boise Nationalists
Boise Nationalists group flier posted on college campus

And that’s the second time this group has posted fliers. At least in our case, students immediately showed opposition by tearing down the fliers, and even posting anti-fascist fliers of their own – but don’t make the mistake of thinking these are isolated incidents, or that you’re far removed from it because the incident you just read about happened hundreds of miles away. Nationalism is trendy these days, and it’s probably not hard to find in your own town.

Resistance Is NOT Futile

Honestly, I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain why these so-called nationalist groups and the values they represent are a problem. If you’ve paid attention in history class, you know all about how the Nazis rose to power, you know all about the rhetoric used against Japanese-Americans during WWII, and you don’t need me to tell you about the humanitarian disasters caused by Manifest Destiny.

If you understand that history, you know that the American dream isn’t a given – it has to be periodically upheld and fought for, and the people who would willfully pull us backward must be resisted at all costs.

I don’t have all the answers. Maybe it’s better to protest, or to write to Congress, or to form organizations of our own. Or maybe you can do what these counter-protesters did in Dallas:

…or not.

I’m not advocating violence, of any sort. But you do have a legal right to protest, and a legal right to bear arms – as far as I’m concerned, if you’re doing anything, as long as you’re doing it legally, you’re fine, and we should be doing everything we legally can do to stand up for our rights and the rights of others.

The nationalism genie may not go back in the bottle – but we can sure as hell make him regret coming out.

 

 

So You Elected Donald Trump for President

by Daniel J. Durand

Good morning, America; sleep well? I would like to take a moment to briefly talk about what happened last night.

Last night, on November 8th, 2016, we, the American people chose Donald Trump as our new president.

To those of you who voted for him, congratulations! You did it! To everyone else… sorry. I’m so sorry. The following is an open letter, which I’m going to break down into parts in order to better address each of the major groups I see in play right now. Here goes:

The Democratic Party

You guys really blew this one, you know?

At best, before the election, you controlled maybe eight states–now you have nothing.

You threw all your eggs in the Hillary basket, kicked Bernie and the Millenials to the curb, ignored the problems facing organized labor, African-Americans, the LGBT community, and everyone else, all somehow in hopes of getting Hillary to the White House. Don’t believe me? Look at the early exit polling–you guys lost everyone you claim to represent, and by a scary margin.

The party structure is now drained of resources, and Democrats are fractured into those who supported the establishment and those who supported a Bernie-style movement. The party is now meaningless outside of the northeast and the west coast, where strongholds still remain.

In short, you guys done fucked up proper, and now you have a lot of work to do.

The Republican Party

You guys are asssholes, but you won this round despite that. Kudos! I still hate your guts, but mad props for pulling it off.

Politically, I will never agree with Republicans, and I doubt many liberal voters will, either–but we all understand how dangerous Trump’s presidency could be, and if The Donald goes nuclear, Republicans and Democrats have to be ready to work together

Try not to get us into another war, okay? If Trump turns out to be the nightmare president we are all afraid of, you, the Republicans, are the only group capable of stopping him. .

Hillary Clinton

There is no way you don’t have this coming. Now, suck it up, and put your incredible political machine to work alongside Bernie Sanders’ movement.

You weren’t the right candidate to go up against Trump, and it cost America. Voters made themselves clear last night that we don’t trust you, we don’t like you–but you still have the DNC at your fingertips, you still won the nomination and made it this far, and you still have serious clout.

Don’t retreat. Keep moving forward for progress, for the Democratic party, and most of all, for Bernie Sanders and the movement he started.

You are never going to rule the land–you can, however, be a key to power for the next generation of liberals. I know you don’t play second fiddle well, but for the sake of the progressive future we could have had, that we should have had, you have to try.

Donald Trump

Because of you, I woke up this morning and realized that I am living in the plot of a bad 80s action movie. You have no clear policies, no plan, just a bunch of hopeless conservative platitudes and a boorish personality.

And yet, you won.

So, Mr. Trump, do the country a huge solid, and surprise us. Earn the office you’ve somehow taken. Prove your opponents wrong, stand for the future America needs and not the apocalypse that we expect you to usher in. Rise above the petty.

Don’t fuck this up.

The Voters

Okay, you guys are the group that matters most. Whoever you voted for individually, I doubt anyone who voted last night is happy with where the country is right now. Those feelings probably spurred you to vote in the first place, and guided you to the candidate you ultimately chose.

But regardless of whether your candidate of choice won, there is something very important that voters need to remember: the fight did not end at the ballot box.

Healthcare still sucks. Education still sucks. We’re still bombing or at war with seven countries. Our government is still spying on us. Money still has too much influence in politics. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, times a million, ad infinitum.

If you believe that your vote every four years is all it takes to fix these problems, then you are a fool.

We are the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are the people. We are the masters of our own fates. We will not solve our problems with one election, but we should also not let our problems hold us back.

Take a moment to relax and recuperate. As a country, we need a breather. But then, get ready for the next round of elections–local, state, midterm, whatever. Do volunteer work. Write to Congress. Look for ways to better yourselves and to help those around you.

No matter what side you were on before, now, more than any other time, we need to be in this together.

We made ourselves sick with insanity over the last 18 months. Now, let’s make ourselves sick pushing forward, working to fix the problems that led to this terrible, awful election cycle in the first place.

Hell, let’s even start a hashtag, and stick it on everything: #progressisours, until we think of something catchier.

Own your country. Own your fate. Own your passions. Don’t wait for the White House to solve your problems; it’s time we banded together as an electorate, and took care of ourselves.

End of rant. Have a nice day, everyone.

Daniel Durand is a Boise-based writer who wants a stiff drink and a vacation. He can be reached at ddurand.specialprojects@gmail.com

A House Divided, or a House Party?

by Mikel Ham

The 2016 presidential race has reinforced the belief that America’s current political party system is flawed, at best. Two factions, often seen as polar opposites, dominate the national discussion on every issue, while smaller parties and independent voters are left disenfranchised.

To choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, in the minds of many voters, is to choose the candidate they see as the lesser of two evils. The question is, how long can voters choose the lesser evil, before there is no distinction between the two? And how can the voices of all be heard, so that, perhaps, there could candidates who aren’t evil at all?

Two Parties, and a House Divided

The biggest issue with bipartisan voting is it creates an “us or them” mentality; congress will destroy a bill, regardless of its merit, for the sole reason that it was brought forth by the opposing party.

Bringing a bill in front of Congress is almost like selling a used car. Representatives and senators will write the bill with way more in it than what they want to accomplish, in order to be “talked down” to what they actually want.

Given the kind of partisan bickering and lack of cooperation seen over the last decade, is it any wonder that most Americans say they’re independent, rather than claiming to be a Democrat or Republican?

Important Issues are Being Ignored

Consider healthcare, a major issue frequently debated by both Republicans and Democrats. Who doesn’t want affordable health care for the entire public? Who doesn’t want the sick and disabled to be cared for? By taking the desired end results into account, bills that support these issues should, in theory, be highly desired by both parties.

Instead, we see gridlock.

For a long time, the Republican right has taken a position against socialized medicine, which runs a hard line against the party’s corporate backing. From the free market perspective, if the government is going to move from subsidizing industries to actively socializing them, many large companies will lose out on existing profits and control of the market. If the government provides healthcare to its citizens, then how would the private sector compete?

There is nothing wrong with a free market—but it shouldn’t cost someone $900 just to go an emergency room.

In fact, the free market for medicine is fairly new in American history, only starting during WWII—since the country could not fund both the war effort and the population’s medical needs, the private sector emerged to fill the gap. Healthcare is a great example of a public need that has been privatized, and needs to be reigned back in by government.

Most people would probably agree that there are problems with the current healthcare system in the United States, even if they can’t always agree on how to fix them—58 percent of Americans support single-payer healthcare, for example, and public opinion of the Affordable Care Act is all over the map.

But healthcare is only one issue—what about the cost and quality of education, military spending, or paying for maintenance of roads and bridges across the country?

It seems that on every major problem facing the United States, Democrats and Republicans can’t see eye to eye. If the two dominant parties in our system can’t agree on what’s best for the country, and are in fact operating largely out of spite for each other, then how can we trust either party to choose candidates for the Presidency?

Decision 2016: Who Chooses the Choosers?

As it stands, the 2016 presidential campaign has been loud, and ugly. What started with over 23 candidates and some of the most caucus participation in history, is ending in email scandals and comparisons of hand size. Two candidates remain, each one appealing to voters as being less toxic than the other.

But has it all been sound and fury, signifying nothing?

The primary elections are already flawed systems, where the popular votes have no direct effect on the outcome. Each party has a convention, where delegates chosen at the primaries and caucuses meet and cast the final vote to choose the final nominees—and that doesn’t even consider superdelegates or contested conventions, mechanisms where parties can override the popular vote altogether.

So, what about votes in the general election, where we choose from the party nominees?

The Electoral College is set up so that the electors are private parties, and while they usually vote along the lines of the party that chose them, they have no obligation to do so. Electors who vote opposite of the party that selected them are known as faithless electors.

The most surprising and little known thing in regards to electors is that the ability of the public (or more practically, political parties formed from groups of the public) to vote on electors is a tradition, and not a rule.

The original right to choose electors belonged to the state government, and still technically resides there. It wouldn’t make sense in a logical world for the person receiving the most popular votes to not receive the delegate votes that decide candidacy or seat of office, but it has been known to happen multiple times in history.

The most recent case was in 2000, when George W. Bush was declared the winner over Al Gore, even though he had approximately 540,000 less popular votes.

Other instances include Adams in 1824, with 38,000 less votes than Jackson; Hayes over Tilden in 1876, with 250,000 less votes; and Harrison’s victory over Cleveland in 1888, with 90,000 less votes in the popular election.

Fewer Choices, Louder Voices

Another issue is that, when thinking of the primaries or the general election, only Republicans and Democrats come to mind. Where are the independent parties? Why do they have no representation? Why is it that you can only vote in the primary if you register as a Democrat or Republican?

The primary system, in and of itself, ensures that voters will get the extreme right or the extreme left candidates running for office. Rarely will voters be presented with middle-ground candidates, willing to compromise across party lines and ideals, and this further alienates voters who themselves are not far right or far left.

With no third-party candidates able to step in when the major two parties’ only mission is to shut each other down, the system can only produce legislative gridlock. With no third-party candidates to challenge the distribution of electoral votes, the system guarantees the victory of the same old tired politics over progress—you have two choices, they were the same choices four years ago, and no one is going to be happy.

People seem to vote based on party lines because, in their minds, the established parties are simply the way it’s always been. What most people don’t realize is that the modern two-party system was never meant to exist; many of the founding fathers, John Adams among them, were against such a system. In a letter from Adams to Jonathan Jackson, Adams stated:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution.”

Two parties constantly fighting leave an ideologically barren political landscape in their wake. Independent voters and third parties could help to break up the deadlock, but only if voters understand that they can challenge the system and are active in taking that challenge to the ballot box.

The Republic Remains

If we have established that there is an issue with the current two-party system, how do we, as a country, go about resolving it?

The answer is simple in theory, if difficult in practice. Americans reside in a democratic republic. Our government is of the people, by the people, for the people—in many ways, that mentality seems to have been lost.

If Americans refuse to vote based on party lines, and vote instead based on the issues, they show the party leadership that politicians can’t just campaign as polar opposites of each other, and instead will have to do more to entertain the policies and positions of the other side—work together, or be out of work.

If Americans show they are more willing to vote for a third party, instead of voting for the most extreme candidates from the far left or far right, they tell party leadership that there is an expiration date on the platform of slinging mud across the aisle—play nice, or the people will choose another player.

The people can change the kinds of candidates put in front of them during elections, and they can change the tone and course of policies, by being active and reminding politicians who they’re supposed to represent.

 

Mikel Ham is a 25-year-old writer and military veteran, working towards becoming a teacher. Contact him at mikel.ham54@gmail.com

Want to see more? Check out our YouTube channel, follow us on Facebook and support our Patreon page!