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End Of Days: Jon Stewart Walks Away When The Left Needs Him the Most

The Wilderness | Issue .56  | 8 . 10 . 2015 |

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Taught in just about every remedial junior film school screenwriting course is the dramatic technique of “coming in late and getting out early.” Meaning, when a scene has dramatic or comedic realism, it never starts from the logical beginning and has a logical conclusion. This is a necessary technique to engage the audience and get them curious about what is happening and put them in a character’s shoes. For example, a character could already be attempting to outrun an Imperial star destroyer when we’re dropped into a scene and then be escaping in a pod and cutting away before we have a chance to see where our heroes landed. This is an important set-up because this is exactly what Jon Stewart, as a filmmaker, comedian and writer, has done with his Daily Show career.

He’s getting out early.

This past weekend, fresh off a debate performance that would have made  Judge Alvin ‘JP’ Valkenheiser proud, Donald Trump made the media rounds throwing shit-bombs and doing his best Biff Tannen impression for anyone around him he could find. Everyone got a flaming sack left on their doorstep: Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina and even Trump’s closest advisor (and now former campaign manager) Roger Stone, who ultimately decided that even the guy with Nixon’s face tattooed on his back had finally had his fill of crazy.  Of course, web pundits and networks did their best to maintain a semblance of snark about it all, but come Monday there will be a great unfilled void in viral news sites. Social media content writers everywhere will stare hopelessly at their screens, questioning the very meaning of their existence. Why? Because Jon Stewart isn’t around anymore to provide for them or guide them. Just as the 2016 news cycle has reached Peak Trump, and Peak Absurd, the political Left in the media has lost their best tool and biggest weapon.

And they only have themselves to blame.

The thing that’s widely misunderstood about Stewart on both sides of the political aisle is the notion that he somehow thinks he belongs in the arena he is pigeonholed into, both by the Right and especially by the Left. Stewart is the affable smartass in the back of the classroom shooting spit wads at the teacher for attention. But, just like in high school, this sort of act only works if that kid remains an outcast (or at least an outsider) instead of becoming Prom King. The minute all the cool kids want to be seen around him, or start mimicking his behavior, the act dries up and becomes stale, and even moreso if that kid starts hanging around the principal as a means of validation. Stewart’s problem was never that he became less irreverent or funny over time. It’s that the web media around him became lazier and more ideologically-driven. Stewart became the engineer powering viral content for numerous websites and outlets, and with almost nothing to show for it in ratings or revenue. Bloggers and viral writers simply made it a morning routine to embed his clips with a few clever adjectives and hit “publish.” Stewart’s decision to walk, right when this phenomenon is at its peak, suggests that he’s had enough of the JuiceVoxers piggybacking off of his work for sponsored clicks.

But there was more to Stewart’s phenomenally overwhelming presence on social media and viral news and content sites, despite his middling television ratings. For all those bloggers and editors retweeting him, memeifying him, viralizing his bits, Stewart was what they all wanted to be. He was saying the things they all WANTED to say but couldn’t out of professional obligation. It was the simple “that guy over there is having all the fun, come on let’s go join him” impulse in action. The thing with comedians (and especially stand-up comedians, which Stewart originally was) is that their insecurities usually take over once they look over the landscape and see every talentless Joe trying to copy what they’re doing. For all the fawning adoration Beltway media threw at Jon Stewart’s feet, he never quite reciprocated.

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What put Stewart on the map was his famous “Please Stop” segment on Crossfire with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.  Whether it was intentional or planned or not isn’t the point; Stewart tapped into a vein of cable viewership that had long been ignored.  Young progressives tired of Paul Begala doing his ventriloquist drinking-water trick found common ground with young conservatives embarrassed that a square in a bowtie claimed to represent them. Any shot across the bow of establishment corporate media was a good thing at the time, regardless of politics. That’s when Stewart really was at his most interesting. He could happily rip the Bush administration, but would then turn and point and laugh at the stiffs in the suits at MSNBC and CNN turning their noses up as well.  Stewart was happy to sit back and poke fun at debate on cable news as theater, which it was. Not the genuine opposition of ideas but the rehearsed and assigned points of view that now dominate CNN and Fox and MSNBC alike.

Stewart has never wanted to be a part of that newsroom brotherhood as much as they’ve wanted to be a part of his New York comedy circle. Stewart, who could have had his choice of anyone as his last guest, chose comedian Louis CK instead of, say, Hillary Clinton or Rachel Maddow. That was his last gag on the media as they put their arms around him as though they were one of his inner-circle fart-sniffers. It’s like Stewart got up and joined his comedians at the back of the room and told his fellow stand-up brethren “Pretty sure they fell for it, guys.” They will never be him and he knows how embarrassing it makes them look to try. This is a fact they will come to slowly and painfully realize in their attempts to fill his void. Jon Stewart was tired of Jon Stewart destroying things on their behalf.

That has to sting the “nerd prom” brigade just a little bit.

Our ideologically-driven media has deferred to Stewart for over a decade now, looking for a reassuring nod and a green-light “GO” sign that flashed once he opened the floodgates. And in openly rejoicing over his politics (or whatever Fox personality he *DEMOLISHED* last night) they missed the entire point of why Stewart was even effective to begin with. What made Stewart watchable wasn’t his comedy, or pre-taped skits. It wasn’t even his interview style or his politics. In fact, Jon Stewart was the least interesting thing (by design) on The Daily Show. What made his show great was the variety of guests. In a single week The Daily Show‘s guests would include an author, an economist, a comedian, a pundit, a politician and an actor. It was a refreshing respite from the Letterman- and Leno-style “celebrity of the moment” applause-line asskissing-fests that had become stale long before Carson waved goodbye and departed this rock. Any partisan political punchlines were tolerable because at least the guests would be interesting. But all of that changed when Stewart and his writers realized that their playful pawing at Bush’s first term wasn’t enough to prevent a second.

After the 2004 election, when Stewart did his best to nudge John Kerry into the Oval Office and the media followed, something happened. Stewart was gobsmacked that the country rejected his gleeful prodding, and in return the media went off their collective meds. No more playing nice. No more subliminal bias. No more cheap stunts like making up draft stories or reading the names of our fallen soldiers.  They were all-in for 2008. The night that Stewart shed tears for President-Elect Barack Obama was the night The Daily Show ceased being the affable misfit and became the Prom King.  Stewart’s duty henceforth was to protect the legacy of the man he and the rest of legacy media went all-in for. Much like legacy media in “full pant” mode, any criticism of Obama was a criticism of Stewart himself, because to them there is no difference. Obama’s legacy is their legacy and therefore he cannot be allowed to fail.

Stewart was content to stay in a fake news world and a comedic fake reality…until he wasn’t anymore. Shortly before his departure it was revealed he took in several secret meetings with the Obama administration. Administration sources admitted to recruiting Stewart to push their messaging and agenda and he happily obliged. And that’s when Stewart sold out. Stewart became just another statist propaganda tool selling his craft for access to a historical Presidential administration, and in doing so becoming that which he mocked the most. Stewart became everything he had set out to eviscerate — and his audience, long accused of being mindless millennial clapping seals, turned out to be exactly that. Nothing but tools for an overbearing Presidential administration concerned more with looking cool to the young masses than actual policies that improve the country and the world. Washington Post reporter Radley Balko summed this up perfectly in a tweet: by simply becoming another social justice messenger, Stewart was automatically boxed into the same old tired political rules that he continuously made fun of.

BLAKO TWEETOn Stewart’s final day  Vox ran a piece suggesting his show was racist by running a graph showing his most frequent guests were white men. It took less than 12 hours after Stewart’s last guest show for the snake to turn on him. (Hell hath no fury like an Ezra scorned.) On top of that, Stewart has been dogged by reports in recent weeks over accusations of soft racism leveled at him by one of his former writers, comedian Wyatt Cenac.  Cenac all but outright directly stated Stewart’s relationship with him was complicated by racial overtones.

It’s not hard to suspect someone like Stewart — not one for apologizing for his sardonic tone — saw the writing on the wall and decided to absent himself from the suffocating embrace of a political base who, with their perpetual eagerness to grab the pitchforks and rope, were closing in on him.

Stewart was the only excuse the Left could point to as an excuse to say “See? We have a sense of humor! We have Jon Stewart! We get jokes!” while they turn around and shame comedians, hunters, actors, entrepreneurs, inventors and ad agencies for stepping even a toe beyond their rigidly-imposed politically correct boundaries. It was just last year that a Twitter mob led by feminist activist Suey Park singled out Daily Show alum Stephen Colbert’s satirical character for a comradely “struggle session” of public shaming.

It was only a matter of time before they would turn on Stewart.

The entertainment-obsessed progressive Left is a spurned lover, now wandering aimlessly in the world Stewart created for them, without a single clue on how to proceed without him. Their biggest fear isn’t necessarily losing Jon Stewart on the eve of another monumental Presidential election where a geriatric ice queen will need every weapon in her arsenal to appear hip and cool. No, it’s categorically knowing, deep in their hearts, that a new host Trevor Noah can’t and won’t replace him. Noah’s show will be more divisive, edgier and assuming. But that’s by necessity; the Noah choice always felt like an afterthought, like the high-risk/high-reward athlete a sports team signs after the player they really wanted (Amy Schumer) signed with someone else. Noah will bring the Kooky Foreign Outsider point of view of our wacky country to The Daily Show. But that’s a schtick that Brit John Oliver has already cornered on HBO. Noah will therefore have to be more Bill Maher than Larry Sanders, an angle which only works up to a point when dealing with network censors.

For awhile at least, on the web, we’ll still see “Trevor Noah DEMOLISHES”-led clickbait pieces. But those will come from loyalty to the format and the brand, just as Larry Wilmore’s (Stephen Colbert’s replacement) clickbait content has been diminished. Jon Stewart was of the industry and the tribe of New York comedians, palling around the clubs and parties that the New York Times editorial board attended. That’s not Trevor Noah. Viral liberal websites will certainly immediately try to make Noah their “funny black friend,” but just as Stewart ultimately rejected them, it’s highly likely that so too will the more EDGY Noah. Interest in what Stewart does with his free time now that he’s no longer on The Daily Show will dominate the chatter of fanboy journalists far more than what Trevor Noah does with his time hosting it.

Just because Stewart has stopped providing them with fresh content doesn’t mean they are simply going to stop trying to create fresh content from Jon Stewart.

As Stewart departs, the political right cheers, almost completely oblivious to the actual legacy he leaves behind. Stewart will leave a humorless scalp-hungry progressive movement in search for a new pariah to make fun of as an embodiment of the stuffy old white-guy-conservative Right. Except that’s not what the Right is anymore. The blubbery slow-witted, shaved-ape, Fuckface Von Clownstick aside, 24 million people tuned into a GOP debate last Thursday and a stage that included an African-American, a woman and two young Latinos who are at least somewhat engaged with the tech-obsessed viral media world that Stewart himself was the avatar of. Meanwhile, when the Democrats take the stage for their debates in September it’s going to look like the cast of Cocoon. For all the years Stewart has spent poking the Right in the eye, the irony is that his greatest accomplishment may well be that he forced the Right to politically engage with an American culture that has long been all too happy to ignore them. That’s something not even Andrew Breitbart accomplished.

As Stewart’s, and The Daily Show‘s, profile rose, Fox tried to duplicate it with their late night Red Eye program with a certain amount of success, but it was still the Fox network and it never quite capitalized on fully being “in on the joke” the same way that Stewart’s schtick routinely did for his viewers. Stewart’s disproportionate cultural influence made it an absolute imperative that conservatives become more engaged and aware of the media around them. The right hasn’t found their own Stewart or even their own Daily Show, but they have been awakened and are certainly more aware of his tactics and are using them to great advantage on social media, YouTube and podcasts.

The Right may not want to hear it, but they owe Jon Stewart an enormous debt of gratitude.

As viral web media on the Left plods along without Stewart — searching for Salon outrage-clicks, humorless Voxplainers on the nothingness of being, and the slow sound of the soul leaving what’s left of The New Republic — culture-oriented startups like the Washington Free-Beacon, IJ Review and Twitchy are tapping into new audiences with clever viral-driven media. Whether or not this is good journalism, or taking the way we perceive our news media down a welcome path of engagement, has yet to be determined, but one thing is almost sure: without Stewart, the Left suddenly has become as old and stodgy as their limited choice of candidates heading into 2016. Stewart was content to do his duty for Barack Obama, but exiting before he could endorse candidate Hillary Clinton is enormously damaging to both her candidacy and any Daily Show-approved narrative that legacy media would use to push back against younger and culturally adept GOP frontrunners. Stewart is getting out early, before we get a chance to see where his throngs of loyal followers will end up.

Stewart’s impact on the media landscape and the political one is indisputable, but with every tweet or blog post it was becoming clear the act had run it’s course — and it was clear not only to Stewart’s non-fans. The man who once pleaded “Please Stop” on CNN had begun participating in the same exact debate theater with Bill O’Reilly he once criticized, and basically turned into a Media Matters sockpuppet account yelling at Fox News four nights a week. He was never really the same host after returning from his directorial debut, Rosewater (which categorically bombed) and the enthusiasm to fake it for another 16 months to elect a candidate who represents everything he’s made fun of for ten years was non-existent. It seems like Stewart saw the writing on the wall and realized he had accomplished all that he possibly could; for his show, for his audience and ultimately for a President who he sold his career out for, only to have it end in disappointment. He became everything he ridiculed and his exit now is a repudiation of what viral media has become in his name.

In the closing minutes of his final Daily Show, Stewart lamented that “bullshit is everywhere.” In the end, nowhere was that more evident than with Jon Stewart himself.

– SM –

 

 

THE FRONTRUNNER: The Democrat Nomination is Joe Biden’s to Lose

The Wilderness | Issue .55 | 8 . 3 . 2015 |

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There has been a lot of talk early in the 2016 cycle about “Making America Great Again.” Candidates are belching smoke all around the country, promising to take America back and make America great again because only they can make America great again and America needs to be made great again. But what if that’s not what America needs? Perhaps America doesn’t need a President who can make it great again. Perhaps what America and the world needs is a President who can guide it to its imminent demise. Someone bold enough and brave enough to ensure that this country is buried under a nuclear ash-heap, yet amusing enough to still be able to make us laugh at the remnants of what used to be our trivial everyday lives.

One thing has been foreordained in the Democratic primary process: despite all the crowds and adoring media coverage and Facebook shares, Bernie Sanders will never be an electorally viable choice. Sorry Bernie-Bots: the country just isn’t ready for a President who believes that a lack of orgasms causes cervical cancer (*SCIENCE!*). Thanks to two brutal midterm electoral massacres, the Democratic bench heading into the 2016 (and possibly the 2020) election has been rendered nonexistent. That is the party Barack Obama will be leaving in ashes as he walks out of office, brushing the dust from his shoulders and sliding smoothly into the ESPN timeslot left vacant by Keith Olbermann’s firing. What has become crystal-clear over the past seven years is that Barack Obama was an electoral supernova; a complete anomaly on the map of historical electoral politics. The election of 2016 is looking more and more like it’s not going to resemble 2008 or 2012 at all, but will more likely look like the elections of 2004 and 2000. To a shocking extent, both up- and down-ticket, the Democrats are fielding a slate comprised largely of pre-Obama candidates turfed out of office in 2010 or 2014. The path of destruction Obama has left behind him has forced the Democratic party to take a long look in the mirror at its pasty old white self and face its own mortality. The future is going to have to wait, because the Democrats don’t have anyone younger than 60 groomed enough yet to walk onto the big stage.

They’re going to be stuck with a familiar face heading into 2016…it’s just not going to be the one people are expecting right now. Democrat voters do not want Hillary Clinton. They have tolerated her up until this point, as the “inevitable” choice, all the while glancing nervously at the door and hoping someone else would walk in. The combination of a pending electability implosion, the collective breath-holding over each week’s new distracting scandal, the cringe-inducing vines and falling likability numbers in polls, it all has them on a nervous edge where they are screaming out for any old crazy kook to support as an alternative.

And no, it’s not Bernie Sanders they’re waiting for.

There is no cavalry to save them from their own worst political instincts this time around. But there is hope. And hope, in 2016, is arriving behind the revved-up engine of a cherried-out red white and blue political Thunderbird pulling donuts all over the map of the country while “The Final Countdown” blares from the stereo and the steely inevitability of America’s impending doom gleams out from behind the reflection of Ray-Ban Aviators.

That’s right: It’s Joe time.

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Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it’s abundantly clear that there is only one man who can save the Democratic Party, America, and probably the world (by ending it), and that man is not Hillary Clinton. As the fog rolls down from our majestic purple mountains like a patriotic smoke machine, so too will Joe Biden walk onto the stage, take the podium, punch the microphone in the face, push the button and announce that he is here to save us, completely oblivious to the fact that pushing the button was supposed to come last.

And he just might be able to pull it off. He’s already Buzzprepped, deemed Upworthy, and is beyond Voxplaining.

But wait, you might argue: Biden has never polled well nationally and is basically America’s own real life “Hugo, the Abominable Snowman.” True enough, but then again the Democrats have consistently billed themselves as the party of “vibrance and youth,” and in Biden’s case there were always two to three better alternatives. That’s not a luxury they have this time around. Few voters under the age of 30 have heard the name “Neil Kinnock” and the rest get their political consciousness from SNL or The Daily Show. Biden would be the first post-media President. Furthermore, with Donald Trump honking his clown horn all over the country and leaving bags of crap on the front porch of every GOP candidate, he has also pulled off somewhat of a miracle unseen before in American politics:

Trump has made Biden look somewhat coherent and seasoned on the national political stage of a country that finds itself far more interested in the cameos on television sitcoms than the ones in ISIS beheading videos.

We have become a culture of memes. Well-intentioned thoughts are now whittled down to 140 characters and conversations are merely the brief interludes we have between scrolling through our Twitter follows. We have doomed ourselves to half-thoughts, unfinished cognitions and distracted contemplations, far more interested in the party going on inside our own heads than the distraught realities right in front of us. And no presidential candidate in the 2016 race better exemplifies who we’ve become than Joe Biden. He is America’s walking meme. A single picture of Biden looking out a window or groping another man’s wife spawns a thousand different captions and quotes and creates content for dozens and dozens of hungry clickbait farms. He’s the voice inside our heads doing and saying the things we know we could only get away with if we also were a heartbeat away from the nuclear football. If politics has truly interbred with popular culture as a result of Obama’s celebritization, and the country is in fact on the road to a permanent self-inflicted dementia, then we can do no better. Joe Biden is who we deserve.

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But Joe Biden won’t be able to permanently retire Hillary Clinton to the nursing home and People’s Court reruns simply by walking onto a stage to the Conan the Barbarian theme, wrapping his tie around his head like Rambo, buttoning his blazer around his neck like a Superman cape, and proudly declaring he is Shiva, The God of Death before doing a header off of it into the crowd. Biden — always the goofy inflatable tube guy waving his arms around the used car lot that is our blessed land — must dig in, get serious, put the tinker-toys away and become the ruthless killing machine he was when he tracked down a bully and beat the ever living crap out of him for stealing his bicycle.

Hillary Clinton is that bully and the Oval Office is Joe’s bike, handle bar tassels and all.

Hillary cannot be his old long-lost pal. This past weekend Biden may have finally gotten the shove he needed to save the country from four more years of Clinton controversies, as New York Times Anti-Clinton diva (and notorious reggae headshop connoisseur) Maureen Dowd did everything short of digging up the grave of his recently deceased son to convince him that now is the time to run. There have been whispers and pushes from secondary columnists to get him into the race, but mainly only as a tomato can to prepare Hillary for the grand finale. But Joe Biden, our Joe Biden, will not be anyone’s tomato can, goddammit.

He has to bring all 650 horses under his hood out roaring and leave the kind regard for Grandma in the dust–and it won’t be nearly as hard as the national media is making it out to be.

The pro-gay marriage movement has already recognized the importance of Biden’s leadership, beyond those two or three times he was caught stumbling into the Blue Oyster Bar accidentally. In 2012, as the great communicator anguished over how best to pontificate about traditional marriage and gay marriage and how that applied to all voting demographics, the voices inside Biden’s head had other ideas. It took a little bit of nudging from David Gregory on Meet The Press — and face it, that pair of jorts he was secretly wearing probably helped too — but Biden’s pro-gay marriage blurt lit a match under the rear of Obama to come out and endorse it as well, as angry administration insiders later admitted. The astroturfers may shout “Queen” and “BAE” at @HillaryClinton whenever she tweets about Beyoncé, but make no mistake: the far-Left rainbow coalition owes Biden an enormous debt of gratitude which will pay off in primary elections versus Clinton, and they’re not the only ones. It also unequivocally goes without saying that Joe looks better in leather chaps.

#BBAE – Biden Before Anyone Else.

As Sanders and Martin O’Malley fumbled their attempts to get down with the struggle of the #BlackLivesMatter movement at Netroots Nation, while Hillary ignored them altogether, much whispering has occurred on social media that Biden is in fact that movement’s candidate of choice. If the activist leaders, teamed with a narrative-hungry media, throw their weight behind Biden either before or after Obama does, any rumors of a disenfranchised black youth vote sitting home would be dispelled almost as fast as you can say “malarkey.”

Biden also has the potential to rally the blue collar union base around him unlike perhaps anyone in the field on either side. This would help strengthen the electoral majorities that Democrats hold on the northeast and prevent any GOP incursion into the weakened population centers in Pennsylvania (a key state heading into the election) and Michigan, to say nothing of blue collar swing-states like Wisconsin and Iowa. A Joe Biden vs. Scott Walker election would motivate every local AFL union boss to pull terrified people out of their cars at intersections and force them into a voting booth…and, rather curiously, the AFL CIO has refused to endorse Hillary Clinton as of yet. Veterans young and old would happily have a beer with Joe and beg him to “kick Hillary’s ass.”

All of this becomes almost insurmountable for a soft, unapproachable frontrunner who won’t face questions, whether from her own party or the press, and who is swarmed every week with new shady (or illegal) allegations regarding her practices at the State Department or her foundation. The Democrats are on the verge of declaring their Underwood trophy couple to be completely dried up, and meanwhile Uncle Joe is guarding the keg.

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There is also the political phenomenon of opposing party doppelgängers, and success or failure usually follows them like an evil twin separated at birth. Mitt Romney couldn’t shake his resemblance to a GOP John Kerry, and their Presidential fates were identical. Marco Rubio can’t help but draw comparisons to another well spoken one-term junior Senator, and a grassroots groundswell of campus support solidifying itself around Rand Paul harkens back to Howard Dean, both of whom are considered madmen by some in their own parties. Which brings us to Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s George W. Bush. A figure who is mercilessly attacked for his perceived lack of intelligence but endlessly praised for an affable likability that voters take far more into consideration than aptitude. This is why the Right cannot just simply write Biden off and point to his past failed campaigns or all the goofy shit he’s prone to saying. Sympathy for the passing of his son Beau from a malignant brain tumor rallied the political culture around him like almost nothing seen since 9/11. Democrats put their arms around him and conservatives stood guard.

All political snark aside, Joe might be an ignorant goofy bastard, but he’s our goofy bastard.

There’s a part of every American — the Thunderbird-revving, Tomahawk missile-riding America — Biden can tap into that Hillary Clinton simply can’t, not even if she unhinges her jaw and swallows her granddaughter whole in an attempt to absorb her innocent youthful soul. “Amtrak Joe” can speak to the union heart of the populist wing of the party. Hillary Clinton cannot. Her mansions and her $200,000 speeches (not to mention her worldwide slush fund) put her on an ice-encrusted pedestal, looking down at the Scranton auto mechanic who hasn’t serviced an automobile of hers in 25 years. An increasingly hard-edged tendency toward socialism has infected, if not overtaken the Democrats, but they still know Bernie Sanders is unelectable in the general election and that Elizabeth Warren is happy to roll in piles of confiscated corporate cash for years in the Senate. Biden is the perfect middleman to bridge the Occupy/union wings and the establishment DNC donor class still coming to grips with a party chairperson who seems to be actively torpedoing their shot at a third straight White House term.

As the media obsesses over every single misinterpreted word out of the mouths of top-tier Republicans, Biden has spent an entire career building an armor forged from gaffe-proof Kryptonite. Hillary Clinton can barely get through a prepared speech without the cold sweat of a new Kate McKinnon impression creeping into her mind. Meanwhile Biden can caress another man’s wife on national television, several times, and hum a soothing siren song ever-so-gently into her ear while feminists magically turn the other cheek. He somehow can even pull this off with minors as well. The media writes it all off under the same goofy rubric — it’s just “Joe being Joe” — and maybe the country is ready to do the same.

Joe Biden is the politician that Donald Trump thinks he is.

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On top of all of that, there is then of course the Obama factor. Or rather the Obama dagger.

Obama maintains (and will maintain until the end of his term) somewhat personal favorability ratings thanks to an adoring media and Hollywood infrastructure that simply just refuses to see his stature diminished. It’s almost inevitable therefore that Obama will not only campaign for the Democratic nominee like he’s running for another term, but believes he has a strong say in who that person will be.

It doesn’t take much imagination to assume Team Chicago was none-too-pleased at the revelations piling up at the State Department over Madame Hillary’s use of private emails. It’s already been revealed that the use of private E-mail was an almost administration-wide practice to avoid Congressional oversight, and it’s also probably safe to assume Axelrod, Jarrett and the brand spokesman Obama knew about her non-governmental address. But it’s also safe to assume they did not know about oleaginous (and specifically Obama-banned) Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal continuing in an advisory role on the Clinton Foundation payroll while also doubling as a freelance mole for her at the State Department and sifting through classified intel he was never cleared to handle. There will be a desire among Team Chicago to demonstrate that, even if Hillary is no longer a part of the administration, there are still consequences for defying the one true king. In the deep chasm of love lost between the Obamas and the Clintons, at no point is that chasm wider or deeper than when it intersects with Sid Blumenthal, a 2008 Clinton campaign figure at the heart of much of the racial and religious ire pointed at candidate Obama’s direction. There has to be a consequence for the Clintons at the hands of Barack Obama. He cannot abide standing aside while the people who told him to fetch coffee attempt to reclaim the party and his legacy from him.

This is where loyal soldier Joe Biden willingly plays the part of a Lannister for Cersei Jarrett. In many ways, Biden has been the most rock-steady part of Obama’s administration. Always at his side, acting as a pep-talking toady whenever President Scut Farkus needs a cheering up. At every major announcement or address, Joe is there, acting not just as mindless assassination insurance, but rather as a loyal servant willing to take the bullet himself.

But what makes him different than Obama is there are times when it feels like he’s in on the joke with us. When Obama turned his reverb up to eleven at the State of The Union, Biden pointed and clowned with a colleague in the audience, perfectly mirroring the county’s own amusement at an over serious President constantly telling us how important he is. As often as Obama has seemed to be mere seconds away from fetching the genital cuff for Biden, he knows in his heart that ol’ Joe is the guard-dog of his policies, and his loyalty will be rewarded with the red meat of a 2016 endorsement. Obama can travel the country talking about the times Biden stood with him and how friendly their families have become through good times and bad. That’s not a campaign speech Obama can give, will give, or would ever want to give for Mrs. Clinton.

And Obama’s team probably also thinks of Biden as malleable — happily swiveling around in Obama’s Oval Office chair humming “Hail To The Chief” or the theme to “Blues Clues,” lost in daydreams about what pizza toppings he can stump the White House chef on having in stock — while Valerie Jarrett and her schemers select Cory Booker, Julian Castro or Kirsten Gillibrand as his demographically-appropriate running mate. Obama’s key instruction will be clear: “Don’t make me look bad.” This is something Biden, as the calm chewy nougat center of an administration caramel-whirled in scandals, has yet to ever seriously do in seven years.

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If Biden, with the guidance of Obama and Jarrett, can take off the toon mitts against Hillary, the fight won’t even be close. Biden has spent seven long years learning the ways of the master. Hillary’s war chest is offset by Biden’s ability to use AF2 whenever he needs it, and his Secret Service entourage will more closely resemble the ’85 Bears than Hillary’s Visiting Angel detail. Biden will deploy his bellowing-clown debate tactics against a dour old woman flop-sweating over her desperate last chance for relevance, and then when the time is right, he’ll descend in for the kill by laying blame for the September 11th Benghazi attacks squarely at her feet (conveniently exonerating Barack Obama’s legacy in one fell swoop as an added bonus). Hillary can grin through her fangs, listing off how many miles she’s traveled as Secretary of State, but Biden can end her campaign with one devastating statement:

“In fact Mrs. Clinton, on the night of September 11th as our Embassy was under attack, you assured me and the President that you had the situation under control and that our Ambassador was safe.” Checkmate: nomination Biden.

Will it matter if it’s true? Fuck no it won’t. Will people believe giggling Joe Biden over Hillary’s deer-in-headlights response? 100% yes. This of course would mean that Biden would have to drop the Verbal Kint façade just long enough to dispatch the Clintons forever, and if this country has learned anything it’s that the Party Boy will not go down quietly…er, go away quietly. Hillary, on the other hand, will go back to her $1oo,ooo speeches and Joe will carry the sympathy of the country over his veteran son Beau with him to the DNC Convention.  Biden would then use the same rope-a-dope tactics to dispatch a younger and more serious Marco Rubio or Scott Walker, much the same way he confused an overeager Paul Ryan with ballooning whale-calls and water-gurgles in 2012.

Hillary Clinton is going to spend millions upon millions trying to convince half of the country of who she really isn’t (again). Joe Biden can spend half that and be himself and let the Buzzfeeders do the rest.. This is a no-brainer for Democrats, and a literal no-brainer for the country. We’re already fucked, America. We might as well be awesome. We’re speeding down the hill toward impending catastrophe. America doesn’t need a President that will pull the emergency brake and risk wrecking the car. We need a President who will sack up, adjust his glasses and floor it. All that’s left for Joe to do is get behind the wheel and get in the race.

Move over, Grandma — there’s a new frontrunner.

 

 

 

– SM –

 

 

 

Proof of Life: The Ethics of Planned Parenthood

The Wilderness | Issue .54 | 7 . 21 . 2015 |

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As abortion activists have become more radicalized in recent years, what has also become increasingly clear is that their most emphatic public arguments aren’t based on women’s health, or the idea of “choice,” but rather mindlessly shooting spitwads at their religious opponents on the Right. With the urging of the Left’s feminist-driven wing on social media and in Hollywood, a morally perverse idea has taken hold: the act of getting an abortion is no longer to be regarded as a solemn decision made by a woman (and, lest we fail the Voight-Kampff Intersectionality Test, most especially a woman of color). Nay, it is rather a joyful act to be celebrated with bowling nights and gala dinners. The political Left sells their pro-Planned Parenthood argument on the premise that their opponents are crazy God-bothering goblins ready to pounce from the shadows and claw the birth control from each and every woman’s deathgrip. Planned Parenthood has spent millions on celebrity PR campaigns, hoping that the pop culture branding that carried Barack Obama into office will translate over to an entirely new generation of care- and consequence-free women everywhere, and this messaging depends solely on the popularity of the celebrity spokespeople they enlist.

The propaganda surrounding Planned Parenthood and its facilitators is wholly dependent on convincing young people (and especially young people of color) that there is no sentience or moral valence associated with life growing inside of a pregnant woman, and therefore no consequences to ending what may as well just be a malign intruder into a woman’s natural ecosystem. As with most arguments on the Left, they can’t be honest about what this thesis really entails, because if they were it would instantly become far more difficult convince others to follow or to donate to (and certainly to celebrate) their ideology. When it comes to playing in the political arena, pro-abortion zealots truly believe they can only win the battle of information by plying their audience with disinformation and distraction–by seizing upon the deepest religious sensibilities of their opponents for use as a comically unhip pata, one under convenient collateral attack from an emboldened liberal Presidential administration.

No better embodiment of this trend exists than the scene witnessed at the Austin, TX statehouse in 2013, when then-state Senator and current MSNBC TV flunkout Wendy Davis engaged in her pro-abortion filibuster. Her supporters, seized by Mysterious Forces of Cosmic Irony, responded to pro-life marchers praying for the unborn by chanting “HAIL SATAN!,” almost as if commanded by a Higher Power to fulfill their destiny as YouTube-ready anti-religious stereotypes.

But what happens when Planned Parenthood’s practices, and their activists’ behavior, turns even the most moderate of reserved pro-choice allies against them? What happens when alleged illegal practices are revealed and the curtain is pulled back and the only defenders willing to speak up on Planned Parenthood’s behalf are a dwindling number of Democrats in Congress and local State Houses?

Last week Planned Parenthood turned to the fresh-faced model-turned-actress Emily Ratajkowski in an effort to glamorize their organization. (Amusingly, Ratajkowski is most known for her Defcon 1-Level Problematic appearance in Robin Thicke’s ironically anti-feminist music video Blurred Lines.) Their recent spokespeople in Lena Dunham and Sarah Silverman certainly have followings, but they are niche celebrities whose humor never has really caught on with the masses. Ratajkowski’s broadcasting was supposed to be the equivalent of unleashing Hansel onto the stage for all of pop stardom Instagram goodness to soak in: Planned Parenthood’s big unveiling heading into a female focus-grouped election year.

Instead, thanks to citizen journalists entering territory our legacy media fears to tread, Planned Parenthood and its president found themselves in the defensive position of explaining comments from their Senior Director of Medical Services, Deborah Nucatola, who was caught on tape noshing on hors d’oeuvres, sipping wine, and blithely chit-chatting about how easy it is to facilitate the private sale of fetal tissue (including extremities and organs) for profit. In between swigs of Chianti, Nucatola also casually suggested in conversation that Planned Parenthood’s abortionists were altering the abortive process in order to preserve these tissues and organs for transport to medical research facilities.

Both are felony crimes.

nuca_2When the video broke of Nucatola callously discussing fetal organ harvesting and fetal tissue pricing for affiliates, the immediate imperative for Planned Parenthood and the media-at-large was to ignore it, marginalize it and ride it out, hoping it would quickly disappear as fast as Nucatola’s Twitter account did.

It did not.

By 3pm EST on the day the video went public, the words “Planned Parenthood” were the second highest-trending term on Twitter in the United States. Not even Obama’s historic nuclear deal with Iran (the one that will end all war and violence in the Middle East) could keep up on social media.  The media therefore shifted from ignoring to spinning, the highlight being The Daily Beast‘s going full “black market” in their headline (which made Planned Parenthood look even worse). The Hill framed Nucatola’s words on tape with the playbook-call phrase “Republicans attack”. What was missing from The Hill‘s coverage was the fact that Nucatola herself had been a past contributor to the website. CNN went so far as to demonize GOP lawmakers by citing the cancellation of a debate on a commemorative coin and framing it around the narrative of not caring about women’s health.  Some critics didn’t view the video at all, so as not to pollute their heads with ungood bad thoughts. T. Becket Adams at Washington Examiner has an excellent run-down on the media outlets that rushed to shield Planned Parenthood (and by all means follow the jump and click that link to see the usual suspects in action). Nucatola herself had either been a contributor or a source for Yahoo, Marie Claire, Huffington Post, Roll Call, Glamour, CNN, NPR and Reuters (who also refuted her claims in the recording).

Blaming this one on “a low-level employee in the Cincinnati office” wasn’t going to fly.

Planned Parenthood’s problem is that the startling revelations made on tape by Nucatola go beyond the religious concerns of the social-issues wing of one political party, and they can’t be glossed over by hiring young Hollywood stars to dance around with slogans written on their hands. And they know it. By the end of the week Planned Parenthood, most likely full aware of the Congressional tsunami heading their way, had shifted from silence to defense, and then from defense to apology. (It was, they finally conceded, perhaps a bit  gauche for their Senior Medical Director to be captured on video discussing, in between bites of her chopped arugula salad, the best techniques for crushing an unborn baby’s skull in order to preserve its organs for subsequent trafficking.) Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards looked like an ISIS hostage as she was forced to admit that these revelations, and this scandal, are not going away as the country enters its first trimester of the 2016 election, where PP once again hopes to abort its political opponents as out-of-touch extremists.

Except Republicans weren’t the ones coming off as extremists last week.

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There are real scientific advances that can be made with the legal and regulated procurement of discarded fetal tissue. There is little doubt about that. With stringent oversight, medical advances made from these studies is undeniable, and yet so is the controversy around them, which the media is currently honing in on. But these studies, and this research, can be conducted using the results of miscarriages with parental consent, and what is allowed under the current abortion laws in the United States. We as a country can make these incredible advancements and we can do it without parting with our souls completely.

It takes two living breathing humans to get it on, a living egg, living sperm to merge and create and reproduce living cells within the cavity of a living uterus. At no point during any of this process is any part of it inanimate or deceased. This is the problem Planned Parenthood has, that even moderate conservative pro-choice believers cannot ultimately stomach. To reduce that mystery of life, that agonizing decision to end it, down to a celebrity Bowl-A-Thon or Hollywood ridicule, purposely ignores and derails the debate. It’s easy for celebrities who spend their careers confusing the roles they play for the realities they live to come out and encourage young women and men that life decisions are inconsequential. And when the ramifications of ending life in womb ever get seriously questioned, the national debate somehow magically shifts to focus upon evil conservative preachers warning Americans about the dangers of dancing.

This is not a debate of the ultra-square social conservative vs. the cool live-free ultra-attractive Hollywood liberals. This is about the common sense of our society drawing a line and refusing to stand with a group of gormandizing extremists who, despite their very loud bullhorn, are actually a very small minority in this country. There are abortion moderates in the center, and even on the Left, who will not tolerate the callously flippant tone with which Planned Parenthood justifies practices that are not only questionably legal, but morally reprehensible.  Planned Parenthood are counting on pro-life advocates on the Right to let their emotions get the better of them. Then it will be a simple enough task to make an example of them as unhinged kooks, just as the Left did with conservative protest over Benghazi or Fast and Furious. Don’t let them.

We will see the same narratives repeat themselves out in public. Any congressional committee will be framed as a Republican War on Women out to revoke birth control access. Loretta Lynch’s Justice Department–beholden to a President who supports infanticide and working in service to Hillary Clinton heading into 2016–will yawn, turn the other cheek, and look for another young person of color shot by a police officer somewhere in the country to distract and rally the shock troops again. This will not make the headlines pro-life advocates are hoping for…but that shouldn’t be the goal here.

The morality of the abortion argument now must take a back seat to legal issues: the federal statutes which regulate the conduct of abortion clinics, and the nearly $30 million of public funding Planned Parenthood receives, should be the primary focus of any measured ire coming from the Right. Planned Parenthood is a Democrat donor stronghold and they will not give that money up without a fight. As Commissioner James Gordon warned a both a weary Batman and a determined Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, “We’re going after the mob’s money. Things will get messy”. But the message should be clear: from here on out, pending the results of further Congressional investigation, Planned Parenthood should have to live on the sufferance of the private donors who choose to support it, rather than the public funds of people who oppose it. The elimination of all abortion in the United States is an admirable but unfeasible conservative utopian dream. What is becoming more clear in this debate is that Planned Parenthood is not the organization that should be in charge of facilitating these decisions, and all public funding should cease until (and probably even after) one key question is answered:

Are Planned Parenthood doctors altering the abortive process in a way to preserve fetal tissue and organs, so as to secure a profit for themselves and their affiliates through processing, storing and transporting? Those are the only questions at this point that matter.

On Sunday night, the Washington Times broke more to this story that certainly suggests they did with an interview from a former clinic manager.

Progressive media will certainly try to frame it as the far Right nailing themselves to their religious cross, because they believe that’s where they gain the most traction in selling their candy to pop culture. But they also know they have a dilemma on their hands. No matter how hard Democrats and their media attempt to spin this as a Republican attack based on a “heavily edited” videotape, they cannot escape the simple fact that, for political pragmatists, this particular debate isn’t about morality so much as it is legality. Nucatola will be forced to answer for her assertions on tape in front of Congress and Planned Parenthood has been advised to retain all receipts and records of  transactions with facilitators involving procurement of tissues in question. (Bold prediction: Any documentation has most certainly already been shredded.)

The debate surrounding the basic morality, or lack thereof, of abortion will continue for generations. However, the argument Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to materialize is the one likely to be made by political moderates and casual attendees to the debate. People don’t have to be strict pro-life activists or even believers to be repelled by the demonstrable ecstasy Planned Parenthood and their progressive cheerleaders have shown in recent years at the dehumanization of such a difficult personal decision. The ghoulish delight the far left fringe expresses in their pez-dispenser abortion ideology is far more offensive to most young social moderates than the concern for the unborn expressed by the Right. Now couple all that with their new look: as street pimps auctioning off baby limbs for profit like an imitation Rolex sold out of the trunk of a car, with that profit then turning into a campaign donation to a Democrat candidate, the Metroid Mother Brain being the 2016 Democrat frontrunner in Hillary Clinton.

How far they have fallen since “Safe, legal and rare.”

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Politically this is not a debate that should be difficult for the Right. Far left “reproductive rights” activists have wrapped themselves in a duvet of false premises, outdated science and ideological scare tactics void of any real strategy beyond screaming about fashion on social media and about abortion in public at movie screenings. It’s an ideology that’s rife with contradictions. “My Body My Choice” abortion zealots evangelize about individual autonomy while simultaneously making the argument that kids belong to some communal progressive utopia. At what point do our own organs, limbs, thoughts and feelings become our own according to liberal abortionist activists? This hypocrisy was exposed further when Planned Parenthood and its defenders quickly rushed to condemn the introduction of Republican-led legislation to make birth control pills for women accessible over the counter. Planned Parenthood did not cheer this legislation, as one might think they would have. They instead immediately fell back to protect their piggy bank.

Mrs. Clinton and the passel of old white Democratic males cohorts running to be President should answer why they are willing to protect the interests of an organization suspected of dealing in the trafficking of for profit human baby parts, yet unwilling to support legislation making birth control accessible to every woman who enters a CVS with a $20 bill. Their argument they claim is about women’s health and access. How can Planned Parenthood condemn scientific advances in ultrasound technology while simultaneously praising them on tape when a potential profit hovers into view, as Nucatola implied? Out of every Presidential candidate running, it’s not a Republican Todd Akin caricature suggesting women will develop cervical cancer from lack of orgasms. That would be leftist darling-of-the-moment Bernie Sanders.

Time to make them live by their own rules.

In light of Nucatola’s revelations and the growing list of candidates with extremist abortion and (ahem) cervical views, every Democrat running for President in 2016 should also have to answer one question regarding abortion: what’s the difference between what Democrat candidates for President believe and what board-certified abortionist and convicted mass-murderer Kermit Gosnell believes? Gosnell is serving consecutive life sentences in federal prison for performing variations upon practices Nucatola herself, on tape, suggested Planned Parenthood participates in, including the storing of organs and extremities post-abortion, and the facilitation of organ trafficking, all in violation of the waiver all Planned Parenthood patients must sign and federal law. The question of Gosnell with respect to Planned Parenthood’s practices becomes even more relevant given that Hillary Clinton has thrown her support behind limitless post 20 week abortions. These are not wacky questions being tossed out by the premarital-handholding-makes-you-go-blind religious wing of the Santorum electorate. These are real substantive questions that need answers, both by Democrats on a debate stage and by Nucatola and Richards in front of Congress.

If Planned Parenthood is in open violation of federal law and willing to use public funds to defend themselves then there can be no more blurred lines.

 

 

 

– SM –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Untouchable: Democrats are Terrified of Scott Walker. They Should Be.

The Wilderness | Issue .53 | 7 . 13. 2015 | 

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Eight years ago Barack Obama bound his own party to what proved to be a successful class warfare platform–for him, at least. Unfortunately, and largely due to him, that binding turned out to be more of a hamstringing: there isn’t much of the party he brought along with him left in Washington. Obama’s constant narrative of division by wealth, sex, race and geography (urban vs. suburban/rural, coasts vs. heartland), is wholly dependent upon grooming and molding enough elected talent within the party to keep it growing.  And yet all that’s left of the vibrant, rising, seemingly invincible party that Obama took over in 2008 are a few surviving aged has-beens, Democratic lifers in safe blue states, and a handful of accidental Senators. (Thanks, midterms!)  The social media powerhouse that once was Cory Booker now languishes Senate irrelevance and anonymity. Julian Castro, formerly a figurehead mayor and now a figurehead cabinet member, is on a meteoric rise thanks to the Democratic Party’s desperate need to create unprepared and inauthentic (yet demographically appropriate) stars.

Beyond that Obama’s legacy, as it relates to the very survival of his own party in every office save the Presidency, is one of the worst in modern American History. The Republican Party, not only in Congress but in the nation’s statehouses, is at its greatest strength since before the Great Depression. Now the Democrats find themselves tethered to a class-war narrative painfully at odds with the profile of their only viable nominee in royal oligarch Hillary Clinton (hence the rise of populist everyloon Bernie Sanders). It’s the worst kept secret of the 2016 election season.

Obama and the Democrats asked for a class war and it’s a class war they got: they sowed the seeds, and now they’re reaping the whirlwind in the form of blue-collar conservative, union busting, arch-nemesis Scott Walker.

Imagine winning three elections (one being a recall election that public sector unions poured thousands upon thousands of dollars into) in four years in the deeply divided blue-collar progressive Utopia of Wisconsin. Imagine breaking the back of the organized heart and soul of the Democrat party and dispatching AFL-CIO leader Richard  “Morrie The Wig Salesman” Trumka back to the White House to show the President the “W” shaped scar carved into his forehead as a warning to anyone else who stepped foot in the state.

Imagine doing all this after Democratic state legislators fled for the safe harbor of Illinois to avoid voting on your legislation. Imagine having woken up every day to phone calls relating tales unionized shock-troops on your parents’ front lawn and threats not only on your life but the lives of your kids. Now imagine having the real heroes, the brave national media, mock and ridicule you over this. Imagine accomplishing all of this while a partisan Milwaukee District Attorney authorizes the illegal invasion of the homes of your friends, supporters and aides, lawlessly confiscating private property, all while colluding with Lois Lerner and the IRS.

Now. Having gone through all of that, imagine still having the desire to face down and defeat that kind of contumacious Alinskyism on a national scale.

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Democrats are terrified of Scott Walker, and they should be.

He’s faced off against the new community-organizing wing of progressive politics firsthand and he’s defeated it.  Multiple times. He hasn’t done it through a pre-branded corporate-approved cult of personality. He hasn’t done it by being the loudest guy in the room or prancing around with a selfie stick. He hasn’t done it with a throng of celebrity endorsements. He has simply behaved like a humble statesman articulating a clear set of conservative principles, and has remained the preternaturally silent center of the whirlwind raging around him. He has quietly and assiduously twisted a long knife. After 8 years of presidential playground hashtag talking points that prove nothing other than who can bark the loudest, Walker’s businesslike tenacity with his political opponents in the public square could be exactly what is wanted and needed. If the country is truly ready to move on from liberal celebrity showmen of the likes of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, Walker is the guy most apt to guide it beyond that point.

Scott Walker is far from perfect. But he might just be perfect for this particular fight.

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In 2012 Team Chicago was able to paint Mitt Romney as the out-of-touch billionaire who likes firing people, has 50 car elevators and killed women with Bain Financial Cancer. It was a label that played right into Obama’s class combat. But Obama’s not running (despite the campaigning we’ll see from him come September of next year) and now the shoe is quite literally on the other foot. This past 4th of July holiday, as the press was lasso-wrangled like so many mooing cattle by her campaign, Hillary marched down the street donning Ferragamo shoes.  According to department store websites those shoes run anywhere from $350 to $495.

In this past May issue of ELLE Magazine, Chelsea Clinton appeared in a lavish photo spread donning Gucci gowns ($1500 retail), a Derek Lam blouse ($890-$1390 retail ), Stella McCartney Trousers ($290-$610 retail) and blinged out in Tiffany bracelets and pendants. Back in March, Scott Walker while visiting New Hampshire stopped into Kohl’s Department store and bought a sweater for a speaking engagement. The cost of that sweater?

$1.00. One. Dollar. For a finely tuned media awash in narratives of out-of-touch Republican billionaires, this was such an affront to their sensibilities that Politifact was dispatched to confirm the claim, as was Business Insider.

Factcheck verdict: TRUE.

This past 4th of July, while Hillary was marching in designer flats, Scott Walker was addressing crowds wearing a t-shirt, ballcap and dirty jeans. While Hillary Clinton was making a grudging cameo at an Iowa BBQ swaddled in protective wool jackets in 85 degree midsummer heat, Walker was happily serving it himself, grilling it up and passing it around in cooking gloves and an apron. Hillary Clinton is making campaign appearances via a private chartered jet. Scott Walker is riding with crowds on his Harley Davidson.

By all means Mrs. Clinton, let’s have that class warfare discussion.

These are the rules that the far left of the Democrat party has set for anyone who dares step onto their playing turf, where most of legacy network media admittedly play the refs for them. No one is more equipped to make them play by their own rules than Scott Walker. Furthermore, there is this narrative developing from GOP Corporate that in order to move the country beyond the divisive class vitriol that has dominated Obama’s policies (rhetoric that, by the way, won’t end once he leaves office) the proper role of a candidate is to bring people together in Washington and heal the country. This was a prevailing theme of Mitt Romney’s campaign and is now taking shape with Jeb Bush.

On Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, invoking the spirit of Henry Clay, quipped “a good compromise leaves everybody dissatisfied.” Compromise is the sort of talking point constantly pushed by moderates that pleases absolutely no one beyond the Beltway journalists feeding it to them. Conservatives–not even just the true-red hardcore ones, but the moderates as well who are tired of losing–don’t want a President who will reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. They want someone who will steamroll them like Obama did during his first two years, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. And Scott Walker? He’s certainly not going to be touting his record of working with Democrats in Wisconsin, not after signing Act 10, concealed carry, and Right-To-Work legislation into law…and that’s exactly why he’s enormously popular. Conservatives dream of someone who will break what’s left of the tired and aged Democratic minority in Congress, and leave them on an ash heap, barely able to comprehend how old and outdated their party faces have become while wallowing in the mess left for them to clean up as their own demi-god strolls out of office singing “Amazing Grace” to himself. There can be no compromise this election.

If he can tap into the average-humble-guy-from-the-heartland vibe, Walker will be immensely difficult to stop. He’ll have to overcome a media complex that will paint him as a cartoonish goofy looking derp puppet of the Koch Brothers, but that was a narrative that wasn’t too successful when Harry Reid’s goon squad attempted it this past November. It’s hard to see it working well outside of the activist Democratic base but that base will be out in force like a Middle Earth Orc army should Walker secure the nomination. This is a political ideology that will arm itself with every SNL cliche or College Humor trick in the book, especially when they won’t have Jon Stewart around to help them anymore. It will be a street fight and they will be looking to take back the skulls Walker has claimed from them. It’s the spotlight of the entertainment wing of the Democrat party that he has to be prepared for.

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Walker can come off a bad impersonation of Wild Hogs-era Tim Allen. He’s got the goofy nerdy smile of a Jeff Dunham puppet, and his hairline begs for him to be a late night Ron Popeil infomercial star. But these can also be strengths if he plays them right, especially opposite Her Royal Excellence Hillary Clinton. They play right into the narrative of a country that the Obama administration and the northeast corridor media have been at all out war with for seven years. Flyover America is the most ignored and descriptively boring part of the country, but it is without question also the heart and soul of this nation, and Scott Walker defines that. Even if you live on the coasts, there is something curiously appealing about the idea of America’s Heartland having its revenge on a corporate Beltway complex that sits back and snarks about those silly Christians of Charleston with their multiracial harmony, or deplores the hayseed Ernst-crazy yokels of Iowa, and is all too happy to make fun of the cheesehead Packer hats and down home goofy accents of Sconnies. George W. Bush tapped into a variation on this sentiment in 2000 and 2004. And every time the Beltway writes this part of the country off, they usually come back stronger and more pissed off than before.

Scott Walker already is the “Mike Rowe” candidate, but he still has to sell it. And that may require using methods that directly contradict his campaign successes in Wisconsin.

Walker has been unsteady at times early on in this race. His unofficial campaign stumbled when he dismissed a popular media consultant for her (justified) criticisms of the Iowa GOP and their political hostage-taking tactics in presidential primaries. His digital team made good use of Instagram by revealing his logo in the popular grid technique (Several photographs laid out to make up a larger image). Unfortunately his team took six days to reveal it, and the logo seems to be directly lifted from a national mall chain of an eyeglass company. He needs to once and for all solidify an immigration policy and follow Rick Perry, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in dispensing of the cotton candy headed Clyde the Orangutan impersonator making fart noises with his mouth all over the country right now. We still don’t know where his stance is on innovation or net neutrality and like any governor running for Commander-In-Chief, we need a more detailed foreign policy plan other than simply what he feels in his gut.

Unlike many of GOP candidates racing for the 2016 prize, Walker is far less able to dismiss these early errors as staff decisions since, as profiled recently in the NY Times, he serves as his own primary campaign strategist. That might be the kind of strong bullheadedness we need from the coach of the Green Bay Packers, but it won’t mean a thing if Walker ends up strategizing himself right out of the election and (needless to say) it would be catastrophic if he were to do so in October of next year.

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For all he does to include his sons, Matt (21) and Alex (20) into his stump speeches on why he seeks higher office, Walker could do more to utilize their talents as Midwestern millennials who understand conservative values, yet fall into that fast-developing category of young conservatives under 40 favoring same sex marriage and other socially liberal policies (even to the point of confronting him on the issue, as he has cheerfully admitted). No one is asking Scott Walker to sit down and smoke a joint with his kids–admit it though, the image is priceless–but they could prove to be his greatest weapon against a 70-year-old Hillary Clinton who refuses to drive a car and has come out against new social and mobile technology advances. The Walker Brothers could and should be dispatched to college campuses and employed in ads all over the country. They can help refine their dad’s message of a generational difference, not only between him and Grandma Clinton, but of the difference between the past and the future of the Republican Party itself, for an entire crop of college-agers searching for direction or begging for anyone who doesn’t look like their grandparents to hear their concerns.  They certainly know what communication outreach websites like Reddit, Twitter and Snapchat are, and most likely use them far more than any other adviser Walker has on staff. Listen to them. Learn from them. Let them speak.

The media will immediately seek to write Scott Walker off as a goofy boring whitebread religious guy in a country with an ever-changing demographic makeup, and that narrative will grow even louder if he actually extinguishes the strongest and most diverse group of primary candidates in American history to win the nomination. Team Grandma would doubtlessly then run death-march focus groups until the panelists are leaving bloody clawmarks on the walls, all in order to scientifically determine which minority candidate best suits Hillary’s needs on the ticket without making her look like Miss Daisy. But Walker can avoid this by making it clear that the identity-driven politics of Barack Obama (who has been leasing out rent-controlled space to Walker inside his head since 2011) are going to be leaving office with him.

No Republican has ever defeated an Obama or a Clinton, and both will be campaigning to assure none ever will.  Scott Walker, however, is the only candidate that has defeated their tactics. Unanswerable public sector unions and their overburdening costs and pensions are bankrupting the country both economically and educationally. For too long they had they’ve had free reign of the asylum, negotiating sweetheart deals with their well-puppeteered marionette politicians and torching every opponent that has stood in their way. All except one. As of today, Scott Walker becomes Public Enemy Number One.

And that’s exactly the way he wants it.

 

 

– SM –

 

 

* It was pointed out in comment section that a Republican has in fact defeated Bill Clinton once, in a local campaign –

“In 1980 Bill Clinton was defeated for re-election as Arkansas Governor by a Republican, Frank White.”

 

 

Circus Circus: Welcome to America’s Reality Clown Show

The Wilderness | Issue .52 | 7 . 9. 2015 |
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In 2008, egged on by a media swooning with romantic feelings of hope and change, the country made a willful decision to elect an unqualified celebrity to the Oval Office. Since then, America’s number one export has been fame and its politicization: we have politicized fame. Advances in social media have made intolerable and talentless pop stars and D-list cable attention leeches alike into permanent fixtures of pop culture, and have rendered the concept of “statesmanlike decorum” extinct. Now a President slinging a selfie stick or a candidate doing Simpsons impersonations are just a web-click away. Pop singers are humanitarians. Reality TV stars are political scientists. And funny (albeit creepy-looking) clowns in bowties are climatologists. The 2002 California gubernatorial recall race, which if you recall saw Arnold Schwarzenegger beat out a porn star and and a muppet resembling Arianna Huffington, turns out to have actually been a prescient instruction manual for our national politics.

The cumulative product of this suppurating confluence of culture and politics into one befouled cesspool is Donald Trump. He is the candidate that only this country, at this point in time, could create. The media phenomenon surrounding Trump didn’t just materialize overnight. It’s been metastasizing for years in the bowels of Fox News, E! and NBC. Donald Trump is basically the (somewhat) humanoid embodiment of that river of pink mood slime growing and flowing under the streets of New York City. (Note: that’s two pieces in a row I’ve had to make a Ghostbusters II reference, so I’m probably retiring from blogging after this.)

He’s an unlikeable buffoon blowing air out of the hole that occupies the oleaginous center of his putty-mushed melon. He waves his arms in the air and throws money at any click-monger with a camera or microphone. But that’s not the point. The point is, looking at the cable TV landscape, that this same description also applies to any MTV Jersey Shore star or E! Network debutante living under a Kardashian roof.  Somewhere in the recent past, not too long ago, Americans decided to start worshiping the loudest and least talented people among us in films, music, sitcoms and cable news. So why wouldn’t politics naturally follow suit?

Ariana Grande can lick donuts and say “I hate America” and can still amass 24,000 retweets for a purple heart. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 stated the exact same thing on NBC’s The Voice and was rewarded with a contract extension. By any measure Kanye West has the personality of a gay fish, and is showered with compliments as pop media culture eats his albums up. Beyonce’s songs are written by men but she is somehow a feminist icon. Lena Dunham can’t interest more than 200,000 people weekly to watch her HBO show but she is nevertheless forced down our throats via endless magazine covers and web profiles. American Idol cast-off Clay Aiken, with no serious job experience or policy agenda to his name, unsuccessfully ran for Congress and oh by the way just happened to film it all for a “gay candidate in the South!” TV show he was pitching to cable networks. TLC basically throws the words “Midgets,” “Triplets,” “Monstrously Obese,” “Double Amputee” and “Amish” into a hat and then creates shows based on whichever three it randomly pulls out. Studios and networks made the decision that they were going to train their cameras on our perceived realities by reflecting the worst qualities among us and we were all too happy to participate because we thought we weren’t part of that freak show. Except now we are.

Just call Donald Trump “Caitlyn.”

“The Apprentice” was NBC’s number one rated show for a time, netting millions of viewers a week at its height. People tuned in breathlessly to see what antics a passel of otherwise unemployable D-list celebrities would get into, or if this would be the week that Gary Busey finally went on that naked cannibalizing rampage he’s been implicitly promising us since 2005. Trump didn’t partake in any of this. He simply mediated the proceedings. He created the circus and then sat at the head of the table and decided who got to stay or go. And that’s exactly what he’s attempting to do with the 2016 election: Trump thinks he can put himself in a position to oversee the circus, judge the contestants and decide who will stay or go. And a sensationalist, click-driven media is all too happy to let him do it. Trump knows a profitable show when he sees it.  He’s been happy to take NBC’s sponsor money just as he’s been happy to take CPAC attendees money. In both cases what Trump was getting from the deal was simple: a platform where Trump can be Trump, with an appreciative audience willing to cheer on whatever car wreck was placed in front of him.

This has nothing to do with political solutions and everything to do with entertainment factor; this is the culture we as a people chose when we went to the voting booth in November of 2008. We decided showmanship, stage-fainting, snake oil and promises of ocean level decreases were more important than substantive policy ideas and solutions. We elected a President based on what Hollywood studios and corporate branding experts told us, and those same people haven’t stopped giving us their opinion in the form of tweets or slogans written on hands ever since. Conservatives, desperate to join a culture that has all but decided to pass them by (or force them out completely), aren’t so much looking for an articulate salesman to get them back in the conversation as they are looking for an indestructible tank to bust through the wall and take it instantly by force.

The talk-radio powered part of that base thinks they’ve found it in Trump.

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Americans are addicted to the show, and Conservatives, as much as they relentlessly deny it, are arguably more so.  We exist almost completely in a world whose contours are shaped by–and at the mercy of–leftist talking points, and are beaten repeatedly over the head with them. Little wonder then, that when a snake-oil salesman of our own comes along, saying the things we want to hear, it’s like sweet endorphines are being released into a media saturated hemisphere.  (That Trump has–as recently as 2008–been on the record endorsing such progressive dreams as single-payer healthcare, maximized corporate taxation, and First Female President Hillary Clinton is, frankly, irrelevant; his fans weren’t reasoned into their support for him in the first place, so you’re not going to reason them of out of it by pointing out that his only true political conviction seems to be Whatever Is Good For Donald Trump.)  Conservative pundits and talk show hosts are just as eager to catch Donald Trump in a blustery gaffe as their liberal counterparts. This is what establishment conservative media either doesn’t understand (or does understand and is just rolling with the joke). The promises Trump is making about walls, China, Iran and Mexico are at their core no different than the type of free-shit promises Barack Obama makes to his base. But the entertainment wing of the Right is going to allow it, for now, because it offers at least a pale simulacrum of what Obama offered to his loving throngs of admirers. That’s how desperate for cultural relevance we are.

The problem is that Barack Obama knew how to sell his politics. Donald Trump does not. Barack Obama is true believer in the ideals he promotes. Donald Trump is not.

For all the blustering of the conservative Twitterati over the incompetence of Hillary and the craziness of Bernie Sanders, there isn’t one discernible difference between Donald Trump’s campaign and Bernie Sanders’. Supporters of both candidates talk about how political culture is “tired of all the political bullshit” and how the “Washington establishment” has sold America out. Both teams of partisans agree on little else, but they would both happily talk your ear (and/or your eyes) off about how the system is rigged toward the political elite.  If I described a candidate by saying “he’s getting them to talk about issues that nobody else in the party wants to talk about,” you wouldn’t know whether I was referencing Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Progressives see their incomparable idol getting ready to exit stage left. Conservatives are desperate for theirs to enter stage right.

But there isn’t going to be another Barack Obama. Not in Ben Carson, not in Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz and certainly not in Donald Trump but as long as there are PACS, political conferences, and radio talk show hosts eager to take our money, the show will go on.

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I fully understand the value for “blunt objects” in politics, especially in the place where politics collides with culture, but that interaction has to be nuanced and clever. Andrew Breitbart was a master at recognizing where this intersection existed and he happily guided the traffic. Politically, Newt Gingrich was a bit better at it. Ultimately the biggest problem with Trump’s incoherent message is not what he’s saying, it’s his complete inability to articulate it with any humor, grace or authority. Trump is just playing “angry” for his schtick. Monochromatic anger doesn’t sell, except to people who are themselves already angry. Just like rock always breaks scissors, humor always defeats anger. The first GOP candidate to tell Caitlyn Trump to put his opinions where the monkey puts the nuts in that manner most likely will be the one to win the nomination. This is the most diverse and youthful group of candidates running in American history. Their solutions on how to nuke ISIS can wait until a debate with whichever 65-year-old white person the Democrats nominate.

Their first priority should be figuring out how to Nuke Trump and do it with a confident smile on their face.

Right now the GOP field is like that baseball team Mr. Burns assembled to win a bet with a corporate rival. A can’t-miss collection of All-Stars who, one by one, all fall ill/into another dimension of space-time and miss the game, leaving the Clueless Oaf to win it by an accidental hit-by-pitch in the last inning. That’s the only way Trump wins a debate, a primary, or an election. But the talk radio-powered hydra is all too happy to humor him for ratings, and drag the most electable candidates into Hades to debate Trump on the level of an angry, senile C-SPAN caller ranting about contrails and fluoridation — because it’s all part of the show.

Ultimately, conservatives who entertain the idea of Donald Trump, or encourage his continued participation in a generational election, are no different than Occupiers dropping corporate dollars for their Guy Fawkes mask off eBay. They don’t really care what Trump believes (just as the Left doesn’t really care what Hillary Clinton believes), only what he says. But people don’t tune into the Kardashians on E! every week, or day, to hear what any given member of that family of manatees believe. We ceded academia and culture long ago before Donald Trump was appearing with Hulk Hogan and on the David Letterman show promoting his book.

Our media is demanding coliseum-style entertainment and they will flock to the showmen that are willing to give it to them. Barack Obama is more than happy to appease them. Someone needs to fill that void when he leaves office and Trump believes it to be him. Conservative critics of Trump who drop their money at conferences or tune into his television show need to realize that they are part of the show as well. As long as we’re willing to abide a circus of politainment, there will always be someone auditioning to be the ringmaster. Right now that ringmaster is Donald Trump.

And the circus isn’t leaving town any time soon.

 

 

– SM –

Red Flag: The Cowardice of the Media and the Courage of Charleston

The Wilderness | Issue .51 | 6 . 22. 2015 |

Charleston Shooting

 

As Charleston marched in unity at sunset on Sunday night, two things were conspicuously missing. One was the progressive paid-agitation mob, normally so prevalent whenever an eager media trains its cameras on torched buildings and tear gas.  The other was Barack Obama, who was golfing on the other side of the country and nowhere to be found. Just days earlier, an unthinkable act of racial terror had ripped the city apart and frayed the fabric of the nation: nine African-American members of the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church were gunned down in a Bible study group by a white supremacist with yet another creepy bowl haircut. The dead included three pastors, one of which was noted State Senator Clementa Pinckney. Due to the time of night when the crime occurred, very few details initially emerged concerning the crime or its particulars.

But, to a narrative-happy media approaching another critical election year, it didn’t matter.

Before the sun was given a chance to rise, the usual media suspects had chosen their narrative. Before the shooter was even apprehended every professional grievance-hunter, from Talking Points Memo, Salon, and The Huffington Post to the Obama Administration, was placing blame for a terror attack at the feet of a Republican Governor and a flag. Before the weekend was out, every Republican candidate for President was being bombarded by Buzzfeeders and JuiceVoxers. The GOP campaigns, still apparently naïvely unaware as to what the goals of these outlets are, decided to play along and they were promptly rewarded with more blame and more questions. Leftist media finally had the Conservative Tea Party Monster they’d always intended James Holmes or Adam Lanza or Jared Loughner to be.

Republican Presidential candidates were being made to answer for a Democrat battle flag, representing a Democrat war in a chapter of American history remembered as a Democrat revolt against the Republican proposition that human beings shouldn’t be held as chattel property. And all this even before the victims of Emanuel A.M.E. Church were given a chance to be memorialized.

Before the crime scene had been cleared and the killer had been caught, our media was once again bludgeoning us over the head and telling us to submit before we had even begun to grasp what it was that had actually happened. As reports came in via social media and local news outlets in the heat of the late South Carolina night, we were all struggling to find out what was happening. We weren’t even able to catch our breath. POLITICO, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all began examining what they called an “uncomfortable relationship the GOP has with the Confederate Flag.” It doesn’t matter that their crack researchers ignored a quote from a prominent KKK Member on the front page of Democrat candidate for President, Lincoln Chafee‘s website. Or that Bill Clinton signed legislation in 1987 amending the Arkansas state flag to honor the Confederate States. This is not about a flag but that doesn’t matter.

We get flooded with opinions of Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee (polling somewhere around 2% nationally), but not once, in spite of her own husband’s legislative ties to the Confederate States, did media pressure Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

They were too busy partying at the wedding of one of her aides.

That’s how it has been for a long seven years (and if they have their way, another four). A tragedy is immediately politicized by the agitationist progressive left. Their targets are now dragged, unwillingly and unjustly, into a fight they neither wanted nor started. It’s like fighting off a rabid dog. Before we have a chance to catch our breath, progressive media has its jaws locked onto our throat and is foaming at the mouth. Over a flag.

The Confederate battle flag is a stupidly retrograde symbol of a deservedly losing cause that flies over a Civil War memorial adjacent to the Columbia SC capitol building and which, in any event, was not responsible for the actions of a deranged individual in Charleston. If you think it was, then ask why have such modern mass-slaughters managed to spare Mississippi, a state that incorporates the Confederate battle standard into its official state flag?  The Holy Cross is also disagreeable symbol to progressive media (for infinitely less justifiable reasons), and this past weekend there were more people in Charleston waving that than the Confederate flag. Before the victims can be memorialized and grieved for, the political ideology that the national media on the Left is at war with (the party that itself buried the Confederacy, mind you) must atone for sins that don’t belong to them.

And thus a powder keg is lit.

The pattern is all too familiar. Shooter commits crime. President blames guns. Media blames Republicans. Media glorifies leftist protest. Protest turns to riot. Rinse. Repeat. Hope and Change, or else. For the past six or so years, the country feels like we’re on the verge of just getting our teeth kicked in. Like one spark lights a fuse. There was a feeling, propagated on social media and online, that perhaps this was that spark. That’s the goal of Alinsky social policies. At all costs, keep people angry. Keep people divided. Keep people distracted. We feared as a country there was no coming back from this.

But then something happened. This time was different. This time things didn’t go according to the their plan. This time, spurred on by the courage of families left behind, forgiving an unforgivable monster, with arms linked on bridges and church pews, Charleston joined together and made it known to racial extremists, both black and white, that their community would not be defined by them.

Hate would not win.

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The country isn’t divided. The country isn’t racist. The country is exhausted.

As we witnessed Charlestonians of every race, color, and confessional creed congregating and joining hands as services at Emanuel A.M.E. Church resumed on Sunday, our President and his special advisor Valerie Jarrett were finger-wagging everyone on Twitter from the confines of an exclusive private country club in Palm Springs, CA–literally the furthest point he could get from Charleston in the country without physically leaving it.

Obama entered the White House briefing room the morning after the attack, gave a short two minute statement, lectured the country about gun control and then got on his airplane and flew away to Hollywood. Beyond a couple sparse tweets, that was all we heard from him. It takes a truly special brand of narcissism to decide to sit out the healing and grieving process a country takes upon itself in its President’s absence, yet at the same time scold it from an iPhone at Tyler Perry’s house or a golf course in Palm Springs.

Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office and embedded the memory of Christa McAuliffe and her crew into the permanent consciousness of the country. Bill Clinton’s down-home personal touch helped a country cope with, and understand a devastating act of domestic terror in Oklahoma City. George W. Bush, on the night of September 11th, 2001, exited Marine One and marched across the south lawn of the White House alone, head unbowed, and addressed a confused and angry nation against the wishes of his Secret Service.

With this President, checking out seems to be his only coping mechanism of choice, an inadequate response for a man tasked as the leader of the free world. Barack Obama, indignant that he can’t use the Charleston shooting to pass his political agenda, seems to have found no use in acting as a consoler-in-chief, but instead offered up a half-hearted lecture on gun control premised on faulty statistics. Then he boarded Air Force One and flew to Hollywood for four fundraisers, a podcast with a comedian and two days of golf. Just as he did after the terror attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi. Just as he did in the Hamptons and at the White House Correspondents Dinner as images of Ferguson and Baltimore being burnt to the ground blazed across cable channels.

A defining characteristic of this President is his constant (really, unique) ability to completely disappear when the country needs leadership the most, and instead let his bidding be done by junior staff on Twitter. A terrorist attack fundamentally changed the course of George W. Bush’s presidency. A terrorist attack doesn’t even change Barack Obama’s podcast schedule.

The last time he addressed the country from the Oval Office was in August of 2010.  Every time the country has endured a tragedy since then, and has turned to its President looking for words of comfort or understanding, that office has remained empty.

This country doesn’t have a race problem. It has a leadership problem.

In spite of unimaginable horror, however (and in spite of the vacuum of leadership), Charleston has given us hope. For the first time in seven years, the country turned its back on divisive rhetoric and policies. It drowned out the voices of a leftist mob hoping to leave a scorched wasteland wherever it goes (but particularly wherever the cameras follow). Charleston has begun to put itself back together and has done so without Al Sharpton’s paid mob of leftist shock troops or Barack Obama’s idle threats and apathy. They didn’t turn their pain into rage and then take it out on businesses in the community. They harnessed it into a message of hope and forgiveness, thus neutering the shooter of his stated goals. It was illuminating. It was inspiring and the remaining remnants of an organized horde of occupiers and incendiaries were helpless to stop it.

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Their self appointed leader, Deray McKesson, the seemingly fresh-spawned whelp of the Sharpton/Soros social media faux-activist mob, arrived in Charleston ready to stamp his feet and scream, only to be greeted by the nigh-incomprehensible (to him) sight of people singing with, and not screaming at, one another. Before the weekend was out, Deray was taking his frustrations with this so-called “forgiveness” narrative out on the families of the victims, and was being told to go home by a city and a state with its heart already full of grief and with no time for his shovel-ready anger-and-agitation tactics.

Deray was instead exiled to the blasted ratings heath of CNN to spread his message of widespread rampant racism in South Carolina, despite the solemn claims of the racist mass murderer in his manifesto.  Despite the claims of Obama on Marc Maron’s podcast, or Deray’s daily racial Uberfact Tweets, racism was so scarce on the ground in South Carolina that the shooter couldn’t find anyone to go along with his ideology or his plan. He lamented about how alone he was in his demented ideals. Deray’s only outlet in Charleston became his Twitter feed, where he did his best impression of Vigo the Carpathian, desperately clinging onto a baby as he hears all the singing coming from outside the museum. In the end, the sight of thousands of peaceful people marching across the Revenal Bridge, waving flags and locked in arms was too much for him to stomach.

He sat it out. 

Charleston turned their back on hate, and did so without occupying a park, torching a business, smashing up a single cop car, or burning a single American flag. It’s a country we aren’t used to seeing anymore, which is why the images from worshippers joining hands and embracing each other in faith felt so viscerally moving to so many. It’s something we haven’t seen in awhile and it’s not something the far left wants us to see. Progressive and network media were happy to wrap themselves in a biased political narrative about an outdated flag. The rest of the country wrapped itself in the of the arms of the victims, their families, and the congregants of Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and let it be known loud and clear that they were not alone. Charleston, like New York or Boston, is not alone.

That is the country we are.

 

 

– SM –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloc Party: The Far Left Stages a Coup

The Wilderness | Issue .50 | 6 . 16. 2015 |

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Something happened last month that mostly went unnoticed among rank-and-file politicos. The ground shifted underneath their feet, under the weight of a barrage of leaked email stories, foundation donation revelations and rehearsed campaign appearances. Hillary Clinton made her official announcement for President and embarked on a hard-of-hearing tour across America that went so well that the only thing people remember from it is her turning up on grainy security camera footage looking more like a fugitive on “America’s Most Wanted” than the all-but-assured Democrat nominee.

Having stumbled badly through four weeks of media trouble stemming from revelations that her family’s foundation pretty much operates as an international crime syndicate, Hillary suffered added insult when her planned re-emergence was dampened out by an energetic announcement from a candidate nearly half her age in Marco Rubio. This past weekend, Team Grandma thus stabbed “F10” on their campaign system reboot and quickly sought to reinstall Hillary 7.0 as an attempt to tap into the waning strand of rampant populism that occupies her party’s hearts and minds. The reaction has been tepid at best.

There’s a poorly kept secret in the media and on the progressive Left heading into 2016:  They don’t want Hillary Clinton.

Thanks to two devastating midterm losses (courtesy Barack Obama’s mulish incompetence plus Obamacare) the Democratic party’s bench has not only been depleted, it has been completely eviscerated. Politics is not unlike sports franchises: local talent is discovered and crafted into state parties, which are like farm teams. Those local talents are fostered and brought up into the Big Show where they either become stars or are out of the league in a couple years. Barack Obama’s legacy won’t be defined by unilateral executive orders, failed trade deals, or a failing healthcare law. It will be defined as the eight years the Democrats lost a generation of talent, and with it their soul. They find themselves stocked with one Chief and no Indians. Okay, one Indian.

As the aged, entitled nominee-to-be Hillary Clinton stealthed her way from one fast-food restaurant to the next, her former campaign manager (and current groundhog-murdering mayor of New York City) Bill de Blasio, flanked by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, led a party/messaging revolt at a press conference announcing a new socialist progressive contract with America. It was a staged revolt against their own party’s failings in 2014 and a warning to a rudderless administration and Presidential front runner:  No matter who their party’s nominee is in 2016, they are not going away quietly.

Hillary Clinton has been put on notice. And Barack Obama, as of last Friday and the defeat of his fast track TPA trade legislation, has been put on leave.

De Blasio’s unprovoked act of marching upon DC to lay out his own progressive agenda before a sitting lame duck President of his own party ahead on an all-but-assured Democratic nominee’s official announcement, has sent a clear message that neither Obama or Clinton have a stranglehold on the party or its base anymore. This was a coup. Alongside stand-up comedian Bernie Sanders tossing his Ushanka into the 2016 ring (mostly just to amuse himself — more on that later), and Elizabeth Warren leading the Democrat charge against Obama on fast tracking trade negotiations, it is genuinely a stunning turn of events for a party wrestling with its own schizophrenia.

In a lame duck election year, it’s the Presidential nominee that sets the agenda for a party going forward, not the mayor of New York City or a junior senator from Massachusetts or a crazy old man mostly ranting at whatever fire hydrant will listen to him. The party almost always rallies around the message of their nominee.

This time is different, and it has the potential to be an electoral Hindenburg for a throwback candidate attempting to lead a party that is further to the left than she has ever known. This is no longer Barack Obama’s party and they are in open revolt against Hillary Clinton making it hers.

But for all their squawking and protesting and rioting, for better, and most likely worse, the progressive base in this country knows they are stuck with a hawkish oligarch of  yesteryear who represents everything their party currently has risen up in the streets against. “George Bush in a pantsuit” as one Media Matters researcher referred to her.

Hillary Clinton cannot just suddenly discover her inner Alinsky because Barack Obama beat her with it eight long years ago. All that would do is remind people that Hillary Clinton isn’t Barack Obama, to say the very least. That won’t make an already skeptical base forget the 25 years she spent in the public eye opposing everything from illegal immigrants to LGBT marriage. Barack Obama pulled this off because a sense of wonder and the unknown surrounded him. It doesn’t work with recycled has-been parking in handicapped spaces and citing Beatles lyrics.

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It could have worked with Elizabeth Warren–and ultimately that’s the kidney-stone-in-the-urethra pain the far left knows they have to live with. Once again, Hillary Clinton finds herself on the precipice of history, only to know in her heart that she’s not her party’s first choice. Much like her marriage, she’s simply the one they’ll settle for. Warren passed up on an almost assured chance at the White House simply by weighing the terms and limits of her power. After 4-8 years Warren is out of the White House and out of power. She knows she will sit in the Senate for the next 20 years with the possibility to steer the financial banking system into the size of ditch she sees fit, either by twisting the arm of a sitting President from her party or by marshaling the swarms of Occupy leftovers to protest one from the GOP. It was the smart play on her part, even if it costs her party the White House.

Her TPA power play against a President who has never faced opposition in his own party was a bold shot across the bow. And it worked (No one reads the features on this site for in-depth details of confusing trade agreements. You’re better off watching Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace or reading Scott Lincicome’s good explainer at Cato Institute.) Democrats rallied around her special brand of librarian, Church Lady authoritarianism and effectively told Barack Obama to start making plans to move out of the White House. However she runs the risk of becoming isolated for the duration of a Madame Hillary Presidency. The Clintons are notoriously known for not sharing the spotlight, nor tolerating any insurrection.

De Blasio, on the other hand, certainly has bigger ideas for his political career in mind but he may not even see a second term as New York City’s mayor. I’m not entirely sure how a grondhog murdering mayor of a city where he barely pulls 11% of only 17% of their city’s participating voters, somehow takes this as a mandate to inflict a communist agenda on an entire country, but he’s trying to do it. It took just a little over a year and a half for the public-sector unions (including police and firefighter unions) to sour on the Comrade of Gracie Mansion (a mansion he walled off from the public), thanks to his pronounced silence as law-enforcement officers were executed in patrol cars while he allowed protesters to shriek at restaurant patrons and private business owners. His overall approval rating in his home city isn’t mobilizing much of anyone other than Al Sharpton’s shock troops and needless to say they aren’t falling over themselves to vote for a 70 year old white woman.

De Blasio shunning his electoral base in the city–to say nothing of its outraged Marmota monax community–has turned his attention to Iowa, California Washington DC, and everywhere it seems but the one place he was elected to govern. New Yorkers don’t take being ignored very well. Hillary and the Party Boy did America’s most prominent Sandinista a favor by seating themselves front-and-center behind him for his inauguration photo op at City Hall in downtown Manhattan. De Blasio returned the favor by refusing to endorse her as of yet and by not participating in her campaign’s not-a-relaunch launch at Roosevelt Island this past weekend. This snub along with the constant “mean girl” shade being thrown her way by Elizabeth Warren are emblematic of the problems that threaten to sink Hillary’s bid for history. The far left doesn’t have another Barack Obama waiting in the wings but they also know Hillary can’t be elected without them.

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As if the combined headache of Comrade de Blasio and Chief Warren aren’t enough to give a 67 year old Hillary another stroke, enter Bernie Sanders riding a wrecking ball like a Bolshevik Miley Cyrus, organizing a cult of Facebook and social media followers and winning over the Juice Vox Mafia with each additional promise of more free shit. No matter what kind of lunacy spills from Bernie’s mouth, they will entertain him right up until the last dog is hung, and then vomit forth a dozen more-in-sorrow-than-anger think-pieces about how “Bernie was right but could never win thanks to the Koch Bros” when he exits the race.

With Bill de Blasio and Bernie Sanders nipping at her heels like a pair of New Jersey mobster housewife’s chihuahuas, Hillary Clinton might make a stab at Warren’s populist anti-Wall Street rhetoric, but she still has to account for her largest Wall Street donors in a debate. Hillary will attempt to take a bite out of hedge fund managers to get an approving nod from Barack Obama, while not upsetting the Goldman Sachs apple cart too terribly much. What happens though, when in a debate a Democratic rival reminds her that her son-in-law happens to be a member of this hated class? She will no doubt insert talking points about the Koch Brothers to appease the Hollywood millionaire activist class…and then she will promptly be reminded by this fellow Democrat of bundles of cash for arms and uranium deals that were secured by her Foundation and approved by her State Department

hillary quote_2If the far Left’s strategy is to mobilize the working poor to paint the GOP as a party of the rich, they can’t possibly want fewer poor people or (more importantly) fewer poor voters. But then that’s the problem with their special brand of faux-populism. Neither Bernie Sanders nor any other far left socialist is going to get elected nationally by railing against the benefits of wealth whilst simultaneously promising to create more wealth. It would be an act of voluntary extinction, like a velociraptor speaking out in favor of the K-T meteor. Their only hope, rather, is to cross their fingers and hope that Hillary Clinton, the richest candidate in the 2016 race, can fool enough Beyonce fans. By claiming their policies help people out of poverty and into some sort of managed wealth, they are by their own definition creating people not likely to vote for them. This is the monster that Barack Obama has created and that Bernie Sanders reveals every time he steps up to a microphone.

Sanders says the things Barack Obama knows he couldn’t say to get elected President. But then again, Bernie Sanders isn’t trying to get elected.

Sanders’ goal is to not win the Presidency. He knows it. The media–no matter how much they pretend to take him seriously–knows it. The rabid anti-capitalist Left knows it. But they’ll go along with the joke for as long as it takes for Hillary to get the message. She won’t win without them, and the terrifying reality is that they are stuck with a candidate that they know might not be able to pull it off.

Matt Taibbi confirms all of this in Rolling Stone:

The irony is, Hillary probably wouldn’t have such high negatives right now if the public didn’t have decades of exactly this sort of Clintonian face-switching and poll-chasing to stew over.

In fact, in a just world, this latest decision to overcome voter indifference by putting on an Elizabeth Warren mask through the primary season would be rewarded by even stiffer slides down the polls. Even hardcore progressives would probably respect her more if she stuck to the eely faux-center the Third Way Dems have been staking out since the late Eighties. 

But if history is any guide, that won’t happen. The guess here is that Hillary and Democrats have run the numbers. They’ll shake a few fists at The Man on the campaign trail, just enough to sneak by on poll day. Then, once in office, they’ll revert back in office to being the shameless policy sellouts they’ve always been.

Despite all of these electoral theatrics to keep the focus off of Hillary’s disastrous track record as a candidate, appointed, and elected official, it all reduces to a very simple proposition in the end. The Democrats have two choices in front of them: either pack up the Occupy tents and follow Hillary Clinton back to a big government moderate middle where hawkish foreign policy and Wall Street will reign and any legacy of Barack Obama is dispensed as an electoral anomaly.

The other choice is almost impossible one: drag her to the outer-rim of the fringe Left at a time when polls already show she has tenuously poor authenticity with voters, and as the country is gravitating away from shrieking nanny-statism and the growing incompetence of an over burdensome federal government. For ever step she takes towards far left progressive enlightenment, she leaves at least five that trace back to her record as anything but a populist warrior, as was witnessed when she sided with Warren on Obama’s downed TPA legislation, legislation she supported 45 times as his Secretary of State.

Even the New York Times has reservations about this strategy. When this burden falls upon a lone Bernie Sanders (I – Lunatic) to threaten Clinton with, the Democrats know they have a serious problem. Network media won’t give this game away. They will entertain Sanders as long as there is a microphone in his face and he’s spouting warmed-over journalist hero John Reed Ten Days That Shook The World-style socialist talking points.

But make no mistake: within the year, the Democratic party has to make this choice. The entire purpose of populist happy media propping up Sanders is to get Clinton to start regurgitating his words, sell it like Warren and do it all of this while hosting Saturday Night Live alongside Bill de Blasio (sans murdered groundhog) with musical guest Katy Perry using some kind of Lt. Smash indoctrination.

It’s all theater of the absurd, kabuki done to prevent the far left/socialist wing of the Democrat Party from dying an angry painful death in January 2017. They’ve had a hell of a party at the expense of the slowest economic recovery since World War II for the past seven years, and they know it’s coming to an end. It will not be a clean seperation and will not be pretty. Protests will ramp up like a demon soul trying to cling onto a young body in the presence of an exorcist. Network media will continue to glorify racial strife (which is actually class strife in disguise) and the last remnants of the militant Occupy wing will make it known loud and clear, like a three-year-old throwing a hissy fit in a grocery store aisle, they will be heard in one last final primal scream.

No matter who is elected.

 

 

-SM-

 

 

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Offenders Assemble: The Summer’s Biggest Heroes Face Their Greatest Challenge Yet

The Wilderness  | Issue .49  | 5 . 7. 2015 |

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Once again the Earth finds itself in the midst of unimaginable peril from an enemy determined to obliterate all who stand in its way. No, I’m not talking about an invincible robot hellbent on world domination. (Close, though.)  I’m referring–as we are now forced to do all too often–to the progressive culture mobs, naming and shaming those that express opinions they find problematic, no matter who they are.  In an instant the heroes they once looked up to, starry-eyed, have become Enemies of Their State over the slightest miscalculation. This threat goes beyond any demented Hollywood artificial intelligence because it’s real, and there aren’t any Avengers here to save us from them.

The saga started while two actors on a whirlwind press tour for Avengers: Age of Ultron were being interviewed by Digital Spy and were asked about the fictional relationship portrayed in the film by the hero characters of Hulk and Black Widow. The interviewer, somehow believing that Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) are real people capable of real emotions and real feelings, asked two real life actors what they thought of two fictional characters’ imaginary hook up, after having a fictional flirtation with both the fictional Captain America (Chris Evans) and the fictional Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)

“She’s a slut” Renner (who is not Hawkeye) deadpanned, while Chris Evans (who is not Captain America) bellowed in agreement. This of course was not to be tolerated, and it wasn’t long before the usual social justice avenger suspects in the media shined another bright spotlight on the army of Twitter users who were “disappointed” with his response.

Having exhausted all reality-based targets of their unsustainable rage, the internet brigade of shrieking harpies have apparently now turned their focus to imaginary characters in science fiction superhero movies.

At some point our web media decided, in the name of progressive justice, to empower even the most unhinged sycophants. These are people who take habitual pleasure in behaving like Kathy Bates in Misery, hobbling their favorite authors over the treatment of their fictional creations, and then telling them they’re only doing it because they love them. The only difference is they use Tumblr blogs and Twitter accounts instead of sledgehammers. Radicalized feminists are allowed to use the word “slut” to describe their protests and marches, but Renner is somehow supposed to be accountable for using it about something that literally doesn’t exist. The insanity is enough to make even the most ardent of heroes hang up their cape and retire to another planet.

Evans, being Captain America (but not really) and all, took the new easy American way out by capitulating to the finger-wagging Super Friends Media Club: “Yesterday we were asked about the rumors that Black Widow wanted to be in a relationship with both Hawkeye and Captain America. We answered in a juvenile and offensive way that rightfully angered some fans. I regret it and sincerely apologize.”

Renner took a more sardonic tone with his apology, reminding those on the internet that think he is in some way accountable to them that “Black Widow” is in fact an imaginary character, not a real person. “I am sorry that this tasteless joke about a fictional character offended anyone. It was not meant to be serious in any way. Just poking fun during an exhausting and tedious press tour.” This is a concept seemingly forgotten in this day in age where even our Presidents are held up to be fabled demigods. Not only was Renner not actually sorry, he doubled down earlier this week during an appearance on Conan:

Hawkeye and Captain America had paid their penance but the waters had already been chummed, as was demonstrated the very next day when Robert Downey, Jr. sat down with notorious gutter snipe Guru Murthy to discuss his continuing role as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Murthy has never been one to shy away from sandbagging directors and actors; he infamously did so with Django Unchained director Quentin Tarantino shortly after the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary, pelting him with questions about the influence of violence in his films. Tarantino quickly and abruptly shut him down.

After a few short pointed questions about the consequences of Stark’s actions in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Murthy suddenly veered left faster than Quicksilver dodging a bullet, turning toward questions of how Stark’s politics and beliefs influenced Downey’s own. The line of questioning as it applied to his own politics clearly made Downey uncomfortable, looking over to his assistant several times or hoping War Machine would smash through the wall and save him.

Alas, this isn’t a comic book, and there are no superheroes there to save us from progressive ambushes in real life.

Collective media immediately circled the wagons around the narrative that Downey left the interview because question from Murthy focused on his dark history with drugs and prison. That would be false. Murthy began asking Downey about his politics, asking him several times to answer whether he was a liberal or not based on a quote he gave a New York Times reporter several years ago. Downey even offered a rational explanation, saying that everyday life isn’t always clear-cut along the lines of “liberal” vs “conservative.” When he wouldn’t comply with the line of questioning, Murthy badgered him more, noticing he was clearly making Downey uncomfortable, and only then bringing out the Wolverine claws and slashing his way through Downey’s reckless youth.

Downey then took the only appropriate action open to him: he simply got up, made a quick quip about Murphy turning into Diane Sawyer (who, coincidentally or not, focused in her recent interview with Bruce Jenner on his politics as well), and walked out of the room. The fact is that it doesn’t matter how Robert Downey, Jr. votes when he jets across the screen fighting off waves of alien invaders. Whether he’s a liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, or Ultronian, he showed the proper way in dealing with emboldened ‘syphilitic parasites’ (his words) in media everywhere: don’t apologize. Get up, and leave the room.

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This was, at first glance, exactly what Avengers director Joss Whedon did earlier this week when he deactivated his Twitter account in the wake of another leftist-driven mob.

Displeased as they were with the story arc of Natasha Romanoff (the “Black Widow” of The Avengers and other Marvel Universe films), they loaded their internet guns with Twitter bullets and trained their sights on Joss Whedon. The social justice twitterati even mounted their most simon-pure White Knight to lead the charge against Whedon: neo-crusader Jonathan McIntosh, a close associate of “feminist game critic” and Gamergate bête noire Anita Sarkeesian. (In a twist of irony, Sarkeesian herself happens to be close friends with Whedon). What followed is what those of us forced to bathe in the oceans of this kind of internet lunacy on a weekly basis immediately recognized as an almost unstoppable mob that went from “Whedon-worshipping Bruce Banner” to a raging Hulk screaming “MISOGYNIST SMASH!” And all in the blink of a few tweets.

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It’s one thing to bring an obscure, foreign astrophysicist to the point of tears over an insufficiently respectful shirt; that story barely registered a blip on the meter beyond nerd and science culture. But Joss Whedon is different. He’s accumulated a large counterculture geek following over decades by reviving what at the time was a foreign concept: watchable sci-fi television. Along with the ability to create a universe in Firefly that branched out and away from the eternal Star Trek vs Star Wars dichotomy, he managed to bring credibility to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television show based on a forgettable film that most of its young audience at the time probably hadn’t even seen.

And yet all those years producing hit television shows with strong female leads were tossed aside because the fringe of internet feminist culture found a storyline of a supporting character in a superhero movie to be Highly Problematic.  All that accumulated credibility? Into the garbage with it!  This is the very definition of cannibalism.

What’s even more curious is how a mob that claims to believe in a culture of female empowerment feels the need to preempt and speak for the actress who plays the character and spoke the dialogue: Scarlett Johansson. Johansson (an avid pro-choice and liberal activist) has thus far remained silent on the controversy while a mob whose ideological claim to empowering women to speak for themselves has loudly declared that it has no problem speaking for her.

In an attempt to extinguish a Galactus-sized fire consuming everything in its path, Whedon offered a more tempered explanation for leaving social media behind, but his explanation and exile are both footnotes to the amount of abuse he acknowledged and received. Whedon claims the mob that coalesced around McIntosh played little to no part in his decision to leave Twitter. Patton Oswalt, an outspoken critic of the Obama culture of naming and shaming even retracted his criticism of leftist thought policers.  The mob believes otherwise (<— no really, go to that link).

That said, the strength of my sympathy for Oswalt and Whedon would power the smallest Thor’s Hammer in the world.

Why? Because everything must be hyper-politicized now, everyone is a politician, whether they like it or not. That’s the price of seven years of weaving politics into pop culture. It’s not conservatives who are out in force demanding superheroes and their franchises follow a social justice league task force action item list. We’re content to let these films entertain us for a couple of hours on a hot summer day, and no matter how much the stars of these films show disdain for one cultural half their audience, we’ll probably keep showing up. When the credits roll, most of us are pretty content with not knowing the personal political stances of the cast on social media.

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But this is where we are now. A progressive-led culture simply cannot be content with merely being entertained, or saved by their heroes, unless those heroes bend a knee first. Most rational people trapped inside a burning building wouldn’t prevent a firefighter from saving them unless that firefighter had the same stance on gay marriage or a Palestinian state. But it’s matter of genuine concern for these people.

After all, this is what they voted for, supported and embraced. One statement, one gaffe, one step out of line from the orthodoxy of the progressive Left as it Bataan Death Marches its way down the path of righteousness, trudging towards a notional destination of social equality that forever seems to recede into the distance–one deviation from this will now end careers or alienate fans that have supposedly loved them for years. This is the path they chose. This is the culture that they themselves created. Conservatives in culture have little to no say in the direction it follows. All we can do is simply watch the naming and shaming whims of its leader as he parades around the White House with a selfie stick like it’s Loki’s staff.

We don’t excommunicate our cultural representatives when they step out of line for any perceived minor offense. If we did, our (already minor) influence in popular culture would all but vanish. We even defend our ideological opponents from their own mobs (See Boing Boing, Patton Oswalt, Trevor Noah), and conservatives in the counterculture will continue to do so until either (hopefully) the country discovers a moment of clarity or (pessimistically) destroys itself beyond saving. Just last week Joss Whedon was whipping up a mob against conservatives on Twitter over climate change and fucking science! This week he found himself being defended by them.

As damaged and dark as these times of naming and shaming at the behest of progressive mobs and their media are, we always believe in the best for people and the right of people to express opinions freely with little to no repercussions, even if those people hate us ideologically. We may fail and the same intolerant feminist shock troopers that consume their own heroes in movies and music may succeed in getting one of their own elected in 2016.

In the end, if we can’t save the culture in this country from them, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.

 

-SM-

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Politics of Design & Why It Matters More Than Ever

The Wilderness  |  Issue 48  | 4 . 23 . 15 |

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The need to present Hillary Clinton as the candidate best suited for the country going forward, and not the one that reminds us of our past, is one that her campaign clearly believes is their top priority right now. This was evidenced by her lifting lines directly from Marco Rubio’s announcement speech a day after hers about a “21st century America” and building “An economy for tomorrow” at a roundtable in Iowa. Clinton opted for a mostly-digital roll out that she barely made an appearance in. A much younger, much more affable Rubio took to a stage to remind an audience that yesterday is over.

The line stung.

Being the aged candidate of yesterday is a label Hillary Clinton cannot shake on her own. She’s been part of the national and international political scene since long before a youthful generation of millennials have even been able to cast a vote in a national election. On top of that she’s facing a new crop of GOP candidates that have an entire blank slate to work from. For the first time in generations the political board has been completely flipped upside down. The Democrats find themselves saddled with geriatric establishment candidates who will be forced to overcome their messaging of the past. In order to accomplish this, they will turn to the symbolic visual identity that made Barack Obama an iconic force in American Culture. Clinton opted for a roll out that resembled a product launch, not a political campaign. There was a very specific reason for this and it has everything to do with how Obama changed the political landscape forever.

The gamble they are taking is that young voters on college campuses and pop stars will rally around a corporate brand once again, not the flawed message of the candidate themselves. It’s a game they have won overwhelmingly twice already. But the important thing to remember is single letter qualifiers didn’t start with Barack Obama’s iconic O logo. It started in 2004, with a W.

ObamaLogosEarly on, Obama’s team still didn’t have the game completely figured out.  It took David Axelrod contacting partners at a high design firm in Chicago to come in and clean up Obama’s identity. At the time, Facebook was still relatively young, Twitter was a celebrity promotional tool no different than MySpace, and the idea of political branding was almost completely nonexistent. The need for an all-encapsulating logo was restricted to stars and stripes on bumper stickers and buttons. Obama’s young team of forward-thinking advisors engaged experts in marketing to gauge the future of online branding.

What they knew is that Barack Obama was a blank slate that voters, if sold the right way, would attach whatever meaning they wanted to. There is this impression that Barack Obama was always this cool and media savvy candidate and his advisors all just sat around in awe at his political sermons. We think of him like that because they want us to – by design.

Obama has never been forward-thinking or revolutionary as it comes to liberal politics. It feels that way, because he is packaged that way. The attraction to Obama was almost based on branding alone. Had his team gone a different direction, with one of several rejected logos, the election could have in fact gone a very different direction.

Pre-Obama political design was much like anything else in pre-Obama politics: it wasn’t so much about branding ideas as a corporate identity, as it was an ornament to what the candidate was saying. We didn’t view candidates as a simple aside to whatever the advertising was around them. The branding was a complement to the candidate. With Obama, that paradigm was flipped. Political design was restricted to the candidate’s name and choice of serif or sans-serif font so it didn’t overshadow the message of the candidate themselves.

But Barack Obama didn’t have a lot to say.

The sloganeering he did sell he sold very well. He played his part perfectly as a spokesperson of a larger branding campaign, and for the most part still does. Obama’s marketing and his logo specifically acted as a shield for him to hide his rather extremist views and associations. People had to believe they weren’t voting for a candidate for President with very little background information and experience. They had to believe they were part of a movement. A pop culture phenomena. People want to be a part of fad movements because culture is like a comet. We never know when or even if these moments will come around again. The gravitational pull to belong to it becomes irresistible. If a candidate allows themselves to be defined by the branding around them, they become a symbol. They become Pepsi or Nike or a sports team, creating lifelong, loyal fans, not voters. That’s what defines the success behind Barack Obama. Barack Obama’s worldview is irrelevant when Shepard Fairey is immortalizing him into pop culture.

This was just another area (along with voter outreach and data mining) where the Obama team, through very good market calculations, were able to reduce the GOP to the party of constantly trying to catch up. Barack Obama came across to impressionable consumers as a popular product, not a politician, and it immediately made John McCain look older than he already was. Mitt Romney’s branding identity was better. His team embraced cleaner and more modern design but in the end it just simply felt like they were ripping off Obama whose team had moved on to simple Gotham font and instagram filters. Voters will always choose “the real thing.”

The idea of this kind of political branding lionization won’t be going away.

In 2015, Hillary Clinton specifically is attempting the exact same type of campaign, even to the point of bringing on former Obama advisors to help rejuvenate her image. Within hours of announcing her candidacy, Hillary Clinton’s social media identity had changed over to a similar corporate branding identity, complete with website redesign logo. Gone is the stark black and white picture of her, hungover with Blackberry in hand, staring at mysterious emails that no long exist. Voters are now expected to buy into Hillary’s design entity, just as they were Obama’s.

The results thus far have been lukewarm at best.

Her logo was widely panned by design experts and critics and deservedly so. Like most things Hillary, it came across as someone trying too hard to capture the identity of someone they’re not. John Ekdahl of Ace of Spades observed on Twitter how Hillary Clinton chose Brooklyn, the design Mecca of the United States as her hip, young, cool, place to set up her campaign, but then rolls out a traditional and safe, boring design that incorporates almost nothing of what made Obama’s evolving brand successful. Users on Reddit even went so far as to completely redesign her logo using a Shutterstock image, and distributed it on social media hoping for the campaign to wake up and take notice. Graphic Designer, Rick Wolf created an entire typeface based on the logo which the Washington Post turned into a word generator. Conservatives had just as much, if not more, fun with this than devotees of Clinton. MS Paint or a hospital road sign seemed to be the prevailing go-to reactions as to what the Hillary ‘H’ evoked. Despite all the humorous attempts to modernize it, Hillary’s logo is lifeless, flat and immobile, all suitable (if not subconsciously telling) descriptions of the client it represents.

And yet: none of these criticisms actually matter. They miss the point entirely.

The actual design of the logo is irrelevant compared to the collective purpose it serves and why. It’s not the logo that matters, it’s what the consumer projects onto it. Like any other logo or brand design, you have to understand the motivations of the designer.

Michael Bierut, the founder of Design Observer and co-partner at Pentagram (yes, Hillary’s campaign contracted a design firm named Pentagram) is the chief design architect behind Hillary’s logo and one of the giants in the design industry. He’s familiar to just about any design professional or, at the very least, to anyone who has seen the 2007 documentary Helvetica. “A lot of what we see happening in a logo isn’t actually happening in a logo – it happens in our own mind,” Bierut states in a short interview for Design Indaba (video above). “What’s interesting, particularly, about that kind of telegraphic communication is that it it is inherently participatory.” This is the clearest explanation as to why political candidates, post-Obama, should feel the need for any kind of logo to begin with, and why a branding identity is now so vital to their success.

“You’re sort of taking all that experience you’ve had with that product or that institution or whomever that symbol represents and you’re imposing it onto what can be very simple shapes that really have no inherent meaning at all.” From here on out and for the rest of her political life, for better or worse, Hillary is stuck with that H.

The branding resonance that grew up around the branding of Barack Obama felt organic (it wasn’t). With a 67-year-old Hillary Clinton it already feels forced and is perhaps the most symbolic struggle so far of why Clinton will struggle between siphoning off Obama’s youthful pop culture iconography, while trying to distance herself from his very real policy failures and stake out her own positions as the grand elder stateswoman and not his third term. The media, along with the DNC, have admitted that their goal is to “Kardashianize” Hillary Clinton: embed her so far into the pop-culture consciousness of the country that Election Day is all but a foregone conclusion. The forward-pointing H is meant to protect Hillary from her lack of record and shady associations, just as Obama’s shield did for his. It will be a much more difficult task for her to achieve than it was for him, but it may not matter if she reaches brand status.

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This is the game we all are forced to play now. Candidates aren’t just pushing their policy positions anymore. They are pushing their identity as brands. The exact same way Pepsi Cola or a celebrity would. Sunday morning appearances on talk shows with dwindling audiences aren’t good enough. There must be a presence on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, Pinterest and Reddit that goes beyond their basic political messaging. This is the reason good branding is so crucial and why members of media circle around and breathlessly try to breakdown the meaning of why Rand Paul’s logo resembles Tinder (it doesn’t) or why Ted Cruz’s logo looks like a tear drop (it does). Marco Rubio’s team abandoned bold logo design almost completely, opting for a design identity that would be fresh – if his 2016 online store sold home pregnancy tests.

So far all three declared GOP candidate campaigns are opting for a more traditional design identity while, for better or worse, Hillary’s arrow is instantly recognizable. Notice: I didn’t include either Hillary’s 2016 logo or Obama’s in this piece, and yet most people reading this already have both seared into their minds, and that’s the overall value provided by this new age of political branding.

GOP candidates have caught up and caught on but they ignore the importance of brand recognition when it comes to their campaigns at their own peril. Come 2016 the country will be looking for a new identity, and it may just decide to settle on the one they recognize the most.

 

 

– SM –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain America: Marco Rubio Has a Story to Tell

The Wilderness | Issue 47 | 4 . 13. 15 |
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The best thing that happened to Marco Rubio was being passed up in 2012 as Mitt Romney’s running mate. His American story would have been eclipsed and pushed into the background of a campaign that never could overcome the image of a cardboard millionaire burning dollar bills for fun and killing people with Bain cancer.

And Marco Rubio most definitely has a story to tell.

It’s a story that doesn’t require checking off the Cherokee Indian nationality box on Harvard application for him to tell it. His upbringing by blue collar immigrant parents is the story Barack Obama wishes he could sell during his immigration march. Rubio’s father worked and raised him on a bartender’s tips and his mother, a hotel maid, two people today that Hillary Clinton would describe as simple servants. Marco Rubio’s rise is an American story, and a country searching for a new star as opposed to an old face, is primed to listen if he tells it right. He comes off like the Matt Damon character in The Adjustment Bureau. Always on an upward trajectory, becoming successful by the sheer force of his magnetic personality and the sense that higher powers are guiding his way. But there’s also trepidation that comes along with him.

He always feels like a guy you could embarrass with a dirty joke. We tried that in 2012 with a candidate who was happy to not only pull his punches, but also pick his enemy up and then wonder why he was sucker punched over and over again. There are undeniable similarities between Rubio and Mitt Romney that go beyond Rubio hiring Romney’s room of advisers. Rubio can’t sit back and talk of the sweeping promise of America alone as the Buzzfeeds and late night shows try to embrace Hillary Clinton. He has to be more and the people he has surrounded himself with better have learned from their 2012 mistakes. Rubio, along with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are generational Republicans. They have a real, genuine opportunity to convert a waning Democrat electorate for a decade or more, but they have to start engaging younger voters, not talk at them.  This is where Marco Rubio can make his run and why he’s uniquely suited for the times.

He is the first Generation X candidate to run for President.

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When he visited Google to talk the future of innovation last year, he didn’t look out-of-place or like another Washington stuffed suit. He understands the developments of the technology industry and the limitless possibilities of growth, if innovation is left alone to create and design. He’s not peering over his reading glasses at the guys from Google. He grew up with them.

This also translates over to culture for him and at this point in the race, it’s the only thing that matters. He’s a mega fan of Tupac Shakur, Public Enemy and N.W.A and in preparing for the fight ahead, he would be much wiser heeding their advice over the swath of former Romney 2012 advisors he’s targeting. Rubio stated in a GQ interview in 2012 that among his favorite songs Straight Outta Compton was his favorite, and More punks I smoke, yo, my rep gets bigger is exactly how he should position himself  because that’s what it’s going to take to defeat Hillary Clinton. Last month while Clinton was immersed in an email scandal that could see her testify before congress in the midst of her candidacy, there was only one outlet brave enough to ask her questions as she strolled through Reagan National Airport – TMZ.  Hillary conveniently ignored the reporter’s questions.

When TMZ caught up with Marco Rubio and asked him to compare Rapper Lil Wayne to Tupac, not only did he not ignore, he articulated the difference between the two:

Rubio is a Republican who can talk to a TMZ paparazzi reporter about hip hop while walking with a smile on his face. Yes Team Grandma, you are terrified and you should be.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the DNC are certainly welcome to make the case that these comparisons are trivial, but this is the tone they’ve set for the past six years. Marco Rubio’s humored responses on hip hop culture matter because the pop culture presidency of Barack Obama has made them matter. If there is one candidate in the field that can illuminate the stark contrast of the generational divide that exists between a 69 year old Hillary Clinton and a country growing more obsessed with youth culture and the growing problems facing it, it’s Rubio. That’s the part of his personality he needs to add to his sweeping pontification on the promise of America. He has to approach voters with more than just a memory of a dead President, gone long before some of them were born.

Less Reagan’s ghost. More Ghostface Killah.

Rubio’s message has to be about more than attaining the American Dream through hard work and getting a job. He can sell a vision of optimistic idealism through hard work but he can’t do it sounding like the buzz killing Republican dad turning off the video game and yelling at a tuned out electorate to go get a job. This was the problem Mitt Romney couldn’t overcome. Rubio can orate better than any candidate entering the 2016 field. But rhetoric on the promise of American renewal isn’t going to be enough. The promise simply feels faded for far too many people after eight years of Barack Obama’s magical mystery tour. He has to give people (and more importantly young people) incentive and he can but he has to do it on their terms. To connect, Rubio has to motivate a disenfranchised American public where 92 million don’t have a job and many of which are content to keep it that way because their entitlements pay better. He has to make people want to get a job, pursue a career, and follow a dream. It’s not an easy task but it is possible. A great example of selling that kind of message the right way came from Kevin Kline’s jobs speech from the movie Dave:

Rubio has that kind of ability, to captivate a room, but he’s going to have to get dirty and admit hard truths to people and he has to be willing to do it in venues most suited for him. That means sitting down for interviews, side by side  with his stunning wife, Jeanette (a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader), on Univision and Telemundo instead of Good Morning America and Meet the Press. It means engaging on Facebook and Reddit (as all 2016 candidates should be doing) in both English and Spanish. It means speaking on college campuses and more importantly, community college campuses. It means becoming the guy in Pennsylvania and Ohio that blue collar men and women can talk football with. Rubio can harness his love of Eminem as a weapon to reach into the dilapidated warehouses and homes of Detroit. He can connect with African American communities, not by talking to them about federal debt, but Public Enemy and Kanye West. These are the strengths other candidates simply don’t have. Jeb Bush has thus far been articulate and safe but won’t swing a cultural needle much either way. Scott Walker runs the risk of being written off as typical Republican white bread. Ted Cruz is making his play for the Santorumcons and Rand Paul is attempting to grow a depleted base of youth voters from the depths of internet out. There is room in the street for Rubio if he wants it.

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His other strength is none of the potential GOP candidates have had the practice run against someone like Clinton. Marco Rubio has, having dispensed limousine loving, ventriloquist dummy Charlie Crist to the political ash heap. Crist and Clinton are cut from the exact same elitist cloth, believing themselves entitled and destined, the voters be damned. Both of them have gotten creamed in elections staking out that position by someone an electorate found more charismatic and in tune with everyday values.

The country is currently in the middle of the American Idol phase of 2016. As each candidate enters, the press will give them their hazing in the hopes of protecting a 70 year old retread that most of the country has already made their mind up about, even if her former campaign manager hasn’t. There is plenty of time for Rubio to explain his immigration failures and demonstrate his Foreign policy credentials in an election that is almost certainly going to be centered on a world crumbling at the feet of Barack Obama. But Rubio now, just like the other candidates entering the race, should be focused on getting his story told because today in America, there are more people growing up as Marco Rubio did, rather than Chelsea Clinton.

There is no doubt who has dominated and shaped American pop culture for the past decade. But as Obama exits, so does the ability to keep the culture calcified around him. Now “the party of cool” is stuck with a senior citizen bobbing her head along to verses of Fleetwood Mac and Carole King, all while a young fresh faced Republican senator from Florida is quoting Jay Z and Wiz Khalifa from memory from the floor of the Senate:

“That takes me back to another modern-day poet by the name of Jay-Z and one of the songs he wrote: ‘It’s funny when seven days can change, it was all good just a week ago, well I don’t know if it was all good a week ago, but I can tell you that things have really changed, because if the president was George W. Bush and this was a question being asked of him and his response was the silence we’ve gotten, we’d have a very different scenario here tonight.”

If Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to position themselves as the Netflix Elite, partying and laughing along with Frank Underwood, let them do it. Rubio is the rare politician who can play the role of America’s once and future son, connecting on a blue collar level without resorting to class warfare and taking a message of visceral hope to a cynical generation of voters that have truly never been spoken to before. The alternate choice is a press pass into John Podesta’s luxury living room. No candidate entering the 2016 GOP field has a higher ceiling, but ultimately Marco Rubio has to be willing to take the gloves off if he wants to reach it.

In the immortal words of Public Enemy, Marco Rubio must bring the noise.

 

 

– SM –