Thursday, May 05, 2022

A Quick Clarification on "Replace" (as in "Jews Will Not ...")

Apropos of nothing in particular, I thought it was worth noting an easily-overlooked elision that sometimes makes the antisemitic chant "Jews will not replace us" more opaque than it need be. 

Some hear the chant "Jews will not replace us" and, in addition to being appalled, are perplexed. How could Jews "replace" White people when there are so few of us?

The issue comes from an ambiguity in the term "replace". Imagine you're at a baseball game, and you hear the sentence "Smith replaced Jones on the pitcher's mound." That sentence could mean one of two things:

  1. Smith could be the relief pitcher; the person who takes Jones' place upon the latter leaving the game.
  2. Smith could be the manager; the person who made the call to remove Jones from the game.
In the context of "Jews will not replace us", I think the latter meaning is far more likely to be operative. Jews are posited to be the power-behind-the-scenes that is making the decision to "replace" White people. This, of course, does not require any particular numerical supremacy, and it fits well with general White Supremacist tropes that obsess about Jewish hyperpower and shadowy control. It merges, in turn, with paranoia about racial minority groups (particularly immigrants), who in the antisemitic imagination are being brought to America by Jews in order to replace White people (so the immigrants are the "replacers" in the first sense of the word). Fitted together thus, the chant "works" -- or works, at any rate, within the warped and hateful confines of the White supremacist imagination.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

On the Ohio Primaries (Vance, Mandel, Brown, and Turner)

Ohio's primaries are in the books. The two biggest stories, at least from my vantage, are J.D. Vance defeating Josh Mandel (and some other members of the clown car) for the GOP Senate nomination, and Shontel Brown stomping Nina Turner in their House rematch.

On the first: the choice between Vance and Mandel in the GOP primary has been a constant source of agony for me. Both are I think equally dangerous, and both are I think (sadly) favored to win the general against Democratic nominee Tim Ryan. So the only transient joy I knew I'd get would be that at least one of these sniveling spineless far-right weasel hacks would go down in ignoble primary defeat. But if forced to choose, which one did I most want to see humiliated?

There's an old psychologist's trick in situations like these where you're agonizing over a decision: you're just told an outcome and then measure your gut reaction to the news. On that front, when I first saw the initial returns suggesting Josh Mandel was going to lose, my immediate, uncontrolled, visceral response was elation. Yes, it's a bitter pill that J.D. Vance won. But Mandel is just absolutely loathsome, and has been for years. I joked (and it's barely a joke) that had he been elected, he potentially would have made history as the first Jew to ever be the most antisemitic member of the Senate. There are few people who more deserve crushing humiliation than him, and on a week like this I'll take the joy where I can get it (plus I think that Vance may be a marginally weaker candidate against Tim Ryan).

Which brings us to the Brown/Turner race, which Brown is winning by about 33 points (compared to a 6 point victory in their 2021 special election contest). Rematches like this -- a quick repeat of an close open-seat contest -- very rarely go well for the round one loser (see also: Rashida Tlaib/Brenda Jones), and it was hard to see what Nina Turner's path to victory was here. But then, it was hard to see what Turner's theory was for why Brown should be turned out of office so quickly other than "it is cosmically unfair that I am not in Congress already." The closest thing she has to a concession up on her Twitter is a retweeted rant from Marianne Williamson of all people blaming Turner's defeat on the "Democratic machine" and "abandonment by progressive Congressional leadership". One might think that if both the "machine" and the "progressives" have lined up against you, then you don't have much of a lane in Democratic Party politics. And maybe Turner agrees, since she's apparently now planning to parlay two consecutive losses in congressional races into an independent 2024 presidential run. Ugh ugh ugh. That woman's ego could power Trump Tower. 

Tell Me Who To Vote For, Portland Edition

It's primary season here in Oregon, and I'm new in town. Consequently, I don't know a ton about local politics here. I'm trying to learn -- I know that homelessness is, by far, the most important issue driving local politics, though I don't have a firm grasp on what the relevant policy divisions are -- but it probably won't happen in time for me to cast a ballot.

So I'll give the races I'm interested in and my preliminary lean, but I am open to more information and persuasion. If you're a Portlander and/or Oregonian, feel free to give me your take and/or efforts at persuasion.

Governor: Tina Kotek.

Of the two major candidates running, Kotek is the more progressive, but she's got a lot of institutional experience as former state house speaker. That's my sweet spot. Plus, the Oregonian endorsed her with the single hesitation that she may have been too ruthless in dealing with state Republicans, which, I have to be honest, I'm not viewing as a downside right now.

State Rep. (38th District): No lean

Daniel Nguyen vs. Neelam Gupta. It seems like Gupta is positioned as the relative progressive to Nguyen's moderate, but I don't have a strong sense of what that means in practice. To be honest, both of their campaign websites were pretty thin. Nguyen's seemed even thinner than Gupta's, but Nguyen seemed to have at least a little more experience. Maybe the tiniest lean towards Gupta, but a stiff breeze could push me the other way.

Bureau of Labor Commissioner: Christina Stephenson

Basing this solely on the Oregonian's endorsement, but they made a good case (and the other candidates they "considered" didn't really wow me).

Multnomah County Commission Chair: Sharon Meieran

A very soft lean here compared to Jessica Vega Pederson. Meieran represents my part of Portland on the city commission, and I like my part of Portland, so she gets some positive feelings off that. She also seemed to have non-platitude plans for dealing with issues like homelessness. Sharia Mayfield is pretty much out for me because she lacks significant political experience. Lori Stegmann doesn't grab me but you're welcome to make your case.

Multnomah County Sheriff: No lean

The Oregonian endorsed Nicole Morrisey O'Donnell, but there doesn't seem to be a lot between her and Derrick Peterson. Very open to persuasion here.

Portland Commissioner (Position 2): Dan Ryan 

Won a special election and now is the incumbent. Seems like a thoughtful guy doing a good job. AJ McCreary seems like the sort of activist-y tinged insurgent candidate that I worry won't actually be effective once in office.

Portland Commissioner (Position 3): Jo Ann Hardesty or Vadim Mozyrsky

Hardesty is the incumbent, and made her name securing some big wins for police accountability. That's worthwhile. But she also seems to have that simplistic activist-y mentality that drives me bonkers, and is limiting her ability to broaden her accomplishments. Simply intoning "it's developers' fault" isn't actually the basis for a policy reform. The Oregonian endorsed Rene Gonzalez, but criminalizing homelessness doesn't actually appeal to me, so he's out. Mozyrsky seems like a boring bureaucratic functionary type, which very much appeals to me, but I have no idea where he actually stands on anything. The Willamette Week's endorsement write-up captures my ambivalence well.

Portland Auditor: Simone Rede

It would take a lot for me to pick an Our Revolution/Green Party type (Rede's opponent, Brian Setzler) when there's a credible alternative in the Democratic field.

Metro Council President: Lynn Peterson

A light lean, but here my bias for experienced incumbents benefits the progressive over the centrist challenger (Alisa Pyszka). Peterson seems to have made some mistakes, but "I'm not her" isn't enough for me to back Pyszka, who seems far too tied to business interests for my tastes.

Metro Councilor, District 6: Duncan Hwang

Absolute slightest of lean here, based on incumbency. Both seem good. The Oregonian endorsed his opponent Terri Preeg Riggsby, but was impressed with both and their reasons for favoring Riggsby over Hwang didn't strike me as compelling.

How Gullible is Susan Collins?

As the implications of the Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion overturning Roe continue to reverberate, one major political figure has dialed up her concern-o-meter all the way to 11. Sen. Susan Collins claims she is shocked to see Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch voting to overturn Roe given their assurances made to her during the confirmation proceedings about their respect for precedent.

To be honest, I don't think Supreme Court justices can or should be bound to any "assurances" they made during their confirmation proceedings. But that's neither here nor there. What I'm really curious about is just how gullible Susan Collins actually is?

Seriously, I'm curious. On the one hand, it seems impossible to believe that she believed that Kavanaugh and Gorsuch wouldn't overturn Roe. She's shocked that what everyone knew and everyone told her actually came to pass? She thought that some bromide about "respecting precedent" would actually constrain them? Come on. Nobody is that stupid.

But ... well, maybe some people are that stupid. Or more aptly: one of the vices of being powerful is that it generates a feeling of insulation -- the bad things are never actually going to happen. If things are going well -- and if you're a powerful U.S. Senator, things are almost by definition "going well" for you -- it's hard to imagine that some of the privileges and entitlements you've taken for granted could just suddenly go away. It's the same complacency that's led some politicians, on both sides of the aisle, to shrug as the fabric of free and fair elections in America continues to fray. Of course we'll never stop being a democracy. That's unfathomable. And since it's unfathomable, what's the harm in letting others pull out another joist here or loosen another screw there? We're still in power, and so we can still pump the brakes if things get too far.

Until you can't. That's the thing people like Collins forget -- at some point, when the surrounding structure has gotten weak enough, she doesn't have the power to pump the brakes anymore. The fabric of reproductive freedom, just like the fabric of our democracy, requires work to maintain. But if you've gotten so used to its existence that it feels less like an ongoing project and more like a fact of the world, you forget that necessity.

So maybe Susan Collins really was that gullible. She got so used to the world as it is that she forgot to take the steps necessary to actually stop Roe from being reversed. It's complacency, and it's laziness, and it's arrogance, and it's hubris. And now it is all coming to roost. Congratulations, Susan Collins. Your tremendous credulity in the face of overwhelming evidence that, yes, obviously, these Justices would take an axe to Roe means that reproductive rights in America are now dead and gone.

Or maybe Collins doesn't actually care at all, and this "shock" is another one of her performances. Certainly, that hypothesis also has to remain live, since one can be sure that her tangible response to the Court overturning Roe will begin and end with a statement expressing shock. But I suppose when it comes to Susan Collins, the range of options always has lain somewhere between unfathomably gullible and sociopathically manipulative, without too much riding on where she actually falls.