« February 2021 »

Memo to stressed out liberals: OK, HERE’S HOW MUCH YOU CAN RELAX NOW.

One of the exhausting parts of four years under Trump was having to pay attention to literally everything he and his government did, whether you could do anything about it or not.

The moment this crystallized for me was when Trump instituted the Muslim ban, and the airport protests that followed. This was early days. We were all worried. We all thought bad shit was going down, and we thought maybe we could take action to stop it. One of these things turned out to be true.

The word “doomscrolling” hadn’t been coined yet, but that’s when I first experienced it. And from that point on, whenever I checked Twitter and saw a number of unread tweets that was out of proportion with the time I’d spent away from Twitter, I got anxious. Felt dread. Wondered “who the fuck is he hurting now?”

It wasn’t always bad. Sometimes it wasn’t even politics. One time it was because he got COVID, and that was pretty awesome. But most of the time, Trump was using the power of the government to be needlessly cruel to some group of people. And looking away felt like betrayal.

So, when he left office, we all relaxed. How could we not? That omnipresent threat was gone. We didn’t have to pay attention to everything our government did at every moment. And we still don’t. But the bad news is, we can’t go back to how relaxed we were pre-Trump, because for most of us - the white, comfortable us - that was too damned relaxed.

So, five weeks into the Biden administration, how much do you get to relax? About 70%. Be 30% more alert than you were under Obama, because, while Biden isn’t up to a LOT of shit, he’s definitely up to SOME shit. Specifically:


Gotta admit, this one surprised me a bit. We just carried out military strikes in Syria. Do we know why? Not really. Are we allowed to? Not really. Is anyone going to stop us? Nope. I assume it’s being justified under the post-9/11 forever war rules that says we can bomb anyone we want in the Middle East whenever we want and everyone from both parties pretty much nods and goes along with it, but that’s still some bullshit.

I mean, it’s funny. Centrist Dems and Republicans will make bad faith arguments all day long about helping poor people with a program that might also incidentally help some less poor people, but don’t bat an eye when we drop bombs to kill militants that might also incidentally kill less militant people. Funny, that.


The COVID stimulus bill is still being argued over. Credit where credit is due, for the most part, it seems to be theater - a play for bipartisanship to make Joe Manchin and the other, more conservative Republicans look bad.But it’s still slowing things down, and all most people see is that the people who promised $2,000 checks as soon as they were in power still haven’t gotten $1,400 checks out five weeks later. Is that fair? Not necessarily. But this ain’t a situation where fairness matters.

And with this, and even more so the student debt forgiveness, it’s the Democrats who are making the awful argument that we should target or means test the help instead of just handing it out and then maybe taxing rich people later to get it back.

Democrats think they look better to some shrinking-to-the-point-of-mythical pool of voters who, warped by decades of GOP framing, think that the moral and ethical ideal is to stop one undeserving person from receiving a benefit, even when doing so stops 10 deserving people from getting it and makes another 50 people miserable making them jump through bureaucratic hoops to prove they’re not the one undeserving guy. That moral calculus is rotten to the core and needs to be pushed out to sea on a flaming boat.


Obama-era policies on immigration and deportation were trash. They were such trash that when Republicans made false equivalencies to the intentionally racist and cruel ramping up of those policies under Trump, they came closer to having an actual point than they usually do.

Biden’s campaign promises on ending deportations have already been scaled back. They’ve opened a new “facility” for detaining children which I’m sure is much nicer than Trump’s “facilities” but, you know, is still a facility for detaining immigrant children. Maybe it’s necessary while we clean up Trump’s mess. Maybe it’s justifiable. But we can’t go in assuming that it’s necessary and justifiable. We need to pay attention and hold them accountable and not let them off because Trump was worse.


The Obama administration was also, for various reasons, pretty fucking bad on this. Slow-roll reforms like consent decrees can work, up to a point, but it’s small-scale and slow. And while it’s early days yet, signs aren’t great that Biden will be much better.

Why is this? Because during the presidential campaign and beyond, the mainstream wing of the Democratic Party has allowed Republicans to frame the “defund the police” slogan as a terrifying road to anarchy. And since Bill Clinton got elected, every single time Democrats have played into Republican scare tactics by toning things down, denying they support a progressive policy, etc., real structural change has gotten thrown under the bus. When it happens again with police reform, we need to be watching.

So, yeah, Relax. Enjoy the relief from near-constant outrage. It’s good for your sanity and your stamina. But hold back about 30% for now, and frankly, be ready to go higher if necessary. 2022 is right around the corner.

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