The Problem with Pete

There are a lot of attacks coming in on Pete Buttigieg on Left Twitter lately, and it makes sense. He’s polling very well in the (very white) states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Pete started out the race running more as a progressive, but over the course of the primary season, it’s become clear that he can’t compete with Warren or Bernie in that lane, and it’s also become clear that Biden is not an unstoppable force as a moderate. So Pete changed his approach and is now trying to appeal to moderate Democrats. We can argue all day about why the moderate Democrat approach is nonsensical and we need progressive solutions, but that’s not this article. You can point out that Pete seems phony or that his arguments are in bad faith (like saying we can’t support free college because then rich kids might want free college, which A) the Ivy League ain’t free and that’s where they’re going; and B) we support all kinds of public works that the wealthy can use and no one complains), but again, that’s not this article. Pete is trying to win votes in a primary election and is strategizing to get them.

The problem with Pete is that he’s a poor candidate for a general election. Pete is the guy if you think that all it takes to win the general election is a few hundred thousand white voters who have soured on Trump but would switch back to a Democrat as long as they don’t do anything radical like suggesting the USA should join the rest of the developed world and give its citizens healthcare. However, there are two massive issues here.

The first is that Pete polls terribly with black voters. He’s struggling with the black electorate, and that electorate is essential. Pundits worship at the altar of the white working class male, and I’m not saying those votes are unimportant, but those are the reach votes. The votes you have to get first are black people. They are the Democratic base and they will win you an election (just ask Doug Jones). We can talk all day about suburban women and college-educated whites and so forth, but if you don’t get black people to turn out for you, you’re toast, and Pete is doing horribly with black people.

The second issue is experience. Even if Pete can somehow get to the White House, he has no experience with the federal government. It will either be a crash course on the job or the donor class will just tell him which levers to pull. Is a donor-controlled Pete better than Trump? Sure. An overflowing toilet is better than Trump. But Pete doesn’t appear to have enough experience or an agenda. The reason there’s backlash against him right now is that he seems an empty vessel for the donor class who would still very much like their tax breaks and little regulation, but would prefer it if the President wasn’t a loudmouthed idiot.

But again, I don’t think Pete will even make it that far even if he can pull out a win in the primary. I think Pete supporters seem him as another Obama–an inspiring outsider who connects with middle-America–but he’s not that guy and even if he was, it’s not 2008 anymore. Our country is facing serious crises and needs big solutions. There’s a part of the country that doesn’t see those issues because it doesn’t really affect them all too much, so incremental change is fine. But that kind of approach is inspiring to no one, and the black community already appears wise to Pete’s act. Pete may think that if he can run the table in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, let Biden take South Carolina, and then beat him in a longer primary. It’s a strategy. But it’s a strategy that won’t beat Trump and if Buttigieg or Biden win the primary, I expect our national nightmare will continue for another four years.

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 Uncategorized No Comments

The Upside of Fixed Opinion

As we head towards the first Democratic primaries in the midst of an impeachment inquiry, I think Democrats should note that they have a tactical advantage: the polling on Trump doesn’t move. He remains around 40%. It may go up to 43% or it may sink as slow at 37%, but despite all the scandals he’s created in the first three years of his presidency, opinion is fixed.

For some, this may seem infuriating and like nothing matters. I would counter that Trump is and always has been a polarizing figure. Clinton miscalculated in 2016 by thinking that Trump’s clear unfitness for the Presidency would sway voters, but she was wrong. She was wrong by a narrow margin in the wrong states, but she was wrong. People in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania knew who Trump was; they just didn’t think it was that bad. They wanted to shake up the establishment and Clinton didn’t provide the change they wanted. Trump was a wild card, but one that white people were willing to play because being white means you’ve got a security blanket to protect you from the societal consequences of your actions.

But the immovability of Trump’s numbers is a boon to the Democratic candidate because they don’t have to try and say why Trump is bad. At this point, you either know it or you don’t, and again, the polling bears this out. And Trump knows it too because the only way he can win isn’t by improving his favorability, but by dragging down his opponent so that the average voter thinks “They’re all crooks, I’ll just stay home.” This makes a course of action dead simple for the Democratic nominee: just run a positive campaign saying what you’ll do for voters. Play up affordable health care. Play up affordable college. Play up rooting out corruption in the system.

The mistake would be to repeat Clinton’s error and make it all about Trump, because when he’s the center of attention, he just counterpunches and makes things uglier. The best thing you can do is ignore him, and I know that’s difficult (I admit to calling him a “whiny bitch” on Twitter earlier today). But fighting Trump directly to highlight why he’s bad won’t work. At best, you have to treat him like a normal candidate, which again seems counter-intuitive, but it’s bad ground for him to stand on because when cast as a normal politician, he’s helpless. He has no command of the issues and can’t fight back because he doesn’t understand anything. So if you’re talking about Trump’s policies, talk about how his trade war harms farmers. Talk about how his tax cuts only benefit the rich. Talk about policy, not the person, because opinion on the person is fixed. It’s not moving, and I hope that the overpaid democratic consultants are smart enough to see why that gives them the advantage.

Friday, November 15th, 2019 politics No Comments

Good Luck

There’s been some really good writing lately about Andrew Luck’s surprise decision to retire two weeks before the 2019 season begins. Understandably, some “fans” are upset about this. If you remove all the individuality and humanity from the players (and the NFL would like nothing more than a bunch of mindless automatons who spout brand nonsense, plug merch, defend the shield, and then go away quietly to die), then yeah, losing Andrew Luck is a blow. I can imagine a lot of folks who follow the Colts are less than pleased right about now.

Personally, I wish Luck all the best, and I think he’s making the right call. I’ve tried putting myself in the shoes of Colts fans and imagined how I would react if my favorite player, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan, suddenly retired two weeks before the season began. And I would certainly be bummed about it, but I would hope that I would wish Ryan well as I wish Luck good fortune in going forward.

These men don’t owe us anything. If you’re a season ticket holder or someone who pays for a DirecTV subscription so you can watch your team, that’s all you’re entitled to–watching the team. You aren’t entitled to victories or even seeing your favorite players suit up. The only difference between Luck retiring and Luck getting catastrophically injured is that he’s making the choice that’s good for his life rather than getting obliterated for my entertainment and sending folks scrambling to retool their Fantasy Football lineup.

Football is an incredibly guilty pleasure. We all know what we’re watching and what it costs. We try to justify it to ourselves by saying the players get paid a lot of money and they get to be beloved and they get to play a game, but at the end of the day, we know what this is: disgustingly wealthy white guys making lots of money off gladiatorial combat in the 21st century. And that’s not to diminish the athletic accomplishments of the players or the strategies of the coaching staff, but we’re engaging in a dirty bargain for entertainment that chews up its labor force at an astonishing rate. Andrew Luck decided he didn’t want to be part of that system anymore. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live,” he said.

A hard truth is that most of us don’t get to live the lives we want to live, and it’s easy to feel resentment towards someone like Luck who was paid tens of millions of dollars to play a game. But should Luck be miserable because other people are miserable? Should he sacrifice his body and his brain so that we can have a few fleeting hours of entertainment once a week?

If every player behaved like Andrew Luck, the NFL would be gone, and that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world (and I say that as someone who loves watching the Falcons and dutifully tunes in for every game I can). We would not be hard-up for entertainment. We would not be hard up for sports. Andrew Luck doesn’t owe anyone anything except to those closest to him. He shouldn’t be booed for leaving the field. He should be cheered.

Monday, August 26th, 2019 brilliant, sports No Comments

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

I finished Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End tonight, and while I don’t want to say that it’s an overrated franchise, but all the games are the same! Some of the plot beats change, but the structure is pretty much identical, and the gameplay has never evolved. Like, it’s great that they came up with destructible environments, but it’s the same game over four installments–climbing and combat involving chest-high walls. It’s also hard to credit the game with strong storytelling when Nathan Drake is all personality. Judging by his actions, he’s the world’s worst treasure hunter. The idea behind Nathan Drake seems to be “What if Indiana Jones but he ruins every place he visits and kills 600 people?” At least Indiana Jones bumped off Nazis or Cultists–people who would do evil things even if Indiana Jones wasn’t around. Nathan Drake just kills other treasure hunters! He has no more right to the treasure than they do, but I guess they have to die. My hero.

Anyway, these games are fun for what they are (I can’t imagine being so hard up more that I’d play The Lost Legacy or Golden Abyss), but it’d be baffling to pay $60 for it. I paid $10 and thought that was a fair price. It would also be worth a rental if I had a GameFly subscription.

Image via Naughty Dog
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019 videogames No Comments

USWNT

In bleak times such as these (and yes, I am well aware it can get so much bleaker than this), I’ve come quickly latch onto any joy I can find, and these past few weeks, it’s been the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) at the Women’s World Cup.

A quick disclaimer: I am not a soccer guy. I have nothing against the sport; I am just not an aficionado in any way, shape, or form. I get the basics of the game, but I couldn’t break it down for you with any specifics. But between Atlanta United winning the MLS Cup and now this, I’m getting more into soccer. I will hop on any bandwagon.

But there’s also the thrill of watching this team of women unapologetically kick ass. When people asked if Megan Rapinoe really meant that they were snubbing the White House, she stood by it. When people criticized Alex Morgan for the egregious crime of miming a sip of tea after scoring on England, she stood by it. These women are the best in the world at their jobs, and they know it.

And it’s good to see that kind of pride. While there’s so much in the world to bum us out, I can’t help but take comfort in their swagger. It has felt lousy to be an American ever since November 9, 2016. And yes, the warm feeling following USWNT’s World Cup win will fade. But for now, it feels great and I’m going to revel in it. These are the times when sports are good.

Sunday, July 7th, 2019 brilliant, sports No Comments

Titanfall 2

So I beat Titanfall 2 last night, and it’s a weird game. Not weird in the “Let me scour the deepest recesses of Steam for the most indie game I can find” way, but weird in how it’s ostensibly a AAA game that’s just a bizarre hodgepodge of ideas that kind of works and yet also feels like a demo for a more substantial game. It combines these desperate game mechanics like wall-running/platforming in first person (I’m not a fan, but I can see how some folks would enjoy it), mech battles, and one level that has you jump across time periods, and any one of these seems like it could be enough for its own game, and yet they’re combined into a relatively short experience (it took me 12 hours to beat it because I am bad at video games, and I learned I should never be a streamer because no one wants to watch me be bad at video games).

It’s not a bad game, although its depressing to see what passes as story in video games. Yes, the relationship between your character and your mech is nice, but the uniqueness is trampled upon by yet another scrappy resistance fights the evil aliens/government/corporation/etc. narrative. I could not tell you three things about the main character, and while I understand that he’s a bit of a blank slate so you can project onto him, aren’t we a little past that? If you’re going to give him a voice actor and his own name rather than a mute where you give them a name like in a 90s RPG, give me a real narrative and not just scrappy pilot partners up with giant robot to kill a bunch of people. That’s fine for what it is, but it doesn’t make for a particularly memorable experience.

titanfall-2

Image via EA

Friday, June 21st, 2019 videogames No Comments

The Warren Conundrum

As 2019 rolls along and various Democratic candidates make their pitch in a crowded field, I keep being impressed by Elizabeth Warren. Before I go any further, I should make clear two things:

1) Every Democratic candidate has their flaws. There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate and looking for someone who passes a 100% purity test is a vainglorious exercise.

2) I will vote for whomever the Democratic nominee for President is. To vote for Trump, vote third party, or to not vote at all (which is basically a vote for Trump because he succeeds when voter turnout is depressed) is morally reprehensible. To not vote for the Democratic nominee is to say that there were good Nazis in Charlottesville and that throwing children in cages is okay. If that’s your morality, so be it, but don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

That being said, I think Elizabeth Warren has emerged as the only serious candidate among a crowded field. Biden has way too much crappy baggage. Sanders has big plans but doesn’t seem to really have a handle on the policy. Buttigieg doesn’t seem to recognize the shortcomings of his policies towards race, and scaling up from South Bend, Indiana to the U.S. could have serious consequences in a racially diversifying nation. I could go on and on, but I want to talk about why I like Warren.

Warren knows her shit. She recognizes the problems facing our country and comes up with good policies to help them. The Native American thing was a major unforced error, but if you think that was anywhere near as bad as anything Trump has done, you are a total fucking idiot and nothing I can say will ever change your mind.

My concern about Warren is that she’s too good, and the systemic misogyny and idiocy of our country won’t let her win. People say they care about policy, but that is a lie. Our Presidential race is a popularity contest, and the media needs it to be a horserace so you’ll keep watching. They can’t make Trump better, so they’ll just say Warren (or whomever the nominee is) is just as bad. What was Hillary Clinton’s cardinal sin in the reporting? She misused e-mail. This somehow became the basis for an entire narrative that she was untrustworthy so folks should just stay home or roll the dice on a guy who had to pay $25 million for his fake university, but was somehow less untrustworthy.

You can argue that Trump now has a record to defend, but Trump doesn’t operate in reality. He just lies and lies and lies and nothing touches him. People won’t hold him accountable just like they didn’t hold George W. Bush accountable for lying us into a war. Americans like incumbents because they don’t demand anything of us. Change is scary, and if you don’t have to force it, go with the devil you know. And if the media tells you one candidate is just as rotten as the other, then does it even really matter? May as well stay home and be content that you’re above such nonsense. Sure, people are suffering, but they’re not people you know. You’ll never meet an immigrant child who has been separated from their parents. You’ll never be near a white supremacist rally. As long as the economy is stable, your life is fine.

Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic, but I’m looking at the variables and I don’t see what changes the status quo. I think the problems Warren would face are similar to what others would face (again, compounded by misogyny) but it’s particularly infuriating because she’s showing she’s the real deal. And we’re going to let her pass us by because we’re too foolish to understand how doomed we are if we continue on this current course.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 politics No Comments

2019 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: The Favourite

Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Best Actor

Will Win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: Christian Bale, Vice

Best Actress

Will Win: Glenn Close, The Wife

Should Win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Should Win: Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Should Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: First Reformed

Should Win: First Reformed

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma

Best Costumes Design

Will Win: Black Panther

Should Win: Black Panther

Best Editing

Will Win: Vice

Should Win: The Favourite

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Will Win: Vice

Should Win: Vice

Best Score

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Should Win: If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Song

Will Win: “Shallow”, A Star Is Born

Should Win: “Shallow”, A Star Is Born

Best Production Design

Will Win: Black Panther

Should Win: Black Panther

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: A Quiet Place

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: Roma

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: First Man

Should Win: First Man

Best Animated Film

Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Should Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma

Best Documentary

Will Win: RBG

Should Win: Minding the Gap

Best Documentary Short

Will Win: Black Sheep

Best Animated Short

Will Win: Bao

Best Live-Action Short

Will Win: Marguerite

Friday, February 22nd, 2019 movies No Comments

My Best Features of 2018

I’m trying to learn how to push my own work, so apologies if this comes off as arrogant or self-centered. These were the articles I was most proud of in 2018:

In Defense of Physical Media: Why You Should Keep Buying Blu-rays and DVDs

Annihilation Explained: Unpacking Alex Garland’s Brilliant, Trippy Sci-Fi Horror Film

Good Movies Are Overrated

Love, Simon and the Necessary Death of the “Nice Guy”

‘God of War’ and Why Fans Don’t Always Know What’s Best

Why ‘Westworld’ Doesn’t Earn Its Cynical View of Humanity

‘The Fugitive’ at 25: Hollywood Doesn’t Make This Kind of Movie Anymore, and That’s a Shame

The Differences between the Four Versions of ‘A Star Is Born’, Explained

Netflix Should Push Kathryn Hahn for a Best Actress Oscar Nomination for ‘Private Life’

No, You Don’t “Need” to See ‘ROMA’ in a Theater

‘Green Book’ and the Importance of Feeling Bad

‘Green Book’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and Why It’s Important Who Tells Your Story

How ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Misses the Spirit of the Original

The Mid-Credits Scene of ‘Vice’ Is the Film’s Raison D’être

 

Monday, December 31st, 2018 criticism, movies, television No Comments

Your Vote Isn’t Just About You

I was planning on writing this post for a while now, but since we’re only a week away from Election Day and NY Mag decided to go ahead and post this headache-inducing piece, I figured I’d take care of it now.

You can see from this piece, there are 12 young people who seem to think their vote is about them. It’s about their beliefs, their ailments, their motivations, and on the one hand, I can understand why they responded this way. They were asked, “Why aren’t you voting?” and so they took an individualistic approach to explain their personal motivations. But what’s revealing is that they think their personal motivations are what matters, and that’s the problem.

There seems to be an issue where people think their vote is solely about them. To some extent, that is true. You are a political actor, and a vote is a political choice. Your choices typically reflect your values, so your values are the ones that matter here. But that’s an extremely myopic way to view a vote, because a vote isn’t really just about you. You may vote to accomplish certain ends—voting for a candidate who opposes abortion because you oppose abortion, or voting for a candidate because they support gun control and you support gun control.

But these actions take place in a larger society, and at the end of the day, your vote is really about society, not your individual place within that society. If you’re a typical voter—i.e., not a big-money donor who can call up a politician because they have to take your call—then your vote should really be about doing the most amount of good for the most amount of people. When you take yourself out of that process, you create a harmful act by omission. You leave the responsibility to others because for whatever reason you won’t carry it yourself.

And that’s why these 12 young voters are so infuriating. They’re not thinking about the consequences of a vote; they’re thinking only about themselves. They can only see as far as their own place in society and not society as whole. I don’t know if they haven’t read a news story in the last two years, but voting clearly has consequences. I don’t know how a Hillary Clinton presidency would have turned out, but I can say with reasonable certainty that there wouldn’t be babies in cages and plans to strip trans citizens of their identity.

If your big takeaway from these things is, “I’m not a baby in a cage or a trans citizen,” then you have failed as a citizen. Go to the voting booth and think about how your vote affects others, not just yourself.

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 politics No Comments
 

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