Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hunting the Unicorn -- to Extinction

You ever see the movie Bedazzled?

The remake, not the original.

Elizabeth Hurley as The Devil.

Brendan Fraser as the hapless Elliot, who trades his soul for seven wishes – all of which keep going horribly wrong?

Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful and ends up a Colombian drug lord whose wife hates him and who is killed by his own men.

He then wishes to be famous and admired, and the Devil makes him into a seven foot tall world famous pro basketball player … and endows him with a “teenie weenie winkie.”

Determined to get it right, Elliot thinks carefully indeed when asking for his next wish…

Elliot: I wanna be smart. No, no, I wanna be really smart. And, uh, I wanna be able to talk good … well. What’s the word?

The Devil: Articulate?

Elliot: Articulate! Yeah, I wanna be articulate. And I want to be witty. Sophisticated. Charming. I want to know everything about everything. I want to be popular. Good looking. No, no make that great looking. And I want Allison to fall absolutely head over heels in love with me.

The Devil: Anything else?

Elliot: Like … what?

The Devil: Like winkie wise?

Elliot: Oh. Right. Um. Yeah. Well, um. I wanna be, uh, (grins shyly) I wanna be big. Nah uh, ah, not like practical joke big. But, you know, (pantomimes fist pumping like a piston) big. That clear?

The Devil: Crystal. You just say, “I wish,” and I’ll fill in the rest.

Elliot: Okay. I wish that I was witty and fu…

The Devil: Blah blah blah blah, you got it, Smarty Pants!

And Elliot gets everything he asked for. He’s intelligent, handsome, well spoken, admired, sophisticated and charming. He knows everything about everything. He’s the most popular man in every room. And he’s big, not practical joke big, but, you know, big. He’s a writer and he’s so good that his books win the Pulitzer before they are even published.

And the woman he wants falls instantly and madly in love with him.

Exactly as he asked.

Except, well,  like they say, the devil is in the details.

I said a thing.

It was a bad thing.

I did. I said a bad thing.

A terrible, no good, very bad thing.


I said, “show up and vote.”

Show up and vote, and you can win. Yep. That’s what I said.

I know, terrible, right? How could I? Show up, vote. What was I thinking?

In my defense, that’s how it’s supposed to work. The whole concept of America is based on that idea. Show up and vote. Throw the bastards out. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. But you’re not supposed to say it out loud. I guess it makes the people who didn’t show up feel uncomfortable or something. Whatever. It was a throwaway comment. Nothing particularly deep. Bumper sticker pithiness. Show up and vote. It’s not the first time I’ve said this. As I reminded Twitter, I said it before, in 2008, in 2010, in 2012, in 2014, in 2016…

I’ve said it, well, a lot.

Some folks, as noted above, were less than thrilled to be reminded.

This was several days ago, last week, before the state primaries and special elections. I was talking about the various candidates in various elections and naturally some defeatist started in with a litany of liberal woe. And I said, stop it. Just, stop it with that. Stop. I don’t want to hear about why you can’t vote. I’m telling you, again, show up and vote. Show the fuck up and vote and you can win. Look at Alabama, I said. Look at Western Pennsylvania. Look at what’s happening in Arizona. It doesn’t get any more rigged against liberals than there.

Of course, the game is rigged.

Of course, the other side cheats.

Of course, they’re doing everything they can to keep you from the polls.

Of course, they are. Of course. But if your vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be working so damned hard to keep you from exercising it. Get your ass to the polls, no matter what. Every time.

If you can win in Alabama, you can win anywhere.

If you goddamned liberals would just stop finding reasons to lose and show up and …



Oh. Right. Riiiight.

You’re already mad. I’m not even through the intro and you’re shouting at your screen. Gerrymandering! Rigged elections! Voter suppression! I live in a red state, my vote doesn’t count! And my particular favorite: Not all liberals, Asshole!

And you’re reaching for your keyboards.

I know. I know, I do. I hear you. Hey, I showed up at my polling station the last time, here the ultra conservative religious land of Florida’s District #1 and it was a huge Southern Baptist Church with Trump signs out front and poll workers wearing Trump shirts inside. I get it, man. Believe me, I do.

Hold that thought. Wait a second. I haven’t even gotten to really offensive part yet.

Look here, you tell me you show up.

But you don’t.

You don’t.

You show up for the presidential elections, once every four years.

But you don’t show up in the middle when it actually counts.

See, you, you liberals, you’ll stand in the freezing rain for a month to save the snowy spotted owl’s habitat, you’ll chain yourself to an oil tanker to protest drilling in the Arctic, you’ll occupy Wall Street. But you don’t show up when it actually counts.

Not enough of you anyway.

Folks, it’s idiotic to only show up for the one election where your vote – the popular vote – doesn’t actually do anything.

If you stand in the rain for a month because you care about something, but you don’t show up when your vote actually matters, to elect people who actually care about the same things you do, then you might as well just stay home and keep dry. Because if you don’t do the grunt work of democracy, if you don’t do your duty as a citizen of the republic, then all the marching and singing and protesting in the world isn’t going to do a goddamned thing.

It’s worse than useless to show up for the presidential election, but not the elections where your vote actually matters, i.e. local, state, and the mid-terms.

You have to show for every election. Every. Single. One. From school board to president. Every single time.

And don’t tell me that you do.

Because you don’t.

Liberals turned out in huge cheering masses in 2008.

Sure they did. And they elected Barack Obama. Hot damn. They were finally – finally – going to get everything they ever wanted. They were going to be smart and articulate, right? Witty. Sophisticated. Charming. They were going know everything about everything. They were going to be popular. Good looking. No, no make that great looking. Everybody was going to fall absolutely head over heels in love with them.

And they were going to be big

They were finally going to get that unicorn they’d been dreaming about all those years.

Except, well, see, the devil is in the details and unicorns are notoriously fickle creatures.


The unicorn slipped out of their grasp, as unicorns tend to do.

So in 2010, disappointed, they didn’t show up.

And they lost the House.

Liberals wanted a unicorn from Obama and they didn’t get it and they were all disappointed and depressed. Let down. Uninspired. So they didn’t show up. And the House went not just to Republicans, but to the Tea Party. Right wing fanatics. Conservative extremists. Fringe conspiracy nuts, racists, nationalists, jingoists, who hated government so intensely that they were determined to destroy it at all costs. Now, this wasn’t a surprise. The Tea Party didn’t exactly try to hide who and what they were. They were proud of it. They painted it on their misspelled signs in letters four feet high. They marched on Washington waving their guns and their bibles and told everybody who would listen what they were going to do once they got into power. It wasn’t a secret.

But it wasn’t enough to get liberals to show up either.

That’s what you told me back then.

It’s not enough to vote against something – no matter how terrible, that’s what you said. Fuck you, Jim, don’t try to scare us into voting. We want our unicorn. We deserve it, yes, we do. We’ve been marching and protesting for decades, now is our time. We want it and we’re not going to compromise. Liberals don’t just fall in line, Jim, you fascist. That’s what you told me. Liberals are smart, we think for ourselves, we want to be inspired.  There has to be more than just voting against the bad guys, more than just the lesser of evils. No, liberals have to vote for something,

That’s what you said.

And so, the House fell to the Tea Party, but at least you had your unicorn dreams to keep you warm at night.

Liberals showed up for the Presidential election in 2012 though.

Of course they did. Turns out the Tea Party was pretty damned shitty indeed. And so, it seems liberals could indeed vote against something if they had to. They turned out. Two years too late, and by then Obama was well and truly hobbled. But liberals were still hoping for a unicorn, somehow, someway. Magic, I guess. So they showed up and they voted, and reelected Obama in a landslide.

But, without the House, there was no damned way they were going to get their wishes.

Naturally they blamed Obama for not magically giving them everything they wanted anyway and so in 2014 they once again didn’t show up and so they lost the Senate.

And this time it wasn’t just the Tea Party. By not showing up, liberals handed congress over to the likes of Mitch McConnell – the very epitome, the foul distilled bitter essence, of every single thing they supposedly despise. They elected and reelected Obama, hoping for a unicorn, and then cut his legs off and tied his arms behind his back and hung Mitch McConnell around his neck.

Meanwhile, local and state elections were going to conservatives.


Because they show up.

They show up, every election from dog catcher to school board to President. They show up. Your angry racist white uncle, the one who believes everything Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh tell him. The Tea Party. The religious nuts. The NRA. They show up. Every. Single. Time. See, you think about it once every four years. But those people? Your angry uncle, the religious nuts, the gun fanatics, the ones who are convinced the gays and the Muslims and the godless filthy liberals are stealing their country out from beneath them? Well, they think about it every day.

And they rage about it every day.

And they’re furious, every day.

And so they show up, every time.

Don’t take my word for it, go look for yourself. Volunteer to work the election. Tell me who shows up. Not just once, but every time.


What’s that? Not all liberals?

No kidding. Of course it’s not all liberals. Of course it’s not you, you personally. Of course you show up, every time. Sure. Not all liberals.

But a lot of them.

Tell me something: local elections, code enforcement officer, county clerk, selectman, elder, town counsel, mayor, school board. The judges on your state ballot, what do you know about them? Wait, are there judges on your state ballot? Are state judges selected the same way across all states? Do you know? Guess what? They’re not. The methodology for selecting judges varies widely between states, partisan elections, nonpartisan elections, legislative elections, gubernatorial appointments, and/or assisted appointments. Quick, which method does your state use? Do you elect your judges or does your state government appoint them? Picture your ballot, are there judges on it? Is the candidate judge’s political affiliation listed or not? What do you know about those potential judges? How can you find out? What do those judges judge? Family court? Traffic court? Property court? Criminal court? Are they city or municipal courts? County courts? Circuit courts? Regional courts?

Name a judge on the bench of your local circuit court. No? Okay, how about just the Chief Judge for your district?

Do you think it matters? Judges are impartial, right? Non-partisan.

Aren’t they?

Let me tell you a story: I know somebody, a woman, who spent years in an abusive marriage. The abuse wasn’t physical and I’ll spare you the ugly details, but it was pretty typical for the Deep South, far too common here in the Florida Panhandle. She met him when she was very young, high school. He was older, already had a kid from a previous relationship. She dropped out of school to marry him. They had three more kids. She grew up – and that was the problem. She stopped being the submissive, naïve kid he’d married. She got tired of being treated like property. She tried, but he wouldn’t change. It’s the culture here. He was a Good Ol’ Boy, a redneck. No education himself. Limited opportunities. Proudly poor and Southern. She tried, she really did. But it got worse instead of better. So, she left him. She walked out, filed for divorce. A few months later, she met somebody else, a military guy. Smart. Educated. With employers lining up to hire him after he retired from the service. He treated her decent. They got married and moved away when a defense contractor offered him a good job out of state. They bought a nice house, a new car, and for the first time in her life she was living like other people do. Medical. Dental. Decent clothes. Decent neighborhood. A little money in her pocket. Somebody who cared about her and treated her like an equal instead of property. But, there were those kids. The youngest was ten, and living with his dad back in Florida, who’d let things go after she left him. The house was a dump, dirty and falling apart. Seems he was having trouble finding another woman to wait on him hand and foot – he’d even gone looking for an Asian mail-order bride, on the theory that they weren’t like those, as he said, American bitches. So she came back to Florida and took him to court for custody of her son. She was confident, going into that court last week. She knew that she could give her son a good life, opportunities, education, medical, dental, a way out of poverty. But, and here’s the point of the story, the judge was a Southern Conservative, an Evangelical Christian. The judge literally screamed, red faced, at this woman, told her in front of her children and in front of the court that she was a terrible mother for getting divorced, for getting remarried, for trying to make a better life for herself. The judge called her selfish for moving out of state with her new husband. Selfish, that’s what she was called for not wanting to be property. The judge destroyed her, right there in the courtroom in front of her own children, while her ex looked on grinning. And then, the judge gave full custody to the father.

Why? Because good Christians – at least the judge’s version – don’t divorce their husbands and move away. No matter what.

And this isn’t unique in that court room.

The judge has a long, long record of punishing petitioners for not living up to certain religious and political beliefs common to this area.

Now, what do you know about your judges?

When you go to the ballot box and you vote, what do you know about those judges?

All of these people, from local selectman to your local school board to your state district circuit court, all have impact on your life, both directly and indirectly. That’s where it starts. These are the foundation stones of government in America. These people go on to state level. They become your state representatives, your state senators, they are appointed to the federal court system, they become your governor.

They directly shape how America is governed at the level that most directly affects you.

Then, they go on to Washington.

And they don’t get there by themselves.

Almost without fail, they are helped along – if not chosen directly – by your state’s various political parties.

Tell me, who appoints your state’s electors to the Electoral College? You know, the apparatus that actually selects the President?

You show up every four years to the one election – the one election – where your vote doesn’t actually decide things, but you don’t show up for the myriad elections where it does. You’re worried about the cupola, while the foundation rots.

And don’t tell me that you do. Show up. Because the local governments, the state governments, the judges, the US House, the Senate, are all in the hands of … conservatives. The majority of those seats anyway.

Quod erat Demonstrandum.

It's not enough to show up every four years.

You have to show up every time.

You have to show up for the midterms.

You have to show up for the state elections.

You have to show up for your local elections.

You have to get informed and you have to show up every single time.

You know what happened?

Do you know what happened when I said, “Show up and vote?” Do you?


80,000 liberals fell to fighting in my social media timeline. Screeching like baboons and throwing shit at each other.


What were they fighting over?

Well, they fought about the way I said things


They fought about political parties.


They fought about the limited choices.


They fought depression.


They fought about disillusionment.


They fought about generalizations.


They fought over ridiculous analogies.


They fought over conspiracy theories.


They fought over purity.



They fought over Republicans.


They were pretty sure that I must be targeting them personally, so they fought over that.


They fought over the Electoral College.


But mostly they fought over Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

And fought.

And fought.

And fought.

The various conservatives chiming with what I’m sure they considered wit were drowned out by the fighting liberals.

It went on in earnest for three days, buoyed up by swarming bots and prodded by foreign trolls, and it’s continued fitfully ever since. If you want to see for yourself, take a look at my Twitter timeline starting around May 21th.

Two days into the battle, I said this:


And that’s when things really went to hell.

Show up and vote.

I might have said it more than once.

I didn’t mention Hillary. I didn’t mention Bernie. I said, show up and vote in 2018, in 2020. Show up and vote and you can win.

And got tens of thousands of responses, many telling me why liberals can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t, show up and vote.

But this one, right here, this is the evergreen comment. This is the one that jumps out.


Saying, “show up and vote” is shaming.

You’re ashamed of being told to show up and vote.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to have to vote.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote if the candidate isn’t perfect.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote because somebody told you to. 

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because everybody else is voting.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote against something, you want to vote for it. 

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because bad shit will happen to us all if you don’t.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because it’s your boring old duty as a citizen of the Republic.

None of those reasons are good enough to make you show up. No. It’s not enough that if you don’t show up, you get Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and Neil Gorsuch – and they then proceed to burn down every single thing you ever cared about. No, to vote, to show up, you need a magnificently-maned, golden-horned, rampant, virile snowy white stallion bearing wonderful gifts and wild music, blood quickening inspiration and powerful magics. You need to be inspired. You need to hear angels.

You need a unicorn.

So I asked.

Who is that? What would it take for you to show up? Who is that candidate?


Articulate. Witty. Charming. Know everything about everything. Popular. Great looking. You want to fall in love with him or her. Right?

He (or she) has to be big.

Not practical joke big. But, you know, big.

















It goes on for a long, long time.

Far, far longer than I have room to post here.

If you’ve got a Twitter account, you can read all the responses here.

Thousands of responses. Many people just said, well, you know, so long as the candidate has a pulse and isn’t Trump, they’ll show up. But many people said, no, no, I want, well, I want articulate. And witty! And he, or she, has to be charming. They have to know everything about everything. Popular. Great looking. Big. It’s not enough for me to just show up. I’ve got to be inspired. I’ve got to fall in love.

A unicorn.

Folks, no candidate, no one, can be all of that. It’s just not possible.

Unicorns don’t exist and they never have.

No candidate is going to be everything you want.

The Constitution never promised you perfect choices.

And wishes always go wrong, which is why wishes are a lousy way to run a country. So are revolutions.

The Republic doesn’t run on moonbeams and magic. It can’t be all things to all people all of the time. The work of maintaining the republic is tedious and boring, if you’re doing it right. Duty very often isn’t glamourous or popular or even particularly inspiring, but that is what holds civilization together. Sometimes, most times, it’s just about showing up and doing what has to be done to hold back the fall of night and for no other reason than because the alternative is disaster and ruin. It’s your duty as a citizen to keep the nuts from working loose and the walls from falling down. You don’t get a medal for that and nobody is going to sing songs about you, but it’s your job nonetheless.

Duty, very often, isn’t even particularly moral. Mostly it’s about doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, most of the time.

You tell me there’s no difference between one side and the other, that it’s only a choice between the lesser of evils.

But I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all.

There’s an enormous difference between those who labor in the trenches, working every day to make the world a better place, little by little, inch by inch, and those who want to jump ahead via magic.

There’s a huge difference between doing your duty and self gratification. 

The people on top right now, the ones in charge, they have no interest in duty – to the Republic or to you.

They want all of the benefits of civilization and none of the responsibility.

They want what Elliot wanted in that story up above, the one about accepting gifts from the Devil. They want fame and glory and wealth, and they want a nation where those things are possible only for them. They’ve made the same horrible selfish mistake Elliot did when he asked the Devil to bend the object of his desire to his will, to turn her into a meat puppet for his own gratification, instead of working to become the kind of person she might love and respect of her own volition. They see government as nothing more than a way to line their own pockets and so they’ve made a deal with the devil because they want what Elliot wanted. They want the reward without having to do any of the work. And in the end, that always goes bad. Every single time.

In the movie, Elliot comes to realize that wishing will never, ever make him happy. 

Wishing will never make him smart and handsome, witty and charming, popular, rich, or even, you know, big. In the end, he had to do the work, he had to show up, be aware, think about others, make sacrifices and compromises and little by little become the person others could admire and respect.

There are no unicorns.

There never have been.

There are no shortcuts. If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.

You have to do the work.

You have to show up and do your duty. 

You have to do your duty, even if the candidate isn’t perfect.

You have to do your duty, even if you hate it, even if you don’t want to.

You have to do your duty, because bad shit will happen to us all if you don’t.

You have to do your duty, even if the odds are stacked against you and the other guy doesn’t play fair.

You have to do your duty as a citizen of the Republic because you are a citizen of the Republic.

You don’t have to like it. You don’t need to be inspired. You don’t need a unicorn.

It doesn’t have to be easy. It’s your job.

Get informed.

Get motivated.

Get after it. Do your duty to the republic. Show up. And you can win.

And when you win, well, then – then – you can fix things. Then, you can have your unicorn.

But you have to win first.

Elliot: I don't get it, though. Why are you, you know ... being nice?

The Devil: Look, Elliot, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. The whole good-and-evil thing? You know, Him and me? It really comes down to you. You don't have to look very hard for heaven or hell. They're right here on Earth. You make the choice, and I guess you just made it.


  1. Wow. Perfect. Should be read at the DNC

    1. I give you, the Left Coast.Three states and Nevada. I can see the appeal of Calexit. And I reject it because it benefits our enemies, and hurts the U.S. But I am getting damn tired of waiting for 250 million people east of the Sierra/Cascade divide to get their shit together.

    2. It's not going to happen. In the meantime do you want a GOP majority in congress for another two years and Trump for another 6?

    3. Peter, did you read past my second sentence?

    4. Should also be read at the DCCC. Those folks seem to want to lose elections!

    5. No, they only lose when people are looking for that elusive Unicorn, that perfect candidate to show up and vote for.

    6. This is my favorite essay from you yet. Thank you, Jim, for your eloquence and what I hope is the ability to lite a fire under a whole lot of asses. There is a lot to do and I'm headed to a voter registration drive meeting this Friday as I sit in a deep red county. I'm also running for office in this deep red county. People need to vote at a bare minimum, but if they can, they also need to get involved with their local Democratic Party.

  2. By the way, representation matters. So unless the person in question has truly awful overall policies/proposals, let me suggest that if you have a choice between a man and a woman, vote for the woman. If you have a choice between a white person and a person of color, vote for the person of color.

    And for god's sake, vote in the primaries!

    1. Racist *and* sexist? I say that we forget their skin colour, forget their plumbing, and vote on the issues and the candidate's qualifications and platform.
      But that's just me?

    2. Hi Psyd, You're ignoring the studies that show that input from a diversity of backgrounds results in better solutions than a generally homogeneous group of folks with the best qualifications (provided that the diverse group is all at least competent). This is because the diverse set brings a lot of different perspectives and so more variables and approaches are considered and the best can be chosen.

      So, provided the candidates are competent and reasonable, yes, the diverse set of people is going to give you better outcomes and productivity than the homogeneous set, EVEN IF the individuals are not always your "ideal" candidate.

      Good governance comes not from ideology but from reasonableness and compromise.

      Add to the diversity of reasonable voices. It's important.

    3. It would seem that voting for nothing but white males has done fuck-all for the betterment of this nation. So I'm saying "yes" to Avanta's approach. If you think that's racist and sexist.... Good. And a hearty "Fuck You" too.

    4. Avanta's approach is a good one, but only for folks who don't study up before elections. Nowadays I prepare, but before the internet I used to vote for the judges whose last names had the highest Scrabble value.

    5. I look forward to voting for Congressman Oxyphenbutazone

    6. I give you two names: Ben Carson, Sarah Palin. Still stand by that? Research, not even straight Dem ticket will get you what you want. Although, I tend to vote straight Dem in Texas; it's better than my head exploding researching the other ticket.

    7. Racu, I think the key words are "reasonably competent." Palin and Carson were, and are, neither when speaking of political office. I'm not sure how Alaska survived Palin as governor but she has certainly shown us that she is not mentally competent enough to hold an office. I have no clue about how competent Carson is as a physician but his words and actions have also shown that he has no clue when it comes to running a government. Like Jim has said, do the research - learn about the people before you make a decision. I mean, I have voted on both sides of the fence because I voted for the candidate who I felt best reflected my values and that I thought could do a good job. Sometimes that was the Dem and sometimes it was the GOP. Parties shouldn't matter, candidates should.

    8. I vote by mail in CA. The easiest way to vote in the world. And today was approaching, and I wasn't sure where my ballot was. Didn't want to look for it. Jim's voice in my head (Show up Dammit!) and I found it. Actually googled each local race to find the lesser of two evils. Would I have voted without this article in my head? Maybe. But having read this, I couldn't pretend that no one needed me to vote in a primary. So for this little unicorn hunter, you did make a difference.

    9. Good point that we need to be aware of walking the talk about being of/by/for all of the people, rather than just white males. Diversity of outlook and experience and background make government better -more responsive and more capable of meeting new challenges- and it's been all or vastly white male for so long we're used to that; we need to be conscious of those facts in our choices now.

    10. I stand by what I said, and add that I have a diverse voice, even as it comes from a white body with a penis. Suggesting that someone use colour and/or gender to replace studious research of the candidates and their platforms is idiocy. It is, by the very definition of the word, stupid.
      And Anonyomous, it'd be the best fuck you ever had, but I do not fuck cowards.

  3. It cannot be said too often: Show up and VOTE. Vote for the school board. Vote for the city council. Vote for county and state elections. Vote in the midterms. Vote in the presidential elections. If not, you (generic you) are a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

  4. Masterful. But, will the unicorn-hunters fucking listen? Here's hoping.

  5. Brilliant. Recaps the most frustrating moments in my personal Facebook feed just before and after the election, where people were planning to vote for Jill Stein because they were too pure/environmental/green to vote for Hillary ("I have to vote my conscience"), and when I said, "then you're basically voting for Trump" they said, "Well, maybe it would be good to shake things up." These people now regularly post laments about current environmentally destructive policies [face palm.] Then, post election, when I wrote, "Thanks, Stein-voting a$$holes," I was told, "That's not helpful, we democrats need to stick together, not attack each other." SIGH. I'll share your post on Facebook, hopefully may reach the people who need it most.

  6. Thank you brother. Did not read all of the blathering about what everyone wanted in a candidate after the first few. And you are absolutely right, there are no unicorns. We need the best possible candidates out of the ones we have to choose from. Period. We're going to make mistakes, but hopefully we can start to make a change. But only if we start local and work our way up.

  7. My God, I read that list of the 'perfect' candidate and had a song playing in my head from "Mary Poppins", no really. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNTzp9grp2Q

  8. Attention all Progressives... the battle is long and hard, gains are made incrementally. Express your preferences in the primaries, elect the best choice in the general. It takes time to build a party with national presence. Showing up is the WHOLE battle.

    1. As the lat JFK said, it's a long twilight struggle.

    2. As Woody Allen famously said, "90% of life is just showing up.

  9. Reading this stuff, and I begin to worry: how long will you put up with this nonsense? I am truly afraid you'll give up. I pray to the Universe that you won't, but I'm very worried.

    Please please please, hang in there.

  10. You definitely hit this one out of the park Chief. *golfclap*

  11. Amazing what you can generate, Jim. So much information about the diversity of beliefs that people hold, and how butt hurt they can get if these beliefs are challenged - on either side of the great divide. For me, it's about outcomes. As you said, you get your unicorns if you win, and you don't win if you don't do your duty, your research, and cast your vote in every election. For me, it's about outcomes. When I look at any race, from dog catcher to president, I want to see as best I can, what the candidate stands for and then decide two things: Who most closely matches what I want in a candidate (not perfect, but most closely), and can they win? If they clearly have no chance of winning, I will pick the next one in line. Some candidates are radical and make pleasant sounding noises when the speak, but they are so fringe that they can never get the votes needed, and if someone votes for them, it's likely at the cost of a vote for someone who also has good intentions and qualifications, but CAN win. Outcomes. Not purity. Not wishful thinking. Not a beauty contest or a response to emotional dog whistles. As you also said, who will do the most good for the most people if elected, and can my vote help them do that?

  12. Bravo! This is one of the best essays on this topic I've seen. I'm going to go wallpaper it on the walls of every person I know that didn't vote and gave dumb ass reasons that you found on your twitter feed. I appreciate that you went through that twitter war so others didn't have to. Thank you. Please hand the pups a treat on my behalf.

  13. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been having this conversation with people everytime there is an election, local, midterm , etc. You are so spot on Jim! Liberals don't vote. Little fuckers!

  14. Another great one Jim. I always felt I was a pretty well informed voter and have been diligent in voting in all elections since I was allowed to. You, however, have given me pause with some of the things you mention and I realize I haven't done enough research for some of the people I vote for. I know how our ballots look, how judges are appointed but I sure haven't paid enough attention to the judges individually to learn how they rule and what they stand for. I've volunteered and donated but that isn't enough anymore. Thanks for the 2x4 to the head.

  15. The last time I did not vote was 1968. I had just turned 21, to register I needed to appear in person.

    Going AWOL from a Top Secret Installation was not considered a good move, career wise.

  16. Like always,articulate and correct!!!!!!!!
    And I agree 100%!
    We need to FUCKING show up to vote for everything!

  17. I like the tweet complaining that "I told you so" isn't helpful, "what can be done" would be helpful.

    Here's what can be done, in case people missed it: SHOW UP AND VOTE.

  18. Once again, you've taken the babble of social media and turned it into a thoughtful essay. Those comments on your Twitter feed remind me that not all idiots vote Republican (when they bother to vote, because, Unicorns). All votes in all elections matter, even if you don't think so.

    Ally, posting as Anonymous, because she is too lazy to set up the blogger account right now.

    As a sidebar, the judicial selection process in Oregon is pretty interesting. Non-partisan elections for Circuit, Court of Appeals, and State Supreme Court. The catch is that often, a judge will retire and a replacement is appointed by the governor, so that in the next election they run as an incumbent. The positions at the state level are often filled by prior circuit court judges, but not always. In order to become an informed voter (especially on appellate judges) you've got to dig to find their rulings and opinions (unless it is a judge from your circuit, it is then easier, but not much).

  19. Spot on as usual, Jim. What infuriates me is that a lot of what your Twitter followers say they wanted...


    And now the Supreme Court, with Neil Gorsuch, has just ripped away many union rights, and refused to take the appeal of the 8th Circuit Court decision that banned medication abortion in Arkansas. Look for other states to follow suit with similar laws.

    It's enough for me to say, "Eff your rarefied unicorn feelings, and eff anyone who ever said Clinton and Trump are the same."

    (And yes, I vote in every single election. My home state does mail-in ballots, so that part, at least, is easy.)

  20. Thanks Jim. The shock on my neices' and nephews' faces the day after Brexit was something to behold. None of them voted. Lesson learned, I hope.

  21. How dare you assert that unicorns don’t exist and never have? You’re shaming the entire unicorn-loving community. Now none of them are going to vote either.

  22. As I keep pointing out to people, government isn't imposed upon us by some foreign tyrant. Ever goddamn one of those sons of bitches got damn well *electorated* by the majority of votes in his or her district or state. If you want a revolution, the way to do it isn't to start shooting people, the way to do it is to kick the sons of bitches out and put in some who at the very least aren't sons of bitches. And if you can't find someone running for office in your district or state who isn't a son of a bitch, *run for office yourself*. The worst that can happen is that you win, after all.

    I get pretty much the same damn response as you when I say shit like that. People just don't want to hear it. Because you're *requiring them to do something*. They'd rather bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch than actually *do* something. Lazy ass motherfuckers, for the most part.

    Which is why we get the most venal and evil people running the goddamn country, because voting, running for office, all that shit actually requires people to *do* something, and only the most venal and evil people seem actually willing to run for office and show up to vote every goddamn time. Liberals seem more interested in, oh, I dunno, gazing at their fucking navels, if your timeline is any guide. Which I'm sure is therapeutic in some way, but sure the fuck isn't *doing* something, it's just gasbagging for the sake of gasbagging.

    1. This may seem trite, but I don't doubt that this quote from Yeats has been here before:

      Turning and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

  23. I agree. I used to only vote in Presidential elections and I felt proud thinking I was doing my part. Then, about 8 years ago I realized that I needed to pay more attention and vote in the local elections. Not only vote but vote better. I started researching candidates and looking for news stories about the judges that were on the ballot. It can take time but there are a lot of resources online, at least for my area(Tampa) but it feels good to be informed enough to actually recognize all the names on the ballot and know which candidate is the right choice for me. It is also frustrating and disheartening when I see a democratic candidate loose by a large margin despite a demographic advantage.

  24. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you've said. It's sad, but a lot of people went from being willing to vote for the best person for the job, even if they happened to have their flaws and things that the voters may not have liked to demanding someone who is basically a liberal version of a dictator (even though they can't see it).

    I hate to be that blunt, but that seems to be what some of the people that replied to you want. A more liberal version of what Trump is trying his hardest to become, where that person has the power to overrule those who disagree with them and throw the entirety of our governmental system out of whack.

  25. I learned my lesson- Walker vs Barrett in WI. One of the very few elections of any level I've skipped. I thought, 'how bad could it be?'. Well, I learned a freaking huge lesson. I never thought 'both parties are the same' but I did want some rainbow sparkles, if not the whole unicorn. Never again- right now, it's enough to elect anyone without an R behind the name. Rainbow sparkles can come later but first we need our animals in the damn barn!

  26. Duty really is something one does even if they know they'll lose, even if they don't particularly agree with it. But it would seem that not only Republicans demand a return-on-investment for their time, or else they won't play.


  27. I can testify that showing up and voting works. In October we moved to Polk Cty, WI. So far we have voted in two primaries, a special election and a State Supreme Court election—and our little rural state assembly district made national news for electing the Democrat, and we now have an experienced, progressive woman on the State Supreme Court. I will keep showing up, as I have for 49 years. Thanks for your good sense, Mr. Wright.

  28. Constance A LindstromMay 30, 2018 at 12:31 PM

    Yes, yes and more yes. I would add a bit to the "show up and vote" message. Show up and learn. Show up and help your candidates represent themselves during elections. Show up and RUN. It is definitely discouraging to show up and vote, only to see that your local and state ballot is full of uncontested elections. 42% of state-level legislative candidates ran unopposed by a major-party opponent in the 2016 elections. Yes, read that again. In 42% of state legislative races in 2016, if you showed up to vote, you literally had. no. choice. but to vote for the sole major party candidate on the ballot, or write in a name. Look it up.

    National representatives get their experience in local and state governments all across the country, and more often than not they have not had any accountability for their actions throughout their career, because they haven't even had to defend themselves at the polls. Why the hell should they listen to you when you call to complain daily about their votes? They know you're not going to do anything crazy like organize behind a candidate to oppose them.

    So if you don't vote, vote. And if you do vote, do more. If everyone spent the same amount of time doing their duty as citizens of a participatory democracy, by actually effing participating, instead of ranting and fighting on the internet, or even by calling elected officials, protesting, and whatever the hell else seems to pass for responsible citizenry these days, we would have the kind of robust, thriving participatory democracy that would actually hold elected officials accountable and that would actually represent us. No matter what your ideology is, we don't have that right now. SHOW. UP.

  29. Are you sure your name isn't Whitlaw?

  30. Wow. This is truly the most amazing piece I've ever read from you. I want to print it off and send it to everyone I know and frame it for my wall. And then I'm going to go investigate the judges on my mail in ballot that is sitting on my desk right now. Thank you Jim!!

  31. I am a believer in voting, even if I have to hold my nose and vote for the "least worst" option. And I live in a state so bloody red that people would vote for a longhorn steer if it ran as a Republican. It is my duty as a citizen. If I do not vote, I do not deserve citizenship. More to the point, if I do not vote, I have no right to complain about what happens. Every primary, every runoff, every office. The only vote that doesn't count is the one not cast.

  32. Wow. This is the most powerful and insightful piece I've ever read from you, Jim. I want to send it to everyone I know, print it off and put it on my wall and then go investigate the judges that are listed on my mail-in ballot that is sitting on my desk as we speak. Thank you for saying it all and saying it right.

  33. It's also about knocking on doors and making phone calls and asking for donations. It's lots of slammed doors, curses, hang ups and name calling. It's a lot more work than grabbing the caps-lock but at least there's no tear gas or rubber bullets. It might not be as sexy as dodging bullets or tossing bombs but it needs to be done. Starting NOW. Today!

  34. I think part of the problem here is that many public schools in the U.S. don't teach civics classes. We're not educating our future voters about how the system works and how to use it properly.

    Fortunately, of course, there's a solution for that. It involves adults educating themselves. Learning how the system works, using it properly, showing up and VOTING for school board officials who agree and will, if elected, prioritize the creation and implementation of thorough, engaging, effective civics classes to correct that part of the problem. The whole system works this way. Don't like how your local Animal Control board is run? Find out which elected officials can influence those policies and vote for someone who thinks like you do. Or hey - run for the job yourself. City council, dog catcher, school board, these are concrete steps you can take to build the power to make larger changes.

    This won't work if you only show up every four years to vote in the Presidential election, and then expect the President to make sure civics is taught in your town and the stray dogs are all given Kombucha massages in the cushy no-kill shelters. If you expect that, you need to go back to the "educating yourself" step.

    We get the officials we elect. If we won't take the trouble to vote, whether it's FOR the ones we want or AGAINST the ones that suck the most, we'll get the officials elected by other people who embraced the right we rejected.

  35. I think it's worth considering that many "liberals" are every bit as authoritarian as their evangelical conservative neighbors. They're the folks who'll get on your case because you don't pick up your dog's poop when you're walking it, and then get on your case because you're using a plastic rather than bio-degradable bag if you do pick up, and then get on your case because you flushed it rather than composted. It isn't just that they're getting on your case all the time, but that they insist (like any evangelical conservative) that you conform to their standards of what's acceptable.

    This is important because that's what they're looking for in their "unicorn" leader: not just someone whose world view precisely echoes their own but (equally important, perhaps even more important) someone who will force that same view on everyone else. They want an authoritarian leader, they just want him/her to have a left-leaning perspective that matches their own.

    That's why, in many cases, these "liberals" won't vote. It's less that they can't be bothered, or even that the candidate in question may have views on some issue which they don't completely agree with, but rather that the candidate won't come out and declare that they will compel obedience to those views. They want not just the unicorn, they want an absolutist unicorn that's willing to impale any who might disagree with the unicorn.

    1. This looks suspiciously like an attempt at false equivalence to me. Most of my friends are left of center, and I can't think of a single one who matches that cartoon of yours.

      That said, if you have hard data to back that up (starting with a specific definition of "many") I'm willing to consider the idea.

    2. Really? Caring about the common good (who wants to step in dog shit?) or about the planet means you're a dictatorial type? Uhm, no. Telling someone they're doing wrong isn't being a tyrant, no matter what every 2 year old on the planet believes. Alas, some people never make it past 2 years old on the emotional maturity scale and believe that if someone tells them they're doing wrong, it's time to throw a temper tantrum screaming and yelling and kicking in the middle of the supermarket aisle, "I wove my pwastic bags! wah! wah! wah!".

      The desire for unicorns in some parts of the left isn't based on authoritarianism, it's based on the Savior complex, the desire for someone to be a Savior who Saves them without they themselves having to do any work. And it's not restricted to liberals. The deal is that imperfect conservative candidates don't give a shit and run as that "Savior" regardless of whether they have the chops to do so, like Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again!" bullshit. Liberal candidates tend to be more nuanced, and nuance is something that a wide swathe of the population isn't interested in. They want a savior, not a policy wonk with a mastery of the ins and outs of what's possible and how to get things done. The 2016 election is proof enough of that....

    3. Plastic Bags end up in landfill, or choking turtles who mistake them for jellyfish. We are drowning our planet in plastic that will be around for a thousand years or more. No one wants to step in dogshit, and we should be composting an recycling as much waste as possible because its the right thing to do.

      So many people don't like to be told they are wrong, and when told they are wrong, they dig in their heels and double down.

      Get out and Vote. And clean up after your shit in a responsible way.

  36. Because I have the time, I signed up to be a poll worker at our primary elections coming up here in California on June 5th. It will be my first time doing this. I had to attend a 2 hour training class. We were warned during class that we were not allowed to wear any clothing, pins, stickers, etc. that advertised any particular candidate or party. We weren't even allowed to *discuss* our particular political views among ourselves, much less to voters coming in to vote. So I'm a little gobsmacked that you could go and vote and the poll workers would be allowed to wear a T-shirt advertising a particular candidate. Plus, it was my job in the family to decide who we (my husband and I) were voting for in the primaries (we have 27 people running for Governor). I did my best to find out information about them, but finding non-partisan information is pretty difficult. You have to assume the candidate statements aren't going to mention the not-so-good things. I remember when I was single and working 1 1/2 jobs to keep myself above water, I did my best, too, but not nearly as thorough as a job. Part of it could be that when your life consists primarily about worrying about how you are going to pay the power bill this month, voting can seem like a very remote concern, despite the fact that by voting for the candidate that bests represents you, you have a good chance of making your life better.

    1. When I was a poll clerk for Elections Canada, we couldn't even wear any shirt colour associated with a political party. This meant no red, blue, orange, or green.

      I had a quick look at Wikipedia, and as far as I can tell, the States don't have any independent body in charge of elections.

  37. I guess what baffles me is the endless series of excuses of why one didn't vote, and then some kind of expectation that reality would just turn out fine. I wonder if these non-voters are employed, or are they still waiting for the perfect job to come along?

  38. So harsh. And so absolutely true. The irony is that if you were a campaign advisor I bet you could help fulfill a lot of those unicorn desires. Except for the looks and height...

  39. Loved and agree with every word. Shared and retweeted.

    My unicorn is pretty simple: Believe the world is round, believe scientists know what the fuck they're talking about, and don't be cruel.

  40. I vote for every election, I encourage others to vote for every election. I have helped people to register to vote, I have a Facebook group to encourage people to have real debate on the issues and get involved with the process. Minus running for any office I have done everything even volunteer to get people to vote and do so intelligently. What else would you suggest?

  41. Great post and spot on fact. Thanks for pointing out the fallacy of the unicorn candidate.

  42. I vote. Every single time. I’m a Democrat in Alabama, so 80% of the time I hold my nose and vote Republican, because THAT’S all there are to vote for, and I DO choose the lesser of evils.

    We are in this noxious position because of the idiotic “purity” standard.

    Excellent essay.

  43. We have been full-time RVrs for seven years, traveling all over N. America, and have voted in every election during that time. We don't own property (except for the motorhome) and we've voted in every election during that time. City, school board, county, state, and federal elections. We are Washington State residents and receive a mail-in ballot. You can do that in nearly every state. So, No! Excuses! Vote no matter what!

    1. Not so easy in every state. The state I currently live in makes it difficult to vote by absentee ballot. You have to meet certain criteria to do so. But what can you expect from a regressive Red State?

  44. Thank you for carrying the torch.

    Liberals (or whatever you want to call yourself): Show the fuck up EVERY SINGLE TIME. Otherwise put a cork in it. Nobody wants to hear your shit.

  45. I'm a liberal living in a liberal state who knows a lot of liberals and I know no one who didn't vote in 2010 because they were mad at Obama. As for the people who say they won't vote if they aren't "inspired" by the candidate, people say a lot of things, maybe even mean them, but if you look at their actions, you see that what they are saying isn't true.

    Some people vote because they think it's important/their duty/etc. (I fall into that category.) Other people vote because they are angry. And another group votes because they have passion / are inspired.

    That's why Tea Party supporters vote. They are angry.

    That's why most single-issue votes vote. Because they have passion for a cause.

    Occasionally you can see a surge in voting for an inspiring candidate but that's actually pretty rare.

    That's because so many people don't see voting as important, not enough to actually do it. And they are complacent. They may say they don't vote because the candidates aren't inspiring. But when you give them an inspiring candidate, they got out of their way to find something wrong with them. Or they say they are voting but something else always comes up.

    I don't know how to convince people that voting is important. I've tried and I can tell my arguments are falling on deaf ears. But it's easy enough to make them angry. Which is why so many politicians and special interest groups go that route.

  46. I have voted in every single national, state, and local election, including the occasional "special" election and school board elections, since the late 1960s. And, yeah, I even try to dig up as much as I can on the judges, difficult as that sometimes is. And I'll vote for anyone who will stand up for the institutions and Constitution of the USA against personality cult fascism.

    These days that mostly means Democrats, although I'd happily vote for a sane Republican, should any of them appear. I used to be able to find one now and then, but they're starting to look like the real unicorns. Or maybe passenger pigeons in that they once thrived but are now extinct.

    When I was a kid and did something wrong, my mom would often ask, "what would it be like if everybody did that?" It's a yardstick for ethical behavior I have come to take seriously. It was only many years later that my wife, a philosophy major in college, pointed out that this was also a key concept in Kantian ethics. Who knew?

    So to anyone who thinks it's a more morally pure decision to not vote, I say: ask yourself if you think we'd be better off if everyone who shares your beliefs did that.

    That doesn't look like such a hypothetical question right now.

  47. Outstanding! I love this line: "But if your vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be working so damned hard to keep you from exercising it. Get your ass to the polls, no matter what. Every time."

  48. Long post but mostly worth the read. I vote every goddam time, and for those who sat out or wrote in Bernie in 2016 - fuck you! Thanks a fucking lot for electing Commander Fuckwad and his BS brigade.

  49. Once again, you nailed it. As you have always said: If you want a better country, you have to be better citizens.

  50. The thing that this post reminds me most of is the nagging I do to my two teenagers. "Your job right now is to go to school and come home to do your homework." They sometimes reply something on the order of "Yeah, but you get paid for jobs, and I don't get paid to go to school and do homework."

    That, right there. No, they don't get paid in a traditional sense. No cold hard cash in hand for turning in papers. We don't get "paid" either for voting, but it's our jobs as adults. We do a lot of crap jobs for free. And if you don't study who you are voting for, you will end up with maybe more work for less pay, or maybe a little less work for more pay, or maybe just more work for less pay or no pay. Where do you get paid? Services from the government, less taxes, taxes going to build services you want... and let's not forget the agreements that are made after the candidate is elected. (The Iran issue that is currently running could be quite expensive in the long run for all of us.)

    Kids get paid with their education. We get paid in other ways.

    By the way, I'm guilty of not showing up every time. Get an absentee ballot, guys and gals. Works at your convenience. Look it up for your county. It helps remove part of those excuses.

    1. Ask who is paying their rent, food, utilities.

  51. *standing ovation* Exactly. We are our own worst enemy. We lose everything becaue we are dead set on only the perfect. She isn't liberal enough so I wont vote for her or the lame ass line that she is a neoliberal. It is annoying and frustrating for those of us in the trenches actually doing the work. On the average, 45-55% of registered voters (that's not even including the losers who cant even be bothered to register) for presidential elections. Obama had an outlier in 2008 and got 61% of the vote...a record...and that was when people were supposedly fired up. That means that 39% didn't vote. That number drops to 20% voter participation in med term elections. And sickenly goes down to 8-10% in municipal elections. All of you people who bitch and moan about your property taxes being too high and shit like that...well it's because you aren't voting in the elections that elect your county board members who are the ones that levy property taxes. Now the bernie or Busters have the nerve to bitch about how bad Cadet Bone Spurs is. They helped to elect him. If they could have just got over their hatred of Clinton and the dumbassed idea about people being neoliberals and not poerfect progressives, we wouldn't be dealing with this asshole in the White House and all of the fucked up policies he and his cabal of morons are pushing on this country trying to destroy it. I am not saying Hillary was perfect or she ran a good campaign, but regardless, you all should have voted for her. We already knew what an unmitigated disaster Cadet Bone Spurs would be. Hillary's worst day is still exponentially better that Cadet Bone Spur's best day. People need to wake the fuck up. Not voting has always been the biggest contributor to the problems we have in this country. When 40% cant be bothered to show up in presidential election, 80% cant be botherreed to show up in mid terms and 90% cant be botehred to show up in municiapl elections...you are the problem. If people came out and voted and we had 90% participation rates, politician would be forced to listen to us. All of the money int he world and Citizens United would be moot. But because you cant get your lazy asses off the couch to vote, you have made our system vulnerable to corruption and graft. You are why we have people in congress who think there is such thing as acceptable rape. You are the reason why we have a president who thinks that there are good people amongst people chanting fascist slogans and carrying Nazi flags. You are the enablers, like Neville Chamberlain, who allowed Hitler to rise to power unchecked by the other European powers. So take Jim's advice, get the fuck out and fucking vote. If you don't, then you only have yourself to blame for the ills of this nation. While people like Hillary Clinton may not be the perfect democrat, at least she wouldn't be screwing over the poor and elderly by trashing medicare and welfare and social security. SHe wouldn't be taking away healthcare from your neighbors and family. SHe wouldn't be trashing our economy by starting narcissistic trade wars or other wars because she cant stay off Twitter at 3am and start insulting unstable dictators and making matters worse. You all need to get your heads out of your asses...there are definitely no unicorns there...

  52. Thank you for this, Mr. Wright.

    When my wife and I first moved to town (in what Nate Silver calls the reddest House district in the nation, though that's a fierce competition), we started attending monthly village board meetings. We felt it was important to find out how our new town was run.

    When we moved here, we had an "I heart Obamacare" bumper sticker on our car. People thought I was a unicorn, a veteran who was also a liberal.

    As it happened, a person on our village board died. In the campaign to replace him, I threw my hat into the ring. I won, and joined the board.

    In 2016, I was up for reëlection, facing off against the gun shop owner in town, who'd previously served on the board and wanted to oust the liberal. I defeated him by four votes.

    All persons can't run for an office of course (especially one which doesn't pay anything like mine). They can participate in the nuts-and-bolts of democracy, including showing up for county commission or city council meetings to find out what is being done in their names.

    I have too much baggage to ever be a significant candidate for any office outside my town. But what was once a very conservative town board is now a very liberal one, in a tiny agricultural village in a deeply red state.

    Thank you for this essay, CWO. Not everyone can be in the Navy like we were (though you strike me as the sort of leader as an enlisted person I would have stormed the gates of hell in a rowboat with), but everyone can participate in their democratic republic. It's why we have an armed force, sworn to uphold the Constitution and subservient to the civilian government.

    Even though I am quite liberal, I want conservatives to vote too. I want everyone who can to participate, and choose the best candidates they can find. "He or she isn't my unicorn" is not a reason to sit out an election.

    My mother puts it as "If you don't vote, you don't have any room to complain about what you get." She also put her time in the Navy, during the Vietnam War (stateside). She gets it as well. Was she a fan of Hillary Clinton? No. Did she vote for her? Heck yes, because the alternative was too horrid to contemplate.

  53. Best line: "But I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all."

    To me, getting behind that as a party can actually be unifying.

    Thanks for a great essay.

    P.S. I'm one of the ones who reads all the ballot measures and tries my best to research all the candidates....all the way down.

  54. Brilliant. Thank you, Jim. Permanently bookmarked, so I can save time screaming into the void when next I run into this impenetrable "both sides are just as bad my vote doesn't count nothing matters until the Electoral College is ended" idiocy.

    I'm so very tired of Liberal laziness and childish delusion. If the events since the last election have taught us anything, it's that building something - especially a better nation - is hard and time-consuming. But destroying it takes no time at all.

    We really don't have time for this petty shit anymore. I hope your words don't fall on deaf ears.

  55. I've voted in every election since I turned 18. In 1990, I had a C-Section on November 1 and the day I was released from the hospital was Election Day. I made my family stop on the way home from the hospital so I could vote.

    When we moved up to NH, one year there was a referendum on the ballot that had to pass by 2/3 of the voters for our local school to leave one district and join another. It was defeated by less than one vote. The means if me, my daughter, or either of my parents hadn't gone to vote, the school would have changed districts (all to save only $10k per year but have less local control).

    It counts. Show up. If I could get to the voting booth after a c-section, you can get there too.

    1. I had a heart attack on a Sunday just before a primary election, yes, a primary election. My daughter researched getting an emergency ballot for me, but my retrograde state makes voting in any way other than in person ON election day nigh unto impossible. I was discharged around noon on Tuesday and climbed the 6 or so steps into the local hall to cast my ballot. It wasn't a very important election -- 2015 without much in question -- but I wasn't about to break my streak of voting in every election I was eligible. Your c-section, my heart attack! We rock.

  56. While I feel bad that I never got to vote for a unicorn, some toads that I voted for turned out to be okay.

    I spent 3 hours trying to figure out the California Primary. I'm not done yet.

    People I've told were shocked that I would spend that long researching it. Really? If only there was somebody that wasn't biased or corporate-funded or that had their own agenda that would give us the right answers, someone that would tell us if we should vote for the guy that's for universal heath care or the woman that's for the environment.

    Yeah, the research was boring and frustrating. Usually it's the long list of propositions, but those were easy this time. It's figuring a bunch of calculated risks, because our top-two-winners get to run in the real election. Sure, you get to vote for whoever you think is the best candidate, no matter their party; that was the draw of making that change.

    There was one guy that will likely win on name recognition because Dems will vote for him when they see he is running with no party preference. He lost running for Governor as a Republican, and that's where the name recognition will come from.

    Just voting isn't enough.

    But Republicans will often vote in a block, perhaps as their told by Fox, or maybe by their church, and Democrats will lose. Especially in the races where there are 6 of them running against 2 Republicans. Guess who the top two vote getters will be if Dems split 6 ways. Or will it be that no-party guy with the name recognition because there's no time to decide in advance who you're voting for. How did Trump win again?

  57. Maybe your greatest Work! : ) Ty!

  58. At the last Women's March, I carried a sign that said "What Would Black Women Do?" Because of Alabama. Black women got up, organized, collected their peeps, and got everybody's ass to the polls. And Roy Moore went down. Not by enough. Not by nearly enough. But he went down. Because black women (who didn't have the option of voting for anything even approaching a unicorn) realized that sometimes the lesser of two evils (or whatever fatalistic nonsense is in fashion today) can be a whole fuckload less evil. They showed up in spite of all the obstacles, they voted, and they saved their state's collective soul. Alabama black women showed us all how to get it done. As you say, Jim, show up and vote. Whatever else you're doing to effect change, also show up and vote.

  59. This is why I follow you. You always make sense. Even in the rare times that you piss me off (this wasn't one of those), you always make sense, goddammit.

    Thanks for existing.

  60. Bravo, Jim. I will make sure that this is required reading for anyone and everyone I know even remotely who will cry and pout and whine, and bitch and moan ceaselessly about the state of the Union and their miserable sorry lots in life, but can't get it up to do the work, and then vote.

  61. The inimitable TBogg said it long ago: (from drifty's site because I cannot find it in the original anymore!) http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2013/08/on-occasion-of-internet-quitter-tboggs.html

    "Your Mumia sweatshirt won’t get you into heaven anymore

    A comment left over at digg regarding Ralph Nader:

    "The Democrats really hate Nader because he points out the fact that they are asking those of us on the left to vote for them but they aren’t doing anything for us. Did they end funding for the Republican’s crime spree in Iraq? No. Have they moved for UHC? No. Have they tried to stop corporate crimes? No. Have they tried to reform the tax code to be progressive? No. Have they tried to protect homeowners from predatory lenders? No. Have they defended our constitutional rights? No. Take back the FDA from the corporations? No. The FCC? No.
    The Democrats don’t deserve my vote. They aren’t helping the left, why should the left help them?"

    Let me see if I can explain it this way:

    Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.
    You don’t live there.
    Grow the fuck up."

  62. Maybe it doesn't matter if they won't. We just need to get those who can listen to listen.

  63. Thanks for another great essay, Jim. Voting is a duty to the Republic and should be taken seriously by everyone. Thanks again for the great essay.

  64. I'll admit I haven't voted enough. But I have for the past 6 years and I try and get educated on a local level. I also need to get more involved but reading your essay Jim I noted the repetition of unicorns and I get it. I am reminded of the maxim the perfect is the enemy of the good. And far too often its seems like we liberals, I absolutely identify as one, keep looking for the perfect and forget that most times, especially in governance, you have to settle for the good.

  65. My note to the DCCC: Please stop with the freaking nit-picking about issues that cannot be resolved UNTIL the House and Senate have solid majorities of real Americans, real Democrats, and real Progressives! If the pink throated tadpole is saved from extinction but the republicans maintain their majorities in the House and Senate, so much more will go extinct under their reign of terror than just that tadpole! I am afraid for the United States of America and for the rest of the world.

  66. Partisan rhetoric has turned voting into a zero-sum game with a binary mindset. In the 21st century, the idea that you'll vote for a candidate who can work most constructively with the other side has been completely abandoned by both Democrats and Republicans. They vote for candidates that will obstruct the other party on an issue that is important to them (or forcefully push for a certain result with no intent to compromise). Those that live and die by this mindset cannot honestly fault others that play by the same binary rules and hence disqualify a Republican or Democrat candidate that they assume will be complicit with the opposition on an issue they care deeply about. It's just totally insincere to beg voters to vote for the change they want to see, then slap their hand because they aren't ticking the box you would like them to.

    The only election I never voted in (while having the opportunity) was Bush/Gore in 2000 (and it's likely no one would fault me as I come from a family of Republicans and probably would have voted for Bush if I had voted). I've voted in every election since. My break from the GOP came with the Iraq War, which I (rightfully) opposed as a farce and a distraction from the search for Bin Laden before it even started. It's absolutely the defining moment of when I actually started taking politics seriously. I'm sure Democrats would applaud me for breaking family tradition and voting for Kerry, then Obama, based on their opposition to the Iraq War. This is why I deeply resent the notion that (as someone who saw the Democrats as the only potential saviors that could block escalation of war) I am not entitled to be as cynical about the party as I am about the GOP, or to personally hold Hillary to some degree of fault and therefore decline to vote for her.

    This isn't wholly implied in the article, but it's something hinted at when people talk about "purity" or "unicorns", and is probably more applicable to those leaving comments rather than Stonekettle. Being a rabid partisan for the party everyone here opposes taught me the foolishness of putting all my eggs in one basket and I owe it to nobody to vote a party line or pin all my hopes on the two-party system anymore. Therefore, I'll never fault people for how they choose to exercise their right to vote when they actually choose to do it. I may disagree or think their reasons are foolish, but I would discourage people from ever taking the myopic view that voting for candidates outside the two-party system that best resonates with them is any less valid than your vote for the candidate that best resonates with you. Fault those that don't participate, but we should never instruct people to "be the change you want to see", then slap the pencil out of their hand when their choice is not the one you demand of them.

  67. I show-up to the polls every two years in my conservative district. My candidates often lose but I keep voting. I can only dream that a blue wave is coming and we'll get rid of Bill Huizenga; not likely but I'll do my part to that ends.

  68. Truths. Inconvenient? Yes. Truth often is. But needs to be spoken. Thank you for your words. ALL of them.

  69. This post is the reason I follow you, Jim. I have voted in every election for several decades. I was just asked to be my precinct vice-committee person due in part to my voting record. I said yes. My candidate doesn't need to be perfect, but they must have a (D) next to their name. We can work on perfect in the future, right now we just need to make sure there is one.

  70. This essay is the reason I follow you, Jim. I have voted in every election for decades. I was just asked to be my precinct vice-committee person in part due to my voting record. I said yes. My candidates doesn't need to be perfect, they just need to have a (D) next to their name. Hopefully, they will become more perfect in office.

  71. Dear god, yes! If you expect perfection you will be disappointed, every time.

  72. If you can't be for something, you should at least be against something.

  73. I would love to see your twitter feed..... I am blocked for some reason... It's kind of interesting because I rarely (if ever) post anything there, just "like" and "retweet". Must be the company I keep.. lol https://twitter.com/Shyne_42


  75. For fuck sake, just vote Blue! It's a matter of the numbers and the greater good. If we happen to elect a bad Democrat, primary them in the next election. The idea is to keep the GOP [Gods Of Propaganda] out of there - forever! Or do you want to just keep drifting toward a watered down version of "Gilead" [as in "The Handmaid's Tale"]? :( pip

  76. A good friend of mine who now lives in Denver is a really intelligent guy, great insight and keen social observer. Even he got caught up in the purity thing, he wanted a unicorn. Wasserman-Schultz infuriated him with the Bernie thing so he voted Jill Stein. He has a large FaceBook presence and I haven't asked him if he feels used by the Russians and other assorted bots, but he sees that his insistence on purity boomeranged on, well, all of us. Bitch all you want about the duopoly, it's a legitimate concern, but things start at the local level. It's how the republicans got such a foothold here in Ohio. Now I (we) have Jim Jordan. Yep, it may be the land of Budweiser and Rambo, but that doesn't need to translate into voting for guys who push your hot-button wedge issues. We can see where that has gotten us.

  77. Jim, I think that part of the problem is that progressives generally do not like politics or politicians. Politics, "the art of the possible", involves a lot of compromise. Politicians have to appeal to a broad spectrum to get elected. Progressives are too rational for this stuff. They're good at finding fault; not so good at compromise.

    I recall a Tweet early in Trump's term bemoaning that every day was filled with politics & "I will be glad when this is over & we can get back to normal". The sentiment was well supported in the thread. My Tweet that they were the problem did not go down well. It seemed to me that these were the very people who didn't vote for HRC because she was not perfect.

    The situation is no different here in Canada. The hard-core right wing always vote. The left & center find excuses. Here in Ontario we have a general election next week for our provincial legislature. The leader of the Conservatives has many of the characteristics of a Trump clone. The latest polls say that the people aren't buying his snake oil &, as with HRC, the left has no ideal choices. It will be interesting to see if the left & centrists actually get out to vote. (Btw, I am a conservative but will be voting for a progressive party)

  78. I will be reposting this as often as I can remember to leading up to the mid-terms. And now I *WILL* learn about the judges, though we don't often have more than one running for local circuit courts. I did know about some at one point when I had a close friend that was a family attorney - oh the irony. And I can tell you which liberals showed up to vote - the people with some common sense, like me, that realized not PERFECT was better than HORRIBLE. I voted my conscience once - and Regan got elected, common sense & better imperfect than horrible has been my mantra ever since. Thank you again.

  79. Thank you, I needed this. Up here in Ontario we're heading to the polls next week and I was having a bit of a liberal pity party. I was even entertaining the thought of declining my ballot because our choices seem pretty bleak. Thanks for the reminder that no one promised it would be easy or pretty.

  80. Those replies make me sick. My response to them is grow the fuck up.
    Great essay as always.

  81. I once commented, to an ideological purist of the left, one who was smitten on Sanders that, "if it goes against your ideological principles to vote for Clinton and if you won't vote for her under any circumstances because of those ideological principles....well then, I can accept your decision, but, BUT, know for a fact that your choice, whatever the motive behind it, may result in Trump's victory, and if, IF, that happens, you will have to both acknowledge and take the responsibility for this choice."

    Here we are, 1 and a half years into the Trump Presidency and I see that those who chose not to vote for Clinton, have, as a whole, neither acknowledged nor accepted responsibility for the outcome of their choice.

    And this continued denial is one of the greatest reasons why Trump and his Trumpians will continue to hold power all the way till 2024 at least.

  82. As a side note, Trumpians don't have the same problem as the left because they are, as a whole, motivated by fear and hate of the opposition. So they don't stop to look for unicorns on their end no. Instead they do everything they can to try and prevent someone whom they fear and hate to come into power.

    With a crowd like that it's also easy to see how Trumpian politicians get off much easier in winning approval of their base.

    Just announce how horrible the left are and how you will not be like them and also grant all those right wing fantasies ( no need to explain how, they aren't interested in explanations anyway).

  83. Wow. Like a bunch of sulky tweens who slam their bedroom door when Dad lays some hard truths on them. Or, to borrow my dad's favorite quote, "sensitivity to reproof is the surest signt that you needed it."

    Great essay of course...pity the people it needs to reach the most are all busy getting into Snit Position 12.

  84. Another movie that could be cited/used as an example (and maybe it has, I haven't read all the comments):

    "Groundhog Day". Where a greedy, self-centered, cynical asshole gets to live the same shitty day over and over until he understands it's up to him to make the day UNshitty.

    It's up to us to make the Republic better. That can only be done by caring about our fellow citizens, getting active, and participating in civic life. VOTING. We can't do it by being greedy, self-centered and cynical. By excusing our non-participation with the alibi that a candidate and/or political party isn't "perfect". By curling up in the fetal position when our side loses. We have to be prepared to engage in the struggle again ... and again ... and again. Until things are better.

    Think "Groundhog Day".

  85. It's funny. What you said that liberals don't vote, it never occurred to me to take it personally. I vote in every election, general and primary, and I agree totally. I'm in one of the most liberal cities in the country and I usually vote after work and my number is always pathetically low on the register. In the last election (primary this month), I was number 87 at 7pm, one hour before the polls closed. It's absolutely true. Liberals don't vote unless they're super inspired or scared shitless.

  86. SO spot on, Jim. The liberal cries "Trump cheated! Declare the election null and void! Ask Obama to come back and we'll have a do-over!" on some threads are pathetic. Explain that's not the way it works - quit being delusional and vote - Every. Damn. Time. get responses as if that's ridiculous because argle bargle. Too many "liberals" are just as ignorant, lazy and - well - proud of it as Trumpies. None of whom are, as a friend often says, worth the space they take up. Which serves the oligarchs and their minions quite well.

  87. In the immortal words of Trey Parker and Matt Stone...
    "Let's get out and vote!
    Let's make our voices heard.
    We've been given the right to choose,
    between a douche and a turd.
    It’s democracy in action!
    Put your freedom to the test.
    A big fat turd or a stupid douche,
    Which do you like best?"

    1. Oh fuck off. Just fucking fuck off. Did you read Hillary's manifesto? I did, and I'm British.

  88. These candidates all suck. I think they are all bad for the country.

    "You have to vote!"

    Fine, I'll vote for this candidate because I dislike their policies the least.

    "No! You have to vote for the candidate that is least evil but has the most chance of winning!"

    So, I have to vote for someone that I don't agree with and don't believe is qualified and continue the status quo and THAT'S how we change things for the better? Haven't we basically been doing that for decades if not centuries? That's stupid.

    "... if you don't vote, you are the problem!"

    Unicorn my ass.

    1. You are exactly the kind of liberal I was talking about in the essay.

      Given that the essay was about voting in every election, every time, you're telling me that EVERY candidate EVERYWHERE in EVERY election is bad for America.

      You are in essence saying you don't believe in the Republic.

      Government sucks. Democracy sucks. You suck. Everybody sucks. Right? I'll go ahead and do you the courtesy -- such as it is -- of assuming you're the standard issue Libertarian and not a Marxist.

      Unless you're one of those disgruntled Bernie Sanders types?

      Being a citizen is about making choices. Sometimes you like the options, more often you don't. That's life. That's responsibility. That's being an adult. Refusing to choose is still a choice.

      Look at what you wrote.

      Look at it.

      Look at history.

      LOOK AT IT.

      Don't roll your fucking eyes at me. Look at what you wrote, look at history.

      YES, goddamn it. That IS how we change things for the better. We've been DOING EXACTLY THAT FOR DECADES, IF NOT CENTURIES. YES, YOU IDIOT! And things have been getting better, little by little, bit by bit, inch by inch. Every single thing you unicorn hunters claim you care about, civil rights, tolerance, empathy, social awareness, scientific advancement, environmental awareness, economics, all of the things that you say you hold most dear, all of it, HAS changed for the better over the centuries.

      Sure, we still have a long, long way to go -- because, guess what? There's no end. Making things better does not end. Ever. Civilization is a journey, it is the ongoing march of history, not a destination. Our duty as citizens of the Republic is to advance that journey, not allow it to fall into retreat.

      And sure, there are setbacks. of course there are, for that too is the nature of history. Many of the things put into place by the last president are being systematically dismantled by the current one -- and you, you son of bitch, you have nobody to blame for that but yourself. You were warned. Yes, you were. You were warned. Over and over and over. But you stayed home, mad, disappointed, disgruntled because you didn't get a unicorn. And now, Trump is taking us backward, exactly as I and many, many others warned you he would.

      "'.. if you don't vote, you are the problem!'"

      Goddamned right, you're the problem, you selfish petulant CHILD. You're the problem. You didn't care. All those things you say matter to you, civil rights, woman's rights, LGBT rights, healthcare for all, peace, science, education, tolerance, understanding, all of it, NONE of that was enough to get you to do your goddamned duty to the Republic. No. YOU, you had to be inspired. You needed a cookie and pat on the head. And NOW you show up on my website crying into your oatmeal about the shitty state of civilization?

      Fuck you, Citizen. You deserve nothing but a hard slap across the face and a boot in your backside.

      You don't believe in unicorns you say.

      But you really do.

      You really, really do.

      Otherwise you wouldn't be so damned bitter and disappointed that one never seems to appear.

      You want a better nation?

      Then you have to be a better citizen.

      And frankly, you're not holding up your end. See to that, now. Because the rest of us are getting goddamned sick and tired of carrying your load.

    2. RA needs no piling on of any kind after that... but I'm sorry. I just can't help myself.

      'Cause I was going the Sanders way too, see. I understand exactly the Trumpian notion of the tantrum vote, because even though I didn't think Sanders had a chance in hell of implementing 10% of what he stood for, landing him in office would be a shot across the bow at least, a referendum of some kind.

      But a funny thing happened on the way to Decision '16. Yeah, I saw all the crap about the DNC railroading Bernie out of the primaries, and I was pissed. But I also considered the mechanism by which that info became public. I had that queasy ol' feeling about HRC, the whole, "I'm ready for a woman but not THAT woman" sentiment not near as original or independent a line of thought as many fancy it is.

      And as drips and drabs infiltrated the news cycle about Russian bots, fever dream conspiracy headlines and fake social media users - this came out WELL BEFORE NOVEMBER '16, y'all REMEMBER, right? - I started paying much closer attention to the nature of the criticism I saw about HRC. And I really began to reevaluate my own feelings about her, what might they have been influenced by.

      Sources with a sexist agenda? A right-wing agenda? Yes, a unicorn agenda?

      'Cause it became clear the Sanders and Stein factions were getting played like the Boston Fuckin' Pops with Putin at the conductor's stand. Near as bad as all the Pizzagate loonies, in fact.

      That alone pissed me off enough to land squarely in the HRC camp. The fucking monstrosity on the other side (and I observe this as a Bush-voter in 2004) would have landed me squarely in the HRC camp. Put both of those factors together, I don't see how anybody who's long cast his binky aside would have had a choice.

      With me, skipped mid-terms were a matter of laziness, too easy to get caught up in all the other things I gotta do to set the table, that sort of thing.

      NOT. ANY. MORE.

      I'm going to the booth IN A MOOD next week, and I hope EVERYBODY on this side does the same. But you can sit and pout if you like, RA. Just as long as there aren't too many of you.

    3. 1. What are you afraid of.
      2. What makes you happy?

      Also, What Jim said.

    4. If you do t vote against Trump then you give 1/2 a vote to Trump. Jill Stein isn't a vote against Trump, you might as well stayed at home.

      I ask people what's wrong with Hillary? And I get back all the normal stuff, vote for war, dinners with bankers. Yeah yeah. She voted in a febrile atmosphere where opposing against meant she hated America. She spoke to bankers because the are part of the levers of power. And that clip the unicorn hunters like to quote? Taken out of context, and quite cynically taken out of context by the right wing elements of the media.

      Being a politician is all about compromise. Even Stalin and Hitler made compromises with opponents, and they were absolute dictators. You think Putin isn't engaged in a balancing act with various factions.

      If you can't compromise you are alone.

    5. +1 to this. I'm so sick of simpering cloud-gazers with immaculately clean hands.

    6. My voting strategy is simple, and has been for years.

      I read. I research. I vote for my best available choice in the primaries. Then I vote for the best available choice in the Generals. And if the wife and I don't know much about some of the candidates, we research them on the internet.

      And we vote in every election. We've already voted in this cycle.

    7. The candidate could be the most spavined old nag in the barn, and they'd still be better than the snake we have in the White House now.

      Unicorn? I'd settle for a healthy well-trained horse!

  89. Another rich candidate vs another rich candidate. I'm sure they have my/our best interests at heart. It'd be nice if they spent our money the way they spend their money. Choose wisely at the primaries.
    And yes, that episode of South Park was awesome.

  90. This is the problem with the Dems that the GOP has already figured out. People are amazed that the Christian Conservative Right would vote for someone like Trump. He is most definitely NOT their "unicorn." But they have learned to put that aside for the advancement of their party and agenda. Dems need to figure this out QUICKLY!

    1. THIS. This right here.

  91. I live in Washington state, we vote-by-mail, with free drop boxes at local libraries, government buildings and groceries. Possibly the easiest state to vote in anywhere and even with that 35% of the state votes statewide. ?!!
    I grew up voting in Chicago.
    Do you really want me to describe how miserable it is, to slog through 10 feet of slushy ice and snow, at 6am when the polls open before work because they were close after I got off, November 5th for the 3 days your allowed to vote?
    I didn't think so.
    I'd add up hill but there aren't any in chitown unless you count bridges over the rivers. I don't.
    My point is they made it brain dead super simple to vote here and people still don't and it's pissing me off.
    Grow up, People. You have to do the icky jobs as well as the fun stuff. take out the garbage, clean the toilet, pick up your dog's poo, get off my lawn and vote damn it!

  92. Will you marry me?
    (My husband won't mind. Well, I mean, yeah he will, but as long as you keep talking about this, he'll deal.)

  93. In prior elections, I'd do my research for every candidate no matter what party they belonged to and try to be impartial. Yeah, not anymore. Missouri doesn't list the party affiliation for a few offices like judges (which we do happen to vote in) and the smaller city offices. Fine, because I go by the person's platform, or did until 2016. I'm a non-Democrat's nightmare because in next month's election I'll be voting a straight party ticket for the Democrats. Next week, I'm helping get out the vote by visiting Dems and undecideds who haven't voted in a while to motivate them. Why? The GOP is too owned by Russia and the 1% while every other party dilutes votes from what's best for the US. I also didn't take the twitter fight about how liberals need to step up to vote personally because I agree and do happen to vote in every election we'll hold. I also sign petitions when we need more elections on ignored issues. My state went from purple to red and I consider every blue vote vital for getting our veterans, poor, and children the help they need.

  94. All of this! and, I have seen some of these same whiny arguments made by conservatives holding out for the "perfect pearl" candidate that panders to their idea of godliness, whiteness, maleness, sameness, etc-ness on their narrow side of the aisle. Seems to me this whole essay should be required reading for everybody in every party -- not just one wing of one party.

    Democracy doesn't work if we all hold out for the most perfect candidate (with whatever attributes you wanna give to "perfect" (such as "most holy" or "most atheistic" or "most middle of the road" or whatever you deem to be perfect), then as Jim is implying, we won't get anywhere, but we will get more of the same aggravating bullshit from pandering politicians that we have now. So, there's no such thing as the perfect Dem or Republican or liberal or conservative -- and if anybody insists on it, they are deluded.

  95. I hope your friend appealed the custody order.

    1. I wondered about that too -
      I did a little reading and found that the appellate court can only overturn the family court judge if he makes a mistake of fact or law, and not merely that the appeals judge would have made a different decision based on the facts... Sad.

  96. I do agree that *the very least* anyone can do is vote. Better yet, get involved. We're stuck with the Dems whether we love them or hate them, but if you don't get involved locally, you don't really have the right to complain. I don't know anyone naive enough to be chasing unicorns at this point. All I ask is for someone who is consistent, shows integrity, and has a clear record of putting the interests of working people over those of corporations. And the funny thing is that the Dems could destroy the GOP if they just stuck to a simple set of progressive policies that would make life better for the 95% of us who are scrambling to survive. It's not the electorate that has a choice to make; it's the Dems. Real people or big money donors?

  97. This kind of thing amazes me. The absolute failure of most people to accept responsibility. Here, I'll be an example:

    I was one of those lazy idiots. I never voted except in presidential elections. Never. Not once. I actually used to flirt with the idea of not even voting then, because of a funny bit George Carlin did about not voting. But as funny and as sane as George was, this was something I didn't agree with him about. But I continued to only vote every four years.

    This changed after 2016. I voted last year. I will vote this year. I will vote for everything (I'm missing the primaries this year for local elections because my party affiliation change hasn't been completed yet).

    I never wanted to join a party. I liked defining myself as "not a joiner". But I have since learned how important primaries are. And here, if you want to participate in primaries, you must have an affiliation with one or the other current major parties.

    It was ME that was ignorant of the importance of this civic duty. It was ME that needed to learn more about non-presidential elections. It was ME that was motivated by the results of NOT VOTING that got me to move my ass and change my ways.

    I was the idiot. But I learned and I changed. No, it was not easy.

    No, I didn't want to have to read newspapers (this was another stupid thing I did - I never bothered to pick up a newspaper - like, ever). No, I didn't want to have to learn about politics and parties and values and politicians. But I had to. It was the only way to not be that lazy stupid ass anymore.

    I have no problem with anything you've said, and I similarly have no problem admitting that THAT WAS ME. I wish I would have realized the importance sooner. I wish going back to being ignorant were an option. But I know wishes are for unicorns. And I also know those fuckers don't exist.

    This protestation, this outright refusal of people to admit when they've fucked up, or to look at themselves with a truly critical eye, or to do what is right even when it isn't easy or pleasant, is what makes me batty.

    Those protesting your very sane, very logical, very true facts about voting appear to me to be self-absorbed ("but my FEELINGS!!!"), without any introspection ("why did i do that/was that appropriate/whom did my actions affect/etc etc").

  98. I'm a Libertarian I vote in every election, and I'm probably going to vote for someone you don't like. To cancel me out you and a friend need to get off yer butts and vote. Please try to. I also may vote for someone you like, so landslide here we come ;)

  99. I am an Eastern intellectual establishment, bleeding heart, knee-jerk liberal, and proud of it. I always vote. Always. I even make an effort to find out something about those candidates for judge, and trust me, that ain't easy. People DIED so I can get my butt down the street and into the booth. Always.

  100. It's always a little scary to me how much you write what I'm thinking. I will break my arm patting myself on the back that I have only missed one election in the 43 years I've been old enough to vote, and that was because I couldn't get out of work in time, and it was the library board, so I wasn't going to risk my job. I fervently believe exactly what you said here. Fervently.

  101. The only thing I would add... The only thing I can add... Is that show up and vote are two different things. Show up. And vote. Because if you wait until election day to show up and vote, you have already given the other side a massive head start. Because they show up before election day. They go to Precinct meetings. They man phone Banks. They knock on doors. And they give money. And then, after showing up before election day, they show up and vote on Election Day.

  102. Great essay. No, you are not my god. Nothing is. And I didn't cry, even though I gritted my teeth a lot. Those fuckers! But it was a wonderful essay in the truest sense. and I want you to keep writing for a long time.

  103. Possibly the second greatest comment on "purity" in the left. I became sick and tired of (UK) union politics where you had to acheive the perfect out come or you were colluding. And I hated the right in my union who seemed to prize cooperation above the members, but I knew when a line was in reachable.

    The greatest comment on the internecine murder that happens in the left came from a bunch of Oxbridge graduates. Very clever people who were annoyed that because the left all wanted 100% they kept losing to conservatives that would accept 70%. Their criticism is famous, even though most people don't realise it is a political comment.

    It goes like this

    Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People's Front?

    Reg: Fuck off! 'Judean People's Front'. We're the People's Front of Judea! 'Judean People's Front'.

    Francis: Wankers.

  104. I missed exactly one election in my adult life--my father was in the hospital. Otherwise, I vote every time I can. Primaries, midterm elections, judicial elections, I'd vote for dog catcher if we had an election for that.

    When I was, oh, even as young as four or five, my mom used to take me and my sister with her when she went to vote--every election, primaries, midterm elections, every election--and would even let us push the levers for her when we got strong enough. (My dad voted on the way to or from work, so we couldn't go with him. But we knew he voted.) My sibs and I, we got the message: Voting is a civic duty. You are a citizen, you vote, or you aren't doing your job.

  105. [sits on her hands and whistles "Advance Australia Fair" furiously in order to refrain from commenting on this matter, because Australian]

    [eventually gets off her hands]

    The thing about democracy is it's a system of government which demands a lot from us ordinary folk. It does. We have to know what's going on, we have to be paying attention all the time to what's happening around us, we have to know what the various political parties stand for, we have to know what the candidates stand for (and it may not be exactly the same thing as the political party they're ostensibly being sponsored by - big honkin' great Australian example in point is Pauline Hanson), we have to know the past record of the parties (are they, for example, a party which has blatantly stated they're willing to lie to the public in order to get elected[1]), we have to know a fair bit about the internal party-room politics of the parties (so we can guess which way our elected rep is likely to jump when faced with a conflict between the party and the voters). We have to know a lot - and figuring out how to find out all these bits and pieces of information takes time and effort. Often time and effort we really need to be devoting to other things. Trust me, the politicians know this.

    This is why even just showing up and casting your vote isn't quite enough - Australian electoral law legislates that we have to show up, and we currently have a shower of politicians in parliament I wouldn't trust to run a chook raffle in a country pub with the local head of the CWA coaching them through the process. Corrupt, venal, pig-ignorant, self-satisfied and over-entitled, and that's just the opposition - the government are worse!

    Because the thing about democracy, the terrible, horrible, no-good thing about democracy, is that it requires each of us to be an aristocrat. We all need the training in governance, the learning about rhetoric, the understanding of the ways words can be used and twisted; we all need to be able to spot the snake in the grass and the grifter out to con us. We need to have the sad truth that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, ground into us from a very early age. We all need to be there, showing up, doing our patriotic duty to our nation, and persevering beyond the bare minimum that can get done in half an hour every three to four years.

    The bare minimum democracy demands of us is pretty small - we just have to show up and put marks on a piece of paper (here in Australia, you need to be able to count from 1 to n, where n = the number of Senate candidates in your state at most). But functioning democracy, democracy which hasn't been sold off to the highest bidder, or contracted out to the lowest bidder, requires a lot more of us. It requires us to be constantly listening, constantly watching, and constantly learning.

    (Oh, and if you're going to bitch about the candidates you're getting, it requires even more: it requires you stand up and do something about it, like signing up with the party, and turning up to pre-selection.)

    Living in a democratic society is exhausting and wearing, and that's just from being a mediocre voter. But if we want to keep the democracy, we have to show we want it - and we show we want it every single time we show up to vote.

    [1] I'm thinking of the one which had the rhetoric about "core" and "non-core" election promises here...

  106. As a bit of a PS: Even if you don't approve of any of the candidates you're offered, ONE of those imperfect choices on the ballot paper is going to be the one who gets the job of representing you.

  107. I didn't even bother to read all the tweets. They are, sadly, waaaaay too predictable.

    Despite that, I vote every time - every election, every referendum, every bond initiative, every race. I have never - not once! - been happy with all my choices. Certainly I haven't been happy with all the outcomes, even when a candidate I voted for won, since once in office there are no guarantees for how they will perform.

    Nonetheless, I will continue to vote. Every. Single. Time.

  108. I've been telling my friends and family and anyone that will listen this for years. Just show up and vote. Dont care who you vote for, if we can get 100% turnout, even if I dont like it I'll feel better about going along with it. As it stands now, we get maybe a 60% turnout during POTUS elections, and that's just of the registered voters; we have about 50% of eligible voters actually registered, which means only about 35% of our population is making those decisions. Worse yet, it's only a majority of that 35%; very roughly 18% of the population is telling the rest of us how things will go. Arizona even makes it easy; you can do the early voting, you can register to vote online, you can ask to be put on the permanent early ballot list. This stuff just shows up in your mailbox. Takes maybe 15 minutes to fill out if you've read the voter materials they send as well. On top of that, there's even a website I can go to about a week after I send my ballot back in to validate they've received my ballot. What more do people want?

  109. Kudos to Jim for the essay and to the commentators for some great follow up comments.

    As someone who rarely made the effort to vote early in life, when my right to vote was taken away in 1997 over a drug charge, it wasn't something that I felt greatly impacted my life.

    During the five years that I was on probation; I started going to college. It was during my educational phase in life that I realized just how important civic issues were.

    Thankfully, Missouri is one of the states where voting rights are reinstated after obligations to the state are met. After I completed my probation and was able to vote again, my voter participation rate is at about 95%. Not perfect, but I do my best to make sure that my voice is heard.

  110. Simple answer: If you don't vote, don't bitch. If you sat it out waiting for your unicorn, don't come whining to me that "everybody's a crook" or "my vote won't matter" B.S. Grow a pair and effing VOTE.
    i have in the past advocated for the None of the Above spot on primary ballots, and gone so far as suggesting that showing up and leaving a blank ballot was a viable protest vote, but these days i have come to see that the protest that matters is SHOWING UP AND CASTING A BALLOT FOR A CANDIDATE. So you don't have an ideal choice? Grow up! It's never been an ideal world and humans are basically flawed... deal with it! Stay silent, give up your vote and you give up your rights. If you give up your rights, you play into the hands of those who would dictate how you will live your life henceforth. Want that? Freedom FROM choice?
    You didn't vote for whatever reason? People in this country have bled and died for the right to vote- to be citizens, and by sitting on your hands and whining, you've just crapped all over their legacy. You are unfit to be considered a citizen.

    End of rant. Peace. Out.

  111. Thanks Jim, especially for identifying the importance of being informed and active with all elections occurring be it local, state or national level. Along with researching with diligence, on who and what these candidates truly stand for, or against.
    As a School Board member in my community, I see first hand profound apathy, self interest and entitlement in full bloom regarding something so critical as to the public education of our children, meaning our countries children.
    It tracks along the same; folks demanding what they and only they want. It is a profound display of the systemic failure to look at as you state - "the greatest good for the most people".
    Our school board meetings may not rival Blazing Saddles in engagement yet often the only time a crowd shows up is when something they want specifically is being threatened to be cut. Universally when this occurs, there is rarely, if ever, an alternate plan or pathway shared on what has to be cut or sacrificed to allow what they want to happen. It is 100% about what they want. When this is tactfully brought to their attention, a common punt is "that is your job, that is why you got elected" My reply is - we all have the job as citizens to resolve what needs to be done. If you want to rail on me about a Board decision, then at least prove you did your job as an engaged, informed and active citizen, meaning you see the picture in regards to all of us, not just you.
    It ties directly into what Jim said; Our school budget is dire because of the lack of federal and state funding which has been driven by those who we allowed to get elected.
    Don't come to me crying about your Jill or Johnny needing this or that program or building in their public school when you have failed in the class called Voting Citizen.
    In the maritime realm there is a small worm called a Toredo. It makes it's living boring and eating into wood. Ignore the worm and fail to stop it, that tiny worm can sink a mighty ship.
    Do your homework, do your research and vote each and every time. If you have time to sit in your rig idling away and chiseling away at the ozone layer while in line for you $5.00 bi-daily Latte' you can get your sorry ass out to vote.

  112. Good work, Jim. I personally have realized the importance in the last couple of years. In addition to casting votes, is casting seed in the way of a few dollars here and there to quality candidates. I don’t have a great deal of $$$, however 10 here or twenty five there to a Randy Bryce or a Beto O’Rourke seems to be A worthwhile effort. Defeating Citizens United is key. I gladly make my lunch or forego a three dollar cup of coffee to support a candidate that is not chained to the trough of dark money.

    One vote or one pebble at a time, will make a difference.

  113. In the USA's political history, a two-term progressive administration has never *in history* been followed by another progressive administration. A two-term *conservative* administration can be followed by another *conservative* administration, but it doesn't work that way for the Democrats.

    Let's face it, no matter what you want to say, who you want to point the finger at (yes, THAT finger), who you want to blame - it has NEVER happened in the HISTORY of our country that a liberal administration (Obama) has been followed by another liberal administration (Clinton).

  114. I live in a red county in a red state. Few Dems run for local office. My state has open primaries, so I and my Dem friends vote the Rep ballot in the primaries. Our strategy: Vote for the least crazy Rep if no Dem is running against them, vote for the craziest Rep if a Dem is running.

  115. This is why we got Trump, the house and senate. Sad and shameful, to be sure. And i was so pissed. At Berniebots, at at Hillary bashers. At people who turned their backs altogether. People have to vote. You can't get anywhere if you don't start from the center.

  116. Thanks!

    will give you a Roger That! from start to finish.

  117. ...even if we came up with a 'real' glitter-farting Unicorn, some folks would complain that it farted the *Wrong Color* of Glitter,

  118. Dear Jim,
    You need a much more public forum. This is good stuff, but most people aren't going to read this much. Thank you for your efforts and well-made point. I'll be glad to be done being an earthling, but while I'm here, I will vote as much as I possibly can.

  119. How many bubbles in a bar of Plato's ideal soap?

  120. My take on this is that people aren't looking for unicorns, they're looking for healthy horses and they're not finding them.

    This is, I think, something of a separate issue. Yes, of course, vote. The difference between bad and worse is so huge these days that it is the responsibility of every citizen who is allowed to vote, and vote for the better choice.

    But something has gone wrong with the way we select our candidates, and we need to address this.

  121. Good column.

    I worked doing phone banking for Hillary as soon as they had an office where I could go hang out on the phone. I was calling into Ohio, and at first it seemed pretty good. I was optimistic. Then not so much.

    Of course I voted. I was in the USN, which I joined when I got my draft notice. I was 19, IIRC. I started voting when I got home from the Nav, as I wasn't 21 for an election, and wasn't home where I knew who was running for what.

    I've missed one election since I got started back in 1973. It was a bond levy election that always passes, and it did that time, it funds the VFWs and EMTs in the county. But I've never missed voting, otherwise. One year, way back, I voted early, and then late in the voting day a neighbor asked me to drive him over to the polls.

    There was a guy I knew sitting in a PU truck, ran a garage, did honest work. Billy. So I walked over to chat while Tommy was voting. He offered me a pint of whiskey, saying "Business is over, why don't you have one of these..." and I was dumbstruck. I took it, since I had already voted and he couldn't be bribing me for my vote.

    And we drank it later on, but not until I called the Feds on the voting for a pint scheme. They said they appreciated the tip, and they didn't need the bottle. It wasn't great liquor, but it wasn't terrible, either. Back around 1979 or '80. They put quite a few politicians away around our county, the neighboring counties.

    Things are quite a bit cleaner today. And you won't see a poll worker with a campaign Tee shirt on, in fact no one can wear campaign materials into the polling place here in WV.

    Carry on, with your good work!

  122. I've been known to vote long-shots who my research shows are the best candidates for the positions. I'm told that's a wasted vote, but I've seen that sometimes a third party or independent candidate wins, especially in local elections. If you do a bit of research, there's almost always someone you can feel okay voting for. I do hate looking at a ballot with people running unopposed, but I'm starting to get more involved in the process and I hope we can find good progressive candidates to fill out the empty spaces so there are fewer of those on local ballots and more motivation for people to actually come out and vote.

  123. Hot damn, Cap, you should do this for a living!
    Now to find us a pragMATic unicorn...

  124. If you're satisfied with the status quo, you don't have to show up.

    If you don't understand economics, then don't bother showing up to vote. Politicians of all stripes will tell you "there's no money, we can't afford it." And you'll believe them.

  125. In my experiences as a citizen and photojournalist, I have come to the cynical conclusion that there are two times -- AND ONLY TWO TIMES -- when politicians *really care* about your opinion:

    1) when you contribute the legalized bribery/extortion scheme that is contributing to their election or re-election campaign fund. The more you contribute, the more they care. Give enough $$ and they will perform the real or metaphorical version of fellatio and/or cunnilingus you require in order to keep the $$ flowing.

    2) when you vote. They *MUST* pay attention to that.

    Everything else you do or say means diddledy-shit to them. Without doing either or both of those two listed behaviors, your opinion has as much chance of swaying a politician as a fly's fart does of stopping an impending hurricane.

  126. As a response to this, I ended up with a short note on the duty of voters, turning out the left, and the problem of the Democratic party which I decided not to post in comments here; it's not real hopeful.

    Anyone who wants to read it, it's over at http://adviceunasked.blogspot.com/2018/06/turning-out-left.html.

    1. And as a response to that, I would say that you don't make things better by abstaining. You get involved in the primary process, which the left is even more loathe to do than vote.

  127. Politics is easy——as soon as the polls open, run in and vote a straight Democrat ticket. And tell everyone else to do the same. It's the only way to kick the bastards out, and if we do it every time, we may keep them out.

  128. Please tell me your friend can appeal the custody order. If there's any record of abuse/abusive behavior from the father, or any evidence of religious animus from the judge's order, then I hope an appeals court shoots that down. Heck, at this point I'd be willing to consider financially supporting your friend if it's the legal fees that are a problem.

    If appealing is impossible, then my only solace is that eight years from now he'll be 18 and no longer bound to his father, so (with the kid's consent of course) she can finally take him in and give him a better life.

  129. Jim, I came back to see if a new essay had appeared, and was a tiny bit disappointed. But I re-read what you had written and enjoyed it the second time as much as the first. After going through the posts, and encountering all of those citizens who take all elections seriously and so do the necessary research, I realized I had somehow failed to share a site I’ve been aware of for at least a decade.


    It doesn’t drill down to city councils or judgeships, but it’s valuable nonetheless. Since I saw no mention of it in the comments, I’m putting it out there. And kicking my own ass for the initial oversight.


  130. I really appreciate your viewpoint, Jim. As a self professed Christian progressive, I am extremely discouraged every day when I see what this country is being turned into by other self professed Christians (so-called). It really pains me that your beliefs as an atheist more closely match mine than theirs do. Keep on keepin' on, sir. I am with you all the way.

  131. You've got a LOT of comments here, but I just wanted to say that I agree with you so much about this that, with permission, I'd like to put this URL on every tweet and Facebook message I send out until after the midterms. Thanks for being tough-minded and smart and articulate.

  132. Interesting essay on civic engagement... not just about waiting for Unicorns to vote for, but more important - how the decline of civic engagement at all levels of life has arguably led to the kind of madness highway we've chosen to drive on our way AWAY from the type of Western Democracy that used to be so great:


    1. The paragraph of that essay from the Atlantic that everyone should feel as "earth-shattering" to their reality is this one:

      "Trump secured the Republican nomination by speaking directly to those voters who had the least experience with democratic institutions. In April 2016, when the Republican field had narrowed from 17 candidates to three, a PRRI/The Atlantic survey found Trump enjoying a narrow lead over second-place Ted Cruz among Republican-leaning voters, 37 to 31 percent. But among those who seldom or never participated in community activities such as sports teams, book clubs, parent-teacher associations, or neighborhood associations, Trump led 50 to 24 percent. In fact, such civically disengaged voters accounted for a majority of his support."

  133. I cannot begin to count how many times I have referred back to this essay on the values of voting. And being involved in politics, national &/or local. When I see others complaining about government, I often quote your 'be a better citizen, in both RL and online. To my mind, this reminds one of your best essays.

  134. Excellent essay. I am glad it was brought to my attention today.

  135. Trump and the GOP present a united front? Are they high?


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