So the 4th of July is coming up, and Americans everywhere will be throwing chunks of cow, pig, chicken, and otherwise on the grill before lighting off the fireworks and, if there's time, thinking about what the day symbolizes. But before you tuck in to burgers and brats, I'd like to share with you a little anecdote.

Because this a low-risk, low-return, stagnant economy, I work part-time. I have Thursdays off and I use them to tidy up around my house. As I was scrubbing the bathroom, I started to get a little hungry and started thinking about what I might have for lunch. I ran down what leftovers were in the fridge, what was in the cabinet, and so on, and I found myself asking the question, "when was the last time I had meat?"

And then I stopped, and had to think about it. And then I started thinking about exactly why I had to think about it. It wasn't necessarily a choice, to be healthier or to protest labor conditions or anything like that, but it was a decision I've made because, often, I have no choice.

I just can't afford to eat meat every day.

I'm college educated: I hold several different certifications and training in everything from forklifts to food preparation to pumping toilets to teaching. And yet, even while turning in six or seven W2's every year at part-time gigs across a 50 mile radius, I still don't make enough to get by, especially in the summer when substitute teaching is almost nonexistent.

So you start cutting things. Years ago, it was cable TV. Then the clothing budget. Then car trips. Then grocery trips. Then trips out to eat. Finally, you start to cut into what groceries you do allow yourself to get, and you start to realize you can get by without meat. You don't want to, of course, but you have to. After a while, with everything getting more expensive and wages refusing to keep up, it just has to be done. According to the most recent statistics, My family is considered "middle class."

So now, being middle class in America means you can't afford meat.

In the Heartland, Trouble for Mr. Trump, and Opportunity for Mrs. Clinton

From the New York Times:

CANTON, Minn. — Canton, population 428, was settled by Nordic immigrant farmers. The area’s prim dairy barns, lush hills and deep valleys are what city people picture when they imagine escaping to a quieter life.

Canton sits near a crossroads of three political battleground states: Iowa, with its first-in-primary-season caucuses; Wisconsin, where progressives are battling an ambitious Republican governor; and iconoclastic Minnesota, whose congressional tastes range from the liberal Al Franken to the evangelical Michele Bachmann.

These states make up a big chunk of the crucial Midwestern electorate. All three went Democratic in the 2012 election, and so far, they’ve been more resistant to Donald Trump than Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, suggesting that his appeal to white, working-class resentment has limits.
Conversely, this region could prove fertile ground for Hillary Clinton, especially if she can provide answers to a three-year decline in commodity prices that — combined with rising health costs — has persuaded some farmers to sell out. She must also convince longtime progressives here that her new, more liberal positions are more than just a response to Bernie Sanders.
Mostly white, this region is home to pockets of minorities, from Native Americans to Amish to Hmong. Its Democrats range from trade unionists to members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, a populist amalgam of farm workers, former hippies and socialist Scandinavians. Mr. Sanders won Minnesota and Wisconsin in landslides. Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Sanders in Iowa by less than a percentage point.
Republicans here are pro-gun and anti-regulation, yet they favor federal farm subsidies and other agriculture assistance. Minnesota was the only state that Marco Rubio won, with Mr. Trump coming in third. Republicans chose Ted Cruz in Iowa, and Mr. Trump came in second. In Wisconsin, Mr. Trump suffered a 13-point defeat to Mr. Cruz, who had the backing of Gov. Scott Walker. Some of this may explain why Representative Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House and Wisconsin Republicans’ favorite son, took until Thursday to issue an endorsement of Mr. Trump.

Lanhee Chen, domestic policy adviser for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and adviser this season to Mr. Rubio, points out that Mr. Trump’s message may not have resonated as much in this region as in the Rust Belt because more people here hold jobs in academia, technology and agriculture — jobs that are less threatened by foreign competition and immigrant labor than factory work is. Mr. Trump’s stance against Mexican immigrants got little traction among dairy farmers, some of whom rely on immigrant labor.
In any case, Mr. Trump should not be putting his hopes in people like Vance and Bonnie Haugen, who milk 180 head on 270 acres near Canton, where they raised three children. Mr. Haugen, a political independent, worked the phones for Bernie Sanders, and both he and his wife voted for Mr. Sanders.
“Taking care of people, making sure that there’s health care for all, and retirement, that message resonates with a lot of folks of Scandinavian background,” Mr. Haugen said. “Do I think he has a viable program? Hell no. But his heart is in the right place.” The Haugens will vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election, which is good news for her. But there’s one member of the family she might worry about, and that is the Haugens’ son Olaf, 31, who told me he’s inclined not to vote.

Interviews with voters throughout this region turned up many who seem anesthetized by years of Washington gridlock and convinced that their lives won’t change no matter who occupies the White House, 1,000 miles east. Olaf, who runs the dairy operation and plants soybeans on additional land nearby, is among the disenchanted. “I don’t know how much that stuff affects my day-to-day,” he said of presidential politics. 

“Anybody who gets in there has got to work with the nutbags in Congress, so there’s not a lot of harm or good that they can do.”

Mr. Trump, he said, is “scary,” a “true loose cannon,” so in the end Olaf may force himself to the polls and vote for Mrs. Clinton. But she clearly has some proving to do — that she’s not “just a standard politician who gives you lip service.”

Down Here With The Rest Of Us

Vox has a terribly fascinating article on the "smug style" in American politics. The more I read, the more it hurt, but I kept on reading because I knew this was a come-to-Jesus meeting liberals needed to have. I noticed a similarity between the sentiment at Vox and the sentiment in a recent article in a local newspaper:
They are poor and they are angry. Their future looks bleak, they feel cheated, and they couldn’t care less about Shakespeare or Franklin Roosevelt. In the America where business is king, they’re nothing but business in school, maximizing profit for minimal investment. They have learned from birth how best to survive in this Nightmare World of Bottom Lines Over All, with its harsh lessons I only wish I could have learned ten years earlier. I’ve stopped blaming them, and I’ve stopped feeling sorry for them. Now, I feel sorry for the rest of us.
The wild ride that has been the Bernie Sanders movement can work to help us adapt these feelings out of classrooms and into our daily lives in politics and society as a whole. We need to discuss this: generations of liberals come out of college and directly after are seeing themselves as anointed elites who are there to proclaim what Vox called the "Good Facts" to unwashed masses in a very Damien Sandow-like way. Although we may laugh at Mr. Sandow, it's a laugh that needs to come from knowing all too well that we used to, or still are, that guy... if gravely less muscularly defined.

Being in the Bernie movement, a movement that it seems will have a nigh-impossible struggle to achieve the nomination in July at Philadelphia, has given me a chance to see things from a new perspective. Let's face it: I'm a college-educated white rural cisgender man, so I have absolutely no idea what it's like to even be anything but top dog, if we're looking at the big picture. But, just like the rich kid who gets cut off from his inheritance and has to learn how to survive with the poors, my intellectual "inheritance" went poof as the economy crashed and the job market has yet to recover since 2007. Suddenly, respective to my own fairly privileged position, I was thrown from the relative comfort of middle-class to the relative drudgery of working-class. I pumped marine toilets, I toiled in commercial kitchens, and I spent months on the graveyard shift bagging bread at a local bakery, all the while seeing my bank accounts actually decrease because the low-wage money coming in wasn't enough to top the student loans going out. An entire generation got this rude awakening of what it's like to live, as Social Distortion so elegantly quipped, Down Here With The Rest Of Us.

All angst is relative, he quipped pedantically, and I've been able to use my time being slightly less well off than I used to be to understand much the same as being a substitute teacher and having paint thrown at me by unruly students caused me to understand their point of view. I never can, and never will understand how terrible life can be for some people in this country... but now I at least know that. And watching the Hillary supporters take a victory lap after my heart got crushed in California sent me looking for solace, instead I found Vox telling me I might have been the bad guy all along... and they're right.

Smugness won't work. Simply "knowing" your facts and figures and thinking that will go far enough to sway people to your anointed cause won't work. At the end of the day, we're all dirty, stupid, vapid, petty humans and that's what counts. Stay genuine, stay honest, and you'd be surprised how well the "smug liberal" ideas actually resonate with people outside of the liberal enclaves. Heck, don't take my word for it, look at Bernie cleaning house in places like North Dakota, or look at Robert Reich discovering new neighbors in the cause on his "Red State Tour"

We all hate the same stupid stuff. We have small differences, but in all reality it doesn't matter. I first started noticing this when I caught the last lines of a terrific documentary called Best of Enemies:
The ability to talk the same language is gone. More and more we're divided into communities of concern. Each side can ignore the other side and live in its own world. It makes us less of a nation because what binds us together is the pictures in our heads. But those people are not sharing those ideas. They're not living in the same place.
What has happened, I think, is that things have finally gotten so bad that we do share the same concerns now, because the concerns are so big. Good roads. Good schools. Safe food. Clean air & water. Healthcare. A government that represents us and not the donors. Free and fair elections. An end to pointless war. The list goes on, but my main takeaway is this: we always have to be questioning what we think are the Good Facts, and we should never discount someone completely out of hand. Most of us on the left discounted the email investigation as just another Republican witch hunt, and now there's a looming possible indictment of a major political figure. As my father, an old farmer and anything but a liberal elitist would say, "even a blind sow finds an ear of corn sometimes," and we need to start paying attention when they do.

It's not left and right, democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives anymore. It's those with all the money and the power versus the rest of us. Princeton proved it: money now influences politics, not public opinion. We're all Leona Helmsley's "little people" now, and just trying to put a finer point on which one of us is the tallest Munchkin isn't going to do us any good. Bernie and Trump have shown us that the majority of Americans have a similar frustration with "elites," and if the major parties discount that and continue to embrace the smugness, they're going to find out that there's a lot more down here with the rest of us than they ever thought.

In Solidarity,

Doremus Jessup

Incremental History

I have heard ad nauseam these past months that big, bold change is foolish, unattainable, even dangerous. Now, if we put aside the multiple Historical examples where it happened (the ending of American slavery, the Trustbusting of the Progressive Era, the New Deal) or the awful catastrophes we had to wait patiently for in order to enact them (Civil War, Labor unrest, the Great Depression) and if we look proactively at the situation through the wide eye of History, there is a case to be made that we have been progressing very incrementally since the 1960s.
We’ve made strides here and there: Civil Rights, Environmental Protection, Health Care Reform, Equal Rights by gender, orientation, identification… each of these are little incremental pieces moving forward. For those who say some candidates are promising too much, too fast, there are millions of Americans saying the last few decades have done too little, and too slowly. Some of the ideas being thrown around in the Democratic Primary are not considered radical anywhere else in the developed world, and are not bold leaps forward but merely the steps that are necessary to take for this country to survive as a functioning Republic. You say you want incrementalism, I say it’s already here, and I am not alone. In the words of a famous Minnesotan:
My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.
Hubert H. Humphrey campaigned for human rights.
Healthcare is a human right.
Education is a human right.
Social mobility is a human right.
A living wage is a human right.
Opportunity is a human right.
Prosperity is a human right.
Free and fair elections are a human right.
To those who say we are rushing these issues, I say we are 68 years too late.

At Your Service,
Doremus Jessup.