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Waiting in Line at the DNC Barricades

Emmett Rensin   July 26, 2016
democracy-spring-2

Here is how the majority of marches taking place at the Democratic National Convention this week will go: Participants will mill around a predetermined meeting place while organizers figure out what they didn’t prepare for. They will practice some call-and-response. They will commiserate about the near-record heat in Philadelphia, and discuss, as I just heard discussed in a register that was not purely joking, the counter-revolutionary intentions of the sun.

Eventually, they will set out down a predetermined route, moving significantly more slowly than their timetable allows; reach a predetermined spot, where they might have a speech or two, or a last run through all their cheers; and then, having made their point, disperse. Democracy, for better or worse, in action.

This is not the plan of Democracy Spring, an election reform organization that is dedicated to a different school of American protest. They plan to practice their chants, do their march, and then escalate until they get arrested.

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Who’s Afraid of a Few Little Boos?

Emmett Rensin   July 26, 2016
In Philadelphia last night, a few boos did not a rebellion make.

 

Chaos in Philadelphia! Unity shattered before the Democratic National Convention could begin! A fight brewing, a convention divided, a Revolt on the Convention Floor! Hot off a contentious weekend that saw Debbie Wasserman Schultz resign her position as DNC chairwoman, the convention had barely begun before reports began pouring out of booing and—

Well, just booing, really. That became The Story of night one at the Democratic National Convention.

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Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   July 25, 2016
Edsel Little

• As the DNC kicks off in Philadelphia, Talia Lavin investigates the 2016 presidential race’s, uh, racier underbelly, the fan-fiction sites where you’re “likely to read about a romantic connection between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—a pairing popular enough in political-erotica circles to have a Kimye-style nickname: Crubio.” Signs that the election was sinking into the cultural unconscious were detected by Corey Pein earlier this year.

• “In the US, we still have progressive taxation, at least until Ted Cruz gets his way and institutes a flat tax,” writes Baffler contributing editor Astra Taylor. “Now we need progressive punishment to match.”

• Last year telecom giant Verizon gobbled up AOL, and today it decided to have Yahoo for dessert. After reportedly smacking its spittle-flecked lips, it’s now taking a siesta in a patch of sun. Chris Lehmann wrote about the flailing Yahoo, a “labyrinth of high-octane managerial passive-aggression,” back in Baffler, no. 27.

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All Protests Look Alike, and Other DNC Myths

Emmett Rensin   July 25, 2016
climate-6

There is nobody else on the media sign-in sheet but two kids from a school paper. It’s Saturday, two days before the opening of the Democratic National Convention, and we are at Temple University in northern Philadelphia, where the PowerShift Network, part of the Energy Action Coalition, is holding a kind of wonky recruitment and training fair. Despite the poor press attendance, a crowd of young activists had been here since nine in the morning, deep in workshops and breakout sessions in advance of tomorrow’s March for a Clean Energy Revolution. The workshops and the march have come to Philadelphia, to the Democratic National Convention, with a mild request: that the American economy urgently transition to a sustainable energy model, a demand far beyond the present ambitions of any candidate for the presidency.

PowerShift was founded in 2006, originally conceived as nationwide mass mobilization effort to force political action on climate change. In 2015, under new executive director Lydia Avila, the group altered course. “Originally, the goal [for the group] was to raise awareness about climate change,” she told me at Temple, but today mere awareness has been achieved. Now, the group is focusing on relationship building and recruitment: organizing regional conferences that connect environmental activism groups to young people who want to get involved, but are unsure how.

Today, for example, there are tables set up all along a long hall, where representatives from a range of environmental groups are connecting with the students who have turned up for the day. The focus is local by design: the most prominently featured organizations, especially on the day’s panels, are Philadelphia based, and the goal is to convert abstract desires to act into actual work.

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The Baffler’s Officially Unofficial DNC Reading List

Hannah Gais   July 25, 2016
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Thirteen months ago, U.S. senator and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders kicked off his campaign on the shore of Lake Champlain in his home state of Vermont.

Sanders wasn’t expected to win—nor was he expected to get this far. And while he may have thrown in the towel on his presidential campaign, he’s sought to carry his campaign’s momentum down ballot. As Harold Meyerson has noted,“ the Sanders campaign didn’t create a new American left so much as reveal it.”

Still, the Democratic Party remains hugely divided—not unlike the last time the convention took place in Philadelphia

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A Cyborg Speaks of Fearness

David Rees   July 20, 2016
Melania looms.

There was a moment, late Monday night, as I read about Melania Trump’s convention speech—the passages lifted from Michelle Obama, the Rickroll some wily programmer pasted into her source code—when I wondered if I was dreaming. The catastrophe seemed too elegant to be happening outside my own head. The poetry of her unwitting epic fail felt too sweet for this world. For the first time in my life, I pitied a Trump.

Then I remembered the selfish, leering emptiness at the center of everything they do, and shuddered at my moment of empathy.

Here is a cartoon about that strange moment:

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Daily Bafflements

The Baffler   July 20, 2016
Ben Carson’s ideal Republican National Convention. / Peter Paul Rubens

• Despite Ben Carson’s best efforts to convince the Republican National Convention participants that Hillary Clinton is Lucifer, we know that if there’s one spiritual force involved in the 2016 presidential election it’s actually Loki, the Norse trickster god. “It is not very often that a thousand-year-old deity manifests in a foreign country in order to wreak havoc on an electoral contest, slaying taboos and causing spasms of cathartic rapture among his worshippers while sowing trepidation throughout the remainder of human civilization,” Pein wrote in March. “Yet there is historical precedent for this line of thought.” 

• Over at the Washington Post, Chris Lehmann expounds on the role of the prosperity gospel in Trump’s rise to power and his attempts to win over American Evangelicals. Although the prosperity gospel is a far cry from biblical orthodoxy, Lehmann notes: “The American Protestant mainstream, weaned for so long on the dogmatic gospel of economic uplift and possessive individualism, no longer processes contradictory information or intimations of a different moral alignment of economic reward and punishment.”

• This year has been hard. Please, take a moment and watch these bears

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Roger, Over and Out

Chris Lehmann   July 20, 2016
Roger Ailes

It’s certainly not in character for the corporate chieftains at Fox News to keep mum during the marquee action at a Republican Nation Convention. It’s a bit like having ESPN’s Chris Berman contain himself during a home-run derby—or Bravo TV reality impresario Andy Cohen staying quiet about anything at all.

Nevertheless, the silence out of the C suites at Fox News was eloquent, for a reason that the entire mediasphere has known for weeks: Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes has been embroiled in an ugly, protracted battle to save his perch atop the cable-news world. On Tuesday, word came forth that the battle was lost; talks between Ailes and his corporate overseers are preparing the way for his exit by August 1, if not sooner.

All this past week, the prospect of an involuntary Ailes departure—long an unthinkable fate for this Promethean lord of political media—was coming ever more sharply into the foreground, to the dismay of a conservative establishment still reeling from Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the GOP. Gabriel Sherman and other media scribes reported that Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes had prompted Fox’s governing Murdoch clan to give Ailes the bum’s rush. Follow-up questions were referred to the network’s parent firm, 21st Century Fox, which simply released an anodyne statement affirming that the investigation into Ailes’s conduct was ongoing—without anything close to a pro forma denial of Carlson’s explosive charges (let alone the many similar complaints that have surfaced in the wake of Carlson’s suit). The only question appeared to be whether to show Ailes the door promptly, as Murdoch fils James, CEO of 21st Century Fox, is said to urge, or to do it in the relative quiet of the post-Cleveland convention aftermath, per the alleged preference of James’s brother and News Corp Co-Chairman Lachlan—as well as of the Fox empire’s éminence grise, Big Daddy Rupert. Sherman’s latest report indicates that Megyn Kelly—now the network’s biggest primetime star—has testified that Ailes has harassed her, and that the 21st Century Fox brass has given Ailes until August 1 to resign or be fired for cause.

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