Anger Mismanagement

Now you see him, now you don’t. Ever again.

One day in high school, we had a guest speaker for our Social Studies class. His name was Dean Kennedy, and he was there to tell us about the Mulatto Conspiracy.

And that was his first problem: Nobody in the room knew what a “mulatto” was.

But Dean Kennedy helpfully explained that, and much else, with crude printed charts, and citations from his extensive library of rare books, many of which, he told us, were the only copy that existed.

The presentation finished, and class over, Dean Kennedy left. And then we all spent the rest of the week laughing our asses off.

This was in 1975.

We’ve had many occasions to reflect upon Dean Kennedy and his unique brand of crackpot racism over the years. And every time, it starts with this fundamental point: If Dean Kennedy hadn’t visited, and the class politely listened — and then politely challenged each of his points — we never would have learned about what Dean Kennedy represents, and the kind of person who represents it. Hearing him out inoculated us against the very thing he promoted. It was flat-out absurd, especially to a 15-year-old.

Two kinds of events typically bring Dean Kennedy to mind.

The first involves the occasion of his appearance: A talk to a public high-school class. Here the year is significant: What was an uneventful talk in 1975 would easily become a local or national controversy not long after. Our poor teacher would have been crucified for letting a racist poison our young impressionable minds. And, in turn, we would have been ridiculed for letting said racist complete his presentation without shouting him, and his wicked ideas, down.

Which leads to the second kind of event.

Donald Trump was scheduled to appear at an event Friday evening at a college campus in Chicago. After the right-thinking faculty failed to prevent that appearance, a larger than usual protest formed inside the venue, leading Trump, citing “safety”, to cancel.

Liberal Twitter was overjoyed. Beau Willimon, whose batting average producing House of Cards is now 2 for 4, reflected the general tone:

#LoveTrumpsHate. If @realDonaldTrump comes to your city: Organize. Protest. Overwhelm him with intelligence & peace.

For “intelligence & peace” you may read “shout the bastard out of the room”, since Willimon wasn’t tweeting in a vacuum.

Less circumspect was Alpha Geek (and “2015 KY Governor Candidate”) Drew Curtis, who got to the point:

Trump just showed he’ll cancel an event if enough people protest it. Game on

We congratulate Beau and Drew and the righteous protesters at the University of Illinois at Chicago for doing what the candidate himself couldn’t: Turn Donald Trump into a goddam Free Speech Martyr.

For that is what happens when you combine the best intentions with the worst strategy: It fucking backfires, kids. Yes, you “silenced” Donald Trump and his naughty talk at UIC, and in so doing, you generated days of cheap — and loud — publicity.

Fark founder Drew, of all people, should know about the Streisand Effect: The more you try to quiet something, the more it spreads.

And, in this case, it also adds more fuel to the fire, as if the Trump Army isn’t already motivated enough to vote.

Dean Kennedy, as it happens, died in the obscurity he lived. He was never a national figure, not even a local one: If he hadn’t visited our class that day, we would never have heard of him. He spoke, he went home, nobody cared, nobody raised a fuss, nobody made an issue out of him, much less a martyr.

Instead, we all just laughed and laughed and laughed. Forty years on, we’re still laughing.

Donald Trump, of course, can’t be ignored, not at this point, and even laughing at him seems insufficient to the very real threat he poses. But he can be defeated — not by shouting him down at an event, but by voting against him when the opportunity arises.

Granted, voting isn’t as fun as moral preening, but if all those folks bothered to vote — especially in off-years — they might discover they don’t need to protest as much.


We do not only need to vote against Trump, we need to do what the wingnuts did. Liberals need to take back the school boards, the state houses, the governorships. It will be a long, slow process. But we have to seize the levers of power, take them back from the insane fuckstick bigots, sociopaths, and idiots who have them now. This means war.

@blogenfreude: And the tools to organize that are much more widely available — and at little to no cost — than when wingnuts embarked on that project in the early 80s with expensive mailing lists.

That’s been my beef for forty years against protest-and-go-home: Pisspoor strategy and tactics. You’re not going to overthrow The System, so learn how to undermine it.

Robert Caro’s book on LBJ’s Senate years illustrates the point: Well-meaning liberals (like Humphrey) made inspiring speeches and sat down. LBJ learned how to work the levers. Seldom for good, alas, but that’s how you get shit done.

@blogenfreude: Simple case in point: Back in Sandy Eggo, there were plenty of elections for minor posts — school boards, local judges — and while the state/county voter guides would dutifully print deliberately obscure candidate statements, I had to go online and hunt down material that would tell me who the wingnuts were.

And there’s a simple starter kit for organizing: Short of running candidates, at least make sure your folks know who the demons are, and make sure your folks vote to stop them. That’s equivalent to the energy you’re already wasting on one-off protests, and to much greater effect.

The price of eternal vigilance is exhaustion.

But wingnuts are fueled by self-righteousness and crazy.

@nojo: Can’t find a link for it at the moment, but someone crunched the numbers for this year’s House elections and found that in about a quarter of the districts only one of the two major parties even bothered to field a candidate. Several were seats that Democrats had held in the recent past and/or where polling showed that Republicans are vulnerable. Showing up is 80 percent of life democracy. Goes for candidates as well as voters.

@mellbell: Yow. And as you know, that rabbit hole runs deep, what with gerrymandering, the tendencies of districts to like their crook but not those other scoundrels, and so on.

Plus this: Since 1970 — I think, it’s a hard stat to wrangle — Republicans have won the majority of state redistricting elections, with significant consequences for the following decade. That’s part of happens when the Good Guys don’t vote during off-years, particularly 2010.

Was it Howard Dean who first proposed a “fifty-state strategy”? As you note, it applies well beyond presidential races.

@nojo: I’m not certain that the white kids in my stepfather’s high school class in Suffolk, VA would have laughed their asses of all week. ETA: The black kids would have probably viewed it as business as usual, and maybe the white kids would have laughed for different reasons that you guys did.

He graduated in 1973, and he was functionally illiterate, and black, and also related to many of his white classmates. (A good number of black and white kids had variations of the same not-exactly-common last name.)

Location, location, location.

@JNOV: True dat. The irony is that Orygun has always been a very White state. I used to say at the time that we didn’t have racial issues because we didn’t have races, and local preening about our kumbaya attitude was lacking in substance.

@nojo: Yah. And yah to what you wrote about protesting. Complicated, that.

My kid’s first vote was in the 2008 primary. Now I’m watching him and his cohort go nuts over Bernie. I haven’t seen him talking about going to a Trump rally. (All this via FB posts.)

He’s big into Michelle Alexander (Holla SFLefty!), and using his hard-earned coding money to buy a unicycle, because, why not? He’s falling around his apt holding onto the wall.

And this caucus business here was not nearly as fun as I’d hoped. It truly sucked. The location was crap. The closest bus stop was one mile away. I ended up renting a car and parking more than one mile away. I made it into the fire-hazard school gym 15 minutes before the final vote, and I’d say about 20-25 people from my precinct went. I live in an apartment complex that houses at least 100 adults. I’m surrounded by apartment complexes, a trailer park, a 55+ whatever it is, and condos. At least some of us have to be in the same precinct. The Dem caucus knuckleheads unintentionally suppressed turnout by having this thing far, far away. My stupid preregistration form wouldn’t print. I squeezed though a huge crowd of people for a good five minutes because I couldn’t find my precinct in the hot-ass gym because my precinct sign holder was sitting instead of, oh, holding the stupid sign in the air. Sucked. Dropped off my form and left.

But it wasn’t raining, so there’s that.

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