Speed versus developing young faculty

Recently I got into a disagreement with a journal editor over the way a manuscript of my student’s was adjudicated. The reviews were negative, which is what it is, but they were also…not particularly insightful or useful reviews. I hate to drag on reviewers (jk I actually love it), voluntary service and all that, but as every good nonprofit director knows, not all volunteer contributions are worth having. And with these reviews, the sum was less than its parts, and the parts were pretty lame, too. Now, again…this happens with reviews: we’ve all written lame reviews, and it’s a statistical probability that at some point in your career, three useless advice trains will arrive at the station at once.

Honestly, there have been times when I have gotten all the referee’s reports in, with mine and everybody else’s, on somebody’s manuscript, and my response is: “well, we sure sucked. Sorry, anonymous author person.”

That’s when I hope the editor has stepped up and made us sound smarter than we did, so that the author doesn’t walk away with steaming pile of poo for feedback.

But this editor just sent a “Hi, the reviewers want it rejected and so I am rejecting it and isn’t it swell of us to get this back to you so fast? Please don’t be discouraged from submitting again!” letter.

Now, does anybody owe you feedback? No. But duties aren’t the only reason to sack up and provide a little feedback. If we want a field of excellent scholars and excellent scholarship, we better be giving good-quality feedback, and not just for the “I, me, and mine” of student development. It takes a village to make a field.

So, I objected; I know and respect this editor and I said “Come on…is this what you are sending to young scholars who submit to the journal?”

And the response from the editor was, in essence, I am too busy to waste time on papers that have a reviewer consensus that it should be rejected, you’re mean for criticizing me, now grow up and learn that peer review is “a crap shoot.”

In fairness, most people with any sense when confronted with the possibility of debating anything with me run in the opposite direction. When I come swinging out of a corner, it’s going to be rough on the person I’m poking at. So short-circuiting any debate with such a defense perhaps served survival instincts. Or maybe the editor was just having a bad day. It’s not good to go quoting out of context, so don’t judge too harshly.

But boy that “crap shoot” metaphor, from an editor, really isn’t sitting well with me.

If peer review is a crap shoot, why do journal editors exist? Some are just doing the job with no compensation, and it’s all service, and I do empathize, but some of them get paid, and decently enough. If peer reviewing is just a crap shoot…what’s the editor’s role? Are they like Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, and they get a percentage off the top simply because they preside over the space?

And if it’s a crap shoot, then why the hell are any of us doing this? All we got to do is get some low-paid administrative assistant a Magic Eight Ball with “Accept”; “Revise and Resubmit” and “Reject” on it.

Better yet, just have a randomized algorithm deliver an immediate decision as soon as the “submit” button is pushed. Hell, it’s a crap shoot.

Just think of the time we’d all save! (I’m rather tempted.)

I’m not disputing the decision: papers get rejected. I am well past the point of my career where I need anybody to tell me about JK Rowling’s rejections or the like. We all know the good stories of papers that got rejected only to win prizes.

In reality, peer review is a deliberative process with a stochastic element to it. (the crap shoot part). But it should be more than that stochastic element. There’s all sorts of ways where worthy work and piss-poor work don’t wind up with desert. We live with this because the process of deliberation serves, when it works, as process of research and faculty development, and do you have a better idea? Nope, not perfect. But it can be decent if we approach it from the perspective of development.

So there’s the general principle of: if we want the field to exemplify good work, we need to help authors develop the work. And when the reviewers piss all over themselves, it is a good idea for an editor to step to some degree.

And then there is simple self-interest. Go ahead and reject me with a paragraph. I should know what I am about by now. But young scholars should walk away, ok yeah, stinging from a rejection, but with the belief that the journal wasn’t a waste of his/her time. In this case, with this journal, this submission was a waste of the kid’s time.

Now, if you are the editor of AER, then no. You don’t have to put in the time to foster relationships or submissions. You’re sitting on top of a valuable asset, and you have market power. That means people are going to keep coming back because the lottery shot of getting in there is worth something. And chances, your reviews will be decent, if not nice.

Field journals, however, are a different smoke.

Just about all field journals are hurting for submissions. You need to wade through a lot of stuff before you get gold, and since field journal editors are already not at AER level, they are getting people’s dodgier submissions anyway. So that means they need an even bigger submission pool than the elite journals–which the field journals won’t get because they are not really elite–if the field journals hope to gather some quality hits.

Or they just accept lower quality to fill pages, which means they stay mediocre.

Field journals have to really work to court submissions, IOW.

If a field journal editor gets a set of bad reviews, and they don’t do work on the submission themselves, a young scholar walks away with nothing but a lesson in resilience. Now, if you are an editor of big-deal journal, like AER, the scholar comes back. With a field journal, the young scholar doesn’t need to: journals with IFs of around 1 to 2 are thick on the ground. Fast decisions are one way to compete, and that’s good, but fast isn’t everything.

The communitarian case for zoning that planners do not talk about

If you are not reading Better Institutions by Shane Phillips, you should be. Shane is one of my former students, now graduated, and he’s very smart and passionate about cities. He’s one of LA’s leaders in planning, and Better Institutions is always worth a read.

Shane has been, like many of us in LA, concerned with the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, and he’s been one of its leading critics, and he also writes land use is important in urbanism and urban reform. One of his pieces has gone viral, here, and I have some things in it I want to poke around with a bit, in which Shane castigates self-interested home-owners who oppose growth to leverage speculative gains in land value by contributing to a shortage. For those interested in reading about where this thinking comes in, you can learn more about it if you read about Homevoter Hypothesis by Bill Fischel.

This supply-side argument to favoring growth embodied in these assumptions is a favorite among market liberals and libertarians, and I’m generally ok with this part of the argument, mostly, save for a few quibbles. Back in the heyday of growth boundaries and anti-sprawl, I was one of those people who kept saying “Um, if we don’t build on the fringe, which I know is bad, terrible, and wrong, but if we don’t do that, we are going to be constraining supply and potentially putting upward pressures on housing prices.”

The answer was: “Oh, that won’t happen because we’ll do infill. Lots and Lots of infill. There’s plenty of excess capacity.”

Yes, yes, right of course, but where is that excess capacity and who is going to be dealing with it?

I responded: “But infill is really, really hard, and the places most likely to be subjected to redevelopment first are going to be lower income neighborhoods, Black neighborhoods, Latino neighborhoods with renters. What do we do about that?”

The answer was: “Oh, that won’t happen! That could never happen because people will understand the need to save the environment and include people who otherwise can’t afford to live close in to urban opportunities! And gentrification is *just a myth.*”

So I went away, worried. I’m not a land economist, after all, though I was trained by some damn good ones, and I have great faith in policy to alter the way markets function and in social marketing’s ability to alter tastes. And if there has been one thing that New Urbanists and their high-density growth peers have been good at, it’s social marketing.

But now in some respects in LA (and the rest of the coastal California), here we are.

There are multiple reasons why I think planners and market liberals like Phillips need to back off a little bit on assuming anti-growth sentiment stems from mere homeowner self-interest. I don’t buy that it’s an “evil Baby Boomers versus Wonderful, Urbanity-Loving Millenials” conflict either, as gratifying as it is for this here Gen-Xer to watch those groups blame each other. American suburbanization started long before the Boomers showed up. Nor am I convinced that homeowners necessarily just have one interest, financial, in zoning. Given that I am likely to get raked over the coals for this post, I want to repeat: the Homevoter Hypothesis is important to understanding urban politics and development. But it’s partial. That’s my argument.

At some point we should stop being shocked that people have interests, and then, gasp, seek to optimize on them in politics. Why it’s ok to both a) have market interests and b) act on those, but not okay to have political interests, let alone act on them, is a bit beyond me. I don’t see anybody else turning down dividends or profits, and I’m not sure California homeowners fall into problematic luck egalitarianism the way that their critics assume they do, but that’s a long, drawn-out land valuation argument that takes me too far afield to sort today. And I’m not sure of the reasoning. But still.

Anyway, while home voters might indeed be voting their financial interests, there is a lot wrapped up in zoning that isn’t necessarily about speculative gains to real estate. Renters, too, tend to oppose new development, and while we can try to act like they don’t know what’s good for them, I think they share concerns about neighborhood changes, residential stability, and place identity with homeowners, and that coalition is much, much tougher to beat than simply assuming that zoning conflicts are strictly class-based conflicts about assets between owners and newcomers.

If you look at ‘exclusion’ as a big, social and political phenomenon instead of just in terms of local zoning and development spats, the arguments for exclusion combine both communitarian concerns about identity and stability and self-determination with economic concerns. Just as with zoning conflicts, conflicts over immigration can be reduced to spats over economic self-interest–the “you took my job” and “your kid requires I pay more for the local public school.”

But those are not the only objection made to immigration. They may not even be the most commonly held objection. Other objections, important ones, are the desire that individuals have to maintain a specific culture and make-up of the political community. Now, in the US, there are strong racist underpinnings to resistance to immigration from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, but America’s history of immigration has always been contested. The Irish and Italians were opposed because they were perceived, among other things, as labor agitators and Catholics, etc. etc. Immigrants change things, and change is, for the average progressive, a natural part of the world. For the average conservative, change is not necessarily desirable nor good.

Thus communitarians’ arguments for exclusion occur at just about every level of political community, and those communitarian arguments probably deserve more attention than they get in discussions over zoning.

Spelled out more explicitly, the communitarian arguments, which in planning have paralleled the cheerleading for infill and leading to rather major conflicts internal to the development process, have assumed that neighborhoods should have some level of self-determination in democratic conflicts over development. As it turns out, unleashing democratic preferences means you may not like that preference, and one of the strong preferences people have seems to be that their neighborhoods stay much as they are right at the moment, or with changes that they, themselves, guide. If neighborhoods have self-determination, why can’t they they use that self-determination to use zoning to enable the exercise of freedom of association? The ability to exclude is a pretty big deal in communitarian frameworks because it enables the formation of specific associations that are essential to individuals’ ability to a) exercise liberty, conscience, and self-expression and b) form intimate attachments of their own choosing. (This is thinking of Stuart White, btw). Exclusion may be more than justified from public good perspective to the degree that it enables those things. Christopher Heath Wellman notes that group membership determines a major part of self-conception and identity, and thus changing the members of any given group changes an essential part of identity. Exclusion for communitarians is necessary to preserve distinct group character, group trust, and mutual identification. To the degree that place is part of group identity, the ability to exclude others from that place supports group stability in crucial ways.

Apologists for exclusion have the burden of trying to show that these things they see as essential to human life and community hinge on being able to keep people out. Opponents of exclusion have a similar evidence burden to show that the things that communitarians prize about exclusion do not, in fact, require the ability to pick and choose what group membership changes occur and which do not.

Urbanists and those who argue against exclusion usually do so based on justice or efficiency arguments. Other than the inherent difficulties of separate-but-equal arguments, why can’t people who wish to control their own associations discharge their duties to distributive justice by doing everything required to help outsiders where they currently live? Justice might obtain in many ways. (I personally am not convinced by separate-but-equal arguments, but those are still out there being made, and there is a good core of commonsense value in stemming the movement into particular places by resourcing other places and making them great, too, along with the demands of global justice.)

Libertarians fall back onto the idea that zoning is an illiberal intervention into personal property rights and freedom of movement. But I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about libertarianism and freedom of association and I can’t reconcile the conflict from within that paradigm. My ability to limit who has access to me may be a strong preference, and the dictates of liberty and self-ownership mean that I should be able to exercise exclusion if I so choose via voluntary associations and contracts. Liberty of movement simultaneously requires that I should be able to move wherever. (I mean, not in your house, but in your general area). There are, in other words, dueling liberties and I see no credible argument for siding with one over the other that doesn’t fall into simple assertions of market power.

These debates can quickly become circular and irresolvable, but I’m worried that planning and urbanism are not really taking on communitarian claims and neighborhood self-determination arguments *at all* in contemporary zoning debates. Instead, it’s urbanists with personal preferences for urbanism saying “But cities are great and we have to save the environment by not sprawling!” and the market liberal followers of Ed Glaesar making supply-side arguments for affordability.

Trust me, as somebody who reads Glenn Beck’s Agenda 21 novels so that you don’t have to, not everybody sees the environment or justice as sufficient public policy rationales for trying to force people into accepting changes they don’t want or living in neighborhoods they don’t like. Dismissiveness vis-a-vis the communitarian arguments risks making planners seem like clueless progressives who don’t value families or communities at the same time they purport to value neighborhoods–but only certain neighborhoods, the ones that meet their approval. This is a chronic problem in planning, and it’s one we should probably be thinking about.

Pedagogical theory and practice versus increasingly shriekyy emails

State-of-the-art student-centered pedagogy theory preached at me with every “excellent teaching” seminar I attend: You must center on the students’ goals, come up with individual work plans, have them assemble the learning goals, and thus, create their own unique, special-snowflake syllabus.

University rules enforced by the university’s Dolores Umbridges as informed to me several weeks before the start of classes WHERE IS YOUR FALL SYLLABUS YOU MUST SEND US YOUR FALL SYLLABUS EVERY SYLLABUS SHOULD HAVE CLEARLY STATED LEARNING GOALS and OBJECTIVES (how are goals different from objectives?) AND UNIVERSITY-SANCTIONED LANGUAGE FOR PLAGIARISM, DISABILITIES, HARASSMENT. And enforced by weekly emails from staff members remind you that they need your syllabus weeks and weeks before any aforementioned student-centered learning goals might be developed with said students.


So what, exactly, is anybody, GOP or Dem, supposed to do for the rural white working class now that we have globalized and de-legitimized the welfare state?

In the latest entry among “let’s rationalize Trump’s appeal by using rural white poverty The American Conservative has an interview with JD Vance.

In it, Vance returns, again and again, to the “plight of America’s rural poor whites”, all of which boil down to concerns that, when raised among black Americans, conservatives like Vance pooh-pooh as “divisive” and “paranoid” and “self-pitying victimology that prevents blacks from getting ahead in a system that works fine, just fine.”

Yes, rural America is poor. It’s been poor a long time.

I don’t buy what Vance is selling. It’s an intelligent interview, but it strikes me as being a stretch. My “I am from poor people in a poor place” bona fides are about as good as Vance’s, so let me give a different view.

Now that people like Vance are once again writing about the structural poverty of the countryside (because as problematic as it is, Michael Harrington’s The Other America preceded Vance by decades), eeeeee-lites are supposed to be chastened by the bloviating Mr. Trump who is taking down those politically correct elites because saying “chairperson” instead of “chairman” is so burdensome it’s ruining America and stopping all that would completely change economic outcomes in places in the US with neither the financial nor human capital to compete.

Political parties have forgotten about them; shame, shame on political parties. Of course they have forgotten about these places. Because these places are not economically or political important just because people who would like to be economically and politically influential live there.

The other major question for these disenfranchised rural residents: for people who are supposedly so disenfranchised are disproportionately represented in Congress. Their vote for Senators counts way, way more than mine, urban eeee-lite though I am. I am not disputing the wealth and political clout that exists in cities. I am asking, pointedly, that if what rural white residents want are job opportunities and greater political voice, are they using that clout to put like Steve King in office. King’s major policy stances have been in favor of dog-fighting (yeah, there’s the economic future, right there. Silicon Valley, look out) and keeping Harriet Tubman off currency in favor of genocidal maniac Andrew Jackson. That’s not using influence to generate hope and economic opportunity. That’s social conservatism. These places have consistently voted for TEA Party types. Now, you can bemoan the fact that rural voters aren’t voting their economic interests, or they are dumb, or whatever, but it seems to me that their social conservativism matters tremendously to them and that’s what they are voting on. Marriage equality is not keeping economic opportunities from them.

Maybe immigration is. But I’m less sanguine about that because economic migrants from all over are primarily moving major metro areas, both within and across borders, not places in the countryside (with a few exceptions). I’m sure some displacement has occurred, but the one economic strategy that immigrants use–moving to cities–is one that rural whites in the US have rejected. They have stayed put.

(I’m not advocating they move; I did and it worked out for me, but it was a struggle, and not necessarily a pleasant one. I gave up a lot that people who stay in place retain. I’m just pointing out that moving to cities, which is what just about all but a handful of agricultural workers do, is not something the rural whites have done or wanted to do, so the idea that those urban jobs aren’t going to them because an immigrant took them does not seem to hold.)

This is capitalism and political economy without Polyani’s welfare state as the brokered deal to redistribute a bit among classes and among places. Capitalism concentrates wealth both among individuals and places. Engels pointed this out. Political economy follows from capitalism, and here we are.

If Vance is right and I am wrong, the ultimate tragedy of putting their faith in Donald Trump is that he’s a liar who will say anything to play to whatever crowd is cheering for him at the moment. He does not care about anybody else and the whole “he’ll stick it to the elites” is utter baloney. I toted up how much I am going to save in taxes under his plan, and it was eye-popping.

Boy, that’ll sure show those eeee-lites.

*BTW, I think the term “Human capital” is gross, but commodified labor is commodified labor at some point.

Dealing with politics as a function of contexts rather than individual personalities

ATTENTION CONSERVATION NOTICE: Stop acting like Hillary Clinton is the wicked witch of the west and start seeing her as the product of four decades of backlash.

This is going to be a long post, and I am sorry, but the type of stuff that I am thinking about this morning really is complicated.

I’ve rather had it with the grumpiness around the “Bernie or Bust” people as well was the “Bernie or Bust” people, and it’s because I think it shows an illiteracy about policy and governance really does stand the chance of derailing the considerable good that Sanders has done, but not in the way that most people think.

For one, the “bust” folks are just getting madder and madder. The DNC email leak is being overblown–those aren’t nice emails, but for all the suggestions that were slimy, I don’t really remember any of the suggestions really being used. Were they? In addition to being biased, the suggestions were also…dumb. I thought Clinton handled Sanders with kid gloves, and I am glad she did so, and I think she did for good reasons: she didn’t want him discredited.

So the shrieking surrounding this supposed scandal “THEY RUINED DEMOCRACY” just kind of makes me sad about the state of political literacy. I’ve lamented the loss of government classes in American high schools for years, but one of the major reasons is simply that by getting the “who does what” aspects of civics figured out in high school, you can then teach classes in American politics in college and then cover parties, their histories, what parties do, what they don’t do. You bet there are better ways to conduct democratic elections than with two dominant parties and winner-take-all elections (which reinforce two parties), but as long as there are parties, they are going to be strategizing within the primary system long before they get to the generals.

I’m also fed up with the Sarah Silverman stuff of telling Bernie or Bust supporters that they are being ridiculous. It is rude. You can’t blame a person for being offended at that. Moreover, people with reservations about Clinton aren’t being ridiculous. Well some are: some seem to be a bunch of whiney misogynists who have fallen into a cult of personality around Sanders that he frankly doesn’t want, either, and to his credit, Sanders has never appeared to me to be on an ego trip of “they love me! They love me!” even though many people, including me, love him.

But there those who with good reasons to deplore Hillary Clinton’s record. In addition to Bill’s disastrous concessions to the Republicans in Congress on welfare reform, which you might be able to hold against her, she has been hawkish, a lot like Barack Obama. Where the misogyny shows up is when people ohh and ahh over the greatness of President Obama and then act like Clinton is the whore of Babylon. She at least tried to Obama to intervene in Syria and his hardcore political pragmatism kept him out. But lots of people deplore BOTH Obama and Clinton’s hawkishness, and they have legitimate worries about how she will wield power granted how she did so in the past.

And if you want fewer people to protest, then craft a less horrible set of policies on Israel and Palestine in your platform.

That said, I’m worried that the “bust” people don’t see what Sanders has done here: their best opportunity for continuing the revolution is Hillary Clinton and not bust–Donald Trump. If that wasn’t clear two weeks ago, it’s clear now. Donald Trump won’t “ruin” this country. There will be no political revolution with him in charge. He picked Michael Pence for his running mate. It’s a straight signaling that Trump is going to be a figurehead and the neocons are going to run the show.

It’ll be, instead, 4 and likely 8 years of Donald Trump stomping around and acting important and the GOP, God forbid, potentially having both the presidency and the Congress. That is, indeed, bust, but it will simply involve more of what we saw under President Bush (II). We’ve seen it already, and it’s not political revolution. It’s tax breaks for people like me and appointing more Alitos and Scalias. We’ve seen puh-lenty of this before.

Oh, and it’s Bernie Sanders going on home to become a senator from a small state as a man who once ran a campaign that made people feel good. Now THAT strikes me as a bust.

It’s hard to have a lot of hope and then have those hopes dashed in an election, but campaigns and elections are not governing; they are the build up to being able to govern.

And while I understand Sanders supporters legitimate ire, for those of us who have been progressives for a really long time, it’s just as insulting and irritating to have people who are 20 year olds who have been interested in politics for roughly a year and a half lecture me on how Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama are “just as bad” as President Bush.

They aren’t and they weren’t. They might not have been great, but they were not President Bush, who thoughtlessly charged into a poorly planned military entanglement that killed thousands and immiserated millions and picked his nose when Americans were dying by the thousands in New Orleans buh buh buh-cuz “small government.” (Yes, Senator Clinton voted for the war, and she was wrong to do so, but there were some good reasons for wanting to intervene in Iraq…but it didn’t have to be the shitshow it was had the president or any of his appointees possessed a scrap of coalition-building capability. Nor, by the way, did she vote to expand a an illegal torture program. That line goes straight to the neocons, and btw all the GOP candidates competed during their debates to be the torturiest of the torturers despite evidence that the program didn’t really work and IT’S ILLEGAL BY OUR OWN LAWS. Like, not like, some sissy international laws, but OUR OWN LAWS.

oh, but BENGHAZI!!!!

And President Bush put Sam Alito on SCOTUS for the next 800 years. That alone should have us calling The Hague.

Now, Obama and Clinton are further to right than what many Sanders supporters want. But here’s the deal: for those of you who didn’t experience what Ronald Reagan did to politics in the US, go out and learn it, because in the post-Reagan years, elections in this country swung so far to the right that only Democrats that walk and look and act Obama and Clinton were going to get elected post Reagan.

And before you say “BS”…go look at this graphic.

The GOP has been dominating elections since 1985 after decades of Democratic control.

Yeah, we used to have a strongish left in the United States, but the backlash against the 1960s embodied in Nixon and carried forward in full expression into the Reagan years dragged the Democrats into political centrism that would have been, fifty years prior, a position occupied by moderate Republicans. Reagan crushed his political opponents. Crushed. Between the cult of personality and his campaign organization, which was impressive, Reagan–and more importantly, his people–owned politics for nearly two decades even after Reagan himself had to ride off into the sunset.

Remember Jack Kemp? No, lots of today’s voters do not remember Jack Kemp or Bob Dole because the voters are too young. They ran against Clinton in 1996, and they lost. Badly. You want to talk about two utterly indistinguishable politicians? Jack Kemp and Bill Clinton. Kemp was supposed to be the future of the Republican Party. Moderate. Young. Good-looking. Smart. Kemp was the whole package.

Gone. Why? Too moderate. The Mitch McConnells and the Lindsey Grahams and the Newt Gingerichs were everywhere. Still are. And the last 5 years, those guys haven’t been far enough right for TEA party types. Ahem. Let me repeat: THOSE GUYS have not been far enough right.

The only Democrats likely to get elected in the 1990s in the post-Reagan environment were the Clintons, and while we can blame money in politics, the bottom line is that if you can only elect relatively conservative people for decades at a time, they are going to be the people who are going to be on deck as experienced politicians when and if you ever hope to carry an election where we get to swing left again.

In other words, the Clintons are and were functions of contexts rather than, simply, bad individuals. Now maybe they are bad individuals. And I do think individual character and positions matter in politics and history. I think the way Bill Clinton treated the women around him is scummy. But those individual traits aren’t the whole story. Individuals step into contexts, and the Clintons’ combination of center-rightism meshed with what just about everybody thought was electable in the 1990s.

See, if you haven’t listened to the Republicans–and whole lot of other people–deride Jimmy Carter for 40 years, you don’t get this.

Sanders reinvigorated with his primary run something that I had seen die in my lifetime: a genuinely progressive Democratic base. Sanders demonstrated that there is a thirst for leftist politics and policy in the United States. He has shown that lefties can be credible, serious candidates for public office. He has shown the Democratic Party the states where it might be possible to get much more progressive people than the Clintons into Congress and into the Governor’s mansion.

Sanders ran as a Democrat because he knew all these things. If I’m tired and pissed off after years and years of neoliberal horse poop, he’s got to be 100 times more so. But I’d rather keep his vision alive by keeping him there, as Clinton’s stalking horse, rather than sending BOTH Sanders and Clinton to the bench and letting Trump and Mike Pence control the court. If that happens, it’ll be all to easy to make it seem like Sanders successes in the primary was the stuff of a cult of personality–a combination of his appealing old Jewish G-Pa personality and her Wicked Witchiness—instead of a genuine ground-swelling of progressive sentiment in US politics that signals to Clinton and subsequent Democrats where the party should go.

It’s very likely that if a Democrat is elected, they will be a one-term president. I would, quite frankly, have that person be Clinton rather than Sanders. She’ll make the SCOTUS appointments I need her to–and more importantly, prevent Trump from making the ones Pence and Co want him to–and exit to her own sunset. A one-term Bernie Sanders sally would be Jimmy Carter and another death of genuine progressivism all over again, and screw that.

Why I don’t sit by you on the bus/train

We have a podcast up at Bedrosian for Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric where I mostly am the clueless white lady. But that does give Raphael and Donnajean the opportunity to expand the discussion, so here it is. Mostly, what I learned doing the podcast is how in denial I am. Not that we are post-racial. But that these precious people, like Raph and Donnajean, suffer so and risk death just being out in the world. I just don’t want that to be true. These are cherished people. I’ve been hoping for years that we could get to the point where we are paying reparations, fixing mass incarceration, and the other policies and institutions. But we are still killing people on the street.

So anyway, one thing I did want to discuss was he public space problems of sitting on the bus. Rankine uses the white unwillingness to sit next to her on the bus as another peg on the board of how white people let black people know they are not ok. The whole book is so powerful: it shows you so clearly how micro aggressions fit as small signals and reminders with the big signals–and the ultimate enforcer, violence–in the lives of black Americans. (And people of color internationally.)

There is something I do want people to know: I don’t sit by you on the bus because of who you are. I don’t sit by you because of who I am. My size. I’m a big lady, and I don’t want anybody to be uncomfortable. I’ve always been lucky enough to live close to my work and to have relatively good health despite my size, and so standing for me for the trip is no problem. My train ride is two stops. Ten minutes, max.

I want people to be comfortable and happy on the bus or train. So I stand because I take up space, and if somebody smaller or nobody at all sits next to you, then you will be more comfortable than if I sit by you.

And today I am wearing white pants. So there’s that.