A little about me and this podcast I started…
I’m Christian Hanley, host of Keep it in Perspective, Democratic strategist, communications consultant, not-currently-practicing attorney, still-figuring-it-out author, and founder of Defiance Strategies LLC. I help Democrats, but I also enjoy working on advocacy campaigns with the good people of labor (those rabble-rousers who brought you the middle class, the weekend, and vacations) and the nonprofit sector. Despite going on TV to talk about it all, it’s actually not that glamorous. It’s hard work helping the good guys.
I started off volunteering as a canvasser for then-Senator Barack Obama in New Hampshire in 2008, but I caught the politics bug much earlier. While you were watching cartoons, I was watching The McLaughlin Group. If you don’t remember it, look on YouTube, then imagine a ten-year-old watching that show and yelling his rebuttals at the TV as though anyone could here him. That was me. Not surprisingly, I co-founded a debate team in high school, a political science student society in college, and then went on to law school, all of which you probably guessed based on my childhood viewing habits.
It’s often said that people’s reality shapes their politics. Watching Republicans make shit up to justify their solutions in search of problems, Jon Stewart noted on The Daily Show that its people’s politics that now shape their reality. That may be true for many, but for me, the old saying still applies.
In the year 2000, I watched my worst suspicions of the Republican Party come to life. Their immorality moved from the rhetorical (like assailing Bill Clinton for his infidelity while on their third marriage) to the literal, as they snatched the right to vote from ordinary Americans in Florida. They ran crying to the Supreme Court, begging the third branch of government to pause democracy and unilaterally install their choice of President in the White House. It was unthinkable, and yet it happened. Al Gore and the Democrats, caring more about American traditions, norms, and stability than the pure quest for power, caved.
It wasn’t in style to say it outright at the time, but it was clear to me then that the Republican Party was nothing more than that the party of White backlash, the reactionary force lashing out after every step forward in American progress. They were always the party that united the country club and the race track, but that critique was always a step too far. It was never “fair” to point out that the only thing uniting a New England patrician like Bush or Romney with an automobile racing enthusiast from Florida was race. Despite all the evidence, especially the fact that even then it was almost exclusively a party for white men, that critique was dismissed as a “cheap shot”. Doesn’t seem so far fetch now, does it?
For me though, that critique of the GOP wasn’t enough. Even twenty years ago, Republicans were not just the reactionary party of old white men; they were hypocrites, craven men vying for power at all costs. Their morals were no more than branding. They cheated on their wives and hated gays while preaching chastity, they destroyed the American middle class while waving the banner of patriotism, and they wasted the hard earned dollars of taxpayers while taking up the mantle of fiscal responsibility. It is and has always been bullshit. They cared about nothing more than gaining and keeping power, and that never changed. The only thing that’s changed is that now it’s OK to finally critique them for being the angry, racist, self-serving, power-hungry hypocrites they always have been.
But enough about my wild, crazy adolescence.
In the twenty or so years since that time, I’ve learned as much as possible about how we got where we are now. I’ve studied the advent of right-wing think tanks, paid influence, and spin that have led us to this era of blatant bullshit and alternative facts. There’s a straight line to be drawn from Reagan to Bush to the manchild in the White House I refer to as Spraytan Stalin. Sure, we’ve had our moments in the sun during that time. Even as Democrats though, we’ve argued our positions on their terms, always genuflecting before the lie that we are starry-eyed and idealistic while the right wing is reasoned and reasonable.
In the same time, I’ve gone on to law school, practiced law, worked on campaigns and consulted on strategy and communications. I lived and studied in a couple of countries we very recently called friends and allies, places where reality TV does not make a president, countries where the right-wing revolution never happened and where upward mobility and the middle class still exist. That’s right. We’re exceptional, but right now that’s because we broke from the pack and went the wrong way for forty years. Since then, the American dream has become reality throughout the West, except for here in America. Alternative facts may be new, but we’ve already been living in an alternative reality for years.
It’s time to change all that.
When we keep it all in perspective, learn how we got here, remember our past and look to our friends and allies, we can make this country a land of opportunity for us all. It’s not about idealism – it’s a simple question of educating ourselves. That’s why I’m here, and that’s what this podcast is all about.
I’m Christian Hanley, and in these infuriating and nerve wracking days, I hope you’ll join me in keeping it all in perspective. Because together, we’ll not only get through this - we’ll come out the other side with our country as free, just, and fair as ever.