Political Talking Points for June

Tony Stubblebine
6 min readMay 31, 2017

In my “How to Be Political” post, I talked about two things:

  1. Being political is an act of generosity. You’re taking the time to push for a better world. We should all be political.
  2. Most of your friends haven’t had the time to crystalize their thoughts. So rather than convince the opposition, take the opportunity to convince all the people in your life that haven’t had time to do research yet. You’re doing them a favor while helping to solidify public support for a position.

So, along those lines, I sometimes try to articulate my current talking points. This is me trying to be a good citizen and make the world better. On election day, your vote only counts once. But in between, you can make your initiative count 10, 100 or even 1,000 times. (So few people take initiative.)

Trump has a simple, impeachable scandal that is being ignored until after the mid-terms: embezzlement.

The current Russia scandal is sort of like Benghazi on steroids. There’s a lot of press coverage without knowing what the actual crime is. Although, unlike Benghazi, we can see that there was a coverup and that coverup is itself a crime. There might really be something there and it seems worth following up. But nobody knows for certain what is being covered up. It’s complicated and is going to run for a long time.

Compare that to the following: every time Trump stays in a Trump owned property, he makes the Secret Service rent rooms at that property and pockets the room rental money. Trump could stop traveling or he could stay at a different property or he could have divested from his business. But he didn’t. Instead, he’s hiring his own businesses, paying them with government money, and keeping the profits.

This is embezzlement. Imagine you went to visit your parents, responded to some work email while you were there, paid your parents for the lodging through AirBnB, and then tried to expense that. Same thing here.

The democrats can’t actually impeach Trump unless they win the mid-terms. So they’ve latched on to Russia partly for practical reasons. The Russia treason scandal will generate never-ending negative press that will help those mid-term elections. The potential crime in the Russian scandal is way worse — it’s treason. But the more relevant characteristic is that it’s sprawling and ongoing. If the Democrats could retake Congress, then they could impeach and convict the president in a week on the embezzlement.

I use this talking point to help people with certainty that Trump is a crook. One of the things that he does so well is confuse issues. So I want everyone in my orbit to be rock solid on why he’s a crook. There’s no guess work on this embezzlement charge.

Universal Basic Income needs a rebranding.

It’s weird to be so attached to capitalism that you would accept a world with a few mega-rich robot owners and billions of unemployed poor. That’s where we’re headed.

I’d rather people think about capitalism as a bootstrapping strategy for an idyllic robot future.

That’s why people have started to talk about universal basic income (UBI).

But a lot of those people, especially in tech, are not telling the story in a compelling way. The current tech message of automation replacing jobs and UBI replacing salaries sounds like this to the future unemployed worker:

“Your life will no longer have any meaning… but you’ll be well fed.”

That is not an optimistic future. So you can’t just say UBI and be done with the conversation. You have to keep going. What do people in this UBI future do? What is their life purpose?

Even before life purpose, I think Americans in particular struggle with the idea of a handout. We’re culturally wired to believe in hard work and earning your keep.

So, here’s a take on a different framing. What if you called it a dividend?

Conceptually, Uber is going to put a lot of drivers out of work in a few years. Uber did a lot of the direct work to make that happen and they are going to make a lot of money for it. But the country did a lot of indirect work to make Uber happen. What is our ownership stake in Uber? And as citizens, what is our dividend on those profits?

So, that’s the first flip. Instead of saying handout, say dividend.

I also wonder if you need to tie work to the dividend. Americans like to work. It’s an issue of morality for us.

So what if we called UBI a “service dividend” and we gave it out for all acts of service that help the country including raising children, holding a job (possibly this dividend could be an alternative to minimum wage), volunteering, taking preventative health measures, making works of art, etc.

I use this talking point to start a discussion and try to get UBI fans to go one step further.

Hillary Clinton, the person, was a fantastic candidate. Your problem was with the institution of Hillary Clinton.

Tons of left-wing partisans bag on Hillary Clinton and they do it in a way that attacks her as a person. Maybe some of that is sexist. Actually, probably a lot is sexist. But it’s not always clear how to make that case to one of your friends about themselves.

So this is a different angle.

Hillary Clinton overcame 30 years of targeted, negative press from the opposition party. All of it was fake and driven by dirty politics. And despite that, she got far enough along that she was a presidential candidate who won the popular vote.

So split that loss into the person and the institution. A candidate with 30 years of negative press might have trouble being elected. That’s what I mean by the institution of Hillary Clinton.

As a person though — imagine the strength and perseverance to keep going and get so close despite that undeserved bad press. She didn’t kill Vince Foster. There was no crime in Benghazi (she actually has the modern record for fewest State Department employees killed on her watch).

I use this talking point to open people up to the idea of specific reasons for the presidential loss. I don’t want people to think a woman couldn’t be president. Or that Democrats just lost the election for one reason: bad candidate.

Democrats lost because of lots of reasons: bad polling (seen by the campaign going broad rather than focusing on the must-have states), voter suppression, 30-years of bad press, un-inspired base, Russian interference, FBI interference. Those are things we should be working to fix. “I don’t like Hillary’s voice” is a copout. She was rad. It’s the stuff around her that was bad.

Are you sure the resistance is winning?

I’m afraid that people will stop resisting when they see something that they perceive as a win. So, political resistance has stopped the Muslim ban three times in the courts, pressured a few resignations, slowed down a lot of bad policy, started a major investigation. These all seem like wins.

But, here’s the flip side. Trump is still in office. An investigation is not a conviction. And a conviction is not yet a punishment.

For example, we can all see the noose tightening around Kushner. He definitely has major omissions on his security paperwork. But Trump could just end up pardoning him.

The special prosecutor could find crimes and have all of those crimes pardoned.

So winning is winning elections and removing the president from office. Those are long term goals and are going to take sustained effort.

In different times, I’d have talking points for the following as well:

  • Pro Nuclear Power. We should get over ourselves. Oil creates war and coal creates pollution. The downsides of Nuclear are way better.
  • Anti-mass incarceration. It’s bad. The Louisiana government staffs their cafeteria with prisoners (basically slaves) and the US is just throwing so many people in prison needlessly (drugs, bails that people can’t pay).
  • Diversity. It’s fun. Moral. Improves results.

What are your talking points? I’m lazy. I bet most of you have well developed opinions that I’d just adopt outright if you shared them.