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The 10 Plagues Of Election Season

All presidential campaign years raise tensions, but Election 2016 has been especially divisive. The Republican and Democratic parties’ nominating battles have unfolded in such a painful and interminable way that I can almost imagine how exhausted my ancestors felt, wandering through the desert for 40 years. So destructive are the phenomena of this election that they bring to mind the 10 biblical plagues inflicted by the God of Israel unto Egypt.

Since Jews are currently celebrating the holiday of Passover, what better time to explore the plagues of the 2016 election?

1. Blood/Menstrual Hysteria

Just as the Passover Haggadah describes all the water in Egypt being turned to blood, all pundits could talk about after an August GOP debate was “Bloodgate.” It started when moderator Megyn Kelly asked GOP frontrunner Donald Trump if Americans should elect a president who “call(s) women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals,’” and who once insinuated that a female Apprentice contestant would look great giving him a blow job. As I wrote at the time in Politico, Trump went ballistic post-debate, calling in to CNN to whine that the reason Kelly attacked him with “ridiculous questions” was because “she had blood coming out of her wherever.”

The news “cycle” synced up like sorority members’ periods, proving true the old journalism adage, “If it bleeds it leads.” So much was made over The Donald’s menstrual swipe that a casual viewer could’ve been forgiven for confusing cable news shows with maxi pad commercials. Women live-tweeted their periods at Trump, and even right-wing operatives like RedState Gathering leader Erick Ericsson complained that Trump had crossed the line. Unfortunately, as I wrote at the time, far less attention was paid to Trump’s more egregious characterizations of Kelly as “a lightweight,” “highly overrated” journalist for whom he has “no respect,” or to his retweet of a supporter who called Kelly “a bimbo.” Trump’s PMS tantrum was far less newsworthy than his knee-jerk undercutting of women’s professionalism, intelligence, and competence — something that he has never confined only to Kelly, and which bodes ill for half the population if he were to be elected.

2. Frogs/Pandering

If we know anything about frogs, it’s that the slimy little bastards jump all over the place — an apt metaphor for the pandering ways of this year’s presidential contenders! Let’s start with the slimiest of them all. Donald Trump has leapt onto every pandering lily pad floating by: pretending he’d consider buying a farm in Iowa (picture it: gold-plated cows! with yooooge udders!), bungling the name of the biblical book Second Corinthians by calling it “Two Corinthians” at evangelical Christian Liberty University, and sounding like he wanted to reanimate a football coach’s corpse when he asked “How’s Joe Paterno . . . we’re gonna bring that back, right?” during a speech in Pittsburgh. (Yeah, he was referencing a statue of the dead Penn State figure that had been removed due to his involvement in the school’s child sexual abuse scandal, but still . . . yikes.) And don’t worry, we’ll get to his genuflecting to the white supremacist vote in the sixth plague.

Not even Trump’s “Two Corinthians” gaffe could hold a sabbath candle to John Kasich goysplaining Passover to Hassidic Torah scholars in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where he (oops!) awkwardly and erroneously linked the blood of the first plagues with Jesus. This inanity came right on the heels of Ted Cruz baking matzoh with Orthodox Jewish kids in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn — at the invitation of my mother’s right-wing rabbi. (I’ll let that sink in, and then I’ll accept your condolences. And your consolation gifts of dark chocolate or vouchers for therapy.) “He heard ‘cantor’ and thought they said ‘pander,’” Richard Mark Szpigiel said (on a puntastic Facebook thread where labor organizer Nick Alpers suggested the title of this article).

More disturbing was Hillary Clinton going full-hawk at AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, in a speech that could easily have been written by the Israeli government. Lest we think only Jews have borne the brunt of Panderdome, remember: member of the tribe Bernie Sanders finagled a meeting with Pope Francis to A) bask in the glory of the Vatican’s economic justice-focused pontiff, or B) court Catholic voters? Choose your own adventure.

I’m as knowledgeable about sports (go, sports!) as Garfunkel & Oates, but even I know that a basketball hoop is not called a “basketball ring,” which is more than we can say for Ted Cruz when attempting to win Indiana’s favor. Still, the Tea Party darling’s Hoosier-fail paled in comparison to Carly Fiorina pretending to root for Iowa to win the Rose Bowl against her alma mater, Stanford (“If you can’t stand up to the Hawkeyes how can you beat ISIS?” @pourmecoffee tweeted at Hewlett-Packard’s former CEO.)

Latinos on Twitter rejected the Democratic frontrunner’s Hispandering “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” listicle (“she isn’t afraid to talk about the importance of el respeto!”) with the hashtag #NotMyAbuela (for example, @sabokitty’s “#NotMyAbuela because no one in my family ever overthrew (or tried to) democratically elected leaders in Honduras, Haiti, or Ecuador”). And though Hillary’s love of hot sauce is apparently long-term and sincere, the post-Formation “hot sauce in my bag, swag” timing of her comment that it’s the one thing she carries with her at all times — made during an interview with a NYC hip-hop morning show — was met with exactly as much side-eye as you’d expect. And I may have pulled a few muscles from cringing so hard watching her try to Whip and Nae Nae on Ellen, Snapchat that she was “Just chilling in Grand Rapids,” and co-opt Rosa Parks into her campaign logo.

But rarely is political calculus so visibly painful as when Chris Christie pretended to endorse Trump after eviscerating him on the regular. The memory of the New Jersey Governor silently screaming with his eyes behind The Donald’s shoulder, the victim of his own very personal plague, will linger for many Passovers to come.

3. Lice/Trolls

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The disgusting, irritating bugs of this election cycles are, of course, the trolls that have skittered throughout every aspect of Election 2016’s primaries. From candidates themselves to the “guerrilla comedians” they can’t escape at campaign events, from late-night TV satire to garden-variety Internet jerks, sincere political discourse has been hard to find. When the Fourth Estate gets in on this game, though, they abdicate their responsibility to democracy. Trolling feminists and people of color has been part of corporate journalism’s business model for a good while now, with news outlets relying on online outrage to drive traffic. Yet there’s a special danger to our electoral process when news media simultaneously troll politicians and the voters who rely on their reporting to decide whom to trust as the leaders of our nation. Take as just one example a Washington Post story by Philip Bump headlined, “Bernie Sanders keeps saying his average donation is $27, but his own numbers contradict that.” What was that supposed contradiction? The “real” average donation is . . . drumroll, please . . . $27.89. Uh, what?

In a follow-up piece about the negative feedback his headline garnered, Bump admitted “It’s clear from the story itself that I don’t see this as any sort of lie on the part of the Sanders campaign,” then lamented that no one reads the story anymore. Excuse me? If you know more people will read the headline than the story, it’s even more important not to troll the electorate with a sensationalistic, misleading headline that would get any Journalism 101 student an F.

Doubling down on their “Why was everyone upset?” disingenuousness, WaPo actually laid out a modus operandi that more closely resembles GamerGate than principled journalism: “Part of the problem, though, is that the headline was viewed as suggesting dishonesty on the part of Sanders’s campaign. The working headline for the piece was ‘How does Bernie Sanders’s average donation stay at $27?’, but we (my editors and I) ended up choosing a headline that was more provocative. And provocative headlines provoke.” So, you chose an inaccurate headline in bad faith specifically to get people angry and up your clicks? Thanks for clearing that up for us, corporate media trolls.

4. Wild Animals/Bullying Dicks

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What is more akin to the fourth plague’s wild animals than the schoolyard bullying BS of the GOP field? Marco Rubio mocked the size of Trump’s hands (“You know what they say about men with small hands? You can’t trust them.”), which gave the overly tanned garbage fire an excuse to, well, I’ll let this CNN headline tell it: “Donald Trump Defends the Size of His Penis” during a live Republican debate on Fox News. Not surprising from a guy who feels the need to plaster his name in giant letters on every tall building he can. I suppose we should be grateful he didn’t call his Little Donald “the Trump Tower” from the debate stage.

Being a big dick is well-trod ground for Trump, who has repeatedly attacked his opponents’ wives. In July, he retweeted (and later deleted) a Twitter user who claimed “#JebBush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife.” Then there was the “whose wife is hotter/uglier?” grossness of his feud with Ted Cruz. First, a slut-shamey Cruz-supporting superPAC ad used an old cheesecake modeling photo of Melania Trump to urge Mormon voters to reject the reality star in the Utah primary. In response, Trump threatened Cruz that he would “spill the beans on your wife,” then retweeted a split-screen meme with an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz next to an airbrushed glamour shot of Melania, captioned, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Almost as classy as the Enquirer, which forced us to think about the possibility that not only is Ted Cruz anatomically correct (I find it’s easier to think of him as a Ken doll), but that five actual human women may have been his mistresses.

Oh, and let’s not forget Ben Carson’s near-sociopathic response to a mass shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. First, he blamed the victims of the rampage for not going all “Die Hard” on the shooter, fantasizing that he would have had the balls to lead a spontaneous attack and thwart the killer. His NRA-happy follow-up was ripped from the Dick Move Handbook: “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away,” he declared.

5. Pestilence/Media ‘Gotcha’ Moments

Just as pestilence killed Pharaoh’s animals, corporate media’s love of meaningless, non-newsworthy, and completely irrelevant “gotcha” moments is killing my spirit as a media critic. Here’s just one case study of how these pests have operated throughout the primary:

First, the New York Daily News asked Bernie Sanders how to ride a NYC subway, as if this was crucial vetting of a presidential candidate. When the Vermont Senator and former Brooklynite replied “You get a token and you get in,” not knowing we use Metrocards now, the News (and the resulting news cycle) reacted as if he could see Russia from his house. Next, former New York Senator Hillary Clinton took the subway — and the bait — to display her “up with people” bona fides . . . only to be ludicrously gotcha’d by the right-wing America Rising PAC, which circulated a “shocking!” video of Clinton having to swipe her Metrtocard multiple times before the machine would register her fare, claiming this proves her to be “out of touch.” British conservative tabloid rag The Daily Mail gleefully reposted the video, along with a dozen photos of Clinton’s supposed subway fail, as if buggy Metrocard machines — especially in the outer boroughs, like the 161st Street Bronx station where Clinton entered, or the station closest to this lifelong Brooklynite’s apartment — don’t regularly require multiple swipes before properly reading a straphanger’s card.

Since these inane Swipe Right Wing stories were meant to catch both Democratic candidates being phony New Yorkers, let me say this the way we do in Brooklyn: whaddayafuckingkiddingme? How either of these politicians gets around town has exactly zero impact on how they’d govern as president. Many areas of inquiry from the political press corps could lead to legitimate “gotcha” moments, though. And since I’m feeling generous, election reporters, here — have a couple for free:

“Secretary Clinton, you were a partner in your husband’s administration, and stumped for legislation such as Welfare Reform, DOMA, Three Strikes, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and NAFTA, which were arguably devastating for women, people of color, low-income people, and the LGBTQ community. You also voted for the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq war during your time in the Senate. How do you square that record with your current positioning as a so-called progressive feminist?”

“Senator Sanders, what are your specific plans for accomplishing your agenda as POTUS? The ‘incomplete answer’ buzzer will ring if you say ‘The people will stage a revolution,’ and you’ll have to try again.”

You’re welcome, press corps. Now go do your damn jobs.

6. Boils/Festering Bigotry

The boils of the sixth plague were “so painful and horrible that it must have struck the people of Egypt with horror and agony,” notes. And so it has been, ever since Donald Trump descended down that escalator to announce his presidential bid in June 2015. Far from the amusing distraction The Daily Show orgiastically predicted, “America’s ID” has picked at the scabs of America’s racist history, raising deep, open wounds that will take ages to heal.

It started with Mexican immigrants. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Trump insisted, and only a border wall (that Mexico will inexplicably pay for) will keep “us” safe from “them.” His supporters believed him enough to beat up a homeless Latino man with a metal pole, break his nose, and urinate on him because “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.” Refusing to denounce the attack, here’s how the real estate magnate rationalized it: “The people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again.”

Then came his routine rants against anyone with Islamic faith, including his wholly inaccurate statement — debunked by law enforcement and the press alike — that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered when the World Trade Center fell on 9/11. He issued an immoral and highly impractical call for a wholesale ban on all Muslim immigration, and hardened his rhetoric even where Syrian refugee children were concerned, harming America’s reputation abroad (Hey, Don: When even Dick Cheney publicly states that your anti-terrorism proposal is too extremist and would come “at the expense of our American values,” it’s time to reevaluate your life). He suggested mandating a database or national ID card for Muslim Americans, prompting the Jewish organization Bend the Arc to circulate a petition that condemned “The idea that any group of American citizens should be singled out, profiled, and discriminated against,” while calling for American Jews to fight back when “a politician suggests following the actual path of the Nazis.” The petition’s headline? “Dear Trump: We’ve seen this before. It doesn’t end well.”

That’s for damn sure. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census of hate groups and extremist organizations, “a presidential frontrunner given to racist and Muslim-hating oratory,” plus “a megaphone” for Islamophobia by “media outlets that encourage ‘debate’ about the basic humanity of Muslims,” helped fuel a rise in hate crimes against Muslims. Mosques have been “shot at, menaced with fake explosive devices, firebombed, threatened, and protested. One had a severed pig’s head tossed at it, and still another’s copy of the Koran was smeared with feces.” Innocent Muslim Americans have been targeted, injured, and even murdered:

  • A Muslim cab driver in Pennsylvania was shot in the back by a passenger ranting about Islam.
  • One Muslim woman was shot at as she left a Florida mosque, and a man threw rocks at another Muslim woman leaving another nearby mosque, then tried to run her off the road.
  • A Muslim family’s home was shot up in Florida.
  • An Uber passenger in North Carolina punched and threatened to shoot an Ethiopian Christian driver whom he assumed was Muslim.
  • A New York convenience store owner was beaten up by a customer who said “I want to kill Muslims.”
  • An Ohio driver yelling “terrorist!” tried to run over a pre-med student wearing hijab.
  • And a sixth-grade girl in New York City was attacked, punched, and called “ISIS” by classmates who tried to rip off her hijab.

Like Pharaoh in the Passover story, Trump has remained unmoved, never strongly condemning this xenophobic violence against innocent Muslim Americans. Even more stark, he has inspired and actively egged on anti-Black and anti-Latino violence at his own campaign events, from his bigoted bluster to his verbal aggression and power-plays against people of color (including ejecting Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a press conference). Attendees at his Alabama rally repeatedly screamed “White Power!” while Trump said nothing, continuing his speech as normal. A Black protester was forcibly removed from a campaign event in Las Vegas, while the crowd screamed “Shoot him!”, “Light the motherfucker on fire!”, and “Sieg heil!” It has become increasingly dangerous to be a protestor, especially one of color, at a Trump rally. Taking their cue from the candidate himself–who said of a Nevada protestor “I’d like to punch him in the face,” and who has repeatedly yelled at and tacitly encouraged his crowd to harass Black Lives Matter protestors–Trump fans, security guards, and even his campaign manager have threatened, harassed, pushed, grabbed, hit, punched, kicked, choked, and slammed protestors and even journalists to the ground, usually while screaming racial and misogynist slurs, as documented by Mother Jones, MTV, the Washington Post, and numerous other outlets.

No wonder he has been endorsed by white nationalist leaders such as Jared Taylor and famous former Klansman David Duke. When pushed by CNN’s Jake Tapper to comment, Trump refused to reject the support of notoriously violent white supremacists and the KKK, disingenuously pretending not to know who Duke is and, in a dog whistle to his base of angry, racist voters, said he would need to “do research” before he could say “if I thought there was something wrong” (emphasis mine). He didn’t need any research to retweet white supremacist lies, though: “Our Glorious Leader and ULTIMATE SAVIOR has gone full-wink-wink-wink to his most aggressive supporters” by RT’ing several tweets about “white genocide,” hate site The Daily Stormer bragged. According to “The Year in Hate and Extremism” report by the SPLC, “White supremacist forums are awash with electoral joy, having dubbed Trump their ‘Glorious Leader.’ And Trump has repaid the compliments, retweeting hate posts and spreading their false statistics on black-on-white crime.” In part as a result, the number of hate groups rose by 14% last year, and the KKK has seen membership spike as well. In “White Supremacist Groups See Trump Bump,” Politico notes that “The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike.” Trump “has sparked an insurgency and I don’t think it’s going to go away,” praised Stormfront founder Don Black, who “reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. (For more on Trump as the white nationalist recruiter-in-chief, see Democracy Now!, Counterpunch, and the New York Times.)

Of course, Trump’s anti-Black, Islamophobic, white nationalist-provoking rhetoric is simply the full album release of the demo tape he issued back in the day as Birther-In-Chief. The open sores of his attacks on President Obama’s citizenship have metastasized into the deeper, more broad-scale socio-political disease that is his current popularity.

7. Hail/Meteoric Misogyny

“No living thing . . . was to escape its fury unhurt,” or so goes the tale of hail, the seventh plague. Likewise, American women running for president on both sides of the aisle — along with voters who dare to express a preference for them — have been battered by a non-stop barrage of open misogyny from candidates, surrogates, supporters, and the press. This goes far further than those much-discussed Bernie Bros (for those stingers, jump down to the eighth plague).

“And it came to pass, barely seconds after he became the near-inevitable Republican presidential nominee, that Donald Trump began a gender war,” Gail Collins writes in today’s New York Times. “‘Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card,’ Trump said in the aftermath of his five-state primary sweep on Tuesday.” Collins is right to call out Trump for using calculated sexism as he looks toward the general election, and as a journalist no one loves a catchy lede more than I do. But here’s the problem with “began”: Trump’s been fomenting his gender war front the start. He has accused Clinton of “playing the woman’s card” since early in his campaign to both trivialize her stances for a range of women’s rights policy issues and to dismiss her criticisms of his gross displays of sexism.

And it hasn’t been just Hillary freezing in Trump’s hail of gendered attacks. Back in September, Rolling Stone described how his “expression sours in schoolboy disgust” while watching a news clip of Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face!” he cries. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! . . . I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” Faced with pushback when the quote circulated, he pretended he wasn’t trashing Fiorina’s appearance, expecting the media and the public to buy that when he said “that face,” he meant her “persona.” (Pro tip: you should believe that “persona” gambit just as much as you should believe The Apprentice actually had good ratings after the first couple of seasons. Which is to say: not at all.)

There have been many operatives in Election 2016’s hailstorm of misogyny. As Veronica Arreola wrote in January, “heterosexist media is so puzzled by Lindsey Graham’s status as a single dude and by having women in the race that Dana Bash of CNN actually asked Graham “to choose which woman he would date, marry, or make vanish among Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, and Sarah Palin.” (The CNN video is here, if you want to vomit your matzoh.) And Mike Huckabee “made people laugh when he said that he was quite familiar with Janet Yellen because his wife’s name is Janet. Get it? Janet . . . yelling? That bit of marital sexism was almost as cute as the time he said he would put his wife’s face on the new $10 bill so she could finally spend her own money. Get this guy on a 1970s Dean Martin roast!,” Arreola #lolsobbed. Even the women of “The View” got in on this action, calling Fiorina’s face “a Halloween mask.”

And in echoes of the 2008 election fight, Hillary Clinton’s voice has been repeatedly criticized, with the former Secretary of State branded shrill, shouting, nagging, angry, and many other gendered terms never applied to her loudly vitriolic male competitors. Headlines, TV news segments, tabloids, and social media users alike have ragged on her hair, her height, and her weight. After she won several primaries, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough condescendingly told her to “Smile. You just had a big night.” (Samantha Bee was not impressed, encouraging women to post their displeasure in pics tagged #SmileForJoe.)

Writers including Brittney Cooper, Lauren Besser, and Melanye Price have argued compellingly that the press and the public alike have held Clinton to double standards not faced by her male counterparts, not only in terms of voice and appearance but also her policy positions and record as a public servant: for example, she has been (100% rightly) criticized for her comments in the 1990s about “super-predators” and her support for her husband’s crime bill that led to vast over-incarceration of African Americans, yet Bernie Sanders has mostly avoided critique despite the fact that he voted for the same bill in the Senate.

Where some of these double standards can be difficult to discern without media literacy and political education, electoral misogyny has rarely been more in-your-face than Tea Party cartoonist Ben Garrison’s drawing of an exaggeratedly grotesque-looking “Hill-whore-y Clinton” clad in red panties, black fishnets, and a belly shirt riding up above a roll of fat, leaning over a faceless finance exec’s car as he hands her a wad of cash, while Bernie Sanders (depicted as more polished and chiseled-featured than he has been in decades) looks on in disdain. Garrison’s hashtags? “#WallStreetWalker” and “#DemocratWhore.” More than just a cynical attempt by a right-wing operative to pit Clinton’s and Sanders’ supporters against one another, this kind of imagery threatens not only women’s ability to seek, win, and be effective in office — it also threatens democracy, as I have written many times, discussed in media literacy speeches, and explained in the documentary “Miss Representation.” (While I don’t want to link directly and drive traffic to Garrison, you can see the cartoon here, along with my dissection of why, despite legitimate reasons to critique Hillary Clinton, imagery like his is illegitimate, a way to trivialize, essentialize, and attack all women, and the idea of women’s leadership at large.)

8. Locusts/Bernie Bros

Just as locusts besieged Egypt in the eighth plague, swarms of Bernie Bros (brogressives?) incessantly sting anyone who dares to say anything remotely not-awful about Hillary Clinton. Uttering “Bernie Sanders” throughout the primary has had the effect of the Batman signal in reverse, causing a loud, damaging minority of Sanders surrogates to fly in with condescension, verbal abuse, and even rape and death threats. True Believers in the moral superiority of their candidate, this subset of Sanders supporters sees no irony in undermining the Vermont Senator’s high ground — not to mention his solid record on women’s rights — by spewing vile, explicitly gendered invective about Clinton, while actively harassing her supporters. While #notallBernievoters are Bernie Bros — and many women who call out Bernie Bros’ sexism are Sanders supporters themselves — writers like Sady Doyle have documented and analyzed the depth and prevalence of Bernie Bros’ violent and sexist abuse.

Still, some petulant so-called progressives refuse to believe women, and others would throw all women and people of color under the bus out of spite. Liberal male journalists like Glenn Greenwald insist Bernie Bros don’t exist, that the term was “concocted” by “pro-Clinton journalists” as a “scam” to poison anyone against feeling the Bern. Sanders, whose economic justice policy positions have been consistent for decades, would never encourage anyone to vote for a bigoted billionaire real estate mogul over Clinton — but that hasn’t stopped Bernie Bros from declaring that if their guy loses, they’ll support Donald Trump in the general election before they’d ever vote for that (bitchcuntwhoreshrew!!!) Hillary. So, for Greenwald and all his compatriots who argue that the Bernie Bro phenomenon is a fabrication, I offer as tribute not the worst example, just the most recent: a public Facebook thread posted by an Occupy Wall Street organizer the same morning I wrote this piece. Responding to a Clinton statement during an MSNBC town hall, he ranted:

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In the conversation that followed, he went further: “If Hillary is the nominee, I just may actually go ahead vote for Trump, just to be a snivelling (sic) vengeful little shit.” His fellow bros agreed:

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Also important to note: men aren’t the only ones using Bernie Bro tactics: This fine gem of a comment on the OWS poster’s thread came from a woman:

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Tell me again how these political locusts don’t exist?

9. Darkness/Voter Disenfranchisement

According to the Passover story, “a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness” enveloped Egypt in the ninth plague. Voters who have stood in ludicrously long lines, waiting late into the night to cast their ballots, could probably relate. In Arizona’s Maricopa County, for example, there were 400 polling places in 2008 and 200 in 2012, but the county’s 4 million residents were confined to only 60 polling places during this primary. The last Arizonan to cast a ballot was only able to do so after midnight; Mother Jones offers a useful primer on the way this cycle fits into Arizona’s history of voter disenfranchisement. My home state of New York was wracked by its own widespread charges of voter suppression. After 125,000 Democratic voters found themselves purged from the rolls in error or for no reason at all, an organization called Election Justice USA filed a lawsuit against New York’s Board of Elections, calling for provisional ballots from disenfranchised voters to be counted.

Similar problems cast a dark pall over the levers of democracy in Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, and throughout the country, as various states have cut early voting hours, eliminated same-day registration, mandated proof of citizenship for regional voting (which federal elections do not require), and passed voter ID laws that disproportionately impact and restrict the voting rights of poor people and people of color.

10. Death Of The Firstborn/Death Of The Dynasty

The last, grimmest plague finally broke Pharaoh, who released the Jews from slavery after the Angel of Death killed every firstborn child in Egypt. Like Pharoah’s son, the Bush dynasty died a dramatic death in February when assumed-nominee Jeb! suspended his spectacularly incompetent campaign on the heels of embarrassing losses in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. No political career suffered a more devastating blow this cycle than Jeb’s. The GOP’s heir apparent, this son of a former president and the brother of another, raised — and wasted — more money than any other candidate ever, flushing a record $150 million down the drain along with the former Florida governor’s political ambitions. Buh-bye.

Unlike the ending of the Passover tale, Election 2016 has no redemptive resolution, no liberation from bondage. If the GOP is Egypt in this metaphor, then a roadkill-coiffed, race-baiting, misogynist Angel of Death has run roughshod over the Republican establishment (which, please note, is not this magazine!), leaving only chaos in his wake. Donald Trump is basically running to be America’s gold-encrusted Pharaoh.

Unless Elijah shows up on the final seder night, we’re all going to need a LOT of Manischewitz to get through November.


Illustrations by Katie Tandy