Cervantes on Cervantes

Cervantes - Probably Fake ImageI wish it were possible, to dispense with writing this preface; for that which I put at the beginning of my Don Quixote did not turn out so well for me as to give me any inclination to write another.

The fault lies with a friend of mind — one of many I have made in the course of my life with my heart rather than my head. This friend might well have caused my portrait, which the famous Don Juan de Juaregui would have given him to be engraved and put in the first page of this book, according to custom. By that means he would have gratified my ambition and the wishes of several persons, who would like to know what sort of face and figure has he who makes bold to come before the world with so many works of his own invention.

My friend might have written under the portrait, “This person who you see here, with an oval visage, chestnut hair, smooth open forehead, lively eyes, a hooked but well-proportioned nose, a silvery beard that twenty years ago was golden, large mustaches, a small mouth, teeth not much to speak of, for he has but six, in bad condition and worse placed, no two of them corresponding to each other, a figure midway between the two extremes, neither tall nor short, a vivid complexion, rather fair than dark, somewhat stooped in the shoulders, and not very light-footed: this, I say, is the author of Galatea, Don Quixote de la Mancha, The Journey to Parnassus, which he wrote in imitation of Cesare Caporali Perugia, and other works which are current among the public, and perhaps without the author’s name. He is commonly called Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

“He was for many years a soldier, and for five years and a half in captivity, where he learned to have patience in adversity. He lost his left hand by a musket-shot in the Battle of Lepanto: and ugly as this wound may appear, he regards it as beautiful, having received it on the most memorable and sublime occasion which past times have ever seen, or future times can hope to equal, fighting under the victorious banners of the son of that thunderbolt of war, Charles V, of blessed memory.”

Should the friend of whom I complain have had nothing more to say of me than this, I would myself have composed a couple of dozen of eulogiums, and communicated them to him in secret, thereby to extend my fame and exalt the credit of my genius; for it would be absurd to expect the exact truth in such matters. We know well that neither praise nor abuse is meted out with strict accuracy.

—Cervantes (Translated by Walter Keating Kelly)
Exemplary Novels (PDF)

Democratic Party Base Can Make Liberals Win

Democratic Party BaseAs I noted yesterday in an update to Those Non-Deplorables: Still Pretty Deplorable, I feel good right now. I’m ready to fight. And a big part of that will require leveraging the power of the Democratic Party base. So I don’t want to spend a bunch of time talking about the election. In particular, I don’t want to talk about how James Comey’s letter itself probably gave Trump the environment he needed to win. And I don’t want to talk about our media that really wasn’t interested in Trump other than as a shiny celebrity. And I don’t want to talk about how the media has only been interested Hillary Clinton’s email server. Our country has a corrupt bureaucracy and an incompetent media.

But there are two things that I think we need to discuss. The first is that Hillary Clinton got the majority of counted votes. She got almost a quarter million more votes than Donald Trump. I know that that isn’t how our presidential elections are run. But I don’t think Trump’s victory was the result of a keen regional strategy. Instead, he just got the votes he was going to get. And it is certainly the case that all those “I’m in a safe state so I can vote for Jill Stein” people would have had more pressure to vote for Clinton. (If Clinton had received all of Jill Stein’s vote in Wisconsin, she would have won the state. If she had won 25% of Stein’s votes in Michigan, she would have won that state.)

Get Rid of the Electoral College

We really need to start working on getting rid of the electoral college system. In the last five elections, two were won by the candidate who got the least votes. That’s a 40 percent error rate. That’s just not acceptable. And I know: changing the system would require a constitutional amendment. But I think it is very doable. Even conservatives hate the electoral college system. I think they would back such an amendment because they know that they could be the next to be screwed by it.

Check out this CGP Grey video that was made years ago before the most recent outrage:

There’s another reason for doing this. Republicans have started talking about making their states proportional. So, for example, a state that is generally Democratic (but currently controlled by Republicans (like Michigan) could really hurt the Democrats’ chances of winning a the White House.

But mostly, I think the electoral college is just a moral issue. It isn’t fair and it has no justification.

Increase Voter Turnout

With all of the coverage that the presidential race got this year, you would think this would have been a huge year for voting. But you would be wrong. The US population has 10 million more people than it had in 2012. Yet 12 million fewer people voted this year than voted in 2012. That’s a shocking 10 percent decrease in the number of people voting. Neither Clinton nor Trump got as many votes as Mitt Romney did in 2012 — much less President Obama who got 5 million more votes than that.

This, above all else, was why Donald Trump won the election. This is, pretty much, why Republicans ever win presidential elections. High turnout is bad for Republicans and good for Democrats. And this strikes me as something we can do something about. But we need to think about it differently than we have been.

The Democratic Party Base Must Take Control

We need to stop thinking about turnout like it is something you do in the days and weeks leading up to an election. We need to start thinking about the Democratic Party like it were a union. And most of all, we need to work on making the Democratic Party base think that they are the party. Because that is the way it is supposed to be anyway. We all need to own the party. It shouldn’t be about showing up to vote for Clinton (or even worse against Trump). It should be something that we do because we are committed to the party.

And I think that gets at something that is really important. We all know that the Democratic Party base is more liberal than the elites. And that’s especially true on economic issues — the issues that most cross over to the Republican base. There are not only electoral possibilities there; there are also legislative possibilities if the Democratic Party base and the Republican Party base are represented by their elites.


I know that getting rid of the electoral college is a lot of work and it will take a long time. But it’s worth the effort. Working on making the Democratic Party base see itself as the party itself is even more important. And that’s something that we — the Democratic Party base — can do something about. It starts with being proud of being a Democrat. It’s our party and we need to work to make it represent us.