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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A hundred days: Toronto 1

T. has written in her blog: “Jacqui sees Toronto as home, so it’s not a city we’ll need to explore, per se, although I know there will be places and things she’ll want to show me and lots of friends to catch up with. With three months, and a Canadian winter ahead, I expect it will be a time to hunker down and relax. Get a taste of what living here might feel like.”

I can’t tell you what conclusions she’s reached about living here, but it will take more than one blog post to share mine. I’ll start with today’s theme of writing. One of the reasons Toronto feels like home to me is that this is where I finally became a writer. To the extent that I have a career, it started here. Before Toronto I’d written for university publications, including the odd poem or story. Here I started writing columns for the gay and lesbian newspaper (this used to be a thing, and they paid real money, too). I also studied writing, joined a writing group, and eventually, finished a novel that was actually publishable. My book launches have been here, and my writing group still meets in its current incarnation in Ontario. 
Autumn (September)
One of the pleasures of being back was finally meeting with that group in person, not once but multiple times. Another was being here in October, which is when Toronto hosts the International Festival of Authors. I used to walk down to the Harbourfront and look up at the Westin Harbour Castle, which is where international authors stayed when they had “made it.”

I have not returned as a hyphenated U.S.-Canadian author staying in the Westin Harbour Castle, but at least I got back to the festival. There was a panel and I wanted in particular to see Shari Lapena, whom I met years ago when we were both at the Humber Writers’ Circle. Shari Lapena, you might say, has made it, “it” being The New York Times bestseller list. 

While standing in line to get Shari’s book signed, I discovered that the person next to me was Kathleen Wynne. I don’t know if you all know Kathleen but she’s a groundbreaking politician, the first openly gay premier in Canada—the equivalent of a state governor. She recently lost reelection as premier of Ontario to what, in this province, amounted to a Trump. I remembered Kathleen Wynne from my years in Toronto, when she started her political career on the school board. So when she and her partner got in line behind me, I told her that we miss her. (And I don’t even live here full time—the headline in NOW this week was, “Are We Missing Wynne Yet?”) 

She thanked me and then her partner said, “That’s quite a knapsack!” I hadn’t, she surmised, bought the backpack with all those flag patches on it. This backpack has been the best conversation starter, especially standing in line like this. By the time we reached Shari, and she recognized first me, and then the former premier, we were chatting like old friends. 

“Do you know each other?” Shari said. As much as I wanted to make a joke about us all knowing each other, I really don’t know Kathleen Wynne, so I told Shari we were all just fans of hers, chatting.

I came back to Toronto half expecting it to have changed significantly since I moved away, so that it no longer felt like home. Quite the opposite has been the case. “It never changes,” one friend said disparagingly. I know I am different from other people, because most Torontonians complain about the “seven months” of winter (certainly more than four months, which is too long). No one wants to commute through snow, especially with all these “southern” drivers, but I miss it when I’m gone. When the first snow fell here, I couldn’t wait to get out and walk in it and make snowballs with my 30-year-old mittens. What else is snow for?
Winter (October)
Of course, places do change. There are more condo towers under construction, and all of Eglinton Avenue, where I lived most of my years here, is a dug-up ditch. Some light rail is supposed to be put in eventually. Like such projects in other cities (Big Dig, anyone?) this one is overrunning. None of this is any surprise.
My old apartment building, where I lived the longest
People change too. I never seem to feel any older (still jump in a pile of fall leaves when no one is looking), but other people have grey hair or health conditions that they didn’t have before, and sadly, some seats are empty altogether. I consider myself incredibly blessed still to have so many friends here, including the small but mighty congregation of the Church of the Holy Trinity. This downtown Anglican church has been doing its own thing for generations—it was the first church in Toronto not to charge parishioners to sit in the pews. In the years since, it hosted early gay dances, and U.S. draft dodgers used to sleep in the sanctuary. And it’s still a great musical space to worship in, as the Cowboy Junkies knew when they recorded their album The Trinity Session there on 27 November 1987, circled around a single microphone.

When we first got to Toronto, before moving into our Airbnb (handily discounted for a 3-month visit), we stayed at our home away from home, Wayne and Jay’s. I’ve known Wayne since we were both freelance proofreaders at Canadian Tire, and he and Jay, an elementary school teacher, have become good friends of us both. When we arrived the black squirrels were already eating Jay’s pumpkin. It wasn’t even October yet!

We had a sunny day, so I took advantage of our nearness to the Scarborough Bluffs. These layers of sand and clay expose a geological record of the last Ice Age, and are unique in North America. (When Canadians say "North Americans," they mean themselves plus U.S. Americans. This neatly encompasses me.)

I enjoyed my walk until I heard a big chunk of bluff tumbling down behind me—pretty startling!

By the long Thanksgiving weekend, we were in our new home.

A coach house behind somebody’s large house might seem too small and cramped for a permanent residence, but it’s acres of space compared to most of where we’ve been stuck with each other the past year and a half. As T. says, “Where do you go when you row?” We were almost too excited to have a surprisingly well-equipped kitchen to cook our own meals in.

This is a neighbourhood I’ve always liked, but never got to spend much time in. I promptly crossed the street to the lovely Carnegie library, where I can check out five items at a time for free. Just as a visitor!

We celebrated Thanksgiving with the Church of the Holy Trinity. You can go to a church semi-regularly for years and not be recognized by anybody—I’ve done it repeatedly. But I’ve had friends at Holy Trinity from the very first Sunday I walked in. Somebody spotted my then-partner, Penelope, and me and recruited us for the Working Group on Gay and Lesbian Issues. Some progress has been made since then, but not enough. (Penelope is a friend now and she and her partner, Becky, have had us to their “Tiny House” on more than one occasion.) 

On Thanksgiving Day itself, T. and I met up with our friend Marie-Josée and her son, Olivier. It was appropriately Action de grâces, because I can’t tell you how grateful I am for Marijo and her presence in our world. And because I can’t, that’s all I’m going to say.

Another friend I was pleased to catch up with, on an unseasonably warm October day, was my old writing friend Dan. I don’t mean “old” in that sense, although we’re all older than we once were; Dan and I were founding members of the writing group way back at the Humber School for Writers in 2004. For years we worked through fiction together, but we have so much more to talk about now. Philosophy, gender, Christianity, the need for nuanced thinking around tough issues. And architecture, which is Dan’s other passion. Thanks to him we walked around the University of Toronto and saw some hidden gems that I wouldn't have known were there.

A surprise--the organist was playing!
Trinity College cloister
Being in one place for such a long time has been a refreshing change for both T. and me, even if that place wasn’t Toronto. It’s been surprisingly busy, but I’ve also had time to read chunkier books than I felt like carrying, work more on my fiction, study Spanish, and just take time to think and reflect. When we had lunch with Marie-Josée, she asked if we were different because of our travels. I said at the time that if I hadn’t had a certain openness of mentality to begin with, I would never have started. But now I think of things I’ve gotten sensitive to, like carrying a reusable bag instead of using plastic, not running the shower as long, even thinking more about where meat or our other food comes from. 

Could we learn these habits without traveling around the world and using all that jet fuel? Absolutely—and we all need to, one way or the other.  I overheard a guy on the subway one day talking to his two young girls (one wore a Princess dress, the other a “Feminist” T-shirt). He was telling them that if we undervalue, say, clean water, then we may not care about it being polluted, and then he talked about valuing people. It was the kind of everyday lesson I hope kids are learning, here and in other countries.

Jay had told us one day that she was teaching a lesson about traditions and celebrations, and the children were offering their own examples. “I’m Muslim and we celebrate this,” “I’m Christian so we do that.” She asked why it was important to know about each other’s different traditions. A little girl said, “That’s respect, Ms. C—.”

The late Aretha Franklin would be proud.
This is my favorite picture from the book launch for Arusha in 2009. My whole life in Toronto is represented here. I'm signing a copy for Shari Lapena, and next to her are friends I still know from Holy Trinity and Canadian Tire. The women smiling at the camera are, on the right, Marijo and on the left Nathalie, who tragically left us much too soon. In the background are Penelope and Becky, along with a number of people I knew from my day jobs and from Humber. Photo by Wayne Brewer

Friday, November 2, 2018

On the land: Manitoba

It’s not the coldest I’ve ever been; that was during the cold snap of January 1994, in Chicago, when the wind chill was recorded as -70 Fahrenheit. Churchill, Manitoba was not that cold—wind chill between -15 and -20 Celsius (5 to -4 F). Still, it was the coldest we’ve been on these travels. New Zealand was wet, and in Ireland I had to buy an Aran sweater; but only in Manitoba did I have to resort to my thermal underwear or “long johns.”
At the 58th parallel we were also a couple of degrees latitude farther north than we’d ever been before (Riga, in Latvia, is north of the 56th parallel). But I didn’t have to wait until we got to Churchill, on the shore of Hudson Bay, to pull on the long johns. No, that honour went to the city we started in, Winnipeg, which was undergoing a cold snap of its own. It was freezing outside—0 C—and the hotel’s central heating was not working. What did people wear before they had central heating? Long johns.
Welcome to Winnipeg
The Marlborough Hotel’s boiler had not been inspected in time for the cold which, the manager told me genially, had caught them “with our pants down.” Well, they were asses, if that’s what he meant. A cold snap like this is not unheard of in Toronto in October, still less Winnipeg. We were offered a small but inadequate space heater—more, as we soon discovered, and the 1960 electrics would short out.
The Royal Canadian Legion was founded in this hotel.

Lobby letter box
It’s a shame about the Marlborough because, if they sorted out the basics like heat and light, it could have a sort of dated charm. I don’t mind historic buildings, but I can’t recommend this one. Except the hot breakfast. By the time we got back from Churchill the boiler was fixed; I wish I could say the same for the elevator or, for that matter, the attitude of the staff.

Ah well, we don’t normally do hotels. This whole trip to Manitoba, in fact, was very far out of our normal budget travel. Churchill at this particular time of year, i.e., polar bear season, is what’s called a “bucket list” item, even though we don’t do buckets lists either. Even so, domestic airline WestJet charges for checked bags, so we stuffed all we had into one backpack. It’s a friendly airline, though. The crew kept things light, like instructing us to put our seats into the “upright and uncomfortable position.” And we got complimentary drinks and snacks, which is more than I expected.

I sat next to a woman who immediately started chatting to me, a sure sign that she was from the U.S.A. Biloxi, Mississippi, as it turned out, though she didn’t sound like any other Mississippian I’ve met! I can relate because I’ve never had much of a Southern accent myself. She now lives in Manitoba, which must have come as a climatic shock. When I told her I was originally from Tennessee, she asked where; I never expect anyone to have heard of my hometown, but she knew it. “Oh yes, we used to drive past Elizabethton all the time,” she said. Her family used to vacation in Boone, North Carolina!

This lady had good things to say about Winnipeg so we did give it a chance. At least the hotel is in a central location. We were nearest to the Exchange District so had lunch there.
Snow flurries
And surely we couldn’t go wrong in Chinatown, right? Well, right and wrong. On our third try we found some good food (the first restaurant we were escorted to a party room where we didn’t know anybody, and the second didn’t have a liquor license, so T. wouldn’t even sit down). The problem is that if you order something here, say a small soup, it still comes out in a huge family-style bowl. We paled before the portion sizes, especially given that we couldn’t reheat leftovers—can you imagine what a microwave oven would do to the Marlborough's wiring? (Would have had no problem keeping leftovers cold, though.)
Soup: the size we thought we'd ordered (right) and what actually came out (left)!
Our full day in town was better. Here are some Winnipeg facts: It has the largest Indigenous population of any Canadian city. It also has the oldest French settlement outside Québec, Saint Boniface. We crossed the Red River to check it out. The St-Boniface Museum, a former convent, is the largest oak log structure in North America and the oldest building in Winnipeg.
I mentioned the Métis in my last post; now I have to say something about Louis Riel. Hanged as a traitor in 1885, Louis Riel is thought of by many today as the “father of Manitoba.” As with most of us, I suspect, the truth about Riel is probably somewhere between villain and hero. The land rights of the Métis came under threat from the Canadian government almost from the moment the nation was founded in 1867. Riel led a rebellion and people died, eventually including him. The positive contributions for which he is now given credit are standing up for the language (Francophone) and land rights of Métis who, like other Indigenous people, saw their treaties with the Crown broken over and over again. Hard to believe, I know.
Memorial to western French Canadians who served in the world wars

Building by Antoine Predock, right, and Provencher Bridge
Winnipeg, or Fort Garry as it was known then, is at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. The name Winnipeg comes from a Cree word meaning “muddy waters” and that is certainly how the rivers appeared to us—not red at all. Adjacent to the Forks, as this millennia-old trading junction is known, stands Winnipeg’s finest attraction, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It’s quite a new museum, and the first national museum established outside the capital region. 
To be honest, I was afraid it would be dreary, an endless litany of crimes against humanity in Canada and beyond. But that was not my experience at all. There was a special exhibit on Nelson Mandela, which had more significance for us because we’d been so near to Robben Island.
Visitors are invited to leave responses to the Mandela exhibit
Upstairs, the permanent exhibition starts with a striking timeline, all along one wall. Staggered by date are human rights developments good and bad, from the Code of Hammurabi and the life of Jesus to the rise of Adolf Hitler. 

Many of the exhibits rightly focus on human rights in Canada, including the generations of Indigenous children who, until shockingly recently, were systematically removed from their homes and communities and sent to residential schools, where abuse was widespread. A haunting work of art called REDress symbolizes the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous women who are murdered or simply go “missing.”
REDress by Jaime Black
And there was the Holodomor. I confess I was previously unfamiliar with this term for the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine. The famine was caused, or at least exacerbated, by Stalin’s Soviet government, and killed millions. To the descendants of Ukrainians in Canada (and many others), the Holodomor was a genocide.
Sculpture by Pedro Drozdovsky
This haunting monument stands outside the Manitoba Legislative Building. Its gardens are filled with statues of important figures in the history of the area. The building itself is of neoclassical beaux-arts design, reflecting a more optimistic time (1920).
Eternal Youth and the Spirit of Enterprise ("Golden Boy")

And so to Churchill at the 58th parallel. There are only a few miles of road in Churchill; like Juneau and other cities in Alaska, you can’t get there by road. In October, you couldn't get there by train either. A severe blizzard and the consequent flood washed out the rail line from Winnipeg last spring (2017), and ever since, the town has depended on planes for everything, which you can imagine is very limiting. I had thought of it as taking away an option for visitors but principally, the train is used for Churchillians themselves.

We were happy to learn that the Canadian government has come through with money and the railroad would be reopening soon. To be honest, I was okay with not being able to travel to Churchill by train ourselves. It takes two slow days, and we’d spent enough days on trains recently. So we hopped a regional airline, Calm Air, and it took about two hours.

You could fly to London from Vancouver for less than it cost to fly Winnipeg to Churchill. But you’d have to fly Air Transat, which has the absolute worst service I’ve received from an airline in my entire life (you read it here). Calm Air is expensive, but nice. You can check as many bags as you like, inclusive, which is important if you live up there and must transport a lot of stuff. As I mentioned, Churchill is an expensive trip, but if you want to see polar bears in the wild it’s the least expensive and most accessible place to do it. There are around 30,000 wild polar bears in the world, of which 15-20,000 live in Canada; the others are in Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Siberia.

Polar bears are the largest and most predatory of all bears, so you really have to see them on an organized trip. Until the 1970s Fort Churchill, as it was, had lots of military buildings and a population of 6,000; when that dried up, the town had to do something, so the original Tundra Buggy company started operations later that decade. There are a few operators doing polar bear tours now, between September and November when the bears are in town (sometimes, as on our last day in Churchill, literally; a warning sounds and you need to get indoors).
It just so happens that the bears pass through here on their way back to the winter ice. For reasons to do with the counterclockwise current in Hudson Bay and the freshwater rivers feeding into it (fresh water freezes sooner than salt water), this is the spot where the bay starts to freeze up first. The bears have been on land during summer, but they don’t hibernate like other bears, since winter is their prime hunting time. They can hardly wait to get back on the ice and hunt seals.
Hudson Bay
Our guide, Koral, was originally from Saskatoon, but had fallen in love with Churchill. Literally—she was marrying a local a few days later, who also happened to be the owner of our inn (it’s a small town). Koral told us that Churchill is beautiful at all times of year: an extraordinary variety of birds migrate through in the spring, and the brief summer sees a carpet of gorgeously coloured wildflowers, not to mention a bay filled with beluga whales! Even in the dead of December or January, visitors bundle up in special viewing stations to see the northern lights. I was glad we’d caught the aurora borealis in Alaska, though; I’m not sure midwinter is when I’d choose to visit Churchill again.

Koral also told us that our “polar rover” was not actually roving on the tundra, which means treeless plain. It's actually called the taiga, which covers more of the earth than any other biome except the oceans. Taiga has trees, but they grow very, very slowly. These dwarf spruce, for example, are at least 125 years old.

You’ll also notice the “flag” feature, whereby branches aren’t growing on the north/northwest side of the tree. This is a direct result of the constant, chilling wind. Oh, and there's a polar bear on the left.

We went out for two days straight and saw at least a dozen different polar bears. It was stunning. I don’t have the type of lens to capture some of the bears, like the first (huge!) male we saw from a distance, but Koral had binoculars so I didn’t miss anything. T’s camera caught the most amazing bear sighting from a distance: a mother with two cubs.
Photo courtesy of T.
I’ve noticed that anywhere in the northern hemisphere, people regard those who live south of them as “wimps” with regard to cold temperatures. Tennesseans say it about Floridians, and people from Sudbury say it about people from southern Ontario. To the people of Canada’s north, all of us are “southerners.” A woman on our tour from New Jersey was wearing a big heavy parka, the type with coyote fur around the hood. “I can’t wear my parka yet,” Koral said to me while we stood on the open deck. “What would I wear when it gets really cold?” “Really cold” in Churchill is -30 C or even -40. Fun fact: Forty degrees below zero is where the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales meet.
Nanuq in the Inuit language

Wapusk in Cree
Both day trips were good, but our second day was exceptional, and not just because we saw more bears. Our driver on day 2 was the aptly named Stew (that’s also what they served us for lunch). Stew was a storyteller. His father was Dené and his mother was from another First Nations group in York Factory. Traditionally, Dené were nomadic hunters of caribou in the Arctic, and didn’t get along with other First Nations that traded with Europeans, as at York Factory. Obviously, Stew’s parents worked it out. 
Rolling over! (at the temporary lodge)

Banging its nose into the ground for something

One unexpected wildlife sighting was a snowy owl that some of us saw, perched right next to the vehicle. In an attempt to get a better view, someone opened their bus-like window, and the clattering caused the snowy to fly away. I got one picture that only shows its wings, but I’ll never forget its owl face. It was beautiful.
Owl on the wing, bottom right
The polar bears were awesome, but you know what else struck me, out on the taiga? Awe of the Inuit. The people Europeans called “Eskimos” have inhabited the environment north of here—the real tundra—for over four thousand years. They call themselves Inuit meaning “people”; for all they knew for most of their history, they were the only people in the world. The Inuit have the distinction of having made a way of life in a place so harsh that no one colonized it. At least, not until the Cold War, when Canada started wanting a presence in the far north as part of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. Inuit were relocated, some by force, others by deception. See also uranium found on Native peoples’ land.

Anyway, you have to hand it to these people. They figured out igloos and dogsleds and how to live on whale and seal meat and fat, and managed to survive in an environment that would kill most of us in a very short time. Nowadays they have houses and snowmobiles, but the temperatures up there are still just as brutal. If you’re ever in Churchill, stop by the Itsanitaq (some signs still read Eskimo) Museum. It’s only one room, but it’s filled with Inuit carvings depicting everything from a whale hunt to the birth of Jesus. Amazing.
Inuit manger scene
When I stopped by the historic VIA Rail station I was surprised to find it open. The women there welcomed me, pointed out a little museum they have there, and expressed their delight that the train was almost ready to start up again. Everyone in Churchill came out to party yesterday, in fact, when the prime minister arrived to declare the rail link open!
Churchill train station
I can highly recommend the Bear Country Inn, where Koral’s new father-in-law takes care of things, and the Tundra Inn where everyone in town eats and drinks. I tried Arctic char, a salmon-like fish; Manitoba pickerel and chips; and the Borealis burger, which is vegan, contains berries, and comes with hummus. It was really delicious, but if you’re more carnivorous you can also get bison stew or even elk meatloaf.

The flight out of Churchill was rescheduled for later on our departure day. The woman from New Jersey and a German family were waiting for it at the Bear Country Inn too. I was sorry to leave Churchill, especially when we had to fly through Thompson, Manitoba. Thompson airport is a tin can trailer in a hole in the trees; the town was built for mining in the 1950s. Based on the pamphlets in the airport, which are all about suicide, sexual assault, and drug abuse, it seemed like a pretty bleak place. And at the request of the “clan chiefs,” you can neither buy nor transport any alcohol. At least we weren’t there for long.

The Churchill airport is just a hangar too, but a cheerful and welcoming one. And it must be one of the only airports in the world with no security screening. There was a high-visibility vest hanging on the back of a chair; I could have put it on and walked out onto the tarmac, but of course, I didn’t. We just went through security, along with our baggage, when we got to Thompson. No one even scolds you for taking photographs of the plane or runway.

Churchill was once in a lifetime. Still, I’d love to go back there someday. During the "warm" season!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Tweeter and the monkey man: A short post on how to win back America

We hear a lot about the “echo chamber” phenomenon, where people only get their news from sources biased in their direction. It could be Fox News, but it could also be Rachel Maddow, The Globe and Mail, or your Facebook feed. I am of the impression that people’s points of view are becoming increasingly unhinged, from each other and from reality.

Canadians online speculate seriously about a second civil war in the United States. Here in Toronto, there is a debate scheduled this week between U.S. conservative David Frum and Steve Bannon, on the subject of populism. I was listening to a radio story about how groups are protesting the invitation to Bannon, saying that his views are hate speech and ought not to be given a platform. Rachel Epstein, executive director of the United Jewish People’s Order, was being interviewed and sounds respectable.

But when asked about Steve Bannon’s views and what they are, she just kept saying that we all know what Bannon thinks already—so she wouldn’t answer questions about them. And when directly asked if the way to deal with hateful ideas is to silence them, she answered, “Perhaps.”

Granted, this is Canada, which has a troubled history of free speech. But then I was reading an article from The Wall Street Journal, an august source that I seldom agree with but usually find reasonable. All of a sudden in the midst of his reasonableness, this author stated that the migrant “caravan” heading towards the U.S. border has been organized and coached by liberal activists. Huh? Why would they do that? It makes more sense politically for Tweeter (he who tweets) to organize it and march it towards the U.S. himself—not that I believe either conspiracy theory. After all, border issues clearly favor the Republicans, and the shooting won’t start till after Election Day.

Now, given the context of the synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, I completely understand the outrage against anti-Semitic and indeed any hate speech. I am also outraged by the gun availability that makes such murderous attacks (it wasn’t the only one even last week) possible. But to go online, as too many Americans did, and immediately blame Tweeter for everything that happens in that country is hysterical. 

He is a symptom; the fact that millions like what he has to say is the problem. Millions more (of the minority who voted for him) may not have liked what he said or how he said it, but held their nose for one reason or another. Two of those reasons are the prize of overturning Roe v. Wade (surely that explains some of the 80% of white evangelicals), or some of the same economic grievances that caused Bernie Sanders to win primaries, for example in Michigan.

The goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, which recognizes U.S. women’s right to an abortion, has animated many evangelicals politically for a generation. With the Tweeter-packed Supreme Court (Brett Kavanaugh, plus the seat that became vacant under President Obama but was held over, in defiance of all precedent), Roe will soon be history. For this dream of social conservatives, now about to come true, Tweeter was worth voting for. Public health evidence does not support an association between restricting abortion and reduced rates of abortion, and so I believe even foes of abortion would be better advocating “pro-choice” policies, but those facts play no role in the U.S. “pro-life” movement. If you believe, as they do, that the end of Roe is the same as ending a holocaust, then Tweeter is certainly worth it.

As for the economic issues, millennials and all of us who voted for Sanders in the Democratic primary were told that we were wrong, because Hillary Clinton could beat Donald Trump. Well. It was Bill Clinton who famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Millions of voters are now deciding, “Am I better off than I was two years ago?” Democrats who are competing for their votes had better know the answer to that question.

We might wish that the U.S. was a different country than it is, but we can only win with the people we have. Democrats do well when they talk about, dare I say it, Sanders’s issues (for example, his campaign helped bring universal health care into mainstream public debate). Democrats do not do well when they talk about how awful Tweeter is or how awful you are if you vote Republican. If Tweeter being awful was enough, he would never have been elected. 

Democrats have to get it right on people’s “kitchen table” issues, or they will continue to lose. That is also something Steve Bannon has said. There is indeed hate speech, but there is more to the populist streak in American than that. Refusing to contest populism is not going to make it go away.