Saturday, November 19, 2016

I get Election 2016 now...

Dear Republican Party,

I understand. You hate Bill and Hillary. You H-A-T-E them! You tried to bust Bill Clinton on just about any allegation you could think of, and he kept getting away. On the day of his impeachment, his approval rating was in the 60's. So you hate them. You can argue all you want about ethics, morality, blah blah blah... but they just plain beat you at your own game. So you hate them. I didn't trust Hillary either, but not for the same reasons you don't.

And there are A LOT of people out there who didn't enjoy the income benefits of a growing and widening economy. Whole new business sectors were added in the last 25 years, and many didn't see income gains from it. I've studied economic inequality for the last 15 years, and as a result I firmly believe that the Middle Class began shrinking back in the 70's. Remember "stagflation?" That was when prices were going up yet the economy was stagnant. That's when it really began. And it only got worse, especially during the Reagan and both Bush administrations, but also during the Clinton tenure.

That is because the economy evolved, businesses tightened their belts, and many jobs were lost. BUT, many new jobs were created in the last 30 years, jobs that required skills and training beyond high school. Today, many economists argue there is a "skills gap" in our economy, with many people creating an available workforce, but many open jobs require skills that available workforce doesn't have.

So people are angry that others are getting rich when they are not; that the Great Recession happened it impacted their lives even further. Fair enough. But people weren't adapting to the changing economy, and I think you're blaming the wrong people.

I understand, too, that Christians fear an Obama/Clinton tightening of what they perceive to be an infringement of their religious freedom, because they won't allow Christians to discriminate against other religions, or because they won't allow Christians to discriminate against people who live lives Christians believe to be abhorrent to their beliefs.

Well, wasn't the Moral Majority formed specifically to mold public policy to be more inline with Christian beliefs? Basically, Christians have been trying to amend our legal system to force everyone to live by their religious beliefs, regardless of what anyone else believes. Isn't that the case? Christians may try to call that "religious freedom," meaning I'm totally free to live by your religious beliefs. I call that hypocrisy.

So, in your detestation of Hillary Clinton, you voted for someone who throughout his life has demonstrated no religious conviction whatsoever... none. I must've missed that line from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, "Blessed are the greedy and self-promoters, for they will inherit the favor of all who reject science, data, education, information, and knowledge."

You have the right to believe whatever religion you want to, but historically the Supreme Court's interpretation of the 1st Amendment is that you don't have the right to infringe on my right to believe what I want to.

And before I forget, Democrats, you aren't entirely blameless here. You nominated the most divisive and polarizing Democrat since Andrew Jackson... nice going there.

This is the final point I want to make. Okay, Trump followers, you got what you wanted. I could list the volumes of times in the last 16 months Trump has proven himself to be a liar, bigot, sexist, racist, narcissist, and fascist, but I'll spare myself the torture. So here's the thing:

- If we lose our freedom of speech, it's on YOU.
- If we lose our civil rights, it's on YOU.
- If we lose our voting rights, it's on YOU.
- If we lose actual freedom of religion, it's on YOU.
- If we lose any freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, it's on YOU.
- If we end up in a new World War, it's on YOU.
- If we end up in a global economic collapse, it's on YOU.
- If we end up in a total fascist state, it's on YOU.
- If Klan rallies spread and lynching happens again, it's on YOU.
- If innocent Muslims in this country are harassed, injured, and/or killed, it's on YOU.
- If innocent immigrants are harassed, injured, and/or killed, it's on YOU.
- If in 4 years you're not better off than now, it's totally on YOU.

If any or all of these things happen, its on YOU. It is on you. If things don't go as planned, look in the mirror. You voted for someone who throughout his life has only cared about himself, and never, ever demonstrated any concern about the Middle Class, Working Class, or even the rest of the 1%. He's only ever done what suited him at the time. That includes skirting laws, unethical business practices, and suing whomever he wanted to because they said something negative about him, true or not.

Blame President Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or whoever you want, but History will blame you. And as a lifelong student of history, political science, and economics, I will blame you, too. I don't know what your vision of a "great" America is, but I honestly think MY country is already great.

"Give me your tired, your poor, you huddled masses yearning to breathe free, your wretched refuse from your teeming shore..." THAT is the America I was taught to believe in, the America I believed was emerging from its past, the America that elected its first African-American president, but its apparent you don't agree. For the moment, we still have the right to believe what we think is right and just.

You won this election. I know you're happy. Now you have four years (if that?) to show what you meant. But remember, it's on YOU.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Choosing Between the Lesser of Two Liars

After following American Politics since 1986, the first year I was able to vote, it seems clear to me that each presidential election has elicited louder and more hateful voices toward the opposition's candidate.  Bush and Dukakis in 1988 was intriguing to me because a guy named Lee Atwater created TV commercials that amazed me with the exaggerated claims made in them, but I began to see that politicians will stop at very little to get what they want.  And in the 28 years since, they seem to be willing to stop at less and less.

History teaches us the that the ugliest presidential campaigns in the U.S. were 1800 -- Adams and Jefferson -- and 1828 -- Jackson and JQ Adams.  These were truly vicious, with surrogates printing the most inflammatory, exaggerated claims about the other party's candidate.  But I think 100 years from now, historians will include 2016 in that group.

I expect campaigns, consultants, surrogates, and the AM radio parrots to spew vitriol about candidates,  and I expect campaign commercials to present embellished arguments bordering on outright lies -- that's the nature of the beast of American politics.  With the advent of social media, I can now see the vitriol and incredibly one-sided hatred that many of the big party voters spew, and I'm horrified.

Now we know this is the first campaign in modern history where both major candidates have higher unfavorable ratings than favorable -- meaning more people dislike each candidate than like them.  As a follower of presidential campaigns, I'm entertained by that.  As a voter and citizen and self-proclaimed patriot, I'm horrified.

I'm horrified to see so many people willing to spew hateful things about the other major candidate, while being completely blind to their own candidate's blatant and obvious flaws.  Hillary Clinton is  a lifetime politician, who should know better than to keep her State Department emails on a private server.  With the microscopic lens that she knew was going to be on her as she ran for President, that decision was arrogance bordering on recklessness.  She and her husband truly are world-class political agents, and they had to know this was going to be thrown back in their face.  Did they think they would just be able to explain it away, or just add it to the list of conspiracy theories their opponents would pull out of the file cabinet?

Now there are plenty of examples of why I don't trust Hillary Clinton.  For one thing, she seems to be the most manufactured candidate I've seen in my adult life.  She seems to strike whatever point she feels will get her the most support.  During the primaries, she took the position of "pragmatic progressive" compared to Sanders' "revolution."  I wonder if Sanders had taken the pragmatic road, if she would instead have campaigned as a "revolutionary."  Probably so.  Another example... one week she says, "I'm not going to apologize about the email issue."  The very next week -- the VERY next week -- "I'm sorry about the emails."  That is why I don't wish to vote for Clinton.

I don't believe all the conspiracy theories about her that emerge from numerous outlets, but I still don't trust her.  I do believe, however, that part of the reason that why the Right doesn't like her is because her husband beat them at their own game.  Republicans threw everything they could again Bill Clinton during his administration, and when he was about to be impeached, and when he left office, his approval ratings were still in the 60's.  Sorry, GOP, I know you tried.

Which brings us to Mr. Trump. He has made such blatant claims during this campaign that many well-known and respected Republicans have very publicly jumped ship.  This is perhaps the clearest difference between the two -- I don't know of any Democrat politicians who have publicly said they would vote for DJT over Hillary, though there are a Bernie supporters who have said they wouldn't vote for Clinton.

And those same followers who support Trump the most fervently are the ones who hate the Clintons to the same degree.

I believe that Trump is pathological liar, a sexist, a racist, a narcissist bordering on delusion, and a dictator in waiting.  Mental health professional don't like it when lay people do armchair psychological diagnoses, but there are plenty -- puh-LENTY -- of examples to show Trump suffers from an extreme case of Narcissist Personality Disorder. (Sorry, mental health professionals, its true, and you know it.)

Now, I could expand extensively on why I will not vote for Trump, or what I think of Trump's followers, but I will say that another truth brought out in this campaign that worries me is that DJT is exposing the rampant bigotry still exists today in the United States.  I thought we were past that in 21st century America.  It's as if DJT is the manifestation of a backlash that was brought out by the first African-American President.

But what worries me the most is complete lack of 360 degree vision of voters of both sides of the political spectrum.  I see scathing accusations about both candidates from people, accusations that I don't necessarily disagree with.  But what I don't see -- except from the people in the Middle I'm getting acquainted with thanks to Twitter -- is that the people making those scathing accusations about either candidate seem completely oblivious, or intentionally ignorant, of the issues with their own candidate.

These are people with the worldview boundary and introspective capacity of a kindergartener.  I'm reminded of the line somewhere in the New Testament where Jesus is talking about trying to get the speck out of someone's eye when you have a log in your own.  These are the people choosing our next President, and I'm horrified.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why Moderates Don't Get News Coverage

I've asked the question in several places why the Moderate movements isn't getting more press coverage, even though the majority of voters now state they don't align with the extreme voices in the major parties.  If the centrist view -- or at least the non-extreme view -- is beginning to catch on among rank-and-file voters, why isn't there more coverage?

After extensive consideration, the answer may be Reality TV  There is a reason why reality television shows don't ever show rational, emotionally healthy behaving like civilized adults:  because ratings would plummet.  We've all read the stories about how show-runners try to stir up emotions and goad participants into tirades and difficult situations, then edit out anything that doesn't bring a dramatic climax and/or fist-fight.

This is not to say that reality TV is necessarily to blame, but is definitely an indicator of our current situation.

There is a little-known reality cooking show called Top Chef Master, which -- in its first couple of seasons, at least -- featured mature, experienced chefs.  It was one of the very few shows I watched, because the show featured grown-ups collaborating and competing at the same time, helping each other out, and communicating with professionalism and courtesy. It was thoroughly refreshing.

Having cut the cord a couple of years ago, interest in TV in general has been lost for me.  Looking for the show online, its not on the network's main menu anymore.  Meanwhile, there are still 8.. EIGHT Real Housewives shows. While I don't watch much TV anymore, I read extensively from a variety of news sites, and from the growing number of moderate opinion sites, from which I get my media information, and hence draw these conclusions.

The 24-hour cable news industry is dominated by the need for viewership.  That's why Trump gets exponential coverage on cable news compared to Sanders.  Like him or hate him, Trump gets viewers, and the cable news networks know it.  So when imagining Anderson Cooper or Rachel Maddow, or especially any Fox News parrot, trying to interview a Moderate advocate, one can hear the sound of thousands of remotes clicking..

The fact is, moderate and centrist dialogue isn't good for ratings, because to really get to the heart of any centrist-moderate-independent policy issue requires details, facts, data, explanation, depth, and most of all, t-i-m-e, with absolutely no taglines or slogans.  We don't use three-syllable slogans to outline our views -- "tax and spend," "cut and run," etc. -- which doesn't translate into the riveting TV that networks strive for.  Most cable news segments are just a couple of minutes, and even the Sunday morning news shows have to offer some draw, despite the lowered volume of the dialogue.

Imagine a moderate-centrist "McLaughlin Group" type of show, where someone says, in a civil tone, "I'm not sure I agree with that view, and I ask your indulgence to explain why."  Would this show ever, e-v-e-r get air time?

Most voters seem to want easy options and solutions.  Don't burden them with too many policy options for any particular issue, and by all means do not attempt to discuss the full range of issues a President, or Senator, or Congressional Representative really has to deal with.

Take foreign policy for example.  Most voters don't want to consider that maintaining good relations with other nations, even our closest partners, is incredibly complex, requiring depth of knowledge, ability to discern nuance, cultural sensitivity, firm grasp of international law -- and numerous other areas of understanding.  The current batch of GOP presidential candidates want to say, "All we need to do is __________."  This is simplistic approaching idiocy, but these types of statements resonate with the people they are attempting to attract.

They are simple, they are black and white, they are "us versus them."  And too many voters want that.  But there is hope.  There is a growing number of internet content dedicated to moderate-centrist politics and dialogue.  There are a growing number of Twitter tweeters sharing articles and updates.  And there is growing data showing more voters are leaving the two major parties and seeking an alternative.

This blog discussed before the need for a centrist party, but also of the difficulty of attempting to meld a huge number of disparate, but respectful, viewpoints into a single party platform.  I've suggested we might need a charismatic and eloquent voice to lead the movement.  Upon further review, I'm not sure anymore.  I like that we are so diverse in opinion, and can share differing views. But then again, I don't watch reality TV.