Category Archives: Essays

Essays

The Power of Fear

Fear has been a major component in the 2016 political campaign and continues to be a tactic of the Trump team as they prepare for him to take office.  All of us need to understand how fear can cause us to make bad choices. But we also need to learn how to combat it. What follows is an excellent video that demonstrates how fear was used as a tactic in the campaign.  The remainder of this post is remarks about Fear and Faith shared by Marguerite Chandler, my spouse, at the Newtown Friends Meeting this morning. Continue reading The Power of Fear

People’s Choice? (Not!)

Many of my friends are distraught because Donald Trump’s Electoral College win on 11/8 and the subsequent deplorable events seem to say that as many as half of Americans either are bigots themselves or don’t care if the President of the US is one.  The election results seemed to repudiate their belief that most Americans are good and decent folks that share a deep love of justice and diversity.

Take heart friends. Only about 19% of US citizens who should have voted elected Donald J. Trump. The majority couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t vote.

19% of Voters Elected Trump
19% of Voters Elected Trump – (Graphic by R B Shreve)

Continue reading People’s Choice? (Not!)

How to be “A Good Loser”

Some of my conservative friends are responding to posts by angry Democrats with, “Be a good loser.”  In sports, where it’s only a game, being a good loser means congratulating the other team and thanking them for a good game.  It’s play — or should be.

But the policies and actions of our government are not a game. It is the responsibility of every citizen to make certain that government is good government. flag-plateIn this election a man has been elected whose values and character are deeply flawed.  Much ink has been devoted to cataloging his shortcomings. His choices of advisors and staff are not encouraging:

The short list of White House cabinet picks (see below) reads like a Who’s-Who of rightwing know-nothings (Sarah Palin), dangerous retreads (Newt Gingrich and John Bolton), arch conservatives (Sam Brownback), disgraced hacks (Chris Christie), Wall Street regressives (Steven Mnuchin), and raving opportunists (Rudi Giuliani). Already installed as chief strategist and senior counselor is a white supremacist (Steve Bannon), and, as chief of staff, a Trump toady and party apologist (Reince Priebus).

If personnel is policy, this isn’t looking good. [Robert Reich, Facebook 11/14/16]

In our democracy being a good loser means defending American values as embodied in the constitution. It also means defending inalienable and inherent human rights.  Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — which are possible only with conscious stewardship of our planet, equality, peace, integrity, and community.

We may have lost but we’ll never give up, whatever it takes!

 

Post Election Analysis

As the shock of the Trump victory fades and the media recovers we are being deluged by analysis.  For those who haven’t seen it yet, here is the political satirist Jonathan Pie. (I’ll be adding other links as I encounter thinking that is novel or particularly sage in my view.) Pie is not family fare – lot’s of vulgarity.

Michael Moor gets it.  He’s no Republican you say? He is talking about an “elite bubble” and speaking as a Midwestern, white, high school education, male.


SNL

 

 

 

 

We Still Don’t See It Coming!

Many of the pundits are saying, “nobody saw this coming.” They go on to describe the revolt of the less educated white working-class male, or some other demographic that has been marginalized by globalization, or income inequality.

There is no denying that they are at least partly right. But I know that I personally missed something that’s context for Trump’s win – it’s political gaming of the system that’s been a GOP strategy for decades and was happening big time in this election.

As I was puzzling out loud over the fact that Hillary won the popular vote, and Trump won the Electoral College.  Marguerite said, “It’s gerrymandering.” I scoffed at her interpretation. I think of gerrymandering as a way to guarantee seats in the House of Representatives by, in effect, picking your voters by demographic mapping.

How Gerrymandering Works
How Gerrymandering Works

However the reality is much subtler. Gerrymandering  helps a party that does not have a majority of voters support at the congressional level. The “red” minority (see chart) can get three of the five districts (60%) by clever carving. The “blue” majority can draw districts to give themselves all five (100%).

This simple example illustrates how the US political system can be modeled like any other complicated set of interdependent rules and variables. Consider that each state makes the rules about how it runs its elections. It is the governor and the legislature that also define political boundaries.  So if a political party can optimize boundaries to get the most seats in congress, it can lock in some districts without having majority of the votes. In addition, it can target the campaign money on districts where there is no such lock.

Another gambit is voter suppression. Voter ID rules, polling hours, polling locations, number of voting machines, early voting, absentee ballot rules — all the many aspects that are controlled at the state level can be played to the advantage of one party over another.

Those tactics will be reflected in not just the House of Representatives, but also the Electoral College.

The GOP figured out how to game the system long ago. The book “Rat F**ked” explains how it happened.  The title is a vulgar expression for political sabotage.

The process is ongoing. When the smart money in the GOP campaign pulled back from supporting Trump, it refocused on supporting GOP candidates for state legislatures and governorship. Already the GOP has a lock on the US House.  They are working on voter supression strategies to gain wider control.

If you believe in democracy you should be concerned.  But even if you are concerned you may not be able to change it.  It will take a super motivated electorate to reverse the many ways our political system is being corrupted.

The Citizens United decision is another element of the strategy.  Now that huge amounts of money can be targeted at particular state and even local races, it has become possible to hammer any candidate that opposes your interests.  The NRA is perhaps the least subtle. It wants politicians to think that taking a stand on gun regulation is just not worth it. But the tactic can work to defeat a popular candidate who opposes any moneyed interest.

Partisan news networks are another facet. Fox News learned how to game the system and President Elect Donald Trump became a master at playing the system to his advantage. Propaganda does not need to be grounded in truth to have devastating effect.

One of the tragedies of public education is the evident lack of discernment and critical thinking exercised by massive numbers of people. Another is the dumbfounding ignorance of basic civics – most people don’t know how our government works, don’t know who the current leadership is, and don’t understand their role as a citizen and voter.

When most of us are indifferent and ignorant to civic processes, the field is wide open to those who want to game the system at our expense.

God Bless Save America!