What Do You Say We Unplug The Giant, Cosmic Scoreboard?

These days, as I watch and listen to political pundits on right and left-leaning cable news programs, and their “man/woman on the street” interviews, and as I scroll through my Twitter feed, I recognize a familiar pattern.

Everyone is lobbing political grenades at one another as if there’s a giant cosmic scoreboard with “Democrats” on one-side and “Republicans” on the other.

My friends and I do the same thing. We try to couch our grenade-texts in humor, but we’re definitely scorekeeping.

Whenever we score-keep, we focus more on our team—whether Democratic or Republican—than on problem solving and trying to improve everyone’s quality of life. I’m afraid it’s gotten to the point where we want to defeat the other team more than we want our cities, counties, states, and country to flourish.

Among many other examples, Republicans ran up the scoreboard with their rushed Supreme Court appointment bullshit. This week, Democrats are running up the scoreboard by saying everyone that voted for Trump is responsible for the siege of the Capital Building.

Who is going to unplug the giant, cosmic scoreboard first? I will try to by remembering what my mom taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Imagine the silence that would descend on the country if everyone followed that maxim.

Our Post-Election Choice

Democrats and Moderate Republicans are responding to a disappointingly close election in at least three different ways.

A) The “Perplexed Yet Respectful Resistance” response.Screen Shot 2020-11-04 at 9.57.28 AM

B) The “Angry, I Don’t Know Anyone Outside of New York City, Mindless Stereotype” response. Note that you can negatively stereotype by race, class, and gender and still be given a Nobel Prize.Screen Shot 2020-11-04 at 10.01.07 AM

C) The “Hopeful Healing” response.Screen Shot 2020-11-04 at 10.03.42 AM

I propose “D“, which is “Hopeful Healing” preceded by a six month-long moratorium on political discussion of any kind. We need a collective time-out. Eventually though, we need to start asking questions, listening to, and learning from people who think and vote differently than us.

Or maybe six years?

Byedon-Harris

From FiveThirtyEight.

“Harris’s selection is the latest sign of the increasing diversity of the Democratic Party. Democrats last had an all-white, all-male ticket in 2004, with then Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards. This vice presidential process, with Biden committing to choosing a woman fairly early on and then choosing a Black woman, suggests the Democrats may rarely in the future have a ticket of two white men. They may also rarely in the future have a ticket of two white people (as in 2016 with Clinton and Tim Kaine) or two men (as in 2012, with Obama and Biden).”

“May rarely” is the cautious, prudent phrase. I’m throwing caution and prudence to the wind, and saying again, I do not expect to ever see two white men on a Demo ticket. That ship has sailed.

E Unum Pluribus

US television viewers’ deeply disparate responses to the daily Trump coronavirus briefings means it’s time. Time to update the motto of the US, “e pluribus unum”, Latin for “out of many, one”; to “e unum pluribus”, out of one, many.

Out of one country, many factions with diametrically opposed perspectives on reality.

Exhibit A. How large swaths of liberal Democrats, like your favorite blogger, think about the pressers as described in The Trump O’Clock Follies by Susan B. Glasser of The New Yorker.

Her opening paragraph:

“During the Vietnam War, the United States had the Five O’Clock Follies, nightly briefings at which American military leaders claimed, citing a variety of bogus statistics, half-truths, and misleading reports from the front, to be winning a war that they were, in fact, losing. Richard Pyle, the Associated Press’s Saigon bureau chief, called the press conferences ‘the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia’s theater of the absurd,’ which, minus the ‘Southeast Asia’ part, is not a bad description of the scene currently playing out each evening in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, in the White House. We now have the Trump Follies, the nightly briefings at which President Trump has lied and bragged, lamented and equivocated, about the global pandemic that poses an existential threat to his Presidency. Just as the Vietnam briefings became a standard by which the erosion of government credibility could be measured then, historians of the future will consult the record of Trump’s mendacious, misleading press conferences as an example of a tragic failure of leadership at such a critical moment. There will be much material for them; the transcripts from just the first three days of this week runs to more than forty thousand words.”

Shortly thereafter, Glasser adds:

“The disconnect between Trumpian reality and actual reality has never been on starker display than in the past few days, as the true face of the horror we are facing in the United States has shown itself, in New York City, with overwhelmed morgues and emergency rooms, a governor pleading for ventilators and face masks from the federal government, and heartbreaking first-person accounts reminiscent of the open letters sent from Italy a few weeks back, which warned Americans: this is what is coming for you—don’t make our mistakes.”

But there’s a problem with Glasser’s analysis. Many, many of the Presidents’ supporters see a completely different reality. In ways I don’t understand, they literally do not see “horror” or “overwhelmed morgues and emergency rooms” or “a governor pleading for ventilators and face masks”. What do they see?

Exhibit B. How large swaths of conservative Republicans think about the pressers as described by the President’s daughter-in-law in “Trump’s handling of coronavirus crisis shows America what real leadership looks like”.

Lara Trump takes a little longer to warm up. From her second paragraph:

“Unprecedented times call for a strong leader. My father-in-law, President Trump, is showing what leadership looks like in a time of crisis. He is taking bold and historic steps to combat COVID-19.

While Democrats and the media were obsessing over impeachment, the president took early and effective actions to stop the spread of coronavirus. He ordered travel restrictions on China and Europe and restricted our southern and northern borders. Less than a month after learning of the virus, the CDC began working on a vaccine. By March, the president announced that the first potential vaccine entered a “phase one” trial, breaking records for the speed it moved to trials.

While these scientific developments were taking place, the president and the administration led efforts to support states, small businesses, jobs and American families. They’ve waived interest rates on federally held student loans and afforded borrowers the option to suspend payments. They have prioritized the health care of our most vulnerable veterans, and deployed tens of thousands of masks, gowns and other medical devices to states in need.”

Liberals will laugh this off much more quickly than they’ll acknowledge that the President’s approval ratings have gone up quite a bit since the daily pressers began. You can tell the President knows his ratings are trending up as he grows more informal, verbose, and cocksure with each passing one.

How will the (dis) United States resolve this dilemma of its citizens seeing things so differently? Through the electoral college on November 3rd, 2020. I just hope not too many people die unnecessarily between now and then.

 

 

 

I’m Like Fox News, Fair and Balanced

I dedicate this to Travis and Mike who are convinced I’m being even less fair and balanced about the current administration than normal.

From Arnold Kling’s blog post “Calibrating anger”.

“I don’t think that anger toward President Trump is well justified. It is true that he reacted more slowly than many people who are more technically oriented and better able to read exponential processes. But almost every other leader around the world reacted just as slowly. And he was badly served by the FDA. . . Some of those FDA folks are still taking their case to the press, attacking President Trump for breaking out of their regulatory straitjacket.

No doubt that there were some officials somewhere in the bowels of the bureaucracy who saw this coming and tried to send warnings up the chain of command. Perhaps some of those warnings made it all the way to the Oval Office. But suppose that Mr. Trump had understood and been ahead of the curve. Had he told people back in February that they needed to change their behavior, I am skeptical that he could have brought the country with him. The left, rather than respecting such a judgment, would more likely have denounced early measures to stop the virus as a fascist takeover. As it is, they can call him an idiot for being too late. Fine.

I don’t recall leading Democrats putting much pressure on him to act sooner.

Where I am inclined to fault Mr. Trump is in what I see as a lack of ability to attract and retain outstanding personnel. I think that his circle of trust is too narrow. If my intuition about this is correct, then this shortcoming is quite consequential.”

I’m trying really hard to make nice so I will not say a narcissist is incapable of “hiring only the best” because their smarts and competence would accentuate his relative shortcomings.

Dammit, so close.

Democracy Is Cool When You Vote Like Me

I’m not Bernie Sanders’ target audience. I’ve benefitted way too much from capitalism; I’m okay with my health insurance; and our recent weather aside, I’m not nearly angry enough. AND LISTENING TO HIM IS LIKE READING MILLENNIALS!!!

But I’m even less fond of the James Carville’s* of the world and other liberals who are constantly ripping Sanders youthful supporters. Instead of whining about them, try these alternatives.

Stop castigating them for their idealism; instead, affirm their engagement in the political process. For every committed “Bernie bro” there are ten apolitical apathetic people their same age. And hell, if they don’t start out idealistic, what chance do they have?

Set your Boomer pragmatism aside long enough to consider their perspective by substituting questions for the incessant, negative diatribes. Write these on an index card and put it in your shirt pocket. Why Medicare For All? Why a wealth tax? What’s it like having so much student debt? Why such an intense concern with climate change? Why dismantle capitalism? Then move on to their stories. If you’re not careful, you might learn WHY they vote differently than you.

The more respect they receive from mainstream Demos, the more likely they will be to eventually support another candidate in the case another candidate wins the nomination. Right now, given the knee-jerk invective they’re constantly subject to, I wouldn’t blame them if they simple say “A pox on both of your houses.” Which, of course, is the worst possible outcome.

*Pains me to write that, because during his Bill Clinton administration heyday, I really liked Carville. I found his smart, funny, direct, Southern, Creole riffs on all things political super engaging.

Perception Is Reality

A hypothesis. The 2020 Presidential election isn’t going to be decided on policy differences. As always, both candidates will make lots of promises, some partly fleshed out, others not. It isn’t even going to be decided on “kitchen table economics”, or tax proposals, or other manifestos for further weakening or strengthening our frayed social safety net.

It’s going to be decided on emotions, how the candidates make people feel about themselves, even more than how they feel about the country.

Remember Bruni’s description of how Trump makes his followers feel like victims:

“He has turned himself into a symbol of Americans’ victimization, telling frustrated voters who crave easy answers that they’re being pushed around by foreigners and duped by the condescending custodians of a dysfunctional system.”

The Demo candidate should rebut Trump victimization head on, repeatedly saying, “We are not victims. Your neighbors and you control your destiny. Together we can strengthen labor unions, create jobs that pay a livable wage, preserve our natural environment, and take care of the most vulnerable among us. Immigrants and foreigners are not our foes, our only foe is unfounded fear of the other.”

Trump also plays brilliantly on his followers sense that they’re being pushed around by the mainstream media, “coastal elites”, and anti-religious liberals whose common thread is a sense of superiority.

That’s why television segments like this (start at 2:33) are a serious problem for anyone who wants to defeat Trump in November. Like Hillary Clinton’s infamous “deplorable” slur, the single worst thing anyone who wants to defeat Trump can do is laugh at people susceptible to his victimization bullshit because it plays right into their belief that liberals are arrogant; that Democrats, whether they know it or not, whether they accept responsibility for it or not, can be counted on to convey a sense of superiority.

The larger context of this clip, Pompeo’s unconscionable treatment of a female reporter doesn’t matter. The fact that geography is not Trump’s strong suit doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how their laughing makes those susceptible to his victimization push feel because perception is reality.

For Democrats to win, they can’t let their animus for the Trump Administration spill over into disrespect for the dignity of moderates, independents, and “still undecideds” in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere.

Mindless Sex Scandal Scorekeeping

What do uber-liberal Jennifer Weiner and right wing nutter Rush Limbaugh have in common? They both revel in their political opposites’ moral failings. More accurately, they both stand and applaud loudly when their political opposites are caught straying far from the sexual straight and narrow.

Weiner in today’s New York Times:

“The double standards employed by some members of the “do as I say, not as I do” Christian right are nothing new. Show me a senator who votes against gay marriage, and, at least in one infamous case, I’ll show you a guy who’s soliciting same-sex encounters in the airport men’s room. (Hello there, Larry Craig!)

Show me another Republican senator who made his name as a “pro-family advocate” and I’ll show you a guy whose phone number showed up in a Washington madam’s little black book. (Howdy, David Vitter!)

Show me the far-right speaker of the House, a man with perfect scores from the National Right to Life Committee and the Christian Coalition, and I’ll show you a guy who, as a high-school wrestling coach, set up a chair in front of the boys’ shower the better to ogle his protégés, and who was eventually jailed as a serial child molester. (Dennis Hastert, come on down!)

We’ve been down this road of duplicity before. The televangelist who prayed, alongside his wife, for the return of traditional morals, admitted to having sex with — and was accused of rape by — a 21-year-old church secretary, and found to have paid her $279,000. The congressman who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act was sexting with his underage male pages.”

4-0. Scoreboard! Nevermind all the wrecked lives left in the wake, our party is winning because theirs is losing.

Like a good Stoic practicing voluntary self deprivation, I listened to Rush Limbaugh during this morning’s commute. He went all Jennifer Weiner on Harvey Weinstein whose “alleged” decades of sexual harassment momentarily give the Republicans the edge in the Sexual Impropriety Olympics. I’m not sure of the actual score because its constantly adjusting for new sordid details from our most public figures on the right and left.

Note to Rush Limbaugh. You can’t constantly discredit the New York Times as a reputable publication and then cherry pick stories that give you a political hard on. Is it trustworthy journalism or not?

Ready for the most amazing insight I have on offer today? Neither political party has a monopoly on virtue. Scorekeeping belittles the victims, mostly less powerful women. Powerful men of all political persuasions are adept at breaking vows and taking advantage of the less powerful. Mindless sex scandal scorekeeping is an especially poignant example of partisanship run amok.