* Before we move on, though, don’t forget Georgia and the quest to make it a clean sweep against dangerously underqualified and undemocratic (small “d”) candidates. Donate to Raphael Warnock and send nonpartisan reminders to voters at Vote Forward. THEN we’re done.
Congratulations to the Democratic Party for … meeting low expectations.
The narrative changed several times, didn’t it? A few months ago, the Democrats were going to get pummeled as incumbent parties always do in midterms, particularly when the Afghanistan debacle and inflation condemned Biden to a Trumpian low-40s in approval polls. Then the abortion ruling energized everyone, the Republicans nominated a band of lunatics and madmen/madwomen, and FiveThirtyEight was telling us the Democrats would almost certainly hold the Senate. Then John Fetterman had a shaky debate performance, the stories of Herschel Walker paying for abortions actually strengthened my childhood sports hero’s campaign, and the Democrats were going to lose everything.
So when the Democrats didn’t lose everything, it was a miracle!
Media narratives are always overstated, but on the whole, the midterms brought this good news:
There’s a ceiling to authoritarian lunacy, especially when it relates to Donald Trump.
Here’s The Economist: “For a long time elected Republicans have behaved as if Mr Trump had some magic electoral power. His record shows a narrow win in 2016 after two terms of Barack Obama—an election, therefore, that a generic Republican candidate would have been expected to win. In 2018 Republicans did poorly in the midterms, losing 41 seats in the House. Then in 2020 Mr Trump lost to a rather elderly and verbose candidate never noted for his skill at campaigning. Mr Trump’s special power is over the berserker faction of the Republican Party, which has sway in primaries. But to the rest of the electorate he is becoming the thing he most derides: a loser.”
Here’s FiveThirtyEight, which noted that political newcomers who supported the Big Lie on the 2020 election were trounced: “Perhaps most meaningfully, voters almost universally rejected election deniers who ran for secretary of state, an office that is typically a state’s top election official and responsible for administering elections, enforcing election laws and certifying results.”
Here’s Reason, which might be reclaiming its libertarian mission after cozying up to non-libertarian Trump: “Without a hateable foil to run against, Trumpism doesn’t work as a campaign strategy. It’s time for Republicans to rediscover the value of actually having ideas.”
And to carry that forward, here are few important rules for 2023 for the Democrats and the media:
Dear Democrats: It’s the issues, stupid! We’ve been over this. You have the advantage on every issue. People want economic safety nets, not tax cuts for the rich. They want reproductive freedom. They want reasonable solutions to our gun problem and our immigration problem. (The first Reason piece above notes that Mitt Romney wants to expand immigration.) They care about climate change. They want gay rights. Even the Mormon Church came out (oops, maybe not the right word choice) and said they’d support measures to protect gay marriage legally as long as they could still argue against it theologically. So why are these elections even close?
Quit spending all your time, energy and money sending people like me frantic emails that you’re going to miss some fundraising deadline. Quit calling the same people over and over again. Quit using attack ads that worked on Boomers but fall flat with younger generations.
Dear media: It’s the issues, stupid! I don’t want to hear about Donald Trump in 2023 unless you’re reporting on his legal issues. The only Trump news that matters this week is that foreign governments spent $750,000 at his hotel, the latest evidence that Trump used the White House for personal gain and little else. Maybe start asking questions about why Merrick Garland is moving so slowly that I’m starting to wonder if he’s still working on impeachment papers for Warren G. Harding.
Smash the two-party system! It’s happening, folks. Support Unite America.
Finally, here’s a resolution for the rest of 2022 and at least the first 10 months or so of 2023 …
GET ON WITH OUR LIVES!
We’ve earned a break from horse-race and celebrity politics. Enjoy it.
Most of us want politicians who are smart enough to understand the issues and humble enough to know when they need outside expertise.
Most of us want drivers at a four-way stop sign to go in the order of when they arrived at the intersection.
And yet the media insist we’re divided. …
Consider poll numbers right after Jan. 6. (The one in 2021, not the year in which you’re reading this.) A Reuters/Ipsos poll released two days after the Capitol assault found:
57% of Americans wanted Trump out. Immediately. Not Jan. 20.
72% strongly opposed the assailants’ actions. 9% somewhat opposed.
79% described the assailants as either “criminals” or “fools.”
55% strongly disapproved of Trump’s actions on Jan. 6. 7% somewhat disapproved. 6% “lean toward” disapproval. Only 16% “strongly approved.” (Again, this was 18 months before the hearings on the matter.)
57% said lawmakers trying to block certification of the election were “criminals” or “fools,” while another 16% didn’t know.
The purpose here isn’t to put forth some sort of Milquetoast Moderatism. There’s no middle ground between “the left” and the people who ran into the Capitol alongside people bearing Confederate flags and anti-Semitic slogans. The people on the “left” who commit political violence are swiftly denounced and hold no real power; the people on the “right” who do so are given political cover by a party that refuses to participate in an investigation of an assault on democracy.
But there’s no reason We the Common People Who Have Things in Common can’t rise above all of the hatred, all of the ignorance and all of the fundamental disrespect that manifests itself everywhere from political protests to merge lanes on the interstate. We have more in common that we think, and we need to demonstrate that in a show of strength to disarm the haters.
And we agree on a lot more than simply denouncing the Proud Boys, “antifa” or the misinformation miscreants who have taken over cable “news” in prime time. We generally agree on guns, abortion and immigration. Agreement, though, makes poor prime-time ratings.
The social contract I’m proposing here has three stages:
In doing so, we’ll have better tools for building on the things on which most of us agree. Maybe the good feelings will even trickle down to four-way stops. Or at least stop people in a backup on the interstate from pulling into the shoulder and passing five cars before merging back in.
Through a lot of American history, we’ve agreed on what we wanted to do but disagreed on the specifics. The sooner we can get back to disagreeing on things like “the role of private corporations in health care” instead of things like “the use of misinformation to enable violent hatred” or “whether it’s OK to threaten health officials,” the better.
So the following is a list of common goals. We can debate the specifics while the white supremacists go back to playing soldier in the woods, “antifa” goes back to the drum circles, and Putin’s apologists fight their Twitter bans.
An epidemiologist might know more about COVID-19 than your “liberal”-bashing pastor. Climate scientists might know more about climate than economists. If you don’t believe that, let your doctor fix your plumbing and vice versa.
It’s too easy for progressives to think this is simply a right-wing problem or limited to Joe Rogan’s podcast. The fact is that a lot of today’s bullshit stems from the postmodern relativism incubated in academia. You can’t peddle theories about science being nothing more than a hegemonic patriarchalsocial construct and then expect people to show up at a climate change rally. This anti-expert bias has, of course, moved into the media.
You don’t have to assume someone’s right just because someone has initials after their names. We have plenty of quack doctors shilling for bullshit products, after all. But if an overwhelming number of biologists see evolution as the fundamental backbone of biology, you might want to use some skepticism when you step into that creationist museum.
2. Respect empathy — and each other
The USA is built in part around a belief in the “rugged individual.” And to some extent, that’s not a bad thing. Nothing wrong with self-reliance. The problem is when we think we owe nothing to each other, and that’s a problem that’s growing.
If World War II happened today, would we have the national resolve to sacrifice everything from our material comfort to our lives to turn back fascism? Back then, people ran unprotected at machine-gun nests to help their fellow human being. At the height of COVID, a lot of people wouldn’t even get a shot or wear a mask in an effort to protect other people from getting a disease that could kill them, hospitalize them or give them long-term problems. “It’s my choice whether I want to protect myself,” the argument went. The arguer showed no capacity to consider the impact of letting a disease run rampant, putting a lot of other people — or even themselves — into overtaxed hospitals.
A bit of hostility isn’t new. We had an actual Civil War. We’ve always had bumper stickers venting hostility. But it’s becoming more mainstream, with public servants (please note the word “servant”) no longer trying to stay above the fray. It’s bad enough when someone puts a “Let’s Go Brandon” sticker on a car. It’s worse when Florida’s governor alludes to that juvenile slogan while signing an order against COVID vaccine mandates.
We’ve turned empathy into a weakness. Donald Trump Jr. in particular loves to gloat about people feeling “triggered.” The people he’s trying to bully are far more courageous than he is because they’re brave enough to care. We need that bravery.
3. No more violent or destructive protests
Yes, this applies to the downtown Portland occupation and other left-wing protests as well. Leaders who matter, like Joe Biden and Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, denounced the looting and the attempts to bait police into responding.
It applies to showing up at Josh Hawley’s house (near mine, incidentally) or Brett Kavanaugh’s house.
This isn’t a case of “bothsidesism.” It’s just recognition that this is a reasonable conversation:
“Jan. 6 was abhorrent.”
“Would you say the same about the protest in East Urbanville in which someone was killed?”
Well, that was simple.
So no more destruction of property. Public or private. Doesn’t matter. The people who suffer from this destruction — the shopowners, the sanitation workers, the taxpayers, the Capitol Police — are never the people you’re trying to hold accountable.
No more death threats toward election officials trying to oversee a fair vote or school board members trying to keep schools safe. Nor more assaulting college professors who bring conservative-ish speakers to campus. And “Antifa”? You’ve given anti-fascism a bad name.
Again, no “bothsidesism” or “whataboutism” here. One “side” is more dangerous than the other when you look at the number of armed groups rehearsing for war and the willingness to stampede past the police into the Capitol, and they still have apologists in Congress. Doesn’t matter. You can denounce murder while also denouncing sucker-punching someone in the street.
4. Listening, not lecturing
Speaking of counterproductive measures — “cancel culture” and “woke” excesses are clearly turning people against progressives. Rushing to judgment inevitably leads to hypocrisy.
To give an example for Millennials and younger generations: A lot of people over 35 didn’t grow up knowing how to be allies or anti-racist. If you’re under 35 and learned such things, congratulations. If you’d rather pass judgment on older people (and dismiss their life experience/expertise), isn’t that a little ageist?
We need to fight racism. Obviously. But that means unifying people against racism, not making them feel they can never help. Condemning other people only hardens your alleged enemies’ minds. We need persuasion.
“For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary. An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement.”
On a more basic level, we equate listening with weakness. Trump rose to power because he seemed less willing to compromise than the Bush family and their peers. And he didn’t listen to anybody. Not even his intelligence briefing, according to those radicals at the CIA.
Listening will help to get rid of the labels. A “progressive” is simply someone who wants progress, which should apply to all of us. A “liberal” should be someone who loves anything that liberates. A “Christian” should be someone who welcomes other people with humility and compassion in the name of Christ, reserving judgment to higher powers. A “Southerner” is someone who lives in or was born in the South, not necessarily an uneducated racist.
Joe Biden isn’t a communist. He’s not even socialist. And in this country, we hardly know what “socialist” means, anyway. We certainly don’t know what “conservative” means — the Venn diagram between Ronald Reagan’s ideology and Donald Trump’s is nearly two separate circles. There’s also a considerable amount of diversity within the Democratic Party, plus third parties such as the Libertarians, Greens, actual Socialists, and the American Solidarity (Christian Democrat) Party.
Trump preyed on those who felt they were being left behind in Obama’s strong economic recovery. We can debate the solutions he offered and the sincerity with which he offered them, but we can see that people wanted to feel like they were heard and that someone was going to take care of them. Democrats should make the argument that a strong safety net and opportunities to switch careers are the best path forward, and Republicans should certainly have a say in how to do that.
7. Let no one go uninsured
Obamacare, single-payer, Medicare for all or most, or a public-private partnership we haven’t considered — debate the options all you want, but recognize that the model of having employers foot the bill has fallen apart because it’s an albatross on small businesses and the “gig economy” leaves people stranded. Also, consider the economic argument that someone is paying for emergency treatment for the uninsured, and that’s hardly the most efficient system.
Another advantage of #6 and #7 here: If your basic needs are met, you’re free to innovate. You can take risks. A safety net with insurance is stereotyped as a benefit for leeches, lazy people who refuse to work. If you’d like to build in safeguards, go ahead. But bear in mind that this isn’t a strictly socialist idea. Universal basic income, after all, has long had conservative backers. (Not that we’re keeping labels.)
8. Rein in presidential power.
We shouldn’t have to spend the last days of a president’s term worrying that he’s going to pardon everyone who has inflicted damage on our country. And both parties have complained over the decades about the expanding power of the executive branch.
9. Rein in the major parties.
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.” – George Washington
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” – John Adams
They warned us of a cycle of retribution between two warring parties who put their own interests ahead of the country’s. They anticipated a future in which “owning the libs” (or “cons”) passes as ideology.
The point of elections isn’t to put a specific “party” in office. It’s to hold people accountable for their misdeeds. And mistruths.
10. Reconsider our election process.
The Electoral College disenfranchises people who aren’t in “swing” states, and it can easily give us presidents who didn’t win a majority of votes. Tying yourself in legal pretzels to try to invalidate or suppress votes is anti-democratic.
We can also get rid of the “lesser or two evils” phenomenon with voting systems that give third parties a chance. Yeah, some of them are a little “out there,” but plenty of them deserve to be heard. The problem today is that a candidate can win a Senate seat or electoral votes with less than a majority. Major Party A gets 49% of the vote in a state, Major Party B gets 48%, and Major Party B asks the other 3% why they wasted their votes or ruined Hillary Clinton’s chances of stopping Donald Trump. Consider a “ranked-choice” system or approval voting, and we should at least have a winner the majority of us can live with.
Maybe even get rid of presidential primaries, which give the first few states and states with “caucuses” far too much of a say.
11. Focus on solutions
It’s all well and good to put forth an idea like getting rid of prisons. But you have to follow up with details on how that’s supposed to work — in this case, without rapists and murderers roaming the streets.
And let’s not pretend problems just magically go away. From Y2K to polluted rivers, we human beings have solved a lot of issues.
Minor tweaks to Obamacare — or allowing people to buy into Medicare. Anything that will keep people from going bankrupt because of an illness.
On guns: background checks and assault-weapon bans
Some legal abortion — at least, not a total ban
Legal immigration, which has been severely inhibited by some of the same people trying to stop illegal immigration
We can agree on a few more.
Job training. We’ll work with educators to prepare you for jobs of the 2020s, not the 1920s.
Education without crippling debt. We’ll work with colleges to get you in the door. If you can only afford to spend two years in college now, we’ll work to create a two-year degree that means something. You’ll be an informed citizen with job skills. And whenever you’re ready to complete a four-year degree, online or in-person, you can pick right back up where you left off.
How will we pay for all this? Simple. We’ll make the wealthiest people in the country pay a sum approaching what they paid back in the old days when America really was great, when we rebuilt the world after World War II and became the shining light of freedom and prosperity.
Let’s say at the outset — “we” and “us” are general terms. And no matter what the media (yeah, I’m part of it) try to shove down your throats, we’re not “polarized.” Things are much more complicated than that.
♦♦ We have evangelicals who are concerned about climate change, no matter how many evangelical preachers tell their congregations Trump is the savior and the Democrats are devils.
♦♦ We have a growing group that thinks Obama and the Clintons are too conservative, all tied to closely to Wall Street.
♦♦ Along those lines, a recent op-ed on curbing immigration was written by … Hillary Clinton.
“Left” and “right” doesn’t make much sense any more. Republicans have long ago tossed Reagan’s ideology out the window. It won’t be long before they burn down one of the two most prominent Washington-area things named after him — the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. (For more, see what Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, wrote last year.) On the other alleged pole, calling Obama and either Clinton “socialist” is a good way to make Europeans — and many educated and/or younger Americans — laugh or cry.
Cry? Let’s hang on to that for a minute.
One driving force — not the sole driving force by any means, but substantial — behind current political trends is the desire to afflict “elites.” These would be “liberals” who don’t care about or listen to anyone else’s needs.
And there’s a bit of truth to that. Have “liberals” been tuned in to people outside urban areas? Probably not.
So — point taken. “Elites” have been getting the message that they need to listen. Well, some of them. Some are clinging to stereotypes of their own, thinking Middle America is all racist and ignorant. But the 2016 election caused considerable fretting and hand-wringing that Democrats have been taking people for granted.
And in general, these “elites” you gripe about have empathy. And we’re concerned that empathy is declining.
The other thing we’re worried about is a lack of respect for facts.
That’s where we’ll start. The “elites” are listening. If you don’t mind, could we please have a turn speaking?
“Elites” aren’t who you think they are
Let’s look at the earnings in various professions. We’ll use Salary.com as much as possible for the sake of consistency. In some cases, I’ve included the “I” and “III” levels for a position to get a range of experience:
Chief Communications Officer: $212,300
Drilling Foreman: $108,100
Accountant IV: $91,344
Engineer III: $92,651
Engineer I: $66,655
Machinist III: $60,856
Aircraft and Power Plant Mechanic, Senior (high school education): $62,730
Assistant Professor – English: $58,861
Automotive Mechanic III: $56,700
Public School Teacher: $56,376
Accountant I: $53,136
Staff Writer/Reporter III: $52,283
Entry Field Operator (mining, HS education): $47,700
Entry Geologist (mining, BA): $45,500
Academic Advisor: $46,102
Machinist I: $42,627
Staff Writer/Reporter I: $35,523
You may argue these professions are selective. But they should be enough to show there are plenty of “working man” jobs that are paid more than jobs that require college degrees. (And, therefore, college debt.) You can’t just assume college grads — in some cases, people with doctorates — are taking all the money you should be making.
The people making money, of course, work in finance. Or they’re CEOs who make 4 zillion times more than you do.
And you don’t want to raise taxes on those CEOs? They’re the ones who are robbing you. Not college professors. Not journalists.
What motivates college professors and journalists (and a lot of government workers who chose the public sector over private jobs that pay waaaaay more)?