Waking up to political reality

While the upcoming national election campaigns appear to be hold, or at least on simmer, a political firestorm is nevertheless brewing.

For starters, many of us are not pleased that the choice for chief executive is coming down to two white males in their 70s, but the differences between them are vast. As in HUGE. (I’ll save that rant for later, if necessary.)

We weren’t happy that the other remaining alternative was also a white male in his 70s, but the scarier part was the rabid stance of some of his followers that if he’s not on the ballot, they won’t bother voting. They say they’ll vote only for the Revolution, and some even say that it will rise from the ruins of what’s falling around us. I wish they’d see it’s not that simple or natural. When Rome fell, it was gone.

Another revolution has been taking root in the past four years, one that’s not yet completed but definitely threatening everything the Founding Fathers established. Not all revolutions end on a positive note, after all. Look at history and you’ll see how many have ended in dictatorships and/or social destruction.

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So our political quandary is not all about Covid-19, either, or at least not directly, though the epidemic has been exposing some longstanding stress points in society.

Health care is one, though it still has a long way to go to work efficiently and equitably. Covid-19 is exposing many of its weaknesses and heroic strengths.

Education and student loan debt is another frontier, going back to the shortcomings of No Child Left Behind and a comprehensive understanding of just what education means, especially when we’re dealing with children born with a laptop or smartphone in their fingers. Those kids face the world in a whole new way. What on earth can play even mean for them? And a public school system designed to train them to work in factories that have long since left the USA is another obstacle. Is anybody talking about this in the public arena?

And then there’s the broader economy, beginning with the disconnect between investors and labor. More crucially, the disturbing awakening some conservative analysts are seeing between the gains of digital advances and the devastating losses of lowest level labor. This is going to be HUGE when the bills start amassing.

This shouldn’t be an arcane discussion.

Still, let’s look at the more pressing aspect. The biggest depression in a century? Combined with the makeshift payout, with one with the Donald’s signature on the checks.

Who’s paying for all this? Yes, we had to go back to get his unauthorized fricking egotistical name of the bills we’re paying.

Look, we’re lending free money to big banks, which in turn charge HUGE usury rates on their credit cards. WTF? No wonder we’re getting next to zero on our return on any savings. Real conservatives used to advocate personal savings. Far from that any more. The faux/Fox pseudo-conservatives are on that public-treasury gravy train. Besides, many if not all HUGE corporations aren’t paying federal taxes. Ditto for many of the super-rich who benefited from the so-called trickle-down tax reforms starting in the Ronald Reagan posturing.

Let us all eat cake, then. Does anyone else remember where that led? (Whack! Whack! Whack!)

By the way, whatever happened to antitrust actions? I ponder that every time I get my online server bill, which inches by dollars up every month. Not that this corporations has any real competition. This household is about to bolt to the only other alternative and swallow the quality difference.

‘Revolution or else’ from the fringe and other political lunacy

Maybe it’s all those years I’ve lived in places where I’ve been represented at the state and federal levels by some truly embarrassing public officials.

The ones I dutifully voted against, as a point of moral witness.

Note that I still voted, even when it often felt like a losing cause.

You can imagine my elation on those rare occasions when my candidate actually won office.

The U.S. representative who proved most satisfying was Kweisi Mfume, who was elected from my district in Baltimore shortly before I headed to New England. He was about as unlike me as you could imagine, apart from his voting record, and then he and I were in delicious harmony.

What I’m getting at is about my exasperation with those who insist they won’t vote unless it’s for somebody they agree with 100 percent.

At the moment, that means those in the Bernie camp who can’t accept anything less, except maybe Elizabeth Warren. Some of these are people I love dearly and respect, apart from their belief that it’s time for the entire system to crash and burn so it can magically resurrect in what they call “revolution or else.”

I hate to tell them this, but crash and burn rarely if ever leads to something better. There’s no Phoenix or Firebird. Look at Rome after the Visgoths and Huns. It was never again the same without the full Roman Empire, not that I’m a big backer of Caesar in any form. My sentiments are more in line with the Jewish resistance, not that it matters.

And, no, I definitely don’t believe in unicorns.

I know how hard it is to start an enterprise from scratch or even to turn an existing one in a new direction.

I heard a similar crash-and-burn argument from some who voted for Trump the last time around. Yes, they hated the way things were at that point, but they weren’t differentiating between crucial differences. One wanted something other than an entry-level job. I doubt she has even that now.

Me? I knew I’d much rather have someone in office whose positions meet me half of the time than one opposed to mine 90 percent of the time … or more. Take environmental protections or the independence of the Internet as current two examples.

I also knew I want someone who’s a problem solver, working with verifiable facts, than a problem maker, spouting off lies and superstitious gossip.

And I want someone who’s not in the pocket of the lustfully super-rich and their lobbyists. You know, money-sex-power, those who have it want more of it all … now.

I remember all too well Ralph Nader’s role in giving us the eight years of W that were so detrimental to progressive legislation in this country and its judicial benches, and also how Nader refused to acknowledge his part in undermining those positions. I’m also among those who chide Bernie for undercutting Hillary Clinton’s campaign as well, especially as we look at the devastation that’s followed. Look, I voted for him in the primary and have come to regret it.

The reality is that like dating and courtship, we’ll never find someone who can fit into everything we desire. As I’ve learned, a clone of myself is a very imperfect match. A successful working relationship is something quite different. A candidate who fully matches my stands would never, ever, get elected, not even if I lived in a lefty outpost like Cambridge, Massachusetts, or Berkeley.

Yes, I’m all for a revolution, but that’s within existing realities and resources, the way the call of ’76 turned out to be.

Anyone else have a soundtrack of “Hamilton” to play now?

Religion and the global backlash

Have you ever heard someone blame religion for all the armed conflicts in the world? It’s an easy accusation to make, at least until you look deeper to see the financial, ethnic, even racial motivations underlying the violent and oppressive actions throughout history.

Karl Marx may have called religion the opiate of the people, but he also saw economic inequalities as the real oppressor. Labor inequities were only the tip of that iceberg. For once, you can call me a Marxist, at least on that count.

As a member of a historic Peace Church denomination (a grouping that also includes Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish), I can view the wider Christian stream from a critical perspective that acknowledges the many ways faith communities get co-opted by what is often called the World in earlier pronouncements or Empire in corners of our own – even seduced by the vast range of secular idols. What emerges is corrupted and even false religion, not even of a godly scope.

That perspective can provide for a long examination, one far too broad for a mere blog post.

Nevertheless, in the face of the rising stream of intolerant and often violent social and political backlash across America and Europe, especially, I sense that the anger and hatred are fueled by a post-Christian mindset, one that is ultimately materialistic, divisive, and nihilistic.

In contrast, what I’ve often found in radical faith across traditions is an alternative of hope, humility, justice, and love. Repeatedly, progressive social, political, and economic reformers have had religious roots and support. It’s not an even history, and one that is too often countered by reactionary forces, but I wonder how else the world might turn back the growing darkness without people drawn together in deep spiritual faith and discipline.

The continuing marginalization of religion – especially radical religion, like that I espouse – is one more means of inhibiting any challenge to the few who are reaping the vast benefits of the ongoing social breakdown for their own personal gain.

Where do you find refuge, renewal, and opportunities for social progress?

 

Now that the numbers are in

I’ve long worried about the influence of political surveys on the elections themselves. That is, any scientific purpose they claim still pollutes the subject they’re investigating. And that’s before we get to candidates who remake their image and message to fit popular opinion, even if it doesn’t change their behind-the-scenes policies one whit.

As humans, we like to be on the winning side, after all, and published surveys add pressure in that direction. On the other hand, the opposing camps just might react by ramping up their anger and energy in a drive for an underdog upset. In that regard, the survey findings are more like the betting odds given on a sports event.

These elections should be more than a game or an entertainment ratings number. They’re too important for that.

I was happy to see that in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, many voters stuck to their convictions. Nobody saw Amy Klobuchar’s rise coming, but many were impressed seeing her face-to-face or in what they heard from others who had. The other supporters we met were generally soft-spoken but firm in their decision. Frankly, I was usually amazed to realize we weren’t alone, that there were others who had come to the same decision. I’ll confess we were bracing for the worst when the election results started pouring in. Now we’re feeling some vindication, and definitely smiling.

The irony here, of course, that her climb to a third-place finish now puts her in a spotlight that is expected to sway other primary results down the line.

We’ll just have to see how it all adds up.

What we’re looking for in a potential nominee

Each presidential primary season, I’m amazed by the number of people who file to run in the New Hampshire race even though they have little or no political experience. Yes, we have them again this leap year.

They have no hope of winning or usually even adding anything useful to the conversation.

Even among the serious candidates, I’ve come to see that having good ideas is not enough to make for a viable president. A commanding presence, leadership skills (including an ability to listen and accept critical positions from your inner circle), and effective organization are also essential. Quite simply, is this someone with traction as a nominee?

Political experience is also crucial. Directing a major corporation is not the same as managing a public enterprise. Some states and cities have budgets and work forces rivaling big businesses, but the dynamics are quite different. I do wish some of the billionaire candidates, hopeful as they are, had chosen to run for a governorship or Congress first, get their feet wet and learned through OJT.

So here we are, shaking things out.