Archive for July, 2016

Things Aren’t So bad

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It was the summer of ’68.  American cities were in flames, the country was torn apart by assassinations – Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy within months of each other – while students were in outright revolt against the Vietnam war.

The civil rights movement was reaching a crescendo, as were the efforts to resist.  Governor George Wallace of Alabama promised segregation forever, and launched a nationalist-racist independent campaign against the relatively disliked mainstream candidates Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.  During the Democratic convention it appeared society was to break down in Chicago, as the police used tactics described as “gestapo like” to keep order.

Was the country falling apart?   Conservatives were shocked by the changing moral values – mini-skirts, the sexual revolution, women wanting to work, burn their bras (alongside men wanting to burn their draft cards) and it appeared that order in America was about to collapse.

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The hippy and counter culture movement of the 60’s shocked conservative society and yielded fear that America was in moral decay

But the country didn’t collapse.  Even though the turmoil of Watergate was still to come, the American public digested the changes, moved forward on civil rights, ended the war in Vietnam, and embraced a culture more open and liberal than before.   Cities once burning rebounded.  What appeared to be a national existential crisis at the time is now seen as an interesting historical moment, often remembered romantically rather than with fear.

Now, thanks to non-stop media, some think things are just as bad.  A decorated military veteran unleashes a vicious  attack against Dallas police, killing five.  More examples emerge of innocent black men killed by cops driven either by overt racism or, more likely, fear and misunderstanding.   The evidence for structural racism is real and profound, though nothing compared to the overt and extensive racism of the 1960s.  There are protests, but the cities aren’t burning.

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Young people and civil rights activists rallied around King and Kennedy – both of whom would be assassinated within two months of each other, throwing the country into shock and turmoil.

We’re going through cultural change, but rather than the backlash of the 60s against civil rights, those opposed to gay marriage seem more concerned about protecting the right of bakers not to bake cakes for gay marriages.  Not an insignificant issue, but nothing like the kind of venom that drove George Wallace.

If you follow the media you will see America divided, with Trump leading a kind of peasant revolt against the smug, satisfied liberal intellectual class.  Perhaps.   But that’s part of the process of change, nothing new or essentially dangerous to our Republic.  And Trump?   Less a Mussolini than a Jesse the Body Ventura.  He’s a media creation – all hype and no substance.  Not a fascist, but a reality star sensationalist.  If he wins he may not be much of a President, but probably not as dangerous as people fear.

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Hate groups like this, who want to make homosexuality a crime, are on the fringe, laughed at and ignored by left and right alike.

And Hillary?  A centrist Democrat.  Despite the hype, she’s no more or less trustworthy than most (take that as you choose) and probably would run a competent government, though one not as aggressive in dealing with problems as many desire.

In short, despite the emotion of the stories that pound us on social media and the images brought by cable news, things really aren’t that bad.  Unemployment is below 5%, nearly 300,000 jobs were created last month, and the country does not appear to be in danger of collapse or crisis; indeed, we may be in the verge of a mini-boom.

Does this mean we shouldn’t care about threats to black lives, blue lives, or those harmed by the maldistribution of wealth in society?  Not at all – indeed, social media allows us to spread stories and act collectively in a way more effective and substantial than any time in the past.  Yet that shouldn’t allow us to overlook the positive – many of those stories get spread via social media as well, and help us see that the world is not a cold, violent place.  Rather, it is a place where communities and friends cooperate and build connections – with violence a relatively rare assault on that stability.

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Facebook is plastered with stories about violence and anger. Yet in the world there are far more acts of love, kindness, consideration and caring than there are acts of hate. We read about a shooting and talk about it for days, we don’t read so much about those who take time to help and care for others, even though their numbers overwhelm the acts of fear/hate. So yeah, be upset or angry about injustice – but don’t be blind to the beauty, care, concern and love all around each of us every day. Therein is our power to defeat the hate and anger!

Things really aren’t that bad – and focusing on how bad they are probably does more harm than good.   Focusing on the good that is out there and trying to expand and support it is really the best approach.

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Can Trump be Dumped?

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While Democrats are lining up behind Hillary, albeit reluctantly in many cases, some Republicans still harbor a desire to “Dump Trump.”   Kendal Unruh of Colorado and Curly Hougland of North Dakota are leading a fight to change the rules at the Republican Convention to allow delegates to “vote their conscience,” and presumably choose someone other than Trump to carry the GOP banner in 2016.

On the face of it, their arguments are pretty convincing.  Even if you dismiss the concerns about political correctness, anti-semetic imagery, and outlandish statements, Trump looks like a candidate doomed to fail.   His fund raising operations have been slow to start, he lacks a solid staff in many swing states (in many cases Hillary has had full time staff in those places for over a year), and seems like someone not ready for prime time:  A dilettante who isn’t prepared for what is next.

On the political right – especially Christian and social conservatives – there is a fear that Trump signals the downfall of their movement, a victory once and for all of a kind of ‘secularism’ that Trump represents.  His personal life, his New York roots and lack of conviction on social issues causes many to fear that once the Republican party has been Trumped, it will cease being a beckon for true Christian conservative values.   If Trump is the nominee, they want him to lose.   These voters also disliked Romney and McCain for being too moderate; now they’d give anything for such a candidate to emerge.

As always, people with strong political views engage in outlandish wishful thinking that somehow reality will twist around, the pundits will be shocked, and they will prevail.  Almost always, such thinking is delusional.

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The most recent unforced Trump error: This background comes from an anti-semetic white power website. But the Trump campaign insists it was just a mistake. 

No matter how ardent the Dump Trump forces are, the odds are stacked firmly in Trump’s favor.  Most establishment Republicans now back Trump, who got over 13 million votes in the primary season.   Their support maybe lukewarm, but it’s real.  Moreover, while the rules committee could send a “vote your conscience” plank to the convention floor, Trump’s lead in delegates assures it will be defeated.  True, some Trump delegates may be having second thoughts, but almost certainly not the 300 or so needed to pass a rule change.

Beyond that, such a rule change would greatly minimize the influence of primaries and caucuses, making the whole system less democratic.  After all, if insiders want to create rules that allow them to reject a candidate should voters choose the “wrong one,” then we’re back to the smoke filled rooms and inside deals.  People looking to 2020 and beyond see this rule change as a dangerous precedent.   Think super delegates are bad on the Democratic side?  This would be super delegates on steroids.

Trump is in a position where he is assured victory unless something bizarre happens – as the old political saying goes, unless he’s ‘caught in bed with a dead hooker or a live boy.’  While a rule change is politically possible, it is exceedingly unlikely, even if Trump continues making unforced rhetorical errors.

What does this mean for the GOP?   The Christian conservative movement will be weakened if not rendered all but  impotent.  The culture wars began in the 1980s are done, and they have lost.   For the establishment, on the other hand, there are mixed feelings.  A Trump loss means four more years of having a Democratic President, thwarting any plans to truly shape policy.  If Trump’s weakness leads to loss of the Senate and/or even the House, this would be an electoral disaster for Republicans.  So many hope that Trump manages to eek out a victory, and that our famous checks and balances system of government can help Congress keep him on the straight and narrow.  If so, many reckon Trump could be a successful President.

Others secretly hope Trump is defeated, and that Republicans at least keep the House.  That assures the Democrats won’t be able to do anything too dramatic, and sets the stage for the establishment to regain party control by 2020.

So can Trump be dumped?  Yes,  but probably not by the Republican party.  If Trump is to be dumped, it’ll be by the voters in November.

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