Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Failing to Find Common Ground

It’s a lot of politics this week, and I feel like I ought to apologize for it.  If you’re like me, your Facebook feed is a constant source of frustration because of all the politically motivated B.S. and overwhelmingly negative vibes.  Twitter doesn’t bother me so much because I’m not friends with those folks, but truly, my desire to know that my buddy is a Ben Carson supporter is extremely limited.  I mean, it’s fine on its face, but let’s don’t pretend that I am about to support Carson or that I care that you want me to.  We may be friends, but we also live in our own separate realities.  We each have our own issues around the kitchen table.  I’m personally trying to vote my own interests here, and I especially don’t give a shit about other people’s various dogmas.  I’ve been struggling with faith for a while now—which is to say that I wish that I had some—but regardless of what I may or may not believe, I still have to live according to my conscience.  I see the world a certain way.  You don’t have to see it my way, but it would be wrong to assume that I’m better than you are at listening to others with an open mind.

That said, this has been an interesting week politically and not just because of the Republican debate.  To start, Trump’s lead has grown so large that it ought to scare everyone.  I don’t personally know anyone who supports him Mr. Trump for president, but the guy has clearly tapped into something primal within the nation’s psyche.  I don’t understand it, but it’s real, and it’s caused massive change in the political landscape.

Map of elections results, 1976 GOP primary.
As always, my goal with this column is not to try to convince you to see things my way.  I accept that I’m not changing any minds.  This column is now and always has been a collection of news articles that I’ve personally found interesting, articles that I think are worth sharing.  To the extent that I have comments, those comments are meant to put the articles into context.  Why do I think this stuff is worthwhile?  That’s what the comments are supposed to explain.  Sometimes I think the reasons are obvious.  Other times, as with the first article below, you have to read a little deeper to see what really makes the bits newsworthy.

I hope that you feel comfortable confronting the stuff that disagrees your views.  It can be a struggle, but I think it’s a struggle that’s worth the effort.  I started taking Newsweek by subscription at the age of twelve, and it was interesting because the magazine had a definite editorial viewpoint back then, one that disagreed profoundly with my nascent political understanding.  But I kept taking it, and over time I began to see what they were trying to say, even if I didn’t always agree with it.  Understanding an opponent’s reasoning is crucial to finding common ground—or the means to defeat them in argument.  Too often today, though, folks aren’t even trying to understand, and no one’s looking to compromise—or argue on anything other than the basis of emotion.  Which is how we’ve gotten to today’s toxic climate, a climate that everyone hates but few are trying to change.

I want to change that climate, and this is my platform.  Take that for what it’s worth.
As CNN’s David Alexrod pointed out over the weekend: “Who ever thought Rick Perry, a frontrunner four years ago, would beat out Jim Gilmore as first of 17 to say adios?”
Mediaite lists Lindsay Graham, John Gilmore, George Pataki (!), Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker as loser who ought to leave now.  For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard of Gilmore and hadn’t realized that Pataki was even running.  His time as governor of New York seems like a part of another age.
I can’t much fault the list, but if all the other guys drop out, I expect Walker would bounce a bit in the polls.  Still, his time spent trying to be Donald Trump-lite has done nothing but show what an empty suit he is, and it’s probably true that he doesn’t have one prayer in Hell of actually winning the nomination.
I’m starting to think that maybe Bernie Sanders might possibly be our next President.  He’s ahead of Secretary Clinton in the polls, and she’s dropping steadily.  What’s worse, though, is that many Democrats actually like him more than they like Clinton because he’s further to the left.  Democrats were just afraid to vote for him because they didn’t think he could actually win in the General.  However, if Trump wins the Republican nomination, or—more likely—if the GOP convention is brokered, and Trump runs as an independent, that will definitely split the conservative vote and put whoever wins the Democratic nomination straight into the White House.  If Biden doesn’t jump into the race, that person could actually be Bernie Sanders, card-carrying socialist.
One way or another, this looks like the election that’s going to break the backs of the old party machines.  It may also prove once and for all that big money donors can’t buy the White House, though their influence can certainly sway local elections.  Think about it this way: guys like the Koch brothers might not want Clinton, but she’s a damned sight better than Sanders.  Sanders has been at war with guys like the Kochs for his entire adult life.  
I’ve been saying for a while now that it’s only a matter of time before the 99% in this country vote themselves possession of other peoples’ stuff.  The way our democracy is organized, the poor don’t need to take to the barricades to force change.  They just need to vote—together, as a block.  Along that line, Sanders is the candidate that changes the game the most, and what’s ironic is that it’s taken a billionaire like Trump to give him a legitimate path to power.
For what it’s worth, I’m not the only one who’s noticed.

2. Scientists say it’s been 500 years since California has been this dry (Washington Post)
California is in the fourth year of a severe drought with temperatures so high and precipitation so low that rain and snow evaporate almost as soon as it hits the ground. A research paper released Monday said an analysis of blue oak tree rings in the state’s Central Valley showed that the amount of mountain snow California relies on for moisture hasn’t been so low since the 1500s.
Meh.  Science.
According to the article, this drought will last for something like thirty years if conditions continue.  Temperatures are rising at the same time that precipitation remains constant in a naturally low precipitation area.  This has led to over-evaporation on an ongoing basis and a gradual reduction in groundwater supplies that exists in a self-reinforcing cycle.
Or, to put it another way, you may choose not believe in climate change yourself, but climate change believes in you.  Your belief or lack thereof won’t ultimately change conditions on the ground.
Reagan… personally liked many of his political opponents—such as Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Very few people realize that Reagan, a John F. Kennedy admirer, played a big role in raising money for the Kennedy Library. To this day, the Reagan National Defense Forum, an annual conference held at the Library each November, attracts Republican and Democratic national security officials—reflective of his belief that the nation’s interest transcends narrow partisanship. Because he put the country ahead of party, Reagan was careful with his words. A shrewd politician, he also knew that crossing the line would help the Democratic opposition more than the home team.
In a few months, Barack Obama will be out of the White House. Attacking him and his policies may be the “red meat” Republicans want to devour now, but increasingly, he is the past. Candidates should talk not about what Obama did wrong, but what they will do to make the future better. Like Reagan did in every single speech.

There’s a lot to like in the article, but the bit above was my favorite.

From the 1980 campaign.
On Saturday, the Department of Education unveiled a new website known as the College Scorecard, which still allows students to compare schools based on what their alums earn, along with price, financial aid, student retention, and diversity, among other details. It also made public the vast and unprecedented trove of data underpinning the site. So the White House seems to have given up on rating colleges from best to worst, while still making it easier to figure out which schools are a waste of money and which are worth it.
This is my new favorite website.  We obsess about college costs for our girls, and I can guarantee that this data is going to get some play at our kitchen table over the next few years.
I was going to re-do last week’s Army-Navy comparison using the government’s data, but unfortunately, neither school is listed.  Presumably this is because neither school has tuition.  That’s fine in cost-benefit terms, but it tells us nothing about who has better bragging rights.
“It would be hard to make the case that we are a just society or anything resembling a just society today,” Sanders said during a half-hour speech that focused on the nation’s economic inequality, a cause that has served as the unifying theme of his upstart presidential campaign. “When we talk about morality, and when we talk about justice, we have to—in my view—understand that there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little. There is no justice—and I want you to hear this clearly—when the top one tenth of one percent today in America owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. In your hearts you will have to determine the morality of that and the justice of that.”
I don't know that this logo is great, but it at least doesn't get in
its own way.
I included this piece because I think it’s so unbelievable.  Word is that the speech was received politely but reluctantly by the students at Liberty University, that when Sanders started taking questions, the student body went right after him on abortion.  That’s fine.  I don’t expect that he changed many minds, and if you read through the speech yourself, you’ll see that he didn’t expect to change many, either.  What matters is that he’s trying to talk across the divide in a civil tone, and not many others are.
Sanders is an interesting guy.  It still seems impossible that he could actually win the election—or even the Democratic nomination, considering that he’s not really even a Democrat—but he’s brought a new message to his party’s process, and it’s moving the conversation.  That’s entirely laudable, especially in the face of his willingness to take his message on the road into hostile territory, warts and all.  Granted, this is the same week that the Wall Street Journal came out with a price tag for Sanders’s vision, a whopping $18 trillion over ten years!  That’s fully 30% of America’s GDP; it’s such a large number that it may yet make Sanders unelectable even against a guy like Donald Trump.  
I don’t care about that, though.  Economics notwithstanding, I admire Sanders for his convictions, for his willingness to preach to folks who flat-out don’t want to hear it.  It’s an all-but-hopeless effort to find understanding that no one else is even willing to attempt.  John Kasich is the only other guy who even comes close, and it’s not like he’s headed to Chicago to talk to the leadership committee of the NAACP.  And yet, even sticking to his base Kasich’s polling around 3% within the GOP.
Go Army!  Beat Wake Forest!!!
See you next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment