Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: election

Death of a Party

Really Texas, really?

It is the inevitable third act of every recent election.  The defeated side demands a recount or legal recourse.  It’s the adult version of “It’s not fair. Do over!”  Whether it’s the Democrats (remember Florida in 2000 with their “dangling” and “pregnant” chads) or Karl Rove’s on-air hissy-fit last Tuesday, sometimes facts are ignored and argued as if unfixed.

The presidential election last Tuesday saw a decisive win for President Obama, winning 332 to 206 in the Electoral College and 62,613,406 to 59,140,591 in the popular vote, garnering 62 more electoral votes than he required and winning the popular vote by 3,472,815 (roughly the same as the populations of Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming combined).  These are the facts. To ignore them or dispute them is unproductive folly. Like it or not, President Obama (and the Democrats) will continue to control the White House for four more years.  But before the Republicans began to lick their wounds and regroup, or begin the painful process of self-exploration, too many of their adherents have taken to crying publicly and stomping their feet.

Bertrand Russell said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” Truer words have never been uttered.  When someone is convinced of the sanctity of their position with absolute certainty, expounding with vitriol and ferocity against the “uneducated masses,” I instinctively dismiss them, protect my children and grab for my wallet.

I always thought that the young, in their idealistic naiveté of wanting to save the world voted Democratic until they began to make some money of their own.  Gradually, their position would change from “save the world” and “help the downtrodden” to “not another slice of my pie” and a NIMBY attitude.  I used to think of Republicans as the party of Alex P. Keaton and Gordon Gecko; market-based capitalists firmly in the Ayn Rand camp of egoism, self-control and material gain.  Perhaps it is a consequence of my having to relocate to Texas in search of the country’s best medical care for my wife, but I now find myself redefining my definition of Republicans.  Nationwide, there has been a shift in the ideals of the Republican Party, carried on the heels of right-wing Christians centered in the Bible-belt.  Every Republican running since Ronald Reagan has run on an outdated, idealistic, fantastic, revisionist historian view of American life in the 1950’s. “If only we could go back to the way it used to be.”  Forgetting, for example, the treatment of women, homosexuals, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, (essentially, everybody who was not a white man), a government that took us to the brink of nuclear annihilation and created a foundation of lies for what would become the Viet Nam war.

Having learned our lessons, through the hard fought civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement and the return of 11,000 body bags from Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos (and a generationally divided country where the youth (who were called upon to fight in the war) mistrusted a government that abused it), capitalistic market forces marched on, taking us from the upheaval of the 1960’s to the anti-war crescendo of the mid-1970’s with the overthrow of a sitting president, to the debauchery of the 1970’s and drug-addled 1980’s. The 1990’s saw baby boomers acknowledge that they were the capitalists after all and return to making money, content that they could save the world once their summer home in Maui was paid off.  This brings us to that historical fulcrum, September 11, 2001.  All at once, as the second plane hit the South tower, our insulated, global ignorance shattered with the World Trade Tower glass.  When 3,000 of our neighbors were incinerated that day, we saw in all its naked anger the effects radical religion can have on society.  We did not deserve this assault, but neither did we prevent its happening.  Content to let our government back one Middle Eastern dictator after another (from the Shah in Iran to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, from the Saudi family to Mubarak in Egypt) we lived our lives in happy oblivion under the dated misconception that we were protected by two oceans. Once we circled the wagons and held each other for comfort in the new and terrifying world order where enemies did not march under a recognized flag and so-called “smart bombs” assuaged any guilt we had bombing civilian neighborhoods where our enemies used schools and hospitals as human shields, the Republican party reverted back to a world view that neither existed nor should have existed; a world where minorities, women and homosexuals were heeled under by white middle-aged men and religious zeal validated any injustices.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, the ensuing six decades since the 1950’s saw the “melting pot” of America change the flavors of the stew.  As the number of Asians and Hispanics increased, the percent of the population comprised of whites diminished accordingly.  Republicans continued to ignore this demographic paradigm shift and catered to an ever decreasing slice of Americans.  Emboldened by the Christian right and using all manner of euphemisms for “middle aged white men,” the soundly beaten Republican Party now finds itself at a crossroads.  One road leads to a future based on personal responsibility and social accountability while the other terminates in a dead end in less than ten years.

Nowhere is this battle more evident than in Texas.  In fact, with California (and its 55 electoral votes) and New York (and its 29 electoral votes) solidly blue, Texas (and its 38 electoral votes) is the future of the Republican Party.  As the immigration wave continues to push northward through the country and the young migrate south, typically Republican Texas demographics dwindle.  Seen as reliably red since Lyndon Johnson proclaimed to Bill Moyers after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come,” minorities now hold sway over the party’s very existence.  And rather than face this fact, some Texans threaten to do again what they did in 1861, that is to say secede.

Welcome to the new country of MadaNASCAR!

The White House website has created a “We the People” site allowing citizens to create petitions for government consideration.  A cursory view of the site shows that forty-two states have petitions (some multiple as if their citizens cannot read) requesting to “peacefully be allowed to secede from the United States and form their own government.”  However, while most of these petitions will fail to reach the 25,000 signature threshold, upon which a formal response will be generated by the administration, the Texas petition is closing in on 100,000 signatures as of this writing.  Only those petitions from Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana have eclipsed the 25,000 signature mark, the second highest tally being Louisiana with just over 33,000 signatures. Ironically, and no doubt created with some caprice, there is a petition which has gathered over 4,000 signatures requesting that the city of Austin be allowed “to withdraw from the state of Texas and remain part of the United States!”

Current Republican intransigence and Texan hubris guarantee the party’s extinction.  There are estimates that Texas will transition to a blue state within the course of the next presidential election cycle.  If that is allowed to occur, if California, Texas and New York are solidly blue, there is virtually no mathematical chance for a Republican to garner the requisite 270 electoral votes to become president.  Covering one’s eyes does not prevent the bus from hitting you.  Threatening to secede does nothing to prevent your losing your seat at the table.  Republicans must acknowledge that it is not 1950 any longer and that minorities (who will not remain “minor” for very much longer), women and homosexuals may soon make up the lion’s share of the electorate and have learned to make their voices known.  Mitt Romney won the male vote 52% to 45%, the 65 and older vote 56% to 44%, the white vote 59% to 39%, the religious vote 59% to 39%, the anti-immigrant (self-deporting is a good and viable idea) vote 73% to 24% and married people vote 56% to 42%.  However, it was clearly not enough. Will we look back upon the 2012 election as the last run by Republicans using the old game plan, having embraced change while encouraging personal responsibility or as a sacrosanct platform used again in 2016 and saw the party of Lincoln fade from relevance and disappear?  In a word, should we help those wanting to secede pack or show them their seat at the new American table?

Perhaps…

Perhaps the Republican Party will reflect on this election loss and consider its implications on their future.

Perhaps the religious right will no longer be the centerpiece of the Republican Party.  America largely ignored Romney’s Mormonism as an issue.  Perhaps Republicans can learn to ignore everybody else’s religion (or lack thereof).  As America becomes increasingly secular, perhaps we can dispense with the politically correct insipidness that it is alright for anybody to believe in creationism after they have attained the age of two and played with a toy dinosaur.  Perhaps the fanaticism employed by the right in their attempts to include God in every discussion should be left to the Islamic fanatics of the Middle East.  Perhaps the frenzied somnambulist’s nightmare of sharia law infiltrating American jurisprudence can be left to the conspiracy theorists.  Surely we can agree that while American’s rejected Romney’s attempt to return the United States to the social constructs of the year 1950, are there any circumstances under which we would accept a return to the Islamic laws of the year 632?  Someone once said that one conspiracy theorist is a schizophrenic, whereas a group of them is a Republican convention.  Perhaps it is time to change that.

Perhaps the right wing will clear themselves of their paranoid miasma of a national “confiscation day,” where President Obama personally goes door-to-door collecting every gun from the self-proclaimed “sane,” 2nd amendment loving, NRA financing, gun lovers.  Perhaps we can have a rational discussion on gun control and agree that ordinary citizens probably do not need a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100 round clip in order to defend themselves from a burglar, unless the burglar is China, in which case we have an exceedingly well armored military.

Perhaps Republicans can agree that rape is not a topic on which there can be two rational sides.

Perhaps Republicans will see women’s rights and control over their own bodies as sacrosanct and not fodder for white men to debate.

Perhaps marriage equality will extend its foothold in the less religiously rigid states and plant the seeds for a national discussion devoid of homosexuality being considered a moral abomination and “curable.”

Perhaps Republicans will see Latino’s not as a monolithic Democratic voting block consisting of “wetbacks” and illegal (I hate this term) aliens, but rather Americans.  A look at any of the maps used by the networks in last night’s election coverage shows that America, beyond Tim Russert’s Red State/Blue State analogy is really about urban versus suburban, white versus everybody else (captured as that all-encompassing and grossly misrepresentative term “ethnic”).  For example,  white suburban Virginia versus the “ethnic” northern part of the state, white suburban Ohio versus the “ethnic,” blue-collared northern part of the state, white suburban western Pennsylvania versus the “ethnic” Philadelphia region.  See a pattern?  White’s comprise huge swaths of territory, but with few inhabitants versus the “ethnic” and densely populated cities.  The Red State/Blue State paradigm is flawed.  Perhaps, it should be county based, or perhaps it is time for white Americans to stop trying to return America to the “good old days” of segregation and oppressive “white power” and embrace their place in the prismatic colors that are America’s skin tones.

Perhaps Republicans will take this opportunity to unite with Democrats and engage in meaningful arguments about the cataclysmic topics facing America, represent their constituents without abandoning the greater good and moving the needle on America’s march into an energy independent future.  Perhaps we can dispense with the banal name calling and talentless idolatry rampant in America and engender personal responsibility as a manifesto for our children.

Perhaps Donald Trump will donate his $5 million to a charity of his choice and sit down.

Perhaps, but probably not.

RED, white and BLUE

The presidential election is in four days and the divide in America has once again been colorized for our dim amusement.  It’s the red states versus the blue states! We should all get t-shirts for the $10 billion being spent on the race, a patriotic “shirts versus skins” game for the world to observe.  Is this a case of north versus south, east versus west, the egomaniacal one-per-centers versus the torpid proletariat, big business versus farmers, cities versus the heartland?  Classify it however you want.  Categorize it until it meets your expectations.  But the differences are there.  First, the facts:

Blue States Red States
Population 63.4% 36.4%
Land Mass 35.9% 64.1%
Population Density, people per sq. mile 659 75
Median Age 37.4 36.0
White America 67.9% 73.8%
Black America 10.6% 11.7%
Latino America 12.6% 8.3%
Asian America 5.4% 1.8%
Foreign Born Americans 11.5% 5.5%
High School Graduation Rates 87.4% 85.5%
Bachelor’s Degrees 30.6% 24.2%
Home of Top 50 Universities 40 10
Veterans 62.2% 37.8%
Military Recruits, per 1,000 eligible 18-24 2.07 2.49
Median Home Value $260,089 $141,129
Median Household Income $56,293 $46,696
Unemployment 7.8% 7.0%
Poverty Rate 12.2% 14.9%
Obesity Rate 25.5% 28.7%
Businesses 66.8% 33.2%
Women-Owned Businesses 15.7% 15.2%
New Home Construction 50.8% 49.2%
Marriage Rates, per 100,000 7.9% 7.3%
Divorce Rates, per 100,000 3.5% 4.1%
Belief in God 66% 78%
Gun Ownership 28.0% 47.1%
Deaths by Firearm, per 100,000 9.5 13.7

One could spend all day searching for correlations among these characteristics; however, a few do stand out more prominently than others.  For example, combining several characteristics, one can state that the Blue States tend to be better educated with higher high school graduation rates, more bachelor degrees and more of the top universities.  Blue States also tend to spend more on their houses (4.6 times their median income) versus Red States who spend only 3.0 times their income on a home.  True, this could be due to the fact that there is more available land in the Red States presumably making lots cheaper to build on.  However, then isn’t it strange that new home constructions are split about evenly between Blue and Red?  And while the overwhelming numbers of businesses reside in the Blue States, their unemployment rate is higher than in the Red States.  However, the poverty rate and obesity rate is higher in Red States.  There is also a strange dichotomy in the Red States.  While being comprised of the “Bible Belt,” they yet have lower marriage rates, higher divorce rates, higher gun ownership and more deaths caused by firearms.  What would God think of that combination?

Blue State Propaganda

Politically, it is also a mixed bag.  When polled, Americans consider the economy to be the overriding theme of this presidential election season.  To borrow a phrase from Bill Clinton’s White House, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  But while you would think the states with the highest unemployment would lean toward Mitt Romney and his job creating (albeit mathematically mystical) juggernaut, it is quite the opposite.  Is this a case of mass delusion or a schadenfreude miasma?  Similarly, if Barack Obama is the embodiment of a socialistic welfare state, why then would the region with the highest household income, the most businesses and a lower poverty rate bother to look at him? Were they all working late and missed his soporific first debate?

Red State Propaganda

It is in these mysteries that this election is wrapped.  God bless the RED, white and BLUE.  Now go vote.

Undecided No More

Image from The New Yorker

My son, a freshman in college, and I were on the phone last night discussing our impressions of the latest town hall debate between President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney.  Given the particularly rancorous tone the debate had, a mirrored reflection of the actual campaign, I commented that I found it hard to believe that there were enough undecided voters in the country to fill the audience, let alone that many in Nassau County; but there they were.

Rabid, robotic sycophants in each party leave no room for the truly undecided voter to express their uncertainty with a candidate lest they be subjected to immediate internment in the opposing camp, suddenly responsible for each plank in a platform in which they are ill-prepared and unwilling to defend.  Are these undecided voters genuinely inquisitive, searching for positions on a myriad of issues or are they the dull, unread and oblivious?  For the sake of the future of the United States, I hope it is the former while concerned it is the later.

The polarization of politics, the fracturing of consensus and absence of debate, the removal of concession as a tool toward progress has paralyzed politics.  A shattered media, where any myopic obsession with one particular issue is rewarded with its own cable channel and a thousand militant websites, encourages the electorate to choose a candidate for their position on a single issue and while ignoring the candidate’s position on every other issue as “somebody else’s problem.” You’re concerned about the economy? The environment be damned.  You’re concerned about healthcare? Jobs be damned. And so on…

Neither candidate has successfully escaped this reality.  In a perfect world, Mitt Romney would be able to express the desire for small business (“the economic engine of the country”) to thrive and grow.  He would be able to encourage the celebration of the individual based on their genius and initiative (not their celebrity quotient), rewarded with the fruits of a capitalistic marketplace or starved by the same; where wealth is seen, not as the unconscionable greed plundered by the mindless “looters” of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, but celebrated as the moral destination of individual gain.  In this perfect world there would be more Hank Rearden’s and Dagny Taggart’s and fewer Wesley Mouch’s and Jim Taggarts.  Unfortunately, this industrial utopia ignores the choices people make.  Atlas Shrugged spends an exhaustive number of pages explaining that the choice a mother makes to give the last piece of bread to her child is not a sacrifice and not given out of pity, but the rational choice of a rational mind.  In the real world, choices like this are made by individuals on a daily basis with no expectation of societal support in return.  Honor is held internally by these individuals, as they navigate life’s course, carved by the choices they have made and determined to persevere.  There are no children in Atlas Shrugged and no characters ravaged by illness, excepting, of course, that a conscious refusal to think for one’s self is terminal. In reality, there are those whom Fortune has betrayed, felled by disease or events beyond their control for whom that proverbial “governmental safety net” should be axiomatic.

Conversely, President Obama has not been able to effectively convey a perfect world where government involvement in the minds and pocketbooks of citizens is not for the benefit of the lazy takers and looters, but where an “audacity of hope” lifts all boats; where society’s infrastructure is measured in the tons of steel and yards of cement in our roads and bridges and not in the number of governmental agencies handing out food stamps and welfare checks to the unworthy.  He has not been able to sell his opponents on a middle class worthy of the platitudes bestowed upon it by Democrats as the hardworking backbone of America, and not the resource-sponging Pablum vilified by Republicans.  To assume that every citizen is doing their best and ignoring society’s leeches does nothing but invite deserved criticism.    No amount of rhetoric can make up for the picture of the able-bodied young man who has fathered countless children without concern for their future, waiting in line for a government check rather than searching for work, laughing in full belief that the government “owes” him.  Nor has the president escaped the portrait, painted in dazzlingly surreal colors by the “Confiscation Day” fear-mongering NRA, of  him as a soft, yellow, liberal hoplophobe, as opposed to a father and leader legitimately questioning why regular citizens need to own AR-15’s with 100 round drums.

Each side sees only the idealized version of themselves in the mirror and ignores the Dorian Gray painting in the corner while only seeing the Dorian Gray painting of their opponent.

My son suggested that the town hall format, while colloquial and folksy did little to further either candidate’s command of the undecided.  He, himself an accomplished high school debater, suggested that there be two debates scheduled for future presidential campaigns.  Each candidate selects the most partisan member of the media they can find, crafts pointed questions and directs them at their opponent, knowing that their opponent will have the same opportunity in the next round.  In fact, why not remove the commentator altogether?  This would eliminate the bias claims leveled at every commentator by partisan hacks and conspiracy theorists.  Simply have one debate where the Republican candidate asks questions directly to the Democratic candidate and a second debate where the Democratic candidate asks questions directly to the Republican candidate.  These debates should be limited to six hours in length and broadcast on every cable and radio station.  Proof of viewership (of both debates) should be required of every voter on election night, thus ensuring that an informed electorate is a prepared electorate, undecided no more.