The Paradox of Honest Politicians

A lot has been said about Democrats perceived neglect of the white working class, and how it left them susceptible to being flipped over to the GOP, and while that criticism isn’t completely without merit, and does indicate ways that the Democratic Party (and liberals in general) should reach out to more rural areas, it also advances something of a false narrative.

Donald TrumpThe real story is how the Democrats (led by Clinton) lost the region by being honest, and the GOP won it over by lying.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in coal country.

You may recall the news some months ago where Hillary Clinton told a bunch of people in West Virginia that she was “going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” which is a gaffe any way you slice it? It was a gift on a sliver platter to conservatives looking to paint a candidate as unfriendly to a population enduring some hard times.

But what wasn’t reported was the rest of her statement: “So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?

And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.”

That’s about as honest an answer as one could give to the question of what to do about jobs in Coal Country. The coal industry is all but dead, killed off by automation and by better, cleaner and cheaper options becoming available. That may be a tough reality for many people who tie their identities to Coal Mining, but that’s the reality of the situation.

We can mourn the passing of the industry, and lament that this generation of coal miners will likely be the last generation of coal miners, but it would take a major effort to actually bring back the coal industry.

Contrast that with Trump’s statements on bringing back coal, which, by any stretch of the imagination are promises he cannot keep. Government didn’t kill coal, technological advancement and the market are what killed coal, and all the photo ops in the world aren’t going to change that.

It’s ironic in many ways that the people of coal country, hard-working folk who value honesty above all else seem to have been duped into voting for a man who told them the lie that the wanted to hear rather than the woman who told them the truths they didn’t want to hear.

Another Daily Action

If you’re on social media of any sort, you’re likely being inundated with calls to call senators and tell them you’re upset with them, and the decisions they’ve made.

This isn’t a call for you to stop that, or a call to encourage you to make more calls to express your anger.

This is a call to ask that if your senator has done something you agree with, take a moment, give a call and offer up your support and gratitude for their actions.

A lot of us are angry, and rightfully so, but lets not forget that some people in our government are doing good things, and we need to encourage the good as much as we call out the bad.

The Purity Brigade

We’re entering into a dark time for liberal ideals and progressivism.

Far right wing politicians are now in control of the presidency and both houses of congress, and the incoming president may very well rule in a manner that is more akin to a dictator than to a president.

The next 4 years will be fraught with difficult fights, and we need all the allies we can get, so I find it quite confusing that so many are hell bent on enforcing purity, or attacking the DNC, rather than fighting the people who are actually threatening to roll back progress.

Senator Booker (D-NJ) made news this week for voting against a budget amendment that involved regulations on importing drugs from Canada. The exact nature of this bill has been a bit vague, though as best as I can tell, it was largely a symbolic vote  and wouldn’t have done much to deal with the problem as is.
Booker’s defense involved concerns over the safety of the drugs being imported, although it seems that by and large, Canadian drugs are every bit as safe as their American counterparts, although the importation of said drugs might complicate the matter a bit.

The problematic thing here however isn’t the actions taken by Booker, but rather the reaction to his vote, which quickly earned him condemnation, and led a number of progressives, most of whom I suspect had never before heard of Booker to immediately declare him an enemy of progressivism.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that the Democratic party isn’t perfect, and they aren’t even all that great when it comes to being representatives and advocates for a liberal/progressive agenda; but they are in a position where they can accomplish things, and at the very least, they’re not hostile towards the liberal/progressive agenda.

So, we’re in a position where we see some on the left trying to instill some kind of purity test, and those who fail to pass said test get demonized and ostracized. It’s happened with Obama, it’s happened with Elizabeth Warren, it’s happening to Corey Booker. I’m honestly quite surprised that it hasn’t happened to Bernie Sanders yet.

I fully expect that any democrat who is even marginally attached to the progressive movement is at risk of being made a pariah.

I’m not necessarily saying that people shouldn’t be upset, but rather instead of demonizing a politician who does something you disagree with, try to find out why they did that thing. Try to find out how they might not repeat that thing they did that you’re upset about.

Or maybe they voted for something because it’s their deeply held belief about something. Maybe their minds won’t change and they have very good reasons for their beliefs. But ask yourself if that warrants you making an enemy of that person. Maybe you disagree with their foreign policy, but they have been a strong ally on economic policy. Do you want to throw it all away just because you disagree with one of their positions?

We all need to learn how to compromise. Not only with our “enemies” but also with our allies. We need to find a way to work together and tackle each individual issue while building a broad coalition if we want to keep our values safe from the onslaught they are facing.

Trying to enforce purity is the last thing we should be doing.

Dr. King

150119092427-restricted-02-mlk-0119-exlarge-169Today is a day to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Growing up in white suburbia, it was a day that we were all reminded that we shouldn’t judge one by the color of their skin, but of the content of their character, and that we should all strive for harmony through peace and non-violence like Dr. King called for.

In today’s racially charged atmosphere, many people (most of them white) look to Dr. King whenever unrest breaks out after the latest injustice to be visited upon the black community and make claims that Dr. King would abhor such behavior.

However, this is a whitewashing of Dr. King’s works, and one that is thankfully crumbling. In fact, Dr. King recognized riots as “the language of the unheard”.

But the whitewashing doesn’t stop there.

So many with good intentions who claim they “don’t see color” point to Dr. King’s I have a dream speech, to find validation from the good doctor’s I Have a Dream speech, only to leave out the vast majority of the speech where he not only recognizes skin color, but sees that skin color is recognized by society and dictates how society treats some.

So, today, read some of Dr. King’s works. Read the entirety of the I Have a Dream speech. Dig deeper and look at some of his deep cuts and realize that he was far more controversial than many recall.

A White Guys Guide to Understanding Bigotry

Quite often, when a conversation takes a turn towards the topic bigotry, or something other than overt racism is labeled racism, you’ll hear someone (all but guaranteed to be a white person, usually a straight man) complain that everything doesn’t’ have to be about race, and that whatever supposedly racist thing is being discussed isn’t actually racism.

Now it’s true, today, bigotry tends to cover a larger segment of American life than it had in the past. Gone are the days when you were only a racist if you were committing hate crimes or using ethnic slurs against people.

In fact, it’s gotten to the point where all of us end up eventually doing or saying something bigoted. So what’s one to do?

First, realize that doing something bigoted does not automatically make you a bigot.

The knee-jerk reaction to being called out on bigotry is one of the biggest things that keeps many people on separate pages when it comes to dealing with racism. Everyone seems to equate unintentionally doing something racist with being a racist, and therefore, they fail to understand that some of the things they do may indeed be racist.

Secondly, look at how you react to being told you’ve done or said something bigot.

Clutching at your pearls and defending your actions blindly is where you run the risk of moving on from someone who did a bigoted thing to an actual bigot.

Many of these people who blindly defend their bigotry when it manifests will often express a desire to combat bigotry. The best way to do that is to examine your own beliefs and actions.

When someone tells you that something you’ve done is bigoted, don’t defend it blindly. Ask them why they feel that way, and actually listen and try to understand what they’re saying.

If you’re the type of person who often gets called a bigot, or told you’ve said or done something bigoted, try to understand the reason people are saying that, rather than getting defensive. Blindly defend your perceived bigotry too many times and you end up earing the label of bigot.

This is what you want? This is what you get.

What happens when people find out they’ve been had?

When we get into a Trump presidency, and things do not get better for all those rural folks in the heartland, what happens?

This to me is the scariest part of the Donald Trump phenomenon. The man hasn’t even taken his oath yet, and already he’s broken multiple campaign promises and proven himself to have the temperament of a meth-addled toddler.

And those who support him are still standing by him, blind to his actions that run contrary to everything he campaigned on.

Except for hate and alienation.

Hate and alienation are what he has yet to back down from. Donald Trump won because he effectively exploited the victim complexes of white men across the country.

Time will come that they’ll look at their lives, and realize that things aren’t better, and the logical conclusion would be to be mad at those who promised to help but failed to deliver, but the man responsible for those failings is also the one who tells them where to direct their anger?

From what we know of Donald Trump, we know full well that he will not allow that anger to be focused on him, especially not when he can channel it towards all those illegal immigrants pouring over our borders to take our jobs, or even luring our good paying jobs away from where they belong in the American heartland.

He’ll channel that anger at the Muslim’s who are coming to America to take whatever aide they can get while still chanting “death to America” and celebrating the death of every hard working solider.

It will be channeled towards the urban poor, who receive all the aid that should be going to hard working white men in the countryside.

Every single thing I’ve mentioned that Trump can and will channel anger towards is a fabrication, but they’re easy targets, and if you use the right words, you can stir up the ugliness inside of people and turn them into the very monsters they think they’re fighting.

Trump has said he has the best words, and I fear that when it comes to inspiring men to become monsters, he may be right.

Fear and Hope

Pundits and very serious men across the world have spent the past 2 weeks trying to figure out how they failed to predict the election.

The dominant narrative has been that Clinton ignored the working class, but I don’t quite buy that. It was more that she offered a more realistic solution for the working class that didn’t satisfy them.fear_trumpthepunk_shielyule

On the opposite side, Trump presented a vision of a future that his voters can be afraid of, a future where the past prosperity of years past will be done away with by people living on the coasts, and disconnected to reality in middle America.

There’s an implicit promise in that narrative, that’s actually summed up rather well in his campaign slogan “make America great again” which implies that we are actually on hard times, and that Trump can return us to the good times.

Now, anyone who thinks critically regarding the larger economic picture can tell you that Trump will fail to deliver on his promises, and you can make a very compelling, fact based argument as to why Trump’s plans are unworkable, and likely wouldn’t even produce the promised results.

But the problem is that facts and logic don’t matter and that appealing to the emotions of the electorate will produce better results.

The sad truth is that we are not a country of critical thinkers. That isn’t to say that we’re unintelligent or stupid so much as it is to say that appeal to emotion is effective.

barack_obama_hope_posterBefore you go and throw a hissy fit, and try to implore someone to take the “high road” or to not turn their backs on rationality, realize first that nobody is saying to turn our backs on facts and logic, only that we need to deliver facts and logic wrapped up in an emotional argument.

In fact, history shows that the emotional argument works.

Look at 2008, did Obama win the White House because of his detailed policy proposals, and nuanced arguments?

No, he won because he presented a message of hope. A message that we can work towards making the future we hope to live in a reality.

We need to find a way to get back in touch with that message and to sell a message of hope for the future to all Americans.