To Bern or Not to Bern!

I am growing weary of the superfluous yet at the same time deeply important clash between the #neverhillary Bernie supporters and the #nevertrump Bernie supporters. I’m not certain the split aligns perfectly with a millennial demographic or not, but somebody is either being somewhat politically naive or is incredibly ideologically pure about something. One puddle of wisdom (from my small reservoir of wisdom) that I have imparted to my millennial daughter on occasion, is that one of the things about life that sucks the most is you will have to sometimes do things you really don’t want to do. I’m pretty sure this is one of those times.

Here’s the thing. There’s a big difference between issues politics and electoral politics. The difference is that in issues politics it is necessary to demand 100% of what you want because that is the only way to get any of what you want. It’s you and your issue versus everybody else and their issue. There are multiple contestants in multiple battles so where you win you stay and where you don’t you move on. In modern electoral politics there are only two contestants (as far as is today’s reality) and the point comes (and it always comes) where you need other people’s supporters on your side to win, because your goal and reward is not a small victory in isolation but a majority victory in a contest decided by everyone. It is not a contest of you versus everyone else but of your coalition versus their coalition.

Compromise of ideologies is necessary in the electoral world and an anathema in the issues world. Many Bernie supporters come from the world of issues politics. They did not previously involve in electoral politics because they had no use for elections unless it directly affected their funding. Other than that they would only pursue an electoral victory if they had a champion for their issue(s). There have been single issues champions throughout the but rarely have there been any special leaders who could coalesce the numerous issues silo activists into a cohesive power bloc.

Issues activists are used to either getting what they want or leaving defeat behind and moving on to the next battle. They make black and white decisions. The concept of joining together in a coalition with the people who just caused you lose, who made you not get what you want, is utterly alien to them and feels dirty and immoral. So it’s not difficult to understand why they have trouble putting together movements. It’s just sad.

This phenomenon works in reverse as well, although people involved in electoral politics usually only drop in to work on issues when they feel burned out and made filthy by the deceits of electoral politics, and want to recharge and cleanse. Someone coming to issues politics from electoral politics will seek coalitions with what they consider to be like minded issues advocates, with similar issues. They don’t quite understand why the other issues groups leave the coalition once they get what they want. Then they remember why they were frustrated with issues activism to begin with and go back to electoral politics. To work in both electoral politics and issues politics concurrently takes some highly skilled compartmentalising, of which not everyone is capable.

This whole broken process has been a bane of the progressive movement for years, because it hasn’t really been a movement at all. It has been a bunch of separate progressive issues oriented advocacy groups all in competition with each other for grants and status and recognition. There is always a lot of rhetoric about coming together as one coherent progressive movement but it always dissolves into jealousy and competition for scarce resources. The scarcity of resources is intentional and part of a greater strategic initiative by right wing tricksters, but that’s another story.

These progressives have only come together in agreement when they have had a messiah figure to rally them. Gene McCarthy, George Mc Govern, Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, all to widely varying degrees, were able to bring a number of progressives together into some semblance of a movement, enough to have some modest influence on the Democratic Party. Bernie has been the latest, most successful and probably least likely of these standard bearers. The rub is these movements died off with the relevance of their leaders. Without the focus of the strong leader the coalition descends once again into the relative chaos of egotism and economically manipulated competition.

Bernie is, and always has been, aware of this. Warnings about life after Bernie have been clear parts of his speeches from the get go. He has spent most of his time and energy since it became apparent he would not win the nomination imploring that his followers continue on and forge a game changing movement. This is true, and necessary. He has implored them to remember that this is not about him but about us. This is true, and necessary. He has implored us to defeat Donald Trump by any and all means. This is true, and necessary. He is showing and/or reminding us that 30% of 100% is much more than 100% of nothing. This is true, necessary and perhaps his greatest lesson taught.

What I don’t understand is why so many of Bernie’s followers, who have followed him through the crucible of mainstream efforts to get in his way, have now stopped listening to him. Actually I do understand. The messiah has betrayed them. He has not delivered on their issue(s) so they are expressing their rage. They will try another tack later after they get over feeling suckered by promises of glory in a progressive paradise. To be clear though, this type of betrayal is not an unusual occurrence. It is seen, commonly, in the affairs of both parties and is not fixable from the top down. Let me repeat, it is not fixable from the top down but only from the bottom up. This is why Bernie is so adamant that his supporters not run away licking their wounds but stay and fight and elect Clinton despite themselves.

In order to have a bottom up re-evolutionary movement that succeeds the Sanders coalition must stay together and organize. To accomplish this it is critical that the activated millennials not get jaded and cynical and go back to their X-boxes. Bernie is trying his damnedest to impart the knowledge that this whole thing is bigger than him and must survive his primary loss. And the first step towards that accomplishment is to prevent the uniquely American fascism of Trump and his minions from ever getting enough control to do irreparable harm to our nation and thus the globe. That would take generations to recover from.

So listen up kiddos and ex hippies. You think you need an unconditional Bernie electoral victory, when what you really need is for the many wonderful progressive issues activists out there to drop their ego facades, overcome their economic jealousies, and form the powerful progressive movement that has always been there, dormant, and ready to flip the entire political landscape. I can help, but I’m old, as are my beautiful tye dyed peers. The mantel is now being passed from Bernie’s hippie contemporaries to Bernie’s hipster acolytes. We’ll all help actually, if you let us, we’re experienced protesters. And we still know how to roll an English joint.

Here’s a parable for us to end todays sermon. When Mom broke out the Ben and Jerry’s  you told her you wanted 3 scoops of Cherry Garcia. She said no but you can each have a half scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough, because that’s all we have. Do you say no, I know you have some Cherry Garcia in there and it’s either the whole 3 scoops or nothing at all. Or, do you take the cookie dough and get at least a bit of a sweet taste in your mouth. If you all keep bugging mom maybe you’ll get some of that Cherry Garcia next time.

You weren’t that stuck up in school, were you?

The Bernie and Donald Hypotheses

A continuum is a line. A line extends infinitely through space, through the universe. The universe is curved. Therefore a line will eventually meet itself in space as in as circle. A circle with one point missing is considered a line. There can be an infinite number of points between any two points. Thus, speaking from the standpoint of nuclear physics we have established a paradox whereby a line can also be considered a circle based on the observers point of view.

Why am I starting off with all of this gobbledygook? Because it provides a mathematical basis for my hypothesis based in science. Using this information, continuums, which are nearly always portrayed as lines, are actually circles. Therefore the far ends of continuums, rather than being opposites, as is commonly perceived, are very nearly the same thing. Some examples include the fact that both extreme heat and extreme cold will burn the flesh. And obviously the continuum of the changing of the seasons does not have polar opposite ends but ends that run smooth;y into each other.

So to get to the point, (Thank God) it has always been my contention that radical right wingers and radical left wingers have more in common than they have in contention. It is our tendency as humans, these days strongly influenced by the media, to want to see dualities, black and white, in order to simplify life. This causes us to see the ends of a continuum as opposites and encourages us to see extreme liberals and extreme conservatives as complete opposites. This is just not true. This year’s presidential campaigns provide us with good evidence of that fact.

Conventional wisdom would consider Bernie Sanders and his followers to be polar opposites of Donald Trump and his followers. However while they disagree on a number of policies they share many of the more visceral and esoteric ideas about the issues and politics in general. I have experienced a large number of people who say they have been Democrats all their lives who will be voting for Trump as well as life long Republicans that will be voting for Sec. Clinton. Many of these folks go so far as to say they are changing parties permanently. Why is this?

Most of these switchers are Sanders supporters angry at the nomination process and appalled that the Democrats would nominate such a dangerous person who is not a real progressive. There are also traditional Republicans angry at the nomination process and appalled the the GOP would nominate such a dangerous person who is not a real conservative. What do these people have in common? A general mistrust of government and how it operates. Their main goal is to throw out all the mainstream politicians, who they feel are all corrupt sell outs, and replace them with outsiders who are not politicians but are ideologically pure. Most of them have never been involved in politics before, normally because of their strong mistrust of the process, and a belief there is no difference between the traditional parties. They want to throw away government as we know it and start over, based on their interpretation of the constitution and the idea of personal liberty.

But these two factions, as they are considered to be, are generally looked upon as opposites, especially by the press. Now this is true of of much of their overall reasoning, specific complaints, interpretations of the constitution,understanding of the intentions of the founding fathers, and most importantly who they blame for all of it. But the bottom line is they both believe America is going to hell in a hand basket and the only way to save it is to return to government of, by and for the people. And I believe that in essence they are right about a lot of this.

However, this is where I think things go off the rails. People want all of this change, right away,  but for a number of reasons they aren’t ready to do the work necessary to make it happen, especially in the way they imagine it will happen. There are a large number of folks, lovingly referred to as low information voters, who have little to no knowledge of how America works, what our major issues are, and what impact proposed policy will have on them,  the nation, and the world. These people are easily manipulated by appeals to strong emotions and will believe lies if they are told loudly and often enough.

Then there are voters who know a little civics and have opinions on things but who are just too busy to participate in the process. Some are simply disinterested in participating, for various reasons ranging from laziness to feeling that government never changes anything for anyone, ever. These citizens only care about elections the last two weeks before election day. Which is why most campaigns bombard the broadcast media with commercial after unfair commercial in those two weeks, virtually all of them about how awful the other candidate is. So right when they are finally looking for facts, after months of ignoring the campaigns, all they get is innuendo, half truths, and actual bald faced lies.

These two groupings are a very large segment of voters, likely  comprising a majority. And what they have in common is a need to hand over responsibility to those they elect and then forget about politics until the next election. The economy has forced them to be busier than ever before, in order to support their families. They might want to be aware but they can’t afford to be. So, many of us want and expect the president to solve every problem, and right away. They want a savior, a messiah to lead them figuratively out of Egypt, up to and including parting the Red Sea. This phenomenon is one factor that has made President of the United States the hardest job in the world.

The final demographic that needs a savior, and to me the most dangerous, is the radical activists. They are very aware of what is happening in politics and society, both domestic and international. They have a clear idea of what they think will save us and they know that to make it happen they need one strong leader who can get the job done in the face of adversity. It must be somebody who displays supreme confidence and the charisma to sell themself, even to the most opinionated of the activists, who will then follow them fervently and bring along their own followers.

There are many societies who have such a strongman at the top of their government, controlling virtually every aspect of society. Some of these leaders are benevolent but most are authoritarian and dictatorial. I believe the US has avoided such a regime primarily because it’s two party system keeps both parties from straying too far into uncharted authoritarian waters. They have never felt confident that taking such a dramatic stance could be successful, not with a majority of Americans having basically center left or center right views. But things have changed. I’m willing to guess that the change is, in large part, the responsibility of the rise of the political purist, brought on by frightened parties that felt they needed to pander to extremists to gain power. The extremists eventually gained enough power (This happened primarily in the GOP) to require an ideologic purity test for candidates. Which led to a bloc of legislators who refused to make compromises and thus ground the business of the legislative branch to a halt.

This paralysis has been the last straw for those of us who have been progressively more and more disillusioned with government and it’s failed ability to serve the people. They have come out of the woodwork to strongly influence the current presidential race. They were able to get Donald Trump nominated as a Republican, much to the chagrin of many prominent Republicans who know he is far from being one. And they nearly succeeded in nominating a Social Democrat, Bernie Sanders, as the Democratic nominee. What has transpired then is victory for the establishment in the Democratic Party, after a more heavily contested primary than they ever imagined. And their candidate, justifiably or not, has an extremely low likability rating. Lucky for them the GOP nominee, a loose cannon strongman, has an even lower rating.

This brings us to a place where we now have the most disconcerting race is recent US history. The hold your nose, lesser of two evils factor is off the charts. People are tired of having to elect this kind of President. They want someone they can admire. They want big change and they want it now. This frenetic anger has left us vulnerable to an authoritarian strongman being elected President. He will most likely break his promise to make the country a better place for the people, and will institute policies that oppress us even more than we already are. But in the event we can stop this very real danger, the alternative does not inspire much hope that she will ever institute many of the progressive policies this country needs.

This brings us round robin to the longtime democrats and republicans, plus the disillusioned radicals or traditionalists,who are abandoning their ostensible party’s nominee.Some of them are now voting for the other guy by write in , the other teams guy by write in. or a fringe party’s candidate. What affect will this have on the dynamic of the outcome of the election? I doubt any of the mainstream pundits know. This is out of their comfort zone.

We are entering a new era of American politics, one which may result in a system with multiple viable parties, and a more parliamentary method of creating government. The progressive revolutionary laundry list of changes is long. Right now the re-evolution is in it’s infancy and as in any revolution heads will fall. But should we call the executioner just yet? Who’s to say? I’m disqualifying myself.

It is a critical, crucial time to be an American, even more so an educated and aware American. This is the most important election in American history. I’ve said this every four years since Reagan’s second term. Perhaps prophetically that election was in 1984. At its core it was true every time. This time its true on steroids. It has existential implications for the planet. The arc of plant earth’s future will be forged this November, historic like never before.

Our Millennial generation are the only ones who can save us, in my estimation. But they are being systematically destroyed by overwhelming student debt. This is intentional. They are being squeezed by a shrinking job market and reduced public services across the board. They are being distracted by any number of petty playthings designed to numb them from their pain. We boomers, as our last redeeming gift, must protect them, we must run interference for them, we must exert ourselves to keep them from getting picked off one by one by despair. We must keep the light shining so they have something in the distance to aspire to.

A dictatorship will make that nearly impossible.

But we have defeated dictators before.

There is a reason both love and courage come from the heart.

The Zillionth Only Correct Opinion

Many alleged pundits have weighed in with their opinions of the whys and wherefores of the booty kicking taken by the Democrats this election cycle. As a would be has been, I feel it imperative I post my opinions on this issue onto my beloved blog. Even though no one ever reads this blog I do this simply for my own self aggrandizement.

The Democratic party is an urban party. Lots of people know this. It is why it has been so easy for Republicans to gerrymander. They are able to cram Democrats into gerrymandered districts for geographic reasons that appear logical and make “common sense”. The sheer numbers of urban and inner suburban voters vs. Rural and exurban voters has kept the Democrats viable and mostly dominant in urban districts, but in deep trouble in other districts. Nationally they are strong but locally they are weak.

The Northeast, West Coast and Northern tier of Midwestern states have more urban centers and/or philosophically progressive populations than the South and West. The Democrats are creeping into Mid Atlantic coastal states, because of their increased urban populations, and into the southwestern border states because of their increased minority populations. The exception is Arizona, which has large numbers of Conservative retirees. These states are getting more purple. The Republicans are making headway into states without a preponderance of urban centers, but who have progressively minded citizens. They are also working their way into states with large and devastated urban centers with rampant unemployment and strife. They flip these progressively inclined rural voters and desperate urban voters through fear, turning those states purple. Thus we have our swing states, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. Developing swing states include Texas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan. All of these states display some level of those divisive factors.

I believe the emotionally based electoral decisions of these voters are clearly informed. Rural voters hate welfare and they hate both perceived urban elitists and destitute city folk. I feel urban and minority voters hate Republicans for their essentially backwards looking conservatism and their embrace of social and economic biases. The bizarre thing about this hatred is that it originates in the exact same unequivocal American value that “all men are created equal”. But the concept of equality in America is vigorously contested. The equality rationale of the rural voter is because everyone is equal everyone should pull their own weight, by working hard. For them inequality is other people getting stuff for not working, when they themselves are working hard. For disgruntled urban workers equality is everyone having a job. Inequality for them is there being no jobs available for them, when others have jobs. Minorities see equality as equal rights. Inequality to them is others enjoying rights that they deserve, but do not have. Urban voters see equality as everyone being able to be who they are regardless of any social factor. Inequality for them is people who demand they have biblical social values and rigid, conformist gender identities. Of course these reasons are over generalized and there are certainly other factors and multitudes of crossover contempt at hand here, which I have not addressed.

I have thought about this a great deal, as you may have guessed. It is my contention that people get hung up in their particular vision of reality. They need to expand their appreciation of the complexity and diversity of the many issues that define us, as a people and a nation. The existence of a country that is concurrently homogeneous and culturally diverse seems contradictory and impossible. However, I see America as less a melting pot than a pot of rich soup. There is one overriding essence, a distinct and definitive flavor. But there are also the distinct individual flavors of the various ingredients. The oneness of the soup depends on the inclusion of all the ingredients.

We need to be taught that these issues, plus many others, are intertwined and interconnected, with each one influencing others. We also need to be be made painfully aware that there are cheaters and fraud in everything that involves money or privilege, and the fraud people see, in their anger, isn’t true for everyone they despise, just the few who would cheat at anything. We must accept that there are exceptions to all rules, but the exceptions don’t destroy the rules. There will be people who break your rules just as you may have broken theirs. It’s easy to point your focus at the salient exemplar, the Willie Horton, the welfare Cadillac mom. It’s harder to shine light on the stand up, play by the rules, good neighbor, who doesn’t care to be in the spotlight in the first place.

We could all do well to open ourselves to a larger sociopolitical universe. Rural voters could realize that not everyone on SNAP is a drug addict who doesn’t want to work and just sucks at the government teat. Disgruntled urban workers need to know that it is not government alone that has abandoned them and their crumbling cities. They need to know that a cruel combination of natural and contrived economic factors has left them nearly helpless. Minorities need to be aware that they are not the only Americans whose rights are being trampled. They could be more powerful and effective working together with other social justice activists, instead of staying trapped in their issue silo, sequestered from potential allies. Urban voters have to understand that, yes, they are elitists in many ways and there are more ways to skin a cat than they think. They must consider whether their brand of liberalism has a positive or negative impact on the nation as a whole. They need to develop empathy for the rest of the country, instead of judging them. Finally, I think we must somehow overcome the subtle yet incredibly effective propaganda that has kept the American people divided against itself. The joy of knowing truth has been replaced with fear inflamed by lies. The power of knowledge has given way to despair born of confusion. The art and psychology of persuasion has been honed to a fine point, and it cuts indiscriminately.

I believe nearly everyone, on both the left and right, thinks our nation is failing and our Democratic Constitutional Republic is in real existential danger. Where our great divide is, our unbridgeable gulf, is in our perceptions of the cause of this epic fail. To me it is simple. The right thinks government is the cause and the left thinks it’s wealthy oligarchs. The right thinks we are becoming a Socialist Dictatorship and the left says we are already an Oligarchy. I think the reality is a collusion of these factors, rather than one or the other. This is how we are pitted against ourselves. As long as we blame each other we do not notice the real villain at work, and we are unable to use our united power.

From my seat in the stands, albeit the nosebleed section, I see a nation where Plutocrats rule us from on high and remain hidden from us through the interference run for them by their minions. The focal point, the big boy that nobody trusts is Wall Street. The Plutocrats don’t trust it because of its volatility and entrepreneurial vitality. They can’t control it enough to assure themselves the massive earnings they crave. However the Plutocracy controls the capital that fuels Wall Street enough that, using the profit generated from that capital, the market can virtually purchase government, all three branches to a greater or lesser degree. Government doesn’t trust Wall Street either but it is nearly powerless to affect it’s stranglehold on the economy, or its ability to buy and influence government. Government though does have the power to dictate what hoops the people have to jump through to relate to and live in society. Since a plutocratic government does not exist for the people we do not like it no matter which party is in power. After a few years of very little getting done (they are allowed to get a few things done just to make us think they care) we get weary and elect the other bunch, getting tired of them in turn and electing the other guys again, ad nauseum.

Government, being the face of what is seen by the public, is what causes the ire of the conservative base. Progressives see Wall Street owning government and despise the corporations. The plutocrats are insulated by both the corporations and the government, from discovery. Very few of us ever see their machinations, their joy of being our puppeteers, their orgasms of manipulation. This hidden application of total power is by design. So the plutocrats control the corporations, who control the available money, which controls government, which controls the people. We are left to call each other names in the comments of thousands of blogs and more thousands of social media posts, while the big bosses of the big bosses do their damage and then laugh out loud over a Dirty Vodka Martini at the nineteenth hole.

Our task as citizens is daunting but not impossible. I dare say it will be left to our children and children’s children to complete it. First we must take over the government, all 3 branches, by electing courageous men and women, who will resist the temptation and influence of Wall Street, and break corporate control of government. We the people can then force these legislators, through our collective will, to change enough laws that we the people have power once again. Then, armed with renewed strength, and here is the difficult part, we must invade and infiltrate corporate boards and vote the Plutocrats’ lackeys out of power. This will require a sophisticated and perfectly coordinated effort by people with a combination of business expertise, unshakeable progressive values, and most crucially, superior skills in espionage and callous disregard for anyone’s welfare, including their own. I don’t believe anyone with that particular combination of characteristics is in a position of power today, but I have faith there will be many in the near future.

I also have faith in our children. Through evolution they are revealing daily just how dramatically they exceed us. They have knowledge and power we do not even understand, and they know love in a way we have lost from centuries of forgetting how. There is no other way to win back America for Americans. It must needs be cruel and vicious. They have been cruel and vicious for decades. I’m not saying it is the right thing to do. It is the only thing to do. Through taking over the corporations we can use that power the Plutocrats fear, that spirit of progress, to defy their will and cut off the head of the beast. Their amassed insane wealth will then be meaningless. Having nothing of value they will be powerless, and they may as well liquidate all their money into hundred dollar bills, buy a fleet of obsolete luxury liners, load them up, and dump it all into the ocean. It may be preposterous, it may be ridiculous, but this, dear friends, is my dream.