A Pep Talk, Mostly To Myself

A thoughtful reader and I exchanged thoughts on our present political situation. His last response made me think about how weary Tr-mp and Tr-mpism can make us. My reply:

Michael,

I’m sorry you feel the way you do.

I can only tell you my response to all we have seen and are seeing, a response that often fluctuates between despair and anger. There are days when I confess I just don’t get what’s going on and why it’s going on, and I begin to really consider the fact that we are doomed, or at least so grievously wounded that recovery is doubtful, or at best a long, long way in the distance.

Other days I just get pissed. I get pissed at Republican leaders and others in Congress who should—and most of them do—know better. Some are cynically using fear and ignorance to make their cruel ideological dreams come true. Some are paying back their wealthy donors. Some are hiding from Tr-mp cultists who might demand primary challenges against them next year. Most of them are cowards. Most of them are, as the current “healthcare” bill demonstrates, immoral politicians. Trading American lives for a tax reduction for wealthy people is indefensible. Except we see it defended every day, in some form or another. That tends to generate a lot of anger inside me.

So, as optimistic as I have been since I began this blog early in 2009, that optimism has taken a major hit. But, and I don’t want to overstate this, there is some hope out there. Polls are showing not only that Tr-mp is relatively unpopular outside his cult following, but that the GOP “healthcare” plan is wildly unpopular. And polls are showing a wide preference for Democrats to lead Congress next time. Add to that the fact that Democrats have overperformed in all the special elections recently. That’s not enough to, on an hourly or daily basis, overcome all the despair and anger I sometimes feel, but it helps. Well, it helps me at least.

The bigger picture is that more people voted against Tr-mp last year than voted for him. And people forget that Hillary Clinton, whatever you think of her, received more votes than any white candidate in history. And that was after fairly unprecedented attacks, from the right and from the left, from the Russians and from Russia-friendly Americans, on her integrity and decency. Her ideas and policy proposals, many of them innovative, were drowned out by all those attacks.

You said,

My instinct say that Democrats must do something different, something to disrupt this cycle. We’ve entered a domain of sameness that is deadly to real thinking and new ideas.

I guess I don’t agree with that. I also don’t agree with people who say the Democratic Party has to undergo some kind of fundamental change. We are who we are. And who we are, at least today, is a party of people who are outraged at what Republicans want to do to the country. We are outraged at the lack of compassion for those who need it. We are outraged at the fact that working class people in this country are barely making ends meet, let alone achieving what we now laughingly call the American Dream. And we are outraged that all this is happening while billionaires are, directly and indirectly, running the show.

We are a party who, yes, wants to redistribute some of the wealth in this fabulously wealthy country. We don’t like to see a small number of rich donors control our collective future, which means they have much control over our individual futures. We don’t want to see sick people go without care. We don’t want to see poor people—men, women, and children—go without food. We don’t want to see working people hopelessly struggle to own homes if they want to and send their kids to college if they want to go. And we want assurance that as we age, we won’t be forgotten—if we didn’t go to a great college, or go to college at all; if we didn’t manage a hedge fund or any fund beyond the one that kept food on our tables; if we didn’t own a successful business; if we didn’t win a state lottery; if we weren’t born rich.

You see, I just don’t think this “domain of sameness” that you hear, from me and other Democrats, is “deadly to real thinking and new ideas.” I think it is essential to hold on to who we are as a political party. I think it is crucial that we continue to emphasize compassion. I think it is necessary to keep reminding people that a society of cynical and selfish people is not a society at all.

Now, I think it is fair to say that most Republicans, as hard as it may be to believe right now, want to live in a decent society. I say that with the understanding that you have to see them in isolation from their party-tribe to accept my claim. Once they get together as a group, once they put on their Sunday Republican garb and listen to ideological preachers indoctrinate them with nonsense like trickle-down economics, something happens to them. We’ve all seen this phenomenon. Growing up we knew people who were decent and kind enough when we met them one-on-one, but once they got around a certain group of their peers, the dynamics changed. They treated us differently. They embraced the spirit of the group. I think that’s what we see at work today. Yes, there are deplorable Americans who are beyond redemption. And that number seems to be shockingly large. But I continue to hope, perhaps imagine, that the deplorables are not a majority of the Republican Party. We will soon see.

In the mean time, we know that the deplorables are not a majority of the country. Not even close. They can only define us as a people if we allow them to define us. As of right now, I’m in the fight to not let that group of deplorable Americans, or even those non-deplorable Republicans who reflexively support the harmful policies of their leaders, define who we are as Americans. If I, and those who are fighting this fight, lose that definitive struggle, then we are truly doomed.

That fight, that need to fight, is why we cannot give in to despair or anger or any other counterproductive, if understandable, emotion. I’m not saying I’m not tempted to give in. Some hours of the day I am. Some days in the week I am. Like you, I sometimes feel “numb” to it all, too. But to give in is a win for the deplorables, whoever they are and whatever their numbers. And I, for one, cannot bear the thought of telling my little granddaughter, not quite eight years old, that I gave up the fight for her future, gave up the fight for her kids’ future. I may be ashamed of what is going on now in our country, but I would be more ashamed if I weren’t part of the resistance to what is going on.

And that is why, despite all of its problems and imperfections and shortcomings, I remain a strong believer in the Democratic Party. As I have said many times, it is the only institution that can harness, much like a labor union does, our individual resistance to indecency and empower us with the collective ability to change what we see. And while you and I may have an “innate desire for something new and different,” what we really need is an old and familiar idea, expressed by Franklin Roosevelt in his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in July of 1932:

My program…is based upon this simple moral principle: the welfare and the soundness of a Nation depend first upon what the great mass of the people wish and need; and second, whether or not they are getting it.

As old as those words are, the fight today is pretty much that simple for me.

Duane

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18 Comments

  1. Well, sir — I think we needed to hear that. Truth, justice and the American way are dynamically under threat. Resistance is NOT futile.

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    • I think what we have seen the truth in what you say over the past week or so, in terms of how Republicans are scrambling to save their unseemly attempt to give rich people tax cuts by taking healthcare away from less fortunate folks. The Resistance is making a difference, especially the women in this country (who make up the majority of the Resistance because they stand to lose the most during these reactionary times).

      Even if we lose this particular fight and Republicans go on to pass some version of this monstrosity, they won’t escape. The only question is how much of a price they will pay. Ultimately, the people of this country will get the country they want. I just hope they want something better, and want it bad enough to fight for it and, uh, vote for it.

      Duane

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  2. The decision to postpone voting on the so-called health bill in the Senate will have the following results: 1) Republican Senators will not hold town hall meetings over the recess, they will instead meet with those who support their point of view. 2) Mitch and the Senators who crafted the bill will figure out a way to make it even more terrible so that those Republicans who want it to be even more terrible (Senator Paul, Senator Cruz, to name two) will vote for it. 3) The Senate will then vote on the modified bill, getting to a 50-50 split (best case possible for Democrats), and VP Pence will vote for the bill to break the tie. Health care in the US takes a brutal hit, and thousands will die. We must keep that fact in front of the public as it unfolds over the next several years. We will get tired of doing it, and the public will get tired of hearing about it.

    I agree that resistance is not futile. I believe that resistance is the only way I can live with myself and maintain my personal philosophy of life and politics. I just think we are kidding ourselves if we think that, for the immediate future, any other outcome than the above has a chance of happening. I support resisting. Democrats must focus on 2018 to begin to change this terrible sequence of events taking place mostly as a result of Trump’s Presidency and the ascendance of the Republicans in Congress.

    I view the sequence of events that took place in the House as a template for what will happen in the Senate. Unfortunately, numbers are what matter in both institutions, and Democrats don’t have them, and will not until 2018 at the earliest.

    That does not mean we should not resist. It might mean that we should try to find other ways of resisting peacefully and with dignity.

    One of the downsides of having personal integrity is that you will not knowingly engage in harmful ways of resisting, trying instead to deal with facts, logic, and respect for the other side. Far too many of the opposition have no such constraints. It is ironic that they believe exactly the same thing of us.

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    • You may be right, Michael, about the fate of the present bill. I don’t know. But I suspect that ultimately no healthcare bill will get passed and signed into law. Even if the Senate manages to pass one, it will likely be unacceptable to right-wing nuts in the House. I just don’t see a meeting of the minds between the Freedom Caucus (who can sabotage any bill these days) and people like Susan Collins and the electorally challenged Dean Heller. Plus, the damned thing is wildly unpopular. It’s even becoming more unpopular among Tr-mp cultists.

      I want to comment on what you said about the asymmetrical attitudes, in terms of how each side fights the political fight. Yes, our side tends to want to deal with “facts, logic, and respect for the other side.” But I think we need to, in some cases, jettison the respect part of that triad. It’s one thing to respect different views about, say, tax policy or entitlement reform. It’s another thing to respect Tr-mp and Tr-mpism. I won’t do it. I will never do it. It is an anti-intellectual, vulgar form of politics. It does not respect facts and does not employ logic and loathes the free press. It therefore deserves no respect. 

      And whether “the opposition” believes (sadly and wrongly) “exactly the same thing of us” doesn’t matter to me. Ultimately, we won’t change the minds of those folks. We need to reach that small slice of people who, year after year, decide who wins and loses elections, people who we can reach with the facts and logic and respect you mentioned.

      Duane

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      • Well said, Duane.

        I advocate being as realistic as you can in assessing how you resist.

        My observation after 10 years in the Navy and 40 years in technical business is that when people are told to “achieve that goal” and the goal is not realistic, they stop trying. I was part of several construction jobs in commercial nuclear power were everyone on the project was exhorted daily to have the plant constructed and ready to start up by date certain. Everyone knew that wasn’t possible, so they stopped listening and worked to their own schedule. The result was that the schedule slippage was worse, way worse, than it might otherwise have been. The principle here is knowing how to pick your battles so that you improve your chances of winning.

        Going on my own experience and feelings, I only have so much energy I can give to resisting and to taking on the nonsense produced in amazing quantities by the radical right. I have always been that way about most issues. I must pace myself so that I’m there when the push is really needed, when success is crucial. Otherwise I get numb and ineffective. I think a lot of people are that way.

        In realistically assessing what must be done, and what can be done, you have a better chance of employing your resources effectively. To me, that is one hallmark of a good leader. Eisenhower went out among the troops before D-Day and exhorted them to the fullest effort they could make, because he knew that the invasion had to succeed. I read that it brought him to tears time and again, knowing the many of the men he talked to would be dead in the next several days. I doubt that he could have or would have done that until the last minute that he could because of the immense toll on him and the troops.

        I’m not advocating sitting back and doing nothing until the “time” comes. I am advocating realism in assessing where we can win and where we probably won’t.

        Like you and most others, I get 30-40 emails every day asking for money. Each wants as much as I can give, but will accept even just $5. If I gave even to a tenth of the $5 asks, I would be in the streets now. The same is true of the emotional and mental “asks” that I get. They also take a toll, create numbness in my brain. It’s not that I disagree, it’s not that I am not sympathetic; I fear I will become calloused and insensitive to these outrages if I let myself get spun up by all of them.

        So I pace myself, I read about the issues, and I detach from most of them a little. I say “Man, that’s terrible!” , and then I ask myself what can I do about it? If the real answer is “not much”, then I file it away and move on. If the answer is give money, or get involved, or write a letter, or call a member of Congress, then I do that. I do what I can, but I must take care of myself so that I will be there when I’m really, really needed.

        I apologize for taking up so much space and so many electrons.

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  3. King Beauregard

     /  June 28, 2017

    I do not believe divisiveness helps the Democrats in general, but I feel there is one divisive point there is no avoiding: staying home on Election Day is no longer acceptable. The culture of the Left needs to change, where withholding votes is held to be a principled stand rather than caving to the Republicans in the most complete way possible.

    That’s where I find my limitless supply of outrage: not at the Republicans, but at the people who know how wrong the Republicans are and still choose not to stop them. Yes the Republicans operate off a set of principles antithetical to mine, but that’s a given; nobody knows how to reach them and make them give up the desire for harmful policies. Might as well get angry at sharks for being what they are. But Lefties who know for damn sure what Republicans are doing, don’t like it, protest against it, and still refuse to perform the single meaningful action to knock Republicans out of power … yeah, that makes me angry. I’m still running on outrage from 2010, I haven’t even tapped into 2014 or 2016 yet. If I were literally king for a day, I would strongly consider making it mandatory to shove non-voting Lefties down a flight of stairs.

    So, has the Left gotten any smarter since Trump? Well …

    If one wants to devote energy somewhere that might conceivably do some good, my money’s on trying to quash the notion that there is anything honorable in staying home on Election Day. Fix that and we might actually start moving in the right direction.

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    • Well said.

      You know, sometimes I miss a local school board election, where, as you know, turnout is very low. And when I do miss one, I feel damn guilty about it. I feel like I committed some kind of crime, even if it was only a civil wrong. 

      I can’t, for the life of me, understand why anyone would be so indifferent to politics as to not participate in national or state elections. There is no excuse for it. Especially for those who miss the elections out of pure laziness to register, pure cynicism regarding the results, or for any other, as you say, “unacceptable” reason. 

      Perhaps just as bad, though, is voting for someone in a race where you know your candidate cannot win and your vote for that hopeless candidate will help a candidate who you know shouldn’t win. I speak, of course, of those who wasted their votes on Jill Stein or Aleppo Man. Now that we can be fairly certain that Stein was doing the work of the Russians, I just wonder what many of those who voted for her feel like now that we see what a Tr-mp America looks like. I know what they should feel like: ashamed.

      So, in my Democracy Hall of Shame there are two wings. One for non-voters and the other for voters who wasted their franchise just to make a point.

      Duane

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      • I still think non-voters should pay a fine. There are communities where you pay a fine for new keeping your property sufficiently tidy. In states that require car inspections your car must pass a minimum safety requirement in order to be street legal. Your citizenship requires the maintenance of personal engagement through voting — or you get dinged. Say —- $250? The folks who don’t show up now would really feel that penalty. They are also the ones with the most to gain by casting their vote against the oligarchs who are screwing them over.

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        • Argghhhhhh. “….for NOT keeping your property…..”

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        • I’ve thought a little, very little, about that idea, too. But when it comes down to it, it would be rather ironic in a free, democratic society, to actually compel people to vote. I suppose, given your idea, that people would still be free to not vote (they’d just have to pay for the “privilege” of not participating), but I’d have to think about it more before I could support it. And that’s what I like about interactions with folks like you. You make me think. Thanks for that, by the way.

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          • King Beauregard

             /  June 30, 2017

            Myself, I’m agin’ compelling people to vote, because people who are compelled to vote are likely to vote on really dumb criteria. “If I have to vote I’m going to vote for Trump because he’ll be a funny president” … we don’t need to encourage that.

            I am angry at Lefties who don’t vote, but I’m not angry at Righties who stay home. If they stay home, that’s one less problem.

            Just to be perfectly clear, I am not approaching this from the abstract concept of the value of participation in a hypothetical democratic republic. I’m looking at, how do we solve the problem of a Republican Party that gets into power pretty easily and then causes harm that will take decades to undo? Voting can and will work. Protesting probably won’t, not reliably anyway.

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  4. Duane, Michael and others,

    A statement of despair by Duane and echoed by other Liberals. I too as a conservative have the same despair, the recognition that neither party is capable of doing what is needed for America. Our politics are so grid locked that true progress, improving the quality of life of all Americans is beyond reach.

    You barrage me with tales of woe from the “poor”. I can barrage you with tales of terrible choices made by many Americans that result in woe for sure. You call for government to correct those conditions. I believe that only when Americans take more responsibility for their own conditions will there be hope for more progress in the quality of life for all Americans.

    And of course by taking that position I am berated with all sorts of “names”, the common and most popular term today being “deplorable” I suppose, even though I did not vote for Trump and do not support him. Trump’s way is the wrong way for sure. But I see no alternative coming from “your side”, the likes of Bernie, Warren or any other spokesperson for the Liberal side of today’s politics in America.

    Duane has yet to try to tackle the problem of drugs and alcohol in America, particularly the current crisis entailing the use of narcotic drugs. Decriminalize the sale or use of drugs, provide “treatment” and all will be well you might suggest. “Treatment” for addiction is a facade, pure and simple. It doesn’t work. There must be a fundamental change within each addicted individual and the medical profession has yet find a way to promote such changes. I refer you to the current outrageous rip off going on in Florida with the some 400 ”Treatment facilities” offering “relief from addiction” and the charges to insurance companies, mostly Medicaid, that are beyond the pale. One county in Southern Florida experiences some 12 overdoses PER DAY and most come right out of “sober houses” promoted by “treatment facilities”!!!

    Jim recently observed that the GOP believes that “if you are poor it is your fault”. I respond by asking all of you “whose fault is it if a person over the age of 18 is poor” and remains in that state of being for the rest of his life, and lives of his kids, ………. I submit that “poor in spirit” is the real state of being on the part of many Americans today.

    The America you want to see is an America dependent on the federal government for the well being of all Americans. You absolutely reject the “teach a man to fish rather that give a man a fish” tenant. You don’t believe that public education (K12 only) can or should fix the condition of young people “poor in spirit”. Very few teachers even know what I speak of and none of them are trained to deal with such a condition. Hell most of them (“educators”) are poor in spirit themselves complaining about anything and everything NOT given to them!! Just throw money at the problem and hope it goes away. It never has and never will.

    Money cannot purchase “spirit”, the unrelenting desire to improve one’s self and the work ethic to pursue that challenge. Place that challenge before many Americans and what you get in return is Black Lives Matter, 400 “treatment centers” in South Florida (alone) that will cost “someone” $30,000 for a month visit to “recover”, schools that wallow in mediocrity, and the list goes on and on.

    Government can no more fix those issues than fly to the moon. Government itself is filled with hundreds of thousands of employees that suffer the same malady, a lack of individual “spirit” on the part of those “employees”. They are there only for the paycheck, the benefits and the retirement package with no consideration whatsoever for the “services” they are suppose to provide. And the bigger such governments become the worse the situation itself becomes.

    Just try to fire a civil servant today for pure and simple “malpractice”, for lack of a better term. By the same token, try to fire any employee represented by a union today for the same thing.

    Like Duane has long said, “Safety violations are ALWAYS the fault of management”. And of course he usually supports those that say “We need it no matter what the cost might be”.

    However I add to that criticism of Duane’s “politics” with my own observation that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with Duane’s “spirit”. He has huge wealth in that regard and I admire his “spunk” fighting for what he believes is “right”. That is why I linger and comment herein but recognize I will never change him or he change me in our fundamental beliefs.

    Anson

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    • I did not vote for Trump and do not support him.

      If you voted for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and/or George W. Bush, you supported the process within the Republican Party that led to the rise of a vulgar talking yam. To quote Paul Ryan’s favorite author, the Trump administration “is not the product of your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection.”

      I see no alternative coming from “your side”, the likes of Bernie, Warren or any other spokesperson for the Liberal side of today’s politics in America.

      That’s because you’re not looking at what’s actually there, preferring instead to see the things that lead you to say things like this:

      The America you want to see is an America dependent on the federal government for the well being of all Americans. You absolutely reject the “teach a man to fish rather that give a man a fish” tenant. You don’t believe that public education (K12 only) can or should fix the condition of young people “poor in spirit”.

      To which I say [citation desperately needed], and no, your telepathic powers, while doubtless impressive on the midway, don’t count.

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    • My reply is today’s post. Enjoy!

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    • Jim recently observed that the GOP believes that “if you are poor it is your fault”. I respond by asking all of you “whose fault is it if a person over the age of 18 is poor” and remains in that state of being for the rest of his life, and lives of his kids, ………. I submit that “poor in spirit” is the real state of being on the part of many Americans today.

      This argument reminds me of the blind man describing an elephant. It is all too tempting to defend ideology by cherry-picking observations and generalizing from them. Sure, there are many who are “poor in spirit.” Of course freeloaders exist and they are despicable. But, it is disingenuous to ignore the many who suffer silently and who gamely persevere despite great odds, people like the single mom who works a job and still provides for her children.

      What I want from society, collectively, is a structure that provides a way out of poverty for those whose spirit is not defeated. The average person can not bootstrap herself out of poverty on a minimum wage job. “Teach a man to fish . . .” Sure, I agree with that, and social programs do that. Addiction programs, by the way, are not futile. I have read that they are about 50% successful. That isn’t wasted, it is 50% more people contributing to society instead of being a burden and less expensive than prisons full of non-violent people driven to crime by poverty.

      The ethos of the GOP appears to have devolved to a selfish Darwinian philosophy, now manifest in an amoral narcissist who inherited his first million and parlayed it into billions by ruthlessly playing it into the Monopoly game of real estate. Thanks to financial manipulation, Russian dealing and loose bankruptcy laws, he is now the exemplar of conservative success. Is this the kind of success to which the poor ought to aspire?

      Ultimately, we all wither and weaken in this life. We become dependent on others, no matter what our fortune. I have no doubt that many a tycoon in his final days is attended by the working poor, even immigrants. Ah, the irony.

      A very good post, by the way, Duane. I am encouraged by this discussion that I am not alone in my opinions.

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  1. Another Pep Talk. This One To A Conservative | The Erstwhile Conservative: A Blog of Repentance

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