I’m Ray Sawyer, and I’m the lead political commentator here on The Political Commentary on the Political Commentary Bureau. These are my thoughts about what unraveled last week. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and shouldn’t be treated as such, it really is just some reflections on this clusterfuck of an election. It’s still a little much for a sensitive country soul like me. Today we hear Orange Jungleland moved in with his millionaires, lobbyists and immediate family (who will continue to run his weird dysfunctional marketing enterprise without any separation between what will be the president and them. A president suspected of direct bribes and currently under investigation for running basically a Ponzi-scheme (ie Trump University)).
- It’s what you feel, not what is real. When I went to school I was taught you learn about the subject, you stay informed, and you use reasoning and deduction to make decisions. This is clearly not how many people operate these days. An all too large part (perhaps 25% or so, of the ridiculously low 56% which participated in the election) work backwards from I “feel” to I “believe” the economy is shit, crime is up, there’s no future and immigrants, blacks and minorities are to be blamed. They then work their way back to sources aligned with the worldview they “feel” is the prevailing one regardless of whether gravity is present or not. When they work themselves backwards from how they feel/believe in combination with the introduction of parallel information streams as introduced by Facebook and Twitter which rarely cross over each other,people are then locked into their streams and commentary and can’t possibly understand the other side. Since nuance and compromise is absolutely key to a successful society it’s not very helpful when there’s no ambition to understand the “other side.” I have a friend who argues ”his opinion” is a ”fact” in arguments we have, like gravity or the inevitability of death. These arguments aren’t about a cathartic journey to find “truths”, this is about finding arguments for what “you know is true” because since you “believe” and “feel” it must be. When this is your core attitude towards society and the cosmos, no amount of facts and reasons will ever affect you.
Suggestion going forward, for every news story you “feel” is correct– read something you instinctively “feel” is false and investigate sources and reasoning. There are such things as facts, and in many cases we can’t do anything about them except keep them from people.
- Even though the arguments are bullshit, the underlying sentiment is worth taking seriously. My general hypothesis is that plenty of people “feel” their communities are changing in a way they don’t feel a part of. This would be immigration and globalization – basically the world is getting smaller and distant places and people are getting closer to each other. Globalization and international trade have made the world a richer place (empirically so) but the benefits have not been distributed equally. People who run businesses which could manufacture things in, for example, China have benefited more than people who have cheaper goods because they’re made in China. But both have benefited. I was reminded of former East Germany (DDR) where there’s still sentiment that it was better before. Empirically (like in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, etc) it wasn’t better before. Incomes are higher, healthcare is better, crime is down and all the trends show improving signs. These are facts, not opinions. But, as in DDR, people feel that their communities are lost and feel a loss of identity. Then they – and they are overwhelmingly white rural people – see “their” representatives speak predominantly about women, Hispanics, blacks, LGTBQ communities and not about them. Reverse racism as compared to actual racism is not nearly the same problem. Those groups really are disenfranchised. But it wouldn’t hurt to try and understand, and show you do understand, why people perceive their communities are crumbling. One thing there seems to be non-white elements is not perceived to be American. One said in a discussion with us, we don’t want to bring over Europe’s multiculturalism here. Which is strange, because Europe hasn’t had much real multiculturalism, it’s mostly states built on French, Germans, Scandinavians and so on. The US, on the contrary, has always been a mixture of different backgrounds. What’s happened over the centuries is that they have become ‘American’ in a fairly impressive way I must say. What’s important here is that it seems like more people than ever “feel” that this isn’t the case anymore. Some of that is just blatant racism, some of it poses legitimate concerns over how our communities are composed. In any case, to find out and find a path forward, Ds must try and understand why people feel like this and people who feel like this must spell out why the fuck so and not make up statistics and follow sites which are demonstrably untrue.
Suggestion going forward, Ds, understand immigration puts a pressure on many people (white rural) which is very heavy. Try and understand that, try and reconcile with your worldview where that might not be as different. Rs, if you’re feeling loss of community, ask yourself if that is really because of black, Mexican, atheist, muslim terrorists? Stay positive – what can you do for your community today? Communities are a social construct. They become what we make them.
- It’s not a weather forecast. Watching CNN election night was as depressing as it gets and a reminder of so many dysfunctional things in the political discourse. A mumbling uncle drawing on a map like if he’s trying to explain weather patterns. This is not a horse race or a hockey fight or a baseball game. You shouldn’t focus on the numbers. You should focus on understanding why folk’s opinions are as they are. The expression is “elites don’t listen to the people” and it leads to ideas that we should accept building walls, deporting people and banning other people. Yes. There seems to be a sentiment that immigration has been excessive and folks who didn’t immigrate recently are different degrees of disturbed about that. But there’s also an insane amount of misinformation about that. Folks need to be better to clearly express what they mean, and elected officials need to be better at collecting those sentiments. And by god, fucken’ tv must get it together and start to hold nuanced debates where people are held accountable for what they say. There’s something called truth and it’s not always nothing.
- It’s not so much a chat service, but a news enabler. Many different things about media need to be discussed and rational, careful action needs to be taken. One very important thing is for social media to break out of the parallel news track it has put people in. Including me. To my credit I do “alternative” news sources from time to time to get a feel from what it looks like from another vantage point. And, by god, are they different. Two things should be introduced as I see it: 1) the parallel track social media and web searches enforce and strengthen need to be broken and 1-in-3 needs to be broken off by something completely different, and 2) obvious falsehoods need to be marked and a system of footnotes need to be supplied if you want to claim reporting. Anything else should be marked “opinion” and the “content is not subject to review and cannot be claimed to be necessarily true and reflect reality” – “ it simply describes the opinions of said writers.” That would mean that “alternative” news outlets need to submit where they find things as all traditional news media do. The trawling of clicks need to be reined in. It’s quite frankly rather disturbing that a bunch of Macedonian kids might actually have had a role in this election because they found a business model in that Trump supporters are very gullible and click on any nonsense. Well, that’s disturbing on a lot of levels. And, dear Trump supporter, this should be disturbing for you too. God knows what the Macedonian kids trick you into believing next time. Potentially a trade deal or immigration reform!?
- The truth is out there, it really is. I want a Debate format called “Let’s understand the issue and the underlying facts.” The person explaining this to me was a dorky Swedish person who called the format “Sakförhållandet” but no one was able to translate it. [Editor’s note: I’m able to translate it, Ray, and it’s roughly “the state of affairs”. Pretty catchy title!] When complex issues are debated it’s often challenging to keep track of what is going on. Therefore we need a more sophisticated debate format which enables the candidates to explain their understanding of the issues and their proposed solution. These discussions should be moderated by panels of professors in these fields and supported by graphs and tables explaining the interdependencies and difficulties in what we’re watching. In the 19th century speeches by candidates could go on for hours (examples of 6 hours are presented in wonderful book “Amusing ourselves to death”) which is actually an appropriate time span to cover important questions. TV and social media have changed the debate format into zingers and shouting matches leaving the viewer and voter either confused about what happened – the average person won’t have all the facts, after all – or just influenced by the debater with the highest charisma and rhetoric. Now, who really knows if that will affect anything. I don’t think anyone who watched the three debates thought there was any question about who came across as knowing what he/she was doing. Yet we’re standing here today.
- Country before party. One of the strongest sentiments I’ve felt around this election season – except maybe fatigue – is division. After 22 years, the division bell finally rang. In history there’s been I think three elections where one contender has basically wiped the floor with the other candidate. George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis come to mind. Clearly there was a sense that these people weren’t up for the task and they lost basically all states. Today that seems impossible. As with all issues, there’s two sides here as well. But as with most things in American poltics, the side which perverted the sentiment is the republicans. As we at the PCPCB said multiple times, if your issue is immigration, taxes or religion, just say it. Don’t fucking make up things that aren’t there.
- Immigrants don’t commit more crime. But they do, generally, have a different background, education, cultural references and so forth which will potentially change the dynamics of your community. If you don’t like that, it’s a valid concern.
- Taxes is a way of paying for things which is hard to organize in any other way. Healthcare in the US (particularly before the Affordable care act) was the most expensive per capita and still some 20 odd million didn’t have insurance. Military, police, schools, and government can’t be paid for by “pay-as-you-go.” Think of government as a big insurance company. One can’t pay for all, but all can pay little and we all get a lot. And also, the biggest expenditure is the military and social security. The smallest cost of government is foreign aid (which predominantly goes to Israel anyway). Finally, California is doing great with higher taxes while Kansas is going bankrupt without them.
- You might be against abortion on religious grounds. But please, don’t claim that the people doing it aren’t feeling awful about it. It’s always a tough choice. And besides, wasn’t America based on religious freedom and the idea that people should stay clear of others convictions? Hillary never killed babies either. For an additional argument, it’s always going to be an arbitrary decision, where life actually begins. The egg in a woman’s belly and the sperm in a man’s ballsack are every bit as much living matter and a potential future person as a zygote or fetus. But of course it would be impractical to convict people of murder every time they menstruate or masturbate. (And no, abstinence is not a solution for us man types. If we don’t get out jollies semi-regularly, our bodies make the decision for us and we come in our sleep. Ask anyone who’s been in prison.) It just seems more reasonable to let people make decisions about their bodies on their own… yes, even women.
Suggestion going forward: for every position you hold on some particular issue you hold dear, you go and read on an official channel of the opposite party. You then fact-check this with an actual source and compose, in writing, an answer as to why you believe this to be the path forward.
- The poll that counts is the one of the day of the election. Like one particular idiot in Britain after the Brexit vote said, “But I thought it was all indicative. When’s the real vote?” People should really be signing a contract stating “I understand what I’m doing here.” Polls are just meaningless when they’re treated as the timing station in some Marathon run. There’s really just one number that matters. The rest is just noise and people reacting to it. And I must readily admit I’ve read way too many polls this year. What we know, people don’t say what they mean and people overwhelmingly don’t answer the questions/phone at all. Leaving everyone misinformed. Also, the broad strokes of the polls are really crazy. When you read questions like “are you dissatisfied” “do you want change” “is Donald Trump crazy?” the important thing isn’t what people answer but: Why are you dissatisfied? Why do you want change? Why did you still vote for Donald Trump despite knowing he’s crazy?
Suggestion moving forward: Do a whole lot less polls and instead engage in conversation to unravel the underlying sentiment behind the polls.
- Different candidates mean different outcomes. There’s this widespread notion among folks “all politicians lie so what difference does it make?” – it makes a world of difference. Stuff like health care, climate change, the military and the economy have enormous impacts on people. Even on State and City elections. Who runs your country and communities makes a huge difference. Politicians work in a way where everything isn’t necessarily one hundred percent. But there are differences. Like for example the clown you just elected. He lies 78% of the time. The woman he beat 25%. Even Bernie Sanders, the truth machine, 25%. But also, I like Hillary Clinton. I thought she was solid, nay great!, candidate. But she wasn’t and with hindsight perhaps that was obvious. Perhaps it wasn’t. One thing though, Ds would’ve benefited massively if the debates were more nuanced. It would have been better with a broader more interesting field with for example Joe Biden, Gavin Newsom, Marc Cuban, Alan Grayson, Chris Murphy and Elizabeth Warren. It would’ve been more interesting, it would’ve sharpened the message and plenty more approaches and plenty more people wouldn’t get to play the “rigged election” card. The sad truth was that too few were excited about HRC as a candidate compared to the massive enthusiasm the United Implicit and Explicit Racists had for Trump. And that seems to be a big deal.
- The people. We’ve talked a great deal about media, politicians. But let’s circle back to the core of this issue. The people who voted for Donald Trump. You bear this responsibility. Anyone who voted for this man must publicly announce why he/she did that so we can finally understand how a man who demonstrably know nothing, showed an insane amount of disinterest for learning and has never shown any interest in anything but himself got to reach this level of influence. Why did you do it? Make it simple, make it in bullet-point form. What are the arguments??
All in all, this was a terrible election. It’s been a terrible couple of years. I genuinely believe Trump will be awful. I think he has terribly underestimated the challenges he will face. How all the people who’ve said they like what he’s saying are simply smarter sycophants who know they can prey on an easily manipulated mind. I hope Senate and Congress and Offices of the Courts and the rest of the institutions will challenge what comes forward. Not least the Republicans. The party of Lincoln, as Paul Ryan proudly said today. Paul Ryan who also said Trump was a textbook racist but it didn’t matter because it’s more important for Paul Ryan to lower taxes on the wealthy in America on the backs of the people who elected Trump. There was a great disappointment after Bush failed basically everything he undertook over eight years. His only success summed up to owning the Supreme Court in 2000 and a Swift Boat campaign in 2004. Basically everything else is discarded as rubble. Now he has his paintings. I sadly hear they aren’t that great either.
It took about six years of W Bush for the public to turn. That was a long time and a lot of not very progressive things had to transpire. Among those were the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, Katrina, giant tax cuts (in the height of war) and letting the last regulations on the financial industry loose resulting in the biggest economic catastrophe since 1929. I think Donald Trump is going to be worse. I hope not. I always hope for the best. Because there’s lives at stake. Our very society, our communities, our families and our friends – everything we know is in these communities. And I hope Donald Trump will rise to the occasion, that Republicans in the Senate and Congress will rise to the occasion and we’ll all live happily ever after.
After this election America should really look into this political divide and start to nuance issues. Based on the votes cast in the primaries, British upper-class fluffer magazine The Economist made a composition of how Americas political views lay. Some 25% were Bernie Sanders Social Democrats types, some 27% were Hillary Clinton type liberal market economy, some 10% were John Kasich/Bush dynasty no taxes-all business types, some 15% were Rick Santorum no-evolution babies-at-erection types and some 25% were Donald Trump hair-dye fact-free deport all Mexican populists. None of these usually have their way. The Democrats never get their Bernie Sanders types, and before Trump, it was all dog-whistle but no party for the racists. They got the Mitt Romney types which were all business but didn’t give a shit about either religion or immigrants. This election the Rs found their excited base in anti-immigration. I really believe it would be helpful if the Congress actually reflected these views as opposed the first-to-pole type elections today. Then all districts wouldn’t have these divisions where the election only reflect the 25%-50% of the guy who got the ticket with the rest of the 50%-75% not getting representation.
This goes for the presidential election as well. If the election hadn’t been about primaries for a year and a presidential campaign for another half-year, we could have had candidates focus on one set of issues and weighed them against one another without this inevitable diluting race for the middle-ground in the later stages. The structure of pitting two parties and two candidates against each other is that the level of nuance decreases immensely. First in the Primary the Candidates cater to their different core groups and later when in the main election they “pivot” to the center to be able to cater to a much broader group. The point here being that the larger amount of candidates are never challenged against each other. Bernie Sanders vs Orange Know-Nothing or Ted “There Is No Substantive you-know-how-it-goes” Cruz vs Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein vs Scott Walker or Greg Johnson against anyone who knows the name of a foreign leader. In my humble opinion a superior Presidential election system would have something like 15 candidates from say five parties:
- One election is held, the candidate with over 50% with over 75% votes cast wins.
- If the above criterion isn’t met there’s a second election between the two who got the highest numbers.
Also, it should really be mandatory to vote. If you really don’t want to, vote blank. But fucking do it. It’s only your life. But we can make it more enticing for the couch potato, either you get a $500 voucher on Shoney’s or perhaps a $500 ticket you have to send to a group with a strongly opposing view on just about everything. More times than not, I predict these will go to the Donald Trump re-election fund.
Ultimately, America and Europe and China and India and the rest of the world need to pick up their heads and focus on what really matters. The Cosmos. We need to solve the existential threats to us as a species: our environment and our climate through energy and conservation; we need to better understand our own health (which is ridiculously low in many areas) and eliminate at least the most obvious threats (like penicillin); and we need to further our understanding of the all-encompassing Universe surrounding us. Supporting this we need to move towards a way to govern in effective ways within and across nations which limits petty infighting, graft oligarchy. The earth is only so big.