Sifting Through The Ashes, Part Nine – About those Voters…

Greetings and Salutations;
The fallout from the Election continues,  as the day the donald will be sworn into Office approaches.   Last night,  President Obama gave a really great,  farewell speech, in Chicago.  A recording of it is available,  and if you have not seen it,  I strongly urge you to take a quiet hour,  watch it,  and contemplate on the messages in it.   The President touched on many issues  that apply both to the Political world and Real Life.   It was amazingly sad,  and uplifting at the same time.   As an Academic,  and Community Organizer,   President Obama has honed the ability to communicate a message so that every person hearing it feels as if he is speaking to them.   It was clear,  and very well said.   If you want to do it later, then great.  If you want to do it right now…even better,  I will be happy to wait!
One of the important issues President Obama brought up  was the peaceful transition of power from Administration to Administration.   He is correct, that this is a hallmark of our Democracy,  and is terribly important.   Alas,  this particular transition is rather less easy than many previous ones have been.   In my voting career  (I first voted for Nixon when he was re-elected to a second term –  More on that later)  I have seen the two main parties swap positions several times.  While I have not been comfortable with Republicans taking power before,  this is the FIRST Election where the incoming Administration seems Hell-Bent on not only destroying the advances in society we have made since the 1950s,  but,  is taking aim at the heart of our Democracy,  with the intention of killing that foolishness off,  and putting in a “REAL” government.   To go from the quiet and patient elegance and intelligence of President Obama,  to the ravings and chaos of the donald is a fearful thing to contemplate.    I can only hope that the moderate republicans in Congress will come to their senses,  and will realize that Constitution and Country far outweigh Party in this world  (A point that President Obama ALSO makes in his speech).  There have been some efforts on the part of Moderate Republicans that are heartening, if they can grow,  and not be squished by the shorter-sighted members of the Party.
That having been said…there remains the problem of us voters.   This election has stirred up more emotion than any previous election I have seen.   There have been smaller,  regional issues that were pretty hot, and, like the Civil War,  split families in two,  but, this is the first time that almost every American has a strong opinion and will get really emotional when one attempts to discuss differing views with them.   I am still amazed and interested by the mind of humans,  and so I have been trying to interact with as many points of view as is possible,  to try and understand what has brought these folks to believe what they believe.   This has been a challenging task for me, both because I, too,  have an unpleasant emotional reaction to this election,  and, there are challenges with talking to folks who support the donald.   It can be challenging to deal with them on a civilized,  polite level.

This meme has started circulating around Social Media over the past few days.   The original one consisted of just the BLACK parts.   The edit  is a recent change, and points up my conundrum with understanding the Mind of America.   Of course,  I have a few thoughts on how this graphic affects me, and my reactions to it:
IF, they are really “Adult” and really “Friends”, then, I hope that Sally will engage with Bob and try to understand why he DOES support the donald. I have been trying to do that, and to discuss why I find their support of the donald pretty worrisome. However, that has proved to be a challenging path.  Let me take a moment to lay out some of the things that I have run into with voters of all persuasions, over the past 18+ months.
  • SOME folks simply call me a name (or twelve), make snarky remarks about me and my opinions, and spout right-wing lies from Agenda-Driven websites to “prove” their point.  These are the folks that I look at and think…”Wow,  that is a Fear Driven Life there.”   When push comes to shove they have not moved one step beyond the level of social development that existed when Homo Sapiens appeared on the Earth.   They are instinctively Tribal,  and react to people within the tribe as if they were the best of friends,  but,  look at anyone OUTSIDE the tribe as an enemy and a danger…to be driven off, or avoided.   They are so fixed in their views of reality that they cannot conceive of anyone that is not just like them as having humanity; of having a life and opinions that is just as valid as their own; or have anything worth contributing to a conversation.  It has been my experience that they prefer to belittle a person by saying “Get a JOB” or “now that Our Boy is in office,  you parasites are not going to get free things from the government any more.”  Of course, both these comments are without Merit, as a vast majority of Liberal and Progressive folks not only have jobs,  they show up to them and do the best that they can every day – only to see their financial well-being being eroded away by the law changes done by a Right-Wing Congress.   As for the second point…All the Progressives and Liberals I know  agree that people should not be wards of the state.  However,  from the Liberal perspective, the way to deal with the problem is to recognize the worth of every person, and, if they are down on their luck,  to do what is necessary to support them and help them make their way back to being a productive member of society.   While there are a percentage of folks in the System that are eking out a living by working that system,  a vast majority of the folks getting aid would rather have a real job, as they realize it provides them with far more resources than being a client of the Department of Human Services can ever provide. Be that as it may,  this group tend to be the people that I find ways to eliminate from my life.  On Social Media,  I will block them.  In Real Life,  I will slowly cut back on the times we interact,  until it becomes either never,  or less than once a year.
  • SOME deflect, claiming that he did not mean what he said, or, making attacks on their opponents that are off topic.   They too do not discuss well, as their beliefs enable them to dismiss my concerns as meaningless.   It is very hard to discuss, on a civil level,  touchy subjects like this when the person is rejecting the FACTS they are presented with the claims that it is “Fake News”,  or “there is no proof that is true”, or “A LOT of people disagree with these facts”.   I find this last response both hilarious and irritating.   It is truly funny because it is so without merit it causes the speaker to look as ignorant as a new-born baby.   To beat the dead horse a moment longer…JUST because “a lot of people” have this opinion does NOT turn it into a fact.   It is true that, during the Salem Witch trials in 1692-1693,  a VAST majority of the population believed that there were actual  Witches in the world, who could use mystical powers to bring Evil and injury to another person’s  life.  In the 1930s-1940s,  many people living under the Third Reich believed that Jews were subhuman, evil people that were responsible for putting up barriers to their success.  They believed in the concept of “Racial Purity” and that it was “Evil” to dilute their blood with the blood of other races.   The fact that a lot of people believed (and, alas,  STILL Believe) this does not magically make it a fact.
  • SOME are single issue voters. For example, I have talked with people whose hot buttons range from abortion and woman’s rights, to LGBTQ issues, to Healthcare Costs, to Work issues.
  • Many of them, when push came to shove, said that they thought the donald would push their agenda where HRC held a different stance. They were able to ignore all the other ugliness and chaos in the donald’s life and history. I.E. Willful blindness.   I, for one,  believe that the failure of the Educational System in America is partly to blame for this.  Schools should have the goals of teaching kids the basic tools of living –  Critical Thinking skills,  reading,  writing,  Math,  etc.   The schools should present the students with the data they need to become well-rounded and educated enough to deal with the world.  This includes a more objective presentation of History,  Human Sexuality,  Number theory,  and vocabulary.  Alas,  for the past decades the school’s roll in doing this has been undercut by a lot of factors.   One of the BIG things undercutting this important task is, in my view,  Religion.   As time has passed,  the Religious community in America has become more entrenched and divided by their own agenda.   My view is that God does exist (Read Edward Abbott’s “Flatland”  for a simple analogue for my view on how that works),  and, that It is far too complex for any single path to lead to It.   In spite of being raised in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church,  I have had a very broad view of other religions.   I have never believed that ONE denomination  has “THE Only Answer and Way To GOD”.   I do have the opinion that, as it says in the Bible,  “now we see through the glass,  Darkly”  so, some philosophical paths are rather more complicated and stray further away from the shortest path to understanding and Connection.   However,   alas,  in the past decades the Balkanization of the Religious Community has produced a lot of parents who believe that their kids will be forever damned if they learn anything except what their interpretation of the Bible supports.   These folks have fought to have school Curricula changed to either remove or re-word  topics that conflict with their beliefs,  or, in an increasing number of cases,  they Home School their kids, absolutely controlling what they learn.
  • SOME of the voters actually do prefer the platform and plans put forth by the Republican Party  over the goals of the Democratic Party.   Again,  a complicated problem.  I was a strong Republican when I was a new voter.  By the by,  I am talking about during the 1960s and 1970s.  My first Vote was for Richard Nixon,  to elect him to his second term.  My parents were in the Republican Corner as in their minds (and mine, at the time),  the Republican Party expressed the view of reality that I found most appealing.   The Party was Conservative in that it was not for radical changes that happened quickly.  Change would happen under that Party, but, it would have the speed of molasses in Winter.   The Platform preached the gospel of Self-reliance –  Not depending on the Government to be the Nanny State.  The Federal Government should do the tasks it had to do to keep the country running,  but keep its nose out of the lives of individual Citizens.   The Party left that task to the local governments!   It pushed the “Horatio Alger Jr. Story of America” where it was easy for a person starting in poverty,  with nothing to work hard and be frugal,  and end up a very rich and powerful person,  who could relax and live on their investments and savings.  As we all realize though,  that even in those days,  this was an idyllic goal,  that was hard to reach for White Males,  and nearly impossible to even see for people of color.   One thing about that time, though…for a lot of people,  that 20 year period between 1950 and 1970  DID provide a lot of folks with the fulfillment of that dream.  Today, though,  the world has changed a LOT.  The economy and financial life of most Americans are in shambles.   Over the past 20 years or so Management has apparently picked up and are clinging to the idea that Profit for themselves and investors is the God to be Worshiped,  and anything that might interfere with that (such as paying a living wage,  treating employees well,  slow steady growth, etc)  are to be avoided.   The bottom line these days is that for a person working in a company,  they are likely limited in their advancement,  both in position and salary.   While there are a few “mail room to CEO” stories still around,  they are, indeed, few and far between.   Today,  for most people,  the only way to get increased benefits or salary is to look around and find a new job.   Of course the massive economic collapse of 2008/2009  has even closed off that avenue of escape.   Jobs have been scarce for a number of reasons, including the waves created by that crash,  so often, moving has been impossible.   Over the years,  I, as have most of my siblings,  have moved to the Democratic Party,  both from an ethical point, and a fiscal responsibility point. For decades now, post Nixon,  the general trend is that the Republicans get into office,  and provide HUGE tax cuts (mostly for the upper class with all the money)  and added huge spending programs in the belief that their tax cuts will produce more revenue, as they will encourage the rich to expand their businesses,  and hire more people.   This, by the by, has been a pipe dream from Reagan on, and has left us with an unimaginably large debt that the country owes,  and deficit that has been building that debt like a fire hose spraying gasoline on a skyscraper fire.   The Democrats,  when they take office,  have taken steps to bring down the deficit,  and reduce the debt.   They have done this by raising taxes on the people with the most money (in general),  and finding ways to make the government run more efficiently.   Add to that, the social responsibility that the Progressives in the Democratic Party  feel towards all citizens, and their attempts to improve life for ALL citizens,  made it a trivial choice.
  • Finally, there is the painfully large percentage of his supporters who, as far as I can tell, just do not like, or are frightened by, a strong, intelligent, well-educated WOMAN having taking the office. I have to Admit that this puzzles me a bit,  but I do understand enough about the human mind and its workings that I know that there can be subconscious fears and uncertainties that can motivate actions that seem odd.  Do these voters really just hate their mothers?   Were they made to look like a fool by another,  intelligent, strong, well-educated woman?  Do they just feel inadequate and threatened by folks that are better at something than they are?   All or some are,  I think factors in their prejudiced thoughts.
Now,  I realize there are far more than just TWO political parties in the United States (at least as of today).   However,  the above categories fit a fair number of folks that vote for the alternative party candidates too.  Also,  as history shows us, Alternative Parties do not do well in the United States (and I will offer some analysis as to why this is true elsewhere)  For example,  in the 2016 election,  in terms of overall vote,  the alternative candidates, combined together,  got less than 8% of the popular vote.  Now,  I have, at times, voted Third Party, although when I do, I am fully aware that I am making a statement, not influencing an election with my vote!   Since I live in a Deep Red State,  the votes of most voters do not matter,  as there is a 99% probability that the Republican Party will sweep the National Offices.  This reality extends to the Governor’s office as well.  It is not until one gets down to the county level that it is possible for Democratic or Independent candidates to gain office.
  • I am also aware (painfully so) of the large percentage of Americans who were qualified to vote,  but,  for a variety of reasons, did not bother to take advantage of the many opportunities to vote.
  • Some, alas, just were too lazy or distracted to vote.
  • A goodly number of them were so disgusted by the several candidates offered,  and disillusioned by the electoral system, that they did not even make the effort.
  • Over the past few decades,  the Republicans have worked very hard to make it harder to vote,  focusing their attention on  those folks that they believe would not support them.
  • They have re-drawn Congressional districts, gerrymandering (or “henrymandering” as David O. Stewart says in this edition of “Your Weekly Constitutional”) them to ensure that a given district has such a majority of their locked in voters as to make it impossible for any other candidate to have a chance.
  • There is the focus on making the issue of “Voter ID” a big talking point, and using that to add layers of regulations and requirements to obtain a voter ID.  The  CLAIM to that they are trying to cut down  on voter fraud.  The actual effect has been that it has made it much harder for ANYONE (who were not a well-off,  W.A.S.P.)  to get a valid ID to vote
  • There has been a lot of movement  towards  cutting back on the number of polling places, the amount of time open, and their locations.  The claim is because they are too expensive.  However, from the information about where the cuts happen,  and where the remaining polls are sited,  it seems rather more likely that it is to make sure those annoying dissenters unable to vote
  • There are a proliferation of  rules that made it easier to challenge the validity of a person’s vote..which can change the outcome of an election easily.
  • All of these  actions, mostly by the Right Wing,  has huge numbers of voters being  disenfranchised, silencing the  voices of many American Citizens  by making it impossible for them to vote.
The end result of all these factors meant that some  49% of the voters in America did not cast a vote in the 2016 election.  Democracy in Action?   Not really by MY definition of the word, alas.
Now…after all that ugly stuff,  I ask myself,  what can I do, as an individual,  to improve the situation.   It can seem like an overwhelming problem, and incline a person towards giving up and keeping one’s head low, in order that the storm will blow over and no debris will smash into them and ruin their life.   I certainly have to fight that fear almost every day.   So…what do I propose to help the situation.
  • Email or call them to let them know your objection or support for the item of interest. When you do this,  be SURE to follow these guidelines:
  • Use this tool – to track down YOUR Representatives.
  • Now…to help change your government and what it is doing,  there are some simple things to do.
  • I have, in the past decades,  communicated with my Federal Representatives on occasion.  However, since the Election and the terrible vision for the future that it brings,  I have found that I have been shooting off Emails to them at least once a day.  I realized, finally that anyone that tells you that a communication from you as a Constituent, to your Representative is a waste of time, because “The politicians only pay attention to the lobbyists that write them the big checks”,  is lying to you. They are likely fearful that if you DO contact your Representative,  it will destroy their chances for making a big score off the Government.
  • I have been urging people to vote, and arguing to convince them that their vote matters for decades.   I can relate to them,  because after Nixon,  it was very hard to get my enthusiasm up and believe that my vote meant something.   I spent too many years simply ignoring the elections (other than to curse at them when coverage of the events of the day interfered with a television show I particularly enjoyed watching)   I finally came to the realization that even if the issue or person I voted for did not take the day,  my vote was still vital.  By voting,  I was communicating directly with the Elected Officials that could screw up my life.  In cases where the issue or candidate I supported WON,  I could say “Hey…you have a network of support out here that heard you, and like what you are offering”  In the cases where the issue or candidate I supported LOST,  I was still saying to those Elected Officials “Ok,  you have taken this battle..but look at the results of this election.  There were a LOT of people who disagreed with you.  You are their Representative too, so you need to not blow off their existence,  but need to find a compromise that will not leave your opponents out in the cold.”   As an example of this…the donald and many Republicans are crowing about a “mandate” they have from Americans to implement the changes to the laws they want to do.  They are, bluntly,  lying through their teeth.   The donald barely squeaked through the Electoral College to take the office (and I discuss some issues I have with that in Previous Posts).  As the counts were halted by order from the politicians,  Hillary Clinton had gotten a solid 2.9 MILLION more popular votes than the donald.  For the Republicans to claim that they have a “Mandate” under these circumstances is nothing more than the ravings of a delusion madman.
  • Be Clear about what you are talking about.
  • Do not write a lengthy, emotional rant.  Be polite, and simply tell them whether you support or oppose the issue,  and give them a single reason why you feel that way.
  • Repeat as necessary.
  • CLING to the basic truth that “All that Evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing”  and use that as motivation.

Your Elected officials pay attention when 10,000 emails show up.   They pay attention when thousands of constituents call them up.  Why?  Well, it is fairly simple.  They like their jobs!  They know that the folks that are contacting them are the voters that care and are paying attention to what they are doing.  They are also the people that can vote for someone else if they are sufficiently unhappy with the job the incumbent is doing.

Politicians might ignore a petition with 10,000 signatures, but, 10,000 emails, phone calls,  or snail mail notes make a big impact and will get their attention.

  1. Talk to your friends and family about issues.  Again,  as above,  be polite, ready to listen,  and respond with reasonable facts and not name calling or dismissive,  snarky comments.  Think about your values,  and understand why you believe those values.  That way,  you can make a reasonable argument in trying to get them to vote with you.
  2. As a part of the need for voting which I mentioned in item #1in he first section,  make sure that you know when elections will be held.  Take a little time to look at the candidates, and understand their positions on issues.   This will help with item #1 in this section.  If you understand who is advocating what,  you can do a much better job of discussing the issues and make better arguments for who (or what) to vote for.
  3. When Election Day approaches,  touch base with the people you know.  Find out if they are going to vote.  If not,  then urge them to do so.  Offer to get them to the polls if there are transportation issues.  If there are issues with getting correct registration,  then, either help that neighbor to get their registration run through,  or help organize a bus to take a group in.   These are not big things,  but, they will help cut down on the percentage of voters that did not cast a vote in the 2016 elections, and that will be VERY good for Democracy.
Only 9 days to go.
God Help Us All!
Bee Man Dave

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