So Here’s What I Think

Keep in mind I’m an elderly white baby boomer female who knows nothing about real world politics (back up the salt truck) . . .

I think there are two Americas at this point, the diverse, liberal elitists on the Western Coast and the Northeast, and the white, socially conservative Heartland. And I think we demonize each other because we’ve been so polarized by our political parties. The Democrats with their (our) organization and ground game have had the White House for eight years, trying to govern from the top down while dealing with Republican Congresses elected from the bottom up. It’s been a national vs state game. And the state approach won by a hair.

Abortion rights have been rolled back at the state level. Marijuana is legal at the state level a lot of places. The Death Penalty has been reinstated at a lot of state levels. Right-to-die is legal in some states. Bathroom bills are made at the state level. Gerrymandering is accomplished at the state level. If Clinton wins the popular vote and Trump wins the Electoral College, this election was decided at the state level. The state level is where national policy is born not most quickly but most effectively.

When change is instituted from the top down, it comes faster and more surgically, but it splits the country. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation sparked off the Civil War between two Americas already battling each other. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act helped Republicans create the Southern Strategy that deliberately widened the divide. Both of those acts were not just long overdue, they were crucial to America’s identity as a nation–that statue out in the harbor is our most iconic image–but they also came from the top down because it was the only way to begin to combat America’s racism. And then we elected Obama twice. We did the right thing at the national level all three times, and all three times, the country split further apart politically. It was necessary, but we never healed.

People have said this election was about economics, but the economy is in the best shape it’s been in years. They said it was about change, about throwing out the Old Pro Politicians, but Republican incumbents are being sent back to Congress in droves. This election was about identity, about who we are, and the touchstone was race. One side said “We’re diverse and accepting” and the other side “We’re white and we need protected from terrorists (and immigrants and blacks and women and trans people and . . .).” One political party marginalized that whites only group and the other exploited it, and in so doing both sides made white people in the flyover states a radicalized minority with a clear identity to fight for, to make America great white again.

I’m pretty sure that what happens next is going to be a nightmare. But I’m also pretty sure the way to fix it is at the state level, not by polls and ads and flyers and robocalls, but by people talking to people. A couple of months ago I read a survey that showed that people who lived in communities with immigrants were not the people who were anti-immigration; it was the people who lived in white enclaves who were screaming “immigrant-terrorist-rapists.” We don’t demonize people we know. We may not like them, but we don’t think they’re the first wave of the Antichrist’s army or deranged White Supremacists trying to make The Handmaid’s Tale reality. We find common ground. We figure out a way to work together so we can live together. And we change things locally that percolate up to the national level. It takes years, but it works. Just ask the Republicans in the red states who have been crafting local law for decades. We lost the top because they won the bottom. So we work from the bottom up now.

The good news is that a lot of people who said, “I don’t like either candidate so I’m not going to vote” or “I’m going to vote my conscience” are looking around like the rest of us, trying to figure out what happened. And even in writing “the rest of us” I’ve picked a side. We have to stop picking sides and pick causes. We have to stop laying blame and start making common ground. We have to stop thinking of Us and Them and think about protecting decency and human rights at the local level. Gay marriage is legal nationally now because it began at the state level. I’m fairly sure that marijuana will be legal nationally in a very few years because the preponderance of states will have legalized it. If the Republican government repeals Obamacare, we can work to get single payer systems in place at the state level. We’re going to lose a lot, but not as much as the most reactionary of Republicans think because even though half the country voted for The Way We Were, the other half said No We’re Not That Anymore. Black Lives Matter is not going away. The millions of women on both sides of the divide who’ve discovered that we haven’t come that long a way, baby, are not going away. We just all have to be smarter and more open-minded on both sides, and we have to be active.

And part of that is to look clearly at what’s going to happen. The Republicans will “repeal Obamacare.” But the no pre-existing condition clause will stay because people love that. They might try to privatize Medicare, but I’m pretty sure the AARP will be down on them like a ton of gray bricks. Roe vs Wade is under attack, but Planned Parenthood is everywhere and is going to be well-funded this winter; I’m going to my local branch on Monday to see how I can help and bringing a check. (Also, you can sign up for Amazon Smile and designate PP as your charity. Every little bit helps.)

The asshats who were just elected are not my America, but I’m pretty sure my America will triumph in the long run if we keep fighting for equality and common sense. History bends toward justice, it doesn’t provide it free of charge. We have work to do. All politics is local, so let’s start there.

ETA: If you’re in the mood to write checks, the ACLU is always good:


ETA: Maggie Hassan is now the Democratic Senator from NH. And the Senate is split 50/50 with Pence the tie-breaker.

103 thoughts on “So Here’s What I Think

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think this is also why the polls and prognosticators were so far off. The people in the middle of the country and in the small towns were either overlooked or discounted as having low impact on the election. And the distance and sometimes disdain fueled a fire that is now being felt nationwide.

    1. Apparently, Trump voters trust the system less and saw people polling them as a symbol of that system – and thus refused to tell them who they were voting for.

    2. I’m another elderly baby boomer but live in the U.K. I am also married to an Italian and my children have dual nationality. Here, the decision to leave the EU was built on hate for Europeans. Greed, only talking about the money that goes to the EU not about the millions of pounds that go to support the poorest parts of the U.K. The battle cries stop the immigrants, we want our country back, we don’t want to be under unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
      So what have we got. Thousands homeless. People starving to death. Disabled discriminated against. Families like mine unwelcome and insulted, beaten up, some loosing their lives. We also have a prime minister who not only was not elected by the people but not even her own party elected her and we haven’t even started Brexit yet.
      This unelected Prime Minister is going to the Supreme Court to stop parliament having a say on the conditions for leaving the EU.
      Democracy is officially dead in the UK.
      Saying that,
      I am one of the hundreds of thousands who have joined the Labour Party to try to support what I consider is a fundamental duty, to care for and protect the vulnerable in our society. Fight racism and the right for all to flourish not the privileged few.
      I hope and pray that Americans find peace in their society but after seeing what Trump intends to do in the first 100 days of his presidency I fear for you.
      A big hug ? to you all.

      1. You know one thing about this that is good. The US has been in stasis for years because the Republicans blocked everything. Now they own the government and can do whatever they want. And it’s going to be brutal. But they’re also going to own it. Everything that happens is going to belong to them. So I think things are going to be a lot more clear around here. And that’s something.

        1. Yeah. My husband is a Republican. With blinders on.

          He’s absolutely convinced that Roe vs Wade will not even be looked at, much less overturned. I don’t think he’s even thought about TRAP laws nationally. I reminded him election night that he’ll need bail money for me.

          And he’s also convinced that ACA will be repealed and replaced in one fell swoop. I do not share that conviction. I’m about 99.98% certain that it will be repealed without a replacement in place. Because the party has promised to do that so many times.

          I’m kinda of looking forward to tossing that back in his face. Which does not make me a very good person or wife right now.

          I also do not have faith that Trump will read the bills crossing his desk to be signed OR listen to the explanations from those who have read them prior to signing them. I hope I’m wrong on that part.

  2. This is what both my honey and Helen Philpot (This too shall pass…like a kidney stone) said today. As did Hillary in her speech – watched it at work and cried at my desk. After I’ve gotten some sleep and my second wind I’ll be able to do it. I’ll get the chance at Thanksgiving because we have family members who voted for the Flaming Cheeto. Thankful to live in Massachusetts though don’t know if I could handle it in one of the Carolinas or Georgia..

  3. “We don’t demonize people we know.”

    Sadly, that’s not true:

    “Neighboring communities who once lived together in peace have committed some of the most disturbing genocidal violence in recent decades: ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia; the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda; or Sunni-versus-Shia violence in today’s Iraq. As these instances illustrate, lethal violence does not always come at the hands of outsiders or foreigners—it can come just as easily from someone who was once considered a friend.”

    As far as I know, German Jews in the 1930s were pretty well integrated and that didn’t help. Slavery’s another situation where people can live alongside others and still treat them horribly. People have disowned their own children for being LGBT.

    1. Okay, then it’s harder to demonize people we know.

      I keep thinking back to Liv-as-a-racist-old-man telling Clive, “Well, you’re one of the good ones.” Even acknowledging some of Them can be good ones is a start.

  4. Jenny, you’re so right, national policy begins at the local and state levels. That’s not as sexy and cool as the presidency, though. It’s so frustrating to see third parties, especially, float pres. candidates every four years, but almost completely ignore city councils and state legislatures.

    One nitpick, though: the Emancipation Proclamation was made in January 1863, two years after the first secession of the southern states (Dec 1860 – Feb 1861) and 18 months after the confederacy attacked the US at Ft. Sumter (Apr 1861). The Civil War was well underway by the time Lincoln gave that speech.

      1. Your thesis is right. The national election of Lincoln in 1860 spurred pro-slavery factions to promote secession from the United States. After SC seceded, the confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter (an American Fort in Charleston’s harbor) and the Civil War began.

  5. I was talking with a friend today, and he pointed out something interesting — if you look at the breakdown almost all of the rural areas in the nation went for Trump, while Clinton had strong numbers in urban areas. This is the same pattern we’ve seen with Brexit. So what we’ve got is a break in the value systems between city dwellers and rural types. This makes the failure of the polls clear.

    1. This seems to be what went on, but I had a hard time fathoming how people in the heartland could see Trump as a champion of small town/rural values as he’s such an urban citizen. I think his experience in media and creating a persona stood him in good stead in playing to crowds and saying what each group wanted to hear.

      1. That’s the thing I keep coming back to — the word “Campaign” means something different to politicians than it does to business folks. I suspect his election speeches were marketing to reach a target audience and sell them a product, in this case a vote. And he showed us some things we didn’t suspect with it. Educated and urbanized folks deal with their compatriots, waiting in line for service at the counter and flipping each other off on the highways and streets, but it’s easy to think that more people live in cities than in small communities. This election questions that theory. But Jenny’s right — small steps equate to big steps over time, and change needs to come from the local level. And as for the whole us vs. them situation, note that the German jews, though they were next door in many cases, were still made into “them” before they were moved to buildings behind fences with armed guards. Our best hope is to keep reminding everyone we know that there is no them, we’re all us.

        1. There are more people in big cities, the majority of the population of the country is clustered on the coasts.
          It’s just that there are an almost equal number of people spread throughout the rest of the country.
          If you look at the vote totals in the various states, a lot of them were squeakers, right down the middle.

      2. I think he addressed them directly. He lied to them, but he said, “I speak for you, not the coasts and the elites.”
        And they bought it because nobody else was speaking to them.

        1. Also, thanks to his television series Trump had been inside their living rooms just like their friends. So he was one of them. Even though he never was and never will be.

          1. One of my film major friends told me there was a study suggesting that if you watch a show for years and you like it, eventually your brain physically starts responding as if it sees one of your real-life friends when you see the face of someone on that show. I don’t think he would have been as trusted without the years in people’s living rooms.

        2. A lot of this has to do with choice of media though. If all you listen to is country radio and Fox News, you are only getting one message, and that message is not “the coastal elites are working to make sure their heartland co-citizens have health care and income support and public safety.”

    2. Some of this is due to the “in the box” thinking in many rural areas who do not see nor are used to anything outside their own “tribal” knowledge. One of the major players which is totally reprehensible, are those right wing fanatical fundamentalist groups, the majority of whom are in these smaller towns and the have a headlock on every thought that their constituents make. I have seen many “you are not Christian if you don’t vote for Trump” all the way to “he is the savior of our nation and a wonderful Christian”–how they sold that whitewash is beyond me but when you give your thinking to someone else, this is what you get. I know quite a few who used to be in these cults and it is not pretty. The indoctrination is trying to seep into the rest of society and this needs to stop. Vent over.

  6. The whole idea if being a physical ally matters. If you are white/cis/hetero, literally walk with and stand with people who will be harassed.

    Bill McGibben had a great thing to say to retirees at COP 21 which was to protest because current anti-terror laws make it nearly impossible for young people to protest without risking job security.

  7. Thank you for this. Truly. In an hour, I head into my Gender & Women’s Studies classroom for tonight’s lesson on privilege. I’m cribbing some of your thoughts, to pass on to my students.

    Hopefully, inspiring activism from the pain and fear that many of them/us are feeling.

  8. I was just thinking that I was going to send checks to some of the organizations that stand for what I believe, like women’s reproductive rights. I’m feeling so powerless today, and maybe that will help. I will also do my best to continue to stand in any way I can with those who are targeted for being other/not Our Kind.

    My hope, if I have any left, is that a) Trump will turn out to be as big a disaster for the Republicans as he is for the rest of us–not their great savior, as they are spinning it today. (BITE ME, Paul Ryan, you hypocritical bastard.) And b) that some positive change will somehow come out of this, without the country being completely torn down in the process.

    One of my friends called this morning to commiserate and said she was going to go out and buy a gun and learn how to use it, and take her money out of the bank. I pointed out as gently as possible that if everyone took that course of action, it would probably make things a lot worse.

    Me, I just contemplated how many kittens I could adopt right this very minute. (Magic the Cat, Queen of the Universe, says the answer is “None.” Spoilsport.)

    Thanks for your words of sanity, Jenny. I really needed to hear them today.

  9. I’ll be interested to see what his approval ratings are in a year. A lot of what I heard him promise he won’t be able to do – either at all or fast enough to satisfy many people. And politics is nothing if it’s not “what have you done for me lately.”

  10. I was actually thinking something along the same lines on my way in to work this morning. I work at a university. The majority of my co-workers have a very liberal mindset. It has affected me. I am more moderate than when I started here. I was thinking how helpful it would be if people would spend large amounts of time, 40 hours a week for 10 years, with people who think differently than them. It is quite valuable to have one on one conversations discussing sensitive topics with people you respect who disagree with your position, because often each will gain insight into why the other person thinks that way. The other side becomes less villainous or stupid and more human and reasonable. Another benefit is we break down stereotypes. When I read Teresa’s comment above, I had to stop and go, wait, you’re not telling me that because I’m a Christian you think I’m a brainwashed member of a cult, are you? Because, if so, I’m offended. I didn’t vote for Trump. Please don’t lump everyone into a group because of what your limited experiences and filtered information. Which brings me back to the point of this post, we need to spend more time with people who think & believe differently than we do so we can work towards repairing our country.

    1. Yes, and Bill Bishop made this point in his article, “The big sort- Why the Clustering of Like-minded America Is Tearing Us Apart” (published in 2008) It’s an excellent read and gets a lot of good data to back up his premise that we’re balkanizing and not showing the unity we once did. I dealt with this in my song “Tribe”, which is the title track on that album I need to finish someday. As I say in verse 1,, “I’m a stick and you’re a tick and he’s a stick and she’s a stick and we’re all just sticks in the greenwood. Individual all can take us tied together none can break us, get together if only we could. Black and white and green and brown and the colorors all round with ideologies hued and shaded, individuality puts everybody out at sea unless the vicious cycle’s abated.” I wrote that in 1994, and it’s more true today than it was then. There is no them, there’s only us, and it’s not them getting thrown under the bus, it’s us.

    2. I am a Christian too. I have read too many of these extreme fanatical postings to ignore the problems they place on our society. I have no trouble with their small groups believing what they wish. Unfortunately, they find it necessary to convert every individual they meet or have our laws adjusted for them. I have a big problem with this.

      Extreme fanatics are what I talk about. They are trying to change all the laws in our country to suit their beliefs. This is part of what happened.

    3. That’s not what she said at all. She said there are some small fundamentalist communities that promoted Trump as the only Christian choice. I think a lot of that is anti-feminism, in the stay-home-and-have-babies mode. Obviously, that’s not Christianity as a whole. But I think Christianity does get a bad rap because so many of loudest people are the fundamentalists. True Christians shut up and do good works so they don’t get the attention the fundies do.

      1. I’m glad for the clarification. Thank you both! Because it did seem a little bit, well actually a lot to me, like that was what Teresa was saying, so I wanted to ask. Not asking would have perpetuated a misunderstanding. This is why people need to have more conversations and fewer postings into the ether.

      2. Same problem with Republicans on bigots vs. non-bigots these days. The loudest, meanest, most obnoxious people have tainted the term.

  11. Thank you for both of your posts today. I’m still having panic attacks, but maybe once some time passes I can remember that good people are still out there. I know so many people whose struggle just got exponentially harder and it’s hard to believe in the bright side. I will definitely be changing my Amazon smile to PP, I don’t remember it as an option when I first signed up. I was almost as surprised to see the republicans win in the senate and congress as the presidential race.
    Once NaNoWriMo ends (I’m a ML, so it has to be my priority this month) I will also look for local things I can do.

    1. She won the popular vote. I think we have to say that everyday for the next 4 years.
      And we have to stop being distracted from the absolute necessity of getting rid of the electoral college.
      All the stuff you said on the local level is true, too.
      Thank you, Jenny.

  12. In California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was seen as rescuing hero swooping in as savior. My feeling is this Trump is going to replicate Schwarzenegger’s ratings as governor both beginning of term and end of term. Wasn’t pretty at the end. Of course, so far we in California have survived thus far, but Arnold wasn’t Donald. Who knew in 2016 beliefs this extreme could win over a nation?

    1. MJ, thanks for posting Michael Moore’s five points. It’s helped put things in context for me.

      Jenny, thank you for providing your thoughtful commentary in these unsettling times.

  13. There is one point you left out.

    Blue states pay MORE into the federal government than they take out. They are less reliant on government installations like bases, public lands and national parks for those funds. Red states take out more than they pay in.

    Okay, when we were organizing on the state level, let’s organize to keep our federal tax dollars in our own states. That’s local control, right? That’s a Republican belief.

    I’m in accounting. I never forget the Golden Rule is actually he who has the gold makes the rules.

    1. Ooooh, this is such a good point. Them’s that’s gots the money, makes the rules . . . to some extent. I’d propose it as an experiment: take away the federal funding (and give back federal taxes) for one year, except it’d hurt the most vulnerable in our rural neighborhoods. The rural rich would ride it out, buy a gas-guzzling car, and then scream “Why can’t we do this every year?” I suppose.

        1. I’m glad we have federal parks and military bases too – even those that are not in my state. I’m in favor of federal dollars going to states for roads and schools and hospitals.

          But if they’re going to elect Trump, because scary brown people and all Democrats are takers – then I say let’s stop underwriting their delusion. Let Mississippi & Alabama live without Huntsville & Camp Shelby. Let them fund their own schools, their own highways.

          It turns out I’m going to need my state to start working on either a single payer or some lite version of Obamacare. I can’t afford to be generous anymore.

        2. Don’t get to fond of them. Conservatives have strongly believed in privatization. The Park Service started going downhill under Reganomics when a lot of services were privatized and logging increased exponentially. This could also affect BPA and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Be prepared for another selloff.

          1. Teddy Roosevelt would roll over in his grave.

            “He doubled the number of sites within the National Park system. As President from 1901 to 1909, he signed legislation establishing five new national parks: Crater Lake, Oregon; Wind Cave, South Dakota; Sully’s Hill, North Dakota (later re-designated a game preserve); Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt, Oklahoma (now part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area). However another Roosevelt enactment had a broader effect: the Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906. The Antiquities Act enabled President Roosevelt and succeeding Presidents to proclaim historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest in federal ownership as national monuments.”

            It’s truly depressing that the Republicans went from that attitude to defending those lunatics in Oregon.

  14. Thank you for this, Jenny. It’s the first thing I’ve read today that explains things that doesn’t make me want to cry.

  15. I woke up this morning with much the same idea about how we’re going to have to go lower down on the food chain. Traditionally, Republicans have been about States Rights over Federal Rights.

    But I think it’s going to have to go one step further. The state I’m from is terribly divided between liberals and conservatives, between city (for what passes as city in my state) and townies and rural. When I was in college, people talked about splitting up the state into two, and for all I know, they still talk about it today.

    We are going to have to cooperate and be active on the local level. Do what we can with government funds that we can get, but also self-tax ourselves, and put money (what used to be called charity) toward causes we want to forward *on the local level*. Where we can keep an eye on things.

    Economies of scale are going to mean that there’s a lot more waste. A national organization could buy a million widgets at a discount and distribute them, while Littletown’s organization will need to buy a 100 at full price (or slight discount).

    The internet, though, makes it easier than it was in the past. Maybe there will be charitable Groupons to distribute goods and services. People with bragging rights will post online about ways that work; people can find those successful programs and adapt them to their own communities. The smart bunnies in the small towns will have to step up and figure out things, which will mean a bigger pool of potential leaders with practical experience in the future.

    I think we’ll get through it. Americans are creative. It will work out.

  16. Obama’s post-presidency project is apparently going to be putting an end to gerrymandering. Will be following the progress closely. I live in a state with an independent redistricting commission. We got it through a ballot measure and its 2010 map was upheld by the Supreme Court when it was challenged. I think voters in both parties disapprove of gerrymandering. It stinks of cheating and there’s no guarantee the practice will always favor your party, so I suspect getting rid of it would be popular. If you can do it directly through the ballot, that might be the fastest way.

    1. I think both parties disapprove of gerrymandering except when it benefits them.

      Personally, I’d like to see straight lines drawn and every ward be the same size. But I know that population density makes this the wrong way to go. But damn, it’s be so much easier…

  17. Dear Jenny,

    I want you to know that you were a light today. Today, I made a joke, and my nineteen-year-old trans (and terrified) kid said, “Humor. Har.” We then burst into a fit of giggles.

    Thank you for that.

  18. Referring to liberals as “elitists” might not be the best choice of words. It’s a disdainful term and it’d be like calling conservatives “hicks”.

    Otherwise, this was very thoughtful post.

    1. I was trying to set up the opposite ends of the spectrum. Diverse elitists and white rednecks kind of thing. I started with Diverse Well-Educated but that didn’t set up the other side. So yeah, it’s a mess, but what I was trying to get across–and didn’t–is that we’ve demonized each other, like rival teams, the Elitists vs the Rednecks. I’ll ponder on how to do that better.

  19. I think one of the less direct, more long-term ways we bridge the divide is through stories. My friend’s conservative Texas mother changed her mind on gay-marriage because of Modern Family. Obviously writing preachy stories doesn’t work. But sometimes compassionate, honest, funny stories feel like a safer way to explore a new idea. And it goes both ways. I have accidentally checked out books that turned out to be Christian romance novels before (looking at you, strategically placed library sticker), and while that’s not a genre I feel like returning to, reading those stories helped me understand what the world looks like from someone else’s viewpoint.

    Working directly with people is better. But if you are living in a place where everyone agrees with you, stories from somewhere else aren’t a bad substitute.

  20. I really needed to hear this today. Thank you. I want to share with you something that another friend said to me yesterday, which also helped and gave me hope, which is that we will see the rise of an Anti-Trump (like Obama was the Anti-Bush in many respects.) There are enough people who are, like us, frustrated and interested in action to protect our values, and we’ll see a charismatic candidate that we can rally behind. Someone who will not be afraid to challenge Trumpism. And when that person comes, we can be ready. So we can start preparing and paving the way now, through local activism and state activism and exactly those kinds of conversations.

    (Also, we can band together to help defend Planned Parenthood because they are going to need it. )

    1. I think it’s going to be the 60s and 70s all over again.
      I came from a solidly Republican family. I was 19 when Kent State happened, in college at Bowling Green so the Kent State students came to us after the shootings. My government shot at people like me for saying it was wrong. I’ve been a liberal Democrat since that day.
      I think the anger is going to be worse, if possible. Back then the people dying were kids sent to war. Now it’s going to be people deprived of health care, necessary institutions privatized, the safety net destroyed. It’s not just a war on minorities and women any more, now it’s an outright war on the middle class and poor.

      As I understand it, less than half the people in this country voted. (And when I look at how narrow some of those margins in the states were . . . Jesus.)
      And less than half of the half of the people who voted went for Trump.
      Which means he was elected with less than a quarter of majority.
      And he’s going to do a lot of damage to some of that quarter.
      I think the only people who are going to be solidly behind him are rich white people, and a lot of them aren’t completely morally bankrupt.
      And there are some damn good protest groups and structures already in place.
      We really are living in interesting times.

      1. I’m still processing all this but I’m starting to think that one of the biggest things we can do is get out there now and start rebuilding the base. Talk to people, get them registered. Go door to door. Fight the repeals of the VRA wherever we can.

        There are groups already doing this, so I’ll personally be looking to help boost them where I can.

        One problem I’m finding is that it feels there’s so much to do and I don’t know where to begin. 🙁

        1. It’s funny. I thought, “If I were younger, I’d go get involved in politics, learn the ropes at the local level, run for local public office.” But the last thing the world needs is another sixty-something white person in office. We need to plant the ground for the future with the Bernie followers who are in their twenties and thirties and forties, who will make a difference for decades.
          I’m still going to get in touch with my local party to see what I can do. But just as the Republicans need to reinvent themselves, so do the Democrats.

          1. Jenny, what you can do could be huge. NJ has state elections in 2017. Both the governor and the state legislature are up for re-election.

            I’m not saying you should or have to run (although think Millicent Fenwick) but off year elections traditionally have much lower turn out than presidential elections and odd year elections usually are even lower. If you could work to increase turnout that would be a big deal. And Chris Christie can’t run this time.

            Nothing changes if we don’t get more progressive voices in the state houses.

        2. My nephew started going to his local Democratic Party meetings and discovered they really were operating more as a social and potluck gathering for, as he said, older white
          people. He lives in Seattle.

          So it sounds as though the first thing that needs to happen is to figure a way to make local party meetings more relevant, perhaps by having different age study groups for various issues which would then meet to work through the varying viewpoints. He said people were friendly but he clearly felt sidelined. After two meeting he never went back.

          And I suspect the Republican Party meetings are much the same. So what happens at the local level is that people with an entrenched system make all the decisions. I read somewhere that the nominees are generally selected by less than 13 million people. Not being a particularly social person I am not sure how I would work with this. Clearly I need to give this more thought.

          1. To add to this, my dad, who is almost 70, told me today that he went to several Libertarian party gatherings, and everyone there was much younger than he is. So there may be some interesting demographics at work here.

          2. I think a lot of work gets done at so-called “social” gatherings. Lots of one-to-one talking instead of a bunch of lecturing. Maybe he needs to organize a “Netflix and Politicize” night once a month — watch a movie (maybe even one related to issues!), and then have a social media group on which to comment on said movie during the following month. People who can’t make it to the meetings could watch it on their own dime and still comment. (Although movies aren’t really supposed to be used in group viewings like that; FBI could bust you for stealing the movie, I suppose, if they got real mad at protests. Maybe the individuals should watch the movie on their own, and then meet once a month to discuss it and other things over a potluck/bring your own bento dinner. Then the FBI would have to bust you on tax evasion or broken headlights, the old fashioned way.)

            This kind of reminds me of the WorldCon to a certain extent, in the speculative fiction writing world. Younger people are making their own cons, or cosplay groups, or LARPing or whatever, and not participating as much in something like the World Con. I’ve attended twice and had a great time, but still, at over-40, I was definitely one of the younger people in the room.

      2. I have been thinking about Obama care going away and some of the other social programs disappearing. A lot of the people who voted for him are people who benefit or have family that benefit and they seem to hate these programs. I am not sure this will hold if the programs disappear but as it stands they think they want them gone. Many people feel that they can get help from family, friends, neighbors and their church and they don’t want to pay the taxes that help support the programs. They see the system as broken. My own sister is going to be so happy if a lot of this goes away and she lives in a red state that benefits massively from federal taxes. She also feels entitled to because her state has a small population.

        A lot of other people beside those who want these programs to disappear are going to be hurt. But perhaps it is time to give the conservatives what they want. If federal taxes can be cut then local taxes can be put in place to provide local support. In my city several times we have enacted local taxes for local support for education and other things. And in case of Oregon if Obamacare disappears,we had a state insurance program that will undoubtedly still continue.

        1. The sad thing with relying predominantly on local taxes for things like education is that it reinforces the cycle of poverty. A poor area does not have sufficient income to be taxed at a rate that will provide for quality schools. A poor education means poor kids have a harder time getting higher education and better jobs. Which means that they continue to be too poor to provide the tax base to make things better. That was the point of Obamacare.

          Unless there is a commitment from the community to help carry their less fortunate fellow humans by committing to spread the tax burden, and help them get a quality of life and sufficient support to break the cycle nothing will change.

          Local taxation is the answer only in a community sufficiently prosperous. Everyone else starves.

          1. This. Plus many local communities in the red states are controlled by people who have really horrible ideas about human nature. Like if you’re poor, it’s your fault.
            That’s why I think it has to be at the state level. Yes, you have to work locally, but legislation has to happen at the state level because local communities can be hellholes of bigotry and stupidity.

        2. This.

          Red states actually have higher abortion rates. A lot more of their citizens are on federal assistance programs and they benefit from federal dollars. Obamacare helped a lot of small businesses keep insurance rates low enough so we could offer insurance to our employees.

          If the voters who wanted Trump don’t understand that, it would be elitist of me to protect them from the fallout.

          1. The problem is, the Republicans will spin it as Obama’s fault. Hell, they tried to pin 9/11 on him.
            Trump right now is tweeting that the protests are caused by the mainstream media. They’re certainly not against him.

          2. I agree they’ll try to spin it as Obama’s fault, but I wonder how successful they’ll be. A lot of the people in the Midwest that put Trump over 270 voted for Obama last time. When their lives don’t improve enough (or fast enough) to suit them, they may start looking for someone else to fix things. That’s what they did this year (I don’t discount the sexism and the white grievance, but if you switched from the first black president to the orange menace, I think there’s something more going on there, especially in the Midwestern states that flipped).

          3. I think a lot of it was that they really felt only the people on the coasts were being heard, and Trump lied to them and said, “I hear you.” And they wanted to believe it and they voted for him. And now they’re going to pay because the Republicans are going to Ayn Rand the hell out of them.

        3. I think that what’s going to happen is going to change people’s minds.
          Ryan is already talking about privatizing social security and rolling back Medicare. You know how many Baby Boomers there are in this country? AARY ps going to be all over this.
          I keep going back to what it felt like in the seventies. We were a complacent nation up to then. Vietnam radicalized a lot of us. I can see that happening to now in the protests in the streets, in younger people saying, “How could this happen?” (Did you vote? Half the country didn’t. That’s how it happened.) And once radicalized, you stay that way. I really do think this is Extinction Burst. It’s just going to be hell for two years.

          1. My baby boomer parents both use Social Security and Medicare. My father has been a Republican since the late ’60s and I accepted a long time ago that it’s never going to change. My mother just doesn’t have much interest in politics, and she didn’t vote for president this year (I told her she can’t complain to me about the results for the next 4 years, she has to do it with someone else). I strongly suspect that the second Paul Ryan’s plans start to have an effect on her life directly she’ll be willing to vote Democrat. And I will happily supply with her all the facts required to convince her.

          2. The social security part is really scary. Most of our retirement is in 401 K plans because my husband worked for an outfit that was allowed to have a private retirement in place of Social Security. The only stable income we have is Social Security that we qualified before he took this job. The 401 K plan tanked 20 percent during the last year and a half and despite the stock market recovering is still down 12 percent. The financial guys will love this because they will make a bundle.

        4. SAdly, my state is red. That bastard governor we have is NOT going to raise taxes if he can avoid it. And if he can find a way to fuck over my city, purposely or on accident, he will.

          And I’m sorry about all the posts well after the fact. I’m only now starting to be able to read and process and think.

  21. I have just read this article and while it’s really depressing, it has this line, which I though the warm and supportive Argh community might appreciate.

    “We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides.”

    1. That article, but even more so the New Yorker article it links to at one point, scares the hell out of me, because it’s everything I’ve been trying to articulate about the state of the world for the last several months and haven’t been able to quite put together. We’ve seen several European countries, Britain and now the USA fall under far right control, and I can’t help being scared that Australia’s next. Our own far right parties had a not insignificant minority in our last federal election, and they currently hold the balance of power in our Senate.

      Whether it happens here or not, I think in the short term we’re about to find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of having to be grownups in the global balance of power, and that’s something we haven’t really prepared for. Frankly speaking, it’s something we’re never been good at, but somebody has to hold the line on human rights now, and from where I’m sitting it’s either us or Canada. Probably Canada.

  22. Well, I think one way to start this new chapter in American history is to think about social media at the grassroots level. It can be used for good. But it seems to me that it’s often not. It becomes a place for divisions to expand. Facebook is hell on earth.

    I just went through all the comments here, and it didn’t appear there were any conservatives. I could be wrong, but this seems like a homogenous group, politically. I’m generally conservative and small-townish, although I come from a very diverse family politically. So a big part of me feels afraid to speak on this particular thread. The only reason I dare to now is because you’re a kind person, Jenny, and fair, and you won’t flame someone unless he or she is being cruel or counterproductive to a discussion.

    My point is, when you discuss hot-button issues among a homogenous group, how can you ever move toward cooperation with “the other side”? Do you need to? I think so–otherwise, we just spin our wheels, throwing rocks, hurting each other, and our children cry and witness intolerance and grow up fragile and frightened. You can’t make the world a better place when you’re literally shaking and merely trying to survive (Maslow’s Hierarchy is something I often think about).

    If I were a newbie here, I would pass this post and page by. In the old days (pre-election 2016!), I would have said, that’s fine. We build our own tribes, and Jenny’s tribe wouldn’t want me there, and I don’t mesh well politically. But I feel like now–because we all love this country and want our kids to be happy and secure–the tribe answer isn’t good enough because it doesn’t solve the big problems we have, which are very big.

    Jenny, you want to help your causes. Getting grassroots movements going is really the way to go. And you’re right–every time the top makes a decree, it takes so much longer for the country to accept that decision. When we get things going from a state level, the acceptance rate is higher, quicker, and it’s an organic spread.

    But in our efforts to push our causes–which we believe are rights or moral imperatives, depending on your perspective–how can we avoid steamrolling the people who don’t want that cause to move forward and could stymie our efforts? I know it’s tempting to want to steamroll people who are ignorant. But we get more effective returns when we try to win people over instead.

    I think the Left and Right could find lots of common ground, but both sides feel wounded. Is it naive to hope that if we are kinder and less reactive–if we stop dissing each other on Facebook or on other social media–that maybe we could effect change and make this a better country?

    Thanks for making Argh a place where civility is valued and thinking matters.

    1. It’s interesting, because most of the time I feel like I’m alone in a political discussion. In my second political science course for my degree I was the only person in a large lecture style classroom who self-identified as a centrist, and the test we took to determine political orientation bore that out. And the Bill Bishop book I mentioned earlier (The Big Sort) gave me a lot of useful info to understand some of the dynamics at work in this election. But I agree that we are functioning in a different world than we knew even as late as George W’s second term. And another book, Buckminster Fuller’s “Utopia or Oblivion” also keeps popping up for me throughout this. It’s important to remember that the spectrum we are dealing with here is only applicable if we accept certain features of our society as game rules instead of mutable features. There are other structures, especially in terms of the economic meta-structure the world has right now, and those aren’t out of reach, just too unfamiliar for us to make an easy transition to them from where we are right now. (Wow, I’ve managed to respond to a thread more than once without bring up a musical theory reference, that’s surprising)

        1. Everything we use right now is built on the meta-economic model of scarcity. What we take for granted, like supply and demand, is predicated on there being a limit to supply. Fuller pointed out that 4% efficiency in production (which was what it was in the early 60’s) provides a good life for 44% of the Earth’s population, so increasing that threefold to 12% would give everyone on the planet the possibility of a comfortable life beyond what royalty could dream of before 1900. I suspect some of the numbers are a bit different, but it’s still an interesting idea, because if we get out of the scarcity model to one of abundance then a lot of what we’re concerned about becomes a non-issue. Take for example, the tax on air. What, you say, there’s no tax on air? Of course not, because there’s way more than we need. If we get other resources to this kind of level, like food, water, education, healthcare, shelter, etc., then it becomes a non-issue to just give them to everyone. Because you don’t see people hoarding air here on Earth. Another big benefit to this is that unemployment shifts from the bad side of the balance to something to be sought, because if production of necessities takes so little effort then there’s no reason for folks to work themselves into a stroke or heart attack, and it allows us as a race to leverage the one thing we have over robots, automated systems, and most other life on the planet — our ability to think. This is hy geeky folks get so jazzed about 3D printers, as they change the production paradigm. But back to scarcity, without it such concepts as socialism and capitalism lose their meaning and utility, because they’re based on allocating limited resources. And we’ve proved as a species that we have the intelligence to do more with less, though Fuller makes the point that in every case up to his writing in 1965 these innovations came from warfare. The book was a real “Triangle glasses” moment for me.

          1. That’s fascinating.
            It’s almost the guaranteed income idea, which I am squarely behind. Must think more about this.

    2. The little I know about conflict resolution tells me the place to start is by truly listening to each other, and understanding each other’s fears and needs/wants/hopes. I did a one-day workshop on it years ago, and the process I remember involved telling another person something that mattered to you (that had emotional charge), which they had to listen to without interruption, and then feed back to you in the form, ‘I hear you say . . . ‘ If they hadn’t got the meaning exactly right, you had to repeat the process until they did.

      No idea how you could use this right now; but I do think real, honest communication instead of selling quick fixes would be revolutionary.

      1. Also because I think we could come up with really good ways to live together if we put our heads together. (‘We’ being everyone.)

        1. I agree, JaneB! I just woke up this morning to the terrifying news that four Americans were killed in an attack at Bagram, the airbase in Afghanistan. My loved one is there and thankfully okay. I’m proud of our mission there because we’re trying to help stabilize the country. An effect of that is that the girls in Afghanistan can receive an education. It’s demoralizing when people look at me and see “conservative” instead of “person who cares.” I care about the world as much as anyone. I hope we can all work together to bring love and peace.

    3. The possibility of kindness and common ground sounds so wonderful, especially right now, and I do think they go together.

      You are also right about how terrible internet comments can be. I saw a thread tonight that was nasty on both sides (and it was a TV website where I imagine things were tame compared to somewhere like Reddit). The thing you notice about such comment threads – they should not be dignified with the title of conversation – is that everyone seems to be talking past each other and speaking a different language, not even trying to listen or understand. It makes places like this, and contributions like the one you made to a group you don’t feel you mesh with politically, that much more heartening when you find them.

    4. Social media is a very narrow band. People have started to equate doing something on social media with doing it in real life, but they don’t have the same impact. For instance people will retweet a charity message and feel good, but thats almost worthless compared to actually donating or volunteering. Likewise, political discussion here is nice for us but limited compared to talking to people with different views face to face, or as friends and neighbours. Thats where real progress and social change is made.

      1. This is true, that we need to take our talk and action out into the world, but I always feel that discussions like the ones that we have here help me to clarify my thinking on these subjects, to bring things I hadn’t thought of into the mix, to spot some of the holes in the logic, and have a sounder understanding of what I’m trying to say before I step into the arena. So, it’s a part of the process of change, but not the whole process.

        1. Enjoying this thoughtful conversation, and I just want to add one thing. If anyone here wants to learn more about why Trump has been so popular with the working class, watch Michael’s Moore’s short “The Biggest Fuck You Ever in Recorded History” video. It’s really moving. Michael Moore humanized Trump voters, many of whom feel hopeless and disenfranchised. Of course, on the other hand, we have the a-holes who voted for Trump, and we have Trump himself. But Moore captured how Trump appears almost like a demi-god to the desperate. Maybe that will give the rest of the country some empathy for their plight, and hopefully we can make it so no one ever feels that desperate again. Or if they do, that the whole country listens and takes action, including those of us who have jobs and are comfortable in our own spaces. It’s time to move out of them so we never leave a vacuum behind again. Vacuums get filled by whomever decides to take them on. In this case, Trump moved in while everyone was looking the other way.


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