When it comes to fighting back against Trump, there are so many issues it may be hard to figure out what to focus on first. Here’s my take:
Choose the issue or issues that have the following attributes, specifically for you:
- You are passionate about the issue.
- You have applicable knowledge or skills.
- You know or can find people to help you.
These are more important than whether it’s the biggest issue or the one generating the biggest controversy, or even the worst effects.
If you have knowledge and passion about an issue, and can find ways to connect with other like-minded activists, you can become an effective advocate. If not, you risk wasting time and energy that you would more effectively invest elsewhere.
Right now, I’m not particularly optimistic about democracy and political discourse in the United States. There are so many things to love about our country, but She has been quite broken for most of my politically aware lifetime, and I have trouble imagining a nearby future in which this changes meaningfully.
I left a long comment tonight on a Facebook post made by a friend about a hotly debated issue in American politics. The post referenced a popular but not recent, oversimplified news story that was only tangentially related to the issue.
The comment thread on Facebook quickly latched onto the tangential story instead of the more current and much more important issue itself, and commenters fell back to lazily repeating polarized talking points from the side they happened to agree with. In this specific case the more polarized comments happened to be the right-leaning ones, but both sides are guilty of this behavior depending on the issue.
Instead of ignoring the post or jumping into the fray to argue with people whose minds I’m nearly certain I had no chance of changing, I thought (probably naively) that I might do more good by attempting to elevate the level of discourse.
The rest of this post is that comment…
I won’t bother with jumping in on the “man-who” fallacies, except to say that the real truth in all of it is almost certainly somewhere in the middle, and is more complex than most are willing to bother to think too deeply about. Stories like [this] are like the UV bait light in the center of a bug-zapper. We see the glow, and can’t resist flying straight in.
The older I get, the more certain I am that polarization (even radicalization) of opinion in this country on LGBT issues, guns, political speech, size of government, healthcare, religious freedom, immigration, and on and on and on…, is deeply hurting our country through a lost sense of shared values and community, and has been for decades.
We as a nation of individual citizens have to start to realize that we have so much more in common than not. We have to find ways to allow ourselves be more tolerant and understanding. We need to be able to communicate – even disagree and debate – with sensitivity to those with different opinions than our own. If we can’t do this we will continue to spend our money, time, and energy on fear-based, straw-man, defensive, 24-hour-news-cycle bullshit, with no real hope to change anything for the better. We keep on doing this instead of seeking out and implementing real pragmatic improvements, based instead on the common ground and understanding that are the highest aspects of our shared cultural heritage and our core values as Americans.
I still hope we believe in democracy, but these days it’s sometimes hard to believe we even know what it is.
Policy and politics should not be an “us vs them”, winner-take-all activity. It’s ALL US! It’s our own responsibility as individuals to respect each other and ourselves enough to tackle real issues and work to resolve our differences, rather than attack people we’ve never met just because someone said something about them that we find disagreeable.
The political class and the media (mainstream or otherwise) are reflections of our own attitudes and actions. If we want better government and less biased reporting, we have to invest ourselves into the future of our culture, our government and our community.
On the other hand, we could just keep screaming at each other and not listening to anyone who disagrees with us.
I know which path I prefer.
Just before the midterm election, I wrote a pretty misinformed post about how broken the US health insurance system is. While my level of due-diligence when it comes to the protections afforded by the Affordable Care Act was pretty lacking, I did then–and still do have some serious concerns about whether the pre-existing condition protections will continue to stand in the future.
On election night, I saw TX Senator Ted Cruz on ABC News say the following:
“The Obama economy isn’t working… People want leadership… Now that the Republicans have won the majority, it’s encumbent on us to stand up and lead.”
(“Uh oh, here we go,” I thought.)
When asked, “And what happens to Obamacare?” Cruz answered: (emphasis mine)
“I think Republicans should do everything humanly possible to stop Obamacare…
“I think we need to follow through on the promises that the Republicans made on the campaign trail. We need to start by using reconciliation to pass legislation repealing Obamacare, and then if President Obama vetos that we should systematically pass legislation addressing the greatest harms from Obamacare. For example, passing legislation saying that you can’t have your healthcare cancelled, you can’t lose your doctor because of Obamacare. Passing legislation saying you can’t be forced into part-time work because of Obamacare, like so many people have been, especially single moms have been hammered by Obamacare on that. Passing legislation saying, ‘No insurance company bailouts under Obamacare.’ And teeing those up one at a time, and forcing the President to come to a decision: Will he listen to the overwhelming views of the American people, or will he simply try ot veto them one after the other, after the other? If he does the latter, that’ll be a real mistake, and I very much hope he doesn’t.”
Basically what I hear in this is that the republicans have a game plan for attacking Obama politically, and it’s centered around the Affordable Care Act. Specifically:
- Try to repeal it wholesale. Knowing that this will never happen, move to step 2:
- Initiate a massive campaign to “inform” people of what they’re “losing” because of the ACA (a.k.a. Obamacare).
- Systematically misrepresent protections as causing hardship for middle-class swing voters in blocks that the GOP needs to win back (“single moms” for example), so they’ll hopefully swing to the Republicans in 2016.
The theory represented in step 3, as teed up by steps 1 and 2, is that the ACA is unbearably expensive for small businesses and insurance companies, and that therefore small businesses are forcing people into part-time work (so they don’t have to pay for insurance), and that insurance companies are going to go out of business and need a government bailout, with the implication that tax payers will have to foot the bill like they did for the (enormously unpopular) bank bailouts.
I don’t know that much about the impact to small businesses, so I can’t speak to that angle in a very fact-based way.
But I can tell you that the insurance companies are not in trouble. The ACA, via mandates to make insurance available, and the government health insurance market (Healthcare.gov) made the addressable market for health insurance much larger than it was previously. Insurance companies are not in trouble—to the contrary, under the ACA most experts agree that they’ll do better than they were before healthcare reform.
But if Ted Cruz and his colleagues can sell this sham to the American public, and force through limitations on the protections of the ACA, then we’re all in trouble. Especially those of us with pre-existing conditions, who are for the moment safe, but by no means no longer at risk.
But the real agenda is to discredit Obama and the Democrats, using healthcare reform as a lever to force Obama to wield his veto power. Cruz basically said as much on national television, on election night. And that’s step 4 and 5:
- Make grand overtures about working with the Democrats. A new era of cooperation! This has already started, and at least so far the Democrats are falling for it, based on cross-party meetings and public statements we’ve seen up to this point.
- Meanwhile, now that we (the GOP) control both houses, we can force Obama to veto our nonsense legislation, so we can claim that he and the Democrats are stonewalling and breaking promises, while we appear to be reasonable adults.
Here’s Senator Cruz in his own words:
In 2009, UCLA ecosystem geographers authored a paper predicting the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Using probability models they otherwise apply for studying, say, endangered birds, they calculated an 80.9% chance that the al Qaeda boss was in Abbottabad, Pakistan– where he was killed last night. They also correctly predicted bin Laden was living in a city, not a remote village or rural cave as widely presumed.
Original article (PDF)
President Barack Obama was to make the dramatic announcement shortly in a hastily called, late-night appearance at the White House: That the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks was killed in an American-led operation in a mansion outside Islamabad.
It is a major accomplishment for Obama and his national security team, after many Americans had given up hope of ever finding bin Laden.
A crowd gathered outside the White House to celebrate, chanting, “USA, USA.”
Kevin Jones, quoting Obama from an NBC interview, in which his comment was taken out of context, and made to mean something completely different:
Obama: “…I think that this is a — just an idea that got in folks heads, and the media’s run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.”
I must say I don’t envy the job that the Obama administration faces when it comes to fixing all the things that are broken. The fact is that we’ve been on the wrong track for much of the last 30 years, as a result of corporate greed, back-room deal-making, and no small degree of bigotry, paranoia and laziness.
Today, I feel as though the country may be in the midst of an important awakening, though it may turn out be more like waking up in The Matrix than any of us would like to admit.
Since the financial meltdown, I’ve been slowly reawakening myself, and connecting to politically like-minded groups and people online. One of the more interesting connections I’ve made is with the Obama Network & Advisory Group on LinkedIn.com.
“Of the priorities: education, renewable energy, defense, and fixing the medical system, which is most important and why?”
“Well,” I thought, “obviously it’s all important!” And I wrote the following reply:
I think it’s very difficult to place one of these priorities over the others.
Education is hugely broken right now, and that’s going to represent a huge long-term shortfall in so many areas it’s almost impossible to account for.
Renewal energy is mandatory. There’s really no way around that fact anymore. For years there has been no reputable scientist that has disputed carbon-based fuels’ role in global climate change. The risks are far too great to not address this aggressively now.
While the peacenik in me would like to think we can spend lots less on defense, the fact is that at least right now, we can’t. I think we can do a lot of work on efficiency, and lots more on treating our veterans with more civility. But defense is expensive, and there aren’t many shortcuts. It is what it is.
As the son of two doctors and the stepson of a third, I’ve seen first-hand, the gradual deterioration of the medical system over the last three decades. A large part of the cause has been corporatization, driven by the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. The medical system is so inefficient and expensive today that only the wealthiest among us have truly comprehensive coverage — and I’m lucky to be among them because I work for Microsoft. (Microsoft has one of the best health-plans available in the US job market today.)
The other thing that’s wrong with the medical system, and which I haven’t heard talked about much by the Obama administration, is that our spending on basic science research (including Medicine) has been slashed by 40-to-60% during the last decade or so. This is unacceptable. Not only has this contributed to the corporitization I mention above (primarily through the pharma’s), but it’s also contributed to the leeching of medical expertise to academic and private institutions abroad in Europe and elsewhere, and decreased the desire of students in this country to go into medicine and the sciences. This coupled with the high cost of malpractice insurance makes the medical profession so unattractive to prospective doctors, that many of them do something else instead. Today by the time you go into practice, unless you’ve gone to school on a scholarship, you’re $500K in debt before the first patient walks in the door!
I am so happy that the people working with Obama value science highly. But there’s a long road ahead, and one which we will undoubtedly not have reached the end of by the end of Obama’s first term. Let’s hope that during that time America comes to our senses on education, science, and can continue to take a rational, pragmatic approach to solving these important problems.
(Ok, so that turned out to be a lot longer than I’d planned, but so be it. 🙂
Thanks to Barbara Paul for prodding me to get back on the stick, and post on the blog instead of on a DG where nobody can see it. Now let’s see if I can keep it going…
I couldn’t say it any better myself:
“And no, you can’t ban shoes, someone else will just throw their laptop or phone or pen and pad. All you can do is be the kind of leader that people do not want to throw shoes at.”