Coming To Grips

This is going to be long. Check below the fold if you care, but be warned politics abound.

I try to keep politics out of things here, mostly because I find that constantly talking politics only makes for unhappy exchanges. It’s something where doing it every so often is a necessary thing, but surrounding yourself in it is poison. Because I firmly believe that politics, at least as they are designed in the US, create a very sharp us/them mentality. I also know that anyone who is coming here to read my blog doesn’t do that because they want to hear my political views. They are largely irrelevant.

On November 8th, I woke up expecting Hillary to win the election. Unlike some projections, I expected it to be a close race, but I thought she would ultimately carry the day. This wasn’t a thing I was particularly happy with, but I haven’t had much to be happy about in US politics for a long time now. I wasn’t happy, but I sat there looking at the alternative and couldn’t even imagine.

Florida turned red. This mildly surprised me, but wasn’t totally unexpected. I have friends down there and knew what the political climate was from their point of view so I always knew it was possible that Trump would win. Then I noticed the Electoral College count was skewing farther toward Trump than Florida alone could account for. Ohio had gone too. And Iowa. It was then I knew. I stayed up anyway, but that was when I knew the unthinkable had happened.

Unfortunately I understand it. To a degree anyway. I’ve grown up in “Flyover America”. People who live on the coasts do not understand just how rural those areas are, what that means, and how bad it is out there. To be 100% clear, I have no doubt that the racists and sexists and any -ist you can imagine came out to vote for Trump. There is no denying that.

But that isn’t where most of his support has come from. Since the good times of the 90’s ended this country has been hammered by a number of recessions. These hit the entire country hard, but any recovery only happened in the cities. There are people out there suffering. Suffering bad. I was one of them—am one of them—but I am remarkably fortunate. There are many who have much less luck, and they are actively forgotten by everyone.

Worse, recently it has become popular to ignore their cries that they are suffering with identity politics. “Who the fuck are all of you white assholes to talk about pain,” they hear. “Cops are literally shooting black people on the streets! Take your suffering and stuff it up your white, privileged ass.”

But this doesn’t change that they are suffering. They have been left behind and ignored. All those states I listed voted Obama in the past. It must seem insane to realize that, but it is true. They aren’t super liberal, but they are generally nice and reasonable folk who listened to Obama’s message of change and decided to give him a shot. After all, they had just gotten off the Bush years. Might as well give the other side a turn.

Only Obama didn’t bring change, or rather he didn’t for them. If anything, they only found themselves even more ignored. Obama presided over a recovery, but if you lived in these areas you didn’t see it. They threw in their lot, hitched their hopes to Obama, and then watched those hopes die. Then came along Hillary promising to continue Obama policies. The same policies that had left them behind. Ignored them. And all the while the media demonize them as uneducated, rednecks, bigots. Don’t be one of “those” people.

Is it any surprise that they are angry? Is it any surprise to learn that they hate the people they see mocking them? Trump was their way to throw a firebomb at the establishment. To grab the megaphone and ask “Can you hear us now, assholes?” He was literally the only option they had that wasn’t offering more of the same.

I…am not particularly hopeful for the next few years. I have a few faint hopes. TPP is dead, and many similar treaties are going to die with it. Perhaps the DNC will reform itself. I would like that. And Trump’s acceptance speech was shockingly…presidential. Hopefully he will realize that the post is bigger than the man when he gets there, though it seems like a reach.

But until then all I can do is contemplate the future. What follows are my random thoughts.

Rural Areas Need Rescue

I am not particularly hopeful that Trump will bring the fixes that Rural America hoped for. I can hope, and I will support him if he does try to bring equality to wage earners, but it is a dim hope at best.

What would be better is for the DNC to wake up and realize that their policies have alienated the very voters that at one point made up their base. The DNC likes to think of itself as the party of the disenfranchised, and it is in most respects. There is one area where it has turned away from that, though: they are undoubtedly a party of big business. Of Wall Street. The Clinton family personifies this. This isn’t to say that the Republicans aren’t, but the Democrats ended up abandoning the working class in favor of big business.

And yes, I know they are pushing for a living wage. That’s great. But it isn’t enough. There need to be jobs or it means nothing. People need to feel they have a way to pull themselves out of poverty. The system needs to be revamped so you don’t end up running into a brick wall and losing all benefits after getting a fifteen cent raise, but rather the benefits are gradually stepped down. More than everything, they need to stop ignoring the stagnant economies of rural areas and figure out some way to bring jobs there as well. City only recoveries can no longer happen.

It is a monumental task, one that I am not even sure how to address. Still, it needs to be tackled.

What Of Women?

I hope Hillary’s defeat has less to do with her gender than it does with what she represented: another Washington insider. I hope that so much it hurts.

Yet even if that is true there is a terrible sting realizing that this election the voters tossed aside an experienced female politician in favor of a guy who made openly sexist comments. I am not sure what to say about this. I’m not even sure if it is my place to say anything about this. I cannot even wrap my mind around it, and yet I know that whatever I feel pales in comparison to the many women that hoped to see Hillary shatter the final glass ceiling.

The RNC is not All Powerful

Lets not rose coat anything. Today was bad for the democrats. It was worse than bad. Trump took the White House. Voters swept in a Republican majority to both the House and Senate. They potentially have the chance to appoint 3 supreme court justices. It is the end of the world.

Only not quite. The Republicans have not been granted a super majority. They will claim they have a mandate, they may well be right, but that only means it is time to sit down and think. To look around and see what you can do. To fight like hell.

I can think of no better way than to start writing to your representatives. Do it often. Be loud. Make them hear what you want. It doesn’t matter if they are democrat or republican. Make them hear what people want. This is vital.

With enough popular support the Democrats will have the political capital to stand up against the worst legislation the Republicans may try to pass. They will know that their voters support them, and can filibusterer if necessary. Republicans will hear from those they represent that they are being watched, that their position is not safe, and come election day they will need to be reelected. It has worked before, in dramatic style, and in recent memory. SOPA was crushed this way, against broad bipartisan and corporate support. One party standing alone won’t even have a chance.

Silver Linings

Hillary outspent Trump dramatically and was defeated. This upends so much conventional wisdom. For so long it was assumed that what mattered was dollars, and that was all that mattered. Who had the most money to put ads on TV, on radio, in papers.

Trump went to social media. He preferred to craft a message that attempted to address voters personally. I suppose he was successful. Regardless of what I think of his politics I can only hope that other politicians take note. Reducing the impact of money on campaigns can only have a positive effect in the long-term. Politicians shouldn’t feel beholden to business. They should answer to voters.

Strange as it is to hear, another silver lining is that only 26% of America voted for Trump. Another 26% voted Hillary (giving her a very narrow popular vote lead). The rest stayed home. We can argue and shout about those who didn’t vote, though I see no point. There is no telling who they would have supported.

But the America that existed before the election is still here. Support for gay marriage is here. People support having a national healthcare system. Several states that swept Trump into the White House also voted to legalize marijuana. Background checks to buy firearms are highly supported. None of that changed. Things you may not like will undoubtedly happen over the next 4 years, and I know it is not the time to say “everything will be fine,” but now is defiantly not the time to give up. Midterms are just 2 years away. America survived 8 years of Bush, remember that.

Other Stuff

Too many things to address in one blog post. It is going to take months for me to understand the full implications of this. What about race relations? The economy? International relations? Too much to talk about, and I’m not remotely qualified to speak on any of it. I’m just rambling in an attempt to understand here, to get a hold of this.

I will say the protests I see happening today are both heartening and heartbreaking. Hopefully they will be peaceful. No doubt there will be many people who laugh about it, who tell the people to shut up because they had their turn. Ignore it. Being able to do this is what American politics is supposed to be.

Just don’t shout about how you are angry. Be able to tell everyone what you want changed.

Path Forward

Political discourse needs to change in this country. In the digital age it is too easy to put yourself in a bubble where everyone agrees with you. Where the only people you see from the inside are those that are the craziest fringe. For every election since I have been able to vote I have watched both sides announce that the opposing candidate is literally Satan incarnate.

This year was especially bad, in large part because of Trump himself (never mind how divisive Hillary herself happens to be). Rather than engaging with each other at all I watched both sides demonize each other to a shocking degree. It wasn’t the rhetoric that surprised me, but the intensity behind it.

This is especially true of younger liberals these days. The term SJW gets tossed around a lot, I won’t use it here, but I do see a lot of 20-something’s on social media who meet any opposing view with claims of sexism, racism, and bigotry. The media did their share to push this along as well, for which they should be ashamed. In the process of doing so they have robbed those words of any power they had. After all, if an Air Conditioner can be sexist then anything and everyone may as well be.

LISTEN to your opposition. It’s hard. It sucks. Often it will feel like they hate you, that they are attacking you personally. Do it anyway. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to think they are right. You don’t even have to respect their opinion. But you do need to try to understand where they are coming from. You need to understand why they are in pain, why they are unhappy. Nobody saw this coming because nobody was listening to rural America.

But you know what? Simply shouting them down, trying to shame them into silence? Clearly that failed. It is time to try something new.