Elections and Alienation

With the 2016 election clanking to its completion, like a car with a malfunctioning transmission, I’ve taken a different tack the last few weeks—disengagement—imbibing next to nothing from the mainstream. My inner environment has been almost tranquil. Rather than alienation and discouragement, removing myself from the ongoing dysfunctional din of reality has been a positive and necessary corrective.

Just because someone demands that you see the world one, or two ways, doesn’t mean that you have to. Binary thinking leaves you dead-ended, painted into a corner.

If voting mattered...

If voting mattered…

Over the weekend, I picked up several books that seemed to be waiting for me on my local library shelves. These books provided historical context, as well as reminding me of perspectives I hadn’t considered in quite some time.

What I found fascinating in reading about America’s history of radical politics, was the role of European immigrants in bringing socialist, Marxist, and anarchist perspectives to these shores. What I’ve also been ruminating about is why the town where I grew up—with many immigrants from Europe—was and continues to be a place where conservative values reign supreme. This is a topic that I’m likely to come back to at some point. Continue reading

The Real Corporate Candidate

A week ago, I received an invitation to attend a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. It came from a relative on my wife’s side of the family. Apparently she figured I’d be an easy target, simply assuming I’d be supporting Clinton because of the alternative, Donald Trump.

This kind of thinking has galled me for months. The idea that we must vote for Hillary because of the specter of a Trump presidency is typical either/or thinking that I’ve been subjected to ever since I first started voting in 1980. It’s also more of the usual reasoning that you get from spineless liberals. More on that further down in the post.

Two pathologically-damaged choices for president.

Two pathologically-damaged choices for president.

I don’t run around touting faux socialists for president like some of my friends did prior to Bernie Sanders going in the tank for Mrs. Clinton. I’m also clear on Clinton’s neoliberal policies designed to further dash the hopes of working class people across the U.S., something that so-called working class advocates from Maine that I’ve written about on this blog seem to have missed. Democrats will be Democrats, however.

Oh, and do I need to do the usual kabuki dance and list all the Republican’s political peccadilloes? They should be fairly obvious, but then again, given the drivel I’m reading about “Hillary must win, no matter what,” I’m not so sure.

Hillary Clinton has long been seen as the heir apparent to an ineffective, two-term president. Mr. Hope and Change has delivered little and dashed any hopes thinking people may have had about America. What passed for change was negligible at best. Continue reading

Sitting on Our High Horses

Politics often turn into morality plays. Each side sees their cause/candidate as morally superior to the other. That’s particularly problematic when the choice is a binary one.

In my opinion, it’s a shame how historically illiterate we’ve become. We seem to have forgotten our past. It shouldn’t be too hard to look back 50 years and see parallels between a candidate like Donald Trump, with appeals made to white, working-class people, and a Democrat (who later ran as an third party candidate) like George Wallace.

Of course, the brain-addled, responding like dogs to a whistle, immediately whip out their “racist” or “fascist” signs when presented with Wallace’s name because they’ve been trained to do so. Partly this is due to the small-minded lacking the ability to go any broader than that. You shouldn’t feel too bad. Wallace got the same treatment 50 years ago from the same groups of people, mainly the elite media, liberals, and other high-minded types.

There are several books that look at Wallace much more broadly than do leftist media heroes with an agenda—like Rachel Maddow at MSNBC. She’s probably one of the best at taking a thimble worth of history and turning it into that night’s hour-long screed against her chosen villain. Here’s the CliffsNotes version: Republicans were stupid before and now, they are stupid again.

Even Amy Goodman, who I once thought had some journalistic integrity, seems intent of painting with a brush designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate. Ah, the American media—mainstream or the alt-variety—as useless as they’ve ever been. Continue reading

An Angry Nation Awaits

I remember J.C. Watts as a nimble quarterback, running Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma Sooners’ wishbone offense around the same time I was firing fastballs past opposition hitters. This was 1979 or 1980, and OU played a brand of football that valued the run and a quarterback that ran first and passing was secondary. Much different than today’s throw-happy college and pro games.

Watts would later go on and play in the Canadian Football League after college. What he’s best known for however, is his time as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represented Oklahoma’s 4th district from 1995 until 2003. A Republican and a conservative, Watts was the only African-American during the mid-1990s who did not join the Congressional Black Caucus.

It’s interesting how important it has become for blacks like Watts to toe some kind of political line and align monolithically with Democrats. They are supposed to be liberals, and favor government giveaways and all manner of shibboleths that have become the equivalent of commandments over the past 50 years.

I caught Watts being interviewed Wednesday morning by Greta Brawner on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program. The topic was Trump and the damage that Il Duce is inflicting on the party that Watts is still a member of.

A former athlete and most recently, a politician, Watts is also an ordained minister. He’s articulate and soft-spoken—qualities that Mr. Trump hasn’t exhibited at all during his scorched earth tour for president. Continue reading

My Mind’s Made Up

Politics makes otherwise decent people take leave of their senses. Nowhere is this truer than during the horserace leading up to presidential elections. Discussions of religious matters comes in a distant second, I think.

I was reading something in the blogosphere and the writer mentioned that “Irrationality is the foundation of our national politics, fueled by subjective preferences.” I would agree.

What other explanation is there for the constant haranguing of the other side on Facebook? “My candidate is better than your candidate,” and vice versa. Liberals malign conservatives, and conservatives bash liberals. Back and forth it goes. There is a certain smugness that accompanies one’s choice, also. Continue reading

Politics Won’t Fix Us

[Yet another blog post hammered-out the night before and set-up to auto-publish the next day—jpb]

We’re waking up this morning to the political punditry reading the tea leaves and parsing the results of the anachronistic Iowa caucuses. Pre-caucus polling had Trump and Sanders holding substantial leads, with a snowstorm bearing down on the Hawkeye State Monday night, which may or may not have kept Iowan caucus-goers home and skewering the prognostications. It’s now high political season in America.

Once again, the half of America that pays any attention to the process is getting all huffy about why Bernie’s 1930s labor communism shtick is superior to Trump’s bluster about re-establishing American greatness. Whether you’re “feeling the Bern,” or Trump’s your man for turning America back to some perceived golden age, you’ll be just as disappointed as Obama supporters were back in 2008, falling for his hope and change rhetoric. But that’s exactly what politics has been reduced to in the 21st century.

I read Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 over the weekend. It’s a book I’d heard about back in 2012 when it came out. As happens a lot with me, I went to Curtis Memorial Library on Saturday looking for another book, came home with Murray’s, and plowed through it Saturday afternoon.

Not that one man has all the answers, but Murray’s explanation about what’s happened to America over my lifetime made some sense. The book resonated with me in much the same way George Packer’s book did, which I also made a big to do about here at the JBE. Continue reading

Political Spectacle

My inclination this morning was to talk about something other than last night’s Republican debate and the second rate nature of the candidates who showed up. It’s so easy these days, during the latter days of empire and covering its politics—whether you’re a famed journalist, or an obscure blogger—to simply talk about you-know-who, the presidential candidate in the room who garners all the attention, even when he decides to take his ball with him and not show up. I decided to go with the latter. I’m not proud about it, either.

After working last night at a part-time job I picked up in December, I got home after 9:00 and flicked on the television. Like millions of other Americans, I was intrigued to know how the debate was going without the star of this year’s presidential horse race. Also, I wanted to see how things were going wherever Mr. Trump took his ball, and went off to play with it.

On what was originally intended to be the evening’s big political event when it originally was scheduled by Fox News, Donald Trump again turned this year’s election protocol and rules upside-down. His fans loved it, as they always do, irrespective of what Mr. Trump says and does.

"Please vote for me!!"

“Please vote for me!!” (Doug Mills photo/New York Times)

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Bernie and the Bible

Say what you want about Bernie Sanders, he’s determined to get his message out to a wide swath of Americans, even evangelical Xians. What, you mean that Hillary Clinton isn’t courting the vote of Bible-believing types? The answer would be a resounding, “no!” But I don’t want to talk about Hillary today (or any other day, really).

Bernie, the Bible expositor.

Bernie, the Bible expositor.

On Monday, the socialist Sanders was on the campus founded by Moral Majority leader, Jerry Falwell. Falwell’s the guy that said this about terrorists and also, Larry Flynt had this to say about Falwell and his mother. I’m not sure how either is related, exactly. I do know that any progressive Democrat campaigning for president must assume that they’re not going to carry the evangelical voting bloc, so most don’t bother to address it, period. So kudos to the socialist, running as a Democrat! Continue reading

A Barrel of Monkeys

The political world is framed by surveys and polling data. You’ll hear that Candidate X is up in the polls by X percent. Or Candidate Y’s lead is “within the margin of error.” These are terms that anyone following political news, even in the most superficial manner, is familiar with.  Sometimes I think quantification is the American religion.

After last Thursday’s Fox News/Facebook debate, the one where Megan Kelly ended up “stealing the show,” and upstaging The Donald, a survey came out that made me sit up and take notice. Not because of the data, no, but given the source.

Don't end up in her cross hairs.

Don’t end up in her cross hairs.

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Too Much Talk

So last night we had our first presidential debate of the 2016 campaign. This one featured only 10 of the large Republican field of contenders, or pseudo-contenders. Maybe the biggest accomplishment of Fox News (the debate’s host) was winnowing the Republican field of 64 (actually, there are only 17 “serious” candidates at this point) down to a workable number—even that is debatable.

No doubt I could spend Friday’s blog post space devoted to politics. But really folks, isn’t an August debate a full 15 months out from that fateful day in November when we choose someone else to lead us, a little premature? I know the driveby media at the NY Times and Washington Post have done a great job whipping up enthusiasm for the horserace, yet again. But like they always do, it’s more about the race, or a sentence taken out of context, than the actual issues facing ordinary Americans. And with politicians, you always have to take what they say with a grain of salt. Continue reading