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February 05, 2017
It's always "us" vs "them"

A lot of rambling thoughts.

Just today, I was directed to read an interesting WaPo post from Jan 24, after the Women's March but well before this stream of continued protests.

Schumer's dilemma: Satisfying the base while protecting his minority

The article started several trains of thought for me.

First, Dems clearly believe we can't reelect them if they help us fight this battle. That's worrying. We need to have our agenda be theirs and vice-versa. When Schumer (and others) are splitting their focus between listening to us and protecting themselves, they can't be as effective as they could be.

This "us" & "them" divide is the result of treating politics as a business--of having some concern for your "shareholders" but being equally or more concerned for your own jobs/paychecks and the future of your "company." As distasteful as I find this corporate approach to politics, I suppose it's inevitable in this country in this time. And, to be clear, I don't blame the politicians for this. With such a large percentage of the population almost totally disengaged from the governance of this country, it's hard to see how else politicians could treat the situation.*

We-the-people can't change this, but we can certainly make use of it. We can be majority shareholders, entitled to a large say in strategy and willing to throw our weight (votes) behind the management that supports our position.

And let them know it. Schumer needs to know we are and will be behind the reelection efforts of everyone who works with us in this struggle.

Or, you know, we could each take up the responsibilities of citizenship, along with the benefits, and pay some damned attention once in a while.

Ahem. Sorry.

Second, and aside from that reciprocal relationship, what occurred to me very strongly as I read this article was that a large part of the gap between the voters and our elected officials was we-the-people's perception of how the Federal government should work, as opposed to how it works in reality.

If #45's Administration so far has done nothing else positive in the last 2-1/2 weeks, they've certainly taught me (and others, I presume) how fragile is the system of checks and balances our Republic rests upon. The system relies largely on people of "good will" respecting it and working within its boundaries. Having installed a President who respects nothing but himself (and ratings), we're seeing cracks start to show.**

Politics is not a game. It's a shitty job, but someone has to do it. We're best off when we find and support people of "good will" to fill political offices. When we stay connected with these people and engaged on the issues, even during the peaceful times when there are no mass injustices to protest.

The Republican party leaders seems to be functioning on a level of "power for us at any price." They spent decades nurturing this tsunami of hate and bigotry, for no other reason than to get themselves into power. This is dangerous and damaging to the country.

And, you know, stupid for them. The more they courted the neo-Nazis and White Supremacists to swell their voter base, the further Right their candidates had to move, until they had not one, but two candidates pushed into the White House after having lost the "popular" vote. And the more, I don't doubt, the Party leadership itself shifted to represent these dangerous interests, until now it actually is the party of racism, intolerance, bigotry, and everything else we are supposed to be standing against.

The Republican strategy wasn't covert or hidden. We've all watched them pushing this agenda for decades.

And most of us did nothing.

Some of "us", like myself, didn't really believe there was enough fuel for this "fringe" group to become a serious political/social threat. The haters will always be with us, it's human nature and something we have to live with. Some of us were happier and more comfortable just knowing that we and our friends weren't among that number.

Third, I have to reluctantly admit that Republicans could not have coaxed this fire into existence if there hadn't been fuel for it already. The racism, misogyny, fear, and frustration that kicked #45 into office were already in our society.

As I've been digging through 20th C US social history in the last couple of months, it's been made clear to me that much of what I was taught in school was not only incomplete, it was deliberately misleading. We have never been the country that I thought we were. Massacres, atrocities, individual acts of hate and bigotry abound in the history of our last fifty years. There is and always has been an underground river of sewage tainting our so-called liberty.

In the article, Schumer mentions that he did an informal, 4-hour poll among the women in the Washington March on Jan 21. Twenty percent of the women he talked to had not voted in the recent election. Another ten percent voted, but not for Hillary. Some had voted for Trump but others had chosen other candidates.

I'm most concerned about the 20%. How do you make people care--make them understand that voting is important? Make them keep caring the day, the month, the year after the March?

Gerrymandering is responsible for a lot of voter apathy, of course. When your district is "safe" for one Party or the other, people from both sides of the aisle don't see the point in voting. Gerrymandering is not in the voter's interests. It makes politicians in those districts less responsive to our concerns.

Plus which, political parties can use prison populations to help themselves to unearned votes. Check out a description of the problem here:

In many rural county and city governments, substantial portions of individual districts consist of incarcerated people, not actual residents. In a number of places, we've found elected officials who owe a majority of their clout to prison populations.

One of those places is the small city of Anamosa Iowa, which became a national symbol of prison-based gerrymandering when the incumbent retired, no one ran for office and Danny R. Young was elected with two write-in votes.

Admittedly, this publication is 4+ years old and some places have redrawn the lines to eliminate the problem in their locations, but not all affected areas have. This can give rural or non-metro locations larger "populations" than the actual voter base should represent, adding Congressional districts and giving disproportionate weight to those voters.

This 2016 article from an LSAT prep website shows the problem has not been eliminated.

...prison-based gerrymandering has the effect of enhancing the voting power of the rural, mostly white communities where prisons are located at the expense of the urban, mostly black and brown communities where the majority of prisoners come from.

This is how a presidential candidate can win the White House without winning the majority of the actual votes.

A very thoughtful discussion of the subject, from 2015, can be found in this Alex Mayyasi Priceonomics article.

Gerrymandering happens at the state level. Paying attention to state and local politics is every bit as important as national politics. Maybe more so.

And, in closing, as I glance through the voting patterns of the last election, it seems pretty clear to me that black women are the most sensible demographic in the country. We should be electing a lot more of them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* This isn't a perfect analogy, but it can work as a framework for how to think of your relationship to the government, if you can't take a citizen's full responsibility of being part of the government through your actions and inactions.

** It's not just elected officials, you know. Every Federal employee swears an oath to the Constitution--to uphold it and to protect it, from all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

Dissenters aren't protesting against #45's actions because they're liberals. They're pushing back on what they see as unConstitutional actions.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:36 AM