Sunday, October 4, 2015

Two Conflicting Sentiments in American Politics

A few years ago, something occurred during a biology class that I was taking which illuminated the modern political and social landscape of America. With just one comment made by a classmate, it was as if someone just turned on the light in a dark room and, suddenly, everything was clear. I knew right where I and everybody else was in that room with regard to political ideals.

A Biology Lesson

I own much of this illumination to the identities of the people involved. I am a middle-aged man who, at the time, was taking a pre-requisite course to get into nursing school ( I graduated a few months ago). The conversation which I was witnessing took place between my instructor, perhaps 5-10 years younger than me, and a young girl taking the class. She was probably 20 years old.

The professor was explaining the nucleotides that compose the very basic elements of our genetic structure. He remarked that errors in the layouts of these nucleotides were responsible for many diseases. In fact, he said, it was known that UVA radiation could cause thymine nucleotides to bind into units called thymine dimers. These mutations were the primary cause of skin cancer.

Then he said that it always pained him to hear about people using tanning beds. They were just increasing the chances that their thymine would mutate and cause cancer.

The young girl in the class spoke up. "That's awful. If I were president, I would outlaw those places."

The professor, God bless him, replied that there was something called the US Constitution and we were all still free to make decisions for ourselves, even if those decisions were not good for us.

The girl later went on to comment that she just didn't feel safe in a country where it was permitted to endanger yourself. As I recall, the professor turned us back to the lesson and the moment was left behind, only to live in my memory.

Safety versus Freedom

It occurred to me, as I tried to comprehend why I found the girl's comments so repulsive, that she represented one side of a dichotomy in American mindsets. It also revealed to me an explanation for the differences between the general nature of American and European political divides.

This country was founded and colonized by a wide variety of people. The Puritans were not the only ones to come over from the Old World. Yet those early Americans shared one quality or drive in life. They wanted to be free to live as they pleased. Their great common desire was to be left alone to pursue their destinies. They wanted to be free to create their own worlds and manage their own protection from the elements and from their fellow human beings.

Even later immigrants, on whom descendants of the earliest Americans looked down, shared a similar drive. They were escaping poverty or limitations of some sort in Europe in order to come here and find their own way.

In the early 20th century, the much-reviled Southern European immigrants were not coming to America to be on the dole. There was no welfare system. They fully expected to be left to their own devices when they hit the shore. As long as they had a chance to fight for their own prosperity in a land that seemed to have endless real estate and resources, they were content with the opportunity.

There is another social desire active in the world. This is the desire to be safe, to be protected. The semi-mythical contract that occurred between post-Roman Empire Europeans and the feudal knights demonstrates the centrality of this desire in the human psyche.

Allegedly, the feudal transformation of Europe occurred when villages of common people agreed to provide economic support for soldiers, typically led by the horsemen we would call knights now. in exchange for protection from the increasingly chaotic environment left as Rome's influence ebbed in Europe. I doubt any such exchange occurred as cleanly as that but I am also sure that there is a kernel of truth in it all. With banditry on the rise and the roads becoming home to crime rather than commerce, I am sure many people gave up their freedom to be safe.

Sound familiar?

As time passed, the boundlessness of US resources became somewhat less boundless. While this nation still retains an immense amount of open land, times changed during the 20th century. Urbanization increased, especially after the world wars. We became a people primarily living in cities, cities in which we were protected by police forces rather than a village posse or our own arms. Also, the generations that had come here seeking freedom passed away and were replaced by descendants who did not necessarily share their desire for freedom.

Instead, they wanted what those medieval Europeans wanted: protection from crime. These new Americans were increasingly less armed than their forefathers. They wanted to enjoy urban prosperity, learn new trades and even go to school to study the liberal arts rather than forge a new life in the wilderness or build a business from scratch. In order to do these things, they wanted government to take on the job of keeping them safe while they pursued these new goals.

They were willing to give up certain things, such as the right to bear arms, in order to create a protected environment in which they could pursue these goals. In short, they valued safety more than freedom.

That doesn't sound so awful. However, I think that this new desire for safety rather than freedom has again morphed with the latest generation into something that does, in fact, sicken me,

That girl in my biology class did not simply want to make a calculated decision to sacrifice a specific freedom in exchange for another social good. She wanted to live in an environment in which she no longer had the ability to make bad choices at all. Rather, she wanted someone else making those decisions for her. In essence, she wanted to be a perpetual child and she wanted her political leaders to act as pseudo-parents. She wanted Barack Obama to be her father and simply refuse to permit unsafe things in her home environment.

Women's Suffrage and the Infantilization of America

Something else occurred in America during this last century which I believe had a huge impact on its political and social transformation. Women became full-fledged citizens with the right to vote.

Now, the move to give women the vote was ostensibly done by forces which might be characterized as conservative today. There had long been a liberal movement to give women the vote in the Anglo Saxon world. However, the granting of voting rights was really done in Western states in order to hurry the process ending in statehood. These territories suddenly had many more voters and possessed more "statelike" populations in terms of size.

I posit that this had a big effect on the increasing concern with safety in this country. Prior to this, I am sure that most American men wanted, more than anything else, the space and opportunity to live out their lives.

Women, though, come into the world with completely different mindsets. Contrary to pseudo-lesbian feminist beliefs, women are born with family on their minds. I am not one of those who believes that women are naturally more nurturing or more gentle than men. Anyone who has been married knows that this is simply not true,

However, by force of millions of years of biology, women do tend to think in terms of family and children. They are more naturally comfortable with children. To their credit, we probably owe much of our rise from the animal kingdom to women's incessant chattering with children, which helped develop those children's minds with regard to language.

I think that this sudden preponderance of women in the voting bloc (they are over 50% of the population) explains much of the recent past politically.

How much of our political conversation, especially since the onset of the Cold War, has been dedicated to the cause of protection? We wanted to be protected from the Nazis. the Soviets, the terrorists and now,increasingly, people who say "mean" things. Women have been all too happy to throw out freedom of speech in order to prevent feelings from being hurt. This reminds me of a mother forbidding her children to broach certain topics just because she doesn't want to deal with another familial eruption.

Of course, it is not just women who engage in this kind of thinking. Men do it, too. That is, they think this way until they become men. Boy children want to be protected from harm as much as girl children until they begin to develop. Then they begin to fight, explore, seek their own way in the world,

I think an additional phenomenon explaining this conflict in American politics is not just the addition of women to the voting bloc but also the pacification, feminization and infantilization of many men. Or, rather, it is that many men never really develop into men but remain in a stage of early adolescence which leaves them all too ready to seek safety rather than freedom in life.

Other Groups in America and in Europe

This thinking has helped me to understand why conservatives in Europe often have distinctly different views on social and economic issues when compared to American conservatives. Many conservatives in Europe consider a certain amount of socialism to be natural and even desirable.

This makes sense when you remember that they are the descendants of those peasants who chose to stay in the Old World and embraced the idea of being protected by government. The democratic governments have simply replaced the knights and nobility of centuries past.

It also explains to me why other groups in American politics never seem to embrace "American ideals". Africans did not immigrate to this country seeking freedom to live as they please. They were abducted, sold and transported here against their will. It makes sense that they do not have any genetic impulse to seek freedom over safety since their ancestors had no desire to cross the ocean to be here in the first place.

How this applies to Latino immigrants might be a good topic for another essay. This article is already too long.

However, in closing, I think that this concept helps to explain a lot that is going on in American politics now and even applies to the ascendancy of Donald Trump. Again, this is a topic for another article.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Donald Trump: Bullying Opponents Out of the Race

Donald Trump is looking to bully another GOP opponent out of the race. It is becoming obvious that this was and is a major technique for Trump in business. Using pure, masculine aggressiveness to improve your position and drive away weaker contenders. It probably works well for him in the business arena but it remains to be seen if it will work in the long term in politics.
You're Fired!

Trump is forecasting that Rand Paul will soon drop out of the race and takes credit for pushing him into this decision.Rand Paul generally garners about 2% of the vote in polls conducted among likely GOP voters. All this after years of hard work and a much bugger percentage gained by his father in GOP races in 2012. In fact, Ron Paul went all the way to the General Convention and still got 190 votes when Romney essentially had the thing locked up.

Trump is probably right. Rand Paul, as well as several others, look poised to bow out of the race. Though there is still a long way to go and anything can happen, with so many contenders it just makes sense for someone with roughly 1% of the vote to step out. What is remarkable about this moment in American politics is how it appears that a leading candidate is actively trying to push people out of the race.

I an not sure that this is a good idea for Donald Trump in the long-term. It may be satisfying and it may appeal to his desire for conflict, but it may also strengthen his more popular opponents. One wonders how many Paul voters are likely to come into Trump's camp rather than throw in their lot with Rubio, Cruz or Fiorina. Paul was known for his libertarian views and it is anyone's guess where his support may go.

The Chink in Trump's Armor

At the same time, Donald Trump seems to have displayed, for the first time, a weakness. He already admits that he has a fallback plan for failure. If his numbers get down to Scott Walker levels, he claims, he will just go back to running his business.

Is this an accidental slip that reveals some psychic weariness of the whole race? Is Trump already thinking about quitting and going back to his natural realm in business? Surely, the few times that his handlers have convinced him to moderate his remarks or apologize must rankle him. Perhaps Trump will make his own exit before anyone expects it.

That certainly won't happen now. Donald Trump still has a loyal core of followers giving him roughly 25% of the support available for GOP candidates. I am not sure that he will make it to the primaries due to his own quirky nature but I am sure that he will continue to entertain us for a few more weeks at least,

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Did You Know That Jim Webb Was Running for President in Election 2016?

When I started this reincarnation of a blog back in August, I did not even know that Jim Webb was running for the Democratic nomination in Election 2016. I think that I remember hearing about it months ago, probably right after he officially declared in July. But I had not retained that memory and was only reminded of the fact last week.

How did he slip under the radar? Well, Jim Webb, along with a handful of other democrats, is maintaining an average polling success somewhere between 0% and 1%. In virtually every poll he comes in behind Joe Biden, who hasn't even decided to run for the Presidency yet.

Perhaps a better question is, why is Jim Webb virtually an unknown at this point?

One could say that being behind in the polls is meaningless at this point anyway. Hell, the first primary is still four months away. Not long ago, candidates were not even on the road at this time. They were at their jobs, still thinking about running for office. These days, you have to declare yourself for one election practically before the prior election is over.

A lot can happen in four months. As I stated with regard to the opponents of Donald Trump several weeks ago, the billionaire can get a lot of free press right now but over the course of this dead period before the primaries, other candidates can generate support simply by hanging on and acting as alternatives whenever a leading candidate makes a gaffe.

Jim Webb stands to gain support whenever Sanders or Clinton begins to hemorrhage support for one reason or another. If Biden comes into the race, I predict that this will do more than turn support the Vice President's way. It will also fragment support for Clinton and send at least some dribbles of support down toward Webb, O'Malley, et al.

None of this answers the question as to why Jim Webb is so far behind. Other candidates might explain that the other campaigns are simply better funded. That is certainly true in the case of Jim Webb. However, I think that Webb is a unique creature these days, something of a last Mohican. He is a conservative democrat.

Jim Webb served as the last Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration. He earned the spot not only for his legal and political background but also due to serving in the Marine Corps in Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 70s. He was wounded multiple times and earned a number of decorations for bravery.

And yet, he is a democrat! Not that republican candidates have any claim on military service. Most of those bastards are cowards equal to any democratic candidate. I think, were Jim Webb a republican, he would be able to parlay this background into a superior poll ranking. Democratic voters, however, are much more interested in identity politics and victim worship.

They are actually embarrassed by people like Jim Webb, who support the 1st and 2nd amendments and believe in supporting the armed forces of the country. Democrats will take a community organizer over a decorated hero any day. Unfortunately, Republicans will adhere to a loud-mouth blowhards when all other options fail to muster any sign of manhood.

Jim Webb is still hanging on and he hopes to participate in Election 2016 as the democratic candidate for President of the United States. I fear, though, that any day could bring news of his capitulation. Good luck, Jim.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Election 2016: What Is Wrong with This Country?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. More than one social commentator has spoken about the growing divide between Americans with regard to political views. Even someone like me, just in his 40s, can remember a time when liberals and conservatives found common ground on numerous issues. More importantly, we all went to social gatherings and managed to get along in public. As Election 2016 nears, the issues that divide us became ever more clear.

Now, the tone has changed significantly. I was saddened to see a Facebook friend proudly proclaim that she would immediately block anyone who ever posted anything that she felt was sexist. There would be no discussion and no appeal. The person would simply be gone. Leaving aside all the comments I could make about the hubris of actually thinking that banning people from your friend list was some sort of significant threat, I thought how awful this person must be inside to be so eager to cut off relationships based on differing perceptions.

But that is increasingly the way that it is in this country. I find that it is impossible to have a distinct opinion about matters of race, sex, gender etc. without suffering immediate insult.

If I state that I do not think that Bruce Jenner is a woman, and point out simple scientific facts about trillions of cells in his body possessing the Y-chromosome, I should not expect a calm rejoinder about different views of what composes one's gender. Instead, I should be prepared to be outed in violent verbal fashion as a sexist, transphobe or whatever the fuck they call it. I can also expect to lose a friendship, apparently.

If I suggest that we are a country of immigrants and share a great deal in common with Latin Americans when compared to other immigrant waves, I can expect an energetic tirade about Mexican cartels and Latin American welfare queens and remittance schemes.

The distinct answers to this question, then, are really the answer themselves. The problem is this great divide in the perception of present reality. Each side sees completely different things wrong with the country.

What Liberals Think Is Wrong with This Country

When I was young, I definitely thought of myself as a liberal. As a liberal, I had a distinct set of concerns. They were mostly focused on working families and their economic viability. I was afraid that big business would not take care of these people without government interference to ensure their protection and their proper compensation for their work.

One motivation for leaving the Democratic party, to which I briefly belonged in the early 1990s, was the changing focus of the democrats. I do not know any liberals now who really seem to care about poor white men living in trailers and trying to support families. Instead, those men are seen increasingly as the problem by liberals. These uneducated men are likely racist and sexist.

Instead, liberal concerns seem to have turned toward identity politics. It does not seem to matter if you are earning a wage to support a family. Indeed, I believe that many liberals see the family as a unit of oppression. It appears to me that liberals envision a future of individuals who are freed from any kind of bonds on their identities: neither race nor gender nor religion will define a person.

Indeed, religion is an immensely important sub-topic in this discussion. When I was that young man so long ago, both liberals and conservatives went to church on Sunday. If anything, this issue divides liberals and conservatives more distinctly than any other. Liberals, by and large, do not go to church or they go to churches which speak more often about social issues than they do about theological issues.

While some liberals will hold back when discussing religion when they are around people whom they know to be adherents of one faith or another, Internet forums make it quite obvious that they truly despise religion and consider believers to be idiots in whom their can be no sort of trust with regard to the arch-important matters of sexism, racism etc.

What Conservatives Think Is Wrong with This Country

If you are having this conversation with a group of people and suddenly switch from a liberal to a conservative reply, you might think that you are asking questions about two different countries.

To conservatives heading into Election 2016, it appears that liberals are living in some sort of illusory world. This perception is best described by the recent Bruce Jenner event in which he altered his body surgically and declared himself to be a woman. The press immediately began using the feminine pronoun to describe Jenner. It makes conservatives think that liberals use some kind of magical thinking: whatever you think to be true is true, apparently. Conservatives begin to ask, can you make 2+2=5 in that world?

Conservatives see a black man in the presidency and assume that racism is essentially over and everyone can move on. Obviously, race did not keep a black man from reaching the highest office, so how can racism still be impacting black lives?

Conservatives fear the increasing atomization of the family. They see it as responsible for crime and even disease in the long run. Generally, they see the nuclear family as ideal.

You would have to dig deep to find a conservative who did not believe in the essential equality of the races, at least with regard to rights. However, conservatives tend to guard their opinions about the natural abilities and inclinations of each race. Decades ago, it was common for people to speak about the goals and inclinations of each race in distinct ways. Now that this is forbidden, conservatives may pay lip service to the idea of absolute equality but carefully reveal dissidence in guarded conversations.

Conservatives are also still concerned about economic issues form the cold war. They are fearful of a perceived rising socialist threat in the advance of the welfare state.

Immigration has become the biggest conservative concern, possibly because it naturally includes so many of the issues which divide liberals and conservatives. Here you find race and economics together.

Conservatives, in general, treasure the European history which they inherited and the influence of European immigrants on the country in the past. The waves of Latin American immigration which have battered the shores of this country in recent decades concern them greatly for two reasons: they see an eroding of the cultural foundations of the country and they are afraid of the economic impact of so many people living off other people's taxes.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are liberals who are in favor of greater immigration restrictions and conservatives who do not believe in God.

Certainly, the American political landscape is and always has been somewhat kaleidoscopic. My point is that it is much less so now than it was in the previous decades. Reading history, though, I can see that this concentration or crystallization of political viewpoints has happened before. Unfortunately, those periods always did great damage to the country in one way or another.

What Do I Think Is Wrong with This Country?

Most liberals that I know would definitely call me a sexist and a racist, though I am married to a Latin American woman and have experience raising a child in the home while my wife was the breadwinner. That is one of the reasons that I am not a liberal. In my opinion, they do in fact live in an imaginary world in which they can change reality with magical thinking.

Most conservatives would call me a liberal. I speak Spanish and have spent years working as a volunteer to help undocumented workers survive in this country. I like the free market but I have no problem with putting a wrecking ball to the whole health care industry and making government health insurance available to all citizens. I would definitely soak the rich by increasing their taxes.

So what do I think is wrong? The biggest problem is the division of the country into two camps. In the end, it may go back to the whole religion issue. Once liberals stopped going to church, we lost a common ground for meeting. Now liberal ideas were for the most part, cooked up outside the churches and those who remained inside the church walls began to strengthen the defenses.

We are already at war, in a sense. We just haven't started killing anybody. I certainly do not know the best way to resolve this growing divide. I am afraid that the only answer will come from the intensification of the conflict. If you look back at the history of the Civil War, you can see how the country simply came to the point where the only answer was bloodshed. People lost the ability to discuss the issues anymore.

I have good reason for thinking that it will not come to actual physical conflict in the future. I think that our individual lives are so free from the usual concerns of the past that we will not generate the motivation to go to war over these issues. For instance, everyone has more than enough to eat and a secure place to live. It is difficult to work up the ferocity required for war when you are physically comfortable.

But events can always take strange turns. You could have made the case, in the prosperous American colonies of 1770, that revolution against England was an absurd idea. Yet it happened. I hope, for the sake of my children, that we find a way to avoid conflict both before and after Election 2016 while actually working on real resolutions to our differences.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Jeb Bush Breaks Into Double Digits

The latest polls show that Jeb Bush is hanging in there. While not skyrocketing to the top of the polls, he has acquired a respectable 10% of the vote as less well-financed competition has stepped out of the race. As I said in a previous post, candidates like Jeb can afford to wait for Donald Trump to either sabotage himself or simply lose the excitement initially garnered by a new face.
In my opinion, looks too much like his mother.
I do not think that Bush's message resonates with any more voters than before. He is simply benefiting from the thinning of the ranks that has occurred and from the thinning that is about to occur. By this, I mean that many voters are starting to see how continuing to hold their vote for Jindal, Graham or Huckabee is just pointless and they are gravitating to whomever they think has a similar message and a better chance. Jeb is getting some sloppy seconds, in other words.

Nevertheless, do not think for a minute that I count him out. He was the crown prince not long ago and has simply been overshadowed for a moment by an upstart. His background and his finances can still see him through to the end, no matter how much Trump's more fervent followers would like to see him fail. I would not be surprised to see him win this thing next summer.

In fact, as much as I enjoy the chaos started by Donald Trump, I would be more surprised if that eccentric billionaire won than I would be by Bush;s eventual victory. In the end, I don't see the establishment allowing the status quo to be overturned.