30 November 2016

New Blog Site!

To all five (three) of you reading this, I have switched blogging platforms. My new blog, PSC 121, can be found at the link below. I will continue to post there so if you're interested, follow me and thanks for supporting Young Politics!


Welcome to America, Inc.

Donald Trump's election was a national disgrace. I won't go through the list; his terrifying inadequacies as a leader, public servant and human being are all well documented. You don't have to be a student of history to know that he is dangerously out of his depth. But America has seen worse, and I am confident we will survive Trump in one form or another. However, I cannot ignore this sinking feeling that his election was inevitable. That he is the president America deserves right now.

America 2016 is a nation willfully distracted and divided. Our time is spent in bubbles, focused on entertainment, scandal and a steady diet of bad news. Negativity rules the day. Intellectualism = TL;DR. Public education is in shambles. Resources and human capital are wasted on the technology of communication at the expense of securing world peace and a livable planet for future generations. We expect everything and are disappointed when we never get it. And the worst part? This is all common knowledge. We are wise enough to see the error of our ways yet foolish enough to persist in them.

Our current, pathetic state of affairs is no accident. The American people and their elected officials have gradually ceded decision making authority to an increasingly influential group of private corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of the public interest. This concept is nothing new- wealth and power have gone hand in hand for pretty much all of human history. But the level of private control in America and around the world today is unprecedented by any stretch of the imagination. Beginning in the postwar era with an overtly pro-industry approach to foreign policy and bolstered by the trickle-down, supply-side economics of the Reagan era, America has witnessed a massive transfer of wealth from the working and middle classes to the very top of the top.

We are truly living in a Second Gilded Age. In the latter part of the 19th century, America was a wildly unequal place. Concentrated corporate greed and a complete lack of regulation (or a middle class) came close to creating a permanent American caste system. Millions of workers toiled in sub-standard conditions for meager pay, while the super-rich flaunted their obscene wealth with reckless disregard. Were it not for federal intervention by a strong president voicing the will of the people in the name of parity, America might not have experienced the prosperity boom and birth of the middle class in the 20th century. Today's America has much in common with this prewar era of corporate excess and global tension, save for one major distinction.

Today's corporations have learned to insulate themselves from such nuisances as public opinion and government oversight. This time, the game is rigged and rigged better. The corporate elite, through political marketing and their elected mouthpieces, have managed to do the seemingly impossible- convince rural America that their interests are intertwined. THIS is the greatest trick the devil ever pulled. And even when public opinion is stacked against them, corporate interests still seem to win out with a mixture of aggressive lobbying, targeted advertising and gerrymandering. Despite his anti-establishment rhetoric, make no mistake- Trump's election signifies the dawning of a new era of corporate welfare in America. He may not have been their first choice, but Wall Street, K Street and big business everywhere have quickly come around to the fact that they now have a true friend in the White House. Look no further than his cabinet appointees. The only questions remaining are how much systemic damage can be done and the scope of its lasting effects.

What we lack and sorely need are courageous leaders. True representatives willing to stand up to special interests and speak out on behalf of the American people, all of the people, even when inconvenient and uncomfortable. Especially when inconvenient and uncomfortable. I don't blame corporations for putting profit over social responsibility or taking advantage of an easily corruptible system. But we should expect more from our elected officials. The private sector exists to give people what they want. Government exists to give people what they need. The interests of capitalism and democracy align in many places, but they are not the same. If government ceases to reign in the worst excesses of capitalism and ensure equality of opportunity for all, then it ceases to be a democracy. And in a world where money is everything, its distribution, or lack thereof, is the bedrock of equality.

When the Roosevelts took on big money interests, class wasn't a dirty word. It shouldn't be one today. Regardless of personal politics, our elected representatives have a duty to ensure that the core functions of our government and economy work for everyone and not just a select few at the top.

23 November 2016

A Thanksgiving Message to the Democratic Party

Yes, you, Democratic Party. I know it doesn't seem like you have much to be thankful for this year. Things...aren't great. It kind of seems like ever since the election, you've been going through an identity crisis, laying blame and arguing over the way forward. But take a deep breath and relax. Things aren't as bad as they seem. In fact, you have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

You lost an election, but you did not lose your soul. More people voted for a candidate pushing your platform of racial, social, economic and environmental justice. Trump's message of fear, hatred and bigotry lost by over two million votes. Yes, you were screwed once again by the Electoral College, a racist and antiquated vestige of an earlier America that nonetheless continues to decide, against the popular will, who should lead our country. But the Electoral College cannot stop the tide of human progress. The last decade has seen enormous leaps forward in both policy and public support for progressive causes. President Obama has set the mold for the modern Democratic president and enjoys record approval ratings in his final months in office. Liberal is no longer a dirty word. These are achievements of which you should be proud. Yes, Trump has the potential to stall this progress. But he, like the Electoral College, cannot reverse it.

Listen to Bernie Sanders: Racial and economic justice must go hand in hand. At the end of the day, we are all living in a world indiscriminately rigged to benefit a select few. Racism and the wounds it causes are real. But your message needs more: a common enemy that can help heal these wounds or, at the very least, keep them closed until it is defeated. Thankfully, that common enemy exists and you are the one major party in America who has been fighting it on both these fronts. You just need to find a way to bring your wings together; to explain to each disparate group how and why their interests are intertwined and what they stand to lose. Many of these factions experienced tremendous gains under President Obama and will be chomping at the bit to ensure this progress is not reversed. Once you are united, you must resist and do so without shame. Political opposition is not only your right, but your patriotic duty, especially when the party in power is intent on imposing a divisive and dangerous agenda against the will of the people.

In short, Democratic Party, do not waste a second of this Thanksgiving on unwarranted soul-searching. You didn't lose this election because you had the wrong message. You didn't spend too much time focused on racial and social justice issues. These are extremely important issues. Keep focusing on them. You do not need to be more accepting of the ignorant or more tolerant of the intolerant. But you must coalesce your many voices into one unified message of people power to span across the diverse racial and socioeconomic spectrum that is America. You have the message. You have the platform. You have the support. Now go enjoy your turkey and come back ready to act like it.

13 November 2016

The Silver Lining

What's done is done. Despite having lost the popular vote, Trump will be president. Don't get me wrong, 60 million votes is nothing to laugh at. But that's only 25% of American voters. Which probably says more about the state of American democracy than anything else. But I digress. If you share my reasonable concern that a Trump presidency could lead to regression and destabilization in an already regressing and destabilized world, here is my attempt to offer some consolation.

That consolation is truth. If anything, this election did away with the bullshit that has fed voter apathy for decades. Trump's victory has forced those of us in our blue-state bubbles to finally see the truth around us. The truth that old divisions upon which this country was founded still endure. The truth that hate and fear exist and persist. The truth that America and its people have never been united in the purest sense of the word. The truth that Tuesday's election laid bare for the world to see: America is deeply divided and conflicted at its core. Anti-establishment rage and globalization anxiety fail to sufficiently explain our current situation. Issues have been trumped by identity politics. We are not living in a post-racial America. We are living in America.

We can blame the electoral college. Or the Clinton campaign's failure to get out the vote. Or voter suppression in swing states. Or the DNC. But, once again: 60 million votes. That's WAY too many people who at their core responded to a message of racial and ethnic division from Donald Trump with enthusiastic endorsement, even if they didn't totally agree with it. Not every Trump voter is a terrible person, but every Trump voter aligned themselves with a lot of terrible people. Even if you think he could be the greatest president ever, you can't deny that he ran a campaign based largely on stoking tensions between insiders and outsiders, and I'm not talking about the Beltway. What's new this time, or at least new in recent American history, is that he did all this in plain sight. And millions of Americans responded.

The days of the dog-whistle politics formed in response to the Civil Rights Movement are over. For years, Republican candidates have stoked the flames of racial resentment using coded, nebulous language. Trump's explicit call to our worst instincts threw this playbook out the window. But that playbook allowed racists and bigots to hide behind a veneer of respectability. No more. Once again, they are confident enough to operate in the open. As scary as that is, it makes them much easier to spot. And for this we should be grateful. But the question remains- now that we know what we're dealing with, what will we do about it?

08 November 2016

Happy Election Day!

I'm not here to tell you who to vote for, but I have some thoughts on the election and beyond if you're interested/bored. This election...has been terrible. But I don't think the country itself is not in is as bad condition as some media outlets and candidates would have you believe. Yes, we are in a time of social, economic and demographic change and such times of change breed uncertainty and fear. This is especially true when that change involves the real or perceived threat of a historic majority losing its protected status in society. But we are not falling apart as a nation, we are entering a new period in our history. 

What concerns me is that in this time of great change, the impulse of millions has not been to communicate and open dialogue with one another but to retreat into corners of ideological isolation. I'm sure this approach is comforting at first, but ultimately it only serves to divide people and stall progress. This instinct does not represent the better angels of our nature, it represents a mindless defense mechanism in response to unwanted change. But change is good, and even if it's not, change is inevitable. I'd like to live in a country where people collectively rise above this instinct and reject anyone who tries to prey upon it, regardless of our differences. Clearly we have some work to do. 

Divisions are distracting and America loves distractions, but they become dangerous when they interfere with the business of governing. There is too much at stake to allow political divisions to become personal and prevent us from working together to better ourselves and our country. Through all the distractions, we forget how much power we have and as a result put way too much faith in individuals to solve our problems. Neither of these candidates will be your savior. True progress boils up from the ground, it doesn't trickle down from above. Working together, thinking critically, considering new ideas, taking risks, failing, learning from our mistakes- these tried and tested approaches are not valued in a highly divided and unequal society. So society must change. 

Final thought- we are nothing without empathy. It has become cliché to point out the shocking negativity of this campaign and our society in general, but I think it bears repeating. Empathy is another natural human emotion but, unfortunately, it doesn't come as naturally as fear. It's not reflexive, you have to work at it. But you don't need money or privilege or status. You just need to be willing to hear another human being out and accept that you might not understand what they're going through, it might not be what you went through, but that's ok. All you need to do is listen to and acknowledge their words and give them the opportunity to change your mind. This kind of communication is validating, constructive, priceless and sorely missing from our national discourse. We will always have problems, but if we can't even discuss them, how will we ever begin to solve them? 

That's all. Have a good election everybody, and relax. You'll be fine.