Irreparable Damage, Voting Subjects, & Direct Action

I get the feeling that Barack Obama has done irreparable damage to the political left. So many Americans genuinely believed in and were excited by his message of hope and change. I bet even many people from the political right voted for him.

There was such a profound sense of disappointment and betrayal once he had been in office for a while. It turned out he was just another professional politician and that the hype had meant very little. He continued many of the same policies from the Bush administration. Worse still, he passed healthcare reform that was originally a Republican idea which favored insurance and drug companies, rather than the leftist single payer reform most Americans wanted.

Obama’s presidency has made many Americans far more cynical than they’ve been in a long time. No one expects Republicans to genuinely care about the poor and needy, to fight for the rights and opportunities of the lower classes. But many do expect this from Democrats, however naïve that might be.

I know of those who supported Obama in 2008. Some of them now support Clinton, Obama’s nemesis back then. The heir of hope and change is Bernie Sanders. Yet many have lost faith that hope and change is possible. It’s not just fear of Trump. These Clinton supporters, in many cases, have simply resigned themselves to the notion that Clinton is the best that the Democratic party will ever offer. It’s either take that pathetic choice or get nothing at all, so it seems from this jaded mindset.

Older voters, in particular, feel wary about trusting that genuine progress and reform is possible. They don’t want to be betrayed again. They’d rather go for the cynical choice because at least that way they’ll know what they’re getting. When cynicism overtakes the citizenry, that is the most dangerous moment for a democracy.

That is what Sanders is fighting against.

* * *

For US citizens, voting is a right. But it is also a privilege.

For one thing, not all US citizens have the right to vote, besides the young. Convicts and many ex-cons don’t have the right to vote. Many others who technically have the right to vote are politically disenfranchised and demoralized in various ways, by both parties in elections and in the presidential nomination process.

Another issue is that, for all intents and purposes, the US is an empire. Most of the people directly and indirectly effected by US policy aren’t voting US citizens. Who and what you support with your vote impacts not only non-voting Americans but also billions of people around the world.

This includes millions harmed, millions made homeless refugees, millions starving, and millions killed. Those impacted, mostly innocent victims, come from wars, including wars of aggression, proxy wars, and drug wars; CIA covert operations, such as inciting of governments coups, propped-up puppet dictators, US-backed authoritarian regimes, arming of paramilitaries, and School of the Americas military training; post-colonial resource exploitation, unfree trade agreements, US-aligned IMF-enforced austerity policies, and harmful sanctions; et cetera.

As a subject of the empire, you benefit greatly from US policies. It is other people, mostly poor and brown people, mostly in other countries that have to pay the full costs of these imperial benefits.

You are never making merely a personal decision when you vote. You are part of a privileged class of people on this planet. Your vote matters and the results are powerful. This is true, even as the system is rigged against American voters. The last thing you should ever do is support a candidate who supports the corrupt status quo of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

We Americans should take all of this much more seriously. For those who have personally experienced US power, this isn’t idle campaign rhetoric. What is at stake is their lives, their families, and their communities. This isn’t about your party or candidate winning. It’s about morality and justice. Be sure you’re on the right side of history. You are complicit in what you support. Choose wisely.

* * *

When I was a child, I played soccer. My main talents were that I could run fast and take pain. I often played defense because I was good at stopping things. I demonstrated this talent during one game when in elementary school. I was probably playing halfback that day, as it requires a lot of running around. A halfback’s purpose is to be a go-between, to go where and do what is needed. It requires adaptability to the situation, whether defense or offense is required.

Anyway, in whatever position I was in, it was further up the field. The game had just begun. The other team had the ball. One of their players dropped it back and got out of the way. A giant girl came forward and kicked the ball all the way down the field. She was their one great weapon. It forced everyone on my team to immediately run back down the field. After a second time of this, many on my team were already running before the ball went flying. After observing this predictable situation, a brilliant idea popped into my mind. Why not simply stop the ball before it goes flying? So, at the next opportunity, I ran full speed right at that girl and took a body blow. Every time they did it again, I took another body blow. It stopped the ball and allowed my teammates to push the play forward, instead of backwards.

It was a proud moment of my childhood. But I’ve always wondered what the life lesson was from this incident. Well, besides the willingness to take a hit for the team. A few things come to mind. A basic lesson is to look for the obvious. Another is that direct action can be a good thing. Also, it’s much easier to prevent something than to react to it once it has already happened.

I’d apply these lessons to the entire society I live in. Politics most of all. I’ve come to realize how rare it is for people to see the obvious. Partisan politics shows the power of groupthink. Everyone sees the situation as inevitable and then reacts to it. This feels justified, as every0ne else is reacting as well. Strategy usually consists of trying to react more effectively. It doesn’t occur to many people that, if there is an obvious problem, maybe we should do the obvious thing to stop the problem.

Our society is full of obvious problems. The solution or prevention to these problems is often just as obvious. Yet we seem stuck in a mentality of endless reaction, always chasing the ball down the field. But what if we simply threw ourselves in front of that ball. Would it hurt? Yes. Would it stop the problem and make life easier for all involved? Yes, a thousand times over.

If we want to reform our society and make the world a better place, then we should do it. In the simplest, most direct way possible. We’ve already wasted enough time tiring ourselves out by running the wrong direction down the field, again and again and again. One would think that we as a society would finally grasp the obvious.

Let’s stop the problem first. Then we can act as a team to move forward.

Moral Failure of Partisanship and the Political Machine

The policies that Hillary Clinton has supported and promoted have led to millions of people, in the US and other countries, to be pushed into poverty, imprisoned, and killed. Bernie Sanders is no dove on foreign affairs, but Clinton makes him seem like a pacifist in comparison.

That isn’t an exaggeration. It is simply looking at Clinton’s record on tough-on-crime bills, welfare reform, and wars of aggression—along with much else that could be detailed. The data shows all this to be true, the real world results of it. It can’t be rationally or morally denied.

So, how do her supporters rationalize this away? Just because it only hurts the poor and powerless it doesn’t matter… just because the disenfranchised and silenced masses can’t be heard we can ignore them with a clear conscience… out of sight, out of mind… really? Is this what goes for ‘lesser evil’? That is depressing and demoralizing. If this is the best that American ‘democracy’ can offer, we are in far more trouble than I thought.

I ask this not simply in the context of campaign season. It is a question about all of democracy or the hope and possibility of democracy. It isn’t just about supporting a candidate. More importantly, it’s about supporting the public good, of putting the people before politics and partisanship.

The cynicism of realpolitik in America is no doubt depressing but also quite pointless. It doesn’t really achieve anything, besides the same old problems endlessly continuing, status quo for the sake of status quo, a grim political determinism of learned helplessness. Don’t Americans ever take seriously the dreams of a better country? If not now, then when? A dream deferred is a dream denied. What are people afraid of?

I honestly would like an answer to these questions. They aren’t hypothetical or idle. But I know few people would have the moral courage to answer them.

Why don’t those millions of lives harmed matter to Hillary supporters? That is a deadly serious question. If she is elected president, how many more millions will be harmed by her policies? It is guaranteed to be a high number. Doesn’t that bother anyone besides those who are already concerned? Is this status quo of machine politics acceptable? Why should we tolerate such inhumanity and immorality? Do we really want more of this corporatist neoliberalism and neo-imperialist neoconservatism? Why? How does that make the world better for anyone?

My criticisms here are the same criticisms I’ve directed at Republicans. Why would I hold Democrats to a different standard? If I did hold two different standards, that would be both cynical and hypocritical.

Does anyone honestly believe that voting for lesser evil will ever lead anywhere besides evil? This isn’t speculation or hyperbole. Those are real lives of people impacted, many dead because of specific policies that get bipartisan support from professional politicians, both those like Bush jr and those like Hillary Clinton.

Is this really the best of all possible worlds that Americans can envision?

I honestly find Clinton more depressing than Trump. Clinton support shows that people are still willing to tolerate all of these vast problems, no matter how bad it gets. Many people would rather deal with known problems than to have the moral courage to face new possibilities.

This is particularly true of the party establishment who would rather lose the election than lose control of the political machine. That is why Trump has the GOP insiders so scared. But the Clintonian New Democrats realize that even though Hillary is unlikely to beat Donald they can at least put on a show that will convince the Democratic base that the Democrats lost honorably and that we just need to try harder next time, commit to partisan loyalty even further.

In that case, Sanders like Nader would get blamed for the failure inherent to the Democratic Party. The party officials will never be held accountable by Democratic partisans. Nothing will change and the same mistakes will be repeated. It’s a failure of imagination to an extreme degree. It’s a vision of fear, with both parties arguing that the other is the lesser evil, when in reality both parties are two sides of the same political evil.

I just don’t understand the type of ‘liberal’ who will vote for a warmonger like Hillary and think that somehow absolves them of all guilt until the next election cycle. That is more demented and horrific than most silly satements made by authoritarians. At least, authoritarians are being honest.

These fake liberals aren’t really indifferent. They are willfully ignorant. A person can’t be accused of indifference when they simply refuse to be aware. It’s plausible deniability. They can go on pretending to be good liberals and lying to themselves. That is the nature of evil. No mass atrocity could ever happen without the complicity of self-identified good liberals. It goes so far beyond mere indifference.

This is what happened after 9/11. Many liberal Democrats became strong supporters of Bush policy. It is so easy to make the average liberal into a fearful war hawk. Research has shown how easy this is to accomplish. This is why the lesser evil rhetoric is so effective. It is the Achilles’ heel of the liberal, and the only psychological defense would begin with awareness, but that first step is the hardest. People resist self-awareness because then plausible deniability loses its force. It is easier to just not think about it too deeply or for too long. Just hold one’s nose and vote, and once again forgetting about it all until the next election.

I’m a dreamer. I see the immense potential in humanity. It is amazing what we humans are capable of, when the conditions are right and we are challenged to be our best. What an awesome society we could create. And I don’t think it would even be that hard. Just the willingness to imagine it.

I don’t just want to blame others. This is about all of us. It’s not just a failure to understand but also a failure to communicate.

I struggle with that. It’s hard enough just trying to grasp the potential that is within us and what it might mean, in what we envision and in how we live our lives. I’m far from perfect in this regard. Still, I don’t want to make excuses for myself or for others. If we are failing our own stated principles, let’s use that as a starting point. Failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s merely the awareness that we could and should do better.

That is why voting matters so much, even as the electoral system is rigged. It isn’t just the person we vote for. More importantly, it is the vision we vote for. When we unconsciously vote for a disempowering vision, we give away our power. I don’t think even people who vote for Hillary feel inspired by their choice. They know it isn’t a good thing, but they’re afraid and that is all they can feel or see.

I totally sympathize with feeling overwhelmed. That is why I don’t even feel like demonizing Trump supporters. People are frustrated. I get it. I just don’t want Americans or any other people in the world to simply give into that frustration and give up hope. We really are capable of so much more.

Voter Suppression in Arizona

Republicans know that minorities and immigrants vote for Democrats. This is the whole purpose behind the Arizona racial profiling. It’s the same type of tactic Bush used in Florida to win there. It’s an effective tactic. Republicans don’t care about democracy or rather they only care about democracy for white people.

Institutional Racism & Voting Rights

It is obvious that racism still exists… well, obvious to anyone who isn’t either willfully ignorant or a closed-minded bigot.  There has been tons of research proving beyond a doubt that much racism exists in our society, individually and collectively.  However, it’s nice when the government itself admits to the existence of institutional racism.

Court overturns Washington State felon disenfranchisement law

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated that the discriminatory impact of Washington‟s felon disenfranchisement is attributable to racial discrimination in Washington‟s criminal justice system thus, that Washington‟s felon disenfranchisement law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote for the majority.

. . .

Washington State‟s constitution previously disenfranchised felons until they repaid all of their legal financial obligations. “For some inmates … that was essentially a lifetime ban on voting,” David Ammons, communications director for Sam Reed, Republican secretary of state, said. “We thought that was unfair and that it was not good social policy.”

. . .

“That development is a positive one to be sure,” Haygood said. “But it doesn’t have any impact on our clients because they are still incarcerated. Neither does that amendment shield victims of discrimination as they enter the criminal justice system on the front end.”

. . .

“If I remember correctly, [previous circuit court cases] were dismissed earlier and plaintiffs were not even allowed to put forth their evidence,” Erika Wood, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice said. “I think this is the first time plaintiffs were actually allowed to put forth evidence that demonstrates the impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color in Washington State.”That evidence came from research by University of Washington sociology professors Dr. Robert Crutchfield and Dr. Katherine Beckett, who found evidence of racial discrimination in each step of the state’s criminal justice system, from policing and investigation to prosecution and sentencing.

“The numbers in Washington State are stark. Twenty-four percent of black men and 15 percent of the black population in the state can’t vote because of a felony conviction and we argue that that result is exactly what Section 2 was enacted to proscribe,” Haygood said. “The court was clear that we provided compelling evidence of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system that served to shift any inequality into the political process.”

. . .

“At this point there are no changes being made in the way elections are administered,” Kim van Ekstrom, chief communications officer for King County elections said. “This is such a recent decision and at this time we are basically waiting to see what the state is going to advise us on. Like everyone else, we are taking our lead from them and we support statewide consistency regarding voter registration matters.”

In the meantime, Wood plans to pursue federal legislation. The Democracy Restoration Act (H.R. 3335/S.1516) was introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., this summer. The bill “would restore voting rights in federal elections to people who are out of prison living in the community across the country,” Wood said.

Civic GenX

Here is an interesting article about GenXers.

More Than Zero by Pete Peterson

Two things caught my attention:

(1) GenXers are the least trusting of non-local government, but also identify as more conservative.  So, this would seem to imply GenXers are attracted to politicial ideologies such as libertarianism.

(2) GenXers are very civic-minded.  On the local level, GenXers are very involved in volunteering and donating.  This is interesting because GenXers are prone to a sense of being disenfranchized from the political system and aren’t well represented by politicians.  So, this would seem to imply that GenXers prefer their politics on the level of personal direct action and so bypass traditional paths of influence.