Slowing down the pace

Hi to my few readers: While this administration remains appalling, my life has become busier and there’s only so much depressing analysis I can take in, so clearly I’ve been posting less frequently. I still value this blog, particularly the resource pages that direct me and others to sources of news, calls to action, readings about social issues, and so on, so I’ll be leaving it up and contributing to it as I see fit.

Rob

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Thoughts upon listening to my Representative defend Congress

I recently attended a town hall meeting with one of my representatives, a progressive who largely impressed me. They were preaching to the choir, a liberal audience grateful to be told they weren’t alone in today’s political landscape.

One of the few sticking points arose when audience members criticized Congress as a whole. Aside from pointing out a few policy misconceptions we had, our representative made what seemed to me an astute point: The overgeneralizing and emotionally laden statements we all make about Congress play right into the hands of the opposition.

Okay, so the current version of the Right wants to eliminate government, yes? It resists taxation, single-payer health care, corporate regulations, environmental regulations, firearm regulations, most any kind of regulations–well, other than those on women’s bodies and the violent kind a militarized police impose on minorities and immigrants. Politicians now run and win strictly on criticizing Congress and/or the entire concept of government, demonizing the first as a vague group of corrupt egotists (everyone except your own representatives, of course, people you know who are just doing their best by their constituents) and the second as an endless bureaucracy of faceless workers who don’t deserve their cushy jobs and are just getting in the way of your life (never mind your cousin the underfunded public school teacher or the fact that someone has to authorize your Medicare benefits). These politicians promise to come in as questionably defined “outsiders” who will shake things up, and they win. A lot.

The current president ran almost exclusively on this platform, all criticism of the establishment and few fully-formed policy suggestions. As we’ve seen, constituents hearing such rhetoric will in fact excuse a multitude of sins, even evidence that the politician is effectively part of the “establishment” (say, someone from a liberal city, born into wealth, with many powerful connections) or is himself benefiting from a lack of governmental oversight to the likely detriment of those same constituents (making personal business deals with foreign governments or using federal funds to pay rent on property he owns). Running against government is a winning strategy, as is continuing to dismantle it once you’re in power, because no one will be able to stop you from further using your money and connections to benefit yourself and others like you.

So what happens when those same politicians are involved in scandals? We don’t just say “ooh, that guy was the worst” or “giving people unregulated power is dangerous”, we say “Congress is awful.” Let me say that again: When someone who is actively trying to destroy our government to benefit themselves does something embarrassing or terrible, we imply that our system of government is irredeemably messed up. We grouse about it, looking for an “outsider” to come in and shake things up. And you know what? If those outsiders were all Bernie-style socialists looking for more regulation–thoughtful growth of the system–our loose words might be fine, but in this climate they further encourage voters to support the “government is bad” people. The people who want to eliminate regulations to their own advantage.

What’s the alternative? I’d say “A system in which [Politician] can do [that terrible thing] is messed up, and we need more regulation to prevent such acts in the future.” It’s not about censoring ourselves, it’s about being precise and accurate with our responses, saying exactly what we mean and not spewing our emotional frustration and stopping there. (And if you do believe in destroying the current system, then congratulations, it’s happening–but given the hands doing it, good luck getting a new system you like better.)

You don’t have to like that. You can say “it’s my right to make blanket condemnations of The Powers That Be” and “the establishment really is doing a shit job”. You wouldn’t be wrong, and no one’s stopping you. In fact, they’ll egg you on. And then they’ll vote for the next billionaire who promises to shake things up.

The beginning

This blog is an effort to understand and keep up with the sociopolitical wave that seems to be cresting in 2017. Its aim is not to follow the most recent news stories or to be the most comprehensive historical record of the Trump administration, as others can do those better and the point is not to tear out one’s hair at every scandal, corrupt act, or oppressive law.

The goal here is to create a searchable collection of links to articles I and others might want to return to and share with others: Reflections on left-wing strategy, historical perspectives on right-wing jargon, ideas for what we can do nowwhere domestic events fit into the global picture, and so on–whatever makes you say “Oh yeah, I read a really good article about that. Let me see if I can find it and send it to you.”

Having finally launched on January 30th, long after the 2016 US presidential election and some time after the 2017 inauguration, I will be front-loading the timeline with articles I’ve seen and saved, some older and some newer. With that job ahead of me I will only link with quotes, adding no original content. I may begin to comment later if the onslaught slows.

In addition to individual articles on the blog I am keeping a running list of resources that currently includes civil rights organizations, sources of news and editorial content, and ways to access calls to action.