Here is my very brief political take on the move; skip this paragraph if you want to skip the politics. "The only countries to do X are the US, Nicaragua and Syria." If I'm going to join a small group of countries in doing something, I'm not figuring those two are good role models for the US.
The rest of this post is going to be some combination of my observation and hopes, hopefully with some scientific backing.
Glass Beach is a small section of shoreline in an industrial area of 'Ele'ele on the island of Kaua'i. It gets its name from all the glass in the area.
It has for years been used as a dumping ground for things like engine blocks and industrial tools. The salt water is helping reclaim some of the metal into the lava rock along the shore. Here are a couple of photos of what this looks like.
While we were on the island, a few thousand acres were burned in a wildfire that was started by sparks from a pickup truck.
While no structures were threatened, dozens of emergency workers put their lives on the line to make sure the fire only affected dry brush. I'm sure over the coming months and years, new vegetation will grow in its place and before too long, no sign of the fire will remain.
Let's agree that engine blocks, industrial tools and pickup trucks are manmade things that would not otherwise be found in nature, and so we wouldn't have things like fires started by sparks from a pickup truck or engine blocks tossed on lava rocks without some sort of human intervention (objectively speaking — no judgment attached, just the fact that humans need to be involved at some stage of the process to reach this result).
In some amount of time — sooner for the brush fire than for the lava rocks — there will be no sign that anything out of place happened.
The Earth will always find a way to balance whatever happens to it. The thing is, the Earth doesn't care about anything but equilibrium — if a species or two or 16 needs to be eliminated in order to reach a sustainable balance, that's what will happen.
I want to start with some thoughts on Obamacare, and the reason I want to do that is so you don't think I'm a cheerleader.
The Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") is not perfect. It's barely even good. It did a couple of good things, like making sure anybody who wanted health care could get it, and made sure that if you had a preexisting condition, you could get a policy.
It's also way too expensive for most of us in the middle class (I say most of us, because I think some people who think they're paying too much would be paying way more on the open market, if they could get insurance at all). It's harder to figure out what's going to be covered under my plan — I can pick a doctor in my network, but it takes a lot of work to figure out which tests (if any) are carried out by labs in my network.
The deductible plans under Obamacare are ludicrous. Ten years ago, insurance cost me about $160 a month. If I went to the doctor, I paid $10 and insurance covered the rest. If I went to the eye doctor, I paid $20 and insurance covered the rest. If I got glasses, insurance covered roughly the cost of basic lenses and I was responsible for the frames and any lens upgrade I might want.
Now, it costs about three times as much for insurance (granted I'm older and I have a second person on my insurance and there's been inflation). But the kicker is, the first $5,000 of in-network care comes out of my pocket, outside of one physical. The insurance company negotiates down the cost of care, but doesn't kick in anything except a physical until I've spent over $10,000 (the cost of insurance plus the deductible).
Obamacare, in other words, is not amazing. But it's what we have, so that's where we have to start from.
Here's the thing: In all the years since we've known Obamacare isn't amazing, nobody's bothered to start writing something amazing.
If anybody had been doing one iota of real work on health care over the last seven years, we would have had some idea of the basics of a new plan that could have helped us move forward.
There are plenty of career politicians in both houses of Congress — people who would certainly have been around to reap the benefits of their work whenever it came to fruition.
Not that that's why you do it. Remember, you're entitled to work hard, and that's basically it.
Instead, what we wound up with was a quickly-hacked-together piece of legislation that some people were affectionately calling repeal and go fuck yourself.
This is not what you get if you spend seven years putting together a good foundation and then refine some of the details. It's what you get when you assume that people fall in line behind you instead of actually asking them what they want.
It takes 218 votes to get a piece of legislation through the House. It has to be a pretty good piece of legislation, then, not something that gets hacked together.
Lesson One, then, is do the work.
Lesson Two is work with your colleagues.
Two more lessons learned came straight from the top.
If you leave everything on the field, you focused on nothing but this game, gave it everything you had, and are so exhausted at the end that you'll have to deal with the emotion of the result later. For now, all you can do is scrape yourself together and try to pull off your shirt so you can get off in the shower.
Not one of those things describes anyone in the legacy of the AHCA.
Lesson Four: Take some responsibility. And even if you don't control the whole process, understand who can actually help you. If instead you're angry at your son-in-law for being off skiing with your daughter and your grandkids, you clearly don't understand that your son-in-law's job is basically to say what he thinks should happen and hold your hand when things don't go your way.
Jared Kushner doesn't write policy and he doesn't vote on it. And frankly, if he didn't think this was a battle worth fighting, that's his business, not yours.
This is the letter I wrote to Congressman Buddy Carter on Sunday after I received his weekly newsletter. I'll update when I get a response. He only accepts email from his constituents, so unless you're in the first Georgia district, you can just read and enjoy (or whatever).
You write in your most recent email to constituents (March 26, 2017) that "Obamacare is a disaster," and you list many reasons why that may be true.
You also blame a "small number of [your] colleagues in the House" for failure to pass the AHCA.
If a small number of your colleagues were against the AHCA, it would have passed -- at least 218 of them must have been against it.
The problem with dwelling on the faults of Obamacare is that you create no solutions.
Obamacare was always imperfect, and nobody -- Democrat or Republican -- has tried to fix it or work out any of the kinks in the past seven years.
The proposed version of the AHCA failed because the president rushed together a new bill and tried to bully it through the House with a "pass it tomorrow or forget about it" dictate, rather than spending the time working with a majority of the House to write good legislation.
It's going to take some time to write good legislation. If it means gut Obamacare and start over, then do that -- don't just pick apart what you and your colleagues don't like and hope it works out.
Look, I am a healthy 40-year-old man with a healthy wife and so far no children. That makes me fairly immune from whatever comes down the pike over the next few years; even if we're blessed with a child or two, we're in pretty good shape.
My parents are not getting any younger, and their premiums are way too expensive under Obamacare, but they would not have been eligible for coverage under the previous system because a bad back or a previous rotator cuff surgery would have been flagged as a preexisting condition.
We're not sure what would have changed for them under AHCA because nobody bothered to tell us what's in it, other than, "it's better."
I want you to understand something, before you read the rest of this letter. I'm a writer by nature, and do a fair bit of writing by trade. I have a vocabulary roughly three times that of the average college graduate. I say that because the words I'm going to use are very strong, and you should know that I'm picking them purposefully. Ready?
Get it the fuck together.
Your constituents know Obamacare isn't working. We're subject to it, unlike you and your colleagues who have federal health care.
You're not struggling. We are.
You don't have to tell us "Obamacare is a disaster." In fact, we'd really like it if you found your own descriptor. We've heard that one before. Chernobyl was a disaster. By that metric, Obamacare is at best annoying.
While you're coming up with words, try some that mean something. Here is what you said about AHCA in your email: "The legislation contains the critical reforms necessary to deliver relief and a patient-centered health care system with the choice and control needed to empower patients. "
In case you need someone to translate your fancy speech for you, that says, "AHCA contains changes that will give patients power."
Give me some details, please.
You don't fix a broken system by calling it a disaster and then hoping you can speak vaguely enough for long enough that people will cheer for the new one.
Do some fucking work.
I know it's difficult. Remember that you are a public servant. You represent us, but you work for us. It's not the job of your constituents to make you feel great about yourself. It's the job of your constituents to ask you to do great things, even if it takes sacrifice and hard work.
Even God never promised us the fruits of our labor, only the labor itself.
Now, take a deep breath, then decide to take some responsibility for working together with 217 (or more) of your colleagues, to write some legislation that's good for your constituents instead of your reelection campaign.
I promised to update this if and when Rep. Carter responded, and I did get an email from him on April 7. I'm just going to paste the letter in and let you infer my reaction.
Thank you for contacting me about the urgent need to rescue America’s failing health care system.
As a lifelong health care professional, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact Obamacare has on health care in America, especially in South Georgia where I served patients for more than 30 years. This misguided law has driven up costs, taken away choices, and inserted Washington bureaucrats in to one of the most personal aspects of our lives: our health. It contained $1 trillion in new taxes, kicked 4.7 million Americans off their health care, and created a new class of uninsured with 19.2 million Americans who could not afford the coverage offered them.
I supported the American Health Care Act, which was our plan to rescue patients and families from the Obamacare train wreck. While imperfect, it put aside the failed policies of the past and built on the best ideas from around the country. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed it would lower costs and empower patients to make their health care decisions. I was disappointed this bill was not brought to the floor for a vote.
Please know that this is not the end. I will not stop working until we empower all patients with access to quality, affordable, patient-centered health care.
Thank you, again, for contacting me and for the benefit of your input. It is an honor to represent you in the United States Congress.
We are a heavily divided country. End of sentence.
Many of us feel left behind. Millions of people have turned out for demonstrations. Usually quiet town hall meetings this past recess saw people get left out because fire marshals were concerned about occupancies. Some representatives simply didn't have them; some of their constituents held town halls anyway and brought cardboard cutouts of their elected officials.
Tomorrow marks the Ides of March, the day immortalized as a day of which to be wary thanks to the murder of Julius Caesar.
It also marks a day on which many people will send postcards to the president — liberals to send negative messages and conservatives to send messages of support to counter what those on the left are calling #TheIdesOfTrump.
I'll keep the more amusing details of how I think this plays out to myself, but I think the larger result is the recycling pickup at the White House next week is going to be somewhat heavier than usual.
Before you drop me in a corner here, I want to remind you where I stand. As an American, if President Trump succeeds in improving education and trade and international relations and community relations, I succeed. I'm rooting for him.
I'm just not optimistic.
Don't point to the stock market, please. It works independently of the president, and consistently works its way up. We're in the midst of the longest bull market ever (eight years). Pundits who are crediting President Trump for the growth since the election didn't give President Obama any credit for the previous seven and a half years of steady growth; markets aren't partisan — they just grow. At some point we'll have a bear market for a little while. Every single bear market in US history has been followed by a bull within a year, with the one exception being the Great Depression (and technically, they called that a crash, not a bear).
Here's the problem with the liberal side of this postcard campaign: It takes up the battle cry #resist.
I understand you prepare for the worst-case scenario, not the best, but if you don't appear ready for the best-case, you're never going to get it.
I feel like that's what the left is doing with #resist. Says the dictionary of resist: "to withstand, strive against, or oppose; to make a stand or make efforts in opposition; act in opposition; offer resistance."
This is different from debate, persuade, seek to change or even to work within the bounds of constitutional process. It's to set up a physical opposition, not a political one. It's a very aggressive message to send, and not one that invites discussion.
There are hundreds of #resist meetups that have popped up around the US (and also elsewhere in the world). The conversation is not civil. It's mostly a lot of shouted threats, again, not at all like discussion.
Aggressors rarely come out on top without a strong show of actual force, and liberals are going to have to decide if they're liberals in the way of George Washington and Fidel Castro, ready to pick up arms and overthrow their government, or progressives in the way of Mahatma Gandhi and Ram Dass, willing to fight with their brains and their mouths for what's right and not quitting until they get it.
If it's the latter, get on the phone with your elected representatives. Show them the numbers. If Medicaid is shut down in 2020 and your parents won't be able to get health care because simply being 72 years old is a preexisting condition and your $100,000-a-year CFO salary belongs to the hospital after three nights recovering from a fall, they need to know.
If your kid's public school can't afford a new roof after 30 years because half the federal aid that would have gone to that school is going to a private school down the street, they need to know.
If the NEA disappears and all the museums in your city that might have inspired children to be artists and archaeologists and historians have to close and those kids wind up in gangs because that's the only way they've ever seen to break the cycle of poverty, your representatives need to know.
If you're worried because the administration is purposefully lying to media to keep the public in the dark as to what's really going on in the world, your representatives need to know.
I'm not saying roll over for your government — for sure, always stay vigilant — but understand when you meet fire with fire you get a bigger fire. When you meet fire with water, you get relief.
As evidence that a whole bunch of people are registered to vote in more than one state, take, for instance, Gregg Phillips, who is Trump's voter fraud "expert" — the guy who estimated the number of fraudulent votes at three million. He's registered to vote in three states.
Nobody (including me) is suggesting they voted twice. All we're suggesting is that being registered in more than one state is not evidence of voter fraud. In fact, it's a fairly common thing to be registered in more than one state. After all, you don't typically call your old state and ask to be taken off the rolls.
How can you tell if you're registered to vote in more than one state? It's actually kind of time consuming, and you have to remember the last address (or at least the ZIP code) you were registered at in each state you've left.
While there are sites like Vote.org that can do a search of multiple rolls, the database isn't current and only updates when they get people to update it.
What you'll really want to do is visit the Secretary of State's website and find the part of it that deals with finding your registration. Asking Google if you're registered to vote in your state is a good way to get there. For example, search am i registered to vote in georgia?
I went to the sites for Georgia, New York and Massachusetts to determine that I am, in fact, only registered to vote in Georgia, where I currently live.
We as a people have been griping a lot on Twitter and Facebook. While social media can be an informative and instructive tool — as well as a good medium for discussion if you can stay out of echo chambers and petty sniping — these posts largely are not read by anyone who actually makes laws.
We have the ability to contact our elected representatives, and, as with other rights, this is a use-it-or-lose-it responsibility.
You'll need to know two things: Who your Senators and Representative are, and how to contact them. Reminder: Senators are elected to six-year terms with a third of the Senate up every two years, and are not currently term limited. Members of the House of Representative are elected to two-year terms without term limits, and the entire House is up for election every two years.
Hey, look! Tools!
To find your Senators — every state has two of them, and they both represent everyone in the state — go here and select your state in the dropdown.
You'll get both Senators' names, along with their websites, phone numbers, office addresses and email addresses,
The House is a little trickier. Each state has a varying number of Congressmen based on population, and districts aren't always drawn with intuitive boundaries (that's another discussion for another time).
The best thing you can do is to start here with a ZIP code finder. If you happen to live in a ZIP code that has been divided by district boundaries, you'll have to go deeper.
Just like with the Senate search tool, you'll get your House member's website, email address, office address and phone number.
One of the things that a lot of people have been talking about with this incoming administration is fear. I've been trying to put into words what those fears are, and, well, we're going to go ahead and work this one out. Basically, it comes down to this:
I'm an American, and I don't feel the president has my back.
• My wife is an American, and I don't feel the president has her back.
• My parents are American, and I don't feel the president has their backs.
• My nieces are tiny Americans, and I don't feel the president has their backs.
• As an American, I am lucky to be able to be an example for the world. I don't feel the president cares that the rest of the world needs us.
I want to start with the media, and before you roll your eyes, let's do some civics. This won't take long, I promise. Maybe. I guess we'll see how much I ramble.
The Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle popularized the moniker "fourth estate," referring to the three estates of the UK Parliament, checked by the fourth estate, the media.
It translates well to the U.S.
I know you learned this in middle school, but let's have a little reminder. We have three branches of government with a check-and-balances system. The Executive branch has veto power over the Legislative branch and appointment power over the Judicial branch. The Legislative branch has advise-and-consent power over both branches, along with the power to override a presidential veto. The Judicial branch has the ability to strike down laws written by the Legislative branch and enacted by the Executive.
What happens, then, when there's collusion?
You are aware of what the government does because of media. If the three branches of government are our three estates, then the media are our fourth, and it's their job to tell us what they see — not what they're told to tell us.
CNN, some of you might be old enough to remember, brought us the first Iraq war in real-time. It doesn't get a lot less fake than that. Has CNN developed something of a bias over the years? Maybe, but even if so, that's not super-important (we can argue about it here, or you can go read my post on objectivity vs. transparency in media).
Flash forward to Trump's inauguration. It was well-attended. In fact, it was probably the third- or fourth-best-attended inauguration in the past 35 years, and certainly the most well-attended inauguration for a Republican in that time.
It was not the best-attended ever, as the president's spokesman, Sean Spicer, asserted Saturday during his first press conference — right before not taking any questions from the media at all.
You read that correctly. The press secretary lied to the press, then didn't take questions from the press.
How do I know Spicer lied? I have eyes. Here, take a look at these photos (I'll explain what you're looking at underneath it).
There's a camera on top of the Washington Monument. It provides a live feed. These are screengrabs from that feed. The top is from Barack Obama's first inauguration; the second is from Donald Trump's. Both are taken at the time the incoming presidents are taking their respective oaths of office.
Can you objectively look at that bottom photo and tell me there are more people in it than in the top photo? Even if you have no idea how many people are in either, there are clearly more in the top photo. However many people there are in that top photo, there are certainly more people in it than however many people there are in the bottom photo.
There's not a partisan issue here. The media are responsible for telling citizens the truth when their government lies. That's the issue.
Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway went on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning and told Chuck Todd Spicer didn't lie to the media, he merely had "alternative facts."Here's the clip.
Here are some alternative facts: I'm a seven-foot-two Mexican midget.
Conservatives like to make fun of special snowflakes getting butthurt? We officially have the most special and unique snowflakeever in the White House, and he hasn't even been there a week.
It appears that the president and his administration are at war with the media. Remember that this isn't the media's fault. Media aren't combative by nature, they're skeptical. Without a skeptical media, you get whatever the president wants you to hear. Like in North Korea, or Russia.
And before you ask me why media gave Obama a pass? It's because you weren't paying attention. Even an outlet like The Washington Post — which is certainly reporting on Trump from a contrarian position — rated Obama's administration one of the most secretive ever.
Again, media should be skeptical. That's how they protect us. It's their check against all three branches of the government. Really, it's our check against the government.
OK, so I lied. I rambled a lot.
Let's talk about what's really bothering me about this administration. And by bothering, I really mean scared. Honestly frightened. Like, it might be time to start selling stuff and become a prepper frightened.
Like I said at the top, I don't feel like the president has my back as an American.
It's the government's job, above all else, to keep its citizens safe. Not safe-space safe. Safe. Like I don't have to worry about going to the gym and having a racist blow me up safe.
If the president does nothing else well, he certainly talks — and tweets — a good game. He said nothing last week when several dozen synagogues and Jewish Community Centers across the country had bomb threats called in.
The thing these incidents all have in common is that they've happened since the election. Some were accompanied by "Make America Great Again" accompanying it. The vandalism is by people who feel empowered by Trump's election to bully others.
All Trump had to do was say, "This kind of thing won't be tolerated."
It's too late now, I think. I don't think I'd believe him at this late date.
I've been saying since the election I want to be wrong on Trump. If he succeeds, America succeeds, and if America succeeds, I succeed. Unless he succeeds in making us something else.
If you've been listening to the podcast the past couple of weeks, you know I've been worried to the point of paranoia. I didn't really have words for what I was actually scared of until now.
If the president doesn't have my back as an American Jew, he definitely doesn't have my back as an American who works in news media.
With no details of the president's health plan rolled out, I'm concerned for my parents, who are getting up there in age. If Medicare goes away, if Social Security goes away, will they have insurance as they head toward retirement? Will they be able to afford it?
I'm also worried about health care for my wife, of course — if we go back to a private, largely unregulated insurance market, should she get pregnant, will that be seen as a pre-existing condition? Will she be able to be covered at all?
This is not to mention all the allegations of sexual assault and that tape that got Billy Bush fired. They may or may not be important politically, but knowing what you know, would you let Trump date your daughter?
And my nieces. Again, Trump's problems with women. But also, did you watch those Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings? She's more concerned about grizzly bears coming into schools than mentally ill adults with weapons. She's long been a proponent of for-profit charter schools that have no requirement to meet any educational standards.
She's a candidate for education secretary who can't be bothered to proofread her own tweets. I'm no angel when it comes to social media and grammar, but this, more than any other time in her life, is a time to be a good example for students.
As my nieces' parents have to decide where to send the girls to school, will there be viable public schools? If not, will charter schools that get federal money actually teach them facts, and the tools they need to survive as adults?
Fixed Betsy DeVos's tweet. She can thank the _public_ elementary school, middle school, high school, and universities where I was educated. pic.twitter.com/A9fmIXRVlB
And finally, the US has never been out front on human rights. We've declined to sign the United Nations' Universal Decleration of Human Rights. I get that. But after Trump spent a part of his campaign slamming the UN, a few Republican congressmen on Jan. 3 introduced a bill to have America leave the UN, removing us, essentially, as a world citizen.
I suppose this shouldn't surprise me. During his campaign — and now on the White House website — he prefers the phrase "America First." While this sounds merely isolationist on its face, it harkens back to a racist, anti-Semitic group called the America First Committee, which wanted to keep America out of World War II — not because they wanted to keep citizens safe, but because they wanted Europe to worry about Europe.
They clearly hadn't thought about what that meant for trade or innovation.
That group disbanded shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
I've been thinking of the best ways to enunciate the fears I feel, and that others I speak to feel, under the coming Trump presidency. We've been having this tribe problem on social media, so let me offer a longer look, one that hopefully brings people who disagree together in discussion.
Note that my purpose here is not to change anybody's mind about your political party or candidate. It's to remind you that we're on the same team. As Americans, we have three different ideals we're working with. Let's oversimplify a little so that we can understand them but then get to the real point.
(1) Bootstrapping and the American dream. Think of everything you learned in school growing up, and everything you ever saw on film about immigration. From the California Gold Rush of the 1840s to the Mousekowitz family in "An American Tail," America has been sold as a place where, if you're willing to to the work, you can do anything and be anything. It turns out we have some systemic issues that don't allow for that.
(2) 40 acres & a mule / A chicken in every pot & a car in every garage. "Forty acres and a mule" was actually meant to be reparations for slavery, and was repealed very quickly after Lincoln's death. The point really isn't a "handout," it's a dream of property ownership for everyone. Hoover's 1928 campaign slogan, on the other hand, hints at a prosperity that many families have never been able to realize.
(3) A melting pot / A salad bowl. When I was in school, we started to change the language of America as "a melting pot" — a place where people of different backgrounds came together to create a new, American culture — to that of "a salad bowl" — a place where people of different backgrounds mixed with each other but kept their identities. It turns out lettuce and carrots and celery and tomatoes sometimes have a problem living and working together.
The common element running through all of these promises is that they're for everybody. But they're not. There are some things some people simply cannot do because the systems we have in place work against them.
With that behind us, I propose en emphasis on these ten terms as we move forward and live — and hopefully grow — together. If you feel like you "won" with this election, you should read this to learn about others around you. If you feel like you "lost" with this election, you should read this to learn about others around you. If you've moved beyond winning and losing, awesome! This can help inform your conversations with people who have not.
Nuance. The biggest thing we've lost in the social media world is a sense of nuance. Posts are by and large black and white and lead to shouting rather than nuanced discussions. It bleeds into real life, too, and it's one of the reasons we have such large swings in who's leading Congress every few years: we get too caught up in rhetoric that we forget that things aren't all or nothing.
People rarely change their minds over the course of debate, but nuanced discussions can help people see the other side and to give some ground here and there, to make compromises. Let's think of some examples.
Want to know why people really voted for Trump? Stop stamping "racist" and "sexist" on their foreheads. Ask about jobs and faith. Want to know why people are really afraid under Trump? Ask, then actually listen.
Want to have an honest discussion about gun control? Talk about mental health, criminal history and multi-state licensure. And don't forget keeping firearms out of toddlers' hands.
Context. I've written about context recently. It's important because we don't live in a vacuum. Every experience we have contributes to the lens through which we see the world and colors our interactions.
History also provides context.
Empathy. While it's true that we do live in a bootstrapping, reward-the-lone-wolf-hero society, we don't even have a society without empathy. We have to care for others, understand and respect where they're coming from and fight for people who don't have a voice. It's actually one of the things that got America to the top. People came here from England to find some religious freedom and we wrote it into the Bill of Rights. When the French sent us the Statue of Liberty, we inscribed on her:
... "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me ..."
We're not going to make it if we throw these very people back.
Culture. I had a very brief conversation with my grad school advisor about culture. She thought she didn't have any. But here's the truth: Being a member of the dominant culture doesn't mean you don't have a culture.
Here is where I, and other #NeverTrump folks, need to understand something: White working-class (primarily) Christians in middle America are concerned that their culture is in trouble. Empathy works both ways — we want people to understand that just about every Muslim in America just wants to go to school and work and worship like just about every Jew in America does and just about every Christian in America does, we also have to understand that if people in the dominant culture feel their culture is threatened, it's the same feeling every member of a minority culture feels when they're threatened.
The dominant culture isn't bad, it's just invisible as a culture because it's dominant.
Facts. It worries me that, in 2017, with America well behind the pack in STEM education across the world, we are falling even more into a post-fact society. When political and religious dogma are the basis for arguments instead of facts, we're throwing out the baby with the bath water.
Michael Shermer proposes methods for discussion when facts don't help, but it's where I just walk away. You want to know why Kobe Bryant went to Germany a few years ago to rebuild his knees? It's because under the George W. Bush administration, we decided that we shouldn't harvest stem cells and store them and do research because we were worried people would get abortions and sell stem cells from their unborn fetuses. Remember that? Meanwhile, plenty of other countries moved forward with their research, didn't see an uptick in abortions, and are way ahead of us.
Abortion arguments are another one. It turns out we don't have significantly more abortions when abortion is legal. What we do have, though, is fewer women dying from botched abortions because the procedures are safe and performed by doctors. If you're "pro-life," you should be in favor of the lives of adults, too, not just unborn children.
The scientific community isn't split on global warming, but somehow politicians are.
More than half of Republicans think Donald Trump won the popular vote. Their source? Donald Trump. His source? Donald Trump. The popular vote was 64.1 million for Clinton, 62.2 million for Trump. The source? The people who count the actual votes. That doesn't mean the electoral vote is invalid, it just means Donald Trump didn't win the popular vote. Why is that even a discussion? Because political dogma is more important than facts to some people.
Safety. I'm not talking about so-called "safe spaces" where people go to be alone or get counseling if they feel uncomfortable because someone disagrees with them. I'm betting that happens less than we think and that we're blowing a lot of it out of proportion. I'm talking about physical safety. If you show up somewhere in a Klan hood or call someone an "oven-dodger" they're going to assume you mean to kill them. You don't need to love everybody, but you do have to live alongside them.
Civility. "Political correctness," I've come to believe, is a term used primarily when someone is too lazy — or too rude — to be civil to others. The answer is yes, you should go out of your way to be polite to people. Didn't your mother ever teach you any manners?
Trust. So if facts don't matter and people are unwilling to be civil and lots of us feel unsafe, whom do we trust? I'm actually not sure. If you're willing to cite political or religious dogma in a factual argument, or you're not willing to be polite to someone just because you're lazy, I don't know if I can trust your word.
Echo chambers. Do me a favor. Hop on over to Facebook and scroll through your feed. Of the first 15 or so status updates, how many do you disagree with? If the answer is more than zero, you're in a minority. If your answer is more than one, you're in a tiny minority. Over on Twitter, it might be slightly higher (that's because follow relationships aren't mutual), but not a lot.
If one of the great possibilities of the internet was that we'd get to hear a wide variety of viewpoints, one of our great failings as humans is that we've actively sought to shut them out. It should be the other way 'round.
Silos. Even within our echo chambers, we are in what some call silos. That is, we may have our political leanings, but other people with those same political leanings have entirely different reasons for having those leanings than we do — and they are also not in our timelines. We've actually managed to segregate ourselves not only from diverse opinions but also from those that are close parallels.
We need to bust out of these echo chambers and silos and actually get out and speak with each other. And we need to do it civilly, with empathy and having some context.
I'm not gonna lie: A large number of Trump's supporters scare me shitless. I'm going to spend much of the next four years glancing over my shoulder.
Some newspapers around the world went with "Oh My God" on the front page. At home, they went with "you're hired," you know, because he's a reality TV star and editors think they're clever.
Where Hillary Clinton and the Democrats went wrong
So many places.
Clinton wasn't the right person in 2008. She wouldn't have been the right person in 2012. It was only a small echo chamber who thought she was the right person this year. Nobody actually listened to the majority of actual voters.
The party elite forgot that Bernie Sanders supporters entered the primaries as Sanders-or-Trump folks. They forgot that those weren't dyed-in-the-wool Democrats — that they were independent thinkers. Having Sanders ask his primaries supporters to vote for Clinton wasn't going to work — they were going to vote for whom they thought would be the best candidate, not follow the guy who dropped out.
After the convention, Clinton ignored Wisconsin altogether. She sent surrogates to Michigan. She banked on Pennsylvania. She lost them all, to the tune of 46 electoral votes that would have swung the election.
She spent the last week posting Twitter ads asking for money, when she hadn't even shored up our votes.
Clinton spent the election season sounding entitled to the office.
Where Trump went right
Trump went for the heart. He's a smile-and-shake hands kind of guy. Some of us find that kind of slimy, but most of us go for it anyway. It's the kind of thing that sells millions of cars, houses, boats and insurance policies across the country every year. It's big business.
He didn't need facts. He got a lot of stuff wrong. Nobody cared. He knew that.
What Trump's first 100 days look like
Trump's going to have a difficult first 100 days, I think. His cabinet will sail through, he'll get someone appointed to the Supreme Court. All the Washington stuff will go easy. He has a Republican House and Senate. Expect a lot of rubber stamps for two years.
But the work is going to be intrinsically hard. He's a figure head. He runs companies, shmoozes, shakes hands and entertains. He's going to have to get his hands a little dirtier than he's used to.
He's going to earn in a year what some of his businesses earn in hours — he's going to take a pay cut to the tune of four or five zeroes. He's not going to be able to run his businesses. His assets are going to be caught up in a blind trust.
Built with Mexicans' money? They say they'd get that money by intercepting money sent back to Mexico by workers. That means they're going to be opening mail. If there's cash in an envelope, it might just go to the wall (or some other project). Do grandmothers still put $3 in Valentine's Day cards for four-year-olds? Yeah, that's all going to the wall now. Because the federal government will be opening our mail.
Trump says he's going to force Apple to build iPhones in the US? He's not. First, because he's not going to move his own manufacturing to the US (his hats, shirts, suits and ties are made overseas), but also because Apple's not going to pay the millions it would take to create the fabricating equipment, and you'll probably balk at whatever the iPhone costs after manufacturing costs go up $100, or about a third.
A lot of the campaign promises Trump made (let's make this clear — most presidents fail at most of their campaign promises) are big government promises. Dictating where companies make products. Checking mail for cash. Getting the federal government involved in local law enforcement. He's now at the top of the small-government party. The legislature is not going to go for most of that.
What you can do as a Trump supporter
Have some empathy and don't be an asshole. No, really. Your "team" won. There are people who are actually scared for their lives, their livelihoods and their liberty. These people are your neighbors, your coworkers and your customers. Some of them are people you hire for jobs you don't want to do. You don't have to agree with them. But you have to live them.
This isn't football. You don't get a good ribbing in this week and then get back together next week for pizza, beer and the game again.
The future of third parties, and other US election issues
If you were hoping for Clinton to win, don't blame her loss on third-party voters. Most Gary Johnson supporters were not going to vote for Clinton. He was a Republican governor and had a Republican governor as his running mate. Jill Stein wasn't even on the ballot in most states.
It's not up to voters to vote for people they don't want to win. It's up to candidates to rally passion in voters.
I've begrudgingly voted for people before, but never as strongly as I did when I voted for Clinton yesterday. She was never the right candidate for me, and I still didn't know when I walked into the room whether I was going to click that box for her.
We're going to see more third-party candidates coming out of the woodwork if we keep seeing first-wave baby boomers running as major-party candidates. They're just out of touch with most of us.
Polling is going to change. We can't keep relying on people answering landlines or hanging up cell phones as an information collection method.
We need to get big money out of politics. We say it every election cycle, but until we have an election cycle that allows people to run without requiring many millions of dollars, we're going to keep having rich, entitled people with little actual empathy (despite what their ads show) running for president.
Finally, we need to put term limits on the House and Senate. Make it 10 or 12 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate — that way if you're awesome, you're serving under at least two presidents. But career politicians who get rubber-stamped into office need to get out of the way and let fresh blood help move the country forward.
The back-and-forth we have right now isn't working. We're behind in education, in manufacturing and in social issues (seriously, stop pointing at the Bible and saying being gay is wrong if you've spoken back to your parents since you were 13 or can't name a price to sell your daughter into slavery).
We need ways to get fresh brains into office, and term limits and curbing campaign spending would go a long way.
What you can do because you're scared after the election
Organize. Love. Hell, organize love.
Yes, Trump will be your president, too. If you feel like he's not going to do a good job, you can run away or you can work toward making things better. Do the latter. If you run off to Canada or Australia or wherever you have dual citizenship, consider whether your patriotism is fairweather and maybe consider staying there when someone you like better is elected.
Revolutions aren't built by majorities. They're built by a passionate 10 percent. Get a couple of revolutions together, and you have a coalition. Pretty soon you have a plurality. Good for you. That's what you need.
Build great stuff in your neighborhood, in your city and your state. Share it. It will grow.
Finally, don't bury your head and disappear. This election (and any other) isn't about you. It's about us. Americans. We were built on collaboration and peaceful transfer of power. Our system was built to survive its government. Buck. The fuck. Up. Do something great. Do it from love, not from fear.
I posted this at 2:30 a.m., right about the time AP and CNN called the election:
Here are a few things that I learned tonight:
- We are bitter winners
- We are bitter losers
- We are full of anger
- We are full of hate
- We are full of love
- We are full of fear
- We really don't understand one another as much as we thought we did
- We have a lot less empathy as a whole than we thought we did
- We have a de facto system that is broken in a lot of ways
Here are a few things things I'll be thinking about going forward:
- Revolutions aren't built on majorities, they're built on a dedicated 10%
- No one is entitled to the presidency. We need to stop treating the office as though party elites get to dictate who "should" wind up in the chair
- As a Jewish journalist, I'll spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder. I don't trust a lot of people right now.
- We need to get money out of politics. Until that happens, elections are out of the hands of the majority.
I really wish we could hear from George Carlin this election season.
(1) importantly, remember it's still OUR America and no one tells US how to live
(2) there are some groups of people who might seem Truly Fucked, but there are organizations that help almost all of them. Volunteer. Donate. Don't leave your friends, neighbors and loved ones stranded.
(3) be physically and mentally strong. You may get less help than you hope for. That doesn't mean you're helpless.
While there's certainly a dividing line between those in the top percent of Americans in terms of income, there are other dividing lines as well. The "middle class," such as it is, is a large group who may never know that immense wealth. However, the middle class may also never know what it is to decide whether to pay the electric bill or the phone bill this month.
There are several layers in between, as well — not just between the bottom one percent and the middle class, but between the middle class and the top one percent.
Economically speaking, there are not just two Americas.
Katie Couric was on Marc Maron's podcast recently. She made a reference to Two Americas, but it was different: It was about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and their supporters.
If Two Americas was originally about the ultra-wealthy and everybody else, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are on the same side of that divide, and it's not on the side that includes "everybody else."
Trump and Clinton are the least-liked major party candidates since we started taking polls of these things. I don't think they're the most polarizing — they're not only disliked by people in the opposing party, they are disliked by large swaths of their own parties, and by people of neither party.
In 1992, Ross Perot ran a fairly successful third-party candidacy for president. He was onstage for debates. He garnered enough votes in several states to swing the electoral votes. In Georgia, for instance, Bill Clinton beat George HW Bush by 13,000 votes. Perot got over 300,000 votes. Most likely the vast majority would have gone to Bush.
Since then, the rules for allowing third-party candidates on the debate stage have changed drastically. Now, to be considered for a debate, a candidate must be polling at least 15 percent in five national polls identified by the group that sponsors the debates. The candidates do not need to be options in those polls. If Zogby is one of those polls and Zogby is calling people to ask whether they'll vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton, if 15% of respondents don't go off-script and say Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, those candidates are eliminated from consideration.
A third-party candidate must also be on enough ballots across the country to receive 270 electoral votes, which is the number required to win the presidency. Different states have different rules for which parties are allowed on the ballot.
Apart from which parties are allowed on the ballot, different states have different rules on which party you can register for. I'm registered "unenrolled." In New York, that meant I couldn't vote in a primary unless I changed my party affiliation very early. In Georgia, it doesn't matter: we have open primaries, so I can just walk in on primary day and ask for whichever ballot I want.
When I lived in New York, I would frequently vote off the major party-line even if it was for a major party candidate. Sen. John DeFrancisco may have been a Republican, but if he had the endorsement of the Libertarian Party, I'd vote for him on the Libertarian line. If a Democrat was endorsed by the Working Families Party, I'd vote on the Working Families line.
There are not just Two Americas when it comes to political beliefs.
About 25 percent of voters are registered as Republicans. About 25 percent of voters are registered as Democrats. About 50 percent are registered as unenrolled or Green or Libertarian or Working Families or Socialist or something else.
There are dozens of Americas, and they manifest as three Americas — Republicans, Democrats and others. And in a society in which identifying as "Other" frequently makes social problems for people, we only get to see two Americas, and those two Americas are really one America: they're not Republicans and Democrats, they're the folks who put up the money to make sure the rest of America is as close to invisible as possible.
We're one week away from the U.S. presidential election. Vote for someone, not against someone. If we continue to do what we've always done — vote for the lesser of two evils — we're going to continue to get what we've always got — one of the evils. If a major party candidate is the best option for you, go ahead and vote for that person. But if a third-party candidate who certainly isn't going to win is the best option, vote for that person. We don't change with one election. It takes a wave. Why not start now?