What the Hell Do We Have to Lose?

Usually I churn through two or three books a month, along with the Austin newspaper everyday, the Wall Street Journal six days a week, and the New York Times on Sunday. Oh yes, plus two amateur radio magazines each month! In addition, another guilty pleasure, The New Yorker, comes every week. OK, I'm human and there are times when they pile up, and occasionally, I get behind and my wife, Diana, asks me to go ahead and chuck the stack into the recycle. But usually, at least I get a chance to scan most of them in the mornings with one or two cups of coffee while the house is quiet and my comprehension is at its best, which isn't saying much.

As a person interested in how to use words, and as one who tries to send out something interesting every week or two in blog form, I cut out notes and articles to use as starters for something that might be of interest to the legions of you faithful readers (OK, so I exaggerate a tad). Recently, a short piece in the September 6 issue of The Journal described America's growing political divisions. Between 1995 and mid 2017, a little over twenty years, a gap of substantial significance has developed between US Citizens regarding immigration and social change. Using the two major political parties as base points, with regard to immigration, those identifying as Republicans felt that immigration strengthened the U.S. actually increased from about 35% to 45%, still a minority position, while Democrats' similar posture nearly doubled from 45% to nearly 80%. Nearly every economist will point out that immigration historically benefits the economy as newcomers bring personal drive and both take the less desirable jobs as well as providing brilliant innovators and tireless entrepreneurs.

Underlying the stark statistics were fundamental trends. "Members of the two political parties seem to inhabit two separate worlds of differing social and cultural values." These are the exact words from the Journal article ... I could not express it any better.  Less than one-third of R's are comfortable with societal changes that make the U.S. more diverse,  while over 75% of D's are okay with these transitions. The divergences are different from the traditional low/high tax and small/big government philosophies, and can be tracked along geographic, educational, and religious lines. Rural Americans and those without a college degree are notably more pessimistic on the economy and more conservative socially.

These two groups are making up an increasingly large share of the Republican Party. Democrats are only half as likely to attend church as Republicans, and more than eight times more concerned about climate change. Democrats see the division as rooted in economics, an income gap between rich and poor. The Republicans on the other hand view the split as socially and culturally based. This is a key development. More on this later.

When I was growing up in three separate small towns in eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and southern West Virginia, the communities were solidly Democratic, the stronghold of the "working man." Things have changed now. These areas went for Trump by nearly three-to-one. The job situation was part of it. People believed there was a "war on coal" even though automation in the mines and low prices of natural gas, now being used in many power plants rather than the thermal coal, were main driving forces. Many of the manufacturing jobs were gone; folks felt that foreign trade deals had undercut them, and wanted more concern about domestic manufacturing. As a general rule, their educational levels were lower.

Equally important, although no one ever said it publicly, were social and cultural concerns. Many people felt uncomfortable with the rapid rate of change of society. They felt national Democrats were more worried with same-sex marriage and gay rights than with jobs, and that all those "other people" who didn't go to their church or who didn't speak English well if at all somehow could not be real Americans; that the "pointy-headed liberals" with university degrees had their heads in a cloud. There is no doubt that Donald Trump cannily captured their fears and concerns as he rode a swell of anger. Hillary Clinton never seemed to be able to reach out from her stronghold on the two coasts and "uppity young women," to quote some.

Clinton represented the status quo and simply didn't connect with middle America. She got sick and took a week off the campaign while Donald Trump campaigned non-stop, like a whirlwind, gaining strength from the aroused crowds as he used inflammatory words and tireless populist speech to paint her into an elitist position apart from the people with his simplistic promises to shake things up: "Drain the Swamp," and "Make America Great Again." Trump stalked around the stage during the debates like a leering voyeur. Looking back, Clinton would have done much better departing from her calm and much practiced debate preparation, and simply shouting at him to "get away from me, you creep." Trump, who apparently disdained much preparation at all for the debates, had dominated every cable-TV news channel with what seemed to be a series of clever one-word mocking terms against every primary foe. His continuous simplistic promises to "fix" it and to bring in the "best people" to take care of China, North Korea, and Iran and ... whatever was the issue of the day ... resonated with his base. He first promised to release his tax forms but then changed his mind with the logic that "the people don't care; they voted for me" didn't seem to dent a permanent support level of 30-35% that nothing seemed to affect. Perhaps it still doesn't!

The Democratic Party seems rudderless. Unless it can get new leadership along with a message of hope and pragmatic solutions that connect with the mainly white voters in the vast non-urban part of America between New Jersey and the Sierra Nevada, those areas will continue to elect Representatives and Senators as well as state governors, and that coalition will continue to control the redistricting every ten years to the benefit of the Republican party as more Democrats live in cities while the rural areas are more Republican. We will see more "Wisconsins" where the Republicans gained just over 48% of the statewide vote but 60 of 99 statehouse representatives and total control over the legislature because of the way the districts were drawn.

Democrats seem to be counting on a "Hispanic wave" in Texas and other states based on seemingly inexorable demographic trends; that new leaders will emerge with fresh ideas. We shall see. Don't hold your breath. Where I live (near blue-dot Austin), Anglos already are a minority statewide, but outside of the major cities a cascade of rural and suburban voters send wave after wave of more and more conservative Republicans into office. The Republican primaries are a contest to see who can out-right-flank whom.

The world is watching to see if this populist and nationalist shift in America will continue. Can we bridge our internal chasm in social and world views? If we continue to lose jobs to global competition (some of which clearly is protectionist and needs to be addressed), automation and technological change, what direction will the US take? Is the answer to erect protection against imports and immigration, to cut social services and build up the military while income inequality continues to widen? Internationally, stresses are growing with tectonic shifts vis-a-vis a growing and powerful Asia, led by a muscular China, with India not far behind and a population explosion underway in Africa. Pariah states like North Korea and a festering Middle East threaten war that might not be containable.

We now have a President "unlike anyone any of us has seen in our lifetimes," to quote Bob Shieffer of CBS News. Oh, that's one of those Fake News organizations. Mr. Trump is an insecure and self-centered man, a fiery counter-puncher whose administration has been one chaotic development after another and which has an as-yet unseen web of possible business entanglements and lack of transparency. Now the possible termination or resignation of the Secretary of State is discussed openly.

Will he fix the "fake news," which is every news organization in the world other than Fox News and Friends, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Alex Jones? Is it really statesmanship to throw the acid of "fake news" against the wall so his base can reject anything they don't like. Are Hannity, Limbaugh, and Jones the "great people" he will bring in?

Will he "fix" North Korea and "Little Rocket Man" with the best people? Will the deal with Iran to stop their nuclear weapons program be cancelled? Will that "fix" Iran? Did the "best people" advise the President? Will he get Mexico to pay for a "big beautiful wall?" Will he "fix China" with more of the best people?

I feel that something is going to happen, and it ain't good. What do we have to lose? A lot.

All the while Robert Mueller and several congressional committees continue their fact-based work. Hopefully the fundamental girders of the Constitutional foundation of the country will protect us.

J.K. George

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Please feel free to post a comment here on the blog, or email me directly at <n3bb@mindspring.com> with any remarks. Also, I'll very much appreciate your recommendation of "Contact Sport" and/or "Reunion" to friends and book clubs. In addition, I'd be pleased to appear at book clubs and/or radio clubs within a two-hour drive of Austin to discuss either book.

 

6 Responses

  1. What the Hell do we have to lose? I can feel it sliding away every day. Even though Trump continues to stumble and blunder his way through crisis after crisis, his supporters would still rather follow him to ruin rather than admit their poor judgment (or even worse, trust someone with an education). There was a B movie called Idiocracy that is frighteningly (ok, a bit exaggerated) similar to our political and social conditions these days. Perhaps you've seen it. If not, view it and be very, very afraid. These days (daze) definitely, "Keep your eyes along the skyline." Take care.......
  2. A liberal screed such as this with it's barely disguised colored language doesn't even deserve a reply. We won, Jim. Get over it.
    • JK James George
      Yes, "you" won, John. With 48% of the popular vote and gerrymandered districts. And what did it get "you?" A chaotic Presidency with no legislative accomplishments, no health reform, a tax "reform" that promises to remove all estate taxes so Trump and friends will benefit by hundreds of millions of dollars, and daily bitter recriminations from President Twitter. With so much-needed infrastructure work that has bipartisan support, we deal with daily bickering and international chaos and it's hard to find even Trump voters who now are comfortable with this situation. Is this is what "you" voted for?
  3. One suggestion and one observation. Use a larger font. I'd imagine most of your readers are like me, no longer young. Or at least use something that stands out from the very similar colored background. Now for the important part. I believe you seem to have taken the commonly propagated :-) low opinion of Trump, and indeed, overall Republican voters. Yes, no doubt a sizable percentage do fit that mold. Enough that he won the primary, unfortunately. However, there is also a sizable percentage who voted for Trump for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with Trump. Hillary Clinton being the most obvious. But let's face it, the Democratic Party has become the Socialist Party. (Bernie Sanders for example) Socialism is a nice idea, but it doesn't work in the long run. For many reasons, but the major being it bankrupts governments. Delve into the financial health of every European country. It's not just Greece on the verge of bankruptcy. Our system is broken. Money and power have become God Almighty. And both sides do whatever it takes to obtain and keep that. If you could find 20% of Congress who actually understand our Constitution, and the myriad things that made this country great, I'd be amazed. If you could find 10% who actually put the welfare of this country and it's citizens ahead of their quest for re-election I'd be even more amazed. What's the answer? I sure don't have it. We face extremely complicated problems, ie: healthcare, and the nut jobs running N. Korea and Iran just for two. There are no simple solutions to problems of this magnitude. But do not fall prey to the ever slanted news. And both sides do it. Although I personally think Trump is the next thing to a moron and he scares the crap out of me when it comes to N. Korea etc, there is a lot more to Republican voters than the great uneducated masses portrayed by a lot of the left leaning news media.
  4. Hardly a "liberal screed," rather a very perceptive analysis of the mess we've gotten into. I grew up in WV not far from Jim; my grandfather grew up in a MD coal town, got an EE degree and went to work in the KY and WV coal fields, and my Mom was born in KY. Coal companies have never cared about or treated their workers well; with my brand new driver's license, I borrowed the family car and drove through abandoned coal towns that the company left behind. That was in 1959, and although strip mining was practiced (and hated by residents), most mining was underground. For decades now, the companies have been destroying the beautiful landscape and poisoning the streams. I spent much of my adult life in Chicago, and I can spot a con man a mile away. In my 76 years, I've also encountered BS artists, liars, phonies, bullies, insecure people who can't stand even the slightest criticism, people who pretend to be your friend and can't stand your guts, and those who will pick your pocket and convince you that they're doing you a favor. All of this describes that guy in the White House. I know what it's like to live far from cities, with no contact with anyone who isn't more or less like me. Schools were segregated both by race and religion -- Roman Catholics went to their school, blacks to theirs. By age 17, the only Catholic I knew was a neighbor I became friends with through ham radio. I knew no blacks at all. I never heard any language but English spoken until I went away to college in Cincinnati, a rather metropolitan city settled by German and Italian immigrants 100 years before, and with a healthy population of folks from the surrounding hills and valleys of KY, IN, and OH. My cousin received one of the first heart transplants. She was driven to the hospital in Baltimore for it, survived a long time, and died without ever having been on an airplane. Far too many Americans have never traveled outside our country. I've been lucky enough to have made trips to several countries in Europe, and to visit Mexico. Travel can greatly expand our perspectives on the world if we keep an open mind and try to get to know other cultures. It certainly has helped me and others in my family. I am a descendent of illegal immigrants who arrived in Massachusetts before 1632.
  5. JK James George
    Here are some excerpts from private emails received. I've taken out personal references/names/etc. ********************************************* * XXXXXXX just showed me your blog. Talk about putting things in a nutshell.! Spot on. What you blog is what we are thinking. It is worrying. Thanks for sharing. ****************************************************** * Read your recent blog, have two comments on format. The light typeface on the grey background is hard to read, which makes it easy to stop reading. At least for me. Also, suggest you place the "comment" window immediately after the blog, because that's what's fresh on mind of reader. Previous reader comments might appear to the side somewhere (scroll-able). As to blog content--actually, I would guess that most D's would be surprised that as much as 1/3 of R's support those diversity issues, and R's would shocked that only 75% of D's do. The media-- which is now mostly commentary, not news-- has led us to where we are today. ************************************************ * I love reading your books and blogs. You write with a flow of conscious that is most appealing. I have to comment on your last blog regarding the current state of the US. It's obvious you're a committed Democrat but you're not a blinded zealot. I sense a deep disappointment over America's adoption of Trump. Ironically, a lot of that have textbook views of Republicanism are in the same boat. Who would ever have thought that Populism would be the Republican mainstream. You're correct in that 30-35% of his base don't care what he says/does, they'll support him. I think the same percentage or higher goes for the Hill-billies. (Forgive the derogation, please!). Trump was elected for one big reason....We're fed up with Washington as now populated. I have a neighbor who founded the GOOOH party. I know you haven't heard of it. It never got off the ground, but did have supporters in multi-states. It features a ham radio operator's trials and tribulations getting his 70' tower up), Tim's book (Get Out Of Our House) is also available on Amazon. It proposes a new construct for Congress that would really drain the swamp. Politics, aside, keep up the good work. You've got a great second avocation. **************************************************** * I enjoyed your nice editorial or blog on how things are in DC. It is a crazy time I must admit. The latest attacks on Bob Corker leave me scratching my head - the WSJ today called Trump - the President without a Party. I think it nicely summarizes things. Let us hope we avoid another war. We need meaningful reform of the ACA and leadership to try to diffuse racial tensions which were stoked over the past eight years. Now is not the time to waste energy on the NFL and Twitter. I am praying for our leaders. It may take a miracle! ********************************************* * I see the Republican base slightly differently than you. They and the independents who vote with them are simply voting out of anger and frustration at poor leadership. They voted for Moore because he was willing to criticize McConnell who has not delivered one successful vote this year for a major policy victory. There are fringe elements also in the base who “believe” all of the rhetoric but Trump is not drive by ideology or convictions. He is driven by his ego and desire for a short term win. He has no strong policy moorings. The country needs some adult leaders who understand compromise and leadership. McConnell has been an obstructionist since he beat Dee Huddleston in 1984. Huddleston had promised me a summer job for the Senate AG committee but lost before I could take it! I changed careers and went to medical school 😁. Real win for me!! I think this election was awful. Hillary had no strong agenda and less charisma. Her main justification for our votes was that It is my turn and I am a woman who should be your first President. Aside from John Kasich, the Republicans had no one with vision, charisma and maturity so the void was filled by Trump. Who would have thought! Trump was the 1/Obama. Americans had tired of Obama’s self righteous preaching/lecturing and weak international leadership. Most conservatives were sick of his progressive agenda so they voted out of anger. Bad strategy! I see the next election as 1/Trump. I do not know who it will be - maybe Cory Booker but it will not be Warren or Sanders. They are too militant. *******************************************************

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