Thursday, January 7, 2021

What to Make of Georgia and Trump's Last Days

As I write this I am half way through "A Promised Land" and wondering how Americans could put themselves through this current insanity after having a rational, thoughful president.  Donald Trump is an egotistical con man, but he has served as a critical tool for conservative thinking, the kind that ensures inequality.  It appears the Democrats will eke out a slight power edge in Congress, but will still be subject to the randomness of insanity.

Georgian run offs apparently were instituted originally to discourage blacks.  I think they are a very good idea to stop splitting the opposition to allow a minority opinion to get elected.  50% +1 is more acceptable, considering that even a minority would recognize that the majority has been fairly decided.

Trump's infamous phone call may have had a slight, but critical impact.  There must have been some people who wanted to vote for the Republicans for different reasons, but were concerned about allowing criminal behavior to influence their election.  Others must have been outraged enough to make an extra effort to vote.

Watching the CNN coverage like many it was exciting with the ups and downs, but after awhile you become conscious that we were being teased to keep us watching.  The results were already decided and were being slowly revealed.  Finally it was turned that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock would be the two new senators.  The political outlook is much better than many feared it would be, but it is still frightening that so many would vote for the Trump ticket and the party that used him for their own ends. 

Joe Manchin has become a more powerful person as he is one Democrat that often votes with Republicans and can prevent the tie breaking vote of Kamala Harris.  For that matter any Democrat senator can be ill, called away on government business or respond to pressure so there are no guarantees that any particular legislation or appointees will be passed.  

Many Republicans are handling their disappointment disgracefully and Trump with blatant misinformation has encouraged rioting.  The rioters are a small number, but able to project their unhappiness.

Covid-19 has probably killed off some voters for the Georgian runoffs and younger voters have been added.  Most important was the chaotic management of the Trump team.  Although many did not believe it, it was demonstrated that masks and social distancing do save lives.  Trump set a very bad example and compounded it with bad decisions.  Probably a few voters changed their minds, but ignorant pride is hard to be rational.

After rejoicing for the Democrat triumph in Georgia it took only a few hours before more traitorous behavior.  Some Congressmen wanted to contest the election results from November 3, 2021.  Large numbers of rioters attacked the capital, resulting so far in four deaths.

Most of us clearly see Donald Trump was a BIG MISTAKE.  I would go further and say that Trump was a tool who in turn aroused hatred to transform into more tools.  It seems that the tools have gotten out of hand and this might hurt those who thought they had power.

Power has become concentrated, but it has also been challenged.  The core of power has been very wealthy,very greedy and short sighted mostly men who want such things as lower taxes and a reduction of regulations so they can enjoy even more wealth.  The taxes that serve everyone (including the very rich) and the regulations that protect everyone (including the very rich) are like red flags to some wealthy people.

These powerful men and women know full well that the majority want to be protected and want to be treated fairly so they have to find some way to attract their votes.  How to get people to vote against their best interests?

Perhaps the most emotional issue that steers voters is abortion.  Some powerful people hate abortion, but for most it is not the highest priority, but a useful tool.  No sane person likes the idea of abortion, but most feel it is very personal with many factors.  Originally abortion rules were not liberalized to encourage abortion, but in recognition that desperate women were dying and others becoming infertile.  We now realize that abortions limit unwanted babies that add stress to all society.  The Democrats have suggested and proved there are better ways to reduce abortions.  Sex education, accessibility to contraception, parental support and a poverty net have proven to be successful but usually resisted by those who hate abortions.  Having said all that we can respect those who feel abortion is their highest voting priority, but realistically they are not enough for the 1%.  Other religious concerns are also tapped into that generate political power.  Some church members (and others) are upset about gays gaining power.  Some feel that those who do not respect their religion should be forced to.

When Lyndon Baines Johnson passed civil rights laws he acknowledged that Republicans would gain power, he thought for at least 50 years.  Nixon and later Reagan found it was reasonably easy to lure former southern Democrats over to the Republican party.  Trump has used racial prejudices long before being elected.  In addition to the initial anti black feelings he lashed out at immigrant Mexicans and Muslims.  If we are all honest we are all prejudiced against outsiders, but increasingly modern Americans are living in harmony with different races and religions.  

Gun rights it turns out is another issue to overcome economic self interest.  Financial interests (gun and ammunition manufacturers) have opened up rights that have led to a high murder rate, a high suicide rate and intimidation.  In truth many feel frightened by violence and things they don't understand and feel they need protection.  But it has proved to be  a vicious circle with some fanning fear.

There is another divide that has developed, rural and urban (suburban).  Many in rural areas have a different life style  Big industrial farming has made life very difficult for small farmers.  Although it is changing, educated people tend to go to the cities.  Some recognize this divide as critical to our politics.  A recent blog:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/10/what-about-those-hicks.html

The 1% have been frustrated that they had been limited in using their financial resources to get their way.   But after years of campaigning they had been able to get a more agreeable Supreme Court that finally opened the doors to let them use their finances.  Of course many thought the court was changing to further limit abortions.  Obviously that made advertising more available with loads of misinformation, but also data analysis to break down voters to find out how better to manipulate them. An earlier blog discussed  dark money:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/07/dark-money-by-jane-mayer.html

 I understand that the Koch Brothers were initially distrustful of Trump and were reluctant to lend their financial support, but some how they became convinced that Trump would better assure their agenda which was lower taxes and fewer regulations.  Others could foresee that the Supreme Court would finally get rid of abortions and curtail gay rights, that darker skinned immigrants would be kept out.  Gun rights likely to be retained and maybe expanded.  Blacks would be kept down.  Of course there is opposition and it is getting better organized.  Maybe the Republican agenda has gone too far and their tools have gone too much overboard or maybe they have gained a toehold.

Two forces that might eventually ameliorate the situation are education and campaign finance.   A significant  university course for me  was Prejudice and Discrimination.  One point was that it all starts with pride in whatever group you identify with and although that can be beneficial it also means that outside groups are somehow inferior.  From evolutionary survival traits we notice differences and they can be automatically frightening.  Educational content can help us better understand that differences can be more interesting than frightening and in fact widen our enjoyment of life.  As important as content is, the environment is equally important as contact as proven to lessen distrust.  Economic disparities make diverse contact more difficult.

The loosening of campaign finance has allowed those with wealth to promote their agenda more  effectively.  Facts can be slanted and with repetition gain credibility.  Opinions can be amplified.  In the heat of election it is very difficult to monitor the truth.   It might  be easier to limit spending or for the government to equally provide funding but the truth also has to be controlled or at last monitored.

An earlier blog that now seems accurate, but naive:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/07/trump-enablers.html

At this moment the future is a blur.  Trump could be a turning point towards more democracy or fascism.

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