Tuesday, May 19, 2015

As the GOP voting bloc dwindles, will they find a unifying message for 2016?

Daniel J. McGraw has penned an interesting article for Politico about the higher mortality rates for Republican voters and how it will play into the general election numbers of 2016. The wide discrepancy of average age between Democratic voters and Republican voters is one of several big factors currently in the Dems favor, and it is one that cannot be overcome by marketing and on-point message.

The GOP has two main problems: a basic numbers problem (they’ve only won the popular vote once in 25 years, with a much larger base voting bloc under wartime conditions, when a country will typically rally behind their leaders) and the intoxicating strategy of divisiveness that has been so successful in the mid-term elections when voter turnout is so staggeringly low.   

These two problems are unique but still interrelated, and they combine to pose a major obstacle in a serious run for the White House in 2016.   

As the older, and predominantly Republican, American population ages out of voting ability (a fancy way of saying "dies") they are replaced by two primary groups: millennials coming of age and the large numbers of Hispanic immigrants who are now citizens--both of which overwhelmingly vote (when they do vote) Democratic. Losing voters on both ends of the spectrum is a massive problem for the GOP. This issue is not being openly addressed by the GOP, and it doesn’t even seem to be recognized by the party as a whole.   

The inability to confront this issue comes from a myopic laziness that has grown from easy and fast midterm election gains.  The divide-and-conquer midterm election strategy has morphed into its own beast in today’s hyper-politicized environment, and the intoxicating effect of winning has paralyzed today’s hopeful candidates. The GOP have become masters at understanding that the key to midterm gains is to not confront national issues or win votes from the 1-2% of undecided voters as with a general election, but to energize their hard-core base. You don’t do this with policy, problem-solving, or congressional effectiveness. You do this with emotion and division. They are the problem (poor, immigrants, gays), and we are the solution (job creators, guns, evangelicals).That’s the message; stay on it and reap the rewards. The more divisive language you can spread through the base, the better chance of getting that base to vote in a mid-term election.

cartoon commie health care.jpg

The problem is that no one has told these 20-some-odd current GOP candidates that this strategy will not work in today’s national election for one simple reason: more people vote. And yet, Mike Huckabee is banking on the strategy so heavily that he’s written an entire book about the differences of the “bubbas--" good ole rural white folks who form the backbone of this country--and the “bubbles--" the liberal, tree-huggin', artsy, welfare-sucking city slickers who are bringing this country down. Now just imagine for a brief second the candidates coming down the home-stretch of the national election and one of them campaigning with that message. (Some will argue that his entire campaign is just a publicity stunt to further his public persona career. I’ve yet to see any sign that he is anything but genuinely convinced this strategy could work.)  

Huckabee serves as a caricature of what the party has devolved to, as his divisiveness is more Hee-Haw-silly than hateful. But the eventual nominee will have to rise above that divisiveness and recognize that winning a national election will have to involve some type of unifying message, which becomes another problem for Republicans.

As a country, we are tired of war, and we are tired of all the economic gains going to the 1%. We are tired of the constant hate for poor people, minorities, immigrants, gay people, and women’s rights. We are tired of the wedge issues, such as abortion. We finally see through the masquerade of trickle-down economics. We see the crumbling infrastructure with no desire to fund it. Gun rights only go so far, and for that matter, we’re tired of the NRA running Congress. So tell me: what will be the rational, reality-based, unifying GOP message that will bring in the undecideds and independents?

They are running out of options, they are running out of viable candidates, and they are running out of core-base voters. If voter turnout stays at the historic low levels of the recent midterms, then it could be close. If the Dems can create another participation-is-hip vibe, as Obama did in ‘08, it won’t be. 

There is a good possibility that we’ve entered a long-term stalemate of GOP state and local control and democratic presidential control. Of course, this is more or less how our government was created to exist--with balancing forces. But the political forefathers did not envision a time when our leaders refused to confront and solve national problems. If you inject enough greed, toxicity, and power-grabbing, even democracy has its limits.

--Brian Paul Swenk

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why the Ferguson and Baltimore riots are different than every other riot in history

Have you noticed that the recent riots in Baltimore and Ferguson seem different than every other riot we learned about in school or see in the movies? Have you taken a moment to wonder why this is? Well, try this: find an uprising by the poor against an establishment that’s either over 150 years old or in a fictional narrative (Hunger Games, Star Wars, The Matrix, etc?) and take notice of who you identify with. Take notice of who you cheer for and who you empathize with. Take notice of where your sense of respect lands for the bravery and sacrifice of the oppressed. Is there one single populist uprising, historical or fictional, that you honestly side with the establishment?

Our nationalistic narrative teaches us from an early age that our freedom came from rising up against establishment powers. Our country was built on it. It’s ingrained in us to view history through the lens of the underdog, the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized on a truly consistent basis. It is so natural that we don’t even notice it. But as we watch what is happening in our own country--in Ferguson and Baltimore--we have a completely different and visceral reaction: these riots are different. These riots are not the same as every other riot we’ve ever learned about. These riots are perpetrated by thugs who have no justified reason for violence and destruction. All the other riots had a purpose, but not these, no way.

So here’s the big question: if this turns into a flashpoint of American history, and the riots continue and alter our society in a historically noticeable way, how will the people view them in 200 years? Will they see them with our perspective? Or will they view them the exact same way we view the uprisings of 200, 300, 400 years ago?

The uncomfortable truth that we all need to face is the only thing different here is our perspective. These are the only riots out of the historical thousands that are different because they are against us. The truth is that we are the establishment here. We work in the establishment, we vacation in it, and we buy houses, cars, trucks, boats and motorcycles in it. We put our kids into it and trust it to take care of our elders. We tell ourselves that we are individual and unique and that this very individualism and uniqueness will allow us to thrive inside this establishment. We all want to be special, but how can we be special if we don’t have an establishment to recognize it?

As we see good, honest people invoke the words of Dr. King over a CVS store being burned but not for the constant reports of unarmed black kids being killed, we have to recognize and admit that we identify more with the CVS store than the dead kids. That attack on the CVS store, which played in endless loops on cable news, is us! We are that CVS store. These riots are different because they are attacking us. Our invocation of the words of Dr. King and Ghandi over a CVS store, but not kids being killed, shows us everything we need to know about how history will view this.  

As we live in, invest in, and build our establishment that has a consistent historical record of standardized violence against poor minorities, we can’t stand back and be shocked, with any type of intellectual honesty, that we receive it back. We, at the very least, have to admit that we hold a strong double standard when it comes to violence. We celebrate and make a hero out of the black mom who beats the shit out of her kid on national TV, but we would be appalled if it happened in a rich, white suburb.

“Over the past four years, more than 100 people [in Baltimore] have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette, and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

“The money paid out ($5.7 Million) by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city's police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.”  -- Ta-Nehisi Coates quoting the Baltimore Sun report: Undue Force

I get the sense that a lot of us just don’t understand what true marginalization means (or the difference between “understanding” and “condoning” events, for that matter). We just can’t understand why these people don’t work, don’t get an education, don’t....just be rich. We can understand marginalization within the historical sense, or in the Hunger Games, but not in today’s world. Because understanding it in today’s world means that something might be wrong. And admitting something could be wrong might, just might, alter the social power structure that deep down we all worship and obey. Who among us wants that?

John Oliver on the realities of marginalization in Ferguson

--Brian Paul Swenk

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