March 27, 2016

Are There No Guardrails Left in Politics?

This issue is bigger and more important than a recap of our last RV trip, or how to simplify our lives. It has more long ranging consequences than how best to invest your money or whether we should move to a retirement community. It is not part of a satisfying journey to a fulfilling retirement. But, it must be talked about.

It is the issue of the moment and one I believe may be putting at risk our way of life as we know it. It threatens to tear the fabric of society in a way that cannot easily be stitched back together.

Last December I wrote, Are We Really So Afraid? , after watching one of the first Republican debates. The blog comments were excellent and even now, three months later, there is an occasional fresh comment added to the discussion. Generally, the feelings expressed were that the fear is felt by a small segment of the population during a period of a political season where such feelings are encouraged. The vast majority do not feel the type of fear that was talked about.

I believe what has happened over the last month or so has changed the importance and meaning of that question. We are seeing things on TV we haven't experienced since the bloodshed during the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968. 

Recent scenes of near riots, physical assaults, secret service agents rushing to shield a candidate, even threats, have all played out over and over again. Appeals to an anger and disenfranchisement that have festered beneath the surface for decades are erupting. Just a few days ago a "warning" that riots might erupt if a certain candidate is denied the nomination were aired, pretty much guaranteeing that outcome.

The way society has become splintered between the "have-it-alls" and the "we have been shut out" segments is driving some of this resentment. The middle and lower classes in America have watched as the uber-rich and powerful, those who don't seem to play by the same rules, those in power and control, have solidified their grip on the economic narrative.

I would argue that such resentment has always been present. In a capitalistic society there will be winners and losers. But, the feeling that someone can move up that ladder has been taken away from many. The feeling that the rungs of that ladder have been sawn through by those already on top is a powerful new element in our story. 

For some, the inevitable demographic and racial changes in our country heighten that sense of being left behind. While there is no going back, that doesn't eliminate the rage and frustration with the situation. If someone appeals to that anger, it will find an audience.

In some cases we are seeing the Dunning-Kruger effect. That says that someone who struggles with basic intellectual concepts actually sees him or herself as smarter than the average person. In short, a person suffering from this illusion is unable to evaluate what they see and hear accurately.

The Washington Post had an expression in a recent article that seems to summarize where we are: "There are no guardrails left in politics." Seemingly, there are few absolutes or controls we can depend on at the moment. Our worst instincts are flowing freely. Our basest nature is being encouraged.

My concern is that whatever happens with the eventual political situation, how will the rage that is left be dissipated, or even contained?  It seems as though we have unleashed very powerful emotions in a very public way. I don't see how the genie is going back in the bottle.

Whomever wins the nominations and eventually, the presidency, will be intensely disliked by a sizable minority of the country. There will be powerful negative feelings left. It is illogical to assume that the expressions of disappointment we are seeing today will magically cease on November 9th.

I sincerely hope I am very wrong.


29 comments:

  1. Unfortunately, you're not wrong! When divisive cultural issues were deliberately introduced and nourished long before this current President took office -- sadly he's been victimized by it, too -- the seeds were planted for what we're reaping today. Would that the American people would reach out to one another and overcome this blight on our soul. Perhaps our Congress might try setting an example.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Today politics is a broken, endlessly spinning wheel. The most recent embarrassment: the twitter war between one candidate and another over their wives. Just stop it.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the words Bob, I see you are as concerned about all this as many of us are. As joared says this has been brewing for decades but intensified greatly when a black president started occupying the Oval Office. My main hope in all of this is that it has gained the attention of all those sane but placid voters who often skip elections. Yes there are some pretty insane characters, and I mean that quite literally, running on the GOP ticket. If any of them were to actually win I would be terrified of what damage they might do. But I am hopeful that saner minds will rule on November 9.

    Having said all that, I do think that we are in for a paradigm shift in the U.S. It will be scary as all changes of that magnitude are but we will come out of it as a much better country. Greed will finally move to the back of the stage where it belongs and common good will once again rule. You and I, and probably many of your readers, have been through some pretty radical times in our political system. This will go down in history as one of them. I hope the lesson will be that we were finally shaken from our complacency to became more active citizens. At least that is my Easter hope. If one person could so change the world many years ago then surely all of us together can change the current system. Needing to do that has been a long time coming.

    Happy Easter my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I delayed posting these thoughts for well over a week. I just wasn't sure this blog is the place for this type of post. But, I had to say something.

      This election cycle will play itself out and we will survive whatever happens, maybe in a weakened state with costs we don't know yet, but America will survive.

      The real question is, are some parts of our social contract being broken that can't be put back together again? If our history holds any clue, then we will emerge on the other side stronger and more honest about our flaws and problems. But, this is a scary, rocky, ride.

      Happy Easter, RJ. He has risen.

      Delete
  3. Easter peace and blessings, which I also pray will change the above

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prayer may be our best and only defense.

      Delete
  4. Part of me wants to laugh at the insanity and believe it will go away but, part of me wants to move to Canada, and I hate the cold! Truth is, the media is as responsible as anything else for this debacle. And, not just Faux News! Drumpf will say and do anything for publicity and every time he opens his mouth every news outlet is hanging on his every stupid word. Did you read the transcript of his interview with the Washington Post Editorial Board?!? He speaks in tongues and there is no translation. Cruz is just slimy but, no one on the right likes him so I don't believe he has a prayer, (and he's all about *prayer*), because there aren't enough people willing to turn our system of government into a theocracy. I am amused at the two of them going after each other right now. Give them enough rope....
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did read the interview...strange and scary. Sort of like someone with ADD.

      I tend to agree with the analysis of the media. If they would focus on reporting the news instead of feeling the need to help make it, we'd all be better off.

      I just read that the Sanders team thinks they have to go more negative on Clinton before the New York primary. This danger exists on both sides of the aisle.

      Delete
    2. Ha! I get a kick out of all of the Americans hoping to escape sleaze, corruption, and obnoxious, incompetent leadership by moving to Canada (we've got all of the above in spades). Just remember. the one thing we DON'T have in Canada is term limits, so be careful what you wish for. The one thing guaranteed to make Hillary or The Donald go away forever is the 2024 election.

      On the other hand, our election campaigns are called, contested, done and dusted in a month and a half. There's a lot to be said for just getting it over with. It shouldn't take 2 years to decide which bad-news-bear gets the keys to the castle.

      Delete
  5. I will preface this by saying I do not care for a single candidate from either party in this year's campaign. All are atrocious, not deserving of an office like the Presidency. And while some feel it is all due to Trump, who is really fanning the flames of hate at the Trump rallies, by trying to block the free speech and free assembly rights of others? No, liberals cannot do and say what they please, and then decry the end results.

    The only thing I will caution you on in your comments was when you stated "Whomever wins the nominations and eventually, the presidency, will be intensely disliked by a sizable minority of the country." Based upon the polls of likeability of the two most probable candidates, Trump and Clinton, either will be disliked by the majority of Americans, and possibly a sizable majority.

    As Richard said above, everyone have a safe and Blessed Easter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your are right. This may be one of the few elections in our history where "None of the Above" is the odds on favorite.

      Like you, I don't like any of my choices this year but not voting is like voting for the other candidate so I will have to grit my teeth and pull a lever for someone.

      And this too shall pass. Happy Easter to all.

      Delete
  6. You are so right. I've been watching all this with deep sadness. No matter who wins the nominations and ultimately the election, there has been something let loose in our country that must be acknowledged. It's not a joke, and it's not something that will go away. Responding with judgment, fear, or ridicule just fuels the fire.

    It's like the Native American story of the grandfather who told his grandson, "I have two wolves battling inside me. One is full of hate, ignorance, and vengeance. The other is full of compassion, wisdom, and gentleness."

    "Which one will win?" asked the grandson.

    "The one I feed."

    Or, as Buddha said, "Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed."

    And on this Easter day, all we need to do is look at how Jesus dealt with hatred and ignorance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have identified the ultimate solution. On this Easter Day, we must remember that love and acceptance of our humanness are the only solutions.

      Delete
  7. Isn't it fascinating that both the Democrats and Republicans have tapped into something that has been suppressed for a very long time. The rise of the Trump stomp is as interesting as the "Burn" routs. The "common people", who, with the disappearance of downtown jobs, unions and factories, are beginning to come out of the woodwork.
    I am not sure which convention will be more interesting. If the Bernie people get shut out because of super delegates---will they sit idly by? If the Trump people get shut out because of a close count---will they?
    The US has been here before. Just finished a Historical fiction on Thomas Jefferson's daughter. Wow! How about canings during the Lincoln period? The conventions and marches of the 1960's?
    Heck, the country morphed, we grew, we changed and we moved forward.The genie sits in the bottle until it explodes, every eight or ten years.

    Personally, I think this may be the most important vote of my lifetime. I have no clue who I will cast it for!

    PS- I don't get the Dunning Kruger effect reflection. Do you think "common people" are just not as intellectually competent as the political elite?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Normally I don't watch conventions. They are usually prepacked love fests that have no drama and no real purpose. Not so this year. It could be great theater but I hope not violent.

      One or more of the candidates seems to exhibit some of the tendencies of the Dunning Kruger effect. They believe they have all the answers to all our problems and are smarter than all our current or past leaders, yet their explanations are non-sensical or impossible.

      Delete
  8. Bob, Thank you for continuing to post about the election. This is one of the few places where I feel I can find a reasonable and civil discussion that doesn't insist that anyone who doesn't agree with the writer is an idiot. I've been shocked by the tone of the discussion on social media; last week, a high school classmate of mine who generally seems like a nice person, posted a crude naked image of Hillary Clinton (Hillary's head photoshopped onto a flabby, older female body). I don't get how a woman my age (the same age as Hillary Clinton) could think that posting an image like this that denigrates a candidate not for her positions but for being an older woman is okay. I am not as upset about the choices in the election as many because, although they are both flawed human beings, I have a lot of respect for both the Democratic candidates. The tone of the election, though, especially on the Republican side, seems like a low point for our country. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always hesitate to write anything political because that is not why readers come to this blog. But, there are times or events that I cannot ignore. I am a citizen of America and love my country, so when I see things that hurt her I can't simply shrug and walk away.

      However that doesn't mean being rude, mean, inflammatory, or hateful. Unless someone expresses an opinion that is obviously racist or sexist, and is therefore immediately deleted, I figure they have as much right as I to say what they think without being attacked. And, I have a responsibility to accept that opinion in the spirit in which it is offered.

      Delete
  9. My struggle is "And, I have a responsibility to accept that opinion in the spirit in which it is offered"--but when those words seem to be given with a hateful & prejudicial spirit, what do I do then? How do I turn that to a positive solution? I am horrified at times by the rhetoric but I think of what I have thought & said about previous and current candidates and am ashamed.

    Because I worked in elections administration for many years, I did my best to put up a mask of impartiality so it was easier to avoid political discussions. I've always found "keeping calm & staying above the fray" while expressing opinions is difficult because what scares me the most is how easily I can slip into name calling & hardening my position. It soon DOES seem that "those idiots are ALL wrong & it is ALL their fault!" -- when I know perfectly well that the first step to hatred & pure evil is dehumanizing the other person.

    I do appreciate that you rarely put politics on your blog; but I think this is an important topic. Tough, but important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can become quite incensed in private while watching something on TV or reading an Internet report. Luckily, I do not take that attitude outside my home. Like you, I have learned it does no good and makes a bad situation worse.

      Delete
  10. "Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken." --- I have heard it attributed to Sam Rayburn, but when I Googled it, the author came up Orson Scott Card. Whoever originally said it, I say it to myself, a lot!
    often helps me keep my mouth shut. ;)

    pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. St. Paul teaches that the human tongue is the most dangerous weapon on earth. It can praise now, and in an instant spew words of hate and harm that leave a mark that can never be erased. How true.

      Delete
  11. Uh oh, I don't know whether to feel guilty or nervous. After watching some of the initial debates, I couldn't take it anymore and just stopped paying attention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In reality they aren't really debates, just chances for people to not answer the questions asked but the ones they want to talk about. I think of them more as infomercials, designed to sell a candidate to consumers.

      Delete
    2. I, too, have tuned it all out. At this point there is nothing to be gained by agonizing over it or even following it. I'm not sure tuning out politics altogether, as I have done, makes for a better citizen, but it certainly has made me a happier person.

      Delete
  12. Bob, you refrain from speaking about politics in this blog but politics is so much a part of life and retirement. These same politicians will make decisions that will affect the public, including retirees. The growing population of retirees is often referenced; who better to exercise their vote than that population? "Grey Power" was in evidence 20 years ago in Canada when the Prime Minister of the day proposed to remove inflation protection from Old Age Security pensions. The outcry caused him to back down. Today, an issue on the table is increasing retirement age from 65 to 67 years. These are only a few of the issues. I think of the decisions made by politicians that affect the world my grandchildren live in. Vote!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read about the retirement age increase during Mr. Trudeau's visit to the White House a week or two ago. For Social Security purposes that has already happened in the States for young folks.

      You are absolutely right - politics often affects us directly, from finances to health to....just about everything. But, I will leave a lot of politics to those bloggers who truly love the subject. I deal with it when I "have" to.

      Delete
  13. It has been a long time since I actually voted for someone. I just hold my nose and vote against someone. The old lesser of two evils solution. This time I may not vote. Looking at the two presumptive candidates, I just cannot see me casting a vote for either one. I despise both. Unfortunately, whichever one wins, I believe the next four years are going to be marked by ever increasing social unrest and violence.

    ReplyDelete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted