Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

04 November 2017

Why this White Geezer is Looking for Black and Brown Candidates to Support

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What a Difference a Day Makes!
(Dems Sweep Special-Election Day)

    “We will not condone hatred and bigotry. . . . It’s going to take a doctor to heal our differences . . . . and the doctor is in!” — Doctor and Democrat Ralph Northam, Governor-Elect of Virginia
Yesterday Democrats swept the nation in various special elections, most notably in Virginia. Here, from this source, are some key results:

    Dem and Doctor Ralph Northam wins governorship by margin of 8.6%, drawing more votes than any previous Virginia governor.

    Dems also elect attorney general and lieutenant governor; latter becomes first African-American elected to statewide office since L. Douglas Wilder became governor in 1989.

    Northam wins DC-suburban district held by GOP congresswoman by 13% margin.

    Control of statehouse is uncertain, pending recounts—a result no one expected—as Dems pick up at least fourteen seats in statehouse, mostly for unknown, first-time candidates.

    All fourteen statehouse seats that Dems flipped were held by GOP men; ten will now be held by women.

    First openly transgender pol (now woman) wins seat in statehouse, defeating man who self-described as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”

    Nonwhite voters turned out at presidential election rates.
New Jersey
    Dem Phil Murphy takes governorship by 13% margin over Chris Chistie.
Washington State
    Dems take control of state senate, giving Dems full control of all three West Coast states: California, Oregon and Washington.
    Dems pick up three seats in state legislature, replacing Republicans who left their seats.
    Citizens expand Medicaid by popular initiative—the first such in nation—by a 20% margin, despite massive influx of out-of-state money against their initiative.
City Elections
    Charlotte and Fayetteville, NC: Dems take both mayorships, giving Charlotte its first-ever African-American mayor (who was heavily outspent).

    St. Petersburg, FL: Dem defeats GOP mayor by tying him to Trump and climate denial.

    Manchester, NH: Dem Joyce Craig becomes first Dem mayor in fourteen years.

    Minneapolis, MN: Andrea Jenkins, elected to city council, becomes first transgender woman of color elected to public office in any major US city.

    St. Paul, MN: first-ever African-American mayor elected, in city whose population is only 15.7% black.

    Philadelphia, PA: Progressive civil-rights lawyer Larry Krasner becomes city attorney despite record of suing police and massive right-wing campaign against him.

    Provo, UT: In only notable GOP win yesterday, pragmatic Republican wins mayorship of Utah’s third largest city, replacing Jason Chaffetz, who quit to become Fox talking head.

    Seattle, WA: First woman since 1920s becomes mayor and first Lesbian mayor ever.

Health care as vital issue: In Virginia, voters citing health care as most important of five selected issues favored Dem and Doctor Northam by 54% margin.

Gun policy as vital issue:Voters picking guns as top policy issue split their votes in Virginia.

The big themes of this special election were:

1. Progressives and marginalized groups won big, including women, African-Americans and LGBT people. It’s not who you are or whom you love, but what you can do, that matters. This has been our American credo since Plymouth Rock, and it’s coming back!

2. Dems won just by being uniters, not dividers, and being reasonable. Divisive identity politics failed. A new grand coalition of white progressives and long-marginalized minorities is rising from the ashes of the Republican Party, which Trump and Bannon’s firebrands are busy burning down.

3. Voters are still fuming, big time, about having their health insurance taken away or made unaffordable.

4. Guns don’t matter so much after Las Vegas. The tragic Southerland Springs church shooting proved that neither Texans nor devout Christians are invulnerable, and that living in the countryside is no shield.

5. Disgust for Trump’s bigoted, divisive and scatterbrained “leadership” and hope for a better future combined to get out the vote. Hope rules, not fear, although indignation helps!

6. (Former) President Obama and Attorney General Holder worked behind the scenes, challenging vote suppression and gerrymandering in court and helping to get out the vote. Their work is beginning to turn the red South blue.

7. Despite the many structural flaws in our government, it’s not acres or counties that matter. It’s people. And people with hope are invincible.

On to Alabama in December and a new South and new nation in 2018!

1. “America” is an idea: equality of all people.
2. Our social evolution is now stepping backwards.
3. Equality makes us strong.
4. Hope is stronger than fear.
5. The demographics of hope, not fear, can save us.
6. We are so close to the tipping point.
7. My own faith and hope guide me.

Our nation is balanced on a knife edge and falling toward the Dark Side. Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” is growing more tarnished by the day.

Why is this so? We have forgotten who we are, what struggles we have fought and won and why, and what has propelled our once- and now-again isolationist society into global leadership. Only remembering will bring us back and “make America great again.”

At this peculiar time in our own and world history, the only way to do that is to continue the trend that Barack Obama epitomized as president: the inclusive celebration of all our talent at the highest levels of our society. We must not just continue this trend, but exalt and revel in it. Here’s why:

1. “America” is an idea: equality of all people. Unlike most other nations, but like the EU, the United States is not based on race, creed, or ethnic group. We did not arise by evolutionary accident. We are a planned community.

The people who populated our original thirteen colonies were mostly outcasts and refugees. They fled religious and political persecution in Britain and later other parts of Europe. They came here not for better jobs or warmer climate. (Our Northeast, where they settled, was a harsh wilderness, with colder winters than anywhere in Britain.) The Pilgrims and others who followed them were chasing an idea: the idea of liberty and freedom for all.

The nation we have today is a product of deliberate social engineering. It’s based on a single, simple idea. “All . . . are created equal,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence. All have equal rights to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” All have equal rights to speak, write, assemble, practice their religions (whatever they may be, even atheism), and to “petition the Government for Redress of Grievances.”

Our First Amendment comes first because it’s the essence of who and what we are. Even though our original Constitution recognized and perpetuated slavery, there’s no restriction in our First Amendment. By its very language, it’s universal. Congress shall make “no law,” it says, abridging the rights of free people. (You hear that, NFL?)

2. Our social evolution is now stepping backwards. When we fought our Revolution for independence from England, our big idea was just an aspiration. It was far from realization. The ellipsis in “all . . . are created equal” was filled with a single gender, excluding more than half of our species. The man who wrote those words, Thomas Jefferson, kept slaves. Our Constitution deprived them of the right to vote and counted them as only three-fifths human.

But we grew. We evolved socially, much faster than any biological evolution. We fought our two greatest wars to bring our big idea closer to realization.

We fought our Civil War—still the bloodiest war for us in our history—to abolish slavery. After its end, we adopted the Thirteenth through Fifteenth Amendments, which formalized the abolition of slavery and made our former slaves (and all others) free and equal citizens. Our Fourteenth Amendment recognizes “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States” as citizens with full “privileges and immunities.” (emphasis added)

By 1870, when all three Civil War Amendments had been ratified, the gender bias in our original Constitution was gone. It took another fifty years and the Nineteenth Amendment to give women the right to vote. But we got there.

The second-most-bloody war for us was our war against Nazi Germany and Japanese Imperialism. It was the only war in our history in which our goal from the very beginning was our enemies’ “unconditional surrender.” Neither we nor our Allies had imposed that stringent condition in World World I, in which we had fought Germany the first time. Instead, we had participated in the Versailles Treaty, which remade the map of Europe and imposed the harsh conditions on Germany that ultimately led to World War II.

Why did we demand unconditional surrender in World War II? The Nazis, with their theory of “Aryan superiority,” contradicted the very idea that made (and still makes) us a nation. The Nazis touted the false idea of racial superiority that we had fought our still-bloodiest war to expunge from our own nation. The result of Nazi rule in Germany was the Holocaust, as well as an abject loss that better social policy might have avoided.

Although less theoretical and less open about it than the Nazis, the Imperial Japanese employed the same theory of racial superiority to motivate their troops. Their results included the Rape of Nanking. Together, the Nazis and Imperial Japanese committed some of the greatest wartime atrocities in human history.

So when General Kelly ignores abolishing slavery as the primary and most important cause of our Civil War, he reveals far more than historical ignorance or amnesia. He commits a profound sin against the very idea that makes us a nation. He takes a giant step backward in our social evolution, and all of mankind’s, against the tide of history that so many Americans died to help push forward. For a military man, that may be the most cardinal sin imaginable: to misname why so many of our and others’ brave soldiers died.

Unfortunately, General Kelly speaks for this Executive and for its two casual but profoundly mistaken notions. The first is that abolition was but a sideshow of the Civil War. (It was not; it was the main event.) The second is that the “good cause” of states’ rights could have justified or provoked our bloodiest and most horrible war without the economic benefits of slavery to the Southern ruling class. For these falsehoods, among many others, Trump’s presidency and Kelly’s affirmation of its roots in tribalism comprise the biggest step backward we have taken since the Vietnam War.

3. Equality makes us strong. So far, all this is just history and theory. Yet the egalitarian theory of our nation has had a vital practical result. Under the stress of war, pandemic or financial panic, it makes us stronger as a society than any other in human history. Or at least it once did.

Our most terrible foreign war was World War II. In it, African-Americans fought bravely against Nazi racism, although many of them were second-class citizens here at home, suffering under Jim Crow in our South. The sons of Japanese-Americans and of Japanese immigrants interned in concentration camps in our West fought so bravely against the fascists and Nazis in Europe that their all-Japanese 442d Brigade became the most decorated in the entire war. Their brigade liberated the Dachau death camp and, but for General Patton’s order to hold back, would have liberated Rome.

Why did African- and Japanese-Americans fight so hard for a nation that treated them so badly at home? The bare promise of equality in our Constitution, as amended, and our Founding documents gave them hope. They believed in the idea that makes us a nation. They believed so strongly that many laid down their lives for it, knowing even as they drew their last breaths that they would never see its realization.

They would not, but their sons and daughters or grandsons and granddaughters might. And that hope was enough to inspire them to heroism. Surely that same hope can get their modern counterparts to register and vote.

4. Hope is stronger than fear. For individuals, fear is our species’ strongest emotion. There are valid and obvious evolutionary reasons for this: fear motivates individual survival.

But for a society, hope is the stronger emotion, and by far the one with more positive results. People can do horrible, irrational things out of fear. They can mount a massive surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. They can incinerate civilians in London with V-2 rockets. They can fire-bomb Dresden or Tokyo or nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They can build death camps for the industrial-scale slaughter of living people.

But hope is an uplifting emotion that heals wounds and drives progress. Hope is what put Barack Obama in the White House, despite the rampant racism that we all now see still exists.

Hope is what gave us the president who healed our broken economy, who saved our American auto industry, who brought justice to bin Laden with two helicopters full of Navy Seals (rather than invading and occupying two sovereign nations—Iraq and Afghanistan), and who started to wind down our two longest wars.

Only when the sons and daughters of Africa saw that white people would vote in numbers for a half-“black” man for president did they surge to the polls in droves. It was hope, not fear, hate or compromise with evil, that gave us our most progressive president since the three assassinations of the 1960s. It was hope, not fear, hate or compromise with evil, that gave us our only president since Eisenhower to win two terms with clear and uncontested popular majorities.

We need that hope back. Our current president’s disgraceful coddling of white supremacists and hatred against Mexican and Muslim immigrants has made bringing hope back difficult for anyone with white skin. Even Bill and Hillary, who are not themselves racists, stooped low enough to appeal to racists to slake their boundless ambition. And today our chief progressive leaders—Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren—seem to ignore the element of racial animus as if it were an invisible gorilla sitting on our dining-room table.

In this atmosphere of willful blindness, how can anyone revive the hope we progressives need to win, unless they carry evidence of authenticity in their very genes and upbringing? With the stench of white supremacy permeating our politics, and with white progressives strangely passive in the face of evil, what will motivate black and brown people to register and vote?

5. The demographics of hope, not fear, can save us. Worrying about how to pry white supremacists and their apologists away from their sins is a fool’s errand. In the long run, they will awaken to the idea that makes us Americans. Or they will not, and our nation will become like others and follow them into the dustbin of history.

But as the great British economist John Maynard Keynes once said, in the long run we are all dead. In the meantime, we progressives have elections to win and ideas to protect.

How do we do that? Do we follow Donald Trump in coddling, cozying up to and apologizing for white supremacists and dog-whistle-blowing candidates? Do we wring our hands and shade our speeches and our policies to win their votes? Or do we focus on the voters who put our first “black” president in the White House and gave us our first truly progressive Executive since Jack, Martin and Bobby were shot down?

Pollsters obsess incessantly about numbers. But you can’t measure intensity with polls.

You can’t measure the strength of my outrage, as 72-year-old white man, at how—and for how little reason—Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and Walter Scott died. You can’t measure the strength of Lt. General Ray B. Silveria’s outrage at the disrespect and insults that our black USAFA cadets had to suffer while acquiring the skills to defend us and our big idea.

You can’t measure the wave of hope that made Obama our president. You can’t measure the wave of despair and disgust at the vile person who sits in the White House now, and at the vile, hateful, know-nothing “philosophy” that has suffused our government at the highest levels. You can’t measure the wave of disgust and nausea that overtakes people like me, who are well enough informed to understand the health-insurance, tax, student-loan and other scams that people in high places are trying to foist on our fellow Americans.

Four of the greatest leaders in human history understood this basic point. Mahatma Gandhi freed his hundreds of millions from what was then the greatest empire in human history. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. freed his tiny 12% minority from the insult of Jim Crow, i.e., institutionalized and legalized racism. Nelson Mandela negotiated freedom and majority rule for his people—the vast majority of South Africans—from inside a prison cell. Barack Obama gave us Americans the first progressive revival since our three great leaders of the 1960s died in a hail of gunshots.

All four accomplished these “miracles” without violence. All four relied on empathy, understanding and hope, not fear or hate. And all four, perhaps not coincidentally, were “people of color” struggling against a vast multitude imbued with a false sense of racial superiority and armed with indisputably superior weapons.

As a white progressive, I have no hesitation in following such leaders. I am ready to lay down my white privilege, just as so many have laid down their lives, for the idea of America. Indeed, I am eager to do so.

I have absolute faith that there are millions of white people, probably tens of millions, much like me. The trick is to get them to see their true selves and what really makes us all Americans.

6. We are so close to the tipping point. I’m also a rational man, trained in three distinct careers of Reason: physics, law practice, and law teaching. And Reason shows that we are so close to recovering our nation’s soul.

The demographers tell us that we will be a “majority-minority” nation by 2043, if not sooner. In less than a generation and a half, we will have no racial or ethnic majority at all. We will all be members of minorities. Then we will have to realize our key idea, or we will fall apart in hatred, enmity and squabbling.

So what should we do now, before that tipping point arrives? Should we compromise with or coddle the supremacists and their apologists and try to escape our inevitable destiny? Should we turn our backs on our most trying struggles and the progress they have forged? Or should we embrace the future with both arms and bring it closer today?

So far, all the pols and pollsters have obsessed about the Northern-Midwestern states and their white “defection” from the Democrats. Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are in our “Rust Belt.” They are the states that Hillary had hoped and expected to win but lost.

Neither Hillary nor her husband Bill is a racist. Bill earned the sobriquet “first black president” for his willingness to appoint people of color to high positions and consult them seriously. But Hillary and Bill betrayed our national credo of strict equality several times (see 1 and 2) while she (or her consultants) saw doing so as expedient in the heat of the 2007 primary campaign.

African-Americans have long memories. After all, they’ve been disrespected and oppressed for four centuries. Can you blame them for balking at trusting white candidates, after such a betrayal even by Hillary and Bill?

For us white voters, it may have been just a transient and temporary lapse. But for people of color it was a lapse in what matters most. After such a disappointment, they may need candidates from their own ranks to regain hope. Is that so hard to understand?

In any event, the action in America today is not in the Rust Belt, but in the South, where it has been for nearly 150 years. Southern demographics are changing, as Northern geezers move South in or near retirement, bringing their values with them. People living elsewhere are also moving South for good jobs in an improving regional economy. Southern ideas are changing under this onslaught of newcomers.

In the South, people of color are coming into real power, for their portions of the population are much larger there than anywhere in the North or Rust Belt. If we can just inspire their hope, by giving a chance to pols who look like them, we can “flip” the key Southern States and change the South forever.

If we can do that, we can change Congress and so change our nation and the world. It’s not Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that will matter; it’s Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. This is why the Kobach vote-suppression commission is trying so hard to suppress voting by African-Americans.

7. My own faith and hope guide me. As I’ve written in this blog before, I don’t care whether my leaders are white, black, brown, yellow, red, or purple with polkadots and little wiggly antennae. All I want is leaders who are progressive, intelligent, empathetic and effective. I was happy with Barack Obama in the White House, and I’d much like someone like him back.

Call it reverse prejudice, if you like. But I don’t think it really is. It’s a preference based on past performance, of the four great “leaders of color” mentioned above. It’s a respect for the perseverance of our African-Americans, who’ve kept hope alive for four centuries, only rarely—and in small numbers—resorting to futile armed rebellion. But most of all, it’s a goal of my own: that with some deep thought and constructive action, we can bring the 2043 racial tipping point closer by giving hope to those now in despair.

Today’s Republican leaders often ridicule what they most fear. Just so, Sarah Palin derided “that hopey changey thing” that put Barack Obama in the White House. Just so, Mitch McConnell and scamster Paul Ryan deride the community organizing skills that (former) President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are using at this very moment to turn the red South blue.

If only we progressive whites can help them, we can forge a permanent coalition among progressive whites and now-despairing people of color. We can form the grand coalition of workers, regardless of tribe, of which our progressive forebears could only dream. Our nation has not seen anything like such a coalition formed since FDR won by a landslide, in the depths of the depression, in 1932. But the time is ripe for one now.

Donald Trump is a backlasher’s backlasher. He has zero experience, zero aptitude for constructive politics, zero understanding of policy. He can’t keep an idea in his head for longer than a Tweet, and he changes his position weekly, if not daily. Virtually everything he does revolves around erasing the presidency of his predecessor, who just coincidentally happened to be half-black. In addition, he is the single most nasty, vile, selfish and self-centered excuse for a human being I have seen in national politics in my 72 years. Can we all say “flash in the pan”?

The question before us is who will follow Trump (assuming he doesn’t extinguish our species with a general nuclear war, for example, with Russia). If we progressive whites can team up with people of color, the vast majority of whom are Democrats and progressives, we can make 2043 come sooner and transform our nation now.

If you credit this thesis, there are several organizations you can join and assist, including Democracy for America and Color of Change. If we all help these dedicated experts and put our shoulders to the wheel, we can have a progressive Congress (or at least a progressive Senate) next year, and a worthy successor to Barack Obama in the White House by 2020.

But we won’t get there by coddling white supremacists or their apologists, by seeking a “middle ground” between good and evil, or by letting political consultants with spreadsheets but no moral compasses control our thinking and our action. We’ll get there only by following our hearts and the lodestar that has made our nation “exceptional” from its very beginning: the belief that “all . . . are created equal.”

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