The Poisoning of Our Politics – 2016 Election

When I try to reason through what is happening this election season, I find myself becoming sad and afraid for our country. On one side, we have a woman who has become the ruling class proxy for a large group of people with a yawning chasm of resentment. On the other side, we have a man who wants to take our country back from, well, someone … no, anyone or perhaps everyone … and make it great again. In the process, we now find ourselves in a situation where we can’t have a reasonable conversation about politics with anyone from “the other side,” not to mention our own side at times.

I believe I can reason pretty clearly, as can many people. But, how does one reason when neither side will suspend their beliefs long enough to listen to an alternate view? Even without this problem, a key barrier remains in that the issues are relatively complex in general. It takes serious time and effort to become informed enough to even attempt to think things through. When one cannot spend the time, then the fallback is to decide who one trusts and listen only to that source and assume every other source is tainted.

In political discussions, the result is often oversimplification, ridicule, and outright nastiness. Social media is often the vehicle for such (non-)discussions, and it amazes me how ugly some people can be to other parties involved. Many of the comments (mostly not discussion points) on social media are terribly hurtful and likely wouldn’t be made in face-to-face discussion – I suppose because participants consider social media their opportunity to suspend empathy.

This leads me to an idea to conduct an experiment. I am planning to write a series of articles in which I will attempt to intelligently and compassionately discuss what I see happening this election season. I have set commenting so that all comments must be moderated before posting. I will review all comments, and post only those that are thoughtful and compassionate. If you want to curse or be ugly, please feel free. If your comment contains any substance worth sharing, I will attempt to translate it into something fit to print and include it in the comment section. If there are enough comments, and I may attempt to report statistics regarding the nature of the comments, but we’ll see. I am hoping this format will result of some productive discussion, but given what is actually going on today, I’m not that hopeful.

Update: I found it more appropriate to write most of my “articles” on Facebook. I am duplicating them here:

5Oct2016 Post to my timeline – the morning after the VP Debate

IF Mike Pence’s goal during the Vice Presidential debate last night was to campaign for a Pence presidency, then I would have to admit that Mr. Pence demonstrated at least a slight edge over Tim Kaine. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, Mike Pence is NOT in fact running for President – he is running for Vice President on the Trump ticket – in case anyone (like Mike Pence perhaps?) forgot that last night.

IF Mike Pence’s goal was to “show Donald Trump” how it’s done, then Mr. Pence did a decent job. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, however, Mr. Pence’s tendency to throw the Donald under the bus (mostly by his flippant dismissals) was really rather disconcerting and, given Mr. Trump’s penchant for loyalty in his allies, can’t be sitting particularly well with him this morning.

The main criticism being leveled at Tim Kaine is too much enthusiasm, and perhaps too much preparation – thereby forgoing spontaneity.

I admit to a bias, but I saw Mr. Kaine demonstrate an uncommon command of facts and language (not to mention debate), and a willingness AND ability to defend himself and his campaign. If and when Mr. Kaine decides to run for the Presidency, this debate performance will likely stand him in good stead, and I believe there were actually undecided voters who were listening to him and might well have been persuaded. It WAS a tough slog to listen to that debate, though. A saying comes to mind about trying to fit too much of something into too small a bag.

All of that said, I feel confident in saying few things about the debate last night, but one thing I do feel confident in saying is that Donald Trump lost in a fairly big way. His behavior is in many, many cases indefensible, and in very few cases was he defended last night. The IDEA that Mr. Trump needs to be shown how to be presidential is also really quite disturbing. Republicans may indeed be pining for an alternative to a Trump candidacy, but Mr. Trump is the man they selected, and they are stuck with him so they might as well bite the bullet (but please be careful when you do it).

4Oct2016 Post to my timeline  – Just after the VP Debate

Mike Pence accuses the Clinton campaign of hurling “an avalanche of insults” at the Trump campaign. If Mr. Pence means the Clinton campaign hurled the avalanche of insults Trump has hurled at the world back at their source, then he was absolutely correct. BUT, how is that then an avalanche of insults BY the Clinton campaign?!

MAYBE Mr. Pence has never listened to his candidate actually speak when he’s off the TelePrompTer(?)! With his denials of Trump’s actual ON CAMERA behavior, that would seem to be the only possible explanation.

Followed the next morning by a comment on my own post

Mr. Pence’s main defense when faced with all of Mr. Trump’s insults from the campaign trail was to point out Mrs. Clinton calling half of Mr. Trump’s supporters – a short time later modified to some with an expression of regret – deplorable. I don’t know that I think it was a good idea for Mrs. Clinton to give Mr. Trump and his team talking points, but have you watched what goes on at some of Mr. Trump’s rallies? There is some highly deplorable behavior going on, and it didn’t take Mrs. Clinton saying it for me to know it.

3Oct2016 Post to my timeline – after watching Trump Rally comments

Oh, Donald, Donald. Yes, ISIL uses barbaric techniques. It appears you have NO EARTHLY IDEA why they do this. They do it to BAIT BAIT-ABLE, and instill FEAR INTO FEARFUL people like you. They know their best chance to kill westerners is if westerners are there fighting them or protecting civilians – in their own back yard. Your plan is to send our soldiers into their lands to follow their narrative.

Hillary’s plan is as much as possible to have people with local interests fight their own battles. If they need our support, we will give it, but not by direct combat unless our troops are somehow directly attacked. In this case our support troops would of course defend themselves.

Yes, these are deadly people. But why do you insist upon trying to elevate the significance of these people into an existential threat to our country? The ISIL threat to our country is NOT currently even close to existential, and is unlikely to become so – plain and simple. Your apparent fear-mongering efforts to make it so are rather incomprehensible. Why do you insist upon inflating their importance beyond reason? This is helping ISIL win their propaganda war and recruit followers – is that your aim? Do you really wish to increase the percentage of the followers of Islam who will resort to violence against us?!

I know you won’t believe me, because you are out there making others fearful enough that they will vote only for you. Why would they vote for someone who isn’t as afraid as you?

Why was I surprised that you would take advantage of your supporters?

3Oct2016 Post to my timeline – after watching comments at another rally

Oh, Donald, Donald. You talk about surprising ISIL like you think any war we fight with them will be conventional in nature. Have you ever heard of the concept of asymmetric warfare? In case you are wondering, it occurs when one side has overwhelming force where using that force results in unconventional warfare – many things including city-based street fighting and, yes, TERRORISM. It’s not as simple as this, but that is pretty much what’s behind the terrorism we are seeing today.

Perhaps you should attempt some subtlety?

2Oct2016 Post to my timeline – thoughts regarding linked article

Rudy Giuliani (http://www.nbcnews.com/…/christie-giuliani-trump-s-manipula… – around 2:25 in the video) says “people have a hard time understanding how taxes work. If Donald Trump hadn’t taken those losses, he could’ve been sued by his investors, he could’ve been sued by his business partners…” and he goes on about this – even invoking “fiduciary duty” to his business partners – trying to make us think he’s an expert.

I CALL BS!

You don’t have a fiduciary duty to yourself – a fiduciary duty REQUIRES 2 or more parties. It is a concept to represent a duty between a fiduciary and someone else. I DO have a decent understanding of taxes and how they work. 

The taxes Rudy is discussing are Donald Trump’s PERSONAL taxes. IF we were talking about his business taxes, that would be an altogether different matter. He really doesn’t have a legal obligation to tell anyone (even his spouse, since if he’s filing jointly she has to sign the form as well and is presumed to be fully informed and making her own decision about signing) anything about his personal taxes. In fact, the Donald is making a very big deal right now about this! What he does on his personal taxes is a personal decision between him and his tax man and the tax agency..

Mr. Giuliani, that was either REALLY dumb or really deceitful! Let’s call it DUMB, in which case clearly YOU are the one who has a hard time understanding how taxes work. I prefer that answer, but if it’s actually deceit, then you are simply trying to confuse the American people so that they don’t know what they should or should not be concerned about. Why don’t YOU tell us which it was.

Oh, and it’s NOT genius – it’s taxes 101.

3Oct2016 Post to my timeline – followup to above post

Oh, Donald, Donald. Fool me once ($900 million tax loss carry forward), shame on you. Fool me twice (plan to eliminate the estate tax – and NO, It is NOT a tax on death), shame on me. Fool me three times (lower taxes for businesses and the rich), then what?! And yes, I DO believe you will “FIX” our system of taxation – as in “FIX” it in your favor, which is what you’ve proposed. And you might well be the only person in the country who would stoop to that (“only I can fix it”). Just another example of your likely inability to separate the national interest from your personal interest.

3Oct2016 followup comment to my post

Today the Donald says “I have a fiduciary duty to pay” the least taxes possible. DUTY TO WHOM, you might reasonably ask. Not only did he mispronounce fiduciary, but you simply can not have a fiduciary responsibility to yourself – the statement makes no sense.

25Sep2016 Post to my timeline

Julie Prentis Watts forwarded a link to a Ken Robert’s blog post (https://kenrobert.com/…/trump-is-everything-i-was-taught-n…/) last night. I feel like I may have written it myself (which I didn’t). The comments are also quite interesting. “Replace Trump with Hillary and you have the same thing!” BUT YOU DON’T. Just because people say it over and over again without meaningful evidence does NOT make it true. We don’t have to even dig for evidence of what the Donald does – he unashamedly promotes it. “You have to treat women like s**t” from page 43 in the Nov 1992 New York Magazine (https://books.google.com/books…) near the bottom of the first column. This is the man who just YESTERDAY said he will champion women (What – as penance?!). If you go to KenRobert.com today (at least right now), he has a post in response to the assertions about Hillary. The Donald calls president Obama “The Great Divider,” which, in Donald-speak means that Donald Trump IS THE GREAT DIVIDER. 

How did desire to believe become evidence in our country?

With a comment from Julie Prentis Watts

I liked his What About Hillary post too! https://kenrobert.com/2016/09/25/what-about-hillary/

And a followup comment from me

The Donald is a BIG fan of the “some people believe…” “evidence” style. Then there is the “all of my friends believe,” to which I would respond “they most certainly do NOT.” Not ALL of them anyway. I think you could honestly say that most of the time he doesn’t either, but he’s not afraid to prey upon those who do or are wishing they did.

Summary

There are a few others, but that’s most of my flurry of political posts. Hopefully it doesn’t end up to have been against my better judgement. It doesn’t feel like it right now.

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