On the White Liberal “Outrage Feedback Loop”

Below is a link to an article by Zach Goldberg recently published in Tablet, an American Jewish online magazine. It was sent to me by someone very close, I suspect as a result of his considerable bemusement at my exasperation with the desire of the “Woke” to suppress use of English gender-specific pronouns. Although one might not infer it from the piece, Tablet is rated as having a “Left-Center” bias by mediafactcheck.com.

In his essay – part data-centered, part opinion – Mr. Goldberg refers to a white liberal “outrage feedback loop,” which he states has accentuated reactions regarding the extent of American racial injustice among those white liberals relatively more active in cyberspace as contrasted with those that are not. (Mr. Goldberg’s use of the phrase, “white liberals,” covers too wide a gamut for me; I would suggest that those whom the author calls, “white liberals,” could perhaps be more precisely identified as, “white avid progressives.”) I found this statement remarkable, if accurate:

“[W]hite liberals recently became the only demographic group in America to display a pro-outgroup bias — meaning that among all the different [ethnic] groups surveyed[,] white liberals were the only one that expressed a preference for other racial and ethnic communities above their own.”

I take issue with certain of the positions Mr. Goldberg sets forth — for example, that “… conservatives of today are not all that different from the conservatives of years past” and that “… it’s the frustration with white conservatives’ inability or reluctance to keep pace with liberals on the path to enlightenment that is intensifying our political divide” – but I nonetheless found his essay thought-provoking – a useful ballast for my tendency to be sensitive to the effect that alt-right outrage feedback silos are having at the other end of our political spectrum. To the extent that Mr. Goldberg’s positions are well-grounded, they underscore the narrowness of the path any Democrat must navigate to both secure the nomination and win the presidency.

Finally, for those who up to now have been blissfully unaware of what it means to be “woke,” clicking on the link will open up a whole new world.   😉

 

https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/284875/americas-white-saviors

On the American Flag

We recently returned from a week in a part of Wisconsin dotted with small communities in which a blizzard of American flags fly and a wide assortment of flag-related apparel and paraphernalia manifest. Two observations, that of lesser import first.

4 U.S.C. 6 provides, in part, as follows:

(c) … The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed.

4 U.S.C. 8 provides, in part, as follows:

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as … merchandise …

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery …

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling …

(i) The flag … should not be … printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard …

How many times each day do we as a people violate the letter or spirit of federal law in the name of patriotism? Does a citizen show greater respect for our nation by wearing a flag shirt that is vulnerable to an errant mustard drip? While such is clearly harmless, a separate personal pique: How badly is our flag desecrated when it is prominently displayed in the lapel of a politician (of either party) engaging in self-aggrandizement, spewing self-serving lies, and/or inciting discord?

I have more understanding of the actions of those that burn the flag or kneel during the national anthem to call attention to an injustice in our country that they sincerely believe needs correcting. I would offer that these actions, whether or not one agrees with them, are made in the exercise of one of the rights that the flag stands for: the freedom of expression.

The larger concern: It occurred to me that when I see our flag flying in front of a house, or see one of our people wearing or using flag-themed apparel or paraphernalia, my visceral reaction is: that’s a Trump supporter. This is obviously an over-generalization; there are unquestionably veterans and others among us proudly displaying the flag that don’t support the President … but I would submit that my inclination is accurate much more often than not.

I fear that the flag either has become or is being made into a partisan symbol – perhaps for some, the trademark of a culturally-homogeneous America. While it is human nature to find comfort among those that are like us, I truly believe that when asked to consider, the vast majority of Mr. Trump’s supporters appreciate that the flag belongs to all Americans that love this country – even those with whom they vehemently disagree. I’m troubled by the notion that possibly not all of them do.

On the Democratic Debates: Round Two, Night Two

I’ve heard some commentary, so will try to hold my echoes to a minimum. Frankly, while I understood the candidates’ many attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden from a political standpoint, my overriding impression was that these people wouldn’t be making the same criticisms if they weren’t running for president … that indeed, their desire to further their careers is no different in kind (if not as severe in degree) as the many Republicans who reportedly privately consider President Trump’s behavior aberrant but nonetheless fail to criticize him publicly. To repeat a point I’ve made before: while neither party is the den of all iniquity, likewise neither is the font of all virtue.

Mr. Biden: Here, I will join the chorus, but with the phrase that came to my mind: from a nomination strategy standpoint, Mr. Biden won the debate by not losing. Unlike the first debate, he looked sharp enough. Someone very close to me felt he did better than the first time out, but didn’t look ready for a debate matchup with the President; I did think he looked good enough — although perhaps only because of the President’s high antipathy quotient and Mr. Biden’s own reservoir of good will. He didn’t have any trouble mixing it up with U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris. Holding his own was all he needed to do (I suggest) to maintain his lead over the rest of the field until September and the next debate.

Ms. Harris: I thought – no surprise – that she was the debate loser. Her persistent attacks on Mr. Biden, even when she was scoring technical points, made her appear strident; she lost some ground as a result of his criticisms of her prosecutorial record and the cost of her healthcare plan. Something that I haven’t seen heavily commented upon was what I consider the most telling – and perhaps politically mortal – blow she took during the debate: U.S. HI Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s claim that Ms. Harris approved withholding evidence of innocence against a defendant in a capital case. The attack clearly took the Californian off stride, but more importantly, if the claim is substantially true (I haven’t seen any fact checking on it), I would suggest that it will ultimately be the death of her candidacy as her opponents and the Republicans will use it to suppress her turnout. I expect her to slip to some degree in polling over the next few weeks.

U.S. NJ Sen. Cory Booker: I will again briefly join the chorus: from an ad hoc standpoint – relating to this night – I thought he won the debate. He had a positive presentation. When he reminded his colleagues that squabbling among themselves only helped Mr. Trump, he looked above the fray. He got the best of his exchanges with Mr. Biden without looking like a gut fighter. Since he and Ms. Harris seek support from the same Democratic segments, I suspect that Mr. Booker picked Ms. Harris’ pocket in the second round as she picked his in the first. He looked like he could hold the stage against the President. That said, I don’t think he can beat Mr. Trump in Wisconsin; if that’s right, he’d need Arizona as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania (plus Hillary Clinton’s Electoral states) to win the presidency.

Ms. Gabbard: Although I’ve seen no comment on it, I thought that she had a very strong night – a surprise, given her lackluster first round performance. Her answers relating to foreign policy and the Middle East had true credibility given her military service. Her environmental comments carried weight if, as she claimed, her efforts predated the Green New Deal. She looked like the heavyweight in her exchanges with Ms. Harris. In my view, she laid a solid bid for a Vice Presidential slot if Mr. Biden does secure the nomination.

U.S. CO Sen. Michael Bennet: I thought Mr. Bennet had a strong night. He isn’t smooth, but has a dogged credibility and practicality about him that I think would play well on the stage against Mr. Trump and could carry the Midwest, including Wisconsin. Mr. Bennet is seeking support from the same segments being mined by U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. MD Rep. John Delaney, MT Gov. Steve Bullock, and former CO Gov. John Hickenlooper. Although I’m a fan of Ms. Klobuchar and have developed a sneaking liking for Mr. Delaney, if Mr. Biden falters and I had to pick one of this group to get behind, I’d ponder hard between Mr. Bennet and Ms. Klobuchar.

Andrew Yang: The guy had a good night. I misjudged him after the first debate. His idea of the Freedom Dividend will never play politically and he’s not going to win the nomination, but he’s really smart, has a wry sense of humor, and cuts to the chase. If a Democrat wins the White House, he should be made Commerce Secretary or Czar of a federal program to deal with the looming dangers of Artificial Intelligence to our working people.

Former HUD Sec. Julian Castro: I thought Mr. Castro had a flat night. Nothing in particular, but his exchanges with Mr. Biden seemed tinged with animosity – a hint of difficulty between the men perhaps dating to the Obama Administration [purely gut; I have no substantiation for this, but this isn’t the news pages of the Times, the Post or the Journal; a blogger should be entitled to a little spouting ;)]. On a more substantive level, the more I reflect on it, the more that I consider Mr. Castro’s proposal to decriminalize illegal border crossings not only a political loser against Mr. Trump but objectively bad policy. There appears an obliviousness among some in the Democratic field that one doesn’t change an objectively appropriate law – a version of which I suspect exists in over 90% of the world’s nations — because it is being subjectively abused by a racist to divide families. You instead get rid of the racist and stop dividing families.

WA Gov. Jay Inslee: Although he would present a formidable physical presence on stage against the President in a debate, he reinforced my impression of a capable executive effective in his own milieu who is insufficiently aware both that the entire country doesn’t think like Washington State or that Presidents have to deal with issues – such as the Russians and the national debt – in addition to the environment.

U.S. NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: I thought her attack on Mr. Biden’s long-ago piece about women working outside the home was a cheap shot. On a larger level, she just reminds me too much of … Hillary Clinton. Perhaps more important, someone very close to me – an unabashed Clinton fan – agrees. Although I voted for Ms. Clinton in 2016 and consider her to have been eminently qualified for the presidency … she lost against Mr. Trump. I don’t want to see that movie again.

NY, NY Mayor Bill de Blasio: Mr. de Blasio clearly doesn’t understand that every time he reminds us that he’s the mayor of the nation’s largest city, he exudes NY arrogance (speaking as someone proud of being born in Manhattan ;)] and turns off the hinterland swing voters he would need to beat Mr. Trump. That said, if I could pick one candidate to represent the Democrats in a debate against Mr. Trump, it would be Mr. de Blasio; the fireworks would even exceed that of an Elizabeth Warren – Trump matchup, and would be akin to a WWF match. As it is, I’m sure that the Big Apple has some problem that needs attending to, and he should go home and attend to it.

For anyone that reached the end of this overly-long but not easily-divided note, I commend your perseverance. There will, blessedly, be no further debates until September. Let’s enjoy the rest of the summer.

On the Democratic Debates: Round Two, Night One

The aspect of last night’s debate that I found most interesting was the way that the majority of the panel, recognizing that there was more political hay to be made by contrasting rather than aligning with the avowed progressives, moved toward the political center.

VT Sen. Bernie Sanders and MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Both had weak nights. Whether goaded intentionally or unwittingly by the moderates’ thrusts, they seemingly fell into the trap of appearing crazy and angry [or, if you prefer, perhaps merely unrealistic and strident ;)]. From a general election standpoint, they were wounded by the moderates’ attacks on their Medicare for All and Green New Deal proposals. They also seemed oblivious to the fact that their unrestrained attacks on Corporate America may alarm middle and lower class working people who fear losing their jobs if Corporate America needs to cut costs to accommodate the progressive agenda. Ms. Warren’s pledge not to use our nuclear arsenal in a first strike capacity is misguided, substantively and politically [my characterization of her proposal if speaking on a street corner would be more graphic and emphatic ;)]. After two and a half hours, both also came to appear … tiresome and repetitive.

South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former U.S. TX Rep Beto O’Rourke: for the first time, I felt that Mr. O’Rourke outshone Mr. Buttigieg. Mr. O’Rourke does (as President Trump has noted) wave his arms in a sometimes distracting fashion, but he hit themes of unity for any independents tuning in, was good from a general election standpoint by pledging to retain criminalization of unauthorized entry into the country, didn’t overextend on healthcare, and gave himself some Middle East latitude by only committing to remove our troops during his first term. Mr. Buttigieg was again good at talking about the future and fine on healthcare, but was (also again) a bit too reserved in his presentation, too limited his Middle East options by committing to remove our troops in the first year of his presidency, remained too antiseptic in his discussion of race, missed an opportunity to discuss our need to mitigate the dangers that Artificial Intelligence presents to our working people (where I’ve seen him shine in the past), came out a little paler than U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar in their exchange on the gun issue, and seemed to disappear for long periods.

Former U.S. MD Rep. John Delaney: I like Mr. Delaney. I thought he had a strong night. He had the cleverest debate strategy, seizing the opportunity to energetically engage early with Ms. Warren, recognizing that he would thereby get more exposure. I thought he showed himself to be knowledgeable across a wide range, and exhibited an attractive pragmatism. At the same time, he lacks the inspirational quality Americans want in a President. (A politically incorrect hurdle for him: we haven’t elected a blatantly bald President since Dwight Eisenhower at the dawn of the television age). I have trouble envisioning him effectively countering the President on the debate stage. He remains my candidate for White House Chief of Staff.

I thought Ms. Klobuchar, MT Gov. Steve Bullock, former CO Gov. John Hickenlooper, and U.S. OH Rep. Tim Ryan all acquitted themselves adequately, but none seemed to catch fire. Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Bullock both sounded an important theme: they’ve won where Mr. Trump has shown strength. That said, while Ms. Klobuchar was strong on the gun issue, she talked too much inside Senate baseball and wasn’t direct enough in challenging Sens. Sanders and Warren. Mr. Bullock did well from the edge of the screen – to my mind, he clearly won the exchange with Ms. Warren about retaining our nuclear first strike option and did well on the gun issue from a general election standpoint – but left the impression that he doesn’t realize that if elected, he won’t be in Montana any more. Mr. Hickenlooper did much better than in Round I of the debates – to me a plus, since it could help him if he chooses to seek the U.S. CO Senate seat when his presidential candidacy ends. Mr. Ryan is a solid representative, and perhaps has the most traditional Democratic working class appeal of anybody in the race save former Vice President Joe Biden – which would make him a tough matchup for Mr. Trump in some respects — but seemed to lack the spark that Americans seek in their President.

Marianne Williamson: I thought Ms. Williamson had more good moments than in the first round but still mostly stayed in her own stratosphere. It’s hard to be to the left of Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, but I think she succeeded. I enjoyed the “dark psychic force” thing … but it’s not the way to get elected to anything outside of California.

I thought that Mr. Biden was the Night One winner because the evening’s exchanges seemed to weaken the race’s most prominent progressives. That said, tonight is Mr. Biden’s night. I submit that he will essentially be in a one-on-one debate with U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris. Ms. Harris will, in a phrase that has new meaning for me after visiting Alaska, be loaded for bear. An observation: Mr. Biden is, by all accounts, an old school courtly gentleman. If he cannot set aside his basic old school instincts, and go after a woman — Ms. Harris — aggressively while avoiding appearing mean or condescending (admittedly a fine line; remember that Hillary Clinton staged a comeback during the 2008 campaign when Barack Obama appeared too rough on her in a debate), his candidacy will falter. (U.S. NJ Sen. Cory Booker will try to interject, but Mr. Biden should just blow him off; most of the rest of the panel should already realize that they’re running for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination on somebody else’s ticket). I would suggest that if the former Vice President again flounders, Democratic realists, recognizing that a progressive’s nomination will probably result in a Trump general election victory, will fill the vacuum by quickly coalescing around another moderate.

Since I deliberately didn’t watch any of the debate postgame before setting this down, all of the learned talking heads — and you 😉 — may have completely different views. On to Night Two …

Our Tribal – and Closely Divided — Nation

For not the first time in these pages, I would submit that the hyper-partisan, tribal state to which we’ve descended now transcends politics to become the largest substantive hurdle we face if we are to remain “a people.” In a tweet today, President Trump claimed that MSNBC’s Morning Joe – featuring hosts and panel members almost universally harshly critical of the President — had suffered a degradation in its ratings. Apparently, his claim is not true – it’s been reported that March Nielsen ratings show that the program had a 10% increase in viewership in Q1 2019 over the same period in 2018 — but it caused me to Google “cable news ratings” to see how the various outlets are faring. The link to the page that surfaced is provided below. It provides the latest indication I’ve seen of how closely – and sharply – our nation is divided … and how tired we all have become with the whole business.

https://www.adweek.com/tvnewser/here-are-the-top-cable-news-shows-of-q2-2019/407842/

Taking the morning cable shows first (although we enjoy Morning Joe’s shtick, I refuse to call or consider any of these offerings, “news shows”) – the broadcasts that appeal to those of us most interested in politics and public affairs – Fox & Friends totals 1,435,000, with viewership in the 25-54 category at 268,000. If one combines MSNBC’s and CNN’s offerings – not unfair; the President considers both his enemies – the viewership is 1,492,000 with 289,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. These are razor-thin margins – essentially 51% left – 49% right among the entire audience, but interestingly, only a bit more left-slanted in the younger demographic.

The other indication that struck me is that … total viewership appears to be somewhat down in 2019 over the same period in 2018 (there are a couple of Fox exceptions), but the 25 – 54 demographic is significantly down … across the political spectrum. These findings seem to suggest that a general exhaustion has set in. One can argue that such a feeling of weariness among our citizens – perhaps a feeling of powerlessness to meaningfully affect our representatives’ behavior — is more ominous either for the President or for the Democrats, but the fact is … it’s not good for us as a nation.

Within the last year, we have had the opportunity to travel to both the Southwest U.S. and to Alaska. Wonderful trips, scenery, and wildlife. At the same time, each trip also provided a view of the perspectives that segments of our people hold arising from their backgrounds and difficulties — outlooks and attitudes understandable in context but not readily grasped by many of us primarily familiar with urban opportunities and problems. Although one can only reasonably conclude that President Trump has determined that his best interest lies in sowing division amongst us, these trips made it apparent that any well-intended President of either party seeking to engage and unite us will face a profound challenge in bridging the gap currently existing between well-intended people holding very different sets of visceral beliefs. An example: border security.  In and of itself, it is not only not wrong; it is indeed necessary, and no more nor less moral than traffic signals. Mr. Trump, through his rhetoric and behavior, has made it a symbol of racial bias, inciting an exaggerated counter-reaction among those sickened by his bigotry and his Administration’s treatment of those reaching our borders.

During the debates over the next couple of nights, I’ll be watching to see which of the Democratic candidates acknowledges that his/her duty if elected will include recognizing and accommodating not only the Democratic base but the reasonable core values of those with whom s/he does not necessarily agree.

On the Political Exhaustion Factor

I thoroughly enjoy writing these notes, but have come to face a hard truth: that there is little more to say within the political realm. How many ways can one say that President Trump is a stain upon the fiber and fabric of our nation? There is nothing left but to devise a strategy to defeat him in the Electoral College in 2020.  How many ways can one say that if the Democrats – since the 1950s persistently their own worst political enemies — nominate an avowed progressive, they will probably bring about what they claim to most abhor: the President’s re-election?

These pages have skewed much more to politics and much less to policy than I envisioned when I began; Mr. Trump’s antics have almost demanded it. That said, although I will certainly continue to address politics (its allure being akin to sports), I intend to collect the random thoughts I’ve had over the past months and hope to start addressing a number of the larger issues we face … as if we had reasonably knowledgeable, at least somewhat wise, and well-intended rather than self-interested, Executive and Legislative branches.

Until then …

Keyless Car Danger: A Postscript

A close friend sent me this text related to the above post, which clearly strengthens its utility:

“A suggestion for those that have keyless cars without automatic shutoffs: Carbon monoxide detector/alarms that plug into a wall electrical outlet are available for around $35 – $40   from a store like Home Depot or Menard’s. These are highly recommended to not only guard against vehicles left running in a garage, but also to guard against possible defective home furnaces. They [the detectors] might be best placed in the bedroom — and in the furnace room and garage for an earlier warning.”

Purchasing these detectors to protect against this risk seems well worth the expense, and is certainly a more effective form of protection than waiting for Congress to act …