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

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.

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 …

On Mr. Mueller’s Testimony

In his brief public statement on May 29, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III made his position regarding his possible testimony before Congress clear:

“Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress. [My emphasis].”

I expect Mr. Mueller to be true to his word. The House of Representatives’ Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have nonetheless determined to have Mr. Mueller testify before them. Any number of pundits have opined that the Democratic-led Committees are thinking that since reading the Special Counsel’s report – exceeding, as it does, 400 pages – is beyond the ken of the great majority of Americans (a fact that is, of itself, worthy of reflection), having Mr. Mueller testify on television – even if he says nothing more than what is in the report — will galvanize Americans to realize that President Trump has behaved in a way unfit for the office he holds. I’ve seen several references to the effect that the 1973 Watergate hearings had upon the general public perception of President Richard Nixon.

We are in a different time and place. Although I consider Mr. Trump to have behaved in innumerable ways – both detailed within the Mueller Report, and outside its confines – that warrant his removal from office, I would suggest that the Committees have embarked upon a fool’s errand … a perspective that I suspect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shares. Mr. Mueller’s testimony promises to motivate those already vehemently opposed to the President to put pressure on their Democratic representatives to pursue Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal from office – a politically quixotic endeavor, since there are not 20 Republican Senate Republicans (who already know what’s in the Report) possessing the political courage to vote to remove the President even if they privately consider such action to be appropriate.

On the larger substantive level, I would offer that the Democrats’ efforts are misguided because it seems overwhelmingly likely that Mr. Trump’s supporters already viscerally know that he did all the things that Mr. Mueller and his team have reported … and they don’t care. [“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9.]  They believe themselves belittled, ignored, left behind, and perceive Mr. Trump – correctly or not – as being the first powerful politician in decades to speak for them. His voice is undoubtedly worth much more to them than what they almost certainly now dismiss as legal niceties. If you feel that you have been picked on for decades, and then a bully comes along that upbraids those that you consider to have abused you … you’ll be willing to overlook “your” bully’s flaws.

Spending more time obsessing and hyperventilating on malign activity that an insufficient segment of our electorate will be willing to act upon is a waste of taxpayers’ money.  [For once, I agree with Republicans  ;).]  At best, Democrats may weaken Mr. Trump’s support among any voters that are still undecided about him – an extremely small slice of the electorate that admittedly might be the difference in a close election – but risk having the undertaking redound to the President’s benefit by energizing his supporters. Democrats might be better served by devising strategies that will meaningfully resonate with the non-bigoted segments of Mr. Trump’s base, rather than exhilarating in maneuvers that will probably enhance the President’s chances of re-election.

Enough pontificating for one day …

On Keyless Car Risk

Attached is a link to a recent Detroit Free Press article outlining the tragedies that can result when vehicles operated by way of keyless technology are inadvertently left idling in garages attached to residences. Since I had not previously seen reports of this, it seemed worth noting. Apparently a significant number of vehicles utilizing such technology do not have automatic engine shutoff mechanisms – at least one of our “keyless” cars has no automatic shutoff — although the Free Press reports that such technology exists, is deployed on some vehicles, and can generally be included in keyless vehicles at little additional manufacturer cost. Its piece further indicates that versions the “Protecting Americans from the Risk of Keyless Technology” (the “PARK IT Act”), designed to require car makers to include such technology, have recently been introduced in the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives.

At one point, the article quotes an auto safety expert: “… [T]he law is needed because most people believe ‘our brains work better than they really do’ and any environmental sound including a garage door closing could mask a quiet engine still running or other warning cues.”

https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2019/06/14/park-it-act-keyless-car-carbon-monoxide/1419233001/

On Democratic Attempted Self-Immolation

As all who care are already aware, a fracas has sprung up during the past week regarding former Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks at a fund raiser regarding his relationship with segregationist U.S. Senators James Eastland (MS) and Herman Talmadge (GA) in the 1970s. While Mr. Biden’s comment, “[Mr. Eastland] never called me, ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son’,” was clearly a mindless choice of words, the purported outrage that has poured forth from other Democratic candidates and liberal talking heads regarding Mr. Biden’s remarks has conveniently ignored his other comments: that he and the segregationists “… didn’t agree on much of anything,” that he’d “… argue like the devil with them” and that Mr. Talmadge “… was one of the meanest guys I ever knew.” Some progressives, intent on a political holy war, seemingly reject Mr. Biden’s underlying point: the need for our representatives of different political stripes to make an effort to find some common ground.

I would submit that there is only one relevant question in all this – and that, of the most vital importance: Is Mr. Biden is a racist? If he is, his critics should forthrightly say so, and present their evidence. Apparently no one who knows Mr. Biden — including former President Barack Obama, SC U.S. Rep James Clyburn, GA U.S. Rep. John Lewis, or Rev. Al Sharpton — thinks he is a racist. I would therefore suggest that the exaggerated indignation over what was a tone-deaf choice of words is at least misinformed (it’s hard to see how CA Sen. Kamala Harris can sensibly accuse Mr. Biden of “speaking with such adoration” of, or “coddling” Mr. Talmadge, given the former Vice President’s reference to the late Senator as “one of the meanest guys I ever knew”), and probably opportunistic grandstanding (“I was raised to speak truth to power,” pronounced NJ Sen. Cory Booker while criticizing Mr. Biden – the same Mr. Booker who memorably if incongruously declared himself “Spartacus” during the Kavanaugh hearings).

The disagreement of some of Mr. Biden’s critics with the former Vice President’s larger point – the need to reach consensus, to find common ground among those with differing views — is wrong-headed both on principle and in practicality. Taking practicality first, as some Democratic candidates and progressive talking heads seem intent on Democratic political self-immolation, Republicans and conservative interests are clear-eyed as to who would be President Trump’s most formidable opponent in 2020. What follows are all from the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages this past Thursday:

Conservative Columnist Daniel Henninger noted a recent Fox News poll showing that Democratic voters favored “steady and reliable leadership” (72%) over a “bold, new agenda” (25%). “Mr. Biden may be doing so well in the head-to-heads against Mr. Trump because many voters simply want respite from the nonstop Trumpian atmosphere of disruption and volatility.… Joe Biden is offering a return to normalcy…. [I]f these polls are right, after four years of Donald Trump the prospect of being force-fed daily doses of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders is unthinkable for a lot of people.”

Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s presidential victories, noted Mr. Biden’s stated intent to win Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Florida, stating, “Republicans should pay attention….With the exception of South Carolina, Team Trump can’t take Mr. Biden’s targets for granted….The Trump Campaign must … disqualify any Democratic nominee with suburban Republican and independent defectors who swung the House to the Democrats last fall …”

The Journal editorial board itself noted about Mr. Trump’s formal launch of his campaign, “Mr. Trump may figure he can persuade some of those skeptics by making the Democratic nominee even more unpopular than he is. If the Democrats oblige by nominating Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, that might be possible. But that is making a bet on the other party’s mistake …”

Ms. Harris and Mr. Booker aren’t even figuring in the other side’s thinking, and these Senators clearly realize that if they can’t convert some of Mr. Biden’s African American support to their campaigns, their candidacies are finished. The wise heads politically leading the African American Community – and I would bet the majority of the politically savvy within the Community – appear at this point to be sticking with Mr. Biden because they recognize that he is both a genuine friend of African Americans and the best bet to rid us all of President Trump. There will be time to think about Spartacus later.

Finally, as to principle: Neither party is the font of all wisdom nor the den of all iniquity. Our system is one of “checks and balances” because it is based upon the premise, in practice as far back as Hamilton and Jefferson, that constructive policy depends upon trust between and the well-intended engagement of those with competing views. The collegiality that Mr. Biden urges will be an inherent part of whatever progress we hereafter make as a people and a nation. The avid progressives seeking a political crusade from the left are as misguided and potentially as destructive as the alt-conservatives waging such offensives from the right.

“The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.’” Luke 5:30-32.

Although it seems more than a bit blasphemous to compare politicians’ political machinations to the Lord’s quest for souls, since we as voters cling to the hope that our representatives will do what they can to make the world better, perhaps the most effective methods to reach souls and achieve a better world are indeed similar. While the Democrats will probably get by this kerfuffle, I never discount their capacity to self-righteously self-destruct.

Wish I’d Said That

This week, I heard a learned observer – I’m sure enough it was George Will to attribute it to him, but am not entirely positive it was Mr. Will – state to the effect, “From the beginning of the New Deal through the end of the Obama Administration, American domestic politics have essentially amounted to a conversation between Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan,” indicating that President Trump has significantly departed from the tenets espoused by each.

An arresting image.  Wish I’d said that. In a post a while back, I noted that I consider President Reagan the most accomplished president of my lifetime, but the only reason President Roosevelt didn’t best him in my ranking is … because I haven’t been around quite long enough for Mr. Roosevelt to have qualified for the competition. 😉

I can’t recall whether Mr. Will also observed that notwithstanding their domestic “conversation,” Messrs. Roosevelt and Reagan were, decades apart, almost perfectly aligned on their views of America’s place and responsibility in the world – that which, in my view, is perhaps the most important component of what actually makes America great — or that in this area, Mr. Trump has also disrupted and is seeking to further disrupt if not destroy much of what these two American giants stood for. If Mr. Will didn’t add that … I’m reasonably confident he wouldn’t mind if I do.