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Category: Politics

My Fellow Americans
I’ve been looking for an upside to the recent electoral catastrophe, and I think I’ve found something. If you’ve been on a similar quest, you know the pickings are pretty slim. In fact, you might not take any comfort at all in what I’ve come up with, especially if you don’t find populism very appealing.

Most post-election analysis has concluded that a large share of the winner’s votes came from people who are categorized as the lower middle class. That is the portion of our electorate that populism was made for. Unlike the poor, they receive very little help from our system. The boom-and-bust economic violence wrought by bursting financial bubbles hit them the hardest. Globalism and the changes that come with the rise of technology damage them and their loved ones most of all.

They didn’t like being ignored, so they lashed out. It’s hard to blame them. They were hurting, and the system did not seem to care. This is not the way things ought to be. A society that doesn’t see to the needs of all of its members is doing something wrong.

And now they have our attention, as they should. This is my upside: an underserved segment of our society was able to break through the indifference of their leaders (or at least of their institutions) and demand what they are entitled to — a government that cares. That is a victory for populism, and that is a good thing.

The downside of my upside, of course, is that these populists aren’t of the Democratic Socialist variety. They don’t want new, expansive ideas designed to help ordinary people. Instead, they find it easier to abandon reason in favor of darker explanations for their lot in life. As a result, they show a marked preference for the kind of authoritarian leadership that feeds those suspicions. They were willing to overlook the non-stop lying and corrupt nature of their candidate. They had no trouble ignoring the crook, the bigot, and the sexual predator. They didn’t care about any of that stuff as long as he channeled their anger and stoked hatred for The Other. In other words, they’re boneheads.

Still, they are my fellow citizens. That’s the essence of populism. We should all have rights in a free society. Even the boneheads.
Upside Out
I'm still struggling to find an upside to this catastrophe. It might take four years. Or even more.
Terminal?
At least we know
It will end soon
This fever dream
Of rabid sleaze

When we vote
The spell will break
But will we still have
The disease?
Voters' Guide
Despite the ugliness of the current campaign season, I am still a fan of democracy. Sometimes the outcomes are less than ideal, but at least we have the hypothetical ability to change things if we need to. We all have a say, however small, in our own destinies.

That said, I think we can all agree that voting itself is a drag. The long lists of confusing propositions we are not qualified to judge, the slates of candidates for offices we didn’t even know existed, the perpetual conundrum of assessing which evils are lesser — all can leave us confused and disoriented. We have official publications to help us, complete with arguments for and against ballot propositions and statements from office seekers. We also have the recommendations of news outlets and the advice of friends and colleagues. Sadly this rainbow of wonderfully diverse opinions only makes our job harder. We need to simplify, not complexify.

So what is the thinking voter to do? Or, for that matter, people like us?

Well…it is my hope, with this writing, to streamline the decision-making process with a few simple rules of thumb. For starters, make absolutely sure that you do not read any of those official materials. They’re way too wordy, and there are no pictures at all. If these people really wanted to help you, they’d do it in twenty-five words or less and use a fun, accessible comic strip format.

These documents, however, are not completely useless. In fact, they will be vital to completing your task. Here’s the trick: cross your eyes slightly as you scan over them. This way, you will avoid contact with any of the fine grind baloney featured there while still remaining open to the truly important data: punctuation. As you let your unfocussed gaze roam over the text, look for anything unusual. Are there lots of capitals? How about multiple exclamation points? These are both signs of mental instability and moral decay, and the writers cannot be trusted. Make your choices accordingly.

Good. We’re already making progress. If there are still some decisions left to make, you might focus your eyes just a bit…long enough to see the names of the individuals or groups signing off on pro and con arguments. Look for any nonprofit that uses the word “tax” as part of its name. You can ignore their self-centered opinions. If you see any for-profit corporations, do the exact opposite of what they suggest. These entities may be “people” under the law and they may have almost-normal names like Phillip Morris or Owens Corning, but believe me they are not like you and me. Do not have them over to your house for dinner, and do not take their advice on public policy.

As you glance at the names of flesh-and-blood advocates for propositions — or of the candidates themselves — also take note of nicknames like “Hap” or “Bud” or “Skipper.” Not only are these people cluttering up the ballot with more superfluous punctuation, they are adopting an unseemly air of familiarity. Reject their advances. The republic will thank you.

These guideposts, I’ll wager, have gotten you pretty far along in your task. So far, I think, that you can leave the rest blank. Others will know what to do, I’m sure. Anyway, don’t worry. The founding fathers came up with a pretty nifty idea with democracy, but they never intended it to be this much of a pain in the ass.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee