Sunday, November 13, 2016

Correspondence: Post-election rally

Edited by Moristotle

The article “Republicans Expand Control in a Deeply Divided Nation” [Julie Bosman & Monica Davey, NY Times, November 11] highlights the severe electoral inequality in America, where one party, which represents only half of the American electorate, will soon control all of our federal government – including the power to cement a conservative Supreme Court for the rest of our lives. In addition, that party has managed to seize control of a number of states by extreme gerrymandering of electoral districts.
    This conservative ascendancy is legal but deeply unfair. Liberals now need to be much more active to protect past legislation and civil liberties from a massive one-party purge. Possibly a permanent protest movement across the country, as in the past few days, is necessary, as well as national strikes like those in France, to prevent the creation of an illiberal democracy that could be a de facto conservative autocracy. With the present power structure, political and economic inequalities will be permanently frozen at extreme levels.
    Only a people’s protest movement can prevent this.
    Excerpt from the article:

It is the stunning paradox of American politics. In a bitterly divided nation, where Tuesday’s vote once again showed a country almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, one party now dominates almost everything in American governance.
    With Donald J. Trump’s win, Republicans will soon control the White House, both chambers of Congress, the tilt of the Supreme Court, more state legislative chambers than any time in history, and more governor’s offices than they have held in nearly a century.
    Republican leaders say that shift — to a level of one-party control that some historians said the Republicans have not seen since the 1920s — will finally end gridlock in now-divided Washington. They say it will allow the party to charge forward on pledges to change policies on health care, immigration and taxes, and expedite changes that have long been sought in the states. Democrats say the change has the potential to undo years of legislation meant to ensure a more equitable America, upend progress fighting climate change, leave millions stranded without health insurance and usher in harsh laws against immigrants. [read more]
Hillary Clinton is a fine person, but she was carrying too much baggage. I am referring to the right-wing hatred of her dating back to when Bill Clinton was present. (Remember how they mocked and reviled her book, It Takes a Village?) To use a very old term that we probably learned in the 1960’s, the far right has been engaging in agit prop against her since the 1990’s. And they have had the advantage of social media to do that. The communists in Russia developed agit prop in the early 1920’s to secure the Revolution. They sent around trains spreading propaganda through posters and written media. The problem was that most of the peasants couldn’t read, so communists also taught them to read.
    I’d always thought literacy was a positive value until I thought about it in the context of the political campaign we have had. We have many people who are literate but probably don’t have the capacity of even an early-20th-century Russian peasant when it comes to sorting lies and false claims from truth. The far right knows and counts on this by spreading countless lies and half-truths on the social media. Since the lies dove-tail nicely with readers’ prejudices, the readers don’t even attempt to fact-check. We have reached the nadir of postmodern literary relativism. Everyone’s opinion is as good as the next person’s, and there are no facts, only opinions.


Misinformation spread by alt-right websites empowers nuts and undermines democracy: “Lies in the Guise of News in the Trump Era” [Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, November 12]. Excerpt:
If you get your news from this newspaper or our rival mainstream news sources, there’s probably a lot you don’t know.
    You may not realize that our Kenyan-born Muslim president was plotting to serve a third term as our illegitimate president, by allowing Hillary Clinton to win and then indicting her; Pope Francis’ endorsement of Donald Trump helped avert the election-rigging.
    You perhaps didn’t know that Clinton is a Satan worshiper at the center of “an international child enslavement and sex ring.” Or that Chelsea Clinton isn’t Bill Clinton’s daughter, but a love child of Hillary’s by another man — or that Bill has his own love child with a black prostitute....
    ...for all of our sins in the mainstream media, these alt-right websites are both far more pernicious and increasingly influential. President-Elect Trump was, after all, propelled into politics partly as a champion of the lie that President Obama was born abroad and ineligible for the White House.
    Even now, only 44 percent of Republicans accept the reality that Obama was born in the U.S….
    A BuzzFeed investigation found that of the Facebook posts it examined from three major right-wing websites, 38 percent were either false or a mixture of truth and falsehood. More discouraging, it was the lies that readers were particularly eager to share and thus profitable to publish. Freedom Daily had the most inaccurate Facebook page reviewed, and also produced the right-wing content most likely to go viral.
    Some of the people promoting these sites aren’t even conservatives; they’re foreign entrepreneurs trying to build websites that gain a large audience and thus advertising dollars. [read more]
One thing I’m worried about is that many times during the campaign, Trump said things that seem to show that he has no idea how the government works. E.g., in one speech, he talked about the Supremes “signing bills.” There is so much of this sort of thing that it can’t be mere slips of the tongue; he seems actually to have never read the Constitution. If he actually is so frighteningly ignorant, I worry how he’s going to do the job at all, still less do it well.

It is possible that when Trump fully realizes the position he is in, he will be humbled a little bit. I’ve personally been changed by positions of responsibility.
    I was taken by what Greg Popovich said, what bothered him the most was that 50% of our people ignored our core values in the election. It’s also sad that they will never appreciate that. Maybe the positive is that it’s a wake-up call. However, we may have awakened to find ourselves in a burning house from which there’s no escape. I don’t think so, but we need to be careful.


The world has not come to an end . But it is irreparably changed. And I can’t see any good coming out of Trump’s mouth or from the transition team.
    Trump is surrounding himself with sycophants and mean-spirited ideologues. All we can do is hope that the bureaucracy behaves in its customary ponderous ways and that strains of reason emerge from Congress and the Supremes. That is far less likely from a man who knows he is smarter than anyone else.
    I fear the world as I hoped it would be for our children is in grave danger. But I have faith that our children can do something about that for the sake of our grandchildren. I dare not think they can’t.


“Facebook, in Cross Hairs After Election, Is Said to Question Its Influence ” [Mike Isaac, NY Times, November 12]. Excerpt:
Even more are reassessing Facebook’s role as a media company and wondering how to stop the distribution of false information. Some employees have been galvanized to send suggestions to product managers on how to improve Facebook’s powerful news feed: the streams of status updates, articles, photos and videos that users typically spend the most time interacting with.
    “A fake story claiming Pope Francis — actually a refugee advocate — endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions,” Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who studies the social impact of technology, said of a recent post on Facebook. “Its correction was barely heard. Of course Facebook had significant influence in this last election’s outcome.”     [read more]

I’ve wallowed sufficiently in my anger and grief phases. Now I need to do what I can to help limit the feelings of disunity. I will wait and see. The president-elect has already said some promising things about health care. He also sounds now like he might not pursue special prosecution against Hilary. If he goes on like this, we may survive. (But then he remarked that the protestors were all hired by the news media, so we’re not talking about a total personality make-over).

Hillary Clinton won by more than Gore in 2000, Nixon in 1968 or Kennedy in 1960, it seems. And therein lies a dilemma: “Clinton’s Substantial Popular-Vote Win” [David Leonhardt, NY Times, November 11]. Excerpt:
Hillary Clinton didn’t just win the popular vote. She won it by a substantial margin.
    By the time all the ballots are counted, she seems likely to be ahead by more than 2 million votes and more than 1.5 percentage points, according to my Times colleague Nate Cohn. She will have won by a wider percentage margin than not only Al Gore in 2000 but also Richard Nixon in 1968 and John F. Kennedy in 1960.
    [read more]
I plan to enjoy the jokes that will be in abundance over the next four years. I approach the results of the election as the great Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Bob Dylan observed: “The circus is in town.” I can’t wait for the cabinet clowns to be named. Can you imagine the jokes if Sarah Palin is named Secretary of the Interior? I’m laughing already. You see, I do not take many things seriously, particularly politics. The nature of our democracy is that it goes through cycles. For eight years we have had a very intelligent black man as president. So it’s no surprise to me that now we have the exact opposite – a lily white racist pussy grabber. So I for one am going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Frankly I have other things more important to worry about, like the fact that I need to install a new garage door opener at my house.
    Finally, I have faith in our Constitution, with its checks and balances, that our democracy is fundamentally asshole-proof in the long run.


When we look for the “dark or bad,” we will find it. And when we look for the “light or positive,” we will find it also. We, as a country, must surely look for the latter and project it forward.

[The following story may, or may not, be true, but it seems true to morality and life, and it’s worth contemplating:]
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.
    The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.
    I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”
    As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and, when he saw the color returning to her cheek, smiled – as we all did.
    But then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”
    Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle

5 comments:

  1. Thanks to those from whose correspondence I selected today's excerpts, and I hope you enjoy, or are inspired by, seeing what others said about our prospects now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I liked the page holder most of all.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A favorite comment from recent correspondence:
    The far right has been engaging in agit prop against Hillary Clinton since the 1990’s. And they have had the advantage of social media to do that. The communists in Russia developed agit prop in the early 1920’s to secure the Revolution. They sent around trains spreading propaganda through posters and written media. The problem was that most of the peasants couldn’t read, so communists also taught them to read.
    I’d always thought literacy was a positive value until I thought about it in the context of the political campaign we have had. We have many people who are literate but probably don’t have the capacity of even an early-20th-century Russian peasant when it comes to sorting lies and false claims from truth. The far right knows and counts on this by spreading countless lies and half-truths on the social media. Since the lies dove-tail nicely with readers’ prejudices, the readers don’t even attempt to fact-check. We have reached the nadir of postmodern literary relativism. Everyone’s opinion is as good as the next person’s, and there are no facts, only opinions.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Another favorite comment from recent correspondence:
    The nature of our democracy is that it goes through cycles. For eight years we have had a very intelligent black man as president. So it’s no surprise to me that now we have the exact opposite – a lily white racist pussy grabber. So I for one am going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Frankly I have other things more important to worry about, like the fact that I need to install a new garage door opener at my house.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well done, Morris. ADULT discussion is always a good thing.

    ReplyDelete