America: we need to have a heart-to-heart. I don’t want to sit here and repeat the liberal or conservative talking points; there’s enough blame to go around. Nay, instead, I think we need to talk about some of the core problems that have been hitting the mainstream in recent years.
As a country, we don’t try to solve problems cooperatively anymore. For the past eight years, both of the major parties have talked past each other and not to each other.
More than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican Party makes them “afraid,” while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party. Among those highly engaged in politics – those who say they vote regularly and either volunteer for or donate to campaigns – fully 70% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans say they are afraid of the other party.
—Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016, Pew Research
Over the past eight years we have seen the nation’s first African American President attacked from all sides. Conservatives have been against his every decision; in some cases, even before he had the opportunity to make the decision. Indeed, on inauguration night in 2009, Republicans met to discuss their plan for the next four years: just say no. The end result put in place the government obstructionism we have seen over the last eight years.
However, this atmosphere didn’t just spring up out of thin air in 2008; nor is it the fault of the Tea Party as some liberals may like to point out. According to a recent quantitative analysis done by the Santa Fe Institute, our legislative bodies have been growing increasingly dysfunctional since the middle of last century. In the chart above, the grey areas represent those votes when members of both parties cooperated on drafting (and passing) legislation. As time moved on, you’ll notice how cooperation lessened.
One of the unfortunate side effects of the increased partisanship in government appears to be an increase in the number of people who distrust government. While there is no evidence to prove causation, it’s not a stretch to assume correlation between increased dysfunction in government and increased mistrust in government.
Such betrayals produce a cumulative effect. They prompt citizens to adopt a corrosive skepticism about the very legitimacy of the project of self-government.
—Twilight Of The Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes
Let’s be clear: this isn’t a problem of failed Democratic policies or reactionary Republican policies. This is a problem of our own making; this is a problem born from both a lack of communication and a lack of compromise. Secretary Clinton is winning the popular vote while simultaneously losing the electoral college. Ignore the fact that the same thing happened in 2000 when Al Gore ran against George W. Bush; what else does that tell you? Simply put: we’re an even more divided nation now than when President George W. Bush ran for reelection in 2004.
President-Elect Trump already has the deck stacked against him due to his lack of political experience. Add to that the idea that he will preside over a fundamentally divided electorate with a minority party that will most likely try their utmost to get revenge for the last eight years of gridlock. I can only hope that a President Trump can put aside his fear of “acting Presidential” and focus on healing the country. Otherwise, this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Something else we can’t sugar-coat: the feminist movement in America has been dealt an incredibly damaging blow. However, it’s not only for the immediately obvious reason. The blow comes not because of Secretary Clinton’s gender; it comes due to the textbook misogyny President-Elect Trump displayed (and tacitly promoted) during the campaign. Put aside the multiple allegations of sexual assault and you still have a future president with a long list of on-the-record hostile statements and actions towards women.
Over the last month, I talked to hundreds of female Trump supporters about their candidate’s treatment of women, and the message was always a variation on the same theme: It does not matter. Some women told me that their husbands spoke to them like Trump — that they’d think something was wrong with them if they didn’t. Others suggested that Trump may well be a letch — but that, at age 70, he’d simply run out of the capacity to act on it. One sixtysomething woman told me that getting grabbed was a way for her to know she was still desirable.
—This Is How Much America Hates Women, Buzzfeed
The women interviewed for that Buzzfeed article have every right to vote the way they wished. More than that, they have the right to feel exactly the way they do. Indeed, choice is what it’s all about. At its core, my understanding of the feminist movement is that it is a movement founded on one principle: choice. Not choice in relation to abortion, but choice in relation to how every individual chooses to live their life; in particular, women. Whether that means a woman chooses to work for a living (and earn market rate for her skills) or a different woman chooses to bring a fetus to term (and put it up for adoption), every individual should have the freedom to make choices relevant to their life.
My confusion about conservative opposition to the feminist movement lies in the perceived disconnect between feminism and modern conservative precepts. Indeed, the concept of limited government seems to work in concert with feminism. If, from a conservative perspective, the ideal government is one that stays out of your business (thus, theoretically, providing a level playing field to all), then why such strong opposition to those pursuing exactly that ideal?
On October 11, 2016, the pollster and journalist, Nate Silver, sent a tweet with a forecast of what the election would look like if members of just one gender voted. The above image is Nate Silver’s forecast of what would happen if only men voted. Under ordinary circumstances, a tweet would not rank high enough to mention. However, after several avowed Trump supporters (of both genders) co-opted the image and started promoting the hashtag #RepealThe19th, Eric Trump (President-Elect Trump’s son and campaign surrogate) included the same image in a fundraising email as proof of growing momentum for the campaign. The 19th Amendment is the constitutional amendment passed in the early 1900’s that gave women in America the right to vote. This was just one of many on-the-record instances of misogynist behavior by a member of the campaign or President-Elect Trump himself; including direct confrontation with female members of the media such as Megyn Kelly.
It is disturbing that a major party candidate for President ran a campaign that condoned such blatantly sexist behavior. However, if then-Candidate Trump was making a concerted attempt to activate a swath of the electorate normally ignored by major parties, then this was an excellent strategy (whether it was done by accident or not). Secretary Clinton failed to activate the portion of the electorate she most hoped to energize.
During this election all indications point to the fact that Secretary Clinton won the female vote overall by 12 points while losing the support of white women to President-Elect Trump by 10 points. Moreover, she won the youth vote (18-29 year olds) by an 18-point margin (Clinton: 55%; Trump: 37%) and lost the white vote among the same demographic by 5 points (Clinton: 43%; Trump: 48%). The struggle for gender equality has been set back tremendously in large part due to Secretary Clinton’s failure to connect with those in her own demographic.
The great conservative thinker, William F. Buckley, once said: “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ’Stop!’”. It is possible that by prioritizing that particular ideal over the freedom of choice, we as a nation will continue to take away choices from the gender that happens to be 51% of the population.
The Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great champion of worker’s rights. As a member of the Republican Party, he not only spoke about the ills of segregation and racism, he spoke at length of the great tragedy imposed upon those workers forced to work long days in inhospitable conditions for insufficient wages. While we often think of Dr. King as a champion standing in defense of Negro rights, he saw the plight of the Negro as one tied indelibly to the economic ills that came along with worker’s rights.
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
—I Have A Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Underneath everything was his fundamental belief in democracy. While some of his counterparts in the struggle approached the Civil Rights movement from a position of militancy, Dr. King believed strongly in the democratic process for problem resolution in society. In part, a President Trump is a democratic response to the economic crisis brought on by Wall Street in 2008. More likely, though, is the idea that globalization and the technological revolution brought on by the growth of the Internet is marginalizing those in typical blue collar positions.
The above chart demonstrates the decline in the agricultural sector in England and Wales between 1871 and 2011. That decline is a direct result of technological advancement, according to a study performed by economists at Deloitte. So there may be some truth to the idea that technology kills blue collar jobs. And not just in the agricultural sector, but in manufacturing and other blue collar sectors, as well.
However, as usual, the answer is not that simple. The same study discovered that while “hard, dangerous and dull” jobs have declined (such as the number of employees washing laundry for a living), jobs in the service industry (e.g. bar tending) and caring industry (e.g. nursing) have increased dramatically. Technology has also accelerated the pace of growth in most knowledge-based industries as information has gotten easier to access and communication has improved alongside it. As an example, the number of accountants in England and Wales has grown by over 2193% in the same time period; from a total of 9,832 to a whopping 215,678.
Opposition to technology springs simply from a more or less visceral fear of scientism, which is often taken to imply the dehumanization of humankind.
—Does More Technology Create Unemployment? by R. H. Mabry and A. D. Sharplin
The growth of the technology sector has cut the cost of essential goods (food, drink, transportation, etc) thus allowing for individuals and families to spend more on services and luxury goods while giving a significant boost to the overall world economy. The industries gaining through technological development are often the knowledge-driven industries. However, the current state of the conservative movement is one that eschews intellectualism while promoting partisanship.
“Conservative” once signified an intellectual tendency with partisan overtones, now it signifies a partisan tendency that would prefer not to have intellectual overtones.
—How Conservatism Lost Its Mind, The American Conservative
And therein lies the rub. The conservative movement has moved away from intellectualism over the last several decades. So much so that any reference to intellectualism is anathema to today’s conservative. Meanwhile, opposition to technology grows as more blue collar jobs get displaced despite studies proving technology to be a long-term benefit to society.
With the benefit of hindsight, the growing tensions between the Conservative movement and the Progressive movement were bound to cause a backlash in the blue collar labor force. While both Presidents’ Clinton and Obama have embraced Silicon Valley (and the tech community writ large), Presidents’ George W. Bush and Herbert Walker Bush largely stayed away from serious interaction with Silicon Valley. The tech community prides itself on disrupting major industries to the point of constantly forcing reinvention upon itself. However, that very concept goes against modern conservative orthodoxy as both change and intellectualism is to be avoided. The next four years will be very telling for the technology industry. Market forces demanding constant change will largely leave that industry untouched; but that doesn’t mean the industry itself will not be forced to make some changes in response to the sea change brought on by this election.
The economic engine of the United States of America has been fueled by prejudice and racism since the days the British ruled the Colonies. What started out as indentured servitude morphed quickly into slavery. Slavery later morphed into Black Codes; a series of laws specifically designed to re-enslave African Americans through the use of the prison system. Black Codes morphed into Jim Crow laws and segregation. Until finally the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. While the struggle for equality doesn’t end there for African Americans, that’s just one example of how systemic prejudice has been in our nation’s history.
When the Irish started immigrating to America in the early 1800s, they often stepped foot on American soil as indentured servants. In the south, the Irish took dangerous jobs that slave-owners wanted to protect Black slaves from given the value of the slave over an Irish individual. And while the Irish were getting paid, they were treated extremely poorly even when they could get jobs. In the mid-1850s, a nativist movement sprang up with one of its primary purposes being to stop unwanted immigration from “exotic” locales such as: Ireland, Italy, China, and Japan. The Know-Nothing Party was born in response to waves of unwanted immigrants entering the country. And while the party itself didn’t last very long, when the Know-Nothing Party disbanded in the 1850s, many members joined the newly formed Republican Party. Interestingly enough, the party disintegrated due to an influx of southerners fighting in support of slavery. Many members found the very concept abhorrent, thus tearing the party apart.
The Constitution as it was originally written only counted slaves as 3/5ths of a person for the purposes of the census and (later) for voting. When the electoral college was conceptualized, James Madison said, “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.” Translation: slaves in the south were unable to vote, but slave owners still wanted their numbers to count in their favor.
The analysis of five presidential voting outcomes, between 1960 and 2000, showed that southern counties with KKK activity in the 1960s had a statistically significant increase in Republican voting compared to counties with no established KKK chapter, even after controlling for a range of factors commonly understood as relating to voting preferences. They also found that conservative racial attitudes among voters in the 1992 election strongly predicted Republican voting, but only in counties where the KKK was organized in the 1960s.
Jump forward over a century to a time after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 to get another historical piece of the political puzzle: the pro-segregationist Southern Democrats split off from the Democratic Party, eventually to join the Republican party. The terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan bears the brunt of the responsibility for steering Southern Democrats towards the Republican Party. Indeed, the effect of their outsized influence can still be seen today, as the study mentioned above implies. However, from a racial perspective, there was still one more important piece missing.
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
—John Ehrlichman, Domestic Policy Chief for President Richard Nixon, Vox
Historically speaking, whenever minorities (traditionally African Americans) were given any freedom, the political system found a way to compensate for those newfound freedoms. That pattern held after the Civil War with the advent of Black Codes (and then Jim Crow). And it held again after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when President Richard M. Nixon officially declared its War on Drugs in 1971. His Domestic Policy Chief, John Ehrlichman, recently admitted that the war’s primary purpose was to disrupt the black community and the peace movement. While there is some question to the statement’s veracity due to Mr. Ehrlichman’s biases against President Nixon, the scenario described above is believable.
While African Americans are almost equally likely to use drugs, they are more than twice as likely to to be incarcerated for drug usage. And once a person has a felony conviction on their record, their voting rights in many states across the country are stripped for a time. One out of every thirteen African Americans adults in America are unable to vote due to a felony conviction. In swing states such as Florida, that number climbs higher to more than one out of every five African Americans. Nationwide, the total number of people (not just African Americans) unable to vote is estimated to be as high as 6.1 million Americans.
This is the foundation of the modern two party system we see today. Prejudice has been engraved in the political infrastructure of America from the very beginning leaving people of color disenfranchised and marginalized without the opportunity to speak out in the only way that matters in this country: with a vote. We see that through the plight of African Americans. We see parallels between the way Irish and Italian immigrants were treated almost two centuries ago to the way Mexican and Asian immigrants are treated today. America needs immigrants to do unwanted jobs; however, once those same immigrants begin the fight for Civil Rights and integration, the blowback is often swift and political. There were moments in history when America defied all the odds, only to have prejudice seep back into the system almost immediately.
In the past week, there has been much introspection. Every media outlet is wondering how we got to where we are today. We’ve made a lot of progress in the decades since 1964: interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia) and the marriage equality act (Obergefell v. Hodges) being just two examples, each focused on love. To elect Donald Trump as President of The United States of America seems like a step backward in more respects than just those discussed: politically, along gender lines, economically, and racially.
The average woman today still earns 79% of her male counterpart. The numbers get worse when divided along racial lines. Millions of convicted felons are unable to vote making it nearly impossible for them to get their voices heard in our political system. Economically, blue collar and white collar workers are more divided than ever. The KKK, a once dying organization of violence, hatred and prejudice, has gained a resurgence and all but endorsed Donald Trump on the campaign trail. This too, is nothing new, as it’s simply publicizing a long-held strategy of supporting the Republican Party and its interests.
Things appear to be bleak.
But they’re not. All of this has happened before and every time we, as a nation, have pushed back against the oncoming storm. Every time we, as a nation, have found a way to assure that someone’s life is better tomorrow than it is today. America isn’t defined by those who are winning; America is defined by those who are fighting. A President Trump will not change that; indeed, he will be the catalyst for a great refinement of those ideals we hold most dear. We’ve been here before and somehow we always come out stronger on the other side. This is simply another chapter in a book we’ve been writing since before the founding of this great nation. At the end of every chapter is a verse that propels us forward; this, too, shall be no different.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.