"What's Going On…" (Marvin Gaye, May 21, 1971),

September 2017

 

Donald Trump's unleashed the dark angels of bigotry and racism. Unlike 1971, when it took two years of investigative reporting to learn what really occurred, thanks to the Internet it's quickly becoming obvious what's going on. Reminds me of a cockroach infested basement apartment we lived in at college. Knowing we'd squash them they hid in cracks and under baseboards whenever it was light only to emerge after dark. Donald Trump turned off the lights.

Elections are important. Since 1960 Republicans and Democrats held the Presidency 28 years each. In general that's a good thing. Years ago Abraham Maslow described the uncomfortable reality that people are never satisfied. No matter what we have we always want more.

The desire for more isn't just economic. Even though the overall economy and family income always improve more, and unemployment is less, under Democratic Party leadership than when Republicans rule, one-party government's not sustainable. Organizations are created by human beings and when any group remains in control too long they begin to rule in self-serving ways.

I believe in the value of a Two-party system. Whatever success I have had is in large part because I have a smarter than me wife who pays attention to what I'm doing and tells me when I'm doing something dumb. Our strengths are often also our weaknesses. We all need someone looking over our shoulder to reign us in when we go too far which is why we need a true two-party system.

Never satisfied we also tend to elect leaders with personalities and working styles opposite that of their predecessor. The 2016 election is an extreme example of this reality.

Barack Obama has a positive inclusive world view that emphasizes everyone becoming a winner. While working as a Community Organizer in the Southside of Chicago he won a scholarship to Harvard where he excelled and earned a Law degree that qualified him to teach Constitutional Law at The University of Chicago. As President of The United States foreign leaders almost universally considered him the undisputed leader of the free world. Never involved in scandal he married an equally strong competent woman and with his Mother-in-law the three of them raised talented wholesome daughters.

Donald Trump is an angry, vulgar, barely literate bully who relishes gaudy excess and vindictively attacks anyone who doesn't submit to his often irrational will. A flagrant womanizer he discarded two slightly aged wives to marry pretty younger women. Taking money from his father to enter business he maintained an extravagant life-style while bankrupting investors and contractors who trusted him. He demonstrated his inability to lead the free world by being an utter failure at the 2016 G20 Conference in Hanover, Germany. According to Chris Uhlmann of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation…

"What we already knew is that the President of the United States has a particular skill set, that he's identified an illness in Western democracies, but he has no cure for it and seems intent on exploiting it - and we've also learned that he has no desire and no capacity to lead the world."

Barack Obama and Donald Trump couldn't be any different.

 

 

Each of us has a flash point.

A retired United States Army Officer, who I admire for many reasons, was so appalled by Donald Trump's disrespect of the Gold Star parents of a fellow fallen Officer that while he respects the office of President he finds it impossible to respect the man currently in that office.

A Scoutmaster for years I believe it's personally and nationally important we all try to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. The malevolency of Donald Trump's character was confirmed when he mocked everything Scouting stands for in front of 50,000 Boys and leaders this summer at their national Jamboree -- and then lied about how his message was recived.

Business leaders have abandoned him. Last week they resigned in mass from advisory positions to which he had appointed them. Their flash point was Donald Trump's assertion that White Supremacists are as worthy of respect as the demonstrators who oppose them. Business leaders, who must protect their reputations, decided being associated with Donald Trump was bad for business.

Given my intense personal reaction to the offensiveness of Donald Trump's behavior it was initially easy for me to believe anyone who voted for him doesn't share values I consider basic. It's not that simple.

This summer The Economist published The Power of Groupthink, an in depth special report describing why people voted for and continue to support Donald Trump. (July 1st, 2017)

Ignorance is an issue. Only one in five Americans pays attention to politics. Most Americans consider politics nothing more than a reality show too boring to watch. That four out five Americans doesn't pay attention shocks people like me who believe policy choices and character shape the world in which we live. Donald Trump is a Reality Show Host who knows how to keep the show exciting.

Many Americans fear for their economic security. Persons frustrated with economic changes that make it difficult to remain middle class feel betrayed by the fact that good paying jobs they used to have no longer exist where they live. Some jobs have been contracted out to part-time workers or off-shored but the bigger problem is computerization.

Computers do repetitive tasks more accurately and economically than people which is great for productivity but terrible for the people who used to be paid to do such jobs. Computers have also taken over money management, inventory management and distribution with the same result.

While Ecommerce is efficient, and robots taking and filling orders has advantages, these changes have eliminated millions of good retail store jobs.

Many persons are even more frustrated by very visible sociological changes. Gay marriage, abortion, babies being born out of wedlock, unmarried couples living together, so many persons receiving government assistance and now acceptance of transgender persons in the military are flash points for a large number of people. They don't believe this is how "normal" people behave and that such "abnormal" behavior is destroying our society.

Frustrated people like Donald Trump because he says want they want to hear, speaks contemptuously to power, flaunts the appearance of wealth and seeks revenge for any perceived slight. They felt like he was defending them.

 

It still takes 51% of the vote to win.

Most Americans have little understanding of what either party stands for. This is partly because they don't pay attention to politics and partly because both parties have evolved into something other than what they used to be. Forty years ago most wealthy and college educated people voted Republican. Most members of the working class voted Democrat. That's no longer the case.

Republicans invited in frustrated persons who believe the economy is rigged against them, persons left-behind by their inability to adapt to technological changes or to move to where jobs they could do exist and persons frustrated by sociological changes that threaten their cultural norms. Disenfranchised people, who want good jobs, still believe Republicans are more likely to create jobs than Democrats. Wealthy people are no longer in control of the Republican Party.

College educated women and men invited themselves into the Democrat Party. Union leaders, laborers, minorities and "enlightened" wealthy people still support the Democrat Party but are no longer the majority. Most party leaders are now college educated and upper middle-class. Working class people are no longer in control of the Democratic Party and most are convinced current leaders have no clue as to who they are or what they need.

Most Americans feel both parties have abandoned them and only loosely affiliate with either party if at all. It is not important to Trump voters that he is not a traditional Republican, that he is a party of himself, family and a few persons who believe being associated with him will bring them fame and fortune.

Many people don't take voting seriously because they don't think who wins matters. They've given up on politics because they've been taught to distrust politicians in general even if they like the ones they voted for. Part of this disillusionment comes from decades of having been told government employees and elected officials are corrupt, self-serving, and incompetent and that the government services provided go to undeserving others instead of to worthy persons like themselves.

Social Media shaped this election. One surprising discovery was most Trump supporters now put more faith in what is posted on Facebook and spoken on partisan television and talk radio and blogs than in news published by traditional newspapers and broadcasted on television. This is a problem. Trained reporters adhere to professional journalistic standards which means they try to carefully verify the accuracy of what they report. Partisan bloggers and Facebook friends are only bound by their personal feelings and beliefs.

Not knowing facts, or much about their candidate, many voters simply ascribe policies they believe in to their chosen candidate and it doesn't end there. Once their candidate is elected they ascribe anything good that happens to their candidate and party and anything bad to the opposite party, whether such assumptions are accurate or not. Facts don't matter.

Running for office has evolved. A decade ago Barack Obama used his speaking ability and youthful charismatic idealism that attracted thousands of energetic youth to his rallies and local events plus constant Email messages to win the election. That's so yesterday.

Social Media, especially Facebook, was the primary way most Americans followed traditional campaign politics while Donald Trump stirred his base with emotive 140 character Tweets. Traditional news sources were still used but voters were often more influenced by social media than by professionally governed legitimate media. Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media authors are not obligated to post the truth.

We were tricked. We now know that for years we've been deceived by legitimate appearing fake stories, videos and memes and politically motivated "witch hunts". It is now obvious constantly repeated fake messages shaped opinions and impacted voter behavior. While this has been done domestically for decades, Hillary Clinton being the usual target, this was different.

This was new. This time thousands of foreigners, mostly thought to be Russian government employees, and some domestically paid hackers, constantly inundated the electorate with fake news intended to disrupt faith in the electoral process and to defeat Hillary Clinton. Fake stories were happily shared by naïve Americans and politicians until they went viral and were seen and believed by millions of potential voters.

Voting processes are also under attack. All official intelligence services agree foreigners also hacked into several state voter data bases. Once inside they altered names and registration data making it difficult for some persons to vote and just generally disrupted the voting process. It appears vote counts were not affected after voters voted this time but that's certainly planned for 2018 and 2020.

The major lesson of 2016 is there's no need to alter vote counts if voters are tricked into voting the way foreigners and partisans want them to vote.

 

 

Everyone wants an opportunity to earn a good life.

Both parties have promoted policies that make it difficult for working-class and middle-class families to thrive. Voter anger is justified. Hopefully this anger can be channeled in ways that make things better instead of worse.

Availability of jobs is essential. Most persons want the honor and income that comes from earning enough money to provide their families with a good life. Companies need to be rewarded for keeping good jobs in America. Entrepreneurs need to be rewarded for creating business's that support themselves, their families and create jobs.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform needs to include incentives for American businesses to hire Americans. Currently it is more profitable for American companies to import skilled foreigners than to hire equally skilled Americans. At the other end making it advantageous for companies to automate low skill stoop labor so it is unnecessary to hire seasonal workers to do jobs few of us can physically do would create low end jobs as well.

Service is an answer. I am in favor of creation of government run and financed community service programs. While serving in the military is not for everyone it certainly provided me with a foundation of skills, sense of honor and money to pay for the college education that served me well.

In my opinion everyone and our nation would gain from making it possible for unemployed persons to perform paid service that benefits their community. For example Barack Obama credits having been a Community Organizer on the Southside of Chicago to being a major influence on his understanding human needs and how to help people take care of themselves.

Train for jobs that exist. Most good paying jobs now require post-high school training. Providing the equivalent of the GI Bill to persons who agree to submit to the discipline of public service would make such programs attractive to many persons who could not otherwise afford advanced training.

 

 

What people don't know and do can hurt them.

There has to be a way to keep people informed. I should not have been surprised to learn 80% of all Americans pay little attention to politics. I was like that when young and consumed with earning enough money to support our family.

Political ads weren't always so untruthful and inflamatory. Prior to 1987 political radio and television ads tended to be short and balanced for two reasons. The Fairness Doctrine, which Ronald Reagan repealed by Executive Action in October 1988, guaranteed that the broadcast of any political advertisement would immediately be rebutted by a spokesperson from the opposite political party. Knowing one's opinions would be rebutted made politicians, talk show hosts and political pundits careful and respectful since they knew untruths and exaggerations would be unmasked.

Today privately owned for profit media companies depend on revenue from paid political advertisements to remain in business. As a result they air as many controversial emotionally charged ads as they can squeeze in as a way to increase audience share and advertising revenue. Being truthful or respectful are unimportant since such ads can only be rebutted by an equally memorable paid ad from the opposing candidate or party. Sensationalism pays. We need to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

The political donor class now rules. Ever since the Supreme Court declared Citizen's United legal hundreds of thousands of persons like myself, who sacrifice to send $100 to a candidate, are now silenced by one billionaire with a personally honest or nefarious agenda. Normal people are legitimately frustrated by the fact that no one cares about them or their needs.

Fake News. Social media companies have become aware of their ability to influence elections. Solving this problem will be difficult because the amount of traffic on-line is so huge it's impossible to hire enough employees to monitor everything posted. Google already has an army of 10,000 "Raters" and Facebook currently has 4,500 employees trying to detect and flag fake news and to Block the most flagrant posts and to counter questionable posts with more accurate ones (The Economist, p.55, 8/26/2017). A former student of mine is working on this at Google-You Tube. His goal is to create systems that automatically block fake news and offensive and illegal content. I am confident this problem can be solved.

Hackers. Finally, and this will be my least controversial recommendation, we must make it impossible for foreign hackers to influence who wins American elections. I am confident the Federal Bureau of Investigation will soon know what was done and who did it because that is what they do best. It will then be up to our Internet specialists to create the required network security systems.

 

 

We're smart and resilient

We survived a British invasion and their burning of our capital in 1812, we survived a horrific Civil War that killed more than 650,000 Americans in the 1860s, we survived years of violent unrest in the 1970s that led to restoration of civil rights that had been taken away in the early 1900s and we survived the forced resignation of President Nixon.

There's strength in a two-party system that constrains the far right belief that business profits are all that matter and the far left belief that income equality is all that matters. What everyone wants is an opportunity to earn a good life for themself and their family.

I didn't vote for Donald Trump who rules his party of one. Once he was elected I was hopeful he would become presidential and that his election would shock politicians into repairing the danger that comes from both party's abandonment of constituents. I was hoping elected officials would see the need to work together for the common good. While some far right, and some far left politicians are still holding out for purity a center of reasonable persons, who are willing to step across the aisle to work with members of the opposite party, appears to be emerging.

I'm concerned for two reasons. Instead of trying to unite us Donald Trump is inciting his Altright base to enact revenge against his perceived enemies. His supporters include many frustrated well-armed men who've been told government is the problem so often they may believe it needs to be violently overthrown. Frustrated well-armed men sometimes act out in extremely destructive ways.

I'm optimistic for three reasons. Our Forefathers were cynics. They included separation of church and state and separation of political powers in The Constitution of the United States for a reason. They knew human instincts need to be constrained by checks and balances.

I believe the Justice Department will expose any criminal activities that occurred and that criminals will be prosecuted for their crimes, be forced to resign in disgrace or voted out of office.

I believe now that we know attacks on our electoral system are likely we'll perfect ways to protect our electoral system from hackers. In 2016 foreigners and partisans used fake news to trick voters - we're working on ways to curtail purveyors of fake news. We now know foreigners hacked into our electoral data bases and voting machines and that they will almost certainly attack them next election cycle - we're working on ways to make sure that will not be possible.

 

In closing I believe Donald Trump's presidency is effectively over. His support of White Nationalist's is so toxic prominent business, government officials and elected officials are distancing themselves from him as fast as possible. It has become painfully obvious he is emotionally and intellectually incapable of managing the office of President of the United States of America. Hopefully checks and balances in The Constitution of The United States of America will make it possible to limit the damage he does.