Friday, April 28, 2017

The First 100: Turns Out, Nothing Really Happened...

Certain groups are still in a state of shock, mourning, contempt, even depression and despair over the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. For me most of the shock was that my prediction, and almost every other prediction for that matter, was so incredibly wrong. Like, toothpaste with orange juice wrong.

For some, the threat of Trump and the policies he represents creates real fear. I can empathize with that, and it's fair to say that as a straight white male Trump represents very little real threat to me. But for all the fear, justified as it is, at some point we all have to take a step back and look at the reality of what is happening and discard the echo-chamber of our own fears and groups.

Social media fuels the echo-chamber. Drastically. We can like and follow a very specific subset of the things we agree with and totally ignore anything that might possibly make us question our own ideas or beliefs. Great as that can be, it's dangerous. Differing views and opinions are important, even if that view or opinion proves to be incorrect, because it could be our own view or opinion that is wrong, not the other way around. It's impossible to know that if you ignore everything that's different from yourself or your core value system, or just dismiss it without examination.

Exposure to something different is a keystone of development, particularly when it comes to the way we think the world works. Just ask anyone who has done a study abroad, or a mission trip to a poor area, or held a job providing service to the underprivileged; seeing the world from another perspective helps us understand how narrow our own viewpoints are.

This Presidency is a great example of that. Depending on who you ask the First 100 days of the Trump administration have been: An unqualified success, a hilarious failure, or the beginning of a dictatorship and the end of Western democracy as we know it.

But the truth is, none of those are correct.

Trump put out his 100 day contract for America after election day. So far he has accomplished, well... nothing. No wall. Still in NATO. Still in NAFTA. Obamacare, well, you know... lots of threats but still not even a VOTE on a repeal bill. Equal marriage rights still exist, and by the way will. Muslim ban blocked, then re-done, then blocked again. Plus, the swamp appears to be doing just fine.

Still, this administration is talking big about these very items, but if we've learned anything about Trump is that his words mean virtually nothing. He's said that much himself, and shown it when he backs down on issues, changes his mind (quickly) on major issues, and sort of brushes off the failure to accomplish his stated goals. Add to that the rising boil of the issues with Gen. Flynn, a cabinet that's half-empty, eroding support in Congress, and an approval rating that isn't doing him any favors and Trump's first 100 days are basically just 100 days of free material for the late night hosts and a gift to the ratings of SNL.

Yet, for all of that, his supporters will still say he's doing a good job, and those who would label themselves in “the resistance” will use that word, dictator, to describe him. It's all perception. It's mostly branding. If we all have an "us" and a "them" it makes our lives make better sense. I get that. 

But it's that mindset that creates these echo-chamber issues. THEY don't agree with me because they are ____________ (rednecks, stupid, christians, muslims, atheists, libtards, snow flakes, etc.). Gross. Both sides have contrived a version of Trump that fits their needs. One version is a hero figure capable of fixing their problems. The other version is a cross between Hitler and Ben Roethlisberger. Both are just silly. Both groups seem stuck in the first week of November.

In reality, he's just a guy, that's a pretty big jerk, in a job he admits is harder than he thought it would be, with no experience. And that's what we are getting. He isn't actively trying to commit evil, and he also hasn't done the things he promised. Both, it turns out, are the result of the same thing. He doesn't know how to do the job, and it shows.

Recently, when asked about firing Sean Spicer, who is doing an absolutely awful job as Press Secretary, believe me, people are saying it, Trump said he doesn't want to fire him because he gets such good ratings. Ratings. That's what it comes down to.

So long as Trump thinks people are entertained and his people are in front of the cameras and getting the television ratings he wants to see, then things must be just fine. That's the game for him. Sure, maybe there will be some actual governing along the way, or staffing of the government for that matter, but really he just wants to keep getting the ratings. He talks about it in almost every interview he does.

That's what's really happening.

He isn't a savior for the “forgotten middle class” and he isn't a Hitler wanna-be. He hasn't ended democracy. Besides, democracy isn't his to end, it's ours, and what a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy to promote.


In reality, Trump has spent 100 days arguing and tweeting. Most of what he has actually done is by signing executive orders, JUST like Obama. In comparison to his promises, and the fears, truly, he's done nothing.

- Adam Sommer 

Friday, April 21, 2017

ALL IN ONLY: WHY LITMUS TESTS FOR POLITICIANS ARE STUPID

Holy crap you guys. Bernie Sanders is spending time on the road campaigning with the Democratic National Committee. In Omaha, Nebraska to be specific. For a mayoral candidate, Heath Mello, to be even more specific.

Mello is a current State Senator in Nebraska. Fun fact: Nebraska’s legislature is unicameral and if you click here you can learn about that. It’s actually rather interesting.

But back to Mayoral hopeful Mello and his Sanders DNC support…

It turns out, Heath Mello isn’t super down with a woman’s right to choose regarding her body’s reproductive decisions. Understandably, and very predictably, that stance has been eschewed by the left as being out of step with the party line. But it’s not Heath Mello (the more I type and think about this name the more I am struck by its total badassery) that the true “party people” are after; it’s Bernie.

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has become the most high profile Democrat willing to do stuff in public. Naturally if Barry-O would show up Sanders would be quickly forgotten, but like with most recent past presidents Obama is staying quiet for a bit. It helps with the transition of power, keeps the country from confusing itself, all that jazz. Hillary is probably as useful to a Mayoral race in Omaha as Trump would be to a council person race in San Francisco, so the DNC has Bernie in the field, drumming up support.

It’s part of the DNC’s wild new strategy to try and win more offices than just the Presidency. I know, it seems radical, but I for one want to see if this bold new approach can work.

But all of that isn’t what’s making the headlines. Before writing this I wanted to see just how much of the Bernie hate was on the internet. So, I did a very scientific Google search by opening Google and typing the words “bernie sanders” just like that, no modifications, and searching.

The first three results are articles (NPR, The Atlantic, Observer) about the Democratic base being super pissed off because Bernie is campaigning for someone (HEATH MELLO!!!) whose stance on women’s health is not in step with the DNC base support.

To be fair to the leftists, this isn’t new. It actually looks a LOT like what happened on the right after Obama was elected in 2008. That’s how the Tea Party took off, to put it in a remarkably oversimplified nutshell, as a far-right response to the GOP members who didn’t want to immediately impeach Obama. The response from both sides are the same in their genesis. Let's say generic politician is a national party representative (though Bernie is still an Independent, so go figure there) but does something that doesn’t 100% make the base happy. The base goes into a fit of rage and demands the party adopt a platform and agenda that is unyieldingly supportive of the desires of the base.

For the GOP it was the tax pledges, and health care pledges. For the Dems it’s mostly social issues. For both parties it creates a litmus test for party purity. You have to be with or against.

It’s stupid.

If the Democrats want to take back control of local, state, and national governments again then forcing every single candidate to adopt a party line platform on every issue, without question, is dumber than a bag of hammers.

Heath Mello (awesome name aside) is running for Mayor of Omaha. Now, Omaha is a very cool place, I have to admit (the Upstream Brewery there is a personal favorite) but it doesn’t take a political guru to know that Nebraska isn’t exactly a hotbed for Democratic politicians. You know the last time Nebraska went for a Democrat in the Presidential race? Do you?

The answer is actually very interesting (I think it is, maybe you don’t, that’s cool too, but it has to do with their interesting unicameral legislative branch. See what i did there, with bringing that back?) because it involves Nebraska’s special ability (along with Maine) to cast separate electoral votes for candidates. In 2008 Nebraska split it’s 5 votes with 4 going to McCain and 1 going to Obama. But before that, it was LBJ in 1964. That means other than the 1, single, lone, electoral vote for Obama in 2008, Nebraska as a state has gone to the GOP candidate in 14 straight elections. On top of that, Trump did better in Nebraska than Mitt Romney, John McCain, & George H. W. Bush.

All that is to say that Nebraska, in general, isn’t a “left” leaning state. It just isn’t. So, it’s not surprising to find local level politicians (Heath Mello!) whose stances on wedge issues are more aligned with the right than the left, even if they are running as a Democrat. Frankly, it makes sense. You can’t win elections if you don’t hold similar values to the people who will cast the votes.

All politics is local, a well known phrase from Tip O'Neill. That’s why the idea of a national litmus test is stupid. The DNC has an interest in promoting as many victories for Democrats as possible. Just like the GOP. The GOP has allowed itself, as a party, to be taken over by the base in such a way that is unsustainable. It’s like eating nothing but junk food. Yes, tacos and candy are amazing. I for one wish I could eat tacos, drink Mountain Dew, and snack on candy all the time. But I know that if I did things would go very poorly for me. The GOP is in the midst of several years of eating nothing but tacos and candy, washing it all down with a big gulp of that good old Mountain Dew. The ride is great right now, but as it always does, the choice is going to catch up to them at some point. The DNC can’t allow itself to do the same if it wants to win locally and sustain winning in the future. It’s just that simple.

The GOP is in serious jeopardy of eroding local support for this very reason. Like late night indigestion after pounding tacos and doing The Dew all day, the results in Kansas and Georgia, even with GOP victories, are the preview of what is coming.

If Bernie can put his arm around a guy we’ve never heard of in Omaha and help the Democrats win a local race, is that bad because that particular politician's stance on ONE issue isn't in lock step with the party base? Or, is it better to have someone run with a perfect stance on all the left's issues with zero chance to win? It's ok to have nuanced and different approaches. It's ok to disagree. Instead of outrage over a difference, why not try some critical thinking and analysis?



You can’t legislate if you don’t win. It’s pretty simple.




-Adam Sommer