Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Sunday Musings Regarding the United States, Division, and the Upcoming Election

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It’s been awhile since I last wrote one of these Sunday Musings posts, so I thought it was time for another. Enjoy!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the United States came to be so divided. (The idea that we’re supposed to be united despite our divisions and differences really seems to have gotten lost beside the wayside, lately.) And the only thing I can come up with is, some people — maybe the vast majority of people — want to believe in their own version of reality.

Now, you might be asking, “Barb, what the Hell are you on about this time?”

It’s simple, really. Most people, whether their politics are conservative or liberal, want to believe whatever it is that makes them feel the best about themselves and their circumstances. So whatever narrative they see has a great deal to do with their own lives, and nothing else need apply.

Should it be this way?

I’d like to say no. Because facts are what they are, and you can’t choose to only believe some facts rather than others. And optimally, everyone should do a good deal of research into political candidates — almost the same as if you’re vetting a personal friend for a job you’re not sure they’re up for, but want them to try for anyway.

The thing is, here in the United States, and perhaps around the world as well, there are many people working more than one job. Or they are working way more than forty hours at the one job they have, to support their families.

In other words, they are exhausted, and they don’t have time to do the research if they wanted to. So they pick whomever they think they can hate the least, and call it a day.

While I understand exhaustion quite well — having fibromyalgia as I do, that comes with the territory — I still wish people would challenge their own assumptions more often. Because that way, it’s easier to get out of ruts; in fact, if you do challenge your own assumptions regularly, you may never fall into a rut at all.

I also wish that we could somehow get back to where we were ten or fifteen years ago, where people didn’t choose their friends solely by whether or not they fit their political beliefs. There are so many things that unite us that it pains me to see unnecessary divisions making things worse.

It’s almost like people thought after 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, that everything would now be wonderful. (You may remember that I conscientiously objected at the time to that point of view.) And because it didn’t happen, they grew disenchanted with anyone who still wanted to see hope in any form.

Yet somehow, we went from the cult of personality that Barack Obama had about him to the cult of personality that Donald Trump now embodies. And we went from “Yes, we can!” to “Hell no, we can’t!”

What I would like to see, going forward, is that we all realize we have more in common with each other than not. We want safe streets. Good quality, affordable health care. Schools that do more than just warehouse kids, and actually teach them usable skills. And I’d like to see us have a dialogue that shows we’re paying attention to one another, rather than just dismissing everything the other side (or sometimes, sides) says out of hand because it doesn’t automatically fit our worldview.

That said, some things are flat-out wrong. Racism is one of them. Sexism is another. Unnecessary fear regarding the LGBTQ community is another.

But you know what is the most wrong of all? Stupidity.

So I urge you, today, to reach out to your friends, neighbors, and others. Try to see where you have things in common. Do good things for one another, if you can. Or at least listen and care if you can’t.

Regardless of who you vote for, you need to start looking to re-form a community around yourself. So we can all feel like we matter, and are important.

That’s what being a citizen of the greatest nation on Earth is supposed to be about, rather than “us vs. them.”

12-year Veteran NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out as Gay in Sports Illustrated Article

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Today was a watershed moment in American sports history, because today was the day that Jason Collins, a 12-year veteran center in the National Basketball Association, came out as gay.  Collins is the first-ever professional athlete in any of the four major professional sports — hockey, baseball, basketball, or football — to come out while he’s still playing.

My first reaction: Hallelujah!

Then I read Jason Collins’ three-page, first-person story in Sports Illustrated (written with Franz Lidz).  There are many relevant things here, including why Collins felt the need to come out, what his background is (he’s Christian and believes in Jesus, who promoted tolerance and mutual understanding), and why being gay is not a choice.

Instead, it’s just who Collins is, right along with his basketball ability, his love for history and the civil rights struggle, and many other admirable qualities.

Here’s a relevant quote from the third page of the SI story:

Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road. Former players like Tim Hardaway, who said “I hate gay people” (and then became a supporter of gay rights), fuel homophobia. Tim is an adult. He’s entitled to his opinion. God bless America. Still, if I’m up against an intolerant player, I’ll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.

I agree.

Speaking of Tim Hardaway, as Collins said, Hardaway has completely changed his opinion.  Michael Rosenberg wrote at Sports Illustrated about how others have reacted to Jason Collins’ groundbreaking announcement — remember, Collins is the first-ever pro athlete to come out as gay in a major male American professional sport while he’s still an active player — and he included a quote from Hardaway:

Several years ago, (Tim) Hardaway made some harsh anti-gay comments, and the backlash was severe enough that Hardaway decided to educate himself about homosexuality. His views have changed radically. He told me he was wrong several years ago, and that gay people deserve the same rights that heterosexuals have.

Hardaway, who now works for the Miami Heat, also said this:

“If people on teams were to come out, people would get over it and accept it and move forward. I really do think that. Any sport. If one person or two people, whoever, comes out in any sport, that sport will accept it and go from there.”

My second reaction: Amen!

Then I read this story by openly lesbian professional tennis player Martina Navratilova, also at SI.  Navratilova knows a great deal about professional pressure to remain closeted, as she was the first major pro sports player in any league to come out as lesbian back in 1981.

Navratilova praises Collins, which makes sense, and then gives a brief history of how difficult it’s been up until the past few years to get support in any professional sports league for gay rights, including the ability to be open about your sexuality rather than closeted.  But she stumbles a bit, in my opinion at least, when she references the late, great Reggie White.

White, as any Packers fan knows, was one of the greatest defensive ends in the National Football League (see this link from Packers.com that summarizes White’s career nicely), and was enshrined in the NFL’s Hall of Fame in 2006.  He was also a Christian minister, and had been raised with fundamentalist Southern Christian values.  Because of this, while White loved everyone, he was not particularly tolerant of gays and lesbians and actually took part in a well-advertised TV campaign to try and get GLBT people to “cease” their homosexuality.

This was offensive, and both the NFL and the Green Bay Packers objected — but for the wrong reason as they were more upset that Reggie actually wore his football jersey in the ads than anything else.

White also could be verbally awkward, as when he went to address the Wisconsin Legislature in March of 1998.  White said something about how Asians are endlessly inventive that sounded awful, like a racial stereotype, rather than the compliment he had intended.  And his comments about other races, including African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans were no better.

All of these things caused White to lose out on a professional announcing gig after he finished playing football.  So White did suffer censure.

White died in 2004.  And at the time, he was attempting to educate himself in ancient Aramaic, as he believed that certain scriptures of the Bible may have suffered by translation — which means that he had apparently had a consciousness raising of sorts.  But he didn’t get the time he needed to learn more, as he died of sleep apnea.  (Here’s a link to the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Foundation, which is located in West Allis, Wisconsin.)

Now, whether this means White would’ve evolved on this issue is unknown.  But I do know that in 2004, President Obama was against gay marriage.  Hillary R. Clinton, while adamantly for gay rights in most senses, was also against gay marriage, as was her husband the former President.  Tim Hardaway was still against gay rights (which, to be fair, Obama and the two Clintons were for), and hadn’t yet educated himself on this issue.  And there were many, many people in all walks of life who said ignorant and bigoted things about GLBT Americans — so Reggie White was not alone.

Look.  I met Reggie White in the summer of 1996.  He was promoting one of his books, which was a Christian missive about how you need to make the most of every day you’re on this Earth and treat people with kindness and respect.  I got to talk with him for fifteen or twenty minutes, without handlers of any sort, as I apparently impressed him because I didn’t ask for an autograph and just talked with him as a real, live human being.  (Thank God/dess for book tours, eh?)

I related to White as a minister, and didn’t see him solely as a great football player.  And White was a compassionate, caring man — he wanted to know what was going on in my life, and he gave me some advice that’s stuck with me to this day.

I truly believe that had White lived to see 2013, between his studies of Aramaic (he even was studying the Torah itself) and his knowledge of people and his love for everyone, he most likely would’ve changed his opinion.  He may have even worked with Athlete Ally, which is a group of straight athletes supporting gay athletes — something that didn’t exist in 2004.

We all have to remember that when White died, he was only 43.  He lived a good life.  He loved God (who he couldn’t help but see as male, but also saw as all-inclusive — I know this from talking with him).  He cared about everyone, and he loved everyone.

But he didn’t get to live another nine years.  And in those nine years, anything could’ve happened.

That’s why I wish Navratilova had picked a still-living athlete with a homophobic stance.  Because there are still quite a number of those, and with one of those she could’ve had a good, spirited and honest debate as to why whomever she’d picked is still so closed-minded in this day and age.

But as she didn’t — and as I’m a Packers fan who once got to speak with Reggie White at great length — I felt I should respond.  Because it’s only right . . . White was a great man in many respects, but yes, he was flawed on this issue.

Still.  He was a great man, and he is now deceased.  It is time to let the dead rest, while we continue to support progress in all aspects of American life.

US Senate Candidate Todd Akin of MO Believes “Legitimate Rape Victims” Won’t Get Pregnant

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Folks, I’ve seen some bad politicians in my lifetime.  And I’ve seen some stupid ones, too.  But rarely have I seen such utter stupidity — not to mention total ignorance of biology — on display by a bad politician as with the comments of United States Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), currently running for the US Senate against incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).  Akin believes that victims of “legitimate rape” are not likely to get pregnant because apparently the female body “will shut (stuff like that) right down.”  Here’s his full comment, in context, from a recent post at Talking Points Memo:

Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin said that even in the worst-case scenario — when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail — abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim.

Obviously, Akin is plain, flat wrong.  (Not to mention unlettered, ignorant, and in need of a basic health refresher course.)  Pregnancy can occur with any unprotected sex between two people, and while rape is much different than “unprotected sex,” rapists don’t usually wear condoms, nor do they worry about birth control. 

You’d think all of this goes without saying, but apparently to someone like Akin, it doesn’t.

Look.  As President Obama said today, “rape is rape.”  Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, too, has condemned Akin’s statement, calling it “insulting” and “inexcusable.”  Good for them.

Indeed, many in the GOP has condemned Akin, yet the main problem the GOP has right now is that Akin, along with GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan, himself a US Rep. from Janesville, WI, tried to get a law through the House of Reps. that used a similar term — “forcible rape” — to limit government aid for abortions.

Here’s a link to one of the best articles I’ve managed to find yet regarding why Akin’s shocking remark may torpedo the GOP’s chances in Missouri and elsewhere; the upshot is that Akin knows Ryan well, and because of what amounts to secondhand contamination — and well-known, long-held similar views with regards to rape — this may hurt the GOP Presidential ticket in the fall.

Conservative commentator John Podhoretz, writing in Commentary Magazine (here’s the link), describes Akin’s remarks thusly:

The moral, intellectual, and spiritual ignoramus who spoke those words is Todd Akin. He won the Missouri primary two weeks ago in a three-way race against two other conservatives, taking 36 percent of the vote—his two major rivals together won about 60 percent.

The PJ Tatler bluntly says this about Akin’s remarks:

This isn’t a gaffe. It’s a nuclear bomb.

Exactly so.

My advice to Akin is this: withdraw from the US Senate race while the getting’s good.  (As I understand it, Akin has about a day to withdraw, then the Missouri GOP can field another candidate.  Anyone would have to be better than this guy.)  Then figure out a new line of work, hope your Congressional pension will be good enough for you to while away your golden years, and do your best to stay away from microphones for the good of all concerned.

I’d also suggest taking that refresher course on basic human biology, too, as that might keep you from making any more small-minded and uninformed comments.  But that’s only something you should do if you wish to rejoin the rest of the human race as an informed, thinking, and feeling human being . . . no pressure.

Tuesday Election News: Romney Finishes 3rd in Alabama, Mississippi

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Folks, you’re going to hear much in the next 24 to 48 hours about Rick Santorum, because Santorum won both Alabama and Mississippi this evening.  While that is correct, the real news is that Mitt Romney, despite spending an enormous amount of money, finished third in both contests.  (Newt Gingrich finished second.) 

You must keep this very simple fact in mind in upcoming days, because assuredly Santorum and Romney are going to attempt to frame this narrative to benefit themselves. 

The fact is that Romney finished third, which proves that Romney is extremely unpopular with Republican voters.  (This makes me wonder just who’s going to vote for the guy if Romney does, indeed, get to the general election against the current President of the United States, Barack Obama.)  There is absolutely no argument left for Romney to position himself as a moderate except to run on his record — and if he does that, he’s going to alienate even more conservative voters than he already has.

What’s odd about all this is that Romney views himself as an “inevitable” candidate; some of his campaign staff and surrogates have even hinted that Romney believes his candidacy to be “divinely inspired.”  Yet finishing third after spending such a huge amount of money is not the way an “inevitable candidate” is supposed to win, something Gingrich pointed out in his concession speech tonight. 

This points out that, at least for the moment, Gingrich has his pulse on what’s really going on with the Republican voters.  Neither Santorum, nor especially Romney’s people — as Romney did not make a speech this evening at all — are going to say this, but it’s the plain, flat truth: between them, Santorum and Gingrich won over 60% of the vote (closer to 70% in Alabama), and that shows that around 2/3 of the Republican voters in these states really do not want Romney as their nominee

This is the real story: how many people are going out to vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses solely to vote against Romney in some way, shape or form.  Any other story, up to and including the fact that Santorum won (providing he doesn’t acknowledge this “inevitable” point), is nothing less than an incredibly distorted framing of the narrative.

Tenth Anniversary of 9/11; Help the First Responders

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Folks, today is the tenth anniversary of 9/11/01, one of the most shocking and horrific things in United States history.  Due to the attacks on that day, the US “lost our innocence” regarding international terrorism.  Though other, terrible attacks had occurred, most especially to the USS Cole and a previous attack in 1993 against the World Trade Center, most American citizens felt like our country could not and would not be attacked.

We were tragically wrong.

Last year, I wrote a blog about 9/11, which is posted here.   In many ways, I cannot improve upon this; even though a lot has changed in a year, many of the same problems are still with us.

So instead, I’ve decided to focus on the biggest remaining problem from that fateful day: our lack of help for the first responders — the firemen, policemen, military people, and volunteers — who did their best to find surviving victims of the World Trade Center bombing, then did their best again to help clean the place up and restore it, in the process finding many of the dead who did not survive that fateful day.

I’m tired of our current crop of politicians doing nothing about this important issue.  Instead, I wish our politicians would act more like President Barack Obama, and past Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have acted in the past few days.  These men have been statesmen, and have publicly discussed the need for medical and financial help for the first responders  — many of whom still need help and perhaps always will — because what they were doing in trying to rescue people trapped in the wreckage of the Twin Towers was inordinately stressful.  These first responders were exposed to goodness-knows-what toxic substances, and that some of them have not been able to get help for the medical conditions they incurred is plain, flat wrong.

Note that Hillary Clinton, when she was still a United States Senator, urged the Congress to act and they did, but it wasn’t enough.  She now is our Secretary of State, and for the most part cannot take active part in asking for more help to be given to those who gave of their time and effort on 9/11/01 and afterward.  And while she’s been an outstanding Secretary of State, I wish that she was still able to call more attention to this issue as it needs to be done.

Aside from her, Representative Peter King (R-NY) and, of all people, comedian and political commentator Jon Stewart (he of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show fame) have been the most vocal and active people in the public eye who have demanded help for the first responders.  Good for them; they know many of those first responders ended up with chronic medical problems due to their help on and directly after the 9/11 terror attacks, and they know it’s absolutely disgraceful that these people have had to fight for whatever little bit of help they can get since that awful day.

We must help all of those who need it who helped find victims after the Twin Towers were destroyed.  If we do not, the legacy of 9/11/01, which is already distressing enough, will become that much worse.  Refusing to help these people is shameful.

This Labor Day, We Know Fewer are “Laboring”

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After a horrible August, where zero jobs were created whatsoever in the United States, we know that as of this Labor Day, fewer workers are working than ever before — thus, fewer are “laboring,” which is part of what is keeping the American economy down for the count.

I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know a few things could be instituted right now that would help.

For example, in Betty Jin’s recent article at BusinessInsider.com, she suggested the following:

1) Cut the corporate tax rate by 5%; this may stimulate jobs.  (The risk in doing so is that it would probably increase the deficit in the short-term.)

2) Print more money, and start taxing corporate savings.  This would force companies to invest, but could cause inflation.  The hope here is that the American companies would invest in American workers, which would keep inflation down to a manageable level.

3) Increase “infrastructure” spending — in other words, start building roads, bridges, and other things like rail lines, as this definitely would create jobs.  Also, everyone of every party wants safe roads and bridges — this one seems like a win/win, especially if President Obama stops calling it “infrastructure,” something very few people seem to realize means “roads and bridges,” and starts calling this exactly what it is — putting people back to work doing something that’s vital and necessary.

This last one, to my mind, is the strongest of the 10 things Jin says can be done right now to improve the economy (it’s third on her list; to see the other seven, click on her article) because Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican President, was the one who pushed for the Interstate highway system we all take for granted back in the 1950s.  So it would be really hard for the current crop of radical Republicans to say that this is a bad idea, considering it was started by their own party.

Next, there’s the New Republic’s article, written by Jared Bernstein, that’s headline states “Obama’s Got Plenty of Options to Right the Economy — He’s Just Got to Fight for them.”  This article is part of the New Republic’s “Symposium on the Economy” that’s sub-titled, “Is there Anything that can be Done?”  Other articles in this series can be found here.

At any rate, here’s the first few paragraphs from Bernstein’s article:

Here’s the policy reality facing the president: The economy is stuck in the mud and the American people are losing faith that policy makers can do anything about it. As long as GDP growth is persistently below trend—trend being around 2.5 percent—the unemployment rate won’t be going anywhere good anytime soon. Paychecks, meanwhile, are declining in real terms, so we’re stuck in a cycle where the weak job market hurts household budgets, which trims consumption, which discourages investors.

The only games in town are fiscal or monetary stimulus—there, I said the ‘s’ word—but the president is boxed in, it is said, by three forces: First, he’s got no job-creation bullets left; second, even if he did, and American people don’t believe the government can help on the jobs front (a pathetic 26 percent have confidence in Washington’s ability to solve economic problems); and, third, Republicans in Congress will block any idea he proposes anyway. Thankfully, none of these challenges are as insurmountable as they might seem, and pushing relentlessly to overcome them is the president’s best, and only, chance to change the fundamental direction of the debate, find his footing, and create some momentum for the economy and for himself.

Mind you, all of this means one thing: President Obama must lead, and the country must follow wherever the President leads with regards to the economy.  This means a comprehensible strategy must be created, and thus far, I really haven’t seen very much out of the current Administration that leads me to believe there’s much going on there except reactionary spending — that is, Timothy Geithner, current Secretary of the Treasury, and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, have performed well in their jobs but they haven’t really seemed to set policy so much as react to it instead.  This may be an error on my part; I’m no financial wizard by any stretch of the imagination.  But it seems to me that if these two men have a grand, overarching vision, it surely hasn’t been well-explained to the “men (and women) on the street” like me.  And it also seems that if these two men do have a way out of this mess, the President doesn’t seem to know what it is, either — or, perhaps, he’s just not saying because he knows the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t like it and would say so with great vigor and dispatch.

Note that at a Labor Day rally and speech that President Obama gave today in Detroit, Michigan, the President seemed to not only understand the high stakes of this “game” (if he loses public opinion on this issue, any chance he has of a second term will be gone), but understood the need to boldly counterattack the current crop of Republican Presidential candidates including Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Gov. of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney according to today’s AP article listed at Yahoo News.  Obama said:

“I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems,” Obama said at an annual Labor Day rally sponsored by the Detroit-area AFL-CIO. “Given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together. But we’re not going to wait for them.”

“We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party,” he said.

Now, this sort of rhetoric is exactly what most Democrats and Independents have been waiting for, but until voters see some action beyond the words, it’s unlikely to help overmuch.  Still, this is the right message — people are hurting, and the President seems to “get” that — and one can only hope that the President’s advisors are reading the same articles I am that offer some real possibilities rather than just allowing the economy — and workers — to continue to be flushed down the drain.

More Back Pain, Exacerbated by Politics

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Onto day six of current back problems; every day I get a little teensy bit better in one way or another, but it’s still not fun.  Continuing to take my medication, and try to get rest, and doing all the proactive things possible in order to move around a little bit.

Back problems get worse with stress, and right now, along with everyone else I have unavoidable stress that’s worsened by watching what has to be the biggest farce ever seen in Washington, DC — the whole foofaraw over the debt ceiling.

So while I wait for the latest vote in the House of Representatives, which won’t do anything at all to curb international panic over the lack of progress toward raising the debt ceiling for the United States, I thought I’d sit down and write a blog.  (What else did you expect, hm?)

My back seems intertwined with these politics, somehow.  Whether it’s the Wisconsin Republicans refusing to pass an unemployment extension until one week before six of them run in recall elections, or it’s the national Republicans in the House of Reps refusing to understand what the debt ceiling is — that it’s acknowledging that the Congress has spent such and such an amount, and that money will be appropriated while debts will be honored (that, in essence, is what raising the debt ceiling means) — and grandstanding about how awful the National Debt is, my back continues to hurt badly because the real issues are not being faced.

The real issues for most people have to do with these three words:  jobs, jobs, jobs.  Not all this nonsensical posturing by Speaker Boehner.  Not all this nonsensical posturing by the Tea Party Republicans, who believe that tax increases are bad, but don’t seem to understand that refusing to raise the debt ceiling will amount to the biggest tax increase in history that’s passed on to everyone, including the incredibly wealthy people they’ve been working for and protecting all along.

Once again, I ask the question of Boehner:  “Where are the jobs?”  Because I surely haven’t seen any action in the House at all regarding jobs; I haven’t seen any leadership from Boehner, either, because what he needs to do at this point is speak with Nancy Pelosi, current House minority leader, and say, “I have this many votes to raise the debt ceiling; what do you need from me to get your caucus to help me out?  Because you know that not raising the debt ceiling is bad, right?”

This, truly, is Boehner’s only option right now, and he’s refusing to take it.  Sad, even shocking . . . he’d rather pass on doing his own job, no matter how distasteful, which means to me that he’d best plan on retiring at the end of his current term because he’ll never be re-elected if he allows the US to default on its debt, or to lose the US’s AAA credit rating.   (That last is a very real possibility due to all the posturing, pandering, and ridiculousness that’s been going on in DC for the past week and a half minimum.  The world doesn’t like seeing that we’d rather screw around than meet our obligations as a country, which has made a credit downgrade much more likely than not.)

President Obama will also have problems in this regard, true.  But he’s been seen trying hard to work with the Republicans.  He just doesn’t seem to realize that these Rs will not listen — they’re like the Rs in Wisconsin, who also will not listen.  They insist that they’re right even when public opinion is strongly against; they insist they’re right even when people call and write and protest against them.  Then, when bad things happen, they continue to insist that they’re right and the rest of us are plain, flat wrong.

This is a new brand of Republican, folks — a type of person who refuses to listen to anyone, at all, and is inflexible to the point of extreme rigidity.  And this is a type of person we do not need, either in the state Legislature, or in DC.

These people would rather drive the whole country right off a cliff than do their jobs, as politics requires something none of them seem to know anything about: compromise.  Otherwise known as “the art of the possible.”

Pitiable, really.  But it does make my back hurt to realize we have so many people of this ilk in government at this time.

It’s NOT a Mandate, Folks; Rather, a Repudiation.

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The election is over, but the bloviating goes on.  Today on WTMJ Radio (AM 620 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), both Governor-elect Scott Walker (Republican) and Senator-elect Ron Johnson (R) used the word “mandate” while presumably wearing a straight face.

Yes, what happened last night is a slap-down for the people presently in power, the Obama Administration and many Democratic Senators and Representatives who followed their lead — along with some who didn’t, but were Democratic incumbents, and got washed out with the tide.

But it’s not — repeat, not — a mandate.  Rather, this is an exercise in the Republicans framing the narrative: they’re doing their level best to show voter rage at not being listened to as a “mandate” for themselves, which shows them to be completely ignorant of recent history.

So I’m going to educate them.  Starting right now.

What happened in this election is what my friends among the Hillary Clinton Democrats (some also under the name PUMA Democrats, with PUMA meaning either “People United Means Action” or “Party Unity My A**”) have been predicting since Barack Obama was named the Democratic nominee over Mrs. Clinton — and that is, many Democrats who were shut out by the Democratic National Committee on 5/31/2008 at their Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting were angry, and joined with the angry Republicans and angry Independents who didn’t feel they were being listened to — and that’s why we have an incoming Republican Speaker of the House (presumably John Boehner from Ohio, though it’s remotely possible the Republicans may select someone else) and a Senate that’s only nominally Democratically-controlled after the election results were known.

What people need to understand is that the Democratic Party fissured as of that moment, 5/31/2008, between those who felt what happened on that day — Barack Obama getting delegates he didn’t earn from Michigan, where he wasn’t on the ballot, and Mrs. Clinton having delegates she fairly earned (because she was on the ballot, and very popular in Michigan) taken away — was OK, and those who felt it was absolutely reprehensible.  Also be reminded that on 5/31/08,  Floridians were told to be happy that their representatives to the Democratic National Convention would only get 1/2 a vote, each — both of those things set badly with over half of the Democratic Party, including many who liked Obama and had voted for him, but could not get behind such blatantly slanted and non-voter-representative tactics.

You see, the DNC (most especially member-and-CNN-analyst Donna Brazile) believed “rules are rules,” and they didn’t care that the voters went out to vote and believed their votes would be respected.  They hid behind fig-leafs such as Florida supposedly voting “too early” when several other states moved up their primary dates as well but no one said word-one to them (most of those were states Obama won handily in), or saying from the beginning, “Oh, that primary doesn’t count because they moved it up without our approval,”  even while Michigan residents were voting in record numbers in their January primary.

Excuse me, DNC, but the voters voted.  They did what they were supposed to do: they voted, and in record numbers.  And they did not care about your rules.  They were told to vote, and they did.  They clearly expressed a preference, one you definitely didn’t like, for Hillary Clinton — and thus, you managed to mute the impact of her historic primary victories.  (Mrs. Clinton was the first woman to ever win a primary in the United States, much less a whole bunch of them.  And she won the most votes from primaries, too; we know that.  Mr. Obama won most of his victories in the caucuses, where many vote totals were disputed; please see Gigi Gaston’s excellent documentary “We Will Not be Silenced” for further details.  Here’s a link:  www.wewillnotbesilenced2008.com — this should help.  I know the movie, in four parts, is available on YouTube.)

The ill-feeling the DNC caused by refusing to listen has not dissipated in the last two years; instead, it’s simmered and boiled over in many cases.  I know that I am still angry and will always be angry at what happened at that meeting, because it showed that the DNC — the governing board of the Democratic Party, more or less — did not care one whit about the voter’s intentions or the voters themselves.  Instead, the DNC decided they knew better than we did, than what the polls were telling them — than what their own common sense should’ve told them if it hadn’t been taking a coffee break.

I know that while many Hillary Dems did what I did — vote for competent, qualified people wherever possible, including Democrats — some were so angry due to what happened on 5/31/08 (where we were told that we did not count, that our votes did not matter, and when our massed voices crying out for justice went unheard) that they voted a straight Republican ticket.

So the Republicans — including those in Wisconsin, where they won control of both the Assembly (the lower house) and the Senate (upper house) — are wrong when they think they have received a “mandate” to do anything.  What they received was the gift of many Democrats who are angry at how Obama was selected in the first place, along with many who were flat-out frustrated at the policies of Harry Reid (who, inexplicably, held his seat in Nevada) and Nancy Pelosi (easily re-elected, but almost assuredly to retire as former Speakers rarely stay in the House after they lose their Speakership).

So if the Republicans think this is a mandate, they are wrong.

What this was, instead, was a repudiation of the tactics of the DNC on 5/31/08, along with a repudiation of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the entirety of the Obama Administration in particular.

If the Republicans take the wrong message from this, and start cutting unemployment benefits, start cutting health care benefits that are already extant, and mess with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamps, or any of the “social safety net” programs that are so vitally needed with the country as a whole having over 9% reportable unemployment (and more like 17% functional unemployment throughout the USA, with some areas having far more), they will be voted out in turn.

Personally, I am disgusted that Wisconsin voted out Russ Feingold, an 18-year veteran of the Senate.  Feingold is an honest, ethical and principled politician; the only thing he’d ever done that I fully disagreed with was backing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008 (though he did not like what the DNC did on 5/31/08 any better than anyone else — such was the impression I received).   I voted for Mrs. Clinton in the Wisconsin Primary, and am as disgusted as anyone I know — and enraged, too — about what the DNC did on 5/31/08, but I cast my vote anyway for Feingold because unlike many politicians, he actually explains himself and has taken it upon himself to visit every county in Wisconsin every single year.  (Plus I looked at it this way, as a HRC supporter: Hillary Clinton is a centrist/pragmatist.  She’d want Wisconsin to have the best possible person representing the state, who in my opinion was Russ Feingold, whether or not she gets along with him.)

What we have now in Ron Johnson, the Republican Senator-elect, is a man who is independently wealthy, has no compassion whatsoever (or at least has evinced none), and believes in TANSTAAFL — an abbreviation for what Robert A. Heinlein called “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.”  Which in general is a maxim worth living by — and is one of the most Libertarian philosophies around — but at a time where there’s 17% “real” unemployment in the country and where employers are not adding jobs, so many are getting by with unemployment checks while praying for a miracle (including myself), TANSTAAFL has to be modified, or a whole lot of people are going to end up dead on the streets as if the US of A had become a Third World country overnight.

Now, is that what Ron Johnson wants?  Probably not, but he hasn’t examined his beliefs too closely, either, by all objective analysis — his only two stated “platforms” were to cut taxes (whatever question he was asked, he’d say he’d cut taxes, even if it was something about Medicaid or getting our troops out of Iraq or Afghanistan) and to repeal Obama’s health care overhaul.  And while many in Wisconsin are very nervous about the Obama health care plan because of Ms. Pelosi’s blithe “we won’t know what’s in the bill until we pass it” comment (one of the worst things a sitting Speaker of the House has ever said, and definitely a factor in this election), that doesn’t mean all of it is bad.

Simply put, the main reason businesses go overseas is because of our health care costs — Ron Johnson is right about that.  But sometimes they go to Europe, which has nationalized health care, or China, which has something similar, or Canada, which definitely has nationalized health care, and that’s because the state is paying for the health care — the business is not.  That’s what Obama was trying — and fumbling — to say, and why he seems to feel that an overhaul is necessary because way too many people are falling through the cracks now, and it’ll just get worse if the businesses like HMOs or PPOs keep running healthcare as a for-profit business.

Perhaps Barack Obama’s idea (which may as well be called Nancy Pelosi’s idea) wasn’t the best one.  I definitely think it wasn’t.  But it was at least a small step in the direction our country needs to go in, though to my mind encouraging more low-income clinics to be built and forgiving new-doctor debt if they work in those for a few years seems to be a far better option all the way around.

People are suffering in this country.  I am one of those afflicted, and I am telling you right now that if the Republicans believe this was a “mandate” for anything, they are as wrong today as Barack Obama was wrong in 2008 after he was elected President of the US that his election was a “mandate” for anything whatsoever, except the mandate “we don’t like who we have, so we want someone else, and pray for a miracle.”  But I don’t think that counts.