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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It's Not So Much the Economy Anymore, Stupid


There are some old conventional wisdoms when it comes to predicting outcomes of presidential elections. The key word here is “old.” For example, if we know anything, we know the economy has been a prime driver of voter preference, historically. It’s not that this is untrue, but it only half-tells the story. The economy has traditionally been an electoral driver for WHITE voters. White voters primarily make up the electoral center that swings from one party to another depending the election. African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics on the other hand have been part of a mainstay of the Democratic party. The reason why election outcomes have deferred to Whites in the political center is because their participation has been enough to outweigh the Democratic base. Relying on this predictive model is proving to be a hard tradition to break though I think it might be expiring.

In 2011, I had discussions with Republican friends who thought that I was crazy or perhaps brainwashed to believe that Barack Obama would be reelected. Granted they were living in the FOX Bubble where all they heard were conspiracy theories and talking points that vilified the incumbent 24/7. There was also a more moderate thread running in the media that this was the election handmade for Republicans due to a sluggish economic recovery, dissatisfaction over Obamacare as well as a series of other issues. Part of this thread was that the coalition that came out for Obama (including blacks) in 2008 would not be there for him again in 2012. But this was the white media. I could have been wrong, but I took it mostly as typical white condescension that a black guy winning the presidency was an aberration. They clearly did not see what was making me so confident in a successful Obama reelection.

I knew what the media had freely admitted in spite of their doubt, that Obama’s campaign team was surgically precise. That being the case, what would keep him from igniting the same fire among black voters that he did in 2008. Add to that the number of voter restriction laws suddenly put in place by Republicans that black voters KNEW were meant to hobble their participation. The message to black voters was that Republicans were trying to get rid of their guy and screwing with their rights as Americans in the process. Assumptions that this would seal the deal for a Republican in 2012 were way off. This would only serve to galvanize black voter participation in 2012.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the growing Hispanic vote with which Obama whomped Romney.

And here we are again hearing assumptions that Hillary Clinton or whoever becomes the Democratic nominee in 2016 won’t necessarily inherit the Obama coalition. This idiotically assumes that Barack Obama will have nothing to do with the election that determines whether his policies live or die. It is being said while DMV offices in Alabama (where voter id laws have been enacted) are being closed in predominantly black counties. Also concurrent with presumptions that Obama’s legacy has no chance of surviving are Republican candidate gaffes that insult Hispanics and question access to women’s health. What if Hillary Clinton, a woman is the nominee and the Obama coalition from 2012 is preserved. Will the economy be as much as a factor as it used to? I don’t think so, stupid. It’s a new era [Insert evil laugh].

Monday, October 5, 2015

An Explanation of BAN ALL GUNS

The sound volume on our gun debate is intermittent. We turn it up to about 5 after an attention-grabbing mass shooting – for a few days. Then it goes back down to about negative 3. Thus begins another interim of inertia until another mass shooting occurs. People who consistently support reasonable gun restrictions find themselves flummoxed  at how nothing gets done in spite of a healthy consensus for some kind of action on gun control. I’m not flummoxed at all. I know what the problem is. What little debate we do have stakes an extreme position of “we need even more guns” against a moderate and reasonable position of “some gun regulation.” The extreme position has won and will win every time.  

If there is going to be any movement on in the discourse on firearm proliferation in America, there has to be a more hearty notion on the table to balance the heft of the “more guns” stance. That would be the position of “ban all guns” whose volume in the gun debate is consistently on negative 11. There ARE people who want to ban all guns, but they are treated like lepers because of the establishment liberals who fear accusations of guilt by association with people espousing extreme positions. Many of them have a sickening need to try to ingratiate ourselves to the people that argue that the reason we have so many gun deaths is because we don’t have even more guns. Basically this large proportion of liberals are saying "hey you totally insane gun nuts who we completely disagree with, we're just like you!" At the same time, they say to supporters of gun bans "get away from me so no one thinks I'm crazy like you." This nuttiness is a regrettable part of the liberal psychological profile.  The one position that has any chance of moving us from ceremonial discussion to any reasonable action, is snuffed out because of congenital liberal fear of seeming liberal.

How did we get here? One thing that helped is the right’s inadvertent genius strategy of setting “ban all guns” as a pariah position. As always, the left took the bait. So this is how the debate goes:
Right: You want to ban all guns, commie pinko?!
Left: No no no no no. We just want some reasonable….
Right: They want to take our guns!!!

Discussion over. Mass shooting two weeks later. Same ceremonial debate that dies down in days.

Meanwhile, not only do conservatives not mind taking extreme and unpopular positions, they go so far as shutting down the government, or refusing to let the country pay its bills over unpopular stances. They might be wrong, but at least they fight.

I’m not suggesting Democrats shut down the government until all guns are banned. At this point, I really don’t expect much of anything out of dem pols. They are far too cowed by polls and elections to do anything unsafe. What I do suggest is that people who consider themselves concerned about the loss of life from gun violence be more willing to simply discuss a gun ban rather than be scared from even uttering the words “gun ban.” What would be good about a gun ban? What would be bad about a gun ban? How did they do it in Australia? What does our Second Amendment really say? What are the options of limiting guns? These are things that should be brought up in a normal debate on national firearm control. Instead, concerned people have essentially been trained by the NRA to keep the discussion limited to a narrow sliver of market-tested options that have no chance of advancing in this political climate.

An America in which people aren’t afraid of talking about banning guns has the potential to change everything. Here is how that conversation would go:
Right: You want to ban all guns, commie pinko?!
Left: My name isn’t commie pinko and I would love to entertain the notion of a total ban on my guns and your guns. I want to hear what people who support gun bans have to say and I want everyone to talk about it.
Right: (suffers apoplexy from show of lefty spine)

Honestly, I don’t think a ban on guns would poll well enough for establishment Republicans to rush to the table to compromise, but there are several possible effects. It just might increase the public urgency on tackling what we currently call reasonable gun restrictions. This is what introducing an extreme argument does. It creates shifts. In this case we are talking about a shift from doing nothing to doing something. It might not happen over night, and there is a chance that it might not happen at all. Let’s face it, America is like the first grade where everyone is trying to be cool and fit in. No one wants to be a wuss or an outcast. But every once in a while in America, courage gets just enough traction to move the needle - eventually. I'm not talking about the kind of courage it takes to do something that people will marvel at and want to throw you a parade for. I'm talking about the kind of courage it takes to defend unpopular arguments in the face of name-calling, threats of violence, and even actual violence.

As clarification to the cursory reader (who probably still won’t get this) This is not an attempt to convince everyone that we must ban guns. This is a call to drop the fear of expressing curiosity over a gun ban. I have already been misunderstood after by one raging liberal who, in spite of my explanation, kept arguing why he was against banning guns. I had to drop the discussion. Clearly, it’s an uphill battle, but here is one way of looking at it; even if you’re a liberal and you think banning guns is crazy, it’s not nearly as crazy as trying to seem cool to people who advocate reducing gun violence by increasing gun ownership.

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