Sunday, November 7, 2021

Not Listening!

Leadership is about listening as well as talking.
"Donkey" in ASL for the deaf.

I get dozens of e-mails a day from various Democratic party organizations and hangers-on, exhorting me to donate money to the party or to a PAC or some other cause.  They shout at me a lot about issues I am supposed to care about, but they never listen to hear what really concerns me.  Maybe this is why they are losing elections - again.

I mentioned before that the swing to the far-left in American politics makes me nervous.  Nervous because wild swings are a sign of an unstable system, and moreover, when something swings wildly to the Left, it is certain that it will swing wildly to the Right later on.

The far-left has gone bonkers in recent years.  It is a small minority of very vocal people whose views don't represent mainstream America, or even mainstream Democrats.  But just as Democrats paint every Republican as a neo-Nazi Trump lickspittle lackey, the Republicans paint every Democrat as a transgender communist Bernie supporter, who wants to defund-the-police, claims everyone-is-innocent, supports free-college, free-money and so on.  And it is a label that sticks, as the Democratic party seems to think these are pressing issues with the majority of voters, instead of pressing issues of the loud voices of the wacked-out extremists.

Of course, Republicans suffer from the same problem.  How do you dog-whistle to the wacko Qanonsense people, while at the same time, court the middle-of-the-road vote.  You need the former to win primaries, the latter to win the general election.  The fault is really ours - we get the government we deserve, because the middle-of-the-road independent voters don't vote in primaries.  In some States, independents can't!

The GOP has to dog-whistle to the far-right in order to win primaries and general elections.  Both parties have to cobble together coalitions of voters, many of whom have interests opposed to one another.  It is a problem with the two-party system, but it ain't going away anytime soon!

Democrats are losing elections again, and to some extent, this is predictable and good.  The party in power tends to lose mid-term elections and this keeps the party in power in check.  On the other hand, the Democrats are going to accomplish even less - or nothing - if they lose the House or Senate (or both) in 2022.  Again, maybe this is a good thing - like my parents' half-assed attempts at parenting, sometimes doing nothing is better than trying to do something.  Our founding fathers designed the Constitution to insure gridlock to some extent - this is not an aberration, but by design.  If the Democrats fail to enact most of their agenda, that is probably for the best.  Ditto for the Republicans.

Republicans are making hay by portraying Democrats as being beholden to the far-left.  But that's not the only problem the Democrats face - their own strategy for success is flawed.  Both sides rely on fund-raising to succeed.  But money alone isn't enough to win elections - as the results of a recent NJ Senate race illustrate.  An outsider - a former truck driver - won the race without spending hardly any money (some report only $158, but other sources say $2500 to $5000 - his opponent out-spent him by a factor of 100!).  How could he possibly win in "Blue State" New Jersey?

Simple: The Democratic candidate was despised by his own supporters and party.  He opposed much of the Governor's platform, including the legalization of marijuana.  People just got fed up and voted for "the other guy" even if they didn't know much about him.

It isn't much different from how Biden won or how the Democrats took the Senate.  People were sick and tired of Trump's antics and anger and divisiveness - and his freaking 3AM Tweets!   And when Trump started the "Stop the Steal!" nonsense, well, people in Georgia went and handed the Democratic Party two Senate seats.  Everyone has their limits.  My Republican friends took down their Trump yard signs on January 7th.  No one wants to be affiliated with that.

Sadly, just as Republicans think they have a "Mandate" by winning the electoral college (but not the popular vote) or winning a race with 50.1% of the vote, the Democratic Party thought that a "sea change" was underway and that suddenly 99% of America was behind them.  So hubris sets in.

They no longer need to listen but merely talk instead.  They will stay in power the Hillary way!  Just out-raise your opponent in fundraising and run as many negative ads as you can.  Hey, it just might work!  But Hillary's defeat - and the recent defeat in Virginia - illustrate that elections are not always a matter of who is out-raising who.  People want to vote for the candidate they think is listening to them and their concerns.

Sadly, the Democratic candidate for Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe - who by all accounts was a popular Governor just a few years ago - made a huge gaffe at a debate, saying something along the lines that parents shouldn't have a say in their children's education. Game over, at that point.  The GOP set a trap for McAuliffe and he stepped right into it.

Maybe you've been living under a rock lately, but angry school board meetings are a "thing" these days, and not by accident.  I recounted before, how more than a decade ago, a GOP operative was talking on the radio about politics and when asked what the pressing issue of the day was, he replied, "Immigration!"  When the radio host replied that immigration wasn't that big an issue with voters at the time, the GOP operative said, "Oh, we're going to make it an issue!" and they kept their word.

People are indeed sheeple, and we are all manipulated all the time, as Facebook has so cleverly pointed out to us.  People got all riled up about immigrants because party operatives told them to be riled up about it.  It isn't much different than Qanonsense - put stuff out there and people will believe it.

So the GOP strategy playbook, post-Trump is to go local.  All politics are local and nothing is more local than your local school board. And with so many school-related issues and controversies - from mask mandates, to vaccine mandates, teen sex, critical racial theory, school shootings, teaching creationism, school prayer, charter schools, school vouchers, and so on and so forth, it isn't hard to get people riled up and angry.  So people show up at school board meetings and lose their minds and start a shouting match.  Bonus points if a security guard hauls you out kicking and screaming.  Remember the guy "dragged off a plane?He was wrong, too, but the plebes all felt sorry for him.

People are indeed sheeple.

So the GOP found a "hot button" issue because they spend millions on top-notch political analysts instead of paying for more attack ads.  And when McAuliffe made his tone-deaf comment, well, all bets were off.  They set a trap and he stepped right in it.

And it didn't hurt to throw in a rape case in Loudon county with murky facts.  In this #METOO era, anyone who feels "pressured" to have sex is considered a rape victim.  So a girl and a boy have nooky - consensually - in a bathroom.  Later on they have sex again, but this time, she feels pressured into doing it.  Rape? Maybe. It comes down to he-said, she-said. But let's position this as a transgender bathroom issue instead!  That will get the plebes all riled up!

What any of it has to do with the Governor's race is beyond me.  Maybe the school superintendent needs to be fired for not suspending the boy right away.  But how does this impact the Governor?  Not much, only that people vote emotionally half the time.  So the candidate that proclaims that local issues should be decided by local authorities (which the GOP has pushed for so long) wins the election by proclaiming - in effect - that the Governor should have a hand in local school board decisions.

It makes no sense - but if you have a kid in school, you may react.

And again, strategy.  Virginia may have been a "Blue State" for a decade now, but it is a very thin blue veneer.  Turns out that even with overwhelming majorities in places like Fairfax County and Richmond - and surrounding counties - that all you need to do (as a Republican) to win is get the rural counties to turn out to vote in record numbers, and change the minds of just a few people in the blue urban counties.  That, and count on black voters (and Democratic voters in general) to not turn out in a mid-term election. Even then, you win by fractions of a percent - but a a miss is as good as a mile, a they say.

After the Virginia loss, my SPAM box went quiet.  I mean, I still get the SPAM for African Penis Enlargers (really? People are dumb enough to click on that?) and the $6329.56 I have "won" at an online casino I never visited (ditto). But no entreaties from Trump's niece or Nancy Pelosi to "donate before midnight tonight!" or the race will be lost! Even the birthday cards from murdered children shot by school shooters are gone (and there is something tasteless about those entreaties, sorry to say!).

But only for a while.  The pleas for money for the 2022 election are starting to ramp-up again. Some even ask me to take a "Democratic survey!" so that the politicians will know my feelings!  But just as Amazon wants me to review a product or "answer a user's question" about an item I bought, the pitch isn't because they care about what I think, but only that they hope by visiting their site I will spend more money, or in the case of the Democrats, donate.

I have tried to "reply" to some of these money-raising emails by telling them what I think, but of course they bounce back to me, as they are "no-reply" return addresses.  They don't care what I think about the issues, they just want money so they can push their issues.  And both parties are the same way.

What issues concern me?  Well, winning elections is number oneLosing is not the new winning - sorry "Beto" and "Stacey" - coming in a close second doesn't mean squat.  And we aren't going to win elections by alienating the vast majority of voters - those middle-of-the-road independents who don't consider themselves Republican or Democrat (but are nauseated by both parties, and politicians in general).

So tying the party to fringe issues isn't a winning strategy.  And while mask mandates and vaccine mandates might make actual sense, these are issues that don't have long-term staying power. Eventually the pandemic will end, and you have to lift mandates sometime.  At that point, the Republicans and the anti-maskers will proclaim "victory" - you can see this going down, right?  But that's pretty mainstream stuff compared to what many Democrats think are pressing issues.

I mentioned many years ago that the gay marriage thing was not a pressing issue with me, because I felt there would be blowback from it. Apparently the Supreme Court didn't think so, and a conservative Chief Justice legalized gay marriage.  I guess Democrats can say they didn't do it.  But since then, more and more fringe issues are being presented as centerpieces of the Democratic Party - fringe issues that can be easily lampooned by the far-right.

No one should be "hating" on transgender people, but then again, no one should be forced to pay for sex-change operations (and that is what they are, not "gender confirmation surgery") which can run in the millions of dollars are are elective surgery no matter how many psychologists argue otherwise.  Similarly, asking minors what gender they want to be isn't being caring, it is confusing young kids who need time to grow up and figure out what is they want out of life.  Transgender medical treatments for children?  Um, no.  Not on my insurance dollar (or tax dollar!).

Maybe such wild positions are just a caricature of the issue - but a caricature the far-right is using with great effect.  It doesn't help any that stories appear in the paper which appear to be real - of left-leaning parents in New York City or San Francisco discussing what gender their five-year-old is slated to choose this year.

And the pronoun thing - claiming that people are entitled to be called the pronoun of their choice and failing to select the correct pronoun (which is grammatically incorrect) is akin to a punch in the face.  This just make Democrats look silly - or sillier than they have been, for many years.

I noted before how many people - including those on the Left - feel free to mock Western religions and new-age cults. But for some reason, many Leftists have almost a reverence for Islam - as if Muslims were the only true believers in the world while the rest of us were infidels and probably deserve to be punished.  Again, this sort of nonsense makes it easy to lampoon the Democratic Party as having a lot of self-hatred.

Speaking of which.. white privilege.  A lot of the heat and little light in these school board meetings is about "critical race theory" which I guess started with this "1619 project" which was an article in the New York Times and little else.  People are convinced that schools are teaching white students to shut up because they are bad people and owned slaves.  And maybe some school somewhere did this - but I doubt it is the curriculum outside of San Francisco or some private school in Manhattan.

But like clockwork, the Democrats trot out issues like "Slave Reparations" which they talk about but never go anywhere, because they know it won't go anywhere.  Maybe this appeases a few lefties, but it galvanizes the right.  And stupid videos about "Money Batons" isn't helping anyone in terms of race relations or advancing minority opportunities - it is just pushing people away, often the same people you need to enact meaningful change - and win elections.

The list goes on.  Guaranteed Annual Income - or "welfare for everyone" isn't going anywhere, simply because it would mean a 50% pay cut for those already collecting Social Security.  Oh, and the bankrupting the country and turning us into a third-rate Communist nation.  That.  But it never had a chance of being enabled, just as a "Wealth Tax" had no chance of passing both houses of Congress or surviving Supreme Court scrutiny.

National Health Care - seems like a simple issue, but so many Americans love their private health insurance or Medicare and are not sure they want to go to a "Gubment Doctor" instead.  You can tell them all day long it will be better, but they won't believe it.  And again, would this really pass both houses of Congress?  Not without a fight.

Maybe - and I know this is a screwy idea - they should run on a platform of practicality.  Yea, that doesn't get out the primary voters, does it?  But instead of running attack ads, maybe that money could be better spend going door-to-door, talking to people, mapping out block-by-block who your supporters are and what they believe in.  Get out the vote - one phone call (and not a robocall) at a time.  That's how you win elections.

You can't count on a January 6th insurrection to hand you two Senate seats, or a bumbling has-been reality television star to piss off so many people they will vote for "whoever!"  You've got to go for the issues that concern the voters, not the things you think would be keen - but never ask anyone outside your insular circle about.

That is what sank Hillary in 2016 - her reliance on the echo-chamber that was "Hilly-land" - a cadre of women and gay men, all far to the left, who were tone-deaf to the concerns of the bulk of the country.  Well, that and they couldn't count electoral votes.

We will see a re-reun of 2016 in 2022 and perhaps in 2024.  We just have to hope HE doesn't run again!  Well, actually, that might be the only way the Democrats could win!