Posts Tagged With: GOP

Gerrymandering: Why Fools Are Running Our Country

Billboard in Jordan’s congressional district asks a valid question. A 2017 Dayton Daily News article shows that, unlike most Congressmen from Ohio, Jordan has very little net worth (estimated at less than $400,000). His sidekick Warren Davidson has an estimated net worth of $2-11 million.

Politics is war by other meansCarl von Clausewitz

If you only glean one fact from the Gerrymandering episode of The Naked Truth news series on Netflix it should be this: Only 37 of the 435 Congressional Seats in the United States are competitive.

Gerrymandering is a structural political issue which most Americans find too complicated or too boring to understand. Fortunately, the episode — hosted by a North Carolina native — breaks it down in an entertaining and understandable way by pulling in some video game designers from Kentucky. Those who prefer an even edgier comedic angle to their information can view John Oliver’s take on gerrymandering.

Both Oliver and The Naked Truth demonstrate how:

  • Gerrymandering has contributed to our partisan divide
  • It has created a false sense of the country becoming more conservative, and
  • Technology upped the ante in 2010

It has also given us jobs-for-life politicians who have no need to compromise. As I’ve learned in Ohio, all this matters.

In 2014, 40 percent of Ohioans voted for a Democrat member of Congress, however because of gerrymandering, 12 of the 16 seats were won by the GOP. This phenomenon is being reported throughout the state as there is a growing Fair Districts movement here.

Two of those 12, Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson, are members of the Freedom Caucus — a misnomer for certain — as it is a group of white men intent on dismantling our government. They fight hard for this dismantling even as their Districts languish in need of livable-wage jobs and  infrastructure improvements. But they have a spin for everything and in an editorial co-written editorial they stated (in 2017 and re-Tweeted in 2018) ‘plenty of jobs’ exist in their districts. The solution, they said, is to put welfare recipients to work.

Of course, to do that would require a revision in child labor laws since a significant portion of welfare recipients are under the age of 18. (Looking at just two Preble County stats one can determine a significant number of recipients are children: Of the 8,030 individuals receiving food assistance in FY 2013 — latest stats available online — 3,431 or 43 percent were children. Of the 525 individuals receiving cash assistance that year, 426 or 81 percent were children.)

2017 Dayton Daily News clipping showing net worth of Congressmen from Ohio. Click to enlarge.

But the real danger in gerrymandering, besides giving us white men determined to destroy government institutions, is it reduces the electoral process to the Primary. Primary voters, of both Parties, are the most radical — and primaries often eliminate the nonpartisan vote. Using Preble County numbers, in 2010 46 percent of registered voters were eliminated from the Primary voting process due to their nonpartisan (Independent) status. In the state of Ohio, one must declare allegiance to a political party to participate in that party’s primary, an age-old disenfranchising tactic.

Gerrymandering rigs the game against the voter and places the politician in charge of who gets to vote. In recent times, it has elevated the incompetence of local politics to the national stage.

Despite what one may believe, in 2020, the issue that really matters is not the presidential race, but rather the state legislators.

They control the redistricting process and, in turn, control the impact of your vote.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Age of Discontent, American Revolutionary War, My America | Tags: , , , , , ,

Blaming Government Easier Than Connecting The Dots, Solving Problems

19538914179_75e5bb8346_oAlthough they are often idealized, small towns have problems — usually economic ones. As a blogger, one of the downsides of reading reports and statistics is the information can be overwhelmingly depressing, especially when you try to make sense of the conflicting numbers.

For example, despite a four percent unemployment rate in Preble County (where I live), 45 percent of the residents cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment. The low unemployment coupled with the housing situation, suggest that the employed are under-employed and attempting to get by on low-wage jobs.

But we Americans are slow to accept reality or change our perception — we prefer to quote stats. After all, they are the facts. Preble County does have a four percent unemployment rate.

Seeing, But Not Seeing

One of my favorite literary figures is Sherlock Holmes. Part of the universal appeal of Sherlock is his uncanny ability to see the obscure in the obvious. Most of us are more like his sidekick Dr. Watson, we see all the same elements as Holmes, but we cannot connect the dots, because just like Watson, we see but do not observe.

But, I Know What I See
young-woman-old-woman-illusion We are familiar with the various double images that challenge our visual perception. One classic example is the photo to the right which is either an elderly or young woman depending on your viewing angle. We get a sense of satisfaction when we uncover both images.

When I began writing about history, politics and genealogy it was out of a sincere desire to better understand my heritage and my country. That drive has only deepened as I have delved more thoroughly into America’s past and her politics. But it is also disheartening at times, when I see the same old arguments being levied against this or that position. These old, familiar claims have been used, and reused, by political powers of all persuasions to keep people agitated, irritated and confused, but mostly to keep people just where they are.

Who Do You Know?
When I look at the community I handed off to my daughter and her peers, I question what they were given. I also question who they look up to – do they know anyone who has achieved the American Dream? Do you know anyone? Do I? Results speak much louder than political policies.

I live in a District that does not have a Congressman in the House. Former Speaker John Boehner stepped down after 25 years in office and the Ohio governor decided we would elect a new Congressman in June. Even though experts say the length of vacancy is excessive, I’m not sure it matters.

Boehner is a powerful man and a money-raising machine. In the last election cycle Boehner generated more than $100 million for the GOP (Boehner’s Democrat counterpart is just as successful in this game). Today, though, Boehner is not retired playing golf in Florida, he is fundraising. It’s almost as if his sponsors said, enough with your day job, John, we need new funds.

Zero Sum Game
And when it comes to money, politicians have convinced Americans that the U.S. economy works like their checkbook. With our checkbooks, money comes in, money goes out. We make choices – often difficult choices. Do I pay for this and put off paying that? It’s what’s known as a zero-sum game. At the end of the day the checkbook must balance.

The U.S. economy is significantly more complicated than that – it is filled with elements like currency manipulation, tariffs, inflation, deflation and the federal reserve, to name just a few. It is not a zero-sum game. It is not a checkbook. Because of its complicated web of rules and regulations, some companies can thrive for years, like Amazon, without posting a profit.

Simply put, it is a different set of rules.

Your Hometown
Politicians, though, love to explain the American economy as a zero-sum game because people understand a checkbook. Astute politicians exploit this, telling people that to pay for this — funds must be taken from that — all the while hiding the fact, that in many cases, the money is sitting in the till — or that an untapped source of income is simply forgoing tax abatements for wealthy corporations. (According to U.S. law, corporations are citizens, but unlike flesh-and-blood citizens, many wealthy corporate citizen enjoy a tax-free or tax-subsidized life.)

Look at your own paycheck and add up the tax dollars being skimmed off the top. Before you fall back onto some political position or argument – and say this or that group is getting all your tax dollars — take a drive through your community — down the main street of your hometown. Look at the employment opportunities in your region. What kind of jobs exist for you or your children. Look at the infrastructure. Look at the hard scape – those buildings, roads, water-processing plants and other essential elements needed for a strong economy. Look at your home and the homes in your area. Look at the level of affluence, wealth or poverty that exists near or around you.

Then ask yourself, who let this happen? Your neighbor?

Probably not.

Whenever decline is slow and steady, it’s difficult to pin all the blame on any one person or one party. The root cause is more complicated. This is because the source of long-term decline is a series of people and a series of choices over the course of decades. In short, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Maybe, instead of just blaming ‘the government,’ it’s time all of us who vote, connect the dots like Holmes — and figure out who’s winning.

We already know who’s losing.

cast-asideCast Aside: How Political Games Destroy The American Dream

In my youth, I went to a newly constructed elementary school, played ball at the new Little League field that was adjacent to the community swimming pool. Although the local village was small, it had nice amenities, like the pool, and a unique local flavor with its mom-and-pop diners, taverns, sundry store, grocery, filling stations and barber shops. Today, the pool is filled in with dirt and a couple national chain stores have replaced the mom-and-pop businesses. I examine why in Cast Aside.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Current Events, Personal Essays, Preble County | Tags: , , ,

Is GOP Frontrunner Trump A Reality-TV Version Of 1850s Know Nothings?

220px-Fillmore2One thing is certain for the 2016 GOP presidential ticket — what it has lacked in substance it has more than made up for in entertainment. At some point Trumpisms will almost certainly surpass Bushisms with regards to the ridiculousness of their nature. But part of the great marketer Donald Trump’s appeal (to one-fourth of the GOP electorate) is his ability to say something without really saying anything at all.

Although examples of this skill are seemingly endless, one of the most recent ones came on the wake of the tragic shooting in San Bernardino when Trump, speaking at a pep rally, was asked how he would deal with the situation.

“I would handle it so tough, you don’t want to hear,” Trump said, adding as he pointed to the cameras, “You don’t want to hear how I’d handle it. I would get myself in so much trouble with them, we are going to handle it so tough. And you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to get it stopped.”

Despite sounding more like a bragging co-worker who is always going to ‘show them,’ and offering no policy or solution — the cheering crowd lapped up his rhetoric. It begs so many questions, but one is — would people really elect such a demagogue?

Well, if history is an indicator, it could happen because, in many ways, Trump’s rhetoric, is just a throwback to the platform of the 1850s American Party.

The engine that propelled the American Party was fear and nativism. The party was afraid of so many things, but mostly non-white, non-Protestant citizens. They were especially afraid of the Irish Catholic immigrants. The Know-Nothings, as outsiders dubbed the group because of the secrecy associated with the organization, latched onto the naïve belief that “all Catholics were controlled by and took orders from the pope in Rome.” One of their goals was to remove from public office any Jew or Catholic.

As a History News Network writer notes,

The 2015 Republican playbook does look as if it is drawing on several themes and tactics from the 19th century movement, most notably anti-immigration and the rejection of traditional politics. The third pillar of the Know Nothings, anti-Catholicism, could easily be updated using the “replace all” function on a computer, substituting in the word Muslim for the earlier threat to Protestant values.

As the American Party pushed it politics of fear, it found early success and within a few years — 1855 —  43 members of the House of Representatives and five Senators were American Party members. But fear can only motivate voters so long especially when the priority of what to fear is called into question. Within a year, the Party split into factions over the issue of slavery. The party backed Millard Fillmore for president (he won Maryland) and by 1859, the Party opposed to so much and fearful of even more was finished — just a forgotten footnote in American history.

How about the modern marketer Trump and his nativism? Will Christians continue to flock to him, despite the fact that he took nearly a month to come up with his favorite Bible verse. Will the billionaire — whose abrasive, ‘speak my mind’ approach to politics has defied predictions — lead the country down a well-worn path of exclusivity?

Hopefully not, but it’s happened before.

Categories: American History, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,