So I had another column published in the local newspaper:
I wonder. Of the miniscule number of Americans who voted, how many cast their votes because of “Obama’s Katrina?” You know, the perilous plague that, according to voices in many heads and on Fox “news,” the president of the United States deliberately brought here as reparation for slavery. Or, less apocalyptically, was it because they agreed with the repetitive claim that the president’s response to Ebola – it’s everywhere! -- proves we can’t trust this government? The government of the country that has hosted a total of four people with Ebola and which now has ZERO?
Was it ISIS massing on our southern border, ready to march into Arkansas holding hands with Mexican drug lords, as the newly-elected senator from there warned a pre-election town hall? Or fear, shared with Iowa’s pistol-packing (for protection against the government!) next senator, of Agenda 21, that nefarious suggestion from the UN that countries manage their land responsibly?
Because the thing is, poll after poll has shown that most Americans support the goals of the Democratic Party and reject those of today’s Republicans (tinyurl.com/k3s6ofq). Social Security. Medicare. Minimum wage. Medicaid. Taxes. Military spending. Job creation. Even unions! So how to explain the insweeping, like an ocean-heated hurricane, of the party promising to do the opposite of what most people think is needed?
In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering by Republican state legislatures has pretty much locked up R seats forever; for that to change, the ocean would have to be tippling at the turf of Topeka. (Speaking of Kansas: they reelected their Tea Party’s dream governor, who’d promised a tax-cutting, job-creating, budget-balancing, deregulated Republican paradise but delivered only debt and lagging job growth.) According to several analyses, laws aimed at suppressing minority voting in several states had the desired effect. Nor should we discount the deadly combination of mealy messaging by Democratic candidates and the astounding apathy of their voters. In Utah an incumbent senator, rightly admired for his strong advocacy of environmental protection among other important things, chose to run on birth control. Pathetic. (The only non-incumbent Democratic candidate for the senate who was willing to campaign with the president won.) But none of these provides a compelling answer.
The tougher the times, the more effective is propaganda. The more challenging the problems, the easier it is to get people to look the other way. Which means that, today, convincing voters that ISIS is about to look at their tax returns while giving them Ebola before chopping their heads off in Benghazi, works. When the agenda behind the distraction is antithetical to the needs of everyone but the people behind the distraction behind the agenda, distraction IS the agenda.
Which clarifies the real explanation: Truth-telling has become a political loser. In twenty-first century America, after decades of deliberate dumbification, perpetual propagandizing, excoriating expertise, flogging fear, promoting paranoia, we don’t want to hear the truth, much less know how to recognize it, even when it’s obvious as a pH probe. So, against the rising tide, here’s a list of truths we hold to be self-evident, if hard to swallow:
Due to human activity, the climate is changing. The ocean is unsustainably acidifying. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. Wars don’t, either. Corporations won’t hire unless there are customers to buy their products; massive wealth concentration works against that. Privatizing public education has led to rich executives and poor students. Same-sex marriage threatens no one else’s. Science is indispensible to our future. So are roads and bridges. Separation honors and protects religion. Eliminating the EPA will increase deadly pollution. By maintaining equal onramps to the information superhighway, net neutrality encourages, not stifles, innovation. Not all corporations do right by their employees or our country: unions and regulations provide needed restraints. Kids born into poverty usually stay that way. It’s easier to make good choices when there are choices. Health care access saves money. And lives.
It shouldn’t escape notice that solutions, if there are to be any, while demanding sacrifice from us all, will disproportionately affect a small number of very wealthy and powerful people. People who, coincidentally, control right wing media and their purchased politicians. People who rightly figure that keeping the electorate riled up about the wrong things works out just fine. For them.[Image source]