Sunday, March 26, 2017

Winning Civilization


What then, the price of civilization?

"Jim Wright you said we need to compromise with those [who] voted for Trump. How? If they are truly okay that Trump lied where are the grounds to start?"
Margaret B. Munday, from comments under a post in the Stonekettle Station Facebook Group

How do we compromise with those who voted for Trump?

Not just those who voted for Trump, but especially if those conservatives don’t honestly care that he’s engaged in deliberate falsehoods?

Particularly if they themselves know President Trump’s statements to be false?

This question was prompted by two things, the previous essay here on Stonekettle Station, No Man’s Land, and a Facebook post I wrote regarding an article by Daniel Dale at The Star which detailed Trump supporters who openly believe Donald Trump is deliberately lying as part of some elaborate chess game.

In No Man’s Land (and two previous essays, Bug Hunt and Red Sea) I suggested liberals will have to compromise with conservatives in order to win back not only the White House, but Congress and the Supreme Court.

Daniel Dale’s article interviewed a number of Trump voters in economically depressed Newark, Ohio, who say they know the president is lying, for example about being “wiretapped” by former President Obama. They know Trump’s claim is a lie. They know it. They don’t think Trump was mistaken, they think he lied on purpose. And they think that’s great. They think Trump is deliberately lying as part of a larger strategy to shake up Washington and send liberals and the media (both of whom they regard as the enemy) into some kind of tizzy. A sentiment summed up by retired factory worker John Tolliver,  

“What he was wanting to do was keep things stirred up so it was all confused. He said he was going to do that from the time he started running for the election. That’s what it’s going to take. When they’re confused, they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re going to make a mistake, and he’s going to grab them.”

How do we compromise with people like that?

Margaret isn't the only person to ask this question.

I've got hundreds of emails, hundreds of comments on Facebook and here on Stonekettle Station asking the same question or some variation of the same.

You said we need to compromise with those who voted for Trump. How?

Well, that is the question, isn’t it?

But that's not exactly what I said.

Though I do acknowledge that since a rather large number of people took it that way, perhaps I could have been a bit more specific.


So, let me be more specific.


First, let's start with three basic goals:

1. We want to win back the White House

2. AND after we win the White House, we'd like to get something done

3. AND after we get stuff done, we want it to be a foundation for further advancement instead of being erased next time we’re out of power.

Good so far?

I'll assume none of you have any major issues with those goals.



To win the presidency, you have to win the Electoral College.

No. NO. Stop. Focus. We're not going to argue, here, now, if the Electoral College is a good idea or not. It is what it is and you have to win it to be president and vice president. The popular vote is nice, but it won't get you into the Oval Office. To win the White House, you need to win the Electoral College. See Trump.

After you win, you can talk about Amendments to the Constitution, but first you have to win big enough to even have that discussion in the first place.

To win the presidency, you have to win the Electoral College – I repeat myself since many Americans don’t seem to know this.

To win the Electoral College you need to win the state governments who appoint the Electors.

Which means you need to win back some of that sea of red in the middle of the county.

Which is why I use the map I used in the previous essays.


Now, many of you want to argue about that map.

You want me to use a map of voting districts instead.

Ok, here you go.

Image result for voting district results map

Image attributed to Daily Kos

The thing is: no matter how you look at that map, country, voting district, state, whatever, the whole damned middle of the country is red.

Now, you tell me that’s not really what’s going on. You tell me it’s not really just red or blue.

You're right.

But you're wrong too.

It might not be that cut and dried at the people level, but it actually is either red or blue when it comes to Electoral College votes. See Trump et al.  



The Electoral College picks the president and vice president and there you have it, right there.

However, if you're right and when you look at people instead of maps it really is more purple and not nearly so binary, then it should an achievable goal to win over enough of those people to swing the balance of the state. Reagan did it. Obama did it.

You need the states.

You need the red ones.

You need the states for two reasons: (A) to win the Electoral College, and (B) (see below).

Now, for (A) some of the people you need to win over, ALREADY CAN'T STAND DONALD TRUMP.

Yes, they’re conservatives and they voted for him, but they really, really don’t like him.

Maybe they voted for him because they always vote for the Republican no matter what. I know many people just like this. They hate Trump, but they are mortified at the idea anybody would think them anything but a loyal Republican. If the GOP ran Robot Cannibal Hitler's Head in a Pickle Jar, they'd vote for it because they're Republicans. To them the idea of being called a liberal is … disgraceful. 

Maybe they voted for Trump because they didn't think he'd be this bad. Those people are fools, maybe, but that’s human nature. And being a fool isn’t a capital crime – or it shouldn’t be. Sometimes being a fool is how you learn not to be a fool in the future.

Maybe they voted for him because while they don't like him, they purely hated Hillary Clinton (Don't. Just don't start with the Bernie bullshit. Neither Sanders nor Clinton is ever going to be President. Move on)

Look here, there are plenty of decent conservatives who voted for Trump for whatever reason who are now suffering buyer's remorse.

A lot of them didn't want to buy Trump in the first place but they felt they had no choice.


What’s that?

They’re not “decent?”

Okay. Whatever. You know, a whole bunch of liberals were ready to embrace Glenn Beck a few months back when he pretended to turn over a new leaf. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Any ally in the fight, they said. So, let’s not argue about decent, shall we?

Here’s the really funny part: some of those people voted for Obama last time.

Think about that.

It should be possible with the right candidate (don’t start) and the right message (I mean it) and a willingness to listen (you may read that as compromise) to win those people over. To get some of them to change parties or cross party lines. It's happened before, both ways. It can be done.

Some conservatives didn't bother to vote at all.

Many are disgusted with the GOP (and the Democratic Party too). As I noted in the last essay, those town halls that Republicans refuse to show up for? Those are opportunities for liberals, for progressives, for Democrats. But you have to show up, even if the Republican congressman doesn't -- especially if the congressman doesn't.

So, again, it should be possible to win those people over.

And here’s the real kicker: if you can't win those people over now then you never will and you might as well just give up. Get used to it. Get used to losing your rights, get used to war, get used to the rich raping the rest of us, get used it.

Or, you can try to find common ground.

The fanatics? The nuts? The howling stormtrumpers with their KKK hats and Nazi salutes? The evangelical zealots who are right now trying to convince themselves that Trump is some kind of Christian loved by their insane drooling genocidal freak of a God? No. No. NO. Of course you're not going to win over those people, you're stupid to even try. And why the hell would you want to in the first place? I don't want Nazis on our team. You can't compromise with those people, they're assholes, and I suggested no such thing.

But if you can't win over some of that red in the middle of the country, if you’re not even willing to try, well then you'd better get used to Nazis in the White House.



Now, once you do win the White House (we’re being optimistic here) you want to get stuff done. You want to pass laws and fix things and generally make life better for everybody.

Otherwise, what's the point, right?

To do that, it's not enough to just win the White House.

Anybody who was warm and breathing during the last six years of the Obama Administration should know that it’s not enough to just win the White House.

Hell, Trump is learning that lesson right now in a very painful fashion.

To get shit done, you have to have a Congress and a Court and state governments willing to at least listen, hopefully cooperate, be willing to compromise, participate in active governing, and who will hopefully not try to fight you at every turn out of pure cussedness.

So, again, you have to win over the the states (and you thought I’d forgotten about (B) up above).

You can't keep ignoring those people in the middle of the country. Our federal government is designed – specifically designed – so that we are not subject to a tyranny of the majority. That means California doesn't get to push around Idaho either in elections or in federal government. That's why we have an electoral college and a senate and we are a republic instead of a democracy.

You've had eight years to get this lesson: It's not enough to win the White House.

If you want to get shit done, you have win the states. YOU HAVE TO WIN CONGRESS.

You've just seen this in action.

Trump just got handed his own ass by his own party.

Republicans voted 52 times to repeal Obamacare when Obama was in the White House and they didn't have a chance of it passing.

But when everything was in their favor, when they couldn't possibly fail, they failed.


Because the sons of bitches are so habituated to obstruction, they obstructed their own agenda.

They have broken government.

If they can’t make government work when they control the entire government, they have broken government. Quod erat demonstrandum.

And if government is broken, the country is broken.

So, it's not enough to win the White House and it's about more than winning elections.

It's about getting shit done.

It's about a functioning government.

It's about a functioning country.

It's about civilization.

Listen to me: Fanatics tear down civilization, always. It doesn’t matter if those fanatics are left or right, liberal or conservative, fanatics destroy civilization every time. Fanatics thrive on chaos and disorder and war and destruction. They revel in it. Fanatics are the howling barbarians at the gate.

Fanaticism is the enemy of civilization.

Fanatics be they political, religious, ideological, or whatever their particular bent, you can't reason with them, you can't compromise, you can't negotiate.

But if you can't find common ground with those who can be reasoned with then you end up with a nonfunctional government, which in turn means you get a nonfunctional country.

Which means civilization shortly begins to fall apart.

When government is nonfunctional – and thus the country, society, civilization – that, that right there, is when it happens.

That’s when the fanatics seize control.

That’s how you get communism, or fascism, or a feudal oligarchy, or an emperor.

That's how it happens. Every time.

The only thing – the only thing – that keeps fanaticism in check is a functioning, stable government supported by a functioning stable society.

So, how do you compromise with the fanatics who simply refuse to see reason?

How do you compromise with those who believe every loony conspiracy theory?

How do you compromise with people who just don't care if Trump lies to their faces because they like the idea of chaos and disorder and riot?



You can’t. Obviously. But we had better find a way to meet the reasonable people somewhere in the middle. We had damned well better find a way to offer those people something better than Donald Trump or whoever comes after him.

And that's why Goal #3 is the most important one of all.



For a nation, for civilization itself, to flourish, it must go forward.

Winning the White House isn’t enough.

Winning Congress isn’t enough.

Winning the states isn’t enough.

Winning isn’t enough.

Civilization has to evolve.

Our country and our society must advance.

We can't keep going back and forth, swinging between liberals and conservatives. We can't keep going over the same ground. For civilization to advance it must build on its successes and learn from its failures. We can’t keep fighting the same goddamned battles over and over.

Civilizations that don't advance?

They die.

By fire or by stagnation or by fragmentation, they die.

Every time.

Every. Time.

And the only way we go forward from this place we find ourselves at, is if both reasonable liberals and reasonable conservatives can find common ground, can compromise.


Which takes us at long, long last to the original question: How?



That's the rub, isn't it?

That's what you've been asking me for three months. How?

How do we find common ground?

Well, you start here: You find the people, whatever their politics, who believe civilization is better than the alternative.

If we can agree on that, the rest is just details.

Some of you want me to give you a detailed blueprint. A road map. The Big Answer.

I don't have one.

Because there is no single big answer.

There are just a million small ones.

And we’re going to have to find them together.

But the greatest menace to our civilization today is the conflict between giant organized systems of self-righteousness—each system only too delighted to find that the other is wicked—each only too glad that the sins give it the pretext for still deeper hatred and animosity.
- Herbert Butterfield, Christianity, Diplomacy and War


  1. Grammar nazi. The sentence:- "Neither Sanders nor Clinton is ever going to President." is missing a verb (be?)

    1. Sorry to intrude here but all those of us who
      were added later. Are we not supposed to be able to post on th Jim Wright page? I thought I did right after I was added but now I don't have the capability. What did I misunderstand?

    2. At the risk of being pedantic, there are two Jim Wright pages. If you were added recently, it's my understanding that you can post on the group page, but not the original personal Facebook page. Hope this helps.

    3. Gadfly is correct. As I replied to Jan via Facebook messenger, you were added to the Stonekettle Station Group, which allows you to post comments there. But in order to post on my profile page you have to be a Facebook Friend and I cannot add any new friend since I am maxed out on friends. // Jim

    4. Jan, you should be able to comment on the STONEKETTLE STATION Facebook page, and Jim shares everything from his Jim Wright page over to the open Stonekettle Station page.

    5. I noticed a typo, too. There was a word that should have been plural, I think. I can't find it right now...

    6. The word "is" is the verb I think

    7. Lynda, there is no Stonekettle Station Facebook page. Jim has a personal profile, just like you and me, that only his FB friends can post on. There is a Stonekettle Station Facebook Group that his non FB friends can comment on.

    8. Sorry, but the word "is" is a form of "to be."

    9. I thought in this administration "presidenting" was the verb.

    10. People, please! Can we stop with the grammar lessons and take in the message? Criminitly! It gets tiresome!

    11. Margaret Patterson, I encourage reader to submit bug reports. Basically because I'm a cheap bastard and I don't want to hire an editor so I crowdsource proofreading to those who enjoy such things. You'll note, the typos listed above have been fixed (along with a number of others I found by myself. Yah!). That makes the article better for everybody.

      I realize that some readers find corrections by other readers irritating, please just walk on past those comments. They're there because I want them there.


    12. Will do Jim. Just seemed to be getting in the minutia and missing the message...

  2. Trump just announced he is setting up an office - to be run by Kushner - to bring business ideas to fix our governmental problems, including privatization. I personally think that we should use - as our blueprint - these goals for America's government.

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    We should advance this country by constantly harkening back to these goals for all Americans. I am sure that by 2019 we will have tons of examples when "business" motives were employed and achieved disastrous results.

    And I would like to carry the principles of the Occupy movement forward in connection with everything we propose doing.

    1. I think that Edward Snowden and Harold T. Martin III and their antics, are both prime examples of what happens when we have privatization in government.

      Both of these men have betrayed our nation and comforted our enemies.

  3. Thank you. I've been hearing the no-compromise-no-listening-to-no-trying-to-understand POV for a while now and wondering how these people think we are ever going to make any progress. Yes, there are anger and outrage. No, resistance is not futile. But digging in deeper is not going to result in the solutions we need.

    1. As I see it, we need to resist upward, but make connections where we can across and downward. I figure we all as a country have had some time to recover from the election and the inauguration, and it's pretty clear who's carrying weapons and shields and who is trying to fix this mess or would be willing to join in if allowed to keep some face in the process.

  4. You had me hook, line and sinker from the beginning. Your map graphics and accompanying comments caused me to snort wine (never a pleasant thing, but often an enlightening thing). By the end, I was trying to figure out how to share this with my father who, I think, might understand through his highly conservative filter. As always, well done, Jim.

  5. We'll start with the first caveat - that there is a sizable minority of the conservative movement who believe quite strongly that the second coming will be happening Any Day Now and that what happens on earth only matters inasmuch as they need to save as many people as they can.

    And then there are people who largely are fine with civilization dying.

    Let's just focus on the 'civilization is good' thing. As if what civilization is can be reasonably agreed upon, much less what two people want it to be. Is civilization one where gay people can be married? Is it where abortions are legal? Is it where pot is legal? Is it where alcohol is legal?

    You say these are small things that can be ironed out, but that's the problem - this is akin to saying that if the Israelis and the Palestinians simply agreed on having civilization things would be fine.

    Step 2 in the plan is always the hard part, and the obvious one to gloss over. But instead of complaining about you not giving any solid answers, just a plan without a means of implementation, I'm going to state what I've tried that has and hasn't worked as far as that compromise goes:

    -Shouting at people.
    -Pointing out their hypocrisy.
    -Pointing out the politician's hypocrisy.
    -Pointing out 'both sides do it'.
    -Deflecting the issue to something else that they might care about more.
    -Attempting to use my story as a means of garnering sympathy (which at one point someone stated that it was my 'alleged son's alleged cancer', awesome).
    -Pointing out the flaws of the party they support
    -pointing out the flaws of the people they support
    -pointing at heartwarming tales that should hurt them (such as Syrian children dying)
    -saying that I don't really care about gun control, do whatever
    -giving oodles of data indicating their basis is wrong
    -giving oodles of news sources indicating their basis is wrong.

    I've probably done others, but not a single one of these has worked, and most have backfired.

    The only single thing I've seen that has worked is for people who genuinely care about them and who they care about pointing out - gently - that these policies and people actively are harming them - or even better, that liberal policies have actively helped them. That level of deep, tribal connectiveness and trust has to be there.

    And if it isn't there, you are an outsider, and there is nothing you can do to convince them to abandon their tribal identity. I might as well ask you - what compromise would you take to decry your allegiance to the Navy and say that the army is where it's at?

    My only other thought is to start pushing the idea that you don't have to lose your identity in order to vote against a party. That loyalty to the party comes second, and you can be an independent in certain cases and that's okay. It doesn't make you a bad Republican - it makes the candidates bad. That also doesn't mean necessarily vote democrat, mind you - but just start floating the idea that it is cool sometimes to not vote along your lines, and allow people that freedom. But somehow given how partisan things are, I doubt that will work either.

    1. I've tried the nice approach in pointing out that conservative policies have harmed them far more than liberal policies. I get a black look and am told I am lying. I explain to them the this's and the thatsis and it's like speaking to a blank wall. [sarcasm] maybe FEMA camps and 10 hour days re-studying the American government classes they ignored in high school might be a better plan.[sarcasm off]

    2. Don't stop trying! The trick is to find SOMETHING, ANYTHING that can be seen as common ground and work from there. You cannot and will not change people's minds on large issues without first breaking those issues down to the basic components. Respect is always the most effective weapon in our arsenal, it's necessary in building the foundation for communication. Lack of respect in return comes from a few different types, the defensive...attacking first and asking questions later, the ignorant...uninformed and unaware and the stupid. The first two can be reasoned with, the last? Nope, not worth it past the opening encounter...walking away is always an option with this sort. Ignorance can be educated, however you can't fix stupid (thanks to Ron White for the last bit).
      If we think back to Greek mythology and the story of Pandora's box we remember that when everything else was let out of the box and gone, we still had hope. I still have hope...all this crap hasn't killed that yet.

    3. Right-on Kristen.

      As Jim's first essay on this topic said - ya gotta try. And sometimes it actually might mean faking respect. When your eyeballs are doing backflips in your eye sockets, take a deep breath and decided to find one thing - JUST ONE THING - that you can talk about with the other person. But for heaven's sake, do it without mockery in your voice. Smile. Nod your head a lot. And listen. Then compliment the other person on raising the point and indicate you understand where they're coming from. Then try - oh, please try, to talk about it. That's al! Just one baby step at a time.

      Conversely, if you're not willing or able to do this, then please don't make matters worse for the rest of us who are trying to help things move forward. If you just can't help being snarky and rude and, in some instances, mean, then don't do or say anything. Thanks!

    4. You are correct as regards truly caring about folks having a positive effect.
      A couple thoughts-
      I'm a mixed race woman who has worked in the trades and related fields for over 40 years. A lot of what you tried is of the ilk of the (sometimes) well-intentioned mansplaining I've dealt with and some of it is is similar to the endless sorta-maybe-kinda ally of POC stuff which derails meaningful collaboration all too often.
      Read this please,
      "Guidelines for Being
      Strong White Allies" http://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/kivel3.pdf, with an eye to translating it into the current context.
      And - can we have the conversation about where-were-we-when-those-coal-jobs, et al disappeared? Actively working for decent jobs to replace them instead of shrugging and saying move, get a job in the city, etc?

    5. Right.. Kristen and Marsha. The first thing to do is listen. Small groups are best. I find that the ridiculous over amount we pay for drugs in this country is something almost everyone agrees on.

    6. Finding common ground is key. As a former federal employee with decades in the leadership cadre, I've had the pleasure of working with extremely diverse teams with every ethnic and religious background you can imagine. I have the full sprectrum of LGBTQs, Buddists, Hindus, Baptists and even the dreaded Catholics (I was raised Catholic so I have some leeway I think). More woman served on the teams than men, both at the staff and leadership ranks. I've had seriously troubled folks from classic PTSD'd veterans to quiet introverts that might, just might, speak an entire sentence once a week. Through it all, across multiple generations, presidential administrations and the good times and bad, the one thing that held us together was a shared mission: develop more efficient ways to get things done ("solve the effing problem, people!"), failure is fine but don't do it twice if you can avoid it, respect everyone's opinion as there are no wrong answers...do that and you will be rewarded many times over if you just focus on the outcome, and don't be so damned commited to one journey to get there, especially your own. Ultimately, I was a mere talent scout as these folks, young and old, were much smarter than me. We never fought but we debated incessantly. They, and they alone I believe, and those like them, will make revitalize this country. Your mileage may vary, but now that I've retired I have to find a way to become part of this national conversation. Perhaps new ideas and new thinking just might work...

    7. Kristen, I'm not suggesting 'don't stop trying', but I am suggesting simply saying that it has to be there is not necessarily accurate, and furthermore failure is not entirely on the person trying to compromise.

      Some people you just can't reach.

      My fear is that there is simply too many people in that bucket. The ones you could reach have already been reached, and the others? They aren't part of your tribe. There is nothing that you, personally, will ever be able to do.

      alaskapi, as you might have guessed a lot of what I've talked about is based on that being a good ally list.

      And all that being said - it's hard to take seriously the notion that mockery and derision shouldn't be a part of it from Jim Wright's comment feed. Much of Jim's deserved appeal is his ability to mercilessly mock those politicians and supporters who are mockable. Saying that if you can't help but snark, then to shut up is basically saying to people like Jim to shut up, too.

      I don't know that that's the right solution. I do think that lends itself very credibly to the common viewpoint that anything that makes liberals upset is A Good Thing - an idea that simply electing Trump is good because it makes me feel bad, basically. There are a lot of those out there, and the reason for that is because previously they felt like I was making fun of them and this is getting back at us. If that's the case, that kind of derision and mocking does nothing but hurt us. That's a bitter pill to swallow, but it's something worth considering. After all, the current evidence on the ground is that whatever we had been doing before didn't work so well.

    8. Anybody old enough to remember the mantra, "think globally, act locally"? I find that my best shot at dialogue with people on The Other Side is right here in my community, face to face, preferably in neutral territory (the coffee shop, my neighborhood convenience store, etc). I had a pretty good, if short, conversation standing in the Safeway checkout line last weekend; the woman in front of me was tsking over political headlines in the tabloid rack and I smiled and agreed with her that they were outrageous. "Kinda makes you wonder what the *real* story is," I said, and she responded, "yeah, I voted for Trump, but some of this stuff just sounds crazy!" Small steps are a start...

    9. Jesus Christ you people are white as hell, aren't you? And straight and cis. Not a bit of skin in the game. Ya'll should check your privilege before you go on about what us liberals should do vis a vis these cracker shitstains who flushed our country down the toilet because they're afraid of the brown and the gay. Ya'll go ahead, knock yourselves out. Bend over backwards to convince the backward to do the right goddamned thing. The rest of us will be over here, giving you some serious side eye. Because once again, we're the ones who will take it in the neck while ya'll pat yourselves on the back for being so damned WOKE.

    10. Check your privilege.

      Side eye.


      You managed to get all the buzzwords in there, didn't you, Jan? Well done.

      How do you know that the people commenting here are all straight and cis? And, really, what if they are? You're saying you don't want allies? That anybody who's straight and cis and white as hell are all "cracker shitstains" and not worth your time?

      Fair enough, I guess.

      So, again, I'll ask: what's your plan?

      You have no use for me, for straight white cis liberals or conservatives, we're all just cracker shitstains. You have no interest in finding a middle grounding, in gaining allies, in convincing the reasonable members of the other side to see the world your way -- in fact you don't think there are any reasonable members of the other side. You've got nothing but contempt for us all. Again, fair enough. But where do you go from here?

  6. Thanks, Jim. I converted a handful of conservatives to go for Bernie during caucus time, I can certainly convince them - and others - of moderation and progress.

  7. I've come to a short term strategy for myself. I've been posting on Facebook/Twitter things I believe in - gender/race equality, workers rights, healthcare, protecting the environment, etc. I've surprised a lot of people with this since they assume since I am retired Special Forces I would believe differently. Hopefully I can make some people understand that it doesn't have to look a certain way.

    Longer term, I am still thinking of how I can get more involved. I live in a pretty blue state. I wish there was some sort of organization that would support moderate candidates what ever their party nationwide.

    1. No kiddding! re the moderate candidates for both parties. Seems to me the dems are very busy making their own "progressive" left tea party and that's going to help liberal causes and civilization about as much as the tea party. One thing I see missing from the conversation is the reality that compromise is a 2 way street. Our own open minds are critical here. Most of us (me) walk around knowing a lot less than we think we do.

  8. As Jim explained before, liberals must give frightened conservatives something to support. In a way the success of LGBTQ issues is like the success of Roe v Wade. They have both given radical conservative points to focus on. They have amazing imaginations regarding what these policies might lead to. (Selection of fetus based on eye color, etc. and Santorum's famous man-on-dog marriage fears, plus forcing churches to perform gay marriages, etc.) WE must reach out and convince everyone that those things are not only NOT our desires, but are, indeed, not possible. It's ALL on us liberals. Fortunately (!) President Trump is making it far easier than we deserve. We either need to fix it, or, as Jim said, get used to being serfs.

    1. If those "frightened conservatives" (And they're ALWAYS frightened of something) can't see past their fears to common sense things like having clean air and water for their kids, or having education and jobs for them as adults, they're too stupid to engage with. I'm sorry, but managing to agree with them that the sky is blue isn't enough of a connection to get them to throw off decades of GOP/Christian programming. I'd rather go around them and move forward than get hung up on them as a speedbump.
      Did the civil rights movement "engage" or find common ground with the unrepentant racists of the South? They did not. They went over and through them, because they saw very well they would spend the next 40 years or more trying to "find common ground" with those racists. And lo and behold, in this era, we saw the SAME arguments used against Black Americans in the 60's used against Gay Americans in the last 2 decades. TL:DR There's no compromise with the majority of these mouth breathers. We need to move forward, and let them catch up and be civilized as they evolve. IF they evolve.

  9. Thanks for clarifying Jim! It's not going to be easy, but you are right. Instead of constantly degrading one another, we need to work together for a solution. We need to be "united" in our efforts to secure the future.

  10. good article - good start on the process.

  11. As a long time left liberal more and more often across the aisle I spot conservatives nodding at the same points.

  12. Great piece, Jim! I'd go one slight step further on point 3, and respectfully suggest that there are some concrete things we can do to set down that path. My fiance and I are both actively involved in community building and large-scale conflict resolution (it's actually a thing!) I'd be happy to chat about what I'm learning in law school about that, if you're interested.

  13. Me thinks the only way to make change these days are starting at the local level. There are too many people listening to the Fox News and Rush Limbaughs daily, hourly on 24x7 conditioning them to what they've become. I've seen it happen. I witnessed my inlaws who were moderate republicans become hard extreme right wing because they have Fox News on 24x7. That changes people, it's been documented and even some science behind that. People have been conditioned over decades once they rmeoved the fairness in journalism back in the Reagan days. We may find conservatives who are very nice and cordial and will talk to us and even find common ground, but when it comes time to tow the line they will always vote R and like you said, it disgusts them to vote D. Maybe if the D's showed up like the R's do come election we might stand a chance. But, even if they do, people who can't take off work, waiting in hours long lines because of gerrymandering districts etc., well it's all an uphill batter. I don't like to use the labels "Liberal" or "Conservative" because people can change and vote both ways. I think most common sense people became very depressed after the election because everything they saw as progress just went totally backwards. And people voted for that - it bothers me to this day that humanity is willing to take steps backwards because they're afraid of change and fear. I don't see any answer on the horizon. I'm just waiting for Trump and team to crash and burn and exposed with their Russian counterparts.
    But I doubt that will happened when you're dealing with people who have millions and billions. They are above the law unfortunately because they are the ones who write and own the laws.

    1. Yup - big time:

      "I think most common sense people became very depressed after the election because everything they saw as progress just went totally backwards. And people voted for that - it bothers me to this day that humanity is willing to take steps backwards because they're afraid of change and fear."

      I think the key here is to realize that many of those who actually proactively voted for Trump did so also out of fear - fear of change that they had seen in "their" world. While more of us celebrated progress, they were hunkering down scared to death because "change" scares them. I have a twin brother who wants Trump to take us back to the 1950's when it was once great. I keep telling him that his twin sister doesn't remember it being so great and the only way I'll get taken there is kicking and screaming and swearing and doing great bodily harm to someone or something.

      Fear. Fear of change. And now we're all experiencing the same thing in reverse. Where did it come from? Who created this fear? And why? Follow the money!

  14. Bravo! I think a picture might help communicate your idea. A bell curve. Trim off the right extreme. Label that as Nazis, Trolls, KKK, and insane fanatics. Remind people that you never negotiate with terrorists. Then, when everyone shouts, "Hells Yeah!", show the same picture with the left extreme trimmed. We can label that as Anarchists, people who don't think we need a defense department, people who think vaccines cause autism, and insane fanatics.

    The trouble with the insane fanatics is they get too much air time and they taint the left's perception of the right and the right's perception of the left. As you suggest above, most people in the middle of that curve want government to function. Get the shouting fanatics out of the room and we can discuss compromise with our reasonable friends and neighbors who want to raise their families with minimal non-essential government involvement, don't mind paying essential taxes but want careful scrutiny and accountability, and think no child should starve in America. Turns out, that's most of us. Good place to start the conversation.

    1. I like this idea. We have more in common than it appears, we've been listening to the extremists for too long, having said that, they do like to shout and drown other people out.

  15. Excellent! I am so TIRED of being angry, outraged, and sick at heart. You are so right, if we want to fix this, we MUST figure out a way to compromise. It is as basic to our freedom as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As always, you tell it like it is.

  16. Just for practice, we could start with liberals toning down the internecine conflict in our own camp. However you feel about the process (sausage anyone?)you have to keep focused on the goal.
    On this last round that goal was "No Sociopaths with Nukes"
    Somehow we lost track of the importance of that.

    There are plenty of people on the right who have no desire at all to have common cause with nazis. It can't be that hard to give them a way not to sit at that table.
    And if it is hard so what?

    Sociopaths with nukes remember?

  17. All excellent questions. And, while the Electoral College is the practical and political player in who becomes President, it is PERCEPTION that drives the voters and therefore the Electoral College. We must change perceptions and educate one another, both "liberals" and "conservatives," as I would dare say the perceptions of those very terms, by the people voting, are incredibly distorted. Reason must overcome emotion, and education must overcome propaganda. But there's that singular question again, where do we start? Where do we sit down to have this discussion? In Congress, or at the kitchen table?

  18. I think the question is WHAT you are willing to compromise, and what not. The social fragmentation part of this breakdown of political center is part and parcel of the wrenching changes of the 1950s-1970s come home to rest. And the liberals I know are refusing to compromise specifically on civil rights issues. That means freedom in the civil sphere from the religious principles of those serving you government services and public accommodation. It means "local tradition" regarding race, sexual orientation, gender... you know the list... is moot. The idea that we allow local variation in how US citizens are treated under the law is what the civil rights era, in an abstract sense, was about. If we are going to claim the moderate conservative center, we need to find a better way to talk about this and claim this sense of decency away from rogue elements in our criminal justice system, and from barely-disguised parts of the electorate. So far, the right and the left between them have managed to make every attempt to define this basic decency and equal treatment of citizens a parody of itself: diversity, privilege, black history, liberation, pride.... it all becomes fodder for the snickering, eye-averted half of the nation.

    My suggestion? Bring the fight for recognition as full citizen, full participant in our nation, up into the heroic story it is. Tie it to the military. Tie it to economic growth. Lets make 100 more "Hidden Figures" until THAT is the myth you can't escape: that the Real Americans aren't the ones who cling to symbols and reality of oppression, repression, and backwards-looking ideas of what an "empire" ought to look at, but the ones who fought for their place, from Lexington and Concord to Selma to Stonewall and onward. Make more "I Am Not Your Negro." Make more "Moonlight." Make lots and lots of art, and make some of it intellectually unstoppable and some of it sweet and Hollywood-y, so no-one can deny it on the basis of its being eye-rollingly earnest. I think history shows that's how you win America in the end.

  19. I'm curious as to seeing the 90 million non voting eligible people as allies? Can they be recruited to be engaged?

    1. I would think that an excellent idea.

      None of this stuff is either/or. There's no one solution. There are many solutions.

  20. Great article. What has worked for me with my conservative friends is to identify some area of agreement and proceed from there. Fiscal conservatives can often be open to demonstrations of how preventative programs, (addiction rehab, mental health programs, Housing First programs, etc.), can be more cost effective than criminalization. I think the key factor is remembering good communication protocol. No one will listen to you if you put them on the defensive. Find common ground and then proceed. Respectfully.

  21. I live the the VERY red North West Corner of Arkansas where Walmart, J.B. Hunt and Tyson Foods all have their global headquarters. This part of Arkansas has been conservative since the first settlers began living around here in the 1830's following behind the Cherokee's during the trail of tears era of Andrew Jackson. During the era of Democratic dominance, this corner of the state was Republican even then.

    I meet for coffee with friends 3-5 days a week at the adult wellness center where I work out in the gym for us seniors. I am a unicorn in that group (I am the lone Democrat)however, we talk, and talk, share idea's, share our opinions and l-i-s-t-e-n to each other. They have an open mind enough to at leas listen to my thoughts. We don't talk about politics always, but we do talk about stuff. I never try to preach to them to harshly about Global Climate change or climate change. I do ask them a few questions about Armadillo's. They never used to have them until about 20 years ago. I always point out that something in the environment has changed if Armadillo's have moved up here in the last 20 years from down south. Most folks agree, and say, yeah, it s not nearly as snowy as it used to be. I just let that last statement set for them to mull over.

    What I have learned, is the having that dialogue and keeping it going is the key. Will I win everyone over? Nope, but as long as we keep talking and exchanging idea's, who knows what may happen in the voting booth. Stranger things have happened around here before. Heck this state elected a 20 century Republican carpetbagger named Winthrup Rockefeller.

    just keep talking and have an open dialogue, that is the key.

  22. Perfection. You got a standing ovation from me right here in Sequim WA.

  23. "But if you can't find common ground with those who can be reasoned with then you end up with a nonfunctional government, which in turn means you get a nonfunctional country.

    Which means civilization shortly begins to fall apart.

    When government is nonfunctional – and thus the country, society, civilization – that, that right there, is when it happens.

    That’s when the fanatics seize control."
    - Jim Wright above.

    Thing that worries me here is that this is where we are currently - in the USA the fanatics, the Plutonian far righters of the TEA party, the outright damn neo-nazis (laughingly relabelling themselves as alt-right) have seized power through Trump. Over the past 8 years of Obama they have made the government non-functional and broken it and the whole US system has seized up with Congress and now SCOTUS deadlocked and paralysed by the fanatics making things so bad they've been able to take over and now they've established themselves in power so firmly its going to be .. exceptionally hard .. to remove them from that power and change things. Shift the courses of governance, law and culture in our societies back on tracks of sanity and improvement for everyone.

    I'm an Aussie so I hesitate to tell y'all what to do but what happens to the United States shakes the world, strongly influences my country and England and Canada and Europe and all the rest of the arbitrary divisions that make up our pale blue dot.

    And if things weren't bad enough before , we're seeing the start of the impacts of Global Overheating (warming is too mild a word) with droughts in Syria and the Sahel region of Africa causing crop failures then wars and then migrants understandably fleeing the carnage and chaos there - & elsewhere besides - and, well, escalating feedbacks is the term I think I'd use. (Scientifically, I gather it's "positive feedback"but I think that gets confused too easily with other meanings of that first word.) Things are snowballing and only going to get more chaotic and awful especially with Trump in power so.

    Hmm.. I really desperately hope its not too late already.

    Is it?

    I'm not giving up, not going to stop fighting but that's what I'm really wondering at this point and struggling not to fall to despair here.

    1. It's not too late. Yes, the machinery of government has largely broken down, but the key here is that it is only broken. It is NOT laying in a smoking pile rubble, at least not yet. Before this era of disposable goods, we repaired everything! We fixed our cars and trucks, rewired the lamp that shorted out, put new seals in the leaky faucet. Repairmen did everything from fixing our televisions to resoling our favorite pairs of shoes/boots over and over again. The equivalent these days are replacing the broken smartphone screens we read this on and in other ways I'm sure I'm ignorant of. If there is anything at all exceptional about America and it's citizens, it is our willingness to roll up our sleeves and fucking *work* at solving whatever problem is being presented as unsolvable/too-big-to-tackle. Though I don't know much about Australia, what I do know is that a bunch of people the Brits thought weren't worth having created a pretty cool country out of the continent they landed on too. Here in the US, as long as our Constitution is intact and in force, we have a fighting chance.

      I know how hard it is to fight despair. Frankly, I've failed more often than I've succeeded since November 8. But all around me I see fellow Americans rising up in a way we haven't seen here for over a generation. I'm realizing that when I feel too weary and beat-down to go on, there's another person there to put my arm around their shoulder and let me lean on them until I catch my breath. The global response to the Women's March in January tells me that's true around the world. We have a lot of work to do and many of us have been fighting for years. But there are fresh voices and new faces bursting with energy joining the battle now and we old-timers need to accept the chance to catch our collective breath before we proceed.

  24. I belive you're correct about compromising with the red block, Jim, but I don't think I could get my red friends to take the time to read this and understand the need to do so. Do you have any recommendations for a more distilled version of this concept?

  25. I think we need to copy a few plays from the Republican play book. First, don't get hung up on the next election or even the one after that. We need to play the long game. Focus on educating up and coming voters with something along the lines of School House Rock videos, but run them in prime time outside of the election season. Not anything overtly Dem, but three minute sound bites on how a bill becomes law, the duties of each branch of government, even parliamentary proceedings of the senate. Run commercials that are as unbiased as possible on current issues and events. Educate people on how things work and what their government can do for them and their neighbors. We need to counteract the message of "government is the problem" with "government is how we tackle problems bigger than ourselves". Simple, fact based, and repetitive. A catchy jingle or two wouldn't hurt either. We need SOMETHING, ANYTHING to counteract Faux News and Rush. Some of these sound bites can propose solutions backed by Dems. If we are honest about the problems and the limitations of proposed solutions, maybe, just maybe, we can bring more people to the table. This has to be done in local markets with local issues, not just nationally if we are going to win back state governments. And... we have to start talking about Gerrymandering. I believe that people are entitled to different opinions, no matter how stupid I think some of those opinions might be, but those opinions should be based on a factual understanding. The Republicans kick our ass on messaging again and again and again. That's step 1. Second, the Dems really need to be a LOT more sensitive to the views and feelings of people outside our our personal experience. We think we are, but deep down, or maybe not that deep down, we think less of people who are religious or who didn't graduate from college. We have to stop the shaming. We have to stop jumping all over people for not being PC. My great aunt doesn't see why "colored" is offensive, but "black" is acceptable. It's picking nits in her opinion and makes her feel there is no pleasing Dems at all. It's easier to negotiate with people when they aren't jumping down your throat all the time for things you don't understand to be offensive or wrong. We have to make it clear that even though going to church on Sunday isn't our cup of tea, we understand that it provides community and guidance to many. We also have to make it crystal clear that we will never, ever interfere with how people worship. We liberals are guilty as charged of being holier than thou in many instances. If we don't stop, we'll never get the conservatives to come to the table. Remember, government is at its best when all viewpoints are represented. Also remember that there are plenty of wingnuts on the liberal side of the fence too. Most people are closer to the middle. Start with that premise. It doesn't sound like a lot, but if we are consistent and persistent, we can educate a whole new generation on government and shared responsibility.

  26. One of the big issues that you do not touch is religion. We on the Christian Left have been absolutely derelict in not recognizing that much of the "Christian" right is preaching heresy and idolatry. Not to mention blasphemy and anathema.

    As it happens, most Trump voters have a very shallow understanding of Christianity, so let's talk about real Christianity.

    I could go on, but I hate writing in little boxes on cellphones.

    Also, selecting anonymous because I don't have or understand any of those profiles. I'm only on Facebook as Liz de Calderon

    1. You don't think I already get enough hate mail and death threats, now you want me to tell Christians how to Christian?

    2. A critique of Christians will lead to an influx of hate mail and death threats, which should tell anyone paying attention everything they need to know about the state of Christianity in our country. It is a sorry fucking state.

    3. Choosing a leader for a country *shouldn't* have one single iota to do with what book club they belong to.
      The funniest thing is this- if you were to take verses from most , if not all, of those books and place them side by each, people would get them mixed up.

      It should never be about religion, it should *always* be about humanity.

    4. I agree that religion, like it or not, is a huge factor that many do not wish to acknowledge. Look at the people infiltrating the highest levels of government - Pence, Perry, Carson, Pierce, -- virtually every cabinet member chosen by #45 comes with almost apocalyptic baggage. Climate change, environmental protection, fossil fuel extraction (mining coal, fracking oil) doesn't matter because it says we are in the "end times" and the good guys will get beamed up leaving Democrats and other heathens to fry. Make hay while the sun shines, it's a race to see who can collect the most toys before we die.

      In my part of the world (the fly-over bible belt) fundamentalist preachers have an inordinate amount of psychological control over their flocks who will do whatever the weekly sermon-show pontificates. From these roots comes the ability to ignore or rationalize their conservative votes and overlook the totally anti-Christlike pseudo-leader of our "free" world.

  27. Hello Jim Wright. (Keith Thomas here.) I can't help but notice that all of that red encompasses small town America. We moved to Table Rock Lake from Park City, a small town in Kansas. (Probably 7-8 thousand now) I served on the city council there a couple of different times. What we did at that level had the most impact on the daily lives of citizens in regards to taxes and services provided. (Streets, water, sewer, parks, library, parades, etc.) We had a hard time getting anyone to even run for office and at times there were no opposition candidates for some of the offices. (The same is true for some state offices.) Who do senators and congressmen seek for support when running for office in addition to their respective parties? Local officials. By and large these office holders are conservative and Republican. I was an Independent then and when I would campaign there were people that would ask if I was Republican. I would answer truthfully and they would shut the door. (In Kansas local elections are supposed to be non-partisan by law. Yes, that's probably illegal. If someone wanted to run with their part affiliation known and it were challenged they would likely win. In a lot of these towns a decent campaign can be run with shoe leather and $500 yet there was very little outside money in these races. I was a Republican for a few years. I got over it and I'm back to being an Independent now. It's going to take a little while to turn the tide. I hear about grass roots campaigns. Well running for a local office is grass roots at ground level. Sorry for all the words. Just thought that a positive idea might be in order. Thanks for your time. Keith Thomas (Army, '66 - '70)

  28. The object of the game is to win.

    Note that what that means is this: Winning is the first step, not the ultimate goal. We (agreed-upon definition needed) can't be content with that, though we also can't think anything good can happen by standing outside looking in.

    Congress matters. State legislatures matter. County boards and school boards matter. And all that begins with showing up, as Jim says.

    A coherent idea of what to do the day after is a good thing too. Goals, plus the means to achieve them. And be prepared to accept "better than" as part of that starting point, because Bernie Sanders would never get elected to the Senate in West Virginia, or Georgia, or South Carolina, or (insert deep red state here) no matter what. Work for the center, let the left take care of itself.

    I repeat: Better than. It's the first step, not the ultimate goal. Without it, though, nothing else happens.

  29. How about we stop using those labels and just start acting as " Humans". When we stop trying to label those who think differently than ourselves, we can move forward as "humans That's how we can learn to comprise. As " Humans". Strive to fulfill those needs, and maybe we can save our country and the world

  30. Excellent as always! Thank you for getting it said! I would only contest one tiny little comment "a million little small ones" more like 250 million little small ones, but hey, a million is a good start and millions are already convinced. Again, excellent essay!

    1. Well I mulled over saying it exactly that way. I was tired, it was late, eventually I just went with the simpler statement.

  31. If memory serves, what you said was that we need to compromise with fear. You also, rather gleefully, said that you used that word deliberately and with malice aforethought, knowing how we would react.
    "I used it because I knew, I knew, that it would provoke a visceral reaction. I used it because it’s as much a trigger for many of you as it is for those you despise."

    Compromise doesn't scare me. Statements like this one does:

    "That’s what it’s going to take. When they’re confused, they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re going to make a mistake, and he’s going to grab them."

    And do what? What is it these people hope to gain from a situation like that?

    (I'm not sure I really want to know the answer to that question.)

    And then, the pendulum swings the other way. Many conservatives I know simply do not like change. The typically conservative ideology that the Constitution is set in stone, should be strictly adhered to, and never amended is very much alive and well.
    As a fellow 'child of Star Trek',dreaming of that kind of future, I whole-heartedly agree that Civilization has to evolve; but, the white-knuckle grip on keeping things static pushes that dream so far away, the disappointment is almost overwhelming.

    An email from my Republican Representative (not my doing) announced the first "Government Night- Town Hall" will be held April 17. I find it very amusing that he's bringing reinforcements: a City Mayor, County Supervisor, and State Assemblyman (also Republican). Equally amusing is his choice of venue. Instead of meeting in the 'county seat' where I live, which also happens to be smack in the middle of District 10 (his constituency) he chose a 'wide-spot-in-the-road', tiny little bedroom community, 20 miles away. My guess is that he hopes the majority of attendees with be from the farming community, but I plan to be there, to listen. The only question I have for the guy was inspired by a comment (here, or on one of your pages):

    "When push comes to shove, do your loyalties lie with the GOP, or with the Republic?"

    The answer to that one is important, to me.

    1. What is it these people hope to gain from a situation like that?

      I honestly don't know. I asked that question on my Facebook page in the Stonekettle Station Facebook Group yesterday, but I haven't had time yet this morning to go see if anybody had an answer.

  32. When it comes to finding common ground, we have to give up some of the things we enjoy doing, or do them differently.

    We have to be willing to find common ground on what the people we like do wrong. If someone calls our favorite politician or other politically involved figure or group on something, we need to look honestly at what's being called out and, even if the other side is doing it, agree that it's wrong. The common defense Trump supporters use is that Obama does the same thing. Don't play that card.

    Another change we have to make is to be willing to be sincerely sympathetic when bad things happen to our opponents. A church burned down and some of us laughed at that, or said it was deserved, because it was run by or linked to the man who called for Jim to be assassinated. We can hate that guy without being happy that a church burned down.

    Basically, we "compromise" by agreeing to be consistent, not in a complicated, clever, intellectual way, but in a straightforward way: condemn the wrong, weep at the sad, cheer the good. It's not necessary to agree with their ideology, or deny your own, and there's nuance to all this. But it's not hard to see when we're doing the same jackals things we hate others for doing, and when we see that, we should own up, apologize, and stop doing it.

    1. And when/if we get back in power we need to not only DO the right thing, we need to codify those things in law. We know now we can't depend on common decency or goodwill or accepted policies and procedures. We need actual laws to make sure politicians at all levels will be out of office and in jail if they lie, cheat or steal. We need a Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the Emoluments Clause and adds a requirement for divestiture so a President can never again seek to enrich himself and his family from his office. But - when the Democrats had the power in the past, none of this was done, or at least not enough. Has the lesson been learned?

  33. As usual, I think this is a fine post and I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with you.

    I think it is more important to forge an organization from energized women and young people than to reach out to people who are set against us and unlikely to change. We need to stop letting the values of the wealthy, even the relatively decent wealthy, determine our policies, we need to organize effectively, and we need to embrace our own activists, rather than silence them because they are unsettling.

    (An extended version of this argument is available in this blog post.)

    1. That was a failed strategy of the Clinton campaign. A number of Clinton's staffers believed that "moderate" Republicans could be quickly swayed to Clinton's side, and this was not the case.

      Misogyny is central to Trump Republicanism. Many of the people you want to persuade, men and women both, will not quickly be persuaded to join a movement that has a significant number of influential women. Ephebiphobia, fear, hatred and contempt of the young, is also present.

      Over time, perhaps many of these people, especially the women, can be encouraged to change their minds, but we do not have time. We need to start winning elections, the sooner the better.

    2. We need to stop thinking in terms of Us VS Them and start thinking about humanity.

  34. Jim: I think there is an easier way to reach the kind of people you rightly say need to be reached, than trying to convince morons to stop being morons (the Trumpskis) And that is to convince the FIFTY PERCENT OF AMERICANS WHO DIDN'T VOTE, to vote. If we only got 10 percent of them,it would be enough to overthrow the wingnuts in even the most gerrymandered districts. I think a lot of those people are now open to being convinced to vote, since they have been directly threatened in their own lives by the idiocy of these crazies who used to be rightly known as "right wing kooks" who everyone else laughed at back then.

  35. All comes down to what my grandma always insisted was the best way to get other people to cooperate: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

    1. Which is funny, as you actually catch more flies with vinegar.

    2. You catch more flies with carrion, actually. Neither honey nor vinegar compare to what you catch with rotting meat.

  36. An increasing number of people are not looking at left vs right as much as they are looking at the people vs the corporations/billionaires. This isn't just on the radical left anymore. Swing voters are starting to weigh the candidates on this scale. Donald Trump had quite a bit of anti-establishment and anti-wall street in his message. The fact that it was a complete lie is irrelevant. The current leadership in the Democratic Party IS THAT WALL STREET ESTABLISHMENT. Look at the rust belt states that sealed it for Trump. That's not racism or sexism, that's economics. And the only people in the Democratic party who are pushing a strong economic agenda are the progressives that the party leadership keeps trying to sweep under the rug.

    It's time for a radical change in the Democratic Party, and the party insiders want no part of it.

    The Democrats will gain some seats as the republican shit show winds up, but that's not a big victory. Winning because the other team is worse is not going to fix what's wrong with this country.

    I spent eight years telling my conservative friends,

    If you think that getting rid of Obama is going to fix the problem, you don't understand the problem.

    Now, I have to tell my liberal friends,

    If you think that getting rid of Trump will fix the problem, you don't understand the problem.

    1. Along with your comments is that neither party is open to moderates. To get funds from one of the parties national committees, one has to adhere to all of the platform. Good luck for the pro-life Democrat or the pro environment Republican. Add to that gerrymandering which makes most contests either uncontested or very lopsided in favor of the incumbent.

      In Illinois, the political climate is very bad. People downstate, i.e. outside Chicago/Cook county equate Democratic with Chicago politics. Currently Illinois is ruled by a state representative, MIke Madigan, whose district encompasses Midway airport. As Speaker of the House for some 30 years, nothing comes out of committee for a vote unless he gives it his benediction. Enough people were fed up to vote in a Republican governor who is not playing the game. So Illinois has been without a budget for almost two years. So, I think that the strong red in most of the state is partly a reflection of state politics.

      Candidates from both parties have been elected to state offices, so voters here do recognize good candidates and vote for them, regardless of party.

  37. Hi Jim. I've been watching from afar for some time. I'm a 59yo something, a bit of education and military time (35 years with the USNR and feds, just retired), and the enemy. At least I think I'm the enemy. Through Obama's first term, I was a social democrat all my life, then switched gears when the Social Justice warrior mentality became too much to stomach and I realized the nation had become a republic full of whiners. Even as a new Republican, I voted for Obama a second time. I (still) liked and admired the man, but couldn't agree with the direction the country was taking. So, I voted for Trump. Well, not really. While I cast my vote that way, I was really voting for the Republican Party. Change was necessary, and like you've discussed, you can't just win over hearts and minds with common sense, you need to f*ck em up the old a-hole, and hard. So I helped deliver a political nuke.

    Trump will self implode, I really really believe that. And probably soon. Then "Getting To Yes" will be possible. This isn't about republicans and democrats any more, it's about solving problems, "getting stuff done". No body wants to solve problems, they want to get a quick band aid and claim victory with media soundbytes, impassioned, just starting to tear up speeches, and watching the numbers for the next election.

    The problem is the people, we keep voting for the same old pieces of sh*t, over and over again. That's the problem, root cause. you can't drain the swamp (Trump can't do it, even if he was politically astute and really wanted to), only the voting public can. You'll never convince a foaming, 2A spouting hillbilly that gun violence is bad (note I'm a gun advocate), but you might get in there talking about violence in general, root cause problem, and the MANY ways to address it. Guns are the characteristic, not the head of the octopus. Work the edges, get the conversation STARTED for Pete's sake!!!

    Anyhow, I'll probably blog on this aspect of it soon, or maybe you will. You're much more prolific and I'm just starting. Nice work. Follow the money, find the problem, find good people to work alternatives. BATNA. Get to Yes, Jim... Be well, Brother...

    1. So I helped deliver a political nuke.

      You know, back in the 60s there was a program called Operation Ploughshare. A bunch of scientists, military, and politicians got together to explore the idea of something they called Peaceful Nuclear Explosions or PNEs. They had this idea that nukes could be used for all sorts of non-military applications, from digging a new Panama canal across Central America with a series of nuclear blasts, to creating artificial harbors, to powering spacecraft like the Orion, to discovering how stars work.

      They denoted 27 nuclear weapons, including the SEDAN ploughshare shot -- the largest (accidental) open air detonation in US history. The SEDAN crater in Nevada is 1300 feet in diameter and visible from orbit 50 years later.

      And indeed, they did discover all kinds of things, including a new element, Curium, and definitive proof of meteor impacts which up to that point had been only speculation.

      But, it turns out there are some damned unpleasant side effects.

      The SEDAN shot alone dumped radioactive fallout over a significant portion of the US. No one knows for certain how many thousands of cases of thyroid cancer resulted. Those most susceptible were children. For those innocent people, the scientific and engineering advances of PNEs are moot. Because they're dead, killed by calculating sons of bitches who were willing to gamble the lives of their fellows for their own ends.

      You might be right, John.

      This tactical nuke you've helped deliver might indeed change the world. But the cost for many is likely to be very, very high. And the problem with tactical nukes is that you very often end up inside the blast radius yourself.

      Frankly, you sound more like a Libertarian than a Republican, but I suppose I'm only arguing semantics at this point.

    2. Accepting collateral damage is something we dread but experience despite best intentions, you're a warrior and get my drift. Maybe, it still hurts. I'll reference your note about person as tactical nuke. I can use that as a working title if you're OK with it.

      Jim, my next blog will discuss the need for a new third dimension in the party system. Sure, Libertarian works, but how do you fit when it's about problem solving, common sense, majority thought, management of extremes, education, security. You'd need a damn Cray the size of the moon just to work the model. We can't connect the dots of our past, much less live in the now and reflect on possible outcomes for the future. This isn't about evolution anymore, it's about revolution. Innovation will come. See Steve Jobs most profound moments at Stanford 2005: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHWUCX6osgM .

    3. I'd say your position is the same as an arsonist's. It's not really a solution.

    4. "Through Obama's first term, I was a social democrat all my life, then switched gears when the Social Justice warrior mentality became too much to stomach and I realized the nation had become a republic full of whiners."

      What. The Actual. Fuck?!!?

      I've heard this before, again and again, and it never fails to mystify me. I don't know what it is supposed to mean, or what it's based on.

      Just an objective view (and what little Jim shares of his inbox) shows that a large chunk of whiners come from those who voted and supported Trump (and your own words hint at his, as that you want to nuke the whole thing rather than digging in and doing the long term work)...

      But even more than that, I don't understand what problem anyone would have with social justice warriors, or social justice... through that, we got child labor laws, the rights of women to vote and serve, strong unions and benefits, civil rights, and hell, man, what problem would anyone have with social and economic justice? I'm honestly asking.

      And I'll be blunt, I'm not accusing you of this, because I don't know you... but in the past, whenever anyone used the phrase as you have, what they really meant is that they didn't like dealing with the brown and black folk, the gays, and not being able to employ whatever racial slur / gay slur without consequence, as they did when they were younger.

      I'm not saying that this is YOU, I'm explaining the context for ME when I hear someone howling about social justice warriors... if you have a different context, I'm open to hearing it.

      but I am mystified at your choices, sir.

    5. You know Joshua, you make a VERY good point. I suppose I have equated the "social justice warrior" with the whining, crying, do nothing that has nothing better to do but be a non productive pain in the butt. And yes, I do equate that with the far left. As for the far right, I have the mental image of rabid, foaming at the mouth right wing NO ABORTION TAKE MY GUNS AWAY AT YOUR PERIL hillbilly. I won't bother to throw out the phrase I have reserved for the far right but it contains "jackboot". Come on, none of us is pure, but it was my blunder to not think more carefully given the wide reaching and eclectic audience--I apologize. At the end of the day, I HATE no one Josh (hopefully "Josh" is ok). My political affiliation doesn't allow me to vote and express myself properly if I don't pick one, so I chose the lesser (at least this year's) evil. I'm not sure that helps with clarity. But I am not a hater, I just like productive movement forward, not crybaby (yes, both sides if you must be insistent) I need my safe space or recognition. Finally, thanks for picking up on my incorrect, perhaps even inappropriate, usage of "social justice warrior". I am afraid I fell into that, mea culpa. But I won't apologize for being disgusted with whiny, crybaby do nothings that are more worried about media attention and "Likes". We have work to do, eh? I'm open to the dialogue man...

    6. I'm going to be bluntly honest and state outright that I just don't believe you.

      Let's look at some key things here. The Republican party as a whole is generally extremely conservative and in the past two decades has embraced an ideology which is the antithesis of anything definable as "social Democrat." And you claim that you voted for Obama not once, but twice, in a way that indicates that you actually believed in the political platform he represented, and the Democratic/liberal platform more generally. At least, nothing in your comment suggests that you voted for him as a protest against the GOP, rather than because you actually supported the Democratic party.

      Then you start talking about SJWs and how you didn't like the direction the country was going. That's not the position of a social Democrat who was committed to the Democratic platform up through Obama's first term, it's one of a Republican, both mainstream and extremist. Especially since Obama has nothing whatsoever to do with SJWs; his policies and the SJW extremism of individuals are two completely different things, and the nonsense of the latter has no bearing on the direction that Obama's policies were taking the U.S.

      Sorry, I think you're full of shit and you've been a conservative of some flavor all a long, and not a "social Democrat" at all. Your whole stated objection to "didn't like the direction the country was going," and social justice warriors are classic chapter-and-verse Republican/conservative objections to liberalism and Democrats overall. As the claimed position of a pro-Obama Democrat who was driven to the GOP, it's extremely suspect.

    7. Accepting collateral damage is something we dread but experience despite best intentions, you're a warrior and get my drift.

      I do indeed.

      I heard commanders in Iraq using those exact terms. "Acceptable losses" and "collateral damage" sound so much more ... antiseptic than 8000 dead soldiers and 250,000 dead civilians smeared like Strawberry Surprise across the countryside.

      And when war is your profession, well, that comes with the trade. But it's an entirely different thing when YOU are one of those acceptable losses or it's YOUR children, YOUR family, YOUR home, YOUR world that is the collateral damage.

      I do understand you. I was a war planner, a weapons developer, and led missions myself. I do very much understand you. Which is why I know just how wise indeed the Founders were to put the military firmly under control of the civilian leadership. And why I myself am not fit for office.

      As the great writer Joe Haldeman, the author of the Forever War and a man who knows something of war himself, once said to me at a party in David Gerrold's suite at Worldcon, "No part of serving in war made me more of a conservative."

    8. Robin...ah well, nevermind, I think you've formed your opinion. That said, I *do* respect your opinion, and well, I guess no Christmas card for you... That's a joke, OK?

      And Jim, I'll never get the image of my comrades high fiving the "win" in the middle of carnage, the enemy and "collateral damage" alike. If it wasn't right, it wasn't right. But I digress...

      Jim...You may be more fit for office than you think, it just may depend on the scope of work. I'm thinking about running for mayor or county council or even something a bit more influential. Finding common ground with the "Robin Nelson"'s of the world that judge you on a few mere written words (it's so one dimensional at times, isn't it?) is a challenge, and one that takes some thought before running and carrying the responsibility should you win. You have a charisma and that natural born leader vibe despite the language, but like me it's just a matter of tempering it for the audience at hand.

    9. This post sounds precisely like the kind of person that does not actually favor civilization. If you are arguing that the entire system should be torn down and started fresh, you aren't for civilization; you are for revolution.

      You say you're for a dialog, but you chose to vote for someone specifically because you hoped they were going to destroy the system. How is a political nuke anything like dialog?

      It ultimately doesn't matter if you hate anyone or not; you're willing to let a whole lot of people suffer so that you can blow up the system for a cause you believe in. You tell me - what is someone who is willing to blow things up and cause people massive pain called, typically?

    10. Part of what you wrote ", I have the mental image of rabid, foaming at the mouth right wing NO ABORTION TAKE MY GUNS AWAY AT YOUR PERIL hillbilly."
      Most of the people that I know that are anti choice and pro gun are not hillbillies, they are fairly well educated people who believe in their book club,
      I have had many discussions about pro vs anti choice and what I come away with is this- until we can stop picturing each other as "rabid, uneducated, insert insult here" there will be no progress.
      While you think that delivering a political nuke was fun, I am afraid for your country and mine, no scratch that- I'm afraid for the people in both countries.

    11. “Change was necessary, … So I helped deliver a political nuke.”

      This implies your actions were intentional and carried out (albeit questionably) while in possession of full faculties. In other words, you relinquished any chance at pleading insanity. You knew what you were doing, before you did it; and claiming that you “helped deliver a political nuke” is an admission of willful participation, rather than realized, in hindsight. Correct?

      If so, then you are not necessarily ‘the enemy’, you’re the guy who might be able to answer my question:

      “What did you expect to gain?” (Note the word “expect”. There is a vast difference between what one “hopes” and what one “expects”. Hope is like tossing a deck of cards in the air, to see how many land face-up. Expectation comes from assessing the likely outcome, resulting from a specific action.)

      Why throw the baby out, with the bath water? Was there nothing deemed as salvageable, in any way, which might have prevented using a ‘nuke’? What alternatives, if any, were considered and dismissed as insufficiently effective?

      At the risk of sounding naive, I have always imagined assessments of ‘collateral damage’ were based upon what obstructions lay in the path of reaching the goal, I’m having difficulty understanding what the goal was, let alone whether attaining it can be considered constructive, or simply destructive.

      The phrase “Change was necessary …” is an incomplete statement in that it omits the reason why. “Change was necessary, in order to have ____.?” Can you, please, tell me? I want to understand.

    12. John,

      Would you mind elaborating on your own stated position, then? I'm not judging you in any sense other than measuring the only words you've given me to go by. You said you were a "social Democrat" all your life through at least part of Obama's term, and further state that you continued to like and support Obama enough to vote for him a second time. You made no attempt to define your self-label of "social Democrat," so I'm left to fill in the blanks, again, based upon the few words you've provided. You _sound_ like what I recognize as someone who was raised along partisan lines who votes the party line, which is something I can appreciate because that was how things worked in my own family. But you specify "social," too, which suggests that you believe generally in the sociocultural policies of contemporary Democrats.

      Look around at what defines the Republican party now and has since a few years prior to Obama's term. Again, you stated that you were a committed social Democrat all your life through Obama's first term. It's hardly a baseless assumption on my part to assume that someone with that claimed perspective is going to be opposed to the standard position on social issues held by the mainstream Republican party AND the fringes.

      So yes, the follow-up that you somehow despite all that decided you didn't like the direction the country was going...those two worldviews really don't make a lot of sense. It's hard to figure out how you arrived at position B from position A, I mean. How does someone, who is old enough to see what has happened to the Republican party over the past several decades, but especially since just a few years before Obama's tenure, who is a Democrat for that entire time, arrive at the conclusion that they suddenly hate the Democratic party so much that they suddenly shift over to the opposition?

      I'll also just admit now that I am deeply suspicious of someone who says that they voted for the Republican party because something had to change. If you are what you claim you are, then you know very well a few critical details that wreck your stated thesis: it was the Republican party which was preventing any change, because they literally decided to obstruct Obama for purely the sake of obstruction, so that they could delegitimize him. Obama didn't get a great deal accomplished specifically because the GOP, from McConnell on, explicitly decided to oppose him on partisan grounds, just because. Beyond that, though, you say that things had to change, and you refer to disliking the direction the country was going. By your own words, you imply that this was the fault of Obama, the Democratic party, and liberals in general. But, see above, where the actual culprits in preventing changes was the GOP.

      I don't see a rational progression here from Points A to B on your words.

      On a different tack, I have to ask: why are you ok with applying the military logic of collateral damage and acceptable losses to your fellow citizens facing a civilian crisis. "Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette" is, while technically true, small comfort when YOU are the egg in question. Why are you so willing to throw your fellow Americans to the wolves and risk their lives? I can only guess that you, personally, are assured of a continued decent quality of life, come what may.

      You say that you believe Trump will implode. What does that mean? You think he'll do something to get himself impeached? He'll finally go on a Twitter rant that causes him to drop dead of an aneurysm? He'll get so frustrated with the realities of governance that he just quietly fades into the background and lets Pence become the de facto POTUS?

      Why are you so convinced? And, have you considered...what if you're wrong? You don't actually know that Trump will "implode," whatever you believe, or how strongly. He could very well be in office for a full eight years for all that you know.

    13. John White, the idea that you would make a deliberate choice that, in the end, is likely to result in multiples of my friends and neighbors' lives being destroyed, and that you boast about it as if you were some kind of benevolent force with a nebulous goal of "making things better", makes me wish death, sickness and destruction on you and yours, for at least 2 generations, which is the likely time span before we get back to any semblance of civil rights' normality. I am not generally a vindictive person, but you, sir, are plainly an evil man and deserve only that which burns you to the core.

      While I actually do believe that you voted for Obama, I don't for a minute believe that "I was a social democrat all my life, then switched gears when the Social Justice warrior mentality became too much to stomach and I realized the nation had become a republic full of whiners." I would rather think that at some point relatively recently, someone pointed out your white, male, boomer privilege and you took offense. It wounded you deeply and you lashed out. There were no landmarks between 2012 and 2016 that would explain such a personal "change of heart", if indeed it was truly that. Simple daily reading would have told you that the Tea Party were, in fact the whiners, not the people seeking equality. But maybe they just got too loud for you, too in your face demanding that you see the damage that has been done to them. In any case, you have shown your true colors, and they are not pretty.

      Kari, if it's not clear from my rant, I believe the answer to your question is, "Simple destruction."

    14. "Change was necessary... So I helped deliver a political nuke."

      Really? That sounds suspiciously like what the Germans were saying at Nuremburg.

    15. So much for seeking to compromise with Trump voters...

    16. Well, as noted in the text, I didn't say ALL Trump voters.

    17. John, I find your choice to be lethally irresponsible. The people hurt by your choice (a choice made, why again? Because your feelings were hurt by SJW?)... the people who are hurt by your choice to deliver a political nuke... were the most vulnerable ones.

      Many of them veterans, sir, too. In fact, there were examples after 45's Muslim ban of Iraqi soldiers who helped us over there suddenly sent back...

      There are a ton more examples like that, people hurt by your choice which was because of why, again? People were WHINING TOO MUCH for you.

      I don't find your argument compelling at all.

      In fact, when I've heard it in the past, what I've learned about the speaker is that they just couldn't bring themselves to vote for a woman.

      If you truly were a Democratic socialists, the path and choice would have been very clear. I think you're making a lot of selfish rationalizations for your own terrible choice, and blaming others. You didn't think about the damage you wrought, and only about your own feelings.

      I don't have that much respect for that, to be honest.

    18. Greetings John... at first you sounded like a relatively rational and eloquent speaker... but there was something off, even from your first post. Your second post cemented things... I would have been considered a "republican" for a fair portion of my life... but as I watched the Republican party shift further and further away from the "socially progressive & fiscally conservative" values I grew up with, I found myself fitting in more with the Democrats... It wasn't until the years after Reagan that I found the Democrats were also sliding into untenable areas as well. At that point I registered as "Independent and essentially identified closest to the Green Party Platform overall.

      That being said, the "problems" you are referring to were not really problems except by your perception... Yes, there are extreme "whiners", "activists" and wingnutz on both sides of the spectrum, whose antics are cringeworthy from nearly anywhere else... The very ones that make you shake your head, roll your eyes and make the universal symbols/gestures for "loony" Most rational people laugh them off and point in sarcasm and derision... You sir (and I use the term loosely) decide to lob a tactical nuke... this registers to me as the sign of a dangerously unhinged mind, totally incapable of rational reasoned thought... *despite* your faculty with words and concepts.

      I am also particularly galled at the concept being bandied about on *ALL* sides, that there were "no oither options"... Sorry, I call Bullshit.... Jill Stein was another option... While definitely not "perfect", she was an alternative to Hillary and her weak standing and a *yuge* improvement over the clown circus that was the Republican party this time around... If people could have let go of the asinine "party affiliations" and looked at the actual platforms and issues, there was an alternative to the "two evils"... one that would have *Guaranteed* more options for us in the future as it would have brought a third party onto the playing field as somewhat of an equal. You wanted "change"? That would have been game changing explosive change... the other two parties would have to realize they are *not* the only game in town and don't get to set all the rules... they would have had the massive wake-up call that they still need to serve "the people" and that the "sheeple" were waking up to their game. But NOoooooo.... Tactical nuke the whole thing... completely trash any and all progress made over the past two decades and allow the whims of the self-centered and petulant to rule your life in the interest of "change"....

      Thank you John... for being another one of the millions of pawns used to advance someone else's agenda to the detriment of all... including yourself.

    19. I know what you mean about being galled although Jill Stein was in NO way an alternative to Hillary. And Hillary certainly isn't "perfect". My problem is people who keep referring to her as the "more evil" choice vs. Trump. Really??? EVIL??? I suggest people look up the meaning of the word before using it to describe an intelligent, capable, experienced woman who has given much of her life in service to this country. I suspect that epithet is very much grounded in misogyny. And anyone who knowingly helped 45 into office instead of continuing to try to progress forward (a GOP Congress notwithstanding) should not be telling anyone else how to "fix" this mess they helped create.

      Pam in PA

  38. This is a great post, and it clarifies some of my thinking. As an informal science educator I find that where the most difficulty is with students (and adults) is teaching empathy, be it with animals/fish/invertebrates or people. Finding common ground with those in the middle of the US, in the giant red fishbowl, is going to require teaching and learning empathy for the "other" and their positions as well as struggles. I saw a quote once that said, "Be kind to each person you meet, for they too are facing great battles." I try to remember this. Thanks Jim for all your hard work on these articles and essays.

  39. I know that the fairly red county I live in has more than a few Republicans who saw the election as a no win situation. Heck, the Republican half of my family were so disgusted enough with Trump's antics that many of then held their noses and voted for Hillary. There must be many more like them out there is Red Territory. These people can be reached. And I think if I were just a bit more prepared, they could be persuaded to flip allegiance on policy grounds.

    To wit, there are some specifics we all can do:
    - The Indivisible movement started out as a guide to employ Te Party tactics to win back elections. There are now local chapters nationwide. https://www.indivisibleguide.com/groups-nav/. The chapter in my Red district is encouraging/sponsoring progressive individuals to get on the ballot. So, for the first time since I moved to the area 20+ years ago, Democrats will be running for local office. It's a start.

    - There need to be more women in office. Period. Rutgers has a program to help women get there. http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/education_training/ready_to_run/overview Not my cup of tea, but gosh, isn't it about time more women ran? C'mon Sisters. Some of us should let Soccer Dads take over the duty for a bit.

  40. "Civilizations that don't advance?

    They die."

    First rule of nature: Adapt, or die.

    1. Well that explains the coelacanth, tuatara & crocodile plus sharks and I gather a lot of insects species e.g. and including dragonflies don't it?

    2. Not every genus is put in the position of adapt or die. You will note that those are all modern species, albeit of ancient lines.

      OTOH, "adapt or die" seems to be the way of civilizations. Jared Diamond has a nice treatise on the subject titled "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed".

  41. Tribalism is a problem. There is a vast yawning chasm of tribalism between the left and the right. But overarching both parties is our national identities. If we can learn to deemphasize our party allegiance, and focus on us all being *Americans*, we might be able to start building bridges over that chasm.

    It makes me think about how a while back, Marvel and DC did a joint comic, that teamed up the villains the Red Skull and the Joker. Things went bad between them when the Joker found out the Skull was a Nazi. "I may be a criminal lunatic, but I'm an AMERICAN criminal lunatic!" Joker said as he prepared to fight.

  42. My brother has spent most of his working life in Belgium. Not long ago they managed for almost two years without a government, they survived because their politicians, and the electorate, expect to have to compromise on stuff they want to do.
    This is a good lesson for politicians and voters to learn. It is facilitated by the way they vote, which is one of the many proportional systems. These voting systems tend to trim off the lunatics at either end of the bell curve. The downside is that you will have some extremists elected, viz Kurt Willders in Holland.
    As you say Jim, we need functional government and to do that, ALL of us need to work together.

    1. Geert Wilders' party just went from 15 to 20 seats in Parliament.

      He lost, though - because he can't form a government until his party gets the absolute majority (impossible in the Netherlands).

      Why ?

      Because the first chance he had to be *part* of the government, he blew it - quite literally: He blew up the Rutte I Cabinet because he couldn't get his pet issue.

  43. Jim, every time you write another essay, I learn something about the world and about myself. This time, it's rooted in these statements:

    "Civilization has to evolve.

    Our country and our society must advance."


    "Well, you start here: You find the people, whatever their politics, who believe civilization is better than the alternative."

    I think that most people who aren't fanatics would agree that the society we have now is better than what we had in this country in the 1800's. And that that was better than what was in England and Europe in the 1500's. Which were infinitely better than the Dark Ages.

    Go back to the previous era they know, the Roman Empire. Civilization. An evolved society, much better than the barbarians who it conquered, and who eventually destroyed it. But to many, it still seems barbaric and fanatic compared to what we have now. So our society is evolved in comparison.

    Keep leapfrogging back, and people can see the pattern - civilizations are better than not, but each one isn't quite as good as the one(s) after it, and none as good as ours.

    I'll even take a stab at defining "good" and "better" here - they are defined by a perception that the society provides safety and prosperity for its people. I think everyone agrees on that, regardless of whether they - no, scratch that - regardless of whether *we* define ourselves as liberal or conservative. We're all still "not barbarians".

    And I think we all see that it is the builders, the creators, the civilizers, who are responsible. The destroyers, the fanatics, the barbarians are the ones who make things worse.

    Maybe it's time to identify ourselves in a new way. It doesn't summarize neatly into a one-word label, but who cares? I'm thinking something like this:

    "I am neither liberal, conservative, nor moderate. I believe in protecting our civilization from those who would tear it down from within rather than see it advance."

  44. Is it time for a third party alternative - one who represents the people in the middle? Those who are tired that nearly all of congress is made up of millionaires, both repub and dem. What about us in the middle? Who even with white-collar jobs and a college education, drive a 10-yr.-old car? Those of us who saved and saved so our kids could go to college and graduate debt-free? Those of us who are sick to death of the two parties representing corporations and banks, and not us - yet don't really align with some of the more extreme views of the Green and Libertarian party. What do you think? Is it time? Or just hope to take back the Democratic Party for ourselves? What is the best way forward?

    1. It isn't, and won't be, time for a third party alternative, because American electoral politics is essentially both binary and (as a consequence) zero-sum.

      Ross Perot's "not Republican" votes became Democratic President Bill Clinton. Ralph Nader's "not Democratic" votes in Florida became President George W. Bush.

      Third parties are emotional responses to practical problems, with easily predictable results.

      The best way forward, frustrating as it will inevitably seem, is one step at a time, beginning where we are.

      Local and state elections, "better than" as a deciding factor, lather, rinse, repeat.

    2. agreed with Alan. As long as the US political system is the way it is 3rd parties will never be 'the' answer. If you want that to change, you have to change the system first. You need something like MMR systems for congress, you need preference voting for individual races, you need stronger parties and stronger party organization. This set of videos illustrates a lot of what is wrong and why you don't go for the parties first.


  45. In a nutshell: compromise with those capable of compromise, and stop wasting time with those who are not.

    And if one thinks a vote for Trump proves, ipso facto, that somebody is incapable of compromise, then he needs to check his own mentality.

    -- EMH

  46. I stated before. There are swing states and swing issues. Party platform determines votes. Not a bunch of tiny things. Only the big ones. Equality for all under the law is non negotiable. Social umbrellas are progress. Seeing them as entitlements to be taken away is not progress. It's simply you have an evolved heart or you're a racist god damned pig fucker. 😅

  47. Jim...I posted your essay on my F/B account. Thank you very much for keeping Hope alive.

    1. Back up. What do you mean?

      You posted this essay in total? Or you posted a link to this blog?

      If you copied and posted the essay, you're in violation of copyright and intellectual property laws. So tell me you didn't do that.

      A link to this post is fine. Reposting the text, especially to Facebook is not.

  48. We need to remessage our positions. Change the code, argue from a conservative point of view. Here's how Universal Healthcare is a conservative position.
    A true conservative would have to agree that currently we saddle our Corporations with being responsible for healthcare. Healthcare is not their core business focus. With all the talk of high corporate Taxes. Our corporations are forced to spend Billions each year collecting and managing healthcare within their organizations. Crippling many of them in a sea of paper and regulations to follow. By removing this burden our corporations will be on a level playing field in the global market and free to pursue vital corporate interests, that will expand their company and increase Jobs in America.

    1. I neglected to sign Gomen, Jim Warren USN(r) Michigan

  49. I am one of the people who asked, and I did so because I was hoping you would write this article. I appreciate your taking the time to think and write about the million small things. I've been doing little else and I need to know that intelligent thoughtful people are doing it too. Because it's on us. We have to figure out how to get people who are scared of trans people because they don't know any to know some trans people without getting the trans people killed in the process. We have to get the police to realize that they unconsciously interpret facial features common to black men, like wide nostrils, as aggression without making it impossible for them to do their jobs. We have to find a way to really talk about the sovereignty of a person over their own body versus the sovereignty of a person (or not a person) existing inside them. We have to find the courage to face our fears and our mistakes honestly and support each other through the pain of doing so. We have to find the strength to withstand each other's anger and despair. Monsters did not vote Trump into office. People did. We did. We all did this together. We all together made the world in which Donald Trump beat, not just Hillary Clinton, but 15 other Republican candidates, some of whom were sane, regardless of how we voted on election day. I hope you write another article about the next small thing within your reach.

  50. Right on! Say does anyone know of a place (on the web/ blog/ etc.) where conservatives and liberals are talking and not just throwing stones? It's a conversation I'd like to join. (Beside the blog right here.)

    1. I don't know of such a place, but if you find one, please post it here and on the Stonekettle FB page - I'd love to join in.

  51. If you want a test pattern for how we, as a nation, got to be where we currently are and where we are headed, look no further than North Carolina. (I'm registered as an independent in NC, but generally vote with the Dems, btw.) NC has been devastated by Republican control, not the least of which is reflected in laws like HB2. I will tell you that turning the tide is an uphill battle. Sure, we managed to vote out McCory, but we are still overrun with rabid conservatives in power. The amount of money that poured into the state during the last two elections was staggering. The Tillis vs Hagan senatorial seat campaign was perhaps the most costly in American history.

    Finding common ground should be easy, but it is not that simple. Two things I have come to realize are this:

    1) I believe a majority of the people who voted for Trump did so because they wanted change. And they basically said they wanted it at any cost. At. Any. Cost. The only problem is that they had no idea that the cost would affect them directly, and negatively. If you believe that things cannot get any worse for you, personally, then it is easy to believe that "change at any cost" can only make things better, or at least not worse for you. Of course, this is not true at all, and many of the people who voted for him are beginning to get a glimpse of the reality.

    2) Terrified people make terrible choices. I see this on both sides of the line. I think most people understand the reason that we ALL need clean water and air, in that we are united. But the fear overtakes common sense when it comes to ways of achieving and/or protecting our natural resources. The fact that so many people have such a poor understanding of not only how government works, but also basic science principles, is demonstrated daily in the ignorant comments I hear every day--even from people that are educated.

    The undermining of public education is certainly part of the problem. My background is varied, but a big part of it is in holistic health with an emphasis on organic chemistry and physiology. Every day I answer questions about human biology and health for people who have no idea how their bodies even work. So it's not much of a stretch to for me to understand how ignorant people are about the environment. Or government. Or anything, really.

    So frequently, in order to get to that common ground, first you have to educate people. On the surface, it seems that should be easy, right? But it is not, because people will believe all manner of crazy crap they have read on the internet, heard on TV, or from heard their friends and family. Usually, it is only after they have been negatively impacted that they are even willing to listen to some of those pesky things known as facts. Like say, if they have been diagnosed with diabetes and now must face the reality of not eating a dozen doughnuts and drinking a six-pack of coke every day. I think the same is true when it comes politics. And there will also be some people who just can't be reached. In the case of some people with diabetes, even losing a toe or a foot is not enough to cause them to alter their behavior. In politics, they will continue to vote against their own well-being.

    Even so, we have to keep chipping away at getting correct and factual information out. In NC, we managed to unseat McCory and get Cooper elected. Of course the assholes in the state house moved to limit his power before he ever even took office. We will continue to apply pressure on our elected officials. We will continue to protest, to run programs to get out the vote, to educate people. But we also need to encourage more people to run at the local and state levels. It's a start, and I know that fixing the problems here, in NC, is not going to happen overnight. The same is true for our nation.

  52. You're framing the argument in terms of Liberals winning back Conservatives. In both political and spiritual terms, I think that's a misstatement.

    I'm still reading through the article, so I dunno if you've noted, but the real focus here are the MODERATES that may still exist among the Republican ranks. The ones who are not beholden to the extremism of Randian Objectivism or hardened Christianist dogma. I'm talking about the ones who are allied with Republicans only out of business/regulatory issues, the ones who irrationally fear a Democratic Party that might overregulate and socialize everything.

    I was surprised during the blowback against Ryan's AHCA bill - an ode to Randian principles of deregulation and making the poor suffer - that there were Moderate factions among the Republicans such as the Tuesday Group who were horrified by the disaster than the more vocal, more public Freedom Caucus...and who reacted to the Freedom Caucus' increasingly evil demands by making themselves clear that they would oppose the bill.

    I hadn't ever head of these guys. I can't recall if I ever came across them - the only moderates I thought still existed were the Mainstreet Republicans - but now that I've heard of them I wonder if the Democrats could pursue stronger outreach with them to fracture the remnant of the House GOP into a bipartisan workplace.

    Ryan is close to doom. He's publicly humiliated by this failure and facing calls to resign. The GOP leadership could well explode if he does and there's no sane candidate for the Speakership to step up.

    Court the Moderates. They're more than likely tired of the extremist BS that has ruined the modern GOP. They'll be better allies than any conservative you'll try to woo.

    1. Our two-party system has created a false political dichotomy, but one necessary for the logistics of democracy in a country with 300,000,000 people. The problem is that we frequently forget exactly how false it really is. There's a huge central block of social liberals but fiscal conservatives that tend to split based on which is more important to them. The depressing thing is that a tabula-raza version of Hillary would have been the perfect candidate to court that center, but the actual Hillary Clinton was so caked with accusations and investigations and mud and poor image and questionable campaign choices that a lot of people just couldn't stomach the idea of voting for her.

  53. Jim, you hit the nail on the head with these two:
    "Maybe they voted for him because they always vote for the Republican no matter what. I know many people just like this. They hate Trump, but they are mortified at the idea anybody would think them anything but a loyal Republican. If the GOP ran Robot Cannibal Hitler's Head in a Pickle Jar, they'd vote for it because they're Republicans. To them the idea of being called a liberal is … disgraceful."

    "Maybe they voted for him because while they don't like him, they purely hated Hillary Clinton"

    This describes a lot of my family, and while I'd like to compromise with them it seems like a lost cause. We can have reasonable discussions over specific issues and come to reasonably shared conclusions because people generally tend to agree with specific liberal policies, but then when it comes type to cast the vote they can't possibly vote Democrat and especially for a Clinton.

    For what it's worth, I do know a lot of moderate Republicans who voted Clinton because they could see the con for what it was. This also describes the many, many conservative media outlets who came out for Clinton (think conservative newspapers, David Frum, and others). Didn't matter - Trump still conned a large enough number of swing voters, many of whom were former Obama voters.

    The one thing we have to fight for is an end to gerrymandering and along with that, getting Democrats into state legislatures. That won't fix the electoral map necessarily, but it will go a long way toward pulling the country toward a more progressive direction and Republicans will have to shift as well, which is ultimately the same result.

  54. I am in agreement with this approach. I believe there are vastly more reasonable people grouped around the center than there are in the fringes. It makes no sense to waste time on the fringes.

    The hard work to be done is this:
    1) Stop seeing in terms of "us and them". Focus on "us". "Together we stand. Divided we fall" can be the rallying call.
    2) (Re)discover what values are shared. To do that, one must know one's own values in a way that can be articulated with as few words as possible. K.I.S.S.
    3) Get away from the electronic devices and get with actual flesh and blood people face to face.
    4) Begin in the center-center and work your way out accumulating allies.

    Don't have the time or gumption for the hard time-consuming work? Well, you get what you deserve; further decline and more suffering.

    But hey, it's your call.

  55. In a recent poll (either PPP or Pew), 3% of Trump voters said they regret their vote. That 3% would have flipped the results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. Yes, Florida! That 3% flip would have exactly reversed the Electoral College results. That is without getting a single one of those 92M Americans who did not vote at all to go to polls. Out of every 5 eligible voters, 2 didn't vote at all. As a group, they outnumber the voters for either Trump or Clinton by almost a third. Even in the reddest of states, getting just one of those non-voters to the polls to vote for Democratic candidates can turn the tide.

    One thing this election cycle is proving to the left- activism matters. We saw it on the right with the Tea Party, but the sheer ridiculousness of seeing little old ladies in tri-corn hats with tea bags hanging from them blinded us to the impact they have had. We laughed at their misspelled and misguided signs, even as they forced the GOP ever further to the right and into intransigence. RINOs! Remember? We aren't laughing any more and it was exactly that kind of activism that helped halt the AHCA. Congress was flooded with calls, emails, tweets and faxes. It worked, at least for now.

    The Democratic Party has its own DINOs, those who are Dems almost by default, after the shift to the right by the GOP. Think blue-dog Dems like Sen. Manchin (D-WV). And denying that Clinton's Goldman-Sachs/Wall Street ties cost her votes is every bit as much magical thinking as anything on the right. When the former UAW family in Michigan now living on assistance or disability hears Hillary got a quarter of million dollars for a single speech that lasted less than an hour, they don't believe she understands them at all. Whether it is true or not is completely irrelevant. It may not have driven them to the insanity that is Trumpism, but it did make many stay home and that was enough.

    I know these things don't represent the solutions, but I hope they help clarify the problem and where our efforts might be most fruitful. The one thing that won't help is for us to sit on our collective asses, send some worthy organization a check and expect them do the work alone. They can't do it without our participation as well as the checks. We each need to figure out what we can do, and then do it, not just for one day/issue, but do it consistently.

    As Jim keeps reminding us, if we want a better country, we MUST be better citizens.

    1. > As Jim keeps reminding us, if we want a better country, we MUST be better citizens.

      Unpossible when 45 and his minions are laying waste every single program that will help those most in need/at-risk.

      But that's kinda the point isn't it =)

  56. Holy shit but those 2016 voting maps make the country look like a desolate wasteland populated by willfully ignorant morons. I mean aside from the major metro areas, there's almost no bastions of rational thought at all. Most of those large blobs of blue are because there's few districts in those lesser-populated states. I mean they're terrifying.

    I wonder what 4 years of 45's fuckery will do to those maps.

    1. And it's the viewpoint that all the red in the middle is a "desolate wasteland populated by willfully ignorant morons...with almost no bastion of rational thought" that will never solve the issues that Jim is talking about.

  57. Well instead of saying how we(democrats) can not work with the conservatives how about a few ways on doing just that. First have our Representatives and Senators make a few deals with Trump. Infrastructure is one area where that sea of red can really get behind. Have the senators advance ideas on getting an infrastructure bill passed and work with the moderate republicans to get it done. The same for tax reform, the business tax code is in serious need of being reformed. Many of these ideas could have been passed under Boehner but he used the Hastert rule to stop anything from being passed(only bills with a majority of republicans supporting it would be put up for a vote). The "freedom caucus" was used as villains as to why nothing was done. But really dysfunction was the desired goal because the oligarchs make their money on a broken system. But now that Ryan looks weak it is time to work together for the country. Show that democrats want to get things done. This might mean accepting trump's Supreme court nominee (even though this hurts and rewards asshats) it would make democrats look like adults. Put democrats from those regions in charge of Democratic leadership. Replace Nancy Pelosi with Tim Ryan from Ohio as the democratic leadership in congress. Put our ideas in the forefront, instead of "free" college say affordable (conservatives really think they own the word free and get pissed if anyone else starts using it). Conservatives do not like free rides but do not mind if things cost less. Abortion....a pit hole but argue that it exists because of freedom, that the government can never have control over what someone does with their body. Guns... support the idea that honest citizens should be able to own firearms but point out that responsibility is part of the deal to own firearms. Shout out that we are against the oligarchs get that populist furor going. the Trump voters were against Wall Street and Big Washington ( even though they elected an billionaire insider). Use Warren and Sanders to hammer that point home. Pick candidates that people really can get behind, Joe Biden would have beat Trump especially in Pennsylvania and Ohio. He should be the front runner for 2020 even if he is 72. There is plenty that we can do. I just listed a few of the things.

    1. I like your strategy and terminology. Will keep it in mind. Thanks!

  58. Brilliant essay. I share it immediately after I read it when you first posted it.
    Have you read Timothy Snyder's book "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the 20th Century"? It's a short read and I felt REALLY REALY good. It probably wouldn't give you many in the way or new ideas or thinking points, but it did for me and i've recommended it to everyone I know. Certainly EVERYONE that feels as this guy does should read it, but then, you'd have to expect them to be open to other ideas and learning from history.

  59. Nic Kristoff at the NYT has written a lot about how, if the left wants to win, it needs to stop demonizing all trump voters. I think you are saying the same.

    We aren't going to get all Trump voters to change, some we don't care about, the idiots with the nazi salutes, white power attitudes, or the ones that took over the wildlife refuge last year. They generally can't be reasoned with. We can, with kindness, a bit of humor and honesty, win over many of the others. It starts with admitting that some things on the left are indeed over the top. Pick your subject. Shovel ready jobs weren't shovel ready. ( no kidding!) EPA may go over board at times. Regulations do hamper SBO's. Then point out that government also helps SBO's. Protecting the environment means stopping the polluters up wind/ up stream, of you so you can have clearer air and cleaner water. Medicare, a very popular government program, helps all kinds of people. It also helps to point out that many on the left despised Hillary but the thought of Trump in the oval office helped many hold their nose and vote for her anyway.

    The left continues to search for villains to blame Hillary's loss on. If they continue to do so they will miss an opportunity to take back at least the house in 2018. Some of the old guard democrats ( Pelosi for one) need to retire, as do many ( most?) of the GOP currently sitting in congress. Its not going to happen if the blame for Hillary continues to be anywhere but on her where it belongs.

    As someone who disliked Hillary I watched in horror as the GOP, for the last few years, became what the left had described it as for many years, almost a self fulfilling prophecy. I left the GOP when Trump won my state but in truth I was out the door anyway as issues like LBGT rights, human rights of refugees, health care, environmental protections and protecting public lands found the GOP, as a party, on the wrong side. I had to hold my nose to vote for her but I can look in the mirror with a clear conscience knowing it was the right vote to make.

    1. Republicans won by demonizing liberals. All liberals, and a good portion of conservatives too. What makes you think it's not possible for the left? I don't think we should, BTW, just don't see that it is impossible to conceive of.

  60. I have a friend who is conservative. I'm progressive. We talk about stuff. He makes me think about sides of the argument I hadn't considered. I make him think about aspects that hadn't occurred to him.

    When we're face to face, it's obvious that it's not about winning. It's about talking.
    Now to apply this to some of my conservative fb friends.

  61. The only way forward is to put aside extremism and blame in any form. Reason will prevail if we talk to each other. The majority did not want Trump. We need to talk to those that didn't vote. We need to talk to those that are disenfranchised. We may get shut down, but if we don't try we are doomed.

  62. The % of Americans who don't bother to vote is????? Its not right wingers,its the people who are victims of the down,No not Libertarians poor people,people who fail to see good and bad. We HAVE to get these people to the polls....Problem solved,,We have the issues on our side.

  63. So, Jim, you said this: "If you want to get shit done, you have win the states. YOU HAVE TO WIN CONGRESS."

    While it is clearly so that getting things done is easier with Congress and the Executive in the same hands, we have just had an ample demonstration that even that might not be enough.

    I would like to suggest an amendment: That "to get shit done" both parties, both sides need to work together. I don't think the way this works is an accident. The folks who wrote document we nominally live by intended to force dialogue and discussion. They didn't envision "parties," but parties happened pretty damn quickly and the election that put Jefferson in the White House saw the very first dicking around with the electoral college.

    Now some real problems have been created by the partisan divide, most notably gerrymandering to make some 80% of congressional districts into safe seats where the only contest is the primary. And it was a straight line from there to the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus. To get shit done we are going to have to break that up and that requires work at the state level because districting is done by the states.

    So we do need to collaborate with conservatives and they need to collaborate with us. The hard core we are just going to have to give up on. On the right they are clearly willing to sabotage the agendas of their own party. On the left they aren't quite so disciplined but a full on filibuster of Gorsuch will the be the absolutely wrong thing to do. The man is a competent jurist and a conservative replacing a conservative. Yes, I'm pissed that Obama's nominee wasn't even give a hearing, but a filibuster will cause the Republicans to invoke "the nuclear option" and every vote will be a simple majority. Can you say 52 to 48? Put him in the seat--strange things happen with SCOTUS nominees. Consider Breyer. Then we make sure Ruth takes her vitamins.

    I think putting Gorsuch in could be an olive branch, but then I'm kind of a pollyanna.

  64. The essay was great and I'll share it out. There is a lot to discuss and a lot to consider in those millions of ways to bring about change. What made me do a double-take was the quote at the end.

    "But the greatest menace to our civilization today is the conflict between giant organized systems of self-righteousness—each system only too delighted to find that the other is wicked—each only too glad that the sins give it the pretext for still deeper hatred and animosity."
    - Herbert Butterfield, Christianity, Diplomacy and War

    It sounds current, relevant, like it was written yesterday. But I checked, the book was published in 1953.

    We got past some of that before. Or did we? If so, how? I'd rather learn from history if possible.

  65. I’ve been reading your essays for years and on the whole I’ve found them to be informative and well written, food for thought. With regard to this one, however, I call bullshit.

    You of all people should know that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of studies pertaining to confirmation bias. Once an individual has formed an opinion it is virtually impossible to change their mind no matter how much contrary evidence you provide. Facts don’t matter. Evidence doesn’t matter. Nothing that is contrary to their existing position matters. These people are unreachable.

    Once you eliminate the Nazis, the KKK, the evangelicals, the right to lifers, the gun nuts, and the hard right, what the hell is left to compromise with? People who have made up their minds and can’t be reached due to conformation bias? A waste of time.

    Your time is better spent getting one non-voter to the voting booth

    1. Fair enough.

      However, my own mother is a staunch conservative. She lived in rural Western Michigan in a small farming town that very likely has ZERO liberals. There isn't a Democrat for miles in any direction. She's 85. She's been voting Republican her entire life, 68 years of voting republican. She and my now deceased dad would be horrified to be called liberals. They grew up in the 30s and 40s. Liberals are commies, socialists, unAmerican.

      And yet she voted for Hillary Clinton.

      Because Donald Trump disgusted her. Because what's happened to the GOP disgusts her.

      Tell me again how you can't reach these people. Go on, I love that story.

    2. Jim, what in particular disgusted her?

    3. Good for your mom. It sounds like she is an independent thinker and didn’t need anyone else to convince her. She seems to have convinced herself after looking at the facts.

      Again, good for her.

      Now, what do you do about the rest who haven’t convinced themselves after looking at the facts and continue to suffer from confirmation bias?

      BTW, I’m not hiding behind anonymous. Just don’t use the options you provide.

      Chuck Weaver

    4. There's no point in continuing this conversation. You either didn't actually read what I wrote or you wouldn't have to ask the question OR you did read what I wrote but you're deliberately attempting to argue a point I specifically didn't make. Either way, I'm not going to engage.

      I think we're done here.

    5. Confirmation bias is a factor, but not everyone is an unthinking autobot. I too had a lifelong Republican family member hold her nose and vote for Hillary. She's a social and fiscal conservative, but no so conservative that she believes people should suffer for things beyond their control.

      My own father, near the end of his life in 2004 (he died in 2006 at age 94) was a lifelong Republican. He voted for Kerry in that presidential election, which shocked the heck out of me--but Dad was disgusted with Bush's incompetence.

      Now, I do have some family members who are rabid conservative zombies. I won't waste my time with them. But the others exist, and need to be won over.

  66. I think a lot depends on just what percentage of conservatives these theoretical persuadable ones are. The ones I know are learning from their churches that Syrian refugees are Assyrian invaders who still think there's something "fishy" about Obama's birth certificate and/or religion. I wish Wright were right about this one -- the world's a much better place if he is -- but he seems to miss the point that the purposeful embrace of lies did not begin with Trump. It began with Nixon, with secret wars in VietNam and Central America. It flourished as it built its own echo chamber so that no one could hear serious disputes about the trail of bodies the Clintons left behind, so that the whispers that the Confederates rebelled over states' rights rather than slavery could get echoed and amplified without pushback, so that every scientist and researcher and knowledgeable person in the world could be set aside into a category of "enemies of America," where neither global warming nor keynesian economics are real. As I've said many times before, Trump is a symptom, not an a priori cause of the right's dysfunction. He personifies and exploits it best, but he's president now because the conservatives have been aiming at him for years. Those who've followed my facebook page in recent years have seen me describe Trump in virtually everything but name. In the end, Wright's notion is sunk by the idea that Trump is like The Foundation trilogy's Mule, a mutant who bucks the system and sends everything into disarray with his unexpectedness, but we've watched the right stampede its way toward a Trump-esque figure harder and harder with each passing year. Trump was an inevitability from the right, based on the ideology and rhetoric that the right has been circle-feeding itself like some political human centipede for the past 40 years. It isn't just Sean Hannity and Alex Jones and Donald Trump who believe ideology and rhetoric are more important than facts. It's you're average, rank-and-file conservative. I don't believe Trump has enough persuadables under his banner to fill a thimble.

  67. It seems to me that in order to win those middle states (Texas, Kansas Oklahoma, Utah...) the Democratic Party would have to become something that isn't the Democratic Party. And they'd lose California and New York to whatever took the Democratic Party's place on the left.
    I sincerely doubt that it's possible to be the party of Kansas and New York.
    But the party of Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York? Absolutely.
    And that's what we need to focus on. We must recapture Pennsylvania and Florida while not also losing ground in our strongholds to independent candidates who attack the Democratic Party from the left. As we've seen that sort of leftist indie candidacy can really hurt us.
    But no, we can't fund enough common ground with the R voters in Utah or Kansas to bring those states Senators or Electoral College electors to our side. It's not possible. And fortunately it's not necessary.
    States like Pennsylvania, Florida, maybe eventually Texas if we can get the Hispanic vote turning out regularly.
    But not Utah. Not ever. Or many of those other states where our constitution enshrined the importance of acreage over citizens.

    1. I've gotta give Utah some credit. Yeah, that state went hard for Trump, but a lot of voters there went for Evan McMullin--almost the same number that went for Hillary in that state: http://www.npr.org/2016/11/08/501069078/utah-2016-presidential-and-state-election-results

      To this day, McMullin, whom I'd call a principled conservative independent, speaks out vocally against Trump's policies, especially those tied to foreign policy, civil liberties, and--well, basic human decency.

      If we progressives can unite with McMullin's supporters and the Never Trumpers around these values and the need for human decency in our leaders, well damn, "we the people" can be a force to be reckoned with.

  68. Bravo Zulu on another excellent work, Jim. As usual. And while I agree with a majority of it, here's the part that I have a personal issue with; "liberals and the media (both of whom they regard as the enemy)"
    Now, you and I and other here have faced the enemy, been there and seen the elephant, etc. And it's been my experience that those who label you as their "Enemy" ain't likely to change their opinion OR their attempts to kill you because you both manage to agree the color of the sky at that moment.
    And worse, since these GOP....persons (See? I'm trying to be nice!)...are actively (And this is not hyperbole) trying to kill me and other like me, how can I even pretend to seek parity with them?

  69. Okay, Jim. I'm perfectly willing to recognize that these folks are scared. I'm ready to pat them on the back and give them some comfort for their struggles.
    Then what?
    The elephant in the room, which I'm sure you'll address, is what happens after we recognize their fear. Because the next step is to ask them how we resolve it. Then comes the word salad featuring immigrants taking jobs, Clinton victims buried in the Arkansas swamps, Planned Parenthood selling baby parts, chemtrails, Obama in my microwave, big gay agenda, Muslim boogeyman... a veritable cornucopia of conspiracy theories and bullshit. Which we'll be obliged to call what it is, which starts the whole cycle of Us vs. Them again.
    There's also the little problem of getting them to walk a mile in our shoes, which I assume is the point- meeting in the middle. But the GOP side has shown little ability to empathize unless it's them that's directly getting screwed. Nancy Reagan's turnabout on stem cell research comes to mind, and the same story plays out over and over.
    In the end, they want their (irrational) fears to be respected. Those fears cause them discomfort. Well and good. But the consequences of their irrational fears are actual death and destruction for the targets of their fears- brown-skinned people getting shot in bars, mosques getting firebombed, transgender folks getting beaten up, the sick and poor getting a death sentence on healthcare, families torn apart by draconian immigration laws.
    If we recognize their fear, will they recognize our death and destruction?
    I wouldn't bet on it.
    So, we being good liberals, once again extend the hand of understanding. How many times do we need to get bitten before we give up?

  70. I enjoyed reading and digesting your point of view, as always. And while I want to buy into your plan, I cannot see investing more time and energy. Jim, I live in a part of Ohio that has, in my lifetime, never had a democratic congressman, state rep or state senator or county commissioner. But somehow, its only the democrats who have ruined this country. These folks are the ones who vote for the (R) regardless of the quality of the candidate. Folks who continually vote against their own economic self interest, reject science, reject anything that does not fit the world view. When I ask my neighbors about why Trump it is always the same, He is NOT a democrat. Then ask what they hate about the democrats and out comes the tired canards that they only care about minorities and are godless, or want to take the guns, the whole litany of the same complaints. Last year, Boehner resigned and his replacement won the election the day he won the primary. The new guy promptly joined the freedom caucus. Fight on? No thank you. I am tired of fighting stupidity, stupidity has won and shows no sign of getting an education (Hello Betsy DeVos). Then, toss in the gerrymandered districts, and from where i sit, its pointless. Die? IMHO our representative democracy is already terminal, fractured beyond repair, if the mortal blow was not the Citizens United decision that will not be overturned in my lifetime, it was the election of a completely selfish sociopath. As you point out, voters know its all a lie and they dont care, they want the anarchy. They will not be satisfied until the place has burned to the ground. We do not want to wait to watch our own version of Nero burning Rome. Accordingly, we are now actively job hunting overseas and up north. Four generations ago, my ancestor came here seeking a better life than was available in Europe. Now we understand how he came to that decision, to say goodbye to all you have known, simply for the chance at a better life in a foreign land. Its very understandable to us today.

  71. We have one point of common ground--all but 17% of the US population is against health care legislation that stiffs the poor, sick, and old.

    It's a start.

  72. I just finished the Star article you link to above. I am now convinced we are in the final throes of the death of the American experiment in democracy. No sense calling the EMT's, call the coroner. I have said to my children, all of them under the age of 30, their future in this country will not be one where science and education are valued. As they are all working in those fields, I have advised them to seek a future in a country that does value those two ideals over the ideals of guns and religion. Compromise has become a dirty word here, go where its acceptable.

  73. "Because there is no single big answer.

    "There are just a million small ones."

    I'll repeat one small answer that you yourself came up with, and I think it's freaking brilliant.


    Now if we can rally a fair number of Republicans and Democrats (at both the state and national level) around making the NRA rules the law, I'd be so down with this as a solution to our gun crisis.

    How's that for a start?

  74. I'll generally agree with you though I am a small Gov guy so the Dem's don't have much to offer me.
    I'll only offer up that the main issue is that many who the Dems should be reaching out to is that those people generally "Don't Care" about what is going on in the Urban Enclaves until they are "Made to Care". If the Democrat party wasn't so focused on National Level Solutions for Local issues then they'd be able to make inroads. But subjecting family owned restaurants to a nation wide "two minutes of hate" over willingness to serve pizza at a wedding (as an example) is going to turn off your avenues into those red states that make of the middle of the country.

    The Republicans have been focused on the State level for the last couple of decades and it seems to have paid off rather than resulting in them being reduced to a regional party as some were crowing just 8 years ago.

    What do you think about the Article Five Convention movement that is going on? You talked about Amending the Constitution but there is a possibility that the R focus on a State Level ground game may be paying off with a lot of Federal functions and powers being returned to the state level.

  75. Sorry, I did not read through all the previous comments, so surely someone has saied it better before : Summarising, you plead for turning to those conservatives and / or republicans who are still interested in communication with the other part of the electorate, are reasonable and open to other opinions. Come to an understanding, form a compromise, change politics.
    Sadly such people are not to be found in the actual administration.

    You use at some points the word "we" - I am a bit uneasy with such a "we" - could you either tell me please, who "we" are, or where I can read about this "group" in your essays ?

    I find it very interesting that you end with "civilisation" (what, if I get it right, equals the European, especially German Kulturbegriff).
    Isn't it the super-advisor Bannon - the man who calls your president "a tool" "we" "use" - the super-advisor, I say, who resurrected the stinking cadaver of the "super fascist" (his own definition) Evola - a fact that should finish him, at least in a serious, intellectual surrounding, but makes him one of the most influential persons in the current administration - isn't it saied Mr Bannon who spoke about "clash of civilisation", of the need for a "tabula rasa", who phantasises about the end of "the" "state" as we know it ?

    BTW *sarcasm on* you sound like one of those wonky European liberal intellectualists, daht's not American ! *sarcasm off*

    You need to find those who are willing and able to discuss things in a civilised way in that red sea - good luck : The digital public in the form of "social" "media" is already manipulated to some extent, so-called "echo-chambers" do exist and are usable - didn't these Oxbridge-Foundation-blokes brag about that only some weeks ago ?
    BTW when I read in European media about the Mid-West (the red sea) I mainly read about rust, un-employment, drugs (H is cheap again - who'd thought ?!), guns & hate crimes, and poisoned environment.
    The answer of your "Leader of the Movement" is to go back to coal mining - big companies will do all the good. All along the tune : Heck it went bonk - let's do it again !

    From my outlandish point of view it is a sociological problem. I think you have not "one" society in the US, you have a lot of societies there. and no unifying, connecting idea that keeps it all together. This "american dream"-thing finally became a bit stale, didn't it ?
    "State" is something not only conservatives shudder about - while people complain about crumbling bridges and shitty education. Two of the main fields of a state's activity, of a state's responsibility towards its citizens and their goddamn offspring : Infrastructure and "culture".
    But to me it seems that the average American in a kind of reflex hits at anything that only slightly resembles something called "state" / Staat, without any reflection.
    Fine, you have the life expectancy of a Third-World-Cuntry in some of those "red" "states", possibly the commies' fault.

  76. Just a note to those choosing Anonymous but would rather use your name, here's how I do it: choose Name/URL and just put your name, no URL required.

    A lot of really well-written comments here. I especially like the responses to John White.

  77. Sorry - this is part two of my dribble. I posted it before and received an error from google / blogger, don't know if what came through. Please delete what needs to be deleted, thank you.

    I already saied it, and I say it again, a nice little war is unifying. "We could not know" is an excuse that did not work in Germany 1945, it will not work in the USoA in 2017/18.

    You have the means - there is stupidifying tv all over the cuntry - if nothing works, this shit is at it !
    You should have access to the web everywhere - this is not Siberia, is it ?
    There is still free radio, just before your Leader will kill it.
    Don't know if something like independent newspapers still exist.
    Anyway, there are means to form "a public", to discuss, to form an opinion - work the democratic process in full.
    Now you only need da peopell to take part in it.

    I doubt they will. Because there is no democratic tradition - at least nothing that reaches out over the village boundaries.

    Where are the blue areas ? At the coasts, mainly. What is the difference to the read areas - sociological, economical, educational, religiously - ? I don't know, I'm not even an American.
    The Leader and his bagage will not go away. The system as is, leaves only one way open, that is the other party. The system as is, does not work bottom-up, but head-down. So in the short run it is only elitist democratist back-room mongering, no grass-roots change. Start it now, and in thirty years you'll see change. "Bottom-up" will only end your nice "union". Do not underestimate the centrifugal forces, something not even the dying SU could manage.

    BTW if there will be a Free State of Texas, I'm in.
    Sorry for the long bla. Hope I do not come over as too confused.

  78. There are a lot of frustrated people who want to help but are unsure what they can do or where to go. I just came across an interesting article in Mother Jones regarding the coalitions that
    Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks (TYT) is working on and with.


    Uygur and colleagues launched Justice Democrats, a political action committee that aims to recruit and fund primary challengers under an anti-corporate, progressive banner. They joined forces with Brand New Congress, people from the Bernie Sanders campaign. They want to run more than 400 progressive House and Senate candidates in 2018.

    Uygur is preparing to deploy his show—which appears on YouTube and the Young Turks website—as a battering ram against Democrats who don't fall in line. He says he will offer airtime and fundraising help for progressive challengers whose lack of success has been partly due to mainstream media outlets depriving challengers.

    Uygur is gearing up to do battle in Democratic primaries, he's mounting a major expansion at TYT which has an advocacy that's atypical for a news outlet.

    Uygur and Kulinski say they intend to use their shows and their social-media accounts to provide a platform and raise money for the candidates they endorse.

    In 2011, Uygar launched Wolf PAC, a group that aims to end corporate political influence by forcing a new constitutional convention of the states. The convention would then, in theory, pass a "Free and Fair Elections Amendment" limiting corporate donations. Another group, We Will Replace You, was launched in February with a similar intent.

    Sanders' former director of digital organizing wants to organise around the decentralized model of the Vermont senator's presidential campaign on behalf of other long-shot challengers. "We want to make it clear to Democrats that they need to pick which side they're on," she said. "They can either pick the side of Donald Trump and his Wall Street cronies, or they can pick the side of the people who are on the streets." We're going after the core of the party"

    Johnny Hogue

  79. http://www.iflscience.com/environment/science-knowledge-has-almost-no-effect-on-republican-beliefs-according-to-survey/

  80. Find and treasure those who are reasonable. Unite, form strong bonds through interaction and reason where reason is possible. Listen to one another. Ask honest questions of one another. Don't give up. As stated, whether we agree with the details or not, our civilization is at stake. This historic monument to Human achievement, this fragile, delicate balancing act of diverse strivings and convictions is in real danger. Each of us is responsible for it's success or demise

  81. Kevin Drum, over at Mother Jones, comments that Trump is still very popular with Republicans. No idea how to pry these people loose from him.


  82. A key to finding common ground requires finding something simple and neutral that the "other side" has or does in common with you. It may require a deep breath, some good simple acting and a bit of a white lie to make that first connection. As hard as it may seem to muster, it may start out as a sincere sounding "excuse me sir" or "excuse me mam" followed by a question or observation regarding something simple and harmless that allows that entry connection.
    A few examples of engaging "the other side":
    Maybe you crochet or knit and you see they have something made in that fashion. You could say "excuse me Mam, did you crochet that hat?" If they answer yes, compliment them on it or ask how they did a particular pattern.
    Maybe you see a guy with a Labrador Retriever in the back of his rig and you say "that sure is a fine looking Lab you have there".
    Those are examples of observations being used, it can be anything as to what it is.
    The method of question requires some humbleness, actual or fiend lack of knowledge to engage the conversation. A couple of examples:
    "Excuse me Mam, how did you get your garden to be so healthy? Mine is a mess"
    Or maybe "Excuse me Sir, I was wondering what brand of work boots you are wearing? I'm trying to find a decent work boot for my Son and really don't know where to start."
    Now these might sound hokey or stereotypical, but hopefully you get the drift.
    Be nice, be simple, be complimentary, ask for an opinion, ask for input. I won't kill you to do this. It might be as brief as the "Nice Labrador" and you move on or you stop and end up talking for a hell of long time about Labs. Just go with the flow.
    However brief or long the encounter or subject, end it with "Thanks!" and walk away.
    Take the high road for once, kill 'em with kindness, let your guard down, listen and just maybe that connection will be made, or just the start of one. We gotta start realizing we are all in this together and yes, things might be a bit lopsided for awhile. Just try it and keep at it, we have more in common with each other in this country than we think.

  83. I agree wholeheartedly with the last part of your post, about the need for large-scale change, but as you mention the first step towards this is getting elected, and I can see a better way than reaching out to people who voted for Trump.

    Much of the reason Trump won was that he managed to get people (mostly deeply horrible people from my PoV) to vote who normally didn't - as well as getting most of the people who normally vote Republican to also vote for him. We can do exactly the same thing.

    People who aren't white (quite sensibly) loathe Trump, and many red states with large populations and lots of House Reps and Electoral College votes have large non-white populations - Florida, Georgia, and Texas being three especially obvious examples, but people of color also on average are less likely to vote, but this needn't always be the case.

    It's now exceptionally clear that the DNC's top down approach to elections is a terrible idea, especially since it's been known for more than a decade that phone calls are an utterly useless method of getting out the vote. Instead, in person, door to door work is what succeeds. I know several groups that are starting to do exactly this in red states, and are specifically working in neighborhoods with high non-white populations. I heartily support it, both because I think it has a high chance of success and also because it doesn't require reframing our message for people willing to vote for Donald Trump.

  84. My teabagger congressman may be turning rational. He voted against making online activity available for sale.

  85. Q:"How do we compromise with those who voted for Trump?

    Not just those who voted for Trump, but especially if those conservatives don’t honestly care that he’s engaged in deliberate falsehoods?

    Particularly if they themselves know President Trump’s statements to be false?

    How do we compromise with people like that?"

    A: "We don't because those types of people are probably fanatics. And fanatics can't be compromised with, they are the ENEMY!"

    Q: "Ok then, so how do we compromise with people who voted for Trump who aren't those fanatics?"

    A: "We MUST compromise with them! We absolutely HAVE to! It's essential for government! For getting shit done! For Civilization!"


  86. I am an old Political Hand from Alaska. I go so far back that I worked for Mike Gravel and was heavily involved in Willy and Gene's Campaigns. And that means nothing to folks from the Lower 48 but, it does mean that I have a lot of experience with politics of the past and watched the evolution of the animal to today's maladaptive political parties.

    Driving a car from your home to work/play/grocery store involves millions of small compromises every inch of the way. Organizing and feeding two people one meal involves multiple compromises. The Fact is Compromise is not difficult nor is it strange. But...

    Compromise in our political climate today is nearly impossible because the multiple sides do not even see the same world. Health Care: One side sees the need for single payer universal health care (Pre-Womb to Tomb) and the other side sees it as a business problem requiring guaranteed profits with no costs to each individual not receiving direct care. For the Profit based view point each cog in the care system is a profit center and these profits must be paid. The other side sees health care as a common good provided by a sane social order. I am unable to see a unifying value here. This dualistic world view does not have an agreed upon National Value Statement. These principles are valid throughout our social/political order. I am in my mid 70s and for the first time in my life I have no idea of how to establish a common ground with my fellow Americans.

  87. In February, 2016, I was in a meeting with one of my friends, a (5 years older than me) successful lower manager of an extremely successful US company.

    I always assumed he was a Republican, but I never bothered him with it. However, it was the week of the primaries in New Hampshire, where he lived. Being interested in the US elections (even at that stage) I asked him whether he could vote being absent from his state.

    His answer ?

    "I could vote by absentee ballot, but I didn't bother - none of the Republican candidates are reasonable."

    So there must still be reasonable Republicans (and Independents) that we can talk and ... reason with.

  88. "You find the people, whatever their politics, who believe civilization is better than the alternative."

    That's a terrific idea. Just one little problem...what if the people you're trying to compromise with would rather wreck the joint rather than accept a "civilization" that's not on their terms.

    There was this guy. Kind of a liberalish dude, really a mainstream corporate-capitalist sort of politician but in the liberal tradition that believes that governing is to "get things done" for the majority of the citizens. Sorta wonky. Hawaiian dude, funny name, can't quite remember it. But he was president back in the day. Remember him?

    Remember how he tried to "compromise" with these people? Offered them all sorts of private profits, all sorts of corporate goodies, tried to defer to their "sensibilities" about things like religion and sex and gender and all that guff?
    And remember how they "compromised" with him?

    Yeah. Me, too.

    Tell me, Jim; how the flippin' fuck do you "compromise" with people - and I'm talking your bog-standard Republicans, your soccer moms and Home Depot dads, not the shoutycrackers and the Stormfront bros - who think and thought that Barak Obama was a Kenyan commie out to destroy their freedoms? Who thought that living through eight years of having to press "1" for English and not being able to use the word "faggot" at PTA meetings was sheer tyrannical hell?

    I'm serious. This is getting ridiculous. You keep on and on about "compromise" as if the Left hasn't. Even. Tried. While that's about all the left HAS done. Given ground on abortion. Given ground on equal rights. Given ground on health care.
    Sweet Christ, these wingnuts have gotten damn near everything they've whined about...but did that motivate them to moderate their insistence that the queers hide back in the closet and stop getting all "married" and the blacks stop getting pissed off about being shot by cops and the wogs be fine with getting carpet-bombed and tortured and the uppity wimmen shut up and lie there and plutocrats get the tax cuts they need to better buy and sell government?


    And much as I hate to be a "die, die!" libtard, but equal justice and equitable democracy and other details like clean air and water aren't really negotiable. They're starting points; from there I'm fine with arguing the details of potty time with people who are terrified that they will be assaulted in the ladies' can by a Cambodian ladyman in a Balenciaga cocktail frock.

    I think you've got the fundamental relationship wrong. It's the fundies and wingnuts that are doing the "die, die!" thing here. They're fine with destroying the U.S. of the New Deal if they can't get white supremacy and plutocracy and corporate oligarchy. They'd rather fight liberalism to the death than compromise with it; their insane furor over the ACA and the other ridiculously moderate liberal institutions of 2017 America - their "fears", as you label them - pretty much gives them away. To them we're "babykillers" and "dhimmicrats" and "libtards". They don't want to compromise with us. They want to destroy us. That's not MY words, its theirs.

    So sorry to spoil the fun. But you're preaching to the wrong choir. You need to tell the Right all this "compromise" stuff. I'll be here with the popcorn to see how far you get.


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