Political (Dis)Engagement

Here’s a piece I’m thinking about today, in the New York Times: The Real Divide in America Is Between Political Junkies and Everyone Else.

The opening grafs from the article:

The common view of American politics today is of a clamorous divide between Democrats and Republicans, an unyielding, inevitable clash of harsh partisan polarization.

But that focus obscures another, enormous gulf — the gap between those who follow politics closely and those who don’t. Call it the “attention divide.”

What we found is that most Americans — upward of 80 percent to 85 percent — follow politics casually or not at all. Just 15 percent to 20 percent follow it closely (the people we call “deeply involved”): the group of people who monitor everything from covfefe to the politics of “Cuties.”

What the article describes is… fairly accurate in my experience? My own circle of friends is pretty political in general — either being political is part of their identity, or their identity is political, or both — but outside of my circle of friends are family, acquaintances and neighbors who largely don’t engage with politics with the same attentiveness or fervor. When you are a politically-oriented person, it’s easy to forget that many if most people don’t engage with politics with the same intensity.

I’ll be the first to note that this doesn’t make sense to me — I am of the opinion that politics is only slightly less important than breathing — but then again I was and am a professional opinion-haver. I think you all will recall that I was a newspaper columnist back in the day, and in that column I was writing about current events, including politics. And of course for the last twenty-two years I’ve been writing about it here and elsewhere, too. I have to acknowledge that both professionally and personally, it’s possible I’m an outlier.

And you might be, too! If you are a politically-oriented person, it’s not really that much of a surprise that your immediate circle of friends might be politically-oriented as well. It’s not that much of a surprise because whatever one’s enthusiasms, it makes sense that the people you like spending time with might have similar enthusiasms. Did you know: I write science fiction novels? Do you know what it is that quite a lot of my friends and acquaintances read (and write)? Science fiction novels! And yet, immediately outside of that circle of friends, the number of people who read and write science fiction novels drops off precipitately, into the realm of people who read science fiction novels seldom, or, indeed, at all.

Politics is more important than science fiction, though, you might say, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. But just because something is important doesn’t mean people give it importance. Cishet white folks most of all can make that choice, but I don’t think it’s something that only cishet white people do; I know friends of various marginalized communities who have expressed frustration at others in those communities who are not as politically engaged. Some people don’t care, or think it’s important, or, at the very least, don’t think it’s something they need to think about all the time.

Does this mean that they won’t be responsible voters every couple of years? I think the knee-jerk reaction of everyone who prioritizes politics is to say that they won’t be responsible voters — this is where cranky people say things like “I would rather they don’t vote at all!” — but I think that’s uncharitable. I think it’s possible for someone who doesn’t live and breathe politics to take some time prior to voting to catch up on the big stuff and vote responsibly. And if they don’t… well, as I said in a previous entry, I don’t think political parties really see that as much of a problem. They’re just as happy with someone who will go in and reflexively vote a straight line party ticket as they are with someone who sweats their choices in every race, and maybe even more so, since the person who is really thinking about it might make a non-party-line vote.

I should be clear that how one votes matters, and once again, I think voting for Trump this year is an intrinsically bigoted and dangerous act, not to be excused by “well, I’m not really that political.” One can act politically even when one doesn’t engage with the field of politics. But I do think that those of us who live and breathe politics do well to remember that it’s not an all-encompassing thing for a whole lot of people. They’re not ignorant, or dimwitted, or apathetic. They have a different set of priorities regarding how they want to apportion their brain cycles. One can agree or disagree with those choices, but it doesn’t change the fact those choices are being made.

— JS

103 Comments on “Political (Dis)Engagement”

  1. I don’t think this should surprise anyone. We have had, since the Reagan administration, a continuous stream of messaging that says “Government is dumb and can’t do anything right, so why bother. They’re all a bunch of crooks anyway.” We are at a point now where we see that reflected in the “Both sides are bad! (so vote Republican)” arguments from the same non-engaged people. Why bother being involved if BSAB, right?

    But deeper than that I think it is because how you politic is a direct reflection of your values. Politics is the values of a society written into policy. In America, there are a whole lot of shitty people out there that can otherwise pass as “nice” to those not involved with them. You wrote an essay on that topic not all that long ago.

    You are how you vote. Being politically engaged forces people to deal with their actual values, and lots of people aren’t comfortable with that, because, well, they aren’t “nice” at all.

  2. It is always worth remining us political junkies of this distinction. On the other hand, I am one of those who believes that everything is politics — we just don’t think in those terms. For instance, having military flyovers at sporting events is politics. Singing the national anthem is as much politics as not singing it. Not voting is politics. Trevor Noah was very sharp on this point in an event at the University of Michigan earlier this week (https://ums.org/performance/trevor-noah/ — you had to register, for free, for the live broadcast, not sure if they will be making it generally available later). People who say that they aren’t political in fact are being political — it is their political position to be passive subjects rather than political actors, but that is a politics.

  3. As someone who is very political (hell, I held office for 9 years; 1 year appointment, 2 four-year elected terms), all of this to the nth degree. Most people don’t care until politics intersects with their lives, and then they care deeply. As we used to joke about in council, as long as we don’t embezzle all the funds the majority of people don’t really care what we do, but let the snow plows be a half-hour late and, oh boy, will you hear about it. Is not caring about politics a political statement? In an existential sense, yes. And it’s easier to ignore politics until you rub against it (if you’re in the majority, you won’t often rub against it). But in truth, people just want to go about their lives (yes, in itself it is a political stance, you’re a smart kid, sit down). It’s only when they have to care that they get involved. Which is why change is slow to happen.

  4. I am a recovering politics junkie and have to disengage. I needed to learn how to do that at one point because…well…corporate spouse during the Bush era and it didn’t get much better under Clinton. Now I’m bitter because, well, everyone is finally waking up to what I was yelling about in the 90s about the rise of evangelical politics (and I remember a LOT of dismissive comments–I was a Democratic party organizer who supported Brown in 1992 and was blown off for that very reason).

    I called this shit way back when, but no one wanted to listen. Arrgh, going toward that bitter part again…sigh. Being a Cassandra is not fun, and when I look at my notes for my first series, I called a lot of what is happening now. Wish I could find my very first set of notes where I project out the alternate scenarios post-1992. I can find the updated notes from 2007 but not the first set. They’re somewhere around. I just don’t know where.

    As for other people, thing is, I know people who are genuinely nice. They’d give you the shirt off of their back and they are first to answer the call for help within the community. But their politics suck. There’s a huge disconnect between how they vote and how they act. Part of that is a strict division in their own minds between politics and real life. They see politics as acting upon them, not them as part of politics. And until political junkies understand that division, and that there are people out there who genuinely believe that politics is not personal, they’re just not going to get it.

  5. I think my question is this
    I can understand people being not overly interested in politics (or burned out or having issues with the process) None of those is ‘wrong’ in any real sense.

    The results of the past decade seem (to me at least) to show there is a danger in that however (witness trump being elected)

    Is there a way (or ways) for those who are interested in politics to communicate their concerns with those who are not in a meaningful (and not negative) way?

  6. One precept that I hold near and dear is that much of life is described by a bell shaped curve. I have come to the conclusion that plus or minus one standard deviation encompasses people who are not political junkies (second standard deviation) or activists (third standard deviation). The non-political could be the norm and we could be the exception.

    Either they are not, by nature, inclined to being political or have a multitude of other priorities that precludes being political (family and work oriented) or perhaps simply shut it out to preserve their sanity – as everything one does or does not do can be defined as a political act by some.

    I tend to agree with Steve above that most people don’t care on any given day (excepting Labor Day through the first Tuesday in November in even years) unless it interdicts with their otherwise not so serene lives.

  7. It’s broader, I think, than the messaging that “government is dumb”. Because every time something bad happens, and the government provides help, people are mostly thankful for the assistance.

    Under a reasonably well-functioning democratic system voters, who hold the ultimate power, don’t need to stay closely engaged with how their government operates and can spend more time pursuing their personal interests. Which is what individual liberty is all about. Consequently, government mostly gets managed on an exception basis: we notice when things go “wrong” but generally miss or ignore what goes “right”.

    That breaks down when crises hit. But it takes time for the body politic to re-engage.

    Of course, given the growing number of crises we’re likely going to face over the next couple of decades it would be a good idea for the average person to shift more of their mind-share over to matters of public policy/governance. Because, if nothing else, their own self-interests will likely be harmed by those who use crises to advance their own interests.

  8. If the distinction is between someone who does vote and someone who doesn’t, I absolutely see the value of being engaged. But just about knowing what “covfefe” means (or, you know, not knowing what it means), what’s the overwhelming value of being engaged, again?

  9. Having the spoons to be actively engaged in politics is a privilege. For many people, taking care of the basics uses up all their spoons and then some. I have the privilege to have the time and resources to be politically engaged. I share what I learn with friends and family who do not have this luxury. In the US, we have enacted and enabled a system where those who have the most to lose from political decisions also have the fewest resources to learn, engage, and act. If you’re working two jobs and a side hustle while trying to care for children or aging family members, when is there time to dig deep into political issues? If you must count every penny to make sure the lights stay on, where’s the money for a newspaper subscription, or even a bus ticket to the library to read newspapers and use free internet access?

  10. I have been reading an Al Jazeera series on voters in America and who they will vote for. What amazes me is that the ones who seem politically involved as amazingly…ignorant. Both sides! So, then, maybe the real problem isn’t lack of engagement, but lack of education

  11. [If there are textual problems with this, bear in mind it was written behind a giant yellow cat butt.]

    CNN had an African American woman on because she embarrassed Trump during a town hall. They were shocked that she also did not support Biden and that she said that voting for Obama had done nothing meaningful to change her life. These are the “politically disengaged” people you should probably concern yourself with.

    They are disengaged because the Democrats don’t usually do all that much. In 2009-2010 the Democrats had FIFTY NINE Senators and it was conservative Democrats who blocked most of Obama’s modestly progressive proposals. Being cautious really paid off for those folks when most were voted out in the next midterm.

    But here in 2020 Obama has been making the rounds saying “progressive” voters are to blame for his failures because they did not show up. Obama presented progressive policies in 2008; people showed up. Obama and his allies showed what they were willing to do with those votes for two years and shock, people did not show up again.

    Beyond that, there are a number of structural issues that keep people from voting or keeping up with politics or being politically active: active voter suppression; gerrymandering; lack of transportation; lack of “leisure” time; lack of access to resources, etc.

    If we cannot get the Democratic establishment to commit to some of the “radical” policies that people like me support, perhaps we could get them to commit to one basic thing that ought to be in their political self interest: enabling people to have more access to politics. Not just voting every four years, but the time and access to be engaged on an ongoing basis.

  12. Some people look at our duopoly that is designed to make sure only the Democratic and Republican parties have power, and that party heads run both houses of Congress, and they see all of the Big Money being spent, and the politicians getting rich and figure the people are powerless.

  13. I would say I’m *semi*-politically engaged in that I like to keep aware of what’s going on when and where necessary…but I just don’t have the mental or emotional spoons to be politically-minded 24/7. I learned this back in 2012 when I realized I would get so wound up about everything that I actually started having health problems from it. I’d found my limit and backed away. I only engage when I know I can do so on a manageable level. I also came to the realization that there are those so much more erudite than myself (looking at you, JS!) who are voicing my concerns. Anything I add would just be hot air and white noise.

    From my experience, that 85% really is a mixed bag. Sure, there are those who are well-practiced avoiders, the “can’t we both just get along” peacemakers, the trolls, the devil’s advocates, the nihilists, and everything in between. But I’d say a large proportion of them are merely the “I just don’t have the damn spoons for this sh*t” kind of people who are too exhausted and distracted dealing with Real Life Stuff.

  14. Yes, my friends and I would be in the “engaged” category, but some (like my wife) I would characterize as super-engaged. I read three newspapers, but she watches hours and hours of politics on television daily. I will just be so glad when all this is over.

  15. @Joyce Reynolds-Ward “As for other people, thing is, I know people who are genuinely nice. They’d give you the shirt off of their back and they are first to answer the call for help within the community.”

    This is the problem. They are genuinely nice *to you* and they might give *you* the shirt off their back, but their politics are actively stripping the shirts off of the backs of millions of people that don’t have an excess of shirts to give. And it isn’t just shirts. It’s health insurance and food assistance and training and housing and education and all kinds of other things that the growing number of poor would like to have just to survive and improve their lot in life. They don’t look at those people as part of their “community.” Those people are just poor because they’re lazy so why would they get help?

    They aren’t genuinely nice people. The are genuine sociopaths. And like most genuine sociopaths, including the one in the Whitehouse that they support, they fake “nice” very well. That is an actual symptom of their sociopathy as it helps them to manipulate other people.

  16. It’s funny but my engagement in politics follows how bad things are. I have been extremely in tune the last few years because there’s this boogey man in office that disgusts me. When Obama was in office I thought we had a relatively sane and competent man in office and didn’t pay much attention. Should Biden win, beyond the virus I will probably once again fade away from politics for awhile. I am looking forward to that.

    I do wake up from my hibernation every four years and vote, however.

  17. @jerome Are you being a troll? Are you saying that everyone who doesn’t agree with you is a sociopath? (yes, I know, reductio ad absurdum) I’m using it for effect. Your comments seems to be yet another symptom of the breakdown in civility and common decency that we need to have. We are all human beings, and all have worth. We need to stop being so divisive and focus on the things that unite us. Those people you deride as “genuine sociopaths” They really are good decent people. Most people, see the original post, just don’t give a fig about politics. They try to live their lives according to the dictates of their own consciences. We don’t all have the same capacity, mentally, emotionally, etc, to care about everything.
    @jerome I’m sure you are a nice person IRL, and you have friends and family that love you. I’m not trying to attack you personally, just your comments.

    I apologize for going on a bit of a rant there. I have a master’s in political science, I am currently running for office, I am super engaged in politics, but it isn’t the most important thing in my life. I believe that one thing, among many, that will help us all to rise above contention and divisiveness is to have charity towards all, and with malice towards none.

  18. Down the years I’ve both lost the idea that people should have ideals, and lost the idea that their ideals should be the same as mine. As the learned Socrates might say, “It is what it is.”

    As a boy reading Heinlein, such as the town hall meeting in Red Planet, and then as a pre-student hanging out with the keeners in the student union building, I maybe thought, maybe, that people in the grown up world would be political. But no. Neither are the normal apathetic students.

    I continue to learn. Only this year, for example, did I truly understand what Mark Twain meant when he said (from memory), “A person who won’t read has no advantage over a person who can’t read.” For years I assumed that literate nonreaders would be as rare as, say, the village drunk or village idiot. It took the Internet to make me realize a good many people don’t read past a few sentences (as documented the hard way by blogger Derek Sivers), or don’t comprehend what they read (because they don’t practise reading) or solely skim, as their lifestyle choice. And yes, that’s OK for them.

    Note: When we took reading comprehension tests in elementary school, I assumed that our teachers and other adults would get perfect comprehension. Again, the Internet taught me otherwise. I won’t depress myself by claiming, “I grew up and others didn’t.”

    Today I won’t say people should get involved, nor that they should vote. The way I rationalize my charitable outlook towards my neighbours, besides saying the majority of customers are always right, is to philosophically say that a relay race only needs one person on the baton at a time, that a herd of deer can safely graze head down while only one is a sentry.

    I expect the majority to grin if I try to enthusiastically say the latest plot of (space show/soap opera/Shakespeare play) Or the latest politics. As long as I am not arrogant, they don’t expect me to expect them to be involved. If they ask my opinion on something, I will only use a soundbite, trying to be entertaining, unless they ask for substance. I am dimly surprised to be an influencer in real life.

    And if I vote, as part of the minority who vote, it’s not as an elitist fascist taking responsibility for the body politic. Like in that Heinlein book. I can’t possibly be of an elite minority, for I live in redneck down-to-earth cattle country. You know, with that western song “always be humble and kind.”

  19. I didn’t used to be as politically aware as I am now. I think a large part of it started on Twitter. I followed some authors, some atheists, some people of color, some gay people, some trans people, (and of course some of these categories overlap) and suddenly I had quite the smorgasboard of information on how life and politics affect people that aren’t like me (except for the atheists). Many of those people are way smarter than I am (or at least way more prolific and eloquent), and regardless they (surprise) had very different life experiences. Reading about some of those experiences was awesome; reading about others was heartbreaking.

    I’ve been fairly liberal my whole life, I think, and I think my penchant for reading SFF has had a significant impact on that. I *really* don’t understand people that read (and presumably enjoy) a lot of SFF, where it’s hard to throw a rock without hitting an intelligent non-human, whom they (presumably) accept as “a person”, but then can’t get their heads around gay people or trans people or immigrants (or sometimes even just “women”, ffs) *as people*. WHAT is up with that?

    I guess my point is, my politics started liberal, and got more so over time, but my understanding and awareness of “Politics”, including the fact that “not being interested in politics” *is political*, started more recently.

  20. @joyce – this disconnect between conservative’s personal values and their political values is a nut I wish we could crack. Conservatives tend to be much more generous and giving than liberals – they volunteer more and they donate more money to charity. And yet their politics are incredibly selfish and harmful. A lot of this is driven by the fact that they are more religious, and charitable giving and volunteering are often connected to organized religion. But it seems like there has got to be a way to convince them that helping other people in the political sphere is just as important as in the personal one.

    I don’t think politicians really want people to be engaged. The Republicans have made voter suppression a central feature of their strategy. And even Democrats don’t REALLY want folks engaged. Not actually.

    I know for myself, it’s hard to see how I can have any impact on state or federal politics, beyond voting and occasionally calling or emailing folks to ask them to do or not do this or that. After which I get a nice form letter and they do whatever they were gonna do in the first place. And I don’t have time to get involved locally, and those people that are involved locally are like super nerds part of some super nerd club that seems designed to exclude newbies like me.

  21. Defining “sociopath” as “someone who occasionally does not think about the effect of their actions on people they don’t interact with” seems less than useful, as I bet that includes, well, “… you, me, them – everybody! Everybody …”

    Put another way, we have definitely failed in some way since Trump will win electoral votes. However, if the failure is that many people have a diagnosable mental disorder the solution will be very different than if many people are closed-minded and ignorant.

  22. Given that a lot of people around the world (Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Palestinians and so on) could describe *all* Americans as having politics that are sociopathic, I’m less than comfortable standing on the moral high ground about Trump voters.

  23. For most Americans, is life under Trump much different than life under Obama? (Not counting the pandemic. Counting the pandemic against Trump is, of course, something that the politically engaged might do. The politically disengaged might just say that a viral pandemic is a thing that can happen, like a tornado or an earthquake.) I expect that the answer is no. Politics is glacially slow. The time between proposal, action, and effect is so prolonged that it takes intentional, active interest to remain engaged. Why would people bother?

  24. Politics has grown in importance since WWII. It will continue to grow in importance as the resources of the world start to decline because population has grown so much. Politics now touches every phase of you life, even what you buy and how much it costs in the grocery store.

    It is also almost impossible to get away from politics, due to media feeds it is everywhere and all the time. There are some that need to hide under a rock and ignore, but I think there is something more than a political disconnect that is bothering them. Maybe it has something to do with how damned exhausting this past political term has been.

    Having a someone who needed so much attention has not been good for even the most hardened political junkie. Most of us, I am not a political junkie, find it hard to have to constantly pay attention to politics because it is even more dysfunctional then ever, or so it seems to half of us.

    We need to pay attention until we have a path that puts America on a better path, we will still need to pay enough attention so it doesn’t fall off the tracks.

  25. @ DAVID:

    “Given that a lot of people around the world (Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Palestinians and so on) could describe *all* Americans as having politics that are sociopathic, I’m less than comfortable standing on the moral high ground about Trump voters.”

    Very true. US foreign policy, in particular, has been absolutely detestable for longer than any of us can remember, regardless of who occupied the White House.

  26. I think “not caring about politics” is an immense privilege. This may be presumptuous, but I feel like it’s primarily straight white people doing that. As a member of two minorities, being involved in politics is basic self defense. My life is forfeit if I blink. Straight white people are working every day to take away my rights and even sometimes trying to get me killed. I would love the opportunity to just ignore it all and go about my day with everything as it is. However if I turn my back for one second, I lose five more rights. “Not caring about politics” means everything is working mostly in your favor right now, so you have the luxury of not caring.

  27. I’d never argue that people have a responsibility to glue themselves to political news/activities/concerns to the exclusion of all else, but the least we should expect is that people have at least a rudimentary understanding of current events.

    I’m also struggling with the implication that those who are neither passive consumers of political news nor semi-engaged with politics are “junkies,” especially when you consider that passivity and semi-engagement might be luxuries accessible only to those on lower difficulty settings.

    Simply put, while I can understand priorities, ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the finer points of major issues or a general indifference to or mistrust of politicians and political news, I draw the line at being labeled or judged for being more engaged than is considered “normal” by political passengers with the luxury of voting on autopilot.

  28. I kinda wonder who the ‘politically engaged’ 15% actually are, though.

    If you were going to ask most of my friends about whether I was deeply politically engaged, I think they’d say no. I don’t talk about any politics on Facebook (and actually actively hide outwardly political content). I don’t tend to bring up politics in most social settings. When forced in getting into that sort of conversation, I take the position of asking the people I’m talking to how they feel the other side feels about the issue.

    Also, I’m pretty confident I’m levels of magnitude more politically engaged than most of my friends who obsessively share dozens of political headlines and memes every single day on Facebook.

    Here are what I consider the eight fundamental civic duties to be considered politically engaged:

    1. Voting. But this isn’t a Boolean you check off if you vote only in Presidential elections or have voted once before. You’re not completely engaged in voting if you haven’t voted for local school boards or bond issues in non-mediated off-years. Voting is a gradient and not even my outwardly politically obsessive friends seem to be voting on the big elections. Bonus points if you actually engage in get-out-the-vote and staffing.

    2. Petitioning. Again here it seems easy to check off because of change.org and moveon.org. Neither count. Petitions require LOCAL signatories within jurisdictions to ask a representative or representative body for a specific thing. Do you put ink to paper and include your mailing address? Have you ever handed a stack of those signatures in to a representative’s office? Then you probably haven’t done much, or any, petitioning.

    3. Demonstrating. Here I have the most clear proof of political involvement with my friends, because it’s a perfect act for social media. Unfortunately just showing up to a rally or a protest is only part of the work. Are you ORGANIZING a demonstration? Are you using a demonstration to gain signatures for a petition? Are you involved with discussing the issue with the media on behalf of the demonstration, or even alerting the media that you’ll be there? I’ve seen four people with picket signs and paperwork change city zoning laws while the media debates what Occupy Wall Street means.

    4. Addressing representatives directly. This comes in the forms of calls, letters, and other communications with the offices of representatives, including in-office meetings and going to Town Hall events. Largely speaking an email counts but not as much as a real letter, which doesn’t count as much as a phone call, which doesn’t count as much as a town hall. Specific requests matter more than moralistic statements: “I want Representative Person to sponsor legislation to fund schools” is useful communication; “I want a representative that supports education” doesn’t really mean anything.

    5. Subscribing to a LOCAL newspaper and, specifically, writing letters to the editors. A letter to the editor is the public’s feedback on a newspaper’s editorial policies. It brings attention to issues not covered, or to other side of issues not given full or fair consideration. Most people aren’t even subscribed to national newspapers, or are only subscribed to daily digests. Most people get their news from television or social media, which is the opposite of being informed. Those systems of media representation are about boxing in bubbles, not opening people’s minds.

    6. Boycotts and divestment. This is hard to do effectively but a big hint is that if you don’t actually tell the business what change they need to make to regain your consumer dollar, then you’re not really an effective boycotter. Also a lot of times you can’t boycott a business you already don’t even do business with, but you can look into what other businesses do business with that business and boycott them. Divestment campaigns are when you petition businesses, pensions, institutions, and government entities to pull investments out of something you dislike.

    7. Volunteering. There are many organizations for change that don’t have the funds but need the labor to have a greater impact. Volunteering at a food bank, for instance, will likely get actual food in more people’s stomachs than petitioning a representative to ‘feed the poor.’ That said, you should still ask a representative to provide funding for food banks. See numbered point 4 above. Volunteering can also be for a campaign or as a poll worker.

    8. Donating. In addition to the resources of your labor and time, there is your resources of money and goods. You can also donate professional services. You can donate for a campaign as well as an advocacy or a lobbying group in addition to charities.

    When we ask whether people are politically engaged, it’s worth looking at how many of each of those tasks people do on a regular basis, and then how much or how involved in those separate tasks people are.

    My guess is that if you share this list with most people who claim to be very politically engaged, they do very little of any of them. Perhaps vote, protest, and donate. Maybe ‘boycott’ insofar as they simply stop paying money for something for a political reason, without actually joining the campaign.

    Anytime I bring this list up, there’s usually someone who asks me, “But what about spreading awareness?” Honestly, all of these actions do that. Posting on Facebook does nothing. “Spreading awareness” is the siren call of slacktivism and actually is shown to be counterproductive because people who do it get the feeling of satisfaction of having taken an action, without actually doing anything.

    The 8 civic duties are what one should expect all conscientious citizens of a democracy to engage in on some level. Not included in my 8 civic duty breakdown is essentially the step you take if you do all of these things and are STILL wanting to do more. Call it the 9th if you must, it’s just impractical to expect all citizens to do this at some point:

    9. Run for office. Be the representative, rather than the represented.

  29. The 8 civic duties are what one should expect all conscientious citizens of a democracy to engage in on some level

    Hey, Aaron, can I ask what “some level” is for those working two jobs at minimum wage, having to remote-school their children, and struggling to buy food for their family is? 8 out of 8? 6 out of 8?

  30. DAVID:

    Exactly the problem. You can’t logically expect most people to be ‘very’ engaged politically when it’s such a time and resource commitment.

    Hence why the 15% are probably relatively wealthy and older / retired.

  31. @Aaron Dow – you are kind of proving my point about why I don’t get involved in local politics. You are creating this gatekeeping where nothing I do is every going to be good enough and no one can be as woke and engaged as you. I don’t have the time to do that, and why would I want to get involved when I’m gonna have to put up with self-righteous gatekeepers who make me feel lesser because I’ve never organized a rally before?

  32. Hi PST,

    sorry that my tone came across as gatekeeping. Re-reading my post the line about ‘levels of magnitude’ probably did a lot more damage. I will keep that in mind if I continue posting about that list.

    Any level of political engagement is better than no level of political engagement. I hope the list gives options, rather than deflate inspiration.

    Thank you for your feedback!

  33. @Space Cat:

    Well said. As someone who has and will likely continue to be on the wrong end of Trump voters’ antics, I’m not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, shrug my shoulders and go “live and let kill.”

    The privilege is strong with some people.

    The standard you walk past and all that jazz.

    One disturbing thing I’m starting to notice is privileged folks’ efforts to defend the indefensible.

    Defending Trump voters against marginalized people and their allies’ criticisms of their actions is a declaration of “Well, they kind of have a point,” Biden/Harris voter or no.

    People who see and ignore piles of shit until such time as the stench reaches their own yard are why my overall faith inhumanity is on a sinking lifeboat.

    The sinical part of me strongly suspects that when and if tensions escalate to the point where existing while (insert “undesirable” demographic here) becomes even less safe than it is now, folks in “safe” groups are going to abandoned their beliefs in social justice in droves in order to fold into the tribe.

    I think we’re seeing the first signs of that with the “leave Trumpists alone!” movement.

    People who admonish us to “see the humanity “in or “reserve judgment” of bigots who spray-paint “Go Back to Africa! You Cotton head N***!” on our cars and houses occupy an America where agreeing to disagree is still a possibility for them because privilege.

    Not excited about the democratic nominee and wish your fellow democrats would be more tolerant of the intolerant, take your whataboutism and both-siderism more seriously and talk glass houses because unity? Fine.

    Just don’t expect people with more to lose than you to do the same.

    More importantly, don’t expect folks on higher difficulty settings to give you their backs.

  34. To me, politics has always been synonymous with conflict. It appears to be about vanquishing the other side and then stampeding around with the opposition’s head on a pike. It’s about ruining your opponent’s life with lies and slurs. It’s about believing the lies even when you know they are lies if it furthers your side.

    Even if I wasn’t extremely conflict adverse, why would I even want to be involved?

    Where is the collaboration? Where is human compassion? It seems the further you get from local politics the worse it gets, but even local politics isn’t immune. Two years ago a school board member bought up all the local papers because she didn’t want anyone to read an opinion piece that could affect a local election. I guess she forgot about the subscribers…

    I vote, locally and nationally, I volunteer my time in the local garden and I go to demonstrations if they aren’t too far from home. But mostly I avoid because I can only stand this sick feeling in my stomach for so long. Humans appear to be less than civilized, and politics or political power only seems to magnify our lack of regard for one another.

    My children are braver than I. They are fully engaged in politics and perhaps that excuses me, if only a little.

  35. @pstaylor and joyce
    Conservatives give more as measured by dollars donated to charities. When you look closer, most of the “charitable donations” they make (in aggregate, individual MMV) are to their particular religious organization (church, synagogue, mosque, etc.) in the form of tithing. Remove the tithing and suddenly they actually donate far less. The breakdowns are interesting–many of the religious organizations then turn around and donate to special interest groups (Mormons and Prop 8 anybody?) They might all be legally listed as charities but I would draw a distinction between donating to a special interest religious organization and an apolitical nonreligious charity like Doctors Without Borders or UNICEF–charities that benefit *everyone*. I also wonder how much of the volunteerism is volunteering to charitable organizations whose purpose is to discriminate and disenfranchise other people. The Catholic Church, for example, did its best to prevent LGBTQ people from enjoying the same rights as cishet people (big supporters of DOMA!) and still will not marry gays/lesbians in the Catholic Church. But the people who tithe to the Catholic Church still get to have their tithe money counted as charitable donations. (Yes, there is progress in the Catholic Church but traveling hopefully isn’t the same as arrived.)

  36. I have always been politically engaged since high school. Many of my friends even more so, and the longer I lived the more so they have become.

    However, a large number of my friends were not engaged at all and resented that I was, particularly the women. They poo pooed me as tinfoil and conspiracy minded, to think that Reagan and Co. were out to roll back both reproductive rights, women’s rights and Civil Rights. But over the decades, more and more of them began paying attention, until now the people who were most virulently non-political are virulently anti gop and are in the first numbers to do either mail-in voting or early voting, and do it in person. They all learned this is what you get for not being politically engaged. Which is what I’d tell them back in the day, that this was what they were going to get.

  37. Sweartagod, I’d rather get a root canal than engage with politics. (And I’m not even exagerating—at least a root canal is over once you’re done sitting in the chair. And I find it orders of magnitude less painful.) Probably most of that is straight up privilege. But a not insignificant portion is trauma. I came of age in ’68, right at the height of the Viet Nam War protests and Kent State, with voices shrieking “Get Involved!!” from every direction. By the time I hit high school, my whole age cohort had resolutely tuned out. The head boy (“class president”) my senior year ran on a platform of Apathy. “I won’t do anything, I won’t talk about anything, and I won’t ask you to do or talk about anything.” —And won. I think we were all just completely burnt out.

    But just like it’s important to keep up with one’s oral hygiene and get one’s dental work done promptly and on the regular, this last few years has made it abundantly clear why politics is important—existentially so.

    Whatever else one might say about the GOP, though, I’ll give them this: they’ve for damn sure simplified the decision-making process. I’ve always been a straight-ticket voter, and not only because I’m incredibly lazy. But I’ve also never seen any little hint that the Republicans had anything to offer me and mine. Previously, that could plausibly have been chalked up to differences in values. Nowadays, though, it’s a simple and clear “fire them, their allies, heirs, and assigns—root and branch—into the sun.”

    Where it’s clear I do need to be exercising more attention is in the local races. Primary races is where I sweat it, not least because I don’t have the habits in place to keep track of issues and personalities. But once it gets past D vs D, I really see no choice at all, and the earlier in the process we can cull the Rs from the pool, the safer it’s clear we’ll all be. And, especially now, that includes getting ballots into the ballot box as early as physically possible. (Which, thank Ghu, I’ve done.)

  38. Supplementing to add: I am very mindful of the cost of complacency in 2012, and plan to pay much sharper attention going forward in anticipation of 2022. And if we do manage a blue wave this year, I also want to budget much more energy and attention to press blue representation hard to push forward as progressive an agenda as possible. At this point, it feels like anything else is functionally suicide.

  39. I totally screwed up by not defining what is and is not politically engaged. Just voting and posting on social media is not, imho. It’s actively doing all sorts of activities, from donating to and working in food banks, to helping cultural communities remain alive and vital, to helping schools in one’s communities get the proper the facilities for everyone, no matter what color, what economic strata, or lordessa save us! the children of immigrants learning English. It’s managing to get money somehow to people for whom each US dollar has the buying power in their own country of may fifty dollars here. It’s giving the people without homes attention and even when doesn’t actually have the cash and resources to given them much else, a dollar and the sense that they were SEEN and NOTICED.

    There is nothing that is not political; It can’t be possible, certainly not in this country, whether it is covid-19 or even getting a cup of coffee on a freezing day when one doesn’t even own a coat. Only people so well off and safe in their conditions can afford to not be politically engaged.

    We all choose where we put our efforts, which are where can be most effective I can help some people that you can’t because you’re not wired into those communities, just as there are people you can help that I cannot because I’m not wired into those communities.

    And yes, every one of us has other tolerances we need to handle, such as chronic illness, age, disability, finances, and what we know. But every one of us has something that is more than worth giving, even during those time when all we can do is say, “I’m so sorry brother. This shouldn’t be happened.”

  40. howardbrazee said it best: “our duopoly that is designed to make sure only the Democratic and Republican parties have power….” Yes, if “being political” is tracking the two-party system at the national level… bah! In my first vote, two weeks after my 21st birthday (1976), both parties had a plank in their platform in favor of nationwide government-supported health coverage (in case you think the “republocrat” moniker wasn’t earned).

    I like Aaron Dow’s list of ways to engage. It’s thought-provoking, and I didn’t even notice he originally dissed us if we haven’t done them all. I was congratulating myself on doing 3 or 4 of them, over time.

    I have no one to persuade (I literally know no one who’s not voting for Biden, aside from fundie in-laws we don’t keep in touch with). And I sure don’t need to call my senator, Ron Wyden; he sponsors a good share of the great proposals in congress.

    I’m doom scrolling and annoyed with myself. If I’m not petitioning, calling reps, etc (with my vote already determined), then I don’t need up-to-the-minute horse race reporting.

  41. If 80-85% don’t pay much attention to politics (per the article quoted) they why won’t 80-85% of people stfu about it? Because, damn, I hear a lot of ignorant-ass opinions on the subject.

  42. @pstaylor. YES. How do we crack that disconnect? It’s personally very frustrating to me. Often conservative negative politics end up being centered around perceived attacks on things important to them–usually business/work-related, sometimes faith-related, though I see a LOT more complaints about regulatory processes and the cost thereof than I do about impact on belief. Despite the popular perception, my experience talking to conservative voters is that the business/work piece ranks higher when it comes to their vote than the faith piece. I think one reason why Trump did so well in 2016 was the perception that he was rich, had done well, and didn’t have any filters. Honestly, the one presidential candidate in all of my life where I heard multiple people express a faith-based justification for their vote was Jimmy Carter.

    My sense is that dealing with that financial piece is part of the solution. But how to do that while not disenfranchising LBGTQ+ people as well as BIPOC? Unions swung conservative on those issues while swinging liberal on economic and working issues, and they couldn’t hold up to Ronald Reagan. Figuring out that dynamic and getting it working for all people is part of the key–and winning over the hearts and minds of the community-minded conservatives (perhaps we should also draw the line between the community-minded conservative and the money/power-driven conservative).

    @Jerome. I know these people. You don’t. Labeling them as sociopaths when many of them are intensely involved in their local community infrastructure in a positive manner DOING work such as helping other community members in need is simple stereotyping of the worst kind. It’s shallow and not helpful.

    @Audrey. The people I am thinking of in particular are NOT involved with churches, and I am explicitly NOT talking about financial contributions. I am talking about people who are doing things like volunteer firefighting, Search and Rescue, and that sort of community infrastructure work on a consistent basis. In rural areas, the local firefighters are likely to be the first ones to hear about seniors with issues who need help.

    These folks are also involved in things like 4H clubs for kids. Donating to, serving at, and preparing senior meals at meal sites. Fundraisers for locals who are in need. Providing shelter for animals and people displaced by fires. And much more.

  43. Scalzi:”They’re not ignorant, or dimwitted, or apathetic.”

    Either they are ignorant of the fact that every vote matters, or, they know but are apethetic of the consequences of not voting.

    One or the other, but not both.

    But there is a lot of apologists and apologism for the indifferent. Its the new “cool”. If you care, you’re square. Dont you know the system is rigged, dude? Im not rude. Its the only sensible attitude. Lesser of two evils is the booed. Indifference is for the shrewd. Get clued.

    Ya dig?

    God grant me the ego of a registered independent voter.

  44. I follow a lot of politics. But it doesn’t actually change how I vote. That’s always for the most liberal candidate who has a chance of winning. For that, I could have been a low-information voter for 40+ years.

    So the rate of return on following politics may actually be pretty low.

  45. .

    “”I mean, it really is that we take an issue, and we sort of always have two sides about to kill each other over it and the boys in the middle doing fart jokes and saying, you know, who cares?” Parker told NPR back in 2010. “This is, you know, you’re both crazy.” In a way, that both-sidesism—the idea that at the heart of every issue lie two equally wrong, equally annoying parties—was symptomatic of the show’s proudly childish point of view.”


  46. @Joyce and other Trumpist advocates:

    No one should be armchair diagnosing anyone with a personality disorder, but it’s more than fair to heap criticism on people who throw in with Donald Trump.

    I’m sure that the “fine people” carrying literal torches for Bigotry are perfectly nice and altruistic when dealing with people who look like and live where they do, but the whole wanting to control and /or wipe out marginalized groups thing kind of dings their record just a lil bit, don’t you think?

    There are groups who haven’t the luxury of taking folks’ word for it that the people throwing in with eugenics, concentration camps, treason, white supremacist domestic terrorism and a genocidal pandemic response are “good,” let alone *safe* people.

    I think the people defending Trumpists are doing so safe in the knowledge that they and theirs will be spared when those “good,” “community oriented” people begin speaking with their cars and guns to people not of their tribe.

    Hell, they’ve been speaking with their bare faces and viral loads for months.

    Author Jenny Trout’s “Dispatches from Behind Enemy Lines” is a powerful, heartbreaking piece detailing her experiences as a member of a community of “good” people and, more importantly, the relative of two of Gretchen Whitmer’s would be abductors/ executioners.


    Here are my favorite bits:
    “I open Facebook. I see mugshots of people who share my DNA; two second-cousins I’ve not seen in years. I remember them from childhood: chubby, with bowl cuts, totally indistinguishable from any of the other kids at our middle school. Bill was behind me on the slide ladder at Uncle Junie’s pool when I got stung by a wasp.”

    “Both those former kids were arrested as part of a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
    I check Twitter. There’s the sheriff of my county, giving an interview defending white supremacist terrorists, specifically the white supremacist terrorists I attended family reunions with. The sheriff and I go to the same dentist.”

    “My cousins’ sister, whom I’ve remained in contact with via social media, posts an ultimatum: if you believe that they’re involved, unfriend her. They did nothing wrong. If you’re not willing to rally to support them, to raise money for their combined $500,000 bail, if you won’t put a sticker on your car expressing your support, you can unfriend her. I fulfill her request with a click of my trackpad. The last I see of her anger is a vow that she stands with the Michigan Liberty Militia.

    The founder of that group hails from our village, where everyone tempers their gossip with insistence upon the boys’ innocence and pleas that we not trust the media. Wait until you see the evidence, they warn. Things aren’t what they seem.”

    “`I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that these guys have dropped everything to help [my step grandparents] and your grandma when they had trouble with their houses,’ my mom says in a Facebook comment.”

    One of the things I most respect about Jenny is her ability and willingness to speak truth to and about tribe, something others might consider, particular when fixing their lips to defend Trumpists to their would-be targets.

    If Jenny, a CIS white woman, no longer feels safe in her own community (she explains why in the entry) because Trumpists, how do you imagine life to be for someone on a lower difficulty setting?

    Hey Trumpist defenders, please stop trying to gaslight and guilt-trip people with the ole “they’re basically good people who simply disagree with you” argument.

    At best, you look stubbornly naïve.

    At worst, you look defensive, tribal and, most importantly, dangerous to anyone not you or yours.

  47. Seems to me that for many there is a brief period of being strongly politically engaged. This occurs after high school and before having children. The combo of becoming time poor/becoming more cynical and realistic about how your vote stacks up against a lobbyists cash (as Radiohead put it “…they don’t, they don’t speak for us) leads to disengagement.

    Also those of us who are relatively centrist (views slightly left or right but never far from the sensible centre) tend to find that most political animals are either hard right or hard left and therefore, not much fun to talk to. Hence we find we can’t be bothered talking politics and on the rare occasions we do, regret bringing it up because there’s always one person in the room who will bore everyone with their extremist view.

    So we disengage and talk about other things…no alarms and no surprises please.

  48. It seems like an odd column for the NYT to even run. 15% actually sounds like a pretty large number to me. Pick a topic, any topic, and there can’t be many that 15% of almost any random selection would find deeply interesting. Certainly, I don’t think 15% of anybody except “SF lovers” would be SF readers.

  49. I very much try not to engage with politics because my time seems very scarce and politics gives me absolutely no joy. Also, I feel powerless.
    That doesn’t mean I don’t pay enough attention to vote. It took me about two seconds in the 2016 election to notice that Trump was [my sociopathic deadexrelative redacted] and any one like that was going to make me (and everyone not like him) miserable.
    I seriously was happier when I could say Democrats are all wrong fiscally and Republicans are all wrong socially, but neither party is likely to ruin the country. I miss those days. Is that the nostalgia we were discussing earlier?

  50. Somebody’s impoverished father used to get up and read the neighbour’s newspaper, and then put it back: He did not let poverty stop him from minimal civic involvement.

    Someone groaning under two jobs used to—never mind. My point is not to give up. Barak Obama’s mentor, the community organizer Saul Alinsky, noted the choice of saying, “The world is too big for me, I quit.” Instead, Alinsky advised thinking of a huge mural, where one is painting just one leaf, focused and clear, confidently having a blurred vision of a bigger mural where others are also painting their leaves in the world.

    I try not to fall for “divide and rule” tricks. And if I say, “I should” or “You should” I do only to motivate myself while simultaneously having a charitable outlook towards others who aren’t carbon copies of me. (Please don’t divide yourself by assuming the worst about me) Call it doublethink. Or as George Orwell said, “Every healthy society must demand a little more from its citizens than it can reasonably expect.”

    In that spirit, I thank Aaron Dow (and other contributors!) for his nice list—it’s beyond me, but still a nice list.

  51. As is so often the case when I see something beginning “there are two kinds of people”, i fall somewhere in the middle. I pay more attention to politics than the minimum necessary to vote responsibly, and have all my adult life (well over fifty years now), but I am definitely not a political junky. I appreciate the fact that there are political junkies out there—we need them fo multiple reasons—but seriously wish they’d give it a rest for a few weeks at least after major elections. Since most people, most of the time, enter into political discussions not to discuss but to persuade the other to their own point of view or position (in my experience), political discussions are often only frustrating and agitating to both parties. Also, politics as a category is more than partisan politics, but in this country when people use the word they virtually never specify whether they are talking about partisan politics or politics in general. All of which is to explain, if not justify, why I am not a political junky. But as I said, I appreciate people who care deeply about politics, both partisan politics and otherwise, and who do something about it. Your own political commentary has hit the sweet spot for me over the past several years, so hurray! for that and I look forward to what you have to say after the election.

  52. Joyce Reynolds-Ward
    October 22, 2020, 8:33 pm

    @pstaylor. YES. How do we crack that disconnect?

    I certainly don’t have an answer, but I did see something interesting, recently, about folks like Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi, who extended to the whole world their conceptions of `people who mattered.’ Their kids, however, felt left out and neglected, a story I’ve read more than once of great humanitarians.

    Read another story, in that Fallows book about small towns, about GOP business types who wrangled millions for their school district, mostly to benefit brown kids. But they were *local* brown kids. The larger point of the first article seemed to be that there’s almost a sliding scale of who counts as worth helping—your family, your immediate community, spreading out to the entire world. Conservatives, and I mean this in the old sense of wanting to conserve things, focus tightly, and thus donate more time & resources to local community. To their tribe. To their family.

    Progressives, with their loyalties less bound to immediate family, are more willing to embrace higher taxes and other burdens on their families/tribes/communities for that more diffuse good. While I don’t think love is necessarily a limited resource, I do think people’s focus being on some sort of spectrum ranging from `me’ `my family’ `my community’ `my country’ `all people’ `all living things’ makes sense. Moving the slider, so to speak, is going to result in very different priorities—while still allowing people of good will to assume it of others.

    I only encountered this idea recently (probably a NYT op-ed) and want to think about it some more, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Not a method for `cracking that nut’, but at least a way of thinking about what tools might be more appropriate…

  53. @Aaron Dow I was cranky yesterday.

    I do notice though that locally, most of the “activists” are actually causing a lot of harm when they think they are on the side of the angels. We have a handful of mostly retired folks who will do whatever they can to block new developments or make it easier for cities to build housing or house homeless folks. As a result, housing in the SF bay area is stupidly expensive and poor and lower income folk are getting pushed farther and farther (further and further?) away.

    There is also a disconnect to me in terms of protesting and political action. Young leftists love to protest, but that protest doesn’t always turn into political action. Occupy wall street didn’t really translate into any meaningful reforms. We’ve had a ton of anti-police marches in California, and yet all of the bills in the legislature to rein in police were shot down. I’ve worked in policy and it is boring and tedious and requires a lot of compromise. It is way more fun to be in the street shouting slogans, but I don’t know to what extent that actually drives change.

  54. The biggest issue with people who are not politically aware is that they tend not to be civics aware either. They are the ones who get frustrated when the governor or the president can’t just do what Star Trek commanders do and say “Make it so.” and everybody snaps into it and results start flowing. They’re impatient with long term thinking and simply want to get to the desired result immediately. And don’t kid yourselves that it’s a right-wing thing only; plenty of self-identified progressives are anti-Biden because they’re impatient of inconvenient realities.

  55. @Sarah Marie. It must be nice to live in your lovely little dualistic world.
    The reality is that most of us have to live in a world which is not as cut and dried as you paint it. And some of us are very aware that the pieces will have to be picked up and we are going to have to integrate and educate those people you want to throw out. But hey. I was young and idealistic once.
    Ideology is easy. Governance is not.

  56. Some pundit recently said that most people pay attention to elections the way he pays attention to the Super Bowl, which is to say, not at all until a week or so before it happens and you can’t get away from hearing about it.

    I’m channeling my own pre-election anxiety into volunteering for my wonderful congressman who is in an unexpectedly tight race because of covid (fewer college students) and the GOP dumping money into the race to exploit division about a few recent events in my state. I’ll let you guess where this is.

  57. Chiming in here as a first time commenter, because there aren’t many who don’t feel they are (or ever were) political in the comments.

    I don’t consider myself political. Most of my exposure to politics comes from places like this blog and my significant other (who is very political), and some carefully considered news sources that I only visit once every week or so. I don’t use Twitter, and block out politics on all other forms of social media as best I can. I’ve just found it’s not productive for me. Knowing how the debate between Trump and Biden went isn’t going to change who I vote for.

    When I look at almost anything political, it hurts. BLM is an excellent example of this, and it’s tragic that there are many other similar stories with groups like LGBTQ+ and immigrants. I don’t actually believe that most BLM protesters were violent, but honestly, I can’t blame them if they were. When you try so hard to enact change and you’re not heard, it’s hard not to get emotional and to try more extreme approaches to be heard, especially when it’s your life and the life of your friends and family that’s on the line. And I see so many things like that across “politics” – things that aren’t political, but are made political because it’s inconvenient for some subset of people to believe otherwise. It feels like we’re helpless. And then when you finally extend that to things that actually are political, voting still doesn’t feel like anyone’s voice is heard. How many years has the US been arguing about destroying internet freedom and privacy, regardless of which party is in charge?

    So I vote, and try to ensure I’m making an informed vote, because it’s something I can do, but I can’t say I really believe that my vote matters or will change anything. Instead of investing time and energy in politics, I try to invest that time in my friends, family, and communities that matter to me. I admire people who can also fit investing themselves in politics into that fold, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.

  58. Here’s a duality: We can use the mob to take to the streets for something without any nuance or complexity, bearing in mind Alinsky’s thought that “anything that drags on becomes a drag.” Yes, some protestors are more interested in feeling glee or outrage than in thinking or educating others. Like the mob. But we can use that.

    The other part of the duality is those blessed folks—totally missing from Occupy Wall Street—who are willing, without glory, to do the tedious work of thinking and research, such as finding out which companies own which companies. It is this other part that was missing when the Iraqi’s had their glorious exciting overthrow of the Shah. Too late the mob, including eager students, learned the need for tedious checks and balance and liberty, too late.

    It was a thinker who first spent long hours in the British Museum library who gave us the word “capitalist.”

    I would hope that someone besides Corey Doctorow (loved his book Little Brother) is patiently comparing and contrasting the decline of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the fateful operations of Homeland Security. The F.B.I. used to attract the best of our wholesome clean cut Americans.

    If we could change-over, 40 years ago, to Reaganomics, expecting to have money for the community (such as Flint) trickle down, then we may expect knowledge from a few researchers to trickle down too. (Say, I think the change-over was a mistake, a hoax, but I’m too busy to look into it)

  59. Robert Sheckley’s short story “A Ticket to Tranai” takes the reader to a world with a… unique approach to responsibility in political office, married life, and other social arrangements.

    Antediluvian view of women; otherwise hilarious.

  60. Hey Joyce?


    Identify specific language in my post that even tacitly suggests that I want anyone thrown out.
    I just want to prevent them from murdering me and my family.

    You may be safe with these people, but there is no excuse for failing to recognize that many, many others are not.

    Next, check your privilege, immediately, because you are coming off like a figure emblematic of everything that black people are beginning to dislike and distrust about the democratic party.

    Who but an idealistic youth would utter, with a straight face, that it is possible to educate or persuade a frightened, status anxious white supremacist militia member about the humanity of brown people?

    We’re talking people who promise civil war if their candidate loses; I doubt they’ll be in the mood to chat.

    As a member of three of the groups Trump and his supporters have targeted, I find defenders of Trumpists and Trumpism very naïve, even dangerous.

    It’s one thing to check yourself with reminders that Trumpists are humans with the human need to protect themselves and their interests at all costs.

    After all, how could anyone find fault with bigoted but otherwise kind and generous folks who want to protect their families from the encroachment of brown people who, according to family, friends and church, are more likely to be part of the criminal element?

    You have kids and valuables to protect, too; you get it.

    Being a democrat doesn’t make one less white, less suburban or less wary of the “other”

    And taxation hurts your bank account as badly as it does Trumpists, does it not?

    I can even understand being a fearful, white, wealthy, religious and status anxious democrat who, while in basic agreement with Trump and his supporters re: social justice, isn’t 100 percent okay with the right’s proposed solution to those problems.

    Own up to that and you’ll join the list of people in whom the members of targeted groups shouldn’t trust. The problem I have is when people, most often those belonging to privileged groups, have the temerity to admonish less privilege democrats for speaking their minds to and about power and its guardians.

    Don’t, in the name of “unity,” try to guilt-trip unsafe demographics into keeping quiet about the people who have and continue to threaten and harm them.

    Don’t expect others to ignore the threat they pose because you either belong to or can pass for a member of the safe demographic.

    Your position is tantamount to telling BLM and their supporters they’re wrong for not asking nicely if neo-Nazis would pretty please stop dehumanizing and plotting to slaughter them.

    Can you imagine Telling the LGBTQIA community that the people carrying “God Hates F***” signs and fighting to dissolve their marriages want the same thing they do?

    I defy any one of the “Trumpists are good people who simply disagree with you “crowd to share this sentiment with the surviving friends and relatives of those who’ve been lynched.

    I’m sure the 500 plus refugee/wards who can’t be united with their parents will be happy to know that the people who support racist, zero-tolerance immigration policies are really good at heart.

    Disingenuous, pie-eyed, Tone-deaf both-siderism doesn’t belong anywhere near an honest political conversation.

    My suggestion is that rather than wagging fingers, blaming the media for how Trumpists are perceived and spinning narratives of common ground between the diametrically opposed, listen to what Trumpists say as opposed to what the “media” says they say.

    Failing that, admit to yourself that you just might be buddies with a violent bigot who applauds what the supposed “extremists” are doing.

    In the meantime, those of us with actual skin in the game will keep on watching our backs, working to effect life-saving change, being intolerant of the intolerant and dismissing the tone arguments of privileged, moral cowards who wave like banners their complete and inexcusable ignorance of what life might be like for marginalized groups.

  61. I, like a number of other posters, suspect that there are a couple of click-stops between “political junkie” and “everyone else.” Actually, I think I prefer a different set of metaphors, perhaps a mixed bag drawn from sports, including notions such as tailgating fans, inside baseball, face-painters, stat-followers, and so on.

    But about degrees of engagement: I care about practical politics (in the sense of “the means by which public policy is made”) enough to take sides in an election. I also care about what might be called political philosophy–the more systematic consideration of the principles by which we organize civic life. Retail politics–the inside-baseball part–I find less engaging, until it starts having serious effects on practical politics. (For example, gerrymandering or the legislative necromancy that enables the Mitch McConnells of the world. Also the Nancy Pelosis, though I’m on her side, so it’s good magic there.)

    My social circle has narrowed a bit as I’ve aged, and now it’s down to a handful of writers, musicians, and retired teachers. And all them are very aware of and concerned about the political environment as represented in mainstream and social media. They keep up with the issues as well as much of the play-by-play. They’re marking their scorecards. If there were an interoffice pool, they’d be placing bets. I know that there *are* disengaged folk, but I suspect that even many of them have had their attention wrenched away from ordinary-life concerns (kids, work, house payments, family dinners) by the direness that 2020. It’s been rubbing our collective nose in all manner of unpleasant stuff that we’ve been hoping would just go away.

    Of course, my view of public life was formed by parents who lived through the Great Depression and WW2, which were clearly matters of public-policy as well as private-life concern. And my late in-laws’ political views were shaped by their experience as refugees whose country got swallowed by the USSR. And I personally came of voting age in the middle of the Vietnam War. So I’ve never been all that close to disengaged people–once or twice bitten, forever aware of how sharp the world’s teeth can be.

  62. Can these people be educated?

    This is far from an accurate sample size, but it’s safe to say that they’re in the millions.


    I can see feminists, POC and pro-immigration activists disengaging in the face of so much support for these kinds of attitudes.

    If you can’t even trust your own camp to hear you, who can you trust?

    What reason have we to believe that their leftist defenders will do the right thing when things get really sticky?

    Will they hide or lie for someone who has done harm because they believe that the criminal is good at heart?

  63. @ Sarah Marie:

    “Can these people be educated?”

    Come on, can’t you just see the dude in the “Liberals and Islam Suck’s” immediately changing his mind as soon as he’s presented with sound facts and logic?

  64. @ Sarah Marie

    I’ve noticed that even the people well-meaning liberals trot out as “misinformed Trump supporters” always seem to devolve into racism near the end. They may be confused thinking that Biden is going to take away their health insurance and that Obamacare is something different than the ACA, but once they invariably bring up anything dealing with race or ethnicity the racist core is exposed. (See: for example the recent Try Guys video where they do phone banking and Zach Kornfeld talks to a nice white lady(tm) trump supporter.)

  65. [Deleted because Tim crossed a rhetorical line. Tim, you can try again but don’t fuck it up a second time — JS]

  66. The main issue I see with being a political junkie is that one tends to see only that group. Anything exhibited by a measurable proportion of that group takes on outsize importance.

    For instance, whenever I hear about the influence of Fox News, it’s implied that huge numbers are watching it. When in truth, the max audience for Fox News (on Mother-Tucker Carlson) is 5 million.

    That’s 2% of American adults. You get more watching Dancing With the Stars.

  67. @sarah marie. I’ll be interested to see your response if a reader of JS’ from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, or Palestine tells you to check your privilege.

    You voted for Obama? They have a case.

  68. @nicoleandmaggie:

    It’s rather disheartening and frustrating to keep having to explain that phenomenon to that lot, white ones in particular.

    These are folks with the luxury of agreeing to disagree; they literally have little to no skin in this game.

    They’re why many of us are immediately dismissive when one of them proclaims to be loyal to our cause.

    Fashionably anti-racist “allies” aren’t trusted, and with good reason; they waffle when things get real.

    At the end of the day, even one filled with passionate anti-racist advocacy, Trumpists aren’t gunning for them or anyone they care about.

    They and theirs are still white and safe at the end of that day.

    Imagine the Furor if I were to defend the Not Fucking Around Coalition to would-be targets.

    How clown shoe would I look trying to convince a white person that they’re just decent, hard-working brothers who simply disagree about white privilege?

    Why would any white person in her or his right mine take my word that, no, they don’t really want a black ethnostate and aren’t going to slaughter you or your children to achieve it.

    What white person in her or his right mind would trust me to stand for them against men of my “tribe,” especially when it could mean their or their families’ lives?

    Should it matter one iota that, according to me, the NFAC are comprised of church-going, *black* community minded men who can be educated and integrated into a society they don’t want to see?

    Should I be trusted to do the right thing when Hoteps, militants or the NFAC threaten or harm a white person?

    Who’ll be the first to bet their and their loved ones’ lives on my say-so?

    The difference is that I’m willing to go on record with being marginally sympathetic to that cause while at the same time denouncing it to the depths of hell.

    I haven’t seen a single one of the Trumpist defenders do anything of the sort.

    That’s as telling as it is typical, hence the black community’s growing mistrust of whites and disenchantment with the democratic party.

    Were I as young and idealistic as Joyce needs me to be, I’d be utterly shocked at the lengths to which supposed allies are willing to go to shield their own from criticism.

    Why, Fatman!

    How young and idealistic of you!

    The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes!

    And I’m certain, certain, I tell you, that my being an African American female wouldn’t matter a wit.

    It’d be an interesting, fruitless and potentially dangerous rhetorical situation but, I’m worth sacrificing for the greater good that is the education and integration of bigots into a diverse society.

    He simply disagrees with me about the humanity of Muslims and about the causes and precepts that underpin liberalism.

    Ethos, Pathos and Logos: Declawing Misogynistic, Jingoistic White supremacists and Domestic Terrorists since…When, Exactly?

    Perhaps the Rogerian style of argumentation might be more successful. 🤣🤣🤣😂

    I might open with an acknowledgment that as an African American female and democrat, I am an inferior helpmate who descends from slaves and subscribes to leftist ideas that threaten his privilege.

    I could also acknowledge his second amendment right to blow my gimpy, woke n*** Bi** head off for even daring to address him.

    Then I could run through every horrible thing Muslims have ever done to Americans before transitioning to an in-depth discussion of Said’s Orientalism, Lila Abu-Lughod’s writings and the thesis of Tanwi N. Islam’s novel Bright Lines.

    Then we could hug it out and light the funeral pyre for that damn shirt.

    It’d be a year-long program, after which this man would take his new understanding back to his like-minded friends and relatives and “educate” them. /Sarcasm.

    Seriously though, imagine trying to “educate” someone about the humanity of insects.

    Better yet, imagine trying to get someone to look at an insect and see a human being.

    There are books upon books designed to educate these people about groups they hate, yet millions of them have made it all the way to middle age and beyond without having embraced a single anti-racist principle. Funny thing, that.

    Robin DiAngelo, a white woman, tried to “educate” them and is a target of scorn, vitriol and ridicule to this day.

    I’ll take the relative peace that comes with treating them as non-entities, albeit dangerous ones, for 40 more years of fighting their strangle-hold on this country, Alex.

  69. This makes me think of what the Second Wave Feminists called “the aha! moment”: the epiphany when previously-disengaged people understand how politics impacts their immediate, everyday life.

    It’s usually crisis or tragedy that causes the epiphany. Like the Covid-19 deniers who became critically ill, or someone they cared about died of the virus, and suddenly started to evangelize wearing masks. Like the young people who sat out 2016, some even saying they resented being “blackmailed with fears about the Supreme Court,” who have suddenly realized, whoops, we’ve lost SCOTUS for a generation and most of the progress of the last 100 years may be reversed. (I’m not exaggerating. The Federalist Society, where the GOP got most if not all of the judges now confirmed at all levels of the Federal Court system, wants to see Lochner reversed.)

    I’m seeing many stories of newly-energized people very determined to vote, which is great. I hope they stay engaged, even if the change they want doesn’t happen immediately. I hope they stay engaged for state- and local-level politics as well as the charismatic megafauna that are the national races.

  70. @JS
    Fair enough. I chose the phrasing I did for the specific rhetorical effect that I suspect got the post malleted. Obviously, your house and your rules, I won’t try again in that vein because that particular comment was driven more by frustration with a rather large blind spot rather than being constructive or productive.

  71. Privilege checked. Your turn, whataboutism employing Obama Voter and one-time Obama defender.

    If you’re the same David who has been posting here since before his first election, you’ve got some checking to do, yourself.

    BQ, Greg (a democrat but extremely critical of Obama), Frank, Cool Blue, Wolf-Walker, Kia, Scorpius and some of the other conservative/libertarian posters would be glad to know you’ve come around to their way of thinking.

    And I’ll go farther than Trumpist defenders by stating unequivocally that Obama committed atrocities for which I will never forgive him.

    I threw my vote away in 2012.

    I would never be so clown shoe as to cite his or his voters’ good works and community ties in a debate with those he’s targeted.

    I’d never sing his or his voters’ praises to those who survived the drone-strike on the wedding party.

    More importantly, should any African American attempt to harm someone of a different ethnicity because racism, that person can count on me to stand for what’s right.

    I will neither lie for nor otherwise protect African American friends, family or neighbors guilty of a hate-crime, nor will I stand back or by if someone of my “tribe” lets fly with slurs.

    I would never handwave or studiously ignore anti-Afghani/Pakistani rhetoric or make excuses for those who’ve attacked them.

    Now explain why I should empathize with the people trying to kill me.

    It’s nice to know you’ll tolerate intolerance because Obama committed atrocities.

    I pray to God there aren’t any people of color in your community.

  72. DAVID: “Given that a lot of people around the world (Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Palestinians and so on) could describe *all* Americans as having politics that are sociopathic, I’m less than comfortable standing on the moral high ground about Trump voters.

    What holy nonsense is this???

    We dont hold all afghans responsible for the Taliban or for Afghanistan being the base od operations for al queda as they planned 9/11.

    If you hold ALL civilians responsible, thats called collective punishment. Its why the geneva convention says you dont get to bomb cities. You can go after military targets in a city, but you are expected to minimize civilian casualties.

    Also, voting for a candidate doesnt even mean you support the candidate 100%. It just means that candidate is closer to your politics than the other choice.

    Private civilians have a small, indirect voice in their government: their vote. Once in office, the politician can do a lot of damage and the voters have little actual power to affect any kind of change unless they engage in politically driven violence.

    In the US a hundred million people vote in a presidential election which means John Doe voter has one/hundred million of a say.

    When you take someone who has so little power and then demand to hold them 100% accountable for the actions of their politicians, you’re engaging in some weird guilt tripping nonsense.

    I say “weird” because in this same thread, you ask “what “some level” is for those working two jobs at minimum wage, having to remote-school their children, and struggling to buy food for their family is? 8 out of 8? 6 out of 8?”

    So, clearly, you can grasp that people only have so many resources and only so much energy and input into their government that you defend them from being shamed for not doing enough.

    But then you want to hold *all* responsible for every single individual domestic and foreign policy decision made by every president ever?

    Feels like you’re trying to have something both ways.

  73. I’m sure your unwillingness to praise Obama will comfort the Afghanis/Pakistanis/Yemenis who died in his drone strikes.

    Let me know when you feel bad about the Afghanis/Pakistanis/Yemenis who die because of Biden’s drone strikes. I’m sure they’ll be comforted.

  74. DAVID :’, uh yes, that was my point”

    Your point is nothing more than an attempt to remove all shades of grey from a morally complex world. So… if that was your goal, congrats.

    “I’m sure your unwillingness to praise Obama will comfort the Afghanis/Pakistanis/Yemenis who died in his drone strikes.”

    Youre holding indivual american voters 100% responsible for every action Obama did?

    So you hold every teenage afghan goat hoarder responsible for the taliban, al queda, and 9/11?

    Like I said, thats some weird level puritanical, black and white, nonsense.

  75. Your point is nothing more than an attempt to remove all shades of grey from a morally complex world

    Nope, not even close!

  76. Youre holding indivual american voters 100% responsible for every action Obama did?

    Oh, yeesh, stay up with the point. If someone holds Trump voters responsible for *everything* he did, then they need to own everything Obama did. That includes people who died in his drone strikes. *That’s* my point.

  77. Talk about political disengagement.

    Let me know when you feel bad about any of Trump and his supporters’ victims.

    Are you as outraged by that wedding party as you are about lynchings, eugenics, concentration camps, separated families and covid deaths?

    I am, though I can understand why you aren’t; you are a straight white male with a lucrative teaching job and a couple history texts under your belt.

    You and yours are and will remain safe, and you’ll by god hide behind whataboutism if it means you don’t have to criticize your own and out yourself to the tribe.

    Have you ever defended a person of color against a racist?

    Would you take that risk?

    ? Most importantly, will you aid and abet the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers or any other of Trump’s armies when the civil war they want breaks out?

    Are you in support of their mission?

    The difference between me and a Trumpist is that I didn’t and don’t hate or want to control people from those nations.

    I was and am not directly responsible for atrocities in the Middle East.

    Trumpists are directly responsible for the atrocities here, or do you believe attacks on marginalized groups are a liberal hoax?

    I am not an active participant in or tacit supporter of that bloodshed.

    Trumpists are either active participants in or tacit supporters of *this* bloodshed, as are some democrats, apparently.

    I don’t stand behind what Obama did, nor do I respect those who do.
    I never have.

    You, on the other hand, appear to not only respect and empathize with Trumpists, you’re trying to guilt-trip one of their targets into taking her foot off of their necks because our one and only Black president did something evil.

    The naked racism embedded in this act should turn any real anti- racist’s stomach.

    Do you really think these people aren’t a threat to people of color?

    Do you really expect potential targets to hope that they’ll luck out and encounter the 10th trumpist out of nine who won’t harass or harm them?

    Do you really expect people to believe that the white supremacists among them are outliers?

    You and yours are protected, so why would you.

    I didn’t handwave Obama’s drone-strikes with a vote to reelect him, and would never spit on the corpses he left or laugh in the faces of the surviving families because privilege.

    I won’t vote to reelect Biden either, nor will I hide like a moral coward behind Trump’s past atrocities when the current president’s crimes and domestic terrorist henchmen are being criticized by potential targets.

    You and your Trumpist pals are fully prepared to spit on the bodies of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and every other person who owes their death to Trump or his supporters.

    Nine out of 10 Trumpists want to either eliminate or control people who look like me; they’re also after the very people you want to avenge with our deaths.

    I’ll ask you again; can you denounce them, or is the pull of the tribe too strong?

    I get that it’s safe for you to unplug and relax because your family isn’t under threat, but you might at least pretend to give a damn.

  78. I’ll say the same thing in this thread that I did in the previous recent one: I’ve voted Democrat in every election that I could since 1988. I think Trump is a disaster of epic proportions and am gladly voting against him next week to try to make sure he doesn’t get elected.

    I have very few ancestors in the US because the Holocaust (and US refusal to let Jews in in the 1940s) mostly killed them. So, I’ve checked things, and know where I’m talking from.

    So handwaving:

    I was and am not directly responsible for atrocities in the Middle East.

    Gets the same answer for its careful phrasing (“directly”) as my previous comments: check your privilege and be sure you’re comfortable with knowing that Afghans/Pakistanis/Yemenis look at you the same way as you’re laying out above.

  79. > check your privilege and be sure you’re comfortable with knowing that Afghans/Pakistanis/Yemenis look at you the same way as you’re laying out above.

    So…what? What’s the end goal here? To silence Sarah Marie’s extremely cogent and impassioned argument? That’s not helpful. “B has a small part to play in C being fucked over, therefore B has no moral standing to accuse A of fucking B over” is not productive. The goal is to lay down arms, not continue pointing them at each other, and when it comes to that I certainly won’t ask those holding arms in self defense to lay theirs down first.

    And if you really want to get down into specifics, someone who voted for Obama voted for him on the promise that he’d bring hope and change, and restore peace and prosperity from the war Bush dragged us into. Someone who voted for Obama can rightly be appalled at the war crimes he authorized, but not be able to express that in any meaningful way (can’t vote against him when he’s already in his second term).

    On the other hand, Trump has stated his intentions plainly from the very first campaign. People knew what they were getting when they voted for him. Scalzi’s Cinemax Theory of Racism covers that quite well. They knew then, and they know now after 4 years, and they have the opportunity to be appalled. They have the opportunity to say that they didn’t know leopards would ACTUALLY eat faces when they voted for the Leopards Eating Faces Party, and instead this time around vote for the Oh God Please Let 2021 Not Be Another Hell Year Let Us Breathe For A Minute Party. And then they say “…nah, I want to continue owning the libs.” Do you not think there’s SOME complicity there, where there would not be for someone who voted for Peace and was given War instead?

  80. David:” If someone holds Trump voters responsible for *everything* he did,”

    Sorry. I just searched for the word “everything” in this page, looking for a sentence that used it the way you claim. Didnt find it. Sure youre not arguing with some strawman you made up?

    “you’re comfortable with knowing that Afghans/Pakistanis/Yemenis look at you the same way as you’re laying out above.”

    What in the ever loving fuck is this weird ass guilt tripping youre trying to lay down?

    Look, I voted for Obama. When he was doing drone strikes, I wrote Obama and my other representatives telling them to cut the shit. My vote for was 1/hundred million. My letters against strikes were 1/hundred billion.

    But if someone votes trump and then trump does some shitty stuff and the voter CELEBRATES? Yeah, they’re responsible for their contribution to that. If someone is white privileged and is ignorant of their own biases and then CELEBRATES when Trump does bigotted shit, then they are responsible for their contribution to that.

    Its not “everyone is responsible for everything” nonsense. You vote, and then you either support or oppose the politicians actions in office. 8f you vote for trump and support his actions, yeah, you deserve full scorn. If you wear a maga hat at this point, you deserve scorn.

    I voted Obama, but when he did shitty things, i made clear to my reps that I opposed it and I opposed it in public.

  81. Love that everyone who had decided that John Scalzi’s neighbors are sociopaths beyond defense (no matter what — even if they’re, eg, first responders) but are immediately ready to rush in and defend any Obama voters, no matter how unknown. I’ll let the Afghanis/Pakistanis/Yemenis who died in Obama’s drone strikes know that his voters have *reasons.*

    Actually, I won’t, because they’re dead.

  82. Like many others, I don’t have the spoons to be a political junkie, especially the past 4 years (I’d have a LOT less spoons if it weren’t for ACA).

    But I pay attention when there’s an election and read all the material and vote aaaallll the way downticket. Judges? School board? Local bonds? You bet. Having the local trauma center being disaster-proofed is probably just as important as who’s my Congresscritter.

    Wear your damn mask, people. It’s completely crazy-bananas that “put a lightweight thing on your face to stop a fatal disease from spreading” is now a “political statement”, but such is 2020.

  83. David:” If someone holds Trump voters responsible for *everything* he did,”

    No answer i see. So you made that up and started attacking people for something that literally no one here said.

    Is your high horse named Rocinante by chance?

  84. [Deleted because Sarah Marie is making it about the person and not the person’s arguments, which as a general rule I’ve asked people not to do. Sarah Marie, if you want to reframe, you may — JS]

  85. “our duopoly that is designed to make sure only the Democratic and Republican parties have power….” The reality is that in a first past the post electoral system, there can be only two serious political parties at a time. In most places, that is Democrats and Republicans. In Seattle, the two parties are Democrats and Socialist Alternative.

    That happened because SocAlt mobilized well over 400 volunteers to elect their candidate Kshama Sawant to a single city council seat, where she led the effort to get a $15/hour minimum wage. Most minor parties, by contrast, can’t be bothered with voter outreach.

  86. https://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/06/30/various-and-sundry-63011/#commentsGreg
    June 30, 2011, 12:59 pm
    Barack Obama campaigned as a leader. President Obama has revealed him to be a calculating weasel of a politician. He has done nothing that couldnt swing at least a plurality of support from the population. He hasnt lead us anywhere. He puts himself smack in the middle of the mob and then moves in whatever direction they are moving.
    when half the population wants to murder a million innocent people and the other half is aghast at the immorality of such an idea, Obama will respond by approving the murder of half a million people and call it compromise. He wil then react with palpable contempt towards those who would expect him to uphold higher principles.
    Obama is a calculating coward who sold himself as a leadrr with courage and I regret voting for him only slightly less than I regret that McCain was even worse and Hillary seems no better.”

    June 30, 2011, 1:49 pm
    Obama campaigned as a leader. President Obama has revealed him to be a calculating weasel of a politician.
    You’re shocked that a politician got elected to be President?
    He has done nothing that couldnt swing at least a plurality of support from the population.
    Yeah, I noticed how he gave up right away once healthcare became unpopular.”

    1. “Greg
    June 30, 2011, 2:06 pm
    dude, read this URL about how Obama made a back room deal with the health industry to kill any public option, then publicly campaigned for a puvlic option knowing he would allow it to die when the time came.
    You must be so proud.”

    1. “David
    June 30, 2011, 2:44 pm
    dude, read this URL about how Obama made a back room deal with the health industry to kill any public option, then publicly campaigned for a puvlic option knowing he would allow it to die when the time came.
    You must be so proud.
    Wait, you mean that Obama traded away something he wasn’t going to get anyway*, in order to get chunks of the health care industry to support (or not actively oppose) the final bill?
    Why, yes, I’m quite proud.
    Again, you seem somewhat shocked that a politician got elected to be President.
    * no way does Ben Nelson (the most conservative Dem Senator and thus the 60th vote) vote for a public option, let alone any Republican. For that matter, it wouldn’t have made it out of the Senate Finance Committee.
    We need another president with the balls of Lyndon Johnson, who fought for racial equality even though it hurt his party
    You are aware that the Civil Rights Act passed in the Senate was a weakened version of the one passed in the House because Southern Senators filibustered the original bill. How familiar that sounds.”

    This is just one of many exchanges in which David defends president Obama to Greg.

    Pay special attention to his choice to ignore Greg’s comment about Obama’s “compromise” re the murder of “a million in innocent people.”

    I suppose I should be grateful to David for voting for his vice president.

  87. I have already bought a bottle of Dom Pérignon. In a few days this nightmare will be over. Our lives will return to normal, let’s do brunch. I have already scheduled a celebration dinner party for the 4th. Let’s party!

  88. Not nearly as involved in politics as others here, but I try to vote as liberal as possible, stability and tolerance being a valuable thing, I think a bit of late about FDR’s last state of the union address, and believe that conservatism has been a distraction, a pursuit of shadows and moonbeams, while the Nation’s true business has been neglected. Biden may not be as wonderful as one might wish, but he’s “Less worse”, and small improvements are not to be disdained.

  89. DAVID doesnt like anyone to criticize anyone. Cant criticize Obama cause he’s a politician, and politicians have to make tradeoffs. and every decision Obama made was always exactly the right amount of tradeoffs.

    Cant criticize trump voters because any criticism of Trump voters is then turned into holding individual Truml voters 100% responsible for every decision Trump has ever made. (No one ever said that, but DAVID will invoke that strawman from thin air.)

  90. Sighs. Takes deep breath. Begins again.

    1. David is speaking from a place of privilege and, more importantly, White fragility.

    Relevant passages from DiAngelo’s piece:

    “Fine (1997) identifies this insulation when she observes “… how Whiteness accrues privilege and status; gets itself surrounded by protective pillows of resources and/or benefits of the doubt…”

    “Whiteness is a location of structural advantage, of race privilege. Second, it is a ‘standpoint,’ a place from which White people look at ourselves, at others, and at society.”

    “White Fragility finds its support in and is a function of white privilege, fragility and privilege result in responses that function to restore equilibrium and return the resources “lost” via the challenge – resistance towards the trigger, shutting down and/or tuning out, indulgence in emotional incapacitation such as guilt or “hurt feelings”, exiting, or a combination of these responses”

    “Whites who position themselves as liberal often opt to protect what they perceive as their moral reputations, rather than recognize or change their participation in systems of inequity and domination. In so responding, whites invoke the power to choose when, how, and how much to address or challenge racism. Thus, pointing out white advantage will often trigger patterns of confusion, defensiveness and righteous indignation.
    When confronted with a challenge to white racial codes, many white liberals use the speech of self-defense (Van Dijk, 1992). This discourse enables defenders to protect their moral character against what they perceive as accusation and attack while deflecting any recognition of culpability or need of accountability. Focusing on restoring their moral standing through these tactics, whites are able to avoid the question of white privilege (Marty, 1999, Van Dijk, 1992).”

    David’s posts are emblematic of all of the aforementioned aspects of this phenomenon, right down to his criticism of my refusal to join him in extending to Trumpists the benefit of the doubt and attempting to guilt me into silence out of some sense of moral equivalency.

    His position that Obama’s crimes in the Middle East exculpate Trumpists from knowing complicity in Trumps’ America, as well as his refusal to speak out against their direct involvement in hate crimes is indicative of that privilege and fragility.

    He is attempting to employ the same silencing tactic as do those who cite conditions in 3rd world countries as evidence against American opponents of poverty and economic inequality.

    David has a well-documented history of defending Obama against similar criticisms and appears to have adopted a completely different stance now that polarization and tensions may compel him to choose between tribe and the other.

    His safety with and commonality with the people he is defending clearly informs his argument throughout this thread.

    He poses a great risk to communities of color, as his argument reflects a general indifference to their plight and a reflexive, even instinctual need to protect and support members of his own tribe at the expense of others.

    It’s classic slap-down; I had the temerity to contradict him, with specificity, mind you, in a way that insulted his tribe’s “moral character” (DiAngelo). He thus needed to bring me down a peg with the “no shoes/no feet” maneuver.

    I am to abase myself at the feet of the black president’s victims in order to earn the right to speak less than deferentially about the white supremacists acting at the behest and in the name of the white supremacist president for which they have and will continue to vote.

    How dare I cast a less than empathetic eye on white supremacists when a powerful member of my own tribe has bloody hands?

    It was less about getting me to acknowledge Obama’s crimes than it was about shaming me and swatting me for my impertinence.

    According to David, the people currently under threat have no room to be critical of their harassers, attackers and/or would be killers because they cast a vote for what turned out to be a murderous president back in 2008?

    The argument is ridiculous on its face; my vote for Obama in 2008 will never exculpate Trumpists from knowing complicity in Trump’s America or his past and future (should he manage to steal this election) crimes Against Americans.

    Those Trumpists perpetrating hate-crimes aren’t avenging the deaths Obama caused, and any implication to the contrary is extremely dangerous.

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