Commitment To Ignorance?

More than a few times in the past few months/years, I have thought that the biggest hurdle to sanity in our country was one thing:  ignorance.  I don’t say ‘stupidity’, for that implies an inability to comprehend, but rather ignorance, which is the refusal to comprehend, to consider other options, other ways of doing things.  A few days ago, I came across this OpEd by Paul Krugman writing for the New York Times that I think speaks volumes about our current situation.


What Underlies the G.O.P. Commitment to Ignorance?

By Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

June 28, 2021

As everyone knows, leftists hate America’s military. Recently, a prominent left-wing media figure attacked Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declaring, “He’s not just a pig, he’s stupid.”

Oh, wait. That was no leftist, that was Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. What set Carlson off was testimony in which Milley told a congressional hearing that he considered it important “for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and widely read.”

The problem is obvious. Closed-mindedness and ignorance have become core conservative values, and those who reject these values are the enemy, no matter what they may have done to serve the country.

The Milley hearing was part of the orchestrated furor over “critical race theory,” which has dominated right-wing media for the past few months, getting close to 2,000 mentions on Fox so far this year. One often sees assertions that those attacking critical race theory have no idea what it’s about, but I disagree; they understand that it has something to do with assertions that America has a history of racism and of policies that explicitly or implicitly widened racial disparities.

And such assertions are unmistakably true. The Tulsa race massacre really happened, and it was only one of many such incidents. The 1938 underwriting manual for the Federal Housing Administration really did declare that “incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.”

We can argue about the relevance of this history to current policy, but who would argue against acknowledging simple facts?

The modern right, that’s who. The current obsession with critical race theory is a cynical attempt to change the subject away from the Biden administration’s highly popular policy initiatives, while pandering to the white rage that Republicans deny exists. But it’s only one of multiple subjects on which willful ignorance has become a litmus test for anyone hoping to succeed in Republican politics.

Thus, to be a Republican in good standing one must deny the reality of man-made climate change, or at least oppose any meaningful action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. One must reject or at least express skepticism about the theory of evolution. And don’t even get me started on things like the efficacy of tax cuts.

What underlies this cross-disciplinary commitment to ignorance? On each subject, refusing to acknowledge reality serves special interests. Climate denial caters to the fossil fuel industry; evolution denial caters to religious fundamentalists; tax-cut mysticism caters to billionaire donors.

But there’s also, I’d argue, a spillover effect: Accepting evidence and logic is a sort of universal value, and you can’t take it away in one area of inquiry without degrading it across the board. That is, you can’t declare that honesty about America’s racial history is unacceptable and expect to maintain intellectual standards everywhere else. In the modern right-wing universe of ideas, everything is political; there are no safe subjects.

This politicization of everything inevitably creates huge tension between conservatives and institutions that try to respect reality.

There have been many studies documenting the strong Democratic lean of college professors, which is often treated as prima facie evidence of political bias in hiring. A new law in Florida requires that each state university conduct an annual survey “which considers the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented,” which doesn’t specifically mandate the hiring of more Republicans but clearly gestures in that direction.

An obvious counterargument to claims of biased hiring is self-selection: How many conservatives choose to pursue careers in, say, sociology? Is hiring bias the reason police officers seem to have disproportionately supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, or is this simply a reflection of the kind of people who choose careers in law enforcement?

But beyond that, the modern G.O.P. is no home for people who believe in objectivity. One striking feature of surveys of academic partisanship is the overwhelming Democratic lean in hard sciences like biology and chemistry; but is that really hard to understand when Republicans reject science on so many fronts?

One recent study marvels that even finance departments are mainly Democratic. Indeed, you might expect finance professors, some of whom do lucrative consulting for Wall Street, to be pretty conservative. But even they are repelled by a party committed to zombie economics.

Which brings me back to General Milley. The U.S. military has traditionally leaned Republican, but the modern officer corps is highly educated, open-minded and, dare I say it, even a bit intellectual — because those are attributes that help win wars.

Unfortunately, they are also attributes the modern G.O.P. finds intolerable.

So something like the attack on Milley was inevitable. Right-wingers have gone all in on ignorance, so they were bound to come into conflict with every institution — including the U.S. military — that is trying to cultivate knowledge.

Laughable Lies

Sometimes you just have to laugh at the ignorance perpetuated by the Republicans and their megaphone, Fox News.  The lunacy is incredible and laughable, but what’s not quite as funny is that some 40% of the people in this nation don’t bother to assess what they hear, don’t take a minute to look for some facts to back up the opinions of the Republicans and their minions.  Perhaps the Republican Party would do better, have a bit of legitimacy, if they spent more time on developing a platform and less time on making up lies and conspiracy theories.  Anyway … Paul Krugman, writing for the New York Times, has written a piece mostly about the latest lie/fallacy/made-up story by Republicans attempting to discredit President Biden, and it’s well worth the read.


Beer, Brussels Sprouts, Bernie Madoff and Today’s G.O.P.

By Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

On Friday Larry Kudlow, who was Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, told Fox News viewers that Joe Biden’s climate plans would force Americans to stop eating meat. On July 4, he declared, you’d have to “throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled brussels sprouts.”

Kudlow’s remarks raise several questions. What, exactly, does he think beer is made from? Also, doesn’t he know that grilled brussels sprouts are, in fact, delicious?

More important, why would anyone believe this assertion about Biden’s plans, or expect anyone else to believe it? Why were Kudlow’s claims echoed by many Republicans, from Donald Trump Jr., to members of Congress, to the governor of Texas?

To answer this question, it helps to think about Bernie Madoff, the infamous fraudster who died April 14. Seriously.

About Biden and burgers: The administration has, in fact, said nothing at all about changing America’s diet. Furthermore, anything along those lines would be very much at odds with Biden’s whole approach to climate change, which is to rely much more on carrots than on sticks, to provide positive incentives to invest in low-emission technologies rather than discouraging emissions with taxes or regulations.

Whether that approach will prove sufficient is debatable, but it is the approach the administration is taking, and telling people to stop eating meat would be completely out of character.

So where is this coming from? Kudlow took his cues from a sleazy article in The Daily Mail, a right-wing British tabloid. The article didn’t actually assert that Biden is proposing to restrict meat consumption; instead, it offered a series of speculations about what might happen. Among other things it took the most extreme scenario from a University of Michigan study of how reduced meat consumption could affect greenhouse gas emissions — a study released in January 2020 that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Biden plans. The Daily Mail also used a deceptive graphic to make it seem as if this was an actual administration proposal.

American right-wing pundits and politicians then ran with it. Did they actually believe the nonsense they were spouting? Well, Kudlow’s apparent belief that beer is made with meat is arguably a point in his favor, an indication that he’s genuinely clueless rather than merely cynical.

What’s clear, however, is that neither Kudlow nor other Republicans touting an imaginary war on meat saw any need to check out their story, felt any concern that their audience — Fox News viewers, Republican voters — would find the claim that Joe Biden is coming for their red meat implausible.

Why not? That’s where Bernie Madoff comes in.

The revelations about Madoff’s immense Ponzi scheme and how he pulled it off introduced many of us to the concept of affinity fraud: scams that prey upon people by exploiting a sense of shared identity. Madoff defrauded wealthy Jews by convincing them that he was just like them.

A similar approach has long been an essential part of the Republican political strategy. As the party’s economic policies have become ever more elitist, ever more tilted toward the interests of the wealthy, it has sought to cover its tracks by running candidates who seem like regular guys you’d like to have a (meat-based?) beer with.

The flip side of this strategy is a continual attempt by the G.O.P. to convince voters that Democrats, who represent a much more diverse set of voters than Republicans, aren’t people like them; call it disaffinity fraud.

The goal is to portray Democrats as woke feminist vegetarians who don’t share the values of Real Americans. Hence the right’s obsessive focus on “cancel culture” and Democratic women of color, and the continual assertions that the white male senior citizen who leads the party is somehow a passive puppet.

Right-wing media are pushing this narrative nonstop. According to a Morning Consult poll last month, more Republicans said they’d heard “a lot” about the move to withdraw some Dr. Seuss books than said the same about Biden’s huge Covid-19 relief bill.

It doesn’t matter that Joe Biden isn’t actually trying to ban hamburgers or — to take another false claim right-wing pundits and politicians keep repeating — that he hasn’t “taken down” the border with Mexico. Republicans have pretty much given up even trying to make a case against Biden’s actual policies, let alone proposing serious policies themselves.

Instead, it’s all smears. Democrats, declared Kudlow, are “ideological zealots who don’t care one whit about America’s well-being.” That’s pretty rich coming from a man famed for his unwavering commitment to the doctrine that cutting taxes on the wealthy solves all problems, no matter how often his predictions fail.

But never mind; the point is that Kudlow and others consider it OK to throw out wild claims about what Democrats are up to, because those are the kinds of things woke liberals would do, aren’t they?

Will the public go along? The Biden administration thinks not, betting it can overcome the power of affinity fraud with policies that offer real benefits to working Americans. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that this strategy will work.

Speaking Of The Minimum Wage …

I have a laundry list of things I hope to see happen under the Biden administration, and one of those at the top of the list is a significant increase in the federal minimum wage rate.  It has been stagnant for 12 years now, despite the fact that the cost of living has increased consistently, year after year.  The article I’m about to share was written a week ago, two days before President Biden’s inauguration, but the premise still stands, and I completely agree with its author, Paul Krugman writing for the New York Times.


Who’s Radical Now? The Case of Minimum Wages

Evidence has a well-known liberal bias.

paul-krugman-thumbLargeBy Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

  • Jan. 18, 2021

Most Americans, myself included, will be deeply relieved when Joe Biden is finally sworn in as president. But almost everyone has a sense of foreboding, not just because of the specific threat of right-wing terrorism, but also because Biden will take office in a political environment polluted by lies.

Most important, of course, is the Big Lie: the claim, based on nothing whatsoever, that the election was stolen. Has there been anything in U.S. history like the demand from leading Republicans that Biden pursue “unity” when they won’t even say publicly that he won fairly? And polls showing that a large majority of rank-and-file Republicans believe that there was major election fraud are deeply scary.

But not far behind in importance is what I think of as the Slightly Smaller Lie — the almost universal insistence on the right that the mildly center-left leaders of the incoming administration and Congress are, or at least are controlled by, radical socialists. This allegation was almost the entire substance of Republican campaigning during the Georgia Senate runoffs.

One response to this bizarre claim — and it’s not a bad response — would be a Bidenesque “C’mon, man. Get real!” But I’d like to do a somewhat deeper dive by focusing on one particular issue: Biden’s call, as part of his economic recovery plan, for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Republicans raising objections to Biden’s plan have singled out the minimum wage hike as a prime reason for their opposition, although we all know that they would have found some excuse for objecting no matter what he proposed. What’s striking about this fight — let’s not dignify it by calling it a debate, as if both sides were making real arguments — is that it shows us who the real radicals are.

For what counts as a radical economic proposal? One possible answer would be a proposal that flies in the face of public opinion.

By that criterion, however, Republican politicians are definitely the radicals here. Raising the minimum wage is immensely popular; it’s supported by around 70 percent of voters, including a substantial majority of self-identified Republicans. Or if you don’t believe polls, look at what happened in Florida back in November: even as Trump carried the state, a referendum on raising the minimum wage to $15 won in a landslide.

So the G.O.P. is very much out of step with the public on this issue — it’s espousing what is almost a fringe position. Oh, and it’s a position that is completely at odds with the claim by many Republicans that they’re the true party of the working class.

What if we define radicalism not by opposition to public opinion but by a refusal to accept the conclusions of mainstream economics? Here, too, Democrats are the moderates and Republicans the radicals.

It’s true that once upon a time there was a near-consensus among economists that minimum wages substantially reduced employment. But that was long ago. These days only a minority of economists think raising the minimum to $15 would have large employment costs, and a strong plurality believe that a significant rise — although maybe not all the way to $15 — would be a good idea.

Why did economists change their minds? No, the profession wasn’t infiltrated by antifa; it was moved by evidence, specifically the results of “natural experiments” that take place when an individual state raises its minimum wage while neighboring states don’t. The lesson from this evidence is that unless minimum wages are raised to levels higher than anything currently being proposed, hiking the minimum won’t have major negative effects on employment — but it will have significant benefits in terms of higher earnings and a reduction in poverty.

But evidence has a well-known liberal bias. Did I mention that on Friday, just days before their eviction, Trump officials released a report claiming that the 2017 tax cut paid for itself?

Voodoo economics may be the most thoroughly debunked doctrine in the history of economic thought, refuted by decades of experience — and voters consistently say that corporations and the wealthy pay too little, not too much, in taxes. Yet tax cuts for the already privileged are central to the Republican agenda, even under a supposedly populist president.

On economic policy, then, Democrats — even though they have moved somewhat to the left in recent years — are moderates by any standard, while Republicans are wild-eyed radicals. So why does the G.O.P. think that it can get away with claiming the opposite?

Part of the answer is the power of the right-wing disinformation machine, which relentlessly portrays anyone left of center as the second coming of Pol Pot. Another part of the answer is that Republicans clearly hope that voters will judge some Democrats by the color of their skin, not the content of their policy proposals.

In any case, let’s be clear: There is indeed a radical party in America, one that, aside from hating democracy, has crazy ideas about how the world works and is at odds with the views of most voters. And it’s not the Democrats.

min-wage

Clueless

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s column from yesterday is astute, to-the-point, and well worth the few minutes it takes to read it.  He hits the nail on the head regarding Trump’s trade ‘negotiations’ with China.

paul-krugman-thumbLarge.png


The Art of the Imaginary Deal

On trade, Trump is a rebel without a clue

Are we going to have a full-blown trade war with China, and maybe the rest of the world? Nobody knows — because it all depends on the whims of one man. And Tariff Man is ignorant, volatile and delusional.

Why do I say that it’s all about one man? After all, after the 2016 U.S. election and the Brexit vote in Britain, there was a lot of talk about a broad popular backlash against globalization. Over the past two years, however, it has become clear that this backlash was both smaller and shallower than advertised.

Where, after all, is the major constituency supporting Donald Trump’s tariffs and threats to exit international agreements? Big business hates the prospect of a trade war, and stocks plunge whenever that prospect becomes more likely. Labor hasn’t rallied behind Trumpist protectionism either.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans believing that foreign trade is good for the economy is near a record high. Even those who criticize trade seem to be motivated by loyalty to Trump, not by deep policy convictions: During the 2016 campaign self-identified Republicans swung wildly from the view that trade agreements are good to the view that they’re bad, then swung back again once Trump seemed to be negotiating agreements of his own. (We have always been in a trade war with Eastasia.)

But if there’s no strong constituency for protectionism, why are we teetering on the brink of a trade war? Blame U.S. trade law.

Once upon a time, Congress used to write detailed tariff bills that were stuffed full of giveaways to special interests, with destructive effects on both the economy and American diplomacy. So in the 1930s F.D.R. established a new system in which the executive branch negotiates trade deals with other countries, and Congress simply votes these deals up or down. The U.S. system then became the template for global negotiations that culminated in the creation of the World Trade Organization.

The creators of the U.S. trade policy system realized, however, that it couldn’t be too rigid or it would shatter in times of stress; there had to be ways to relieve pressure when necessary. So trade law gives the executive the right to impose tariffs without new legislation under certain circumstances, mainly to protect national security, to retaliate against unfair foreign practices, or to give industries facing sudden surges in foreign competition time to adjust.

In other words, U.S. trade law gives the president a lot of discretionary power over trade, as part of a system that curbs the destructive influence of corrupt, irresponsible members of Congress. And that setup worked very well for more than 80 years.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t intended to handle the problem of a corrupt, irresponsible president. Trump is pretty much all alone in lusting for a trade war, but he has virtually dictatorial authority over trade.

What’s he doing with that power? He’s trying to negotiate deals. Unfortunately, he really, really doesn’t know what he’s doing. On trade, he’s a rebel without a clue.

Even as he declared himself Tariff Man, Trump revealed that he doesn’t understand how tariffs work. No, they aren’t taxes on foreigners, they’re taxes on our own consumers.

When trying to make deals, he seems to care only about whether he can claim a “win,” not about substance. He has been touting the “U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement” as a repudiation of NAFTA, when it’s actually just a fairly minor modification. (Nancy Pelosi calls it “the trade agreement formerly known as Prince.”)

Most important, his inability to do international diplomacy, which we’ve seen on many fronts, carries over to trade talks. Remember, he claimed to have “solved” the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Kim Jong-un is still expanding his ballistic missile capacity. Well, last weekend he claimed to have reached a major trade understanding with China; but as J.P. Morgan soon reported in a note to its clients, his claims “seem if not completely fabricated then grossly exaggerated.”

Markets plunged earlier this week as investors realized that they’d been had. As I said, business really doesn’t want a trade war.

Let’s be clear: China is not a good actor in the world economy. It engages in real misbehavior, especially with regard to intellectual property: The Chinese essentially rip off technology. So there is a case for toughening our stance on trade.

But that toughening should be undertaken in concert with other nations that also suffer from Chinese misbehavior, and it should have clear objectives. The last person you want to play hardball here is someone who doesn’t grasp the basics of trade policy, who directs his aggressiveness at everyone — tariffs on Canadian aluminum to protect our national security? Really? — and who can’t even give an honest account of what went down in a meeting.

Unfortunately, that’s the person who’s now in charge, and it’s hard to see how he can be restrained. So the future of world trade, with all it implies for the world economy, now hinges largely on Donald Trump’s mental processes. That is not a comforting thought.Text dividers

Let Them Eat Trump Steaks

Paul Krugman is an economist who has taught Economics at MIT, Yale, and the London School of Economics.  In 2008, he won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. This man obviously knows of what he speaks. He is also a columnist for the New York Times.  His column today, titled Let Them Eat Trump Steaks, is about the current administration’s efforts to rob low income people of any and all benefits. His words grabbed me and I felt it was something worth sharing. cognitive dissonance

In general, Donald Trump is notoriously uninterested in policy details. It has long been obvious, for example, that he never bothered to find out what his one major legislative victory, the 2017 tax cut, actually did. Similarly, it’s pretty clear that he had no idea what was actually in the Iran agreement he just repudiated.

In each case, it was about ego rather than substance: scoring a “win,” undoing his predecessor’s achievement.

But there are some policy issues he really does care about. By all accounts, he really hates the idea of people receiving “welfare,” by which he means any government program that helps people with low income, and he wants to eliminate such programs wherever possible.

Most recently, he has reportedly threatened to veto the upcoming farm bill unless it imposes stringent new work requirements on recipients of SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, still commonly referred to as food stamps.

Let me be upfront here: There’s something fundamentally obscene about this spectacle. Here we have a man who inherited great wealth, then built a business career largely around duping the gullible — whether they were naïve investors in his business ventures left holding the bag when those ventures went bankrupt, or students who wasted time and money on worthless degrees from Trump University. Yet he’s determined to snatch food from the mouths of the truly desperate, because he’s sure that somehow or other they’re getting away with something, having it too easy.

But however petty Trump’s motives, this is a big deal from the other side. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that new work requirements plus other restrictions proposed by House Republicans would end up denying or reducing nutritional aid to around two million people, mostly in families with children.

Why would anyone want to do that? The thing is, it’s not just Trump: Conservative hatred for food stamps is pervasive. What’s behind it?

The more respectable, supposedly intellectual side of conservative opinion portrays food stamps as reducing incentives by making life too pleasant for the poor. As Paul Ryan put it, SNAP and other programs create a “hammock” that “lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.”

But this is a problem that exists only in the right’s imagination. Able-bodied SNAP recipients who should be working but aren’t are very hard to find: A vast majority of the program’s beneficiaries either are working — but at unstable jobs that pay low wages — or are children, elderly, disabled or essential family caregivers.

Oh, and there’s strong evidence that children in low-income families that receive food stamps become more productive and healthier adults, which means that the program is actually good for long-run economic growth.

Is it about the money? The enactment of the budget-busting 2017 tax cut proved once and for all, for anyone who had doubts, that Republicans don’t actually care about deficits.

But even if they did care about deficits, the C.B.O. estimates that the proposed cuts to food stamps would save less than one percent, that’s right, one percent, of the revenue lost due to that tax cut. In fact, over the next decade the entire SNAP program, which helps 40 million Americans, will cost only about a third as much as the tax cut. No, it’s not about the money.

What about racism? Historically, attacks on food stamps have often involved a barely disguised racial element — for example, when Ronald Reagan imagined a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks. And I suspect that Trump himself still thinks of food stamps as a program for urban black people.

But while many urban blacks do get food stamps, so do many rural whites. Nationally, significantly more whites than blacks receive food stamps, and participation in SNAP is higher in rural than in urban counties. Food stamps are especially important in depressed regions like Appalachia that have lost jobs in coal and other traditional sectors.

And yes, this means that some of the biggest victims of Trump’s obsession with cutting “welfare” will be the very people who put him in office.

Consider Owsley County, Ky., at the epicenter of Appalachia’s regional crisis. More than half the county’s population receives food stamps; 84 percent of its voters supported Trump in 2016. Did they know what they were voting for?

In the end, I don’t believe there’s any policy justification for the attack on food stamps: It’s not about the incentives, and it’s not about the money. And even the racial animus that traditionally underlies attacks on U.S. social programs has receded partially into the background.

No, this is about petty cruelty turned into a principle of government. It’s about privileged people who look at the less fortunate and don’t think, “There but for the grace of God go I”; they just see a bunch of losers. They don’t want to help the less fortunate; in fact, they get angry at the very idea of public aid that makes those losers a bit less miserable.

And these are the people now running America.

These, folks, are the facts.  Just one more reason we need to ensure some changes happen on 06 November.

Why The Undeserved, Blind Loyalty???

Recently I have been quite puzzled by the dedication of the Republicans in Congress to the ‘man’ in the Oval Office.  So today, when I came across an op-ed titled, What’s the Matter With Republicans? by Paul Krugman of the New York Times, I realized that I was not alone in my puzzlement.  In the article, Krugman posits that it is the nature and structure of the Republican Party itself that keeps those riding his coattails from abandoning ship.  A few excerpts are in order:

  • Faced with questions about the Flynn scandal and the Comey firing, Ryan waved them away: “I don’t worry about things that are outside my control.” This might sound like a reasonable philosophy — unless you realize that Ryan is speaker of the House of Representatives, a legislative body with the power to issue subpoenas, compel testimony and, yes, impeach the president.

  • At this point we know who and what Trump is, and have a pretty good idea of what he has been doing. If we had two patriotic parties in the country, impeachment proceedings would already be underway. But we don’t. What’s the matter with Republicans?

  • First, Republicans are professional politicians. The G.O.P. … is one branch of a monolithic structure, movement conservatism, with a rigid ideology — tax cuts for the rich above all else. Other branches of the structure include a captive media that parrots the party line every step of the way. And this monolithic structure — lavishly supported by a small number of very, very wealthy families — rewards, indeed insists on, absolute fealty.

  • Why did Marine Le Pen, often portrayed as the French equivalent of Trump, lose by a huge margin? Because France’s conservatives were only willing to go so far; they simply would not support a candidate whose motives and qualifications they distrusted. Republicans, however, went all in behind Trump, knowing full well that he was totally unqualified, strongly suspecting that he was corrupt and even speculating that he might be in Russian pay, simply because there was an “R” after his name on the ballot.

  • In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. Think of what it has taken to get us to this point — his Twitter addiction, his bizarre loyalty to Flynn and affection for Putin, the raw exploitation of his office to enrich his family, the business dealings, whatever they were, he’s evidently trying to cover up by refusing to release his taxes.

Krugman’s piece concludes with a thought that echoes sentiments I have expressed more than once:

  • The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we’d be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.

The one thing that is noticeably absent in the ideology of the Republican Party as described by Mr. Krugman is the will of the populace.  Does any single “average Joe” voter place ‘tax cuts for the wealthy’ above above affordable healthcare, the environment, quality public schools, etc.?  I think not.  And yet … republican voters seem to have the same loyalty to party that is a staple of the republican members of Congress.

ryanLook closely at the above picture of Paul Ryan … does this look like a man who is comfortable with his decisions, a man whose conscience is at peace?  Not to me.

I have been saying for months now that most house republicans will be unemployed after November 2018, but is that true? I remember an old friend, long gone from this world, who back in 1976 said of then-candidate Jimmy Carter, “I can’t stand the man, but he’s a democrat and I’m a democrat, so I’m going to vote for him.”  It is this line of thinking that may be the end of our democratic system of government.  Loyalty to a party rather than choosing a candidate who puts the best interest of the nation and its people first is a mistake no matter which side of the aisle it benefits.

Republican loyalty to party rather than to conscience rather reminds me of the abused wife who stands by her husband no matter what … she knows he is a cad, a jerk, but she believes it is her duty to be a loyal wife.  Else she is afraid of the alternative.

According to a 2016 Gallup Poll, the breakdown of voters is: 29% Democrats, 26% Republicans, 42% Independents, and the other 3% apparently neither know nor care.

party chartThe surge in the past 5 years of independent voters is a result of voter dissatisfaction with the gridlock in the federal government, and I see it as a positive, a sign that more voters are considering issues rather than a blind loyalty to party.  I also wonder if it doesn’t potentially open the door for a third party to eventually gain a foothold in the political process?  Typically third party candidates do not stand much of a chance in presidential elections (though they do better in local elections) because of such things as the electoral college’s ‘winner take all’ system, ballot access laws, and debate rules, but perhaps the time is ripe for a candidate who is not tied to long-standing alliances with big business, wealthy corporations and lobbyist groups.

Whatever the outcome of the current fiasco in the White House, it has shown us, I think, that it is time we started voting our consciences, that we hold our elected representatives in Congress accountable for making our best interests their top priority.  If we do not, we risk becoming a plutocracy, government by the wealthy … if, indeed, we are not already.