Calling Things by Their Real Names

I love a good debate. I’ve have many of them with friends on every side of the political spectrum. Radical Centrism — my prescription for recovering a dynamic center to US political life — is based on the notion that we should not eliminate the wildest ideas from any side of the discussion about solutions:  libertarianism, socialism, Democrat, Conservative, Trumpist.  To do so risks the mistake of the blind men describing the elephant of seeing only a limited part of the universe and mistaking it for the whole.

But when opinions are informed by venal or racist motive, inflamed ignorance by mob-inciters, or descend into talking points designed not to illuminate, but to distract from and obscure, well, I that’s where I tend to get off the bus… I try to call things by their real names, because so often euphemisms and “talking points” are just stratagems to disguise racism or ignorance, and avoid actual debate. So the originators don’t have to acknowledge, even to themselves, what is happening to the country they (mostly) love.

And here I have been roundly criticized by my conservative friends. They take such impatience on my part as precluding the rational discussion that my ‘radical Centrism’ posts imply. True, perhaps. One of my many Facebook friends is convinced that because I point out (with significant supporting facts) we live in a nation built on systematized racism, I am calling him a racist. Well, I am, but only because I am calling us ALL racists. These attitudes are so ingrained in our culture and politics that many consider themselves “colorblind” even while unconsciously carrying out racist cultural and legal practices. Make no mistake, all Americans are implicated in our support of these policies: otherwise egregious racial disparities (please see Michelle Alexander again) would have ceased to exist long ago.

So I don’t want him (or any of us) to jump off a bridge. I just want him (and all of us) to work on finding where we might harbor a bit of racial resentment, or might make blithe generalizations about people of color as a group, or might be contributing to a party or President who use race and race-related issues to increase popularity. I have searched my own actions and have found plenty — including the “identity politics” and “demographic inevitability” that are included in so much democratic-leaning political thinking. Calling things by their real names resonates. If racism resonates (like the words’ identity politics,’ ‘politically correct,’ ‘snowflakes,’ do for me) then there’s probably at least a partial truth in there that stings.

So let me say for sure: Please don’t take umbrage if I occasionally offend. Trying to find a truth, or a narrative that suggests a truth, is not easy. But it is essential for trying to understand the large forces and small acts that define our common reality, and our disputing unrealities. I have no defense for my opinions, other than facts I can bring to the table with them. Beyond this, any narrative logic I use in describing the world, relies completely on the listener’s assent. On this ground, I believe we can share a conversation and begin to break down our divisions. The key, really, is to focus on policies, not labels.

 The irony from the parable of the blind men and the elephant, is that, if they had just pooled their knowledge, their perceptions of the individual elements would have comprised a pretty good picture of an actual elephant

So what about policies?

Well, as I have shown in earlier posts, I’m ready to debate what kind of immigration policy makes sense. I’m ready to identify immigration as it correlates to crime. I’m ready to assemble ALL the information available to make the best decisions about who, how, and why.

I think acknowledging the faults of our regulatory apparatus and its excesses is important to balance the common good against the individual, an find a model that is better at accomplishing our environmental, labor, and safety goals  without building governmental fiefdoms that simply exercise power.

in light of the apparent groundswell of support for a President apparently intent on dismantling the Western Alliance and NATO as we knew it, and shift our allegiances to modern dictators like Putin, perhaps it’s time to review our 70 year global Pax Americana, including NATO, the UN and other institutions capable of mediating conflict. Perhaps it is outdated for the new cold war: cyberwarfare and cyber-propaganda.  Perhaps a conservative-liberal-Trumpist point-counter-point would be helpful to illuminate all the issues on a very complicated subject fraught with danger no matter which direction we select….

Some of my friends are persuaded that welfare merely encourages laziness. I remain unpersuaded, but it’s hard to deny the human logic that some resentment would arise from providing assistance for some and not for others. In an era of increased automation and offshoring, and the poverty of prevailing wages, we need to have a full-throated discussion about government assistance to most every class to mitigate the impacts of the growing disparity of wealth in the age of the self-entitled superrich.

Some conservative friends would like to return to universal service to serve country.  Whether and how that would work is complicated and needs a lot of good thinking. But it seems it could be helpful to: increase civic knowledge and responsibility, provide next-to-volunteer labor for important US goals, including military, infrastructure, peace corps, and social service.

I’m ready to debate Obamacare, or a single payer alternative. While a laissez-faire attitude is the farthest thing from a solution as I, or the majority of United States citizens, think is feasible — I’m even fine with that being thrown into the conversation.

It’s past time that we discussed globalization and free trade openly and honestly. We do need to evaluate the known benefits and drawbacks of our early efforts at acknowledging the fact the that money, information, labor markets, consumer markets have escaped national boundaries. And whether a return to trade nationalism offers a chance at success in putting the genie back in the bottle or not, it is worthy of discussion.

So many things on the Radical Centrism agenda should be discussed between liberals, socialists, conservatives and Trumpists. The irony from the parable of the blind men describing the elephant, is that, if they had just pooled their knowledge, their perceptions of the individual elements would have comprised a pretty good picture of an actual elephant.  So, I continue to believe there is ground for incorporating elements of all these viewpoints into a range of solutions that would constitute a  consensus agenda.

However, each person and/or faction participating must have the humility not to believe they know it all to begin with. They must concede that they might just be seeing their own part of the elephant. Would this encourage the participants to have the courtesy to let people express their ideas with our being shouted down, or name called? Can we have faith that we find truth only with multiple points of view working to persuade others with real facts and data, and must be working in good faith for the common good? Might be worth a try…

One thing I believe we MUST insist on: no euphemisms.  Call things by their real name. If that includes a little pain for me, or thee, so be it.

What is certain is that naming and labeling of people has little to do with solutions that work. So we must learn to take stock of the names we are called (they do reflect how people perceive us, after all), but to basically ignore them as we get down to creating agendas that can improve things for as many as possible.


By the way, I have taken to collecting news articles in special curated magazines on the Flipboard program. These are facts and opinions that interest me and which provide some of the statistical rationale (and narrative logic) for the concerns that interest me. It’s fun, and I hope you find it informative to supplement your reading.

Metadada ‘Pocalypse Review is a catch-all magazine and media repository for articles I am writing or have written or support/disagree with my trains of thought.
OK, It’s the Trump Show is my surrender to Trump, Trump Trump all the time. A collection of articles specifically about our current President.

Radical Centrism Review is my search to recover a dynamic center to our politics
Culture: Wars and Pieces is relating books, movies, music and art to the current state of our social and political structure. 
Let me know what you think!  

  1. This time I am going to refrain from specifics because with the current climate, I think there is no hope for a civil discourse. For the time being we are in a “zero sum” political period..One side is going to win and the other side is going to lose..It is that simple..It is that certain because Conservatives will not support any part of the Liberal agenda and Liberals will accept no part of a legitimate Trump Presidency, or any subsequent Conservative Presidency..

    The only way this is going to be resolved is through demography and the weight of multiple votes over a decade or more.. As they say, Demography is Destiny..If you are a Liberal it is, I believe, your hope that eventually this country will turn Left enough to sustain a Liberal agenda..Whether it is by attrition and death of older voters, or by Legal or Illegal immigrants, the numbers will eventually turn this nation purple, or outright blue.. They may be right..On the other hand, the speeches by Bernie and Ms Ocasio have to terrify the bejeezus out of most Conservatives and I think that drives the percentage of Conservative voters supporting Trump or other Conservatives to record numbers– as long as those numbers are there..Just as with Viet Nam, sooner or later the divisive nature of politics will resolve the issue with a winner or loser and the Nation will march on re-formed..Neither you, nor I may be around to see this cycle completed as I think it will take between 10-20 years to completion- but you never know

    I dont have contempt for the opposing philosophical drivers of the Liberal and Conservative populations, but I have a deep contempt for the media which support the parties..Both sides…And I have even deeper contempt for the venal politicians who populate our opposing wings..Not a single statesman or patriot among both sides..All have put their own success ahead of the nation’s well being and we are all poorer because of it..You think any of the younger ones coming up are any better?? I dont, and I think I am not cynical enough in this regard..They are raised on the political mother’s milk of corruption and identity politics, and false patriotism with a strong whiff of racism blended in–on BOTH sides..

    Is there hope? No.. There is no hope.. what will have to happen is that one side will prevail.. Just as in Viet Nam itself, the carnage will continue until one side is victorious and implements their plan over the bodies of the vanquished other side..We will have “political re education camps” (Hell, we ALREADY have them now..Just look at the crap that is fed into the minds of the younger generations) and eventually we will emerge as a different nation..

    We will survive, I think as a nation.. We survived far worse in ridding ourselves of the curse of slavery..But it is going to be a long, ugly divisive path, despite your efforts to hold a civilized debate..We simply have no center, only extreme wings

    Shal

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    1. Hey, thanks for your Comment, Shal. I just am not so cynical as you. There are really good politicians on both sides, as well as the venal and corrupt ones. And every side has their flaws and their blindnesses. My appeal is to Make America Great Again by incorporating and respecting the critiques and recommendations of all sides into a respectful discussion, based on truths and facts that both sides can assent to.
      This is how we used to do it in the US, in spite of spirited partisanship; and I have a firm belief that slight adjustments in how we treat each other can, in fact, make significant differences in the effectiveness of our government, and our ability to know and operate on a more expansive description of the world we are living in.

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  2. Maybe.. Let’s see how the Cavanaugh hearings go for how scorched the earth is likely to be, and whether any are willing to cross over to vote for, or against his nomination

    But, if the Dems regain a House majority in November and the first thing they do is introduce Articles of Impeachment, you can forget about anything constructive occurring in the next 2 years.. If Trump wins re election in 2020 the venom will be over the top and non stop for 4 more years as payback after payback occurs

    Sorry, Pat but you cannot possibly be cynical enough

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    1. I think kavanaugh is already a dead issue for dems. I sure think his notion of an imperial presidency, above the law, is dangerous, but there won’t be the votes to block. A few Democrats in swing districts will likely vote for him. That Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are signaling their yes votes make it pretty much a done deal. When a Democrat becomes President and threatens to expand the imperial presidency, I hope all those Republicans remember their votes on Kavanaugh.
      Turning to your concerns about Democrats impeaching, I think impeachment should be based not on party affiliation but on whatever the Mueller report reveals or recommends about Trumps actions. Right now, I see mostly Democrats committed to that appropriate check and balance on Presidential behavior. But Muellers evidence also needs to be compelling enough that the coalition recommending impeachment is at least somewhat bipartisan, (i.e. not about a ‘cover up’ of semen on a dress prosecuted by partisans of a single party). As you note, a one-party impeachment is the avenue toward breakdown of political respect and another step down the ladder of dysfunction. We seen enough to know that no impeachment proceeding would get the green light no matter how compelling the evidence as long as Republicans hold the house, so I’m going along with many lifelong Republicans in recommending that a vote for our system of checks and balances means a vote for Democrats.
      I’m still more in favor of getting the full factual Mueller report — which I believe will tenuous about Trumps personal involvement with his campaign’s collusion, and more certain about the President’s attempt to obstruct the investigation, but with some grey areas about executive privilege. Instead of impeachment I believe the most appropriate action in most cases will be at the ballot box.
      And while corruption and obstruction are commonplace in the Trump administration, I’d rather focus on the real policy differences in the vision of this country’s future in the Presidential campaign. That’s where I think Democrats have the advantage if they can overcome the decades-long smear campaign about their elitism (which, unfortunately, certain individuals are always likely to anecdotally confirm).
      Democrats have a quandary: they are in a “dirty” fight with the Koch’s, the Republicans, the Trumpists. But, because they actually believe in government, and value bipartisanship they have been duped time and again into including conservative ideas into legislation without gaining anything but a wall of Republican obstruction. The most egregious example: the straight Heritage Foundation/Romney-tested healthcare plan was called contemptuously “Obamacare” and demagogued ruthlessly by the same party that developed it as the Conservative party market-based alternative to Medicare for all. Not a single Republican vote.
      So should the Democrats play “dirty”? I don’t think they have it in them. They are really “snowflakes” when it comes to destroying our government for political wins — and the fools keep trying to be bipartisan! I think they see much more clearly than Trump Republicans the precipice we are leaning way out over in this “zero sum game.”
      Where I have always and ardently disagreed with you, Shal, is with your excuse for Republican and Trump party’s turn toward straight partisan winner take all obstruction, by suggesting that it’s equivalent to Democrats behavior. Though both parties have their faults, they simply are not the same faults.
      So I see a lot of reasons to hope: responsible Democrats, thoughtful (ex-or retiring) Republicans, some people who still remember respectful bipartisanship and loyalty to country over party, all people who are still committed to our form of democracy over their party’s victory, and committed to making that democracy’s commitment to protecting minority views (and races, perhaps) from domination by the majority as well. That was the genius design behind our Republican Democracy and our system of checks and balances which is now being threatened by the Republican Party and its authoritarian President. And no, Shal, that is not like any other president or party we’ve seen, either.

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  3. No reason to go tit for tat, except that for sheer Imperial Presidency nothing even comes remotely close to FDR..From suspension of the 2 term limit, to packing the Supreme Court to get his way, Internment of Japanese and literally dozens of unilateral actions and programs that went without challenge, no President has ever wielded the power of FDR.. The only power he couldnt suspend is Death..Otherwise he might still be President, running for his 30th term, give or take
    If you want to go further back look at the terms of Andy Jackson and Woodrow Wilson for other examples of Presidents who took for themselves unheard of powers..Or, look at the Reconstruction Era for a time when the GOP totally disenfranchised and punished most of the South

    Now you want to say that Trump and the GOP are more powerful than that, go right ahead

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  4. I am not complaining about power, I’m complaining about destroying our form of government and its checks and balances to obtain it. The Roosevelt years were a function of an extreme economic meltdown followed by an existentially threatening world war. Democrats held more than substantial majorities in both houses until the narrower 1940 election. Roosevelt’s re-election in 1944 alerted both parties to the dangers of a permanent President, and the 22 Amendment was passed within a few years — by both parties.
    Yet even with Roosevelt’s highest legislative majorities, his own party voted against his court-packing attempt. Country over party.
    As a Wartime president, he had every authority to order the Japanese internment, even though modern historians (and myself) see his decision as misguided and cruel.
    And, please, Reconstruction was the result of a cataclysmic disruption of democracy caused by the secession of slavery-loving states. And my own view of reconstruction, under Lincoln, is that it enfranchised black citizens. The “South” was only “disenfranchised” by the fact that they hated those colored skin citizens voting. But they ended all that within a few months by arranging for Lincoln’s assassination and the installation of a Southerner Vice-President, who made a mockery of reconstruction by installing the usual white supremacists back into power, which evolved quickly into semi-slavery of the sharecropper economy and ultimately the Jim Crow state that delayed true “enfranchisement” for another 90 years! So no, I don’t buy your argument there in any way.
    The current Republican Party and President are in power as a voted minority, but electoral majority. It’s hard for to see this party voting to preserve or exercise their responsibility to serve as a check on Presidential power as Democrats did on court packing during the New Deal and limits on Presidential terms after it.

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  5. since you brought it up..what restraints did the Democrat Party put on Obama? Exactly none

    And with every comment about “voted minority vs electoral majority” there is a whiff of illegitimate mandate… get over it. Whether by 1 electoral vote or 100, Trump was duly elected for 4 years..The rules are the rules..The fact is that Hillary simply blew it by shunning a bunch of Rust Belt states that she could not conceive of going for Trump..This was Hillary’s election to lose, and lose it she did

    There are elections in 2018 and 2020 which will determine both the short term agenda, and long term philosophy of the Supreme Court and Immigration policy..I will have no problem if Trump’s agenda is fairly defeated at the ballot box, or he is a 1 term President by 1 electoral vote..I will have a huge problem if he is removed from office by a Democrat ruled Legislative organ, regardless of what Meuller says or doesnt say..There were rotten things going on all over the place in the 2016 election.. It is time to move on and this ongoing circus is toxic to the nation as a whole

    What we have now is parallel universes with neither side seeing ANY merit in the policies of the opposite party..Obama spent much of the last 4 years of his Presidency using Executive orders to implement policy over the
    complete refusal of the GOP to consider anything of his..Then Trump has spent the first 2 years of his term reversing as many of Obama’s Executive orders with his own Executive orders as possible…This is not a recipe for consensus government..If the Dems win a majority in the House we will spend 2 years with every Bill of theirs arriving DOA in the Senate..But since all revenue Bills must originate in the House, we will have none that can pass joint conference committees and become law.. So we will either have repeated government shutdowns for 2 years, or a series of continuing resolutions to keep the Government running every 90-180 days.. I cannot imagine the harm it will do to the value of the dollar and if the economy starts to tank you have your agenda set for the 2020 election…Trump says the economy was fine until the Dems deliberately sabotaged it for 2 years..The Dems say “we told you that Trumps economy was all smoke and mirrors”.. Divided government only works if the Loyal Opposition is actually loyal..We dont have that now, and it is my premise we never will because of the brand of politics played by BOTH sides.. You want to say it is ONLY the GOP that is the problem, go right ahead. I think it is BOTH sides that are the problem, and I dont see that changing at any time in the foreseeable future

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    1. Thanks for the comments, Shal.
      One of the good things about our discussions is that we seem to be arriving, from different perspectives, at a fairly common understanding of our history through the Obama and early Trump years — as well as a common distaste for how dysfunctional our winner-take-all government has become.
      Our difference is hope for the future… You see nothing changing in the future as we spiral into total dysfunction, while I believe that hope lies with the Democrats, Independents and responsible Republicans working together to restore the institutions, customs and comity of a functional democracy. I don’t believe there’s a lot of historical evidence that Democrats will behave the same way as Republicans have (Henry Reid frustrated dismantling of the filibuster is a counterexample, of course, but it did happen after six years of Republican gratuitous filibuster obstruction for the smallest appointments proposed by Obama). However, there will be many democrats calling for blood-for-blood, but I think the leadership will prevail and the center will hold.
      My hope is my faith, based on long association. that Democrats, no matter what their faults, actually believe in government — as opposed to a very sizable minority of the Republican party which plainly does not. So, when the winds change and Democrats take the house and maybe the Senate, I believe there will be many voices of moderation, and few able to reverse leadership efforts to restore the apparatus of government and democracy. That will, of course, depend on whether the Republicans use the successful strategy of obstruction to all legislation that they used when a Democrat was in the White House. The reason I don’t think they will is that Trump will be needing some legislative victories to show in 2020.
      Where you and I differ is also on where the key fault lines in these slow stages of disintegration, which I believe can be traced all the way to the Newt Gingrich years, FOX News and its offspring, and the Conservative Think Tank and Dark Money Universe.
      Regarding your question about where Democrats were on Obama’s use of executive orders, Democrats, when they were in power, did not have to do anything to restrain Obama: there were few significant orders because the big issues were being legislated in the first two years, so executive orders were not required to keep the government functioning. When Democrats weren’t in power, they were never given any role in the winner-take-all government as it was being run by Boehner and McConnell. But failure to deliver anything but government shutdowns to Obama eventually led to what I fully admit was an overuse of Executive authority in Obama’s second term. That fragility of that strategy became even more clear in retrospect as Trump dismantled the best and the worst executive perogratives of Obama in what I see as a deliberate attempt to write him out of history. I can totally agree with you that executive orders that swing wildly back and forth with each election are a characteristic of unstable dictatorships or weak democracies. We have both learned enough to, perhaps, leave that behind: those are pyrrhic victories at best.

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  6. Glad you boys are having fun.

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    1. i would far prefer to be playing music.. I leave every one of our musical sessions with a smile on my face and looking forward to the next one.. I cannot say that EVER happens in political discussions.. I have stopped responding to any FB political conversations..They become so toxic that it is not only a waste of time, but I risk losing people I like over their political rants..Better to simply ignore and move on..I have yet to change anyone’s mind and I know I just tend to get more dug in to my own opinions when attacked..The worst musical experience is better than any political discussion I have ever had.. I should know better.. It is a totally fruitless effort..Life is too short….

      Peace

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  7. […] sources. That is why the work of being a citizen in a democracy is never done, and utterly depends on other, equally engaged citizens seeking actionable truth, to help clarify and define our common […]

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  8. […] to VOTE, but to participate, participate, participate in the conversation… even if it means calling things by their real names. Even if it makes you uncomfortable and your friends mad. Do it! Our country depends on […]

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