Being A Moderate In A Polarized World

I have lived most of my adult life as the man in the middle. I tend to be a mediator when my friends argue. I actively avoid taking a side on most issues, because most issues are not black and white. 

When I was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press Editorial Board, I was asked if I was pro-life or pro-choice. I answered, “No.” I don’t like the political duopoly in the U.S., because most of the time the parties treat issues as for or against. On environmental issues, I agree with the Democrats that we need stronger regulations in many sectors, but I agree with the Republicans that the regulatory burden is often too great for small businesses. We should be able to find ways to both make our world cleaner and make it easier for businesses to understand and comply with regulations. 

I have heard pundits on both sides say that moderates just don’t have the courage to take a stand. Obviously, I think they are mistaken, but furthermore, I think that going against conventional wisdom often takes more courage, since the attacks come from all directions. As you can probably tell from my meme post, I tend to strike in all directions, but I am also looking for good ideas wherever I can find them. 

Too many people reject deals because they aren’t perfect. The Iran nuclear deal is an excellent example, because many people believe the U.S. gave up too much, but Iran feels, correctly, in my opinion, that giving up its nuclear weapons program is worth quite a bit. Liberals don’t like Obamacare because it isn’t single payer, conservatives don’t because it is too far from a free market. No deal is perfect, but sometimes good enough has to be good enough. 

The extremists usually only get things done through force, physical or otherwise. The moderates improve things peacefully.

Too bad there aren’t any left in Congress.

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Whose World Is It Anyway?

This morning I read an interesting article on OZY titled “Don’t Let Old People Vote!” I won’t go into great detail, but it did raise an interesting question for me: Whose world is it anyway?

One of my independent opponents, Rick Tyler, longs for a return to the way the U.S. was in the 1950s and 1960s, when white Christian Conservatives were in control. Tyler is extreme, certainly, but parts of his attitude are reflected in many older Americans. Opposition to gay marriage and equality, environmental protection, improved funding for education are all much greater among older Americans than younger, while older Americans are more likely to vote than younger Americans.

This is due at least in part due to the fact that voter registration isn’t automatic. The seventy-five-year-old who has lived in the same house for forty years hasn’t had to re-register, while the twenty-five-year-old recent college graduate likely had to re-register when moving from home to college, then when switching apartments, then when moving from college to the new job–possibly six or seven moves since turning eighteen. If the twenty-five-year-old is in Tennessee, that requires mailing in a new registration form for each move at least thirty days before an election, since there is no electronic voter registration. Thus, part of the reason for lower voter turnout among young Americans is systemic, rather than simply being voter apathy.

This is problematic, because older Americans are, effectively, voting to force younger Americans to live in the world they want, rather than in the world older Americans would like to return. Unfortunately, the world they want cannot return, because America is unlikely to return to a manufacturing economy, not due to moving jobs out of the country but due to increased automation–and that automation is only going to continue to allow workers to improve productivity, which will continue to decrease the number of workers needed. We need trade laws that protect intellectual property rights (although not to the extreme duration that the Trans-Pacific Partnership mandates), because these are areas where the U.S. still excels. Protecting the environment is also less important to older Americans, because they are unlikely to suffer the consequences. Their college wasn’t free, so why should it be for younger Americans–ignoring the fact that a college student in their day could pay for school, room, and board with a part-time job plus a full-time job in the summer? And, of course, many older Americans don’t think that racism and homophobia was really that bad–because LGBT people stayed closeted and minorities “knew their place.”

As anyone who has read more than one post on this blog knows, I’m not a normal politician. I don’t look forward to tomorrow, next week, or next year: I look ten, twenty, and fifty years into the future. I think we need to be planning an online voting infrastructure now, and it should be trivial for someone to change their address in the system. I think we need to continue to improve our environmental standards–but we need to make sure that while improving standards we don’t also increase the regulatory burden on American businesses. If we add a new reporting requirement, we need to remove an existing one. Civil rights protections need to cover any group subject to discrimination on any basis besides their ability to do a job–with appropriate accommodations, where needed–or to pay for the goods and services provided. I have said before that we need to move toward a single-payer health care system, both to allow U.S. manufacturers to compete on a level playing field internationally and to make part-time employment affordable for Americans and small businesses.

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(from Pinterest. Original artist unknown.)

I have argued before that we need to consider raising the age for Social Security, but given current population trends, this may not be the best route. The world population growth rate is currently about half that of the 1960s–1.13% compared to 2.2%–and falling. Depending on the rate of improvement in automation, we may have to tweak the workforce by manipulating the retirement age upward or downward. If we find that we have too many workers, it may be useful to drop the retirement age to free up those slots. We may even get to the point where a universal basic income becomes viable and desirable, in the case of automation greatly reducing the need for labor. It isn’t something that we can afford today, and much more research needs to be done, but it is something that we should consider as an option later.

I don’t fear the future. I don’t think you should either–and you shouldn’t vote for anyone who does. We need to manage the world so that we don’t irreparably damage it while we are getting there, but the world can be an incredible place. We just need politicians who won’t sabotage us on our way there.

The election is in four days. Do your research, then get out and vote. Thanks for reading!

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Filed under Education, Environment, Gay Marriage and Gender Issues, Health Care, Listening, Racism, Social Security, Technology

To Meme or not to Meme…

I like a good meme as much as anyone, but commenting on other people’s memes seems to get me into more trouble on social media than anything else.

I can’t help myself. I feel a need to comment when someone posts a meme that is obviously misleading, lying, or taking things out of context. I’ll give you three examples:

From the Democrats

occupy

The first sign that this is a bad meme is that it is quoting a fictional character from a television show. The real problem, though, is that the meme is terribly inaccurate. The meme names six bills that benefited Americans and claims that liberals supported all six and conservatives opposed all of them:

  1. Social Security
  2. The Civil Rights Act
  3. The Voting Rights Act
  4. Medicare
  5. The Clean Air Act
  6. The Clean Water Act

Had the meme stopped with Social Security and Medicare, it would have done just fine. The Civil Rights Act of 1964–the first one with teeth–was a bipartisan bill, with more Democratic opposition than Republican. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was jointly sponsored by the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and, like the Civil Rights Act, it had more opponents among Democrats than Republicans.

The environmental bills are much more problematic. The Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed unanimously by the Senate and had one no vote in the House. It gave teeth to the original Clean Air Act of 1963 and led to Richard Nixon establishing the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water Act of 1972 passed unanimously. It was vetoed by Nixon–because he was opposed to the pork in the bill: His budget request had already quadrupled funding for clean water, and the bill was passed over his veto. Environmental legislation used to be bipartisan, and it can be argued that the two best environmental presidents were Nixon, for founding the EPA, and Theodore Roosevelt, for pushing the Antiquities Act of 1906, which effectively started the National Park System.

On the other two items, there wasn’t as much disagreement as the meme would suggest. The Social Security Act of 1935 passed the House 372-33, and the Social Security Act of 1965, which established Medicare, did have significant Republican support, even though slightly more Republicans voted against it than for it. Neither of these bills passed with the standard party-line votes we most often see in today’s Congress.

Yes, the GOP usually opposes environmental, civil rights, and social welfare legislation today, but it wasn’t always that way, despite what this meme suggests.

From the Republicans

disqualified

I have no argument with the claim that, by allowing classified materials to be sent on a private email server, Hillary Clinton broke the law. (Whether she should be jailed or not is another issue entirely. Historically, imprisonment on this is based on two things: Whether the material was leaked intentionally and the rank of the person who made the leak. It may not be right, but high-ranking government or military officials who inadvertently leak classified information are rarely punished with more than a slap on the wrist.)

The law quoted in the meme, however, has absolutely nothing to do with this case. Clinton had the emails destroyed after the State Department requested all emails relating to State Department business. The law quoted in the meme has to do with documents held by courts, judicial officers, or public officers. The deleted emails were never held or requested by the courts, as the FBI declined to recommend charging Secretary Clinton with a crime.

There are other laws that Clinton broke or may have broke that would have been appropriate for a meme. In my opinion, when you post inaccurate or misleading information in a meme to show your opposition to a candidate, you hurt your case. It would have been so easy to create an accurate version of this meme that properly made their case.

From the Greens

packard

This is a picture of the Packard Plant in Detroit. Yes, this factory made Packards and Studebakers, and was closed in 1958. NAFTA came into force in January, 1994.

Was it Marty McFly, Doctor Who, or Bill and Ted who went back in time to make sure that NAFTA caused the demise of Packard thirty-seven years earlier?

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of NAFTA, and it would not have been difficult to find an image of a closed factory that could be partially blamed on NAFTA. This picture looked better, so the meme author used it to misinform voters.


It is five days until Election Day and the last day of early voting here in Chattanooga. Keep reading and thinking and questioning, and make an informed decision–if you haven’t already.

Thanks again for your support. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, let me know.

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On Parenting, or How I Work

For the past three years I have worked during the day as a nanny, while doing eCommerce consulting at night and on weekends. My daughter is nine-and-a-half, so I’ve been a dad for a while now. I am hardly an unbiased observer, but I think my daughter has turned out pretty well. I know some of it is due to her being naturally calm–she slept through the night the first night and only cried when something was actually wrong (unlike me, who my mother assures me was a horrible baby)–but I like to think that I’ve also done a few things right.

I am not trying to tell anyone else how to raise their kids, because my initial approach is pretty simple. What I did was think and observe. I learned about the family members and thought about what problems they have. For example, my ex has pretty severe motion sickness. Once I figured out what issues might arise later, I developed a plan to prevent or solve the problems. With my daughter, if I was walking with her–and not trying to put her to sleep–I would spin, wobble, or otherwise move in an exaggerated manner to get her accustomed to motion. I would carry her upside down or at odd angles regularly. People often looked at me like I was insane (well, I get that quite often regardless). However…

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States my daughter has visited. We drove to all except California, Idaho, and Texas.

We take long road trips. The only time she gets carsick is if she tries to read on winding roads. Would she have had motion sickness if I hadn’t spun her around as a baby all the time? I don’t know, but it’s possible that what I did prevented it.

From long before she was born, I’ve been focused on being a good father. We read the first six Harry Potter books to her before she was born–probably 80% of the time I did the reading, as it’s significantly easier for the non-pregnant parent to be well-rested. I was fortunate to have a job that allowed me to bring my daughter to work with me, so I was the primary caregiver. (This isn’t to say anything against my ex: She had a higher income than I did, so she contributed her fair share, just the reverse of the “traditional” American family.)

We decided that when she turned two, we would send her to preschool. We had two main requirements:

  1. It was preschool, not daycare.
  2. It wasn’t religious, because we wanted to handle religious education ourselves.

We found a real gem, which, due to changes in Tennessee state funding rules, closed shortly after we left, although the original location is still open in Downtown Chattanooga. Siskin Early Learning Center specializes in educating children with special needs and developmental disabilities, but they do this by teaching them with typically developing children. As such, from an early age my daughter was exposed to children of a very wide range of abilities and backgrounds. She learned that kids sometimes can’t help acting out, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t play with them. She figured out how to teach her friends how to do things and developed incredible patience.

I think that far too often people segregate themselves, because they prefer to be with people who are like them. I am strange in that I mostly don’t look for people who are like me, because in my experience I have more fun and learn more when I associate with people who are not like me. I am really happy that because of her preschool, my daughter makes friends with just about anyone. In a discussion this past week–we had plenty of time due to her being home sick with pneumonia–she explained her criteria for her best friends. She doesn’t like hanging out with kids who talk about the same things, do the same things, and act the same way all the time. She seeks out the adventurous kids.

I do have a few rules of parenting. Your mileage may vary:

1. Don’t lie to your kids.

This may seem simple, but most parents lie to their kids. Exhibit A: Santa Claus.

Yeah, I know. I deprived my daughter of the mystery and joy of Christmas. Bah, humbug. She learned that people who love her gave her presents instead of giving credit to a mythical fat elf. But, more importantly, she didn’t lose faith in me when I had to explain that Santa wasn’t real. If I tell her something, she believes it–or at least she believes that I believe it, since I have taught her that I sometimes make mistakes.

Now, not lying to your kids doesn’t mean telling them everything. It has often been tough to tell her “I will explain it when you are older,” because I know that she doesn’t have the background to understand some things. I do tell her far more than most parents would, because I don’t believe in hiding the fact that the world is sometimes evil from her.

2. Don’t stick to a rigid schedule.

I have seen too many kids–and parents–get very anxious when their schedules are disrupted. We’ve had a running joke for about seven years that my daughter’s bed time is 8:30. We wave to it as it passes. Dinner can be at 5:00, or dinner can be at 9:00. Sometimes we get up at 1:00 a.m. to go for a stargazing drive. Yes, even on a school night.

What I have now is a very adaptable kid. If something unexpected happens, she shrugs it off and moves on. She doesn’t panic or break down in tears. We pick up the pieces and move forward. (Now, I get that some kids need consistency and structure. I have a nephew on the autism spectrum who sometimes doesn’t do well when things don’t go according to plan, but I think that for most neurotypical kids, adaptability is a positive trait.)

3. Negotiate

Yes, sometimes I will say “Because I said so,” but that’s rare. I have raised a little negotiator, because I feel that kids do better when they think they have some control over their lives.

“Dad, can I have some cookies?”

“You may have two.”

“Four?”

“Three.”

“OK.”

Now, I started that negotiation knowing that she was going to end up with three cookies, but she felt like she got something extra–and she did, but I made her work for it.

There was one time in preschool where one of her friends asked his mom if he could stay fifteen more minutes. His mom picked him up and carried him out. My daughter came up to me and said, “He should have asked for two more minutes.” At age four she knew that if you make an outrageous request, the other side may just shut down the negotiation entirely.

I almost never tell her that it’s time to leave; instead, I will tell her that we need to leave in X minutes. That does two things:

  1. It gives her a chance to wrap things up.
  2. It gives her an opportunity to negotiate–and if she has a good reason for a few extra minutes, I’ll go along with it.

As such, her complaints when leaving are minimal, and never the complete meltdowns I’ve seen from other kids.

4. Diaper changing is surgery.

Prepare the surgical area, get your instruments ready, then wheel in the patient.

Unfold the diaper. Lay out the expected number of wipes plus one. Take the cap off the ointment, if needed. If a wardrobe change is needed, have the clothes laid out. Don’t try to do all these things while the baby is screaming on the changing table: It just makes a bad situation worse.

5. Don’t let other people make your kid afraid.

I am the father of a Free Range Kid. I don’t insist on keeping my eyes on her at all times when we are in public. I actively encouraged her to talk to strangers. (She knew not to go off alone with strangers and to ask me about anything really out of the ordinary.)

A few times at playgrounds, other busy-body parents told my daughter not to do something, usually involving climbing on something they thought was dangerous. Once she ran to me crying as a result. My response was consistent: “Go, right now, and climb what she told you not to climb.” While she did this, I stared down the other parent. Now, was what she was doing completely safe? Of course not–but nothing ever is. I taught her how to climb, and I taught her how to fall, and she was always pretty good about not going above her abilities.

A couple of times, she’s wandered away from me in a crowded place. For example, she went to look at a toy in the Winnie the Pooh shop in Disney World. Before I even knew she was gone, she had found an employee–she knew to look for people with badges–and they tracked me down. As a rule, 99%+ of strangers will help a kid. Make sure your kid knows that.


Now, if you take all these rules and tweak them just a bit, you get:

0. Embrace diversity, and treat people with respect.

  1. Don’t lie.
  2. Be adaptable.
  3. Negotiate.
  4. Prepare for when shit happens.
  5. Don’t let other people make you afraid.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and don’t forget to vote. For me, preferably, but at least for whomever you think is the best person for the job.

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Ten Reasons You Shouldn’t Vote For Me

Every other candidate tells you why you should vote for them. I’m weird: I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t. Too many candidates are afraid that if you find out their weaknesses or where they aren’t “normal” you won’t want to vote for them. I think the opposite: I want to get my differences and oddities out in the open, because I think you will relate to me better if you know me better.

1. I’m not terribly patriotic.

I am patriotic, don’t get me wrong. I like being an American, and I approve of most of what America does and I agree with much of what America represents, but I am not a “My country, right or wrong”-type of person. I don’t think that the United States of America is always the best country in the world. I don’t understand the need many Americans have with having children in school say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning starting in kindergarten, when most kids that age don’t understand what they are saying or even how important a pledge is. (I also don’t understand the need to repeat it every day: Does it expire?) I’m not sure I own an American flag, much less have one on display. (I had a European friend visit my house while touring the country. He said my house was the only one without a large American flag on display.)

Having said this, I want the U.S. to be the best country in the world. I think governments play important roles in improving the standards of living of their peoples, and our government has a critical role to play in areas such as education, the economy, and health care. I really want to always be proud of my country, but I see too many problems for that to happen.

2. I have failed. Often.

People are attracted to successful people, and I have had my share of successes. I have had many failures. I can’t seem to keep a relationship going for much more than six years. I had a really difficult time in college calculus, and I wasn’t very good in high school biology. I was an incompetent recruiter. Despite three years of golf lessons, I cannot drive a golf ball in anything approaching a straight line. My fashion sense is bad enough that my daughter once asked me if I even knew anyone with a sense of style.

3. My desire for fairness sometimes overrides self-interest.

I understand that part of a Representative’s job is to promote the interests of the district, but I will have a difficult time doing that in situations where there is a question of fairness. Having studied negotiations for many years, I am not a fan of win-lose scenarios where my side winning requires another side losing. I try to turn situations into win-win outcomes, where all sides get something they want out of a deal. In situations where I can help the 3rd District get government resources in a fair manner, I will push as hard as anyone, but I’m not going to be inclined to take resources from another district that really needs it. (Now, if that other district is already getting more than its fair share of help all bets are off.)

4. My mind will change.

I try to be very rational, and I gather information to the point of overload. Because of this, sometimes I will uncover a missing piece of a puzzle that completely changes my mind on an issue. For example, I was discussing a ballot measure in another state. I had read the measure–not what was on the ballot, but the full text of the measure–and I thought that it seemed reasonable. One of the other people in the discussion pointed out that the measure omitted an important safeguard, which could cause well-meaning people to be punished for acting in a responsible manner. As a result, I changed my position. In Congress, this would result in me introducing an amendment, but it might result in me voting against some bills that seem good on the surface, but where I see significant unintended consequences.

5. I am not a fan of tradition in government.

I am a fan of the USC Trojans, and I try to go to USC sporting events when they play within 500 miles of Chattanooga. One thing I really like about USC is the tradition. USC football doesn’t put names on the uniforms–they are the only school to have never put names on uniforms–and I like that tradition, because I think it puts the focus on the team over the individual. I like that USC has, mostly, the same uniforms that they had when I was there. The home field is an old stadium with a grass field, and a large marching band provides the music. I like that they play Notre Dame every year, and it bothers me that Notre Dame is now playing on field turf, blasts Ozzy over loudspeakers, changes its uniforms regularly, and moves the USC game to a night game because that’s how Comcast (NBC) wants it. I don’t like the World Series ending in November, night baseball at Wrigley, interleague regular season play, or multiple rounds of playoffs before the World Series. In sports, tradition matters.

In government, tradition is often used as an excuse to give one group preferential treatment. Conservatives use “Traditional marriage” to deny rights to LGBTQ people. The tradition of having elections on Tuesdays suppresses voter turnout. English isn’t the official language of the U.S. and Christianity isn’t the official religion, but lawmakers often legislate like they are, often as an excuse to deny rights to heavily restrict immigration or to base laws on their religious traditions while almost simultaneously screaming about Sharia. Traditions should be judged on their merit, and not simply maintained just because “this is the way we have always done things.” Traditions in education often hinder innovation, such as looping, where students get the same teacher for two years instead of one.

6. I will usually listen to people who disagree with me more than people who agree with me.

I don’t like being wrong, and I have found that the best way for me to figure out if I’m about to do something stupid is to have someone who thinks I’m wrong to try to convince me that I am. They will often do a better job of finding the flaws in my arguments than those who agree with me. In the end, I find that I make better decisions by listening to dissenting arguments than surrounding myself with yes-men.

7. I’m not from Chattanooga.

I moved here after my first divorce in 1996, then left from 2000 to 2003. I have lived in Chattanooga longer than I have lived anywhere else. I think that because I have lived other places I sometimes have a better perspective on what works and what doesn’t work here, but I’m not completely culturally integrated with Chattanooga. I have joked for years that I will move away the first time I catch myself saying “Y’all,” not because I have anything against it for others, but because I like that I speak pretty formally. It’s similar to my feelings on gun ownership: I fully support the right of responsible people to own and use guns, but I don’t particularly care to own one myself.

Is being a native better than being here by choice? I honestly don’t know, but some people prefer natives.

8. I prefer to make decisions based on verifiable information rather than gut feelings.

I have been a fan of science for as long as I can remember. Until I got my first pair of glasses, my dream was to be an astronaut, at which time I changed to wanting to build spacecraft instead. (I reluctantly gave up on that when I realized that I really wasn’t very good at advanced math.) Conversely, when I have made important decisions based on instinct rather than information, I have often made bad decisions. I know that, on almost every subject, there’s someone out there who knows more than I do, and they can point me to the best information on all sides of a debate.

For one example, due to twenty-four hour news channels and easy access to information online, most people think that crime is much worse today than it used to be. The actual evidence, however, shows the exact opposite: Violent and property crime has dropped by about half in the past twenty-five years. If you trust your gut, you might think that we need harsher laws, penalties, and much more law enforcement on the streets. If you look at the research, you might learn that the drop in crime is not really affected by any of that, but rather by other social and environmental factors.

9. I am not easy to compartmentalize.

Unlike Chuck Fleischmann and Melody Shekari, I am not a party loyalist. My views are my own–literally. If you agree with all of my views, you are probably crazy, because I am certain some of my views are wrong–I just wish I knew which ones. So, if you agree with the Republican or Democratic platforms in their entirety, then you should vote for Chuck or Melody. I won’t ever vote for or against a bill based on its title, author, or sponsors. Whenever possible, I will read the bill in its entirety. If that’s not possible because of time constraints, I’ll have my staff split it up and read and summarize it for me. If that’s not possible, I won’t vote for it. I’m not willing to blindly support anything.

10. I have behaved inappropriately.

In sixth grade, I snapped a classmate’s bra strap. I was a frequent underage drinker in college. I’ve told racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes and done racist, homophobic, and sexist things. I made spending money in college by betting on tape-delayed sporting events. I almost always drive five miles per hour over the speed limit. I helped get someone fired in an attempt to get their job. (I was desperate, and I didn’t get the job.) I’ve said bad things about other people because of beliefs I didn’t like, and I’ve said offensive things about their beliefs.

I like to think that I’ve learned from these mistakes, and I have apologized when possible. I do my best to treat everyone with respect, even when I disagree with them and especially when they don’t respect me. But I also know that I’m not perfect, and I am going to make mistakes.


So, those are ten very good reasons to not vote for me. I hope that you find my honesty, desire to improve myself, and thoughtfulness to be sufficient reasons to vote for me, but if they aren’t, I get that too. No candidate is, or should be, right for everyone.

Thanks for reading.

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Preparing For Life After November 8

It is nineteen days until the election. I am confident that most of you are like me and cannot wait for it to be over. I am almost overwhelmed by the anger, shouting, name-calling, antagonizing, and just plain nastiness.

Because my standard operating mode is that of problem solver, I started thinking about this question:

What can we do after the election to bring the country back together?

Michelle Obama hugs George W. Bush

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

I have a few ideas. Let me know what you think.

1. Take down your signs and remove your stickers soon after the election is over.

I know, I know: You want people to know either that you were on the winning side or that you voted against the winner, but part of what you are doing is continuing the division that has become so acrimonious.

Instead, take down the signs, peel off the stickers, and put away your buttons so you can sell them on eBay in twenty years.

2. Listen to the other side and ask questions calmly.

(It wouldn’t hurt to do this now.)

I know, you don’t get it. After all of the evil things that [TRUMP/CLINTON] has done, how could anyone have voted for [CLINTON/TRUMP]? Well, it turns out that there are many reasons for people to vote the way they did. You may not think that they were good reasons, but that’s not as important as the fact that your friend did think that they were good reasons.

In my case, my problem with most voters falls into one of three categories:

  1. They voted for the candidate from their party, very often because that was the party their parents supported.
  2. They voted based on the press coverage from their favorite news source (and yes, it is almost always one source).
  3. They voted because they agreed with the candidate on one or two key issues.

So, when I am discussing politics with someone who disagrees with me on a candidate, my first mission is to figure out which of the three categories they fit. If I learn that they are strictly a party loyalist, I start by talking about which of the party’s policies I like–and yes, every rational person should be able to find something likable in each party’s platform–to show them that I’m not completely against them. Once I get past that, I move on to some issues where I have minor disagreements and see if I can persuade them that my position isn’t unreasonable. (I don’t try to convince them I’m right, just that I’m not irrational.) If I can find positions where they disagree with their chosen party, then I might point out that the other side or a third party more closely reflects their views on that. The important thing here is to move from red vs. blue to pink vs. periwinkle.

If the problem is that they are single sourcing, I may find an example where an article has an obvious bias. For example, a Breitbart article today had a misleading headline that greatly exaggerated the number of late-term abortions. The data in the article itself wasn’t inaccurate, but calling 21-week fetuses “fully developed” is a gross misrepresentation that panders to pro-life readers. Now, Breitbart is particularly bad at this sort of thing, but there are sources on the left that do the same sort of thing. My approach with these cases is to point out the flaws in the article, while suggesting another article on the same topic from a less biased source. Unfortunately, much of the time people didn’t even read the article they posted, so they certainly aren’t going to read the article I suggested in reply, so I also try to succinctly paraphrase. Sometimes I even break through.

The way I approach single-issue voters is to try to show them that their single issue is never just that issue. My brain is weird in that I seek connections between issues. The textbook example here is the famous Freakonomics link between legalizing abortion and declines in violent crime. In my experience, there are very few truly independent issues, and those issues are rarely the ones that inspire major disagreements. I approach single-issue voters in a similar manner to party line voters: I point out the unintended consequences of their positions, not to persuade them to change their mind, but perhaps to change the rigor of their stance. Maybe I can convince the person who wants to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. that this is a bad idea because it might cause majority Muslim countries to ban Americans or American products.

But the important thing is to listen and discuss, politely and with understanding. There are some people with whom I disagree on many issues, many of whom I respect deeply, because our disagreement comes from a difference in core beliefs rather than a lack of understanding of the issues. For example, I am pretty cynical when it comes to thinking that people, in general, act more often out of selfishness than altruism, but I respect people who have a more positive view of humanity and make decisions accordingly.

3. Expand your circle of friends.

I’m pretty weird in that my circle of friends is pretty ridiculously diverse. I have friends who are millionaires, and I have friends who are on public assistance. I have friends of about a dozen religions and no religion. The ethnic diversity of my friends rivals the United Nations. I have friends in New York and Los Angeles, friends in Iowa, Nebraska, and Alaska, and friends in Australia, Norway, Israel, and India.

Locally, I’m a liberal. Nationally, I’m a moderate. Globally, I’m a conservative.

I remember reading a quote from a New York columnist who couldn’t comprehend how George W. Bush won the 2000 election, because she didn’t know a single person who voted for him. Likewise, I have some rural friends who can’t understand how Obama won, since everyone they know voted for McCain and Romney. In contrast, I have friends who are passionate about Trump, Clinton, Johnson, and Stein–and I understand why all of them are voting the way they are voting. It’s probably a big part of the reason why I don’t particularly care for any of the candidates, because I have repeatedly heard about the evils of all of them.

More importantly, it also shows that I don’t pick my friends because of their political choices, and that I believe that deep down we really all want the same big picture goal: For all people to have a decent quality of life and the potential to succeed. We may disagree on what those things mean, but that’s less important than the underlying good we all seek.


Please try to understand that people who disagree with you aren’t disagreeing because they are evil, or because they are stupid, or because they are selfish. More likely, they disagree because they have different ideas of what a good, successful America means and what are the best ways to get there. So after the election, find common ground, make new friends, and move forward together. It will be easier if you don’t call them names today.

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November Election Analysis

Early voting in Hamilton County starts tomorrow, so it’s time for my election analysis. So, here goes…

President

We have seven candidates on the ballot. I am evaluating them in the order in which they appear.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence

I can’t make this any simpler or any more blunt: There is no good reason to vote for Trump. He’s reckless, he lies constantly, he thinks he knows and understands more than he does, he’s a horrible role model, and he cannot be trusted. I’ve heard people say that they are voting for him because they don’t trust Clinton to make acceptable Supreme Court nominations, but this argument doesn’t hold water. First, the GOP will not have fewer than 41 senators, so they will be able to block anyone Clinton nominates–and the leadership is indicating that they will do just that. (I’m putting aside the dereliction of duty argument.) Second, there’s no reason to believe that he will keep his word and nominate judges acceptable to the right anyway.

Where Donald Trump truly frightens me is in the area of nuclear weapons. He doesn’t seem to grasp why we don’t use nuclear weapons–if we use them, other countries, such as India, Pakistan, and North Korea will see their use as fair–and he doesn’t understand even the most rudimentary things about our nuclear arsenal. Yes, Russia has more warheads than the U.S., because we agreed to that in numerous treaties, because they know and we know that U.S. delivery systems are more accurate and more reliable than Russian delivery systems. (The Bulava missile has about a 40% failure rate, for one example.) Putin’s rapid modernization of his nuclear arsenal needs to be considered with the fact that Russia did almost nothing with their nuclear arsenal from 1990 to 2010. It will take him a long time to catch up, and the Russian economy isn’t exactly robust.

But if there’s anyone I like less than Trump, it may be Mike Pence. Pence is so far right that he signed a bill as Governor of Indiana that requires mothers who miscarry to bury or cremate the fetus. He’s advocated for government resources for conversion therapy for homosexuals. When in Congress, he voted against raising the minimum wage to $7.25. He’s solidly anti-science, denying climate change, evolution, and repeatedly voting against most environmental legislation. He’s as far right and away from mainstream America as any politician out there.

Like I said above, there are seven candidates on the ballot here. Trump and Pence are my seventh choice. Given some of the ones I describe below, that’s an achievement.

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine

If this were just about the issues, my choice would be a no-brainer: I would vote for Hillary Clinton. Of the four major candidates, she is the only one who is consistently pro-science in her policies, which is pretty important for me. I want candidates who vote based on research, not gut feelings or blind faith. And there is a scenario in which I will vote for her: If the polls in Tennessee get close–right now they show Trump with a ten to twelve point lead–but the national polls show the electoral vote remaining close–currently FiveThirtyEight is predicting 343 for Clinton to 194 for Trump–I will vote for Clinton just to make sure that Trump isn’t elected. Otherwise, I will cast my vote for a third-party candidate as a protest vote to show my disgust with the Republicans and Democrats and their failure to work together on anything.

My problem with Clinton is based on two things. First, she has changed her position on many important issues. This, in itself, is a net positive. I want candidates who will change their minds when they learn new information. My problem is that Clinton consistently lies about having changed her mind. The most egregious example is her position on gay marriage. For years she said she was opposed to it, now she’s in favor of it, but she says that her position hasn’t changed. (I haven’t changed my position on gay marriage: I have believed, for as long as I can remember, that government should get out of the marriage business. Where my position has changed is that I now believe that sexual identity and orientation should be a protected class under civil rights laws.)

Second, I believe that Clinton is too entrenched with the establishment to necessarily do the right thing, even when she knows it to be right. She’s obviously pragmatic and knows who supports her–*cough* Goldman Sachs *cough*–which makes her more pro-big business than she probably should be. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the status quo. The status quo is better than what we would get with Trump, but I can’t give anything better than a room temperature endorsement. If you are in a swing state, please vote for Hillary Clinton, because Donald Trump is literally World War III-level dangerous.

“Rocky” Roque De La Fuente and Michael Steinberg

Rocky is an interesting character, and the Reform Party nominee. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for Senate in Florida this year as a Democrat, and his policies–where I can find them–have a left-leaning tilt. Having said that, he does seem to be a moderate Democrat, but, like the other candidates, he has had some ethical problems. His policy pages are a series of “what if?” questions, which really don’t say what the answers are.

He doesn’t stand a chance of getting elected, but he’s more moderate than the other independents, as you will see below. As such, he might get my protest vote.

Gary Johnson and William F. Weld

Johnson is the Libertarian candidate. In general, I like Libertarians on spending issues and civil rights issues and dislike them on foreign policy, and things are no different here. Johnson is far too isolationist for my liking, wanting to detangle the U.S. from international commitments, except in the area of trade. In an era of increasing isolation and nationalism worldwide, disengaging from the world stage is a path to regional or even global conflicts. As I consider foreign policy to be the single most important job of the president, I have a hard time voting for Johnson.

Beyond that, my problem with Johnson is my general problem with Libertarianism: It is a philosophy of extremes. President Johnson would have a hard time working with either party in Congress, but his positions are far right in some areas and far left in others, so he wouldn’t be the man-in-the-middle helping to get things done. Johnson and Weld are Republicans running as Libertarians, and their policies don’t differ significantly from Trump and Pence. Having said that, if you’re a Republican looking for a better option than Trump and you can’t bear voting for Clinton, you could do much worse than Johnson.

Alyson Kennedy and Osborne Hart

Kennedy is a former coal miner who is the candidate for the Socialist Workers Party. Her campaign is a textbook anti-capitalist rant, including holding up the Cuban Revolution as a positive example.

Still, not as bad as Donald Trump.

Mike Smith and Daniel White

Mike Smith is, for lack of a better description, a Tea Party candidate. Unlike many of the Tea Party people I have met, Smith doesn’t seem to have any of the underlying racism, and he seems like, underneath it all, a good person. His positions mostly fit within the Republican platform. As such, I don’t agree with much of what he supports, because of his desire to change policy to integrate religion into public life through the expansion of school vouchers and allowing businesses to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Still, not as bad as Donald Trump.

Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka

Stein is the Green Party candidate for President. In the past, I have supported some Green Party candidates, because they tend to be pro-science and pro-environment. Stein cherry picks which science she supports, and some of her stances result in anti-environmental positions, such as her opposition to nuclear power and GMOs. Stein is solidly isolationist in her foreign policy, which, as with Johnson, deeply worries me.

Stein wants to ban GMOs until they have been proven safe, but that’s not how science works–and a doctor should know that. GMOs have been extremely rigorously tested, and there is absolutely no evidence that they are any more harmful than their non-GMO counterparts. As far as they can be, GMOs have been “proven” safe. Stein is not against vaccinations, but she has pandered to anti-vaxxers by softening tweets where she has expressed support for vaccinations, saying things like

In the US, however, regulatory agencies are routinely packed with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. So the foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the US. So who wouldn’t be skeptical? I think dropping vaccinations rates that can and must be fixed in order to get at the vaccination issue: the widespread distrust of the medical-industrial complex.

Of the eighteen members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, two work for pharmaceutical companies, while eight come from academia, four are government researchers, with the remainder being private researchers or work for hospitals. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, she has weakened her support of vaccines to bring anti-vaxxers into her tent.

Still, not as bad as Donald Trump.

Conclusion

Right now, I’m still undecided. I will not vote for Trump, Kennedy, Smith, or Stein. I will only vote for Clinton if there’s a reasonable chance for her to win Tennessee and those electoral votes matter in the election. Of the two remaining candidates, I’m leaning toward Rocky, but I might swing over to Johnson.

House of Representatives, 3rd District

Me.

Yeah, I’m voting for myself.

Now, if I weren’t running, who would I vote for? Well, I can rule out Rick Tyler, obviously. If you held a gun to my head and made me vote for a Republican or Democrat, I would vote for Fleischmann over Shekari, because, while I agree with Shekari on more issues, Fleischmann has significant seniority on the House Appropriations Committee, and as he gains seniority, that brings money to the district. Yeah, sometimes power matters. But, frankly, it’s a choice between a party loyalist lawyer and a party loyalist lawyer. I really haven’t seen anything from either one of them that makes me think they are the least bit independent.

That leaves the other independent, Cassandra Mitchell. We had a good Skype call a few months ago, and I recently inaccurately portrayed her as a Green Party supporter. She is, but she’s not just that. She tends to lean socialist on a few issues, such as thinking price controls and rent controls are necessary, while we are in agreement on the need to raise the minimum wage. We agree on far more than we disagree on, such as access to real sex education and contraception and legalization of marijuana. She is more pro-government than I am, certainly. Most importantly to me, she’s a fellow gamer, a qualification for which I have a significant bias. Gamers, in my experience, tend to think more strategically than non-gamers and, because of the diversity of characters in games like Dungeons & Dragons, they tend to place a higher value on diversity of skills and backgrounds, which are good traits for a politician.

So, if I weren’t running, I’d probably vote for Cassandra Mitchell. But I’m also under no illusions: Fleischmann is going to be re-elected, barring a massive explosion in the Republican Party, and there’s very little Shekari, Mitchell, Tyler, or I can do about it.

If you’re thinking about voting for Tyler, do us all a favor and stay home on Election Day. Every Election Day.

Tennessee Senate District 10

Khristy Wilkinson (D) is challenging incumbent Todd Gardenhire (R). Wilkinson is a leftist Democrat and Gardenhire is a right-wing Republican. I tend to lean a bit left of center when compared to the majority here, so I agree with more of Wilkinson’s positions than Gardenhire’s, but that’s not why I will be voting for Wilkinson. Like I said before the August primary: Gardenhire isn’t terribly tolerant of those with opposing views, and I’m not a big fan of name callers.

I recommend that you join me and vote for Khristy Wilkinson as well.

Ordinance No. 13007 Amendment

This one seems to me to just be a paperwork clarification on city employees needing to live in Chattanooga. I can’t find any reason to oppose it.

Ordinance No. 13039 Amendment

This amendment eliminates a requirement for the city to hire a “management analyst.” Yeah, we can do without that, so voting for the amendment makes sense.

 

Conclusion

I hear people say all the time that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain. Despite the fact that I vote in every election–barring a couple of minor elections where work crises kept me from the polling place on election day–I don’t agree with this. I know exactly how this election is going to turn out. Trump is going to win in Tennessee, Fleischmann and Gardenhire will be reelected, and both amendments will pass. None of these races will be close. I wish I was wrong, but I know I’m not. I’ve been doing this for a long time.

I wish that I could get everyone to do their research and vote. That’s not realistic. Most people are too busy living their lives to put sufficient time into educating themselves about the candidates and issues, so they trust their trusted news sources, which are always biased. (I’m biased, so believe what I say at your own risk.) As a result, I think many voters make bad, or, at least, ill-informed decisions.

Please do your research and vote. If you can’t, I won’t hold it against you, and I will never say that you don’t have the right to complain about the government if you don’t. Some people will say that if everyone has that attitude, we’ve lost before we started. Maybe they are right, but we can’t and shouldn’t force people to vote, especially if they don’t take that responsibility seriously.

I hope that you find this analysis helpful. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or if you think I got something wrong, please let me know.

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