Practical Politics

Practical Politics

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

The only sustainable politics is the one that works for everyone.
But what works for everyone?
How can everyone both get adequate intellectual, emotional, physical, and financial/material security, freedom, and thriving?
And how can everyone gain adequate wisdom to understand that they are receiving these essential goods and by what system they and everyone else are receiving them?

What is adequate intellectual, emotional, physical, and financial/material security, freedom, and thriving?
And what is adequate wisdom?
We don’t have to answer those questions.
What we need is a system that sends us collectively in the direction towards individual and collective insight into what “adequate” means in these two cases, while simultaneously individually and collectively achieving “adequate” amounts of these fundamental goods.

But what is that system?
The right balance between free market, regulation, and safety nets?
The right balance between citizen participation in the government and insulating the government and the citizenry from citizen participation (ie: the citizens pay attention to politics and elect officials and serve as a final check on madness, corruption, and foolishness in government; but the mechanics of governing and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and self-realization (finding one’s own way towards life-overflowing: wisdom and shared joy) are protected from the momentary caprices of the citizenry)?
This basic system we can all agree upon; but that doesn’t mean we can all get or keep it.
Here’s a link to the study finding that the US is at this moment basically an oligarchy because the average citizen’s wishes are generally blown off, while the richest 10%’s are generally obliged:

Is the problem that we differ too widely about what the right balance between free market, regulation, and safety nets is? Or that we don’t know what it is? Or is our problem mostly that we don’t know and/or cannot agree upon the right formula for good government? Or is it that we don’t really care that much about getting the right balance: we just want things to go well for us and the few people we care about, and can’t really believe in our ability to collaborate upon a general system that works for everyone?

I think maybe the fundamental issue is that we don’t believe we need and/or can attain a system that works for everyone. The right typically holds the view that there have to be some winners and losers; and so there will never be a system that works for everyone: the best that can be achieved is a system that allows the winners to thrive without trampling too awful much on the losers. The left is usually more optimistic, but do they really believe in a universal win-win? Is a universal win-win actually attainable? At least as a basic platform of universal or near-universal OKness atop which we move collectively towards better, better, better?

The right’s fear is that things are going to get worse. The left’s fear is that things are already terrible. Picture an amoeba: it longs to float towards better, better, better; it fears encountering worse. If it finds itself in a patch of better … , it eases carefully forward so as to gain in thriving while not suddenly overextending itself (like how we ease gently into a nice warm bath; or how if life-choices are worded in a way that makes us think we have a chance at getting more of some desirable good, we proceed towards a “yes”, but don’t leap into a “yes”). If, however, the amoeba finds itself in a “worse”, it immediately dashes out (like how we leap from scalding water or from a life-choice that feels like we’re risking a “worse”). We’re all amoebas floating in long complex webs of hypothetical causal chains. But the right focuses more on the possibility of losing the safety and thriving they currently enjoy, and the left focuses more on the sense that they as individuals and/or we as a group do not currently have adequate levels of safety and thriving.

But what about now? The Republican senators are blowing off their responsibility to take Trump’s impeachment seriously. Bolstered with the propaganda machine of Fox News, this gambit looks like it will succeed politically — at least in the short term. The Republicans as a whole have followed Trump into a general disregard for honesty, transparency, humane treatment of immigrants, and good government. They live in Fox News, where every story is slanted towards the myth that Trump is a great and wise ruler and his detractors are dangerous fools. Something has gone wrong.
In this poll, 65% of Republicans/Lean-Republicans said they trust Fox; 33% said they trust ABC (it wasn’t clear to me if all of those who trusted ABC also trusted Fox or not); and 33% said they trust no media; the Democrats/Lean-Democrats had a much wider range of trusted media outlets (Fox was not named):
Here’s Media Bias Fact Check’s rating of Fox News:

“Overall, we rate Fox News strongly Right-Biased due to editorial positions and story selection that favors the right. We also rate them Mixed factually and borderline Questionable based on poor sourcing and the spreading of conspiracy theories that later must be retracted after being widely shared. Further, Fox News would be rated a Questionable source based on numerous failed fact checks by hosts and pundits, however straight news reporting is generally reliable, therefore we rate them Mixed for factual reporting.”

No media source is perfect; so trusting only one is already a dangerous game. But trusting only a media source with a strong bias towards generating one particular species of conclusions (ie: those favoring Republican or Democratic politicians and policies) is particularly troublesome. How are we as a people to share a reality if half of us are living in an alternative political reality? And how are we as a people to make wise collective decisions if we do not share a reality, and a big chunk of us have faith only in a source of political information that is not just kind of biased to one side sometimes, but systematically biased in the vast majority of news analysis?

What should we do?
What is the way forward for everyone?
How can we find a way to share reality?
At what point does Fox become so tied into a right-wing takeover of government that it feels emboldened to not just slant all analysis and to cherry-pick stories that skew more easily towards justifying and celebrating the action’s of the right; but to also start outright lying in their basic factual reporting?
What should we do?
No one is perfect; no media source is perfect; but this situation with Fox News is embracing folly all too tightly.
What should we do?

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
“You’re never cold if you think you look good.”
These were two of my mother’s mother’s favorite lines.
In the former, we see the trouble inherent in emailing Fox News adherents the kind of charts and articles that we’ve linked to in this page. In the latter, we see the power of attitude in framing one’s reality.

To what degree is the abortion debate responsible for our current divisions?
Look at this from the Public Religion Research Institute:

The State of Abortion and Contraception Attitudes in All 50 States

“Democrats and Republicans are each more likely than independents to say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their view. One in four (25%) Democrats who believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views. Nearly as many Democrats who believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases (20%) say they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views.

Republicans are much more one-sided. About one-third (34%) of Republicans who think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views. A much smaller number (10%) of Republicans who think abortion should be legal in most or all cases require a candidate to share their views.”

The right of a fetus to get born is not a natural ally with the right of corporations to poison our environment, or the right of a small percentage of wealthy citizens to consolidate their riches by exerting oversized influence on media and the politicians dependent on it. Is the right of a woman to decide whether or not she brings a fetus to term a natural ally with the right of citizens to push back on the excesses of corporations and the wealthiest citizens?

Well, call this: a brainstorming essay in which no conclusions were reached.
I don’t know what to say.
I believe at some level we all desire and even believe in the possibility of a way forward for everyone. But the details confound me.


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