Politics

When The Dust Settles

The force of personality that is Donald Trump has made for some strange bedfellows in contemporary American politics. A broad coalition of pundits, former politicians and Americans who, in other times, would find no interest or audience in political expression, have bound themselves together. The political lines of demarcation have blurred a bit.

The Bushes are with the Obamas. John McCain was with women’s health advocates. Karl Rove became, well…human.

Things have gotten a bit mixed up.

As the MAGA coalition limps away from a historic mid-term beating and loses influence on fair weather conservatives, a sort of redistribution of political will may be on the horizon. Like the once allied Americans and Soviets carving up post WWII Europe after the shared threat of Nazi Germany had passed, the iron curtain of conventional politics may descend again.

Some will keep fighting the other side because they’re the other side and the habit is hard to break. Others will lose interest. Others may lift their heads to find their company is not what it once was and wonder aloud what it all means.

We’ve got people who never gave a damn about politics dining on a steady diet of Trump mania for three and a half years. Now might be a good time for those with any semblance of principles to revisit the things we once believed before our beliefs were crowded out by all the insanity. If we don’t, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of the wall when the dust settles.

Here’s a short list of mine:

-Secure Borders: Separating families and putting kids in cages and tear gassing toddlers are all very bad things that should not be done under any circumstances. Immigration is a good thing. Using it as a political boogeyman to stir up ethnocentric nationalism is a bad thing. Secure borders however, are an important part of any sovereign nation and in America, something that is absolutely the express charter of the executive branch of the U.S. government to enforce.

Presently, our immigration laws are not effective and leave those responsible for enforcement of border and immigration policy to search in the dark for work around solutions which take on the persona of their architects. Quiet cool Obama was a wave of quiet cool deportations. Trump’s was kids in cages and political stunt military deployments to the border.

Reform is in order. These are firm realities that predate the Trump phenomenon. Arguing against xenophobic nationalism does not require resignation to the status quo of U.S. immigration policy.

-The Mainstream Media: In the digital age, the incentives of the platforms that deliver mainstream media are more misaligned with the functions that a free press holds in accountable government than they were before. Facebook, Twitter and cable news do not have significant incentive to inform audiences; only to draw attention. This is not a new phenomenon. It has, however, been exacerbated by modern technology and media markets.

Stating these realities about the modern American media is not the same as the President referring to the media as the enemy of America or shouting fake news when unflattering stories break.

-Education: We spend a tremendous amount of money and resources on education and gains in returns are no longer proportional to gains in investment. Ex ante, fundamental change in how we prepare our youth for productive adulthood is likely more effective than the political heroine drip that is educational spending.

Related: The market that is our higher education system is a dumpster fire.

-Healthcare: Obamacare isn’t the long-term play. It was the best of a short list of poor structural but politically attainable healthcare solutions. It is better than nothing. But not by enough. We do not have anything that even begins to approach an efficient healthcare market and the gap in outcomes between those that have healthcare and those that don’t is too wide to let it lie when solutions are available.

Believing that the Trump repeal without a replacement is a bad idea is not the same thing as thinking Obamacare is a panacea.

-Socialism: We have a lot of problems in America. Not spending enough government money isn’t one of them. Not paying for it with taxes might be. But no one is running on a platform of simply raising taxes. They’re running on platforms of explicitly stated socialism.

This is how we spend the money our government collects from our people, in order:  1-Pensions, 2- Healthcare, 3-Education 4-Defense, 5- Social Welfare Programs. These represent 75% of federal, state and local government spending. That we don’t get the outcomes we want is not for lack of resourcing. And it’s not because we’re not socialist enough.

When we have a progressive party, who is willing to spend lots of money on social programs, adding the term socialism to your affiliation is a sort of signaling that is reasonably interpreted as farther left. Opposition to the current administration does not have to be farther left.

(Read: No more Bernie. And more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez without the unnecessary socialism identifier. She’s electric politically; smart, tough and represents her constituency extremely well. She’s the best foil for the stiff old GOP establishment smart progressives could hope for and she’s going to be in politics for 50 years.)

-Global Trade: Free trade and capital flows have increased inequality inside the U.S. and decreased inequality between rich and poor countries. There is solid economic data that supports this. These economic forces also expanded systemic risk for global financial shocks. Global governance organizations have no power to respond to these shocks. And therefore, sovereign governments foot the bill for bailouts. Hyper-globalization has it’s problems and it’s not unreasonable to address it with changes in trade policy.

I believed this before the Trump administration tariffs. It’s likely I still believe it now.

-Political Correctness: We are afraid speak truth to popular opinion when that truth may expose us to the potential ire of political advocacy.

The great risk, though, is not what the Trump-ism movement easily pitches to self reporting rugged Americans; that we’re all going to become delicate snowflakes.

Acknowledging our nation’s long and troubled history of policies that led to poor outcomes for people of color, women and the LGBT community and being overly cautious that we not backslide is not being overly PC. Not being allowed to publish researched, peer reviewed academic papers or to debate against ideas we disagree with for fear of public outcry is being overly PC. And the risk in that is that we may seek the wrong solutions to the right problems if we are limited in the truths we are allowed to investigate.

We desperately need more non-horrible people insisting we be allowed investigate uncomfortable ideas or we’re going to be doomed to an anti-PC movement that exists solely as an insultingly thin veil to dog-whistles for groups that should find no place in honest American political discourse.

That including this last item gives me some anxiety is telling. I’m not the champion of the anti-PC movement. My demographic makes me too easy to dismiss. But we do need one.

That’s my list. It’s not exhaustive. Yours may be different. That most had a different one pre-Trump than they had post-Trump is a different essay.