As this will be the final Empathic Rationalist post for 2017, I figured that instead of writing a mini-essay, I’ll briefly reflect on a few of the year’s more noteworthy developments. They are identified here in no particular order.
Alternative Facts – Move aside, Baghdad Bob. Come on down, George Orwell. Alternative facts are here! Now, if we don’t like the facts of a situation, we can just change them. We even have a euphemism for what we’re doing. I would have preferred if we used the term “Bullshit.”
Fake News – This is related to the notion of Alternative Facts. If we don’t like the facts, we are now also justified, apparently, in ridiculing the ones who disclose them to us. So we’ll refer to them by an insulting name: Fake News. And we’ll use that term to refer to the most reputable news sources known to our society. Once upon a time we had a leader who said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” Suffice it to say that Thomas Jefferson, the author of those words, must be rolling in his grave right now. He’s been replaced by a President who said “I love the poorly educated,” and could well have added, “and I hate newspapers.” Mr. President, I’ve read Thomas Jefferson. I’ve written papers about Thomas Jefferson. I’ve been inspired by Thomas Jefferson. Mr. President, you’re no Thomas Jefferson.
Congressional Democrats as Maytag Repairmen: From 1967 to 1988, Jesse White starred in one of the best political ads of my lifetime. He played a repairman for the Maytag appliance company, whose appliances were touted as so durable that poor Jesse and his colleagues had nothing at all to do with their time. “At ease men! Now, you men have all volunteered to be Maytag Repairmen and so I'm gonna give it to you straight. Maytag washers and dryers are built to last. That makes the Maytag Repairman the loneliest guy in town!" Brilliant, right? Well ol’ Jesse no longer walks this earth, but I haven’t forgotten him. In fact, I’m reminded of him whenever I see a Senator or Representative from the Democratic Party. As far as I can tell, they also have nothing to do. Nothing. Their Republican counterparts, rather than holding meaningful hearings or attempting to enlist bi-partisan support for pivotal legislation, simply try to ram through as quickly as possible one-sided bills with purely partisan support. In doing so, the GOP is appealing strictly to their donor class and to the 49% of American voters who supported the GOP in the House, the 46% who supported the GOP for President, and the 42% who supported the GOP in the Senate. As for everyone else, the message is basically “We own every branch of Government. And you? You own a bunch of do-nothing, pathetic Jesse Whites. Have a nice day, losers. Oh and by the way – enjoy your Blue State tax increases, suckers!”
When You Go Old, We Go Older – Donald Trump is no spring chicken. At 70, he was the oldest person in U.S. history to be elected POTUS for the first time. Could that be a political liability? Not even close. You see, the leaders of the Democratic Party are every bit as seasoned as Trump – and in many cases, even older. At 67, Chuck Schumer is the baby of the bunch. Elizabeth Warren is 68. Hillary 70. Durbin 73. Biden 75. Bernie 76. Nancy 77. Steny 78. Is this the cavalry who’s going to lead the charge in 2018? In 2020? As a Baby Boomer myself, I’m perfectly willing to give a Gen Xer a shot at my Party’s nomination or at a leadership role in Congress. Enough with the group that couldn’t out-maneuver Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan. Let’s have some new blood. Please.
Me Too – I’m thrilled that guys who engage in behaviors that demean women are being called on it. I hope their names keep getting identified and that the real pigs suffer the consequences. Just like “Mean people suck” (as the bumper sticker says), so do misogynists. In fact, I remember the late 90s when so many so-called “liberals” were falling all over themselves defending Bill Clinton and I was getting pilloried by my fellow Democrats for saying that he should resign. But before I give Kirstie Gillibrand and Company a Standing O, I’d like to know this new movement’s ground rules. What does “zero tolerance” mean? Are there acts that might conceivably offend certain women that we as a society should actually tolerate? Do we believe the accused are entitled to any due process whatsoever? (For example, was there a rush to judgment against Al Franken?) And do men have a right to state their opinions on these issues, or should they just shut up for once and stop “mansplaining”? I’ve always prided myself on being a feminist, and yet I’ve never prided myself on joining a lynch mob. So I support this movement ... but cautiously.
Sorry, but I Still Haven't Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: You can’t say “2017” without thinking about the cold war between POTUS and the guy he calls the “Little Rocket Man.” I strongly believe that we will not get into a nuclear war with North Korea. Then again, we all should acknowledge that the prospects of such a war have increased significantly in the last 12 months. You see, not only are we now dependent on the fundamental sanity of our own government, we’re also relying on the sanity of Kim Jong Un. If, indeed, our President is right that Kim is a “sick puppy,” then why are we tempting him to show off just how much of a Madman Across the Water he is? Maybe all of this Kim-Trump stuff was dreamt up by Elton John’s publicist trying to sell records. I guess that makes as much sense as any other theory – or as much sense as so many other things that have happened this year.
Sweet Home Alabama – Did you see Roy Moore going down to defeat in Dixie? Prior to the election, I had thought such an outcome was possible, but unlikely. Boy am I glad to have been wrong. Alabama proved that when a really good candidate goes up against a really bad candidate, the good candidate tends to win. Everywhere. This is why we in Maryland sometimes elect Republican Governors. It also partially explains why Donald Trump is President (Hillary just wasn’t a really good candidate, despite what her party’s apparatchiks would tell us). The other lesson here is that you actually CAN lose money underestimating the intelligence of the American voter. Stated differently, things are usually not as bad as the Chicken Littles claim they are. It’s well and good to be cynical, but Empathic Rationalism requires that we be realistic, not pessimistic. Realistically, most everything that makes our nation great will likely survive all the craziness that we’ve been dealing with these past several months. Have a little faith. Just think about Alabama.
So, in conclusion, here’s hoping for a saner 2018 – the kind the voters in Alabama opted for last Tuesday. And here’s hoping that you, my loyal readers, enjoy great personal successes and happiness in the upcoming year. Talk to you then.
The Empathic Rationalist.