Saturday, September 22, 2018

Punching left is anti-democratic and aids fascism

Garrison flag flying over downtown Las Cruces, 21 September 2018

You're still seeing comments like this, and so am I:
This is the preferred narrative of "what happened" among supporters of the major party that lost the election as well as most political columnists working in dominant news media. Selfish voters who exercised their freedom of their choice to vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton. 

This is the "punching left" narrative.

We are weeks away from the 2018 elections and it might be time to stop indulging this narrative. It presents a poor analysis of what happened, or none at all.

Data: Some 35 million people voted for Trump. An even greater number voted for Hillary Clinton, but she lost the electoral vote in a few crucial states. Democratic operatives in two of those states (Michigan and Wisconsin) have spoken to press about how the campaign neglected their states because the campaign and party presumed they were in the bag. 

Still another factor neglected in the "left-punching" analysis is the number of voters who did not vote (or were prevented from voting). Pew Research did excellent work on this. In fairness, the tweet quoted above does include non-voters in its derision, but implies no interest in why people aren't voting. (They're just idiots.) The non-voter played a much greater factor in the election result than the much smaller number who voted for neither the Republican or Democratic candidates.

From a partisan standpoint, I suppose I understand the purpose of this narrative: punch the left, marginalize them and bully the rest into voting for the party. This is still preferred by a plurality to engaging in politics with them, incorporating their concerns into a successful platform and in choice of candidates - which, in fairness to the Democrats, they attempted to do during the platform phase of the 2016 campaign, when Bernie Sanders was ascendant.

From an analytical standpoint, punching left (or punching libertarians, wherever you place them) seems to ignore much larger factors in what happened. From a democratic standpoint, it seems to be demonizing people for exercising their right to make their own choice about for whom to vote.

I don't need the logic of strategic voting explained to me. I understand it fully well, I just consider it anti-democratic and a symptom of an unjust system that requires change. I'm not willing to call people names who actually do their job, show up at a polling place, and cast a ballot. Besides which, clearly a significant number of voters were responding to "strategic voting" by choosing third-party or - in far greater numbers - refusing to participate.

There is a tendency to think, due to the strategic voting issue, that Democrats are entitled to everybody's vote who is not a GOP supporter. The data suggests to me that party would be wise to reconsider that attitude, and start listening to the younger generation of voters.

There may very well be a backlash in 2018 that favors Democrats, but relying on duopolistic entitlement isn't going to carry them in 2020 - if that election even happens. 

And no, truly, I don't take a 2020 election for granted on this day in 2018. A very dangerous person occupies the presidency, and the party holding a majority is clearly pledged to protect him and its own power. I have heard him plainly lay out an argument for delegitimizing federal elections and test popular support for delaying them

We are an effective two-party system and neither party is responding aptly to our present crisis.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Journalism 1010101010101......

Interviewing an elementary school student in Las Cruces

Well, I'm still at it.

Yesterday, I put in a little Saturday overtime at the Las Cruces Sun News to finish up a story and participate in an editorial board interview with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. When I plugged my laptop into the docking station and attempted to sign in, I got a message saying, "Your account has been disabled."

My initial reaction was a sensation of dropping calmly into my gut: There it is, I've been fired.

Congenitally unable to earn a paycheck in any profession where I am secure, it was the first and most obvious theory to explain my inability to log on. It was soon followed by a phone call to the Gannett company's tech support assuring me that this was a widespread problem that day, to hold tight, and I'd be reconciled to the USA Today network systems in a jiffy. And so I was.

It has been more than 17 months since I was offered a job as a news reporter, having no background in journalism. As odd as that is, it also makes sense by certain measures. I can write, and enjoy writing; I am curious, which encourages me to check things out. And I am obviously unafraid of entering insecure and unpopular professions.

After a year at the Deming Headlight, I got tapped to go and report at the Sun News, another Gannett property. I have been there since June, reporting mainly on local businesses and public education while continuing to write the "Desert Sage" column. I have also done some government reporting and other stories.

And technical problems notwithstanding, I have yet to be fired. My theatrical activity has been drastically curtailed and I now earn my bacon, surprisingly, by writing - which I've always thought of as my father's game.

I don't trust there is any job security but as long as I'm here I'm trying to figure out how to do it well and do some good before my account is disabled on purpose. There will be occasional theatrical performances, perhaps, but these will be more rare.

At least, until I get laid off again.