Category Archives: Politics

Election 2016 Analysis Part 4: THE PURPLE REVOLUTION


Quietly released on a Friday Night


Part 4: THE PURPLE REVOLUTION

It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t

By Dean Heagle

===================================================================
In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.
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Democracy statue commissioned 1990, Courthouse Plaza, Burlington, VT (Photo by Dean Heagle ©2016)

Let’s be clear: the Trump presidency will create an avalanche of regressive laws and policies, a strain on foreign relations and will inflict more than its share of pain on the environment and most ordinary people. Trump’s presidency represents more than a departure from the norm or a back lash of American conservatism, but instead manifests itself as a severely altered change of direction for the country Let’s be clear: there are troubled waters ahead.

Whatever terrible policies the Trump administration is able to enact, sit on top of an abundance of regressive legislation already being passed on the state level. Right now, coming from all levels of government, you can expect more of the same: increasing restrictions on abortion and family planning, new right to work laws and union busting, cuts to education, anti-poverty and children’s programs and the further dismantling of worker’s and civil rights. And let’s not forget a supreme court that will tilt ever more to the right for decades to come.

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JUMP TO SIDEBAR 7: THE TRUMP LEGACY
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FILTERING OUT THE NOISE
Many complex issues played significant roles in this election. The system is broken. What needs to be repaired are the same factors which got us into this mess, among them: voter apathy, an incompetent mainstream media, a new media which is untrustworthy and propagandistic, the unequal distribution of wealth and the failure of individuals with viewpoints on the left and the right to be able to communicate and listen to each other.

Of these factors the last article, the failure to communicate needs to go to the front of the line. While the news media put forward the idea of red and blue states beginning during the 2000 election, in fact the red vs. blue notion is just a simple-minded construct which distorts the real truth. For while one party may be dominant in a given state, there are still large numbers of the population who are allied with the other party. So in fact, most states are neither purely red or blue, but instead are a shade of purple.

Currently, the rhetoric on both sides, but especially on the right has reached a fever pitch. The right has always had a knack of appealing to people’s baser instincts and emotions rather than appealing to their reason. Certain tactics such as the “straw man” argument, the “us vs. them” argument and “demonization” propaganda are among the right’s greatest hits. The right wing stream of hate holds that members of the opposing party do not simply have different beliefs, but that they are corrupt and bad people and should be considered anti-American. They are not simply members of the opposing party; they are the enemy.

The right (and to a lesser extent, the left) employ such rhetoric because it is useful for them politically, but at the same time this type of rhetoric is incredibly damaging to the fabric of society. What both sides must do moving forward is to get rid of the vitriol and hate speech. We must learn to tamp down our anger and frustration and find better ways to listen to each other. The crucial issue is not who is president, but how we as citizens are conducting our own national conversation. The divide between the two sides cannot continue. This path is destructive and self-defeating. We must find a better way.

Once people with opposing viewpoints begin to listen to each other, they will likely continue to have major differences on such things as religion and social issues. But in the communication process, people of differing viewpoints can learn that they are not all that different and that most of us want many of the same things.

People all want the best for their children and the future. Most people want to do honest work and have something to show for their efforts. Most people are not greedy, lazy or hateful and if given the chance most would help their neighbors and their community.

Contrary to the idea that all people are selfish by nature, human nature is actually quite prone to cooperation and in fact the human race has depended on it. Cooperation and working together is even written in our genes, for humans are by themselves rather helpless animals unlikely to survive as mere individuals, but when they band together to form a society they become quite powerful and thus have become the dominant species on the planet.

If given a chance most people’s better angels will come to the forefront. And most people, once they get to know each other, have the potential to get along. There are many things that they still might not agree on, but nevertheless they can learn to work together toward shared goals, overcoming the barriers of culture, race and sexual orientation.

FOR BEST RECEPTION, MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND
But, the first step is that we need to start listening to each other and discovering what we have in common. And in the process we can agree on certain societal goals and then work together to accomplish them. In the process, we will discover that government doesn’t need to look the way it does now. Instead, together we can decide how we want to shape it.

By being more personally involved, individuals can start to feel that they can make a difference, causing a feedback loop between involvement and a more positive outlook. Once people stop feeling powerless they become even more motivated to effect change. Once people are more involved they will stop feeling so disconnected and begin to feel they play an important role in a larger community. And this empowerment ultimately results in beneficial public works which are good for everyone.

Once people become empowered and more involved in the larger picture, we will never have another election like this last one where in essence one side voted to tear down the entire system and the other side favored the political status quo, but remained unexcited. The candidates will be better, not just because more of the population will be involved in choosing them, but because more people will run for office starting on the community level, ultimately leading to a better and larger pool of candidates on the state and federal levels.

They say that all politics is local and even taking the time to communicate with someone who has an opposing point of view is one of many places that a more positive transformation can begin. This is the real meaning of democracy. There is no existing model for us to emulate and we must invent the process as we go along. But it’s possible to imagine a society where everyone is much more civically engaged.

And then it’s possible to imagine many more positive changes like moving beyond the two party system, changing the way campaigns are financed to get corporate money out of politics and enacting voting reforms to make voting more uniform and accessible to all citizens.

It’s possible to work toward a time when the act of voting will be viewed as a last step in what it means to be involved in one’s community, for we will all find more mays to be more involved. And with a more educated and engaged electorate it would seem more and more inconceivable that an election like this last one would ever happen again.

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LINKS: (Part 4 of 4): THE PURPLE REVOLUTION
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Straw Man: definition

The Belief: “Us Versus Them” … True or False?

Demonizing the enemy

I Remember When Appalachia Wasn’t Trump Country

Election 2016 Analysis Sidebar 7: THE TRUMP LEGACY

THE TRUMP LEGACY

 Disgruntled middle class voters who tipped the scales in Trump’s favor have given Republicans the keys to all branches of government. The legislative branch had already been under Republican control — since 2014 in the Senate and since 2010 in the House — and with Trump’s election, the Republicans also gained control of the White House. With the confirmation to Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court they will also control the top levels of the judicial branch for decades to come.

It seems natural that voters who are unhappy with the party in power will vote for the other side. The fact that we have a two party system in some ways makes this seem to be an even more logical choice in some people’s minds, even though technically this is faulty logic because it creates a false dilemma. But often, voter’s look at general trends without looking at the details. This occurred during Obama’s presidency in 2010, when voters elected Republicans to overtake the House of Representatives because they felt that the recovery was taking too long. What they didn’t see was that Republicans in congress had been blocking Obama at every turn.

Even when Democrats held a slim majority in the Senate, the Republican opposition was largely successful in blocking the majority of Obama’s proposals. Senate minority leader, who later became Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), stated that his goal was to do whatever he could to discredit Obama.

McConnell led the “party of No” in resisting useful reforms that could have helped so many during the great recession. As leader of the naysayers he thought that discrediting Obama would return his party to power and allow them to ultimately retake the presidency. Well it turns out that this strategy actually worked.

While Democrats may retake the Whitehouse and even possibly the Senate in 2020, it is likely that the house will remain in GOP control for many years to come. This is because most Republican house members are now in safe Republican districts that were redrawn by Republican state legislators. And with more state houses under Republican control there has been an increase in regressive legislation like tightening restrictions on abortion, passing right to work laws and union busting, and backward steps in civil rights, voting restrictions and worker’s rights.

With Republicans in power, it might be good for Democrats to study how they were so successful in tamping down so many of Obama’s proposals. But try as they may, Democrats just don’t seem to have it in them to manifest as the party of “No”. Take the Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court for example: Republicans refused to even give Garland a hearing, for a record 293 days. Compare this to Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch, which even though Democrats may try to stall for a bit, will likely sail through confirmation to be the next Supreme Court justice.

The constant changeover from one party to the other results in both gridlock and the undoing of what the previous administration had accomplished. In the long term, voting the current party out of power results in the policies of the previous administration being over turned, and meanwhile Congress can accomplish nothing new or meaningful. It’s as if the money interests to which both parties are beholden, purposely fund both sides, since this constant re-tooling slows everything down. For big money interests, no new laws or regulations is the best possible outcome since it allows them to continue to do business as usual with less oversight and regulation.

If one gains a historical perspective on the progress of any important movement, one sees that progress moves incredibly slowly and never in a straight line. Take the issue of civil rights for example. While the first legislation was passed nearly 150 years ago and additional legislation was passed in the 60’s, the cause of civil rights still has a long way to go.

The constant back and forth between parties often makes matters worse. For the country to really move forward, voters need to gain a larger historical perspective and learn to vote strategically and pragmatically with a larger plan in mind. And for this to work in practice, the general population needs to become more civically inclined on more levels. And this will ultimately lead to a better understanding of day to day politics as well as citizens becoming better versed in the respective party’s platforms and historical stances on the issues.

What needs to be understood by many voters is that the two parties are by nature really quite different. While Democrats come down on the side of civil rights, worker’s right, women’s rights and the needs of the lower and middle classes, Republicans tend to side more with the interests of big business and the wealthy. Once voters are more educated on the issues, there is more potential for them to vote strategically, not simply switching parties, but focusing on longer term goals.

It is more than a little ironic that middle class voters would pick the billionaire Trump as the person most likely to help them. The Republican dominated government is sure to do much damage to the progressive agenda and along the way it is likely to favor the rich while largely ignoring the needs of the poor and middle class. But many people do have a history of voting against their own best interests.

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LINKS: SIDEBAR 7: THE TRUMP LEGACY
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Neil Gorsuch: Who is he? Bio, facts, background and political views

Definition: False dilemma

The GOP’s no-compromise pledge

The Party of No: New Details on the GOP Plot to Obstruct Obama

Merrick Garland Now Holds the Record for Longest Supreme Court Wait
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BACK TO MAIN STORY: THE PURPLE REVOLUTION
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Election 2016 Analysis Part 3: VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE


Quietly released on a Friday Night

Part 3: VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t

By Dean Heagle

===================================================================
In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.
===================================================================

Pew: Net Worth of Income Brackets, 1983-2004

This election was about an American public that was apathetic, unexcited and a more than a bit lazy. It was also about a mainstream news media that offered unclear choices and often contradictory messages. And even more curious, there was interference via hacking and “news” leaks originating from the Russian government. And this was all rounded out by an abundance of clearly “FAKE”, sensationalistic news, which conveniently showed up in the social media platforms of almost everyone.

But while this election was about all of these things, it was decided by a significant non-majority of the population who clearly believed that the only way forward was to decisively cast their vote against the status quo.

POPULAR POPULISM
Although their politics could not have been more different, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump attracted some of the same voters. Both men took a populist vantage point. Both candidates spoke of a system that was broken and promised to work for the people who were left behind. They professed that America needed to stop out-sourcing and bring its jobs back home. Both men were perceived as champions of the working class.

This year, while Trump played the role of the populist, Hillary was the status quo candidate who promised to continue the steady progress made under Obama. She didn’t seem to offer anything new or exciting. At the same time, Trump continued to court the disaffected and drew large crowds.

To say that the media (“mainstream” and “FAKE”) treated Trump and Clinton differently is an understatement for the ages. Trump received free coverage for nearly every gaffe, indiscretion and temper tantrum. He went un-fact-checked and was not held accountable. At the same time Hillary’s character was consistently diminished. She was painted as un-exciting, self-serving and untrustworthy and was held to interrogation for the slightest misstep.

It is true that Hillary started out this race with an extreme baggage problem, linked more closely to her husband than to herself. After all, right wing talk radio had its beginnings during the Clinton impeachment and to this day talk radio remains a major influence in the echo chamber which has become our “mainstream” media.

And the usual accusations and taunts against Clinton were only amplified during this campaign by the advent of inflammatory “gotcha” agencies such as Breitbart and the various producers of “FAKE” news. As it stands, Bill and Hillary have been so vilified over the years that to this day, for some conservatives just the mention of “Clinton” is considered “fightin’ words”.

This election was about a Democrat who had the support of the Democratic establishment and a nominal Republican who was largely dismissed by his party as an embarrassment. But what Trump had going for him was his populist message. His disregard for political correctness and perhaps even this tendency to be rude, crude and lewd oddly worked to help humanize him to some voters. People saw Trump as someone who was not afraid to speak his mind and this led to the perception that he would shake things up and not proceed with business as usual. So ultimately, the distance between him and the Republican party only worked in his favor. At the same time, Clinton’s standing in her party’s orthodoxy only served to hurt her.

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JUMP TO SIDEBAR 4: MIXED MESSAGES: HILLARY VS. BERNIE
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THE USUAL SUSPECTS AND THE RENEGADES

Trump could not have won without significant support from the Republican base. While Trump was never fully embraced by the Republican party, ultimately much of Trump’s support came from the usual suspects in the Republican coalition made up of small government, pro-business libertarians who may or may not also have held anti-immigrant beliefs and/or a “southern” viewpoint on race relations. And this base was ultimately joined by the Christian right which did a lot of backpedaling to embrace Trump as their only viable option but only after he already had the nomination.

But it was another group of voters whose votes were decisive his year. They were largely lower middle class who had lost hope in the system. They had been foreclosed, forced to sell, outsourced, phased out, downsized and were generally ill at ease. They were the ex-factory workers who jobs had been become obsolete or globalized. And those who could find work, worked longer hours for less pay, with no benefits or job security.

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JUMP TO SIDEBAR 5: THE DIMINISHED MIDDLE CLASS
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These disgruntled voters had been marginalized and sidelined for years. They were hit by the recession but overlooked by the recovery. They were knocked down a rung on the economic ladder and were feeling poorer by the day. At the same time, they saw bankers bailed out, big corporations given amnesty and the wealth of the rich expanding exponentially after the recovery. While they, the forgotten, still got nothing.

They couldn’t see hope in the future of a government being controlled by insiders of either party. They needed an outsider to take on the system. There could be no more business as usual. So, this year they went out on a limb and voted for the one person that they saw as the biggest political outsider, someone not even very well-liked by his own party, someone they felt would at least shake up the system. They were desperate and their desperation influenced their votes. And this year their votes would prove decisive.

Importantly, two important right-wing memes were also at play during this election. Both memes were planted over 20 years ago by right-wing talk radio — as if they somehow saw this moment coming — and they came to fruition during Trump’s campaign. The first meme has to do with the “myth of the liberal media”, which holds that the majority of mass media is run by liberal interests who highlight and even propagandize secularist liberal ideas while tamping down all other (read conservative) viewpoints.

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JUMP TO SIDEBAR 6: THE MYTH OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA
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The second meme is related to the first, and could be called the “myth of the liberal elite”. It holds that the people really in control of the country, its economics and its government, are rich college educated liberals who really don’t care about non-elites, poor whites, the working class, their viewpoints or circumstances.

Trump artfully used both of these memes during his campaign. By sowing the seeds of mistrust in the mass media he caused some to seek information from other sources such as alt-right and “FAKE” news. The myth of the liberal elite was useful to Trump because that it set up a classic us vs. them dichotomy.

REBELLION IN THE RANKS
The voters who were attracted to Trump did not see themselves as elite in any way, but instead saw themselves as average working class Americans, a cause of pride for some. And they were tired of the people in charge, the liberal elite, telling them what to do. If the liberal elite wanted them to vote for Clinton, they would do the opposite, even if some of these voters may have realized that Trump was the least qualified candidate.

So now we enter into at least a few years of true Republican rule. Not only do Republicans now control all three branches of government but they also hold the majority of state houses. And due to the gerrymandering by state governments, it is unlikely that the House of Representatives, for one, will turn over to the Democrats anytime soon.

It’s likely that many viewed their vote for Trump as a crap shoot anyway. So, who would you vote for? Should you vote for the person with a level head and years of experience with the promise of more of the same or vote for the person who was clearly ill-tempered and unqualified except as a bomb thrower who had promised to shake things up?

This year, the bomb thrower won and one cannot help but believe that this was an act of extreme desperation on the part of some voters. It was a roll of the dice. People believed that things couldn’t get much worse for them. So, they took a chance on Trump.

The middle class has been losing ground in this country since the 70’s. The effects of globalization have been devastating and multi-generational. One cannot blame the middle and lower classes for feeling left behind. And one cannot blame them for their sense of desperation which undoubtedly was involved in their roll of the dice for Trump. In this election, the people who voted against the status quo were decisive to Trump’s victory. And this must become a huge wakeup call for the Democratic party.

If there is a silver lining to this election, it is that it has spurred many people to become more active and for many to become active for the first time. We will still have to survive the Trump years as best we can. And we need to keep moving forward. This is not the time for tears. Don’t mourn, organize!

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LINKS: (Part 3 of 4): VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
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The wingnut myth that refuses to die: The one simple reason why there’s no “liberal media conspiracy”

Myth of the Liberal Elite

Don’t mourn, organize!

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NEXT: Election 2016 Analysis (Part 4 of 4)
THE PURPLE REVOLUTION
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Election 2016 Analysis Sidebar 4: MIXED MESSAGES: HILLARY VS. BERNIE

MIXED MESSAGES: HILLARY VS. BERNIE

 Anti status quo sentiments also played out among some voters who were usually faithful to the Democratic party. During the primary the Clinton camp found much fiercer competition than they had expected coming from the left in the form of Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders had what Hillary Clinton did not. He spoke a populist message of stirring things up, getting rid of moneyed interests in politics and revisiting trade deals which hurt American workers. Throughout his campaign he consistently raised more money than Clinton from small donations that averaged only $26, while refusing to take money from corporate interests.

Many young people were attracted to Sanders message of hope for a progressive future and the crowds at his personal appearances where huge. But the reaction from the Clinton campaign about Bernie’s candidacy tended toward being dismissive if not sometimes disdainful. And quite often Clinton surrogates seemed to urge Sanders to simply get out of the way, since a Clinton candidacy was clearly inevitable.

In the end Hillary did prevail in the primaries, while Sanders gained leverage to convince the Democratic platform to adopt additional progressive positions. And while Sanders did then move to endorse Clinton, the whole primary process did leave a bad taste in some people’s mouth.

In a similar way that middle class Trump voters did not want the liberal elite telling them what to do, many potential Democratic voters may have stayed away from the polls or been less enthusiastic about Clinton’s candidacy because they resented the Democratic establishment presumptions in telling them what to do

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LINKS: SIDEBAR 4: MIXED MESSAGES: HILLARY VS. BERNIE
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$182 million: Bernie Sanders equals Hillary Clinton’s campaign fundraising
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BACK TO MAIN STORY: VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
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Election 2016 Analysis Sidebar 5: THE DIMINISHED MIDDLE CLASS

THE DIMINISHED MIDDLE CLASS

Even if Occupy Wall Street was not able to perpetuate a sustainable movement, they did us all a favor by helping to make it common knowledge  that 1% of the population holds overwhelming economic advantage over 99% of the population. As it stands, the gap between the rich and poor is greater than it has ever been, even during the 1920’s “gilded age”.

At present, the top 10 percent now average nearly nine times as much income as all of the bottom 90 percent. And Americans in the top one percent average over 38 times more income than all of the bottom 90 percent. And it’s clear to most people that the top 1% hold an inordinate amount of economic and political power.

The very rich are after all the “job creators” (in Bush-speak), controlling wages, who gets hired and what work gets out-sourced. In the aftermath of the recession, many American companies have been flush with cash, yet have refused to add new jobs and most wages have been frozen at pre-recession levels. Not only do the rich control much of the economy, the 1% are also the biggest campaign contributors, giving them a huge advantage in control of the political sphere.

The economic expansion that took place during WWII and its aftermath greatly benefitted the middle class. The GI bill allowed many veterans the opportunity to attend college and buy a home. At that time, it was possible for the head of a household doing semi-skilled work to raise a family on a single salary often with the promise of lifetime employment from a single employer.

But this is not to say that it was all rosy, for everyone since factors of race still played a major role in unequal opportunity for many. As well, at this time, there were the beginnings of major efforts to weaken unions and keep wages low. But for many in the American middle class, the post WWII period was a time when they became much more prosperous than ever before.

In the 70’s and 80’s, the economic expansion of the middle class seemed to slow to a stop at the same time that the rich continued to see phenomenal gains. From 1983 to 2004 middle income Americans saw only modest gains, not even enough to keep up with inflation. During the same period the richest Americans saw their incomes nearly double every decade. While the poorest Americans during this same period saw no gains and many actually lost income.

Starting in the 80’s, the American dream of steady work and home ownership from the employment of a single family member had all but vanished. In most middle class households, both parents were forced to work just to keep up. And globalization, international trade and technology only made matters worse as American companies sought higher profits by outsourcing labor, using their multi-national status to avoid paying U.S. taxes, while computerization and automation made more jobs obsolete. During this time the rich continued to prosper while the middle class did poorly and the lower class declined.

The great recession which started in 2007 was caused by the housing crisis created by bankers who put their greed before economic fairness or even common sense. The recession hurt the middle and lower classes more than anyone else. And since the recovery, only the upper class has fully rebounded with most even making significant gains.

During the end of 2008 and most of 2009, the American economy lost hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, with a total of nearly eight million jobs lost. And even during the period of time of greatest need by the middle class, the Republican controlled congress refused to enact any of Obama’s plans to spur more job creation. And while the overall economy got better, many of the same jobs never came back. It was a jobless recovery which hurt the middle and lower classes most of all.

It is supremely ironic that the desperation of the middle class caused by dire economic conditions would ultimately lead some of them to vote for Trump. After all it was the steady deregulation of financial markets largely lead by Republicans which helped pave the way for the housing crisis. And it was a Republican congress which stood in the way of more job creation under Obama. So why would you want a nominally Republican president too?

And yet many middle class voters felt tired of being ignored, so in their desperation they voted for Trump. It’s unclear how many of these voters were aware that high on Trump’s wish list was repealing most of the Obama era financial market regulations that were put into place to stop something like the great recession from ever happening again. Additionally, Trump’s proposed budget cuts severely curtail safety net programs benefitting both the lower and middle classes. At the same time, there is really no Republican-led jobs program, or other proposed legislation on the horizon that would actually benefit the middle class in any significant way.

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LINKS: SIDEBAR 5: THE DIMINISHED MIDDLE CLASS
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Occupy Wall Street Declaration

Income Inequality

Pew: Median Net Worth of Lower, Middle and Upper Income Families

Job losses caused by the Great Recession

Trump Moves to Roll Back Obama-Era Financial Regulations
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BACK TO MAIN STORY: VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
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Election 2016 Analysis Sidebar 6: THE MYTH OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA

 THE MYTH OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA

There have been many reasons for the decline of quality by the media. But part of the problem may have to do with the meme called the “myth of the liberal media”. This meme originated decades ago with right wing talk radio and has ever since been a mainstay of right leaning propagandists. According to the “myth of the liberal media”, the media is entirely controlled by secular liberal interests and always fails to present any other point of view except its own. It is therefore disreputable and should not be trusted.

The idea of the “myth of the liberal media” is important because it has been successful in sowing suspicion on the right, but moreover it seems to have created a sufficient stigma within the media itself to cause them to go out of their way to show both sides to a story. For example: on day when thousands of people protested in the streets, news coverage would inevitably include equal time to cover a group of a few dozen people with opposing views. I’ve literally seen this happen. And the need to show both sides in many ways has resulted in facts being obscured in favor of just showing alternative opinions. Although this phenomenon predates this election, this was exactly the type of foothold that Trump needed to be legitimized as a candidate. “Alternative facts” anyone?

Trump’s accusation that mainstream media was “fake” news may have led many to seek alternative sources of information and become consumers themselves of actual “FAKE” news which was conveniently found on major social media platforms.

And at least part of Trump’s success can be linked to the help of numerous propagandists with various alt-right credentials who played a major role in actually creating “FAKE” news. These groups busied themselves, in manufacturing fake stories and rumors about Clinton, at the same time that they lauded Trump.

Take for example, the Patriot News Agency, which originates in the UK run by James Dowson a Christian nationalist and fan of Trump and Putin. It’s landing page reads more like the National Enquirer than a serious news source. It is sensationalism in its purest form, blatant in its disregard for the facts and spurious in its attempt shock and make people believe the worst.

Sadly, this reflects badly not just on the propagandists but also the mental state of the general population. We have come to believe the worst about humanity and especially about politicians. Some of us may have become suspicious about the mainstream media and at the same time we seem to have lost the ability to read critically. And many of us may be just too lazy to seek out our own news sources so we have come to believe whatever comes easily comes our way. And a recent pew survey found that 62% of respondents stated that they got most of their news from social media.

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LINKS: SIDEBAR 6: THE MYTH OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA
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The wingnut myth that refuses to die: The one simple reason why there’s no “liberal media conspiracy”

Report: Russian propaganda efforts propelled fake election news

Patriot News Agency

How a Putin Fan Overseas Pushed Pro-Trump Propaganda to Americans

News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016
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BACK TO MAIN STORY: VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
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Election 2016 Analysis Part 2: THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA


Quietly released on a Friday Night


Part 2: THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA

It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t

By Dean Heagle

===================================================================
In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.
===================================================================

Drink Coke and Vote; Manchester, NH (Photo by Dean Heagle ©2016)

On the night of the 2016 presidential election, just listening to the talking heads was making me feel nauseous. I just had come back to my hotel room to get ready to go out to an election night party. But the news of a possible Trump win urged me to think carefully about my next move.
Should I get a drink or two at the election party, with a crowd whose candidate had just lost? Or would it be better to just stay in my hotel room? How should one should act in a group of people who are just getting past the point of denial? Do I play the clown and try to cheer people up? Do I become the compassionate counselor and offer some solace to people’s tears?

Surely, I thought, the crowd was already starting to get angry. And either personae I was considering would surely be hated. For, I had already been there and done that. And both the clown and counselor were hated once before. So, why would tonight be any different?

TALKING HEADS/TALKING FOOLS
But a possible Trump win and whether to go out or stay in were not the only things that were making me feel uneasy. I also had to decide whether to keep listening to the election news or whether it would be better to just turn it off. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know the details. Even though my team lost, I’ve heard bad news before and I can accept it. But what was really bothering me was listening to the talking heads going on and on and back and forth about how they had been so utterly clueless about a possible, now likely, Trump victory.

On election night, no matter the outcome, I usually love to pour over all of the little details until the wee hours. But that night, just listening to the talking heads was making me feel nauseous. They kept trying to rationalize the nature of their mistake and how only after the fact, they could now clearly see how they let the possibility of a Trump win get past them. And they felt it was their duty to once again show everyone how smart they really were and explain away what they had entirely missed before and why. And I found such prattle difficult to bear.

So why should I keep listening? From all of the possible angles they were now exploring, what they failed to do was to look in the mirror. For it seemed clear to me that without the mainstream media, a Trump presidency would have been impossible.
Trump was only able to rise as far as he did because the mainstream media gave him abundant air time for nearly his every action. His every outburst and lie was rewarded with coverage which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars of air time that Trump didn’t even have to pay for. In fact, it’s estimated that Trump closed out the Presidential election with free coverage worth over $5.2 billion dollars. And with their near constant coverage of Trump it was the news media itself that was responsible for leveling the playing field much more than it should have ever been leveled.
There are many reasons why this occurred. For one, Trump himself was a great manipulator of the media and played them like a master. Secondly, the mainstream media often neglected details and nuisances like fact checking, in favor of focusing on the more sensationalistic aspects. And perhaps most importantly, the media behaved in their own corporate interests, to create an election that would keep the consumers tuning in and the advertisers happy. And the best scenario to ensure these two considerations was to turn the campaign into a horserace. And in turn they were able to make even Trump into a viable candidate. So the horserace was on.

By now, it should be clear that much of the media’s attention to Trump was misguided. Trump’s most outlandish statements were portrayed as him being not afraid of stepping on a few toes. His clearly out of control ego was spun as him believing in himself. And his poor judgement and bad behavior with women was brushed off as just being locker room talk and bragging like one of the boys. How could the talking heads not recognize the major role they played in creating this monster? Were they really that dumb?

THE REAL SCOOP OF WHAT?
But Trump’s election was not simply the fault of the mainstream media. He had help from a great many sources.
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JUMP TO SIDEBAR 1:  ALTERNATIVE FACTS
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Trump labeled as “fake” news, any and all news stories that he found even slightly unflattering. It seems significant that Trump had the nerve to bring up the notion of fake news, since there was real “FAKE” news” heavily at play during this campaign. The real “FAKE” news was largely just made up allegations and innuendos most of which was simply fabricated by various alt-right authors. The real “FAKE” news was heavily anti-Clinton and pro-Trump. And it was this “FAKE” news which also conveniently landed in the news feeds of popular social networks which many voters later cited as highly influential in their decision to vote for Trump and 62% saying that social media was their main source of news.

And then add to this the hacking of campaign offices directed by the Russian government which resulted in choice bits being leaked about the Clinton camp while the Trump camp was left alone.
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JUMP TO SIDEBAR 2: PRAVDA = “THE TRUTH”
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All of these factors collided during this campaign to the effect that there was a great deal of confusion about what was the truth and what were lies. This did become quite confusing so it’s harder to blame the Trump voters for making a bad choice, In the final analysis, it was the Trump voters along with the mainstream media who were the most manipulated.
Trump himself was shameless in broadcasting the concept of “FAKE” news. But to Trump “fake” news was any and all news that put him in the slightest unfavorable light. There is so much irony here that it would make a better novel than a real historic occurrence for at the same time, that Trump criticized any unfavorable coverage as “fake” news, he surrounded himself with ideologues who were the real creators of “FAKE” news and were expert at crafting sensationalist, hateful and incendiary rhetoric in his favor.

Let’s consider Steve Bannon who was one of candidate Trump’s campaign gurus and is now one of his key advisors. Bannon was formerly the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, which is a popular favorite on the alt right. Breitbart’s previous claims to fame were that under the pretense of investigative journalism, they previously produced various “gotcha” videos that brought down A.C.O.R.N. and damaged Planned Parenthood.
Breitbart news is not just real “fake” news, it’s real “FAKE” news in all caps. The home page of Breitbart reads like the National Enquirer version of all things alt-right. Its readers include far right nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. A recent Breibart article titled Virgil: The Left Whips Up a Climate of Violence — the Prime Target Is Donald Trump reads just like a Trump campaign ad.
While right-wing talk radio has been stirring the pot for decades, Breitbart is the next evolution of this successful propaganda effort. And while right-wing talk radio has always appealed to people’s darker sides, Breitbart takes this up a notch and acts as a bona fide agent provocateur.
So how did we get to here? When did facts and words come to have so little meaning? When did the mission of the news become simply to work in the service of propaganda? When did our mainstream media as well as the general population lose the ability to discern the nature of different types of information?

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE DIMAGGIO?
Clearly the fourth estate has been failing us from all sides. On one side you have the mainstream media who helped Trump become a viable candidate. On the other side there is the real “FAKE” news, coming from who knows where, made up by people with an axe to grind, often so outrageous in its content that it actually gets more people to read it.
This was an election between an unqualified, immature egomaniac and someone who was highly qualified and had given most of her life to public service. But the constant news feed from the usual and not so usual sources made it seem that Hillary was disreputable, while even Trump’s most disgraceful actions tended to go uninvestigated or sometimes even lauded.

But, at the same time that the media has failed us, in many ways, it is we that have failed them. We have become too detached and indifferent, if not too lazy and complacent. We have come to expect information to come to us rather than seeking it out for ourselves and we have forgotten how to read with a critical eye. Advertisers now seem to prefer being fronted by the most bizarre stories of human decadence and depravity, because they know that we will click on them. Our valuation of human nature may have become so negative that we want to believe the worst in people and may even seek out such terrible stories. We know we shouldn’t look, but we can’t help ourselves.
In some ways this election was more in the hands of the media (both the “mainstream media” and the real “FAKE” news than it was in the hands of voters. These factors combine to allow Trump to sneak past the finish line.

So, Trump voters cannot be held entirely to blame, for they were the victims of a massive manipulation. The mainstream media should have known better, for without them Trump would not have had a chance. But in the end, they found themselves in the odd position of being both the manipulators and the manipulated.
While all of these factors were at play, we shouldn’t go so easy on ourselves. As members of a democracy we need to become more active, more evolved and more involved in civic matters. We need to make the effort to educate ourselves and find the time to dig deeper. For ultimately democracy is not in the hands of those who would manipulate us or a mainstream news media that’s just not up to the job. Instead it is we who must take control. For the future is truly in our hands.

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JUMP TO SIDEBAR 3: MAY I MISQUOTE YOU ON THAT?====================================================

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LINKS: (Part 2 of 4)
THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
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A Media Post-Mortem on the 2016 Presidential Election
I Ignored Trump News for a Week. Here’s What I Learned.
News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016
List of fake news websites
Steve Bannon: Who is Trump’s key adviser?
ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy
Breitbart News
Breitbart Story: Virgil: The Left Whips Up a Climate of Violence — the Prime Target Is Donald Trump
Agent Provocateur: definition
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NEXT: Election 2016 Analysis (Part 3 of 4)
VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
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Election 2016 Analysis Sidebar 1: ALTERNATIVE FACTS

ALTERNATIVE FACTS

It has now become commonplace for Trump to dismiss anything that does not show him in the best favorable light as “fake” news. For example, Trump has labeled the sources who reported poor attendance at his inauguration or polls about his poor approval rating as being lies and “fake”.

Inside Trump’s bubble he may actually believe, as he has stated, that he won the election in a landslide, when in reality he lost the popular vote by over three million votes. But leave it to Trump to explain away this inconvenient fact by stating that his loss in the popular vote was due to voter fraud perpetrated by over three million illegal immigrants who voted for Hillary. Not only is this statement preposterous on the face of it, like his claim that Obama has been wiretapping him, it’s not based on a shred of evidence.

Trump labels anything he disagrees with as “fake” news. And this has given birth to a new term, “Alternative facts”. which was first coined by Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s erroneous statement about the massive attendance at Donald Trump’s inauguration. In this case, the interviewer Chuck Todd countered that facts were facts and the real meaning of “alternative facts” was in reality, that they were not facts but that they were lies (forgive the paraphrase).

It is fascinating that Trump would come up the notion of “fake” news, when so much of this political success has depended on him just making things up. In many ways, it seems that Trump is “FAKE” news incarnate. And it makes you wonder if anything and everything Trump says is just an alternative fact”. Or really just another lie.

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LINKS: SIDEBAR 1: ALTERNATIVE FACTS
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Trump’s inauguration crowd: Sean Spicer’s claims versus the evidence

Chuck Todd to Kellyanne Conway: “Alternative Facts Are Not Facts”

Trump’s Big Lie About 3 Million “Alien Voters” Cuts Far Deeper Than You Think
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BACK TO MAIN STORY: THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
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Election 2016 Analysis Sidebar 2: PRAVDA = “THE TRUTH”

PRAVDA = “THE TRUTH”

PRAVDA (literally, “THE Truth” in Russian) PROPER NOUN

With the clear involvement of Russia in this presidential election and Trump’s constant reference to “fake” news, it’s fun to remember that Pravda, the official propaganda organ of the Communist Party (1912-1991) when translated to English literally means “TRUTH”.

Calling such an instrument of propaganda the “truth” can be likened to Donald Trump labeling any unfavorable news about himself as “fake” news. And this is from a man who made persistent “birther” statements that Obama was not born in the U.S., then later ascribed the origin of the idea to Hillary Clinton. Now that’s not even fake, that’s just wacky.

It’s also fun to note that since Trump’s election, that George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984 is once again on the top of bestseller lists. With Trump at the bully pulpit, we have truly entered into the era of double-speak. One can only hope that all of this nonsense will be jarring enough to wake more people up. And we really do need to start paying more attention. Or in the end do we really just end up loving big brother?

Orwell said it best, “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength”

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LINKS: SIDEBAR 2: PRAVDA = “THE TRUTH”
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Pravda

Trump on Birtherism: Wrong, and Wrong

George Orwell’s ‘1984’ hits bestseller list again
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BACK TO MAIN STORY: THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
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Election 2016 Analysis Sidebar 3: MAY I MISQUOTE YOU ON THAT?

MAY I MISQUOTE YOU ON THAT?

 In an earlier draft of my comments about the news media, I wanted to end with a quote from Lenin which seemed to synopsize the story.

That quote was:
“Tell a big enough lie and keep telling it and sooner or later everyone will believe it.”
–Vladimir Lenin

But the first problem with this quote is that it is should not be attributed to Lenin at all. In this case my source was hearsay or in other words someone I was talking with just referenced this quote and told me that it was attributed to Lenin.

When I took the time to research this reference, I found that this quote is often mistakenly attributed to Joseph Goebells, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, but it’s probably more rightly attributed to Hitler. Variations of this quote can be found online attributed to a variety of people.

The Hitler attributed quote goes like this.
“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”
-Adolf Hitler

In many ways, this entire exercise: first misattributing a quote and then with research finding that the body of knowledge is itself muddled, serves as a perfect example of the problems one faces when trying to discern truth from lie. And with so much inaccurate information out there, it becomes harder and harder to discern get to the truth.

The misquote seems to be a common occurrence. And it doesn’t take too much digging to find a multitude of misquotes and misattributed quotes.

The obvious lesson here (besides don’t believe everything you hear (or read)) is of course that, it’s good do some fact checking and try to find the actual source.

And while Hitler probably didn’t say exactly what is referenced by the Brainyquote website noted above, he definitely did say very similar things (see near the end of the NOTE: below).

From passages in Mein Kamp you can pick out the gist of what Hitler is saying about the big lie. But the context was that he was writing about Jews being expert liars. So, Hitler was blaming someone else for creating giant falsehoods not bragging that he himself had done it. Does this sound familiar to anyone recently in the news?

And while you are at it, read a bit more about what the Nazis said about manipulating the truth. It will likely ring uncomfortably close to home.

NOTE:
The source of the Big Lie technique is this passage, taken from Chapter 10 of James Murphy’s translation of Mein Kampf:

 But it remained for the Jews, with their unqualified capacity for falsehood, and their fighting comrades, the Marxists, to impute responsibility for the downfall precisely to the man who alone had shown a superhuman will and energy in his effort to prevent the catastrophe which he had foreseen and to save the nation from that hour of complete overthrow and shame. By placing responsibility for the loss of the world war on the shoulders of Ludendorff they took away the weapon of moral right from the only adversary dangerous enough to be likely to succeed in bringing the betrayers of the Fatherland to Justice.

All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.

It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X[1]Thus, according to Hitler, the “Big Lie” was a propaganda technique typically used by “the Jews”.[1]

 The principle is sometimes translated and abbreviated as the pithy saying: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”[citation needed]

SOURCE: Wikipedia: Big Lie

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LINKS: SIDEBAR 3: MAY I MISQUOTE YOU ON THAT?
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“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”- Adolf Hitler

Fraudulent Nazi Quotations

Big Lie
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BACK TO MAIN STORY: THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
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Election 2016 Analysis Part 1: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR


Quietly released on a Friday Night


Part 1: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t

By Dean Heagle

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In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.
===================================================================

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The unlikely election of president Trump was made possible in part because over 41.5% of the eligible population just couldn’t be bothered enough to vote. They couldn’t find time, or worse, they just didn’t care whether Trump or Clinton would be president. They somehow believed the outcome would not affect them at all.

Apathy and indifference were in full play this election season. What was not in short supply was an abundance of snark, cheap jokes and denial. Many just threw up their hands. We couldn’t believe that both candidates seemed so flawed. Many feared the hell out of Trump who they saw as reckless and egotistical, but many also, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t stand the thought of a Clinton presidency. Contrary to creating excitement, this was the election that made people want to put their heads in the sand.

Voter turnout in the U.S. is ranked at 31st out of 35 developed countries tracked by Pew Research. People have many excuses for not voting. It’s true that having elections on Tuesdays is antiquated and inconvenient. Long lines at the polls and confusion about polling locations are contributing factors that make it more difficult to vote. But perhaps the biggest reason that people don’t vote is because they are apathetic and indifferent. One reason for this apathy is that many people don’t see meaningful differences between the candidates. Many people suppose that all politicians are crooked. And many people live in denial and believe that it really doesn’t matter who controls their government.

Many of us seem to walk around in a haze. And we are always in a rush. We are always busy, working, relaxing, getting and spending. We choose from thousands of songs and channels on a variety of devices. And the smart phone is always with us, always begging us to touch it. We have hundreds of “friends” on our social networks and yet we may feel more alienated from each other than ever before. And this goes on relentlessly each and every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a night with presidential debates or even the day of the election. The constant drumbeat of working, rushing and pursuit of entertainment never gives us a break or a moment to stop and think.

COMFORTABLY NUMB
It’s an understatement to say that Americans tend away from civic-mindedness. We have become comfortably numb in how we view our government. Most of us expect the government to keep rolling along without us. It’s viewed as something outside of our control, something we probably complain about or might even be the brunt of our jokes, but something we believe we have little effect upon. And perhaps even more importantly, we feel that government only affects us in superficial ways. That no matter who is in charge, that our lives will go on about the same.

There is little in our culture which leads us to be involved or even interested in politics. We have been trained to be good consumers. Every corporation makes use of every media to constantly compete for our eyeballs. It’s hard to pay attention to the presidential debate when simultaneously there is so much else competing for our attention. We have become entertainment junkies. Politics does not fit neatly into our worldviews. And voting and serving on a jury might be the only civic obligations that we will even consider. And at the same time, we will often do anything to avoid jury duty. And as for voting? We will get around to voting that if we can spare the time.

FROM HERE TO THERE EVENTUALLY
The capitalist orientation where the majority of activity revolves around getting and spending allows little time for other pursuits or activities. Individuals slog along trying to make the best of their circumstances but feel alienated from their communities. They may see wrongs and injustices in the world, but they feel powerless to bring about change. And this mindset creates apathy and a feeling of helplessness. It’s as if the system were designed to intentionally keep the average person down.

This helps explain why so many Americans are apathetic about politics. But moreover, it’s that the political sphere does not fit neatly into the rest of American culture. While some may give money to their favored candidates, far fewer take the additional step of volunteering their time. We are not motivated or trained to do the grunt work that is really needed. But right now what we need is more boots on the ground.

The unlikely event of a Trump presidency took place in the environment of apathy and indifference by a populace that felt powerless. But imagine for a moment, even a slight shift in our cultural priorities. Imagine a new awareness where civic-mindedness and politics not only really mattered, but could be molded and directed even by average citizens. Imagine an electorate that was empowered by a much higher level of community involvement. And if this was the case, elections and even the candidates would be much different.

If more people were involved in their communities, it would cumulatively benefit the nation as a whole. Then, it’s hard to imagine the level of apathy and indifference which made this last election possible. And it would be hard to believe that someone as unsuitable as Trump would ever be elected again, simply because the general population would be so much more aware and engaged. There would be so many other better candidates. And another Trump wouldn’t stand a chance.

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LINKS: (Part 1 of 4)
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
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Over 90 Million Eligible Voters Didn’t Vote in the 2016 Presidential Election

U.S. voter turnout trails most developed countries

Why is voter turnout so low in the U.S.?

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NEXT: Election 2016 Analysis (Part 2 of 4)
THE MYTH OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
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Coming soon Election 2016 Analysis (in 4 parts)

PROMISED EARLIER, BUT COMING REALLY SOON, REALLY!
NOTICE: PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED

Election 2016 Analysis (In 4 parts)
It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t.
By Dean Heagle

Summary: This is a four part series about the 2016 presidential election encompassing issues of voter apathy, the mainstream media, the vanishing middle class and a way to make the system better. Many of the topics introduced include additional information as sidebars.

=========================================================
In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.
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