Archive for November 2016

The Aisle

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My friends who are happy with the outcome of this election, please read.

First of all, I hope you'll notice the courtesy of not calling you "Trump supporters". Some are, some aren't, but it's worth not painting with too broad a brush if I can help it.

I read an interesting piece today that was the last thing I shared on my wall ( I loved this article, and I want to call out a few specific things and add to it my own thoughts.

I also fit into the pattern of moving from a conservative, right-wing religious stronghold (suburban Utah) to the coast (Seattle), with the result of many of my views shifting in the years before or after. Part of moving here had to do with my worldviews, but I've definitely started to see things with an increasing liberal point of view in the last four years here.

This means that I know I'm talking across the aisle, not to my own, now; which gives me a very possible talking-out-of-my-ass bias.

However, I do remember my roots well, and the motivations that made me think the way I did when I still considered myself mainly a right-wing voter.

America the United States.

To pin this election on the coastal elite is a cop-out. It’s intellectually dishonest, and it’s beneath us.

We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

Truth: America is more of a melting pot than middle America shows. Middle America — everything from rural parts of eastern states all the way to Utah, eastern Washington, etc. — is not representative of the demographics of the country.

Does this mean voters in Utah or other rural Americas have less of a right to vote according to their own specific needs? Of course not. But this election has brought out — on all sides — a uniquely strong and foul-smelling brand of "I want it my way."

There are 320 million people here and growing, across a country the third largest in the world.

That's worth a diversion to point out just how significant it is.

We're the third most populous country, and the third largest by area. Of the 100-most populous countries, the United States has the 77th highest density. Of the top 10, we're the ninth. With so many people across so much land, America is easily one of the most challenging countries to keep aligned, not to mention the ongoing economic and political responsibility of our place in the world.

The success of the system of government, on an original design, across such a wide land and large and diverse population is remarkable, even unprecedented.

We can all stand to check in, and more constantly remind ourselves that there are many more Americans that are not like us. That there is no possible way we could be as homogenous as we tend to believe. This is something I fight daily. I have no concept of what "320 million people" really looks like. I simply have to believe that I also can't conceive how different we all are.

As a result, this reminder means that the greatest good may not come from voting in our own interests, but in the interests of a diverse population.

I do my best to do this, and I try to ever do better. I think it's worth it for the left to give red-state voters the credit that they can do the same.

Winners and losers

They genuinely do not understand today’s shock, particularly from minorities.

This line stood out to me, (never mind the speaking for others, which I have a problem with, but I digress...) and it got me to think about what I've seen on social media from my own friends — people I know — who were pleased with the outcome.

I saw some gloating that "HRC" got what she had coming.

I saw some extremely hopeful messages that Trump, despite his, um, roughness, would bring some good to the country.

I saw a lot of anger at the left — progressives, liberals, "elite" — for having done such a poor job of understanding the needs of middle America for the past year, 5, 10, 15 years. For "getting it wrong". For prioritizing modernist social agendas and socialist economic visions over the traditional values and hard-earned success of the traditional American story.

I don't necessarily agree or disagree with these points or believe that's all there is to it, but I hope it illustrates the gulf.

But saying this is all about the left not seeing the right (while true, certainly) misses something, too, and, my November-9-victory-voter friends, I hope you can hear me out.

You've probably felt unseen for years. If you felt any of these things, if you felt that feeling of "winning", how do you think it feels, for those who are afraid this means what they love about America is so undervalued, that they may lose it. Love, equality, fairness, progress, collaboration, community, support, humanity.

It doesn't mean you don't share these values, but Trump's rhetoric and success have left many afraid that you don't.

(Yes, many of these voters spent the last 8 years gloating at the liberal victories that took place. I am ashamed for that, and I know it can't have felt good. I am empathizing strongly with that now, and I hope we can kill this tendency sooner than later.)

Trump has spent 16 months or more spouting off at rallies and in the media with messages that frequently contradict and undermine these values. To much of the American electorate, he destroyed his credit early. They — as city voters, minority voters, secular voters — don't understand or share your policy values and needs, so they aren't quite sure how you can see past this inhumane and hateful speech.

I'm not pretending we can see it the way each other sees it, but we can at least each say "think about how it feels" and share our own feelings.

The future is your chance — our chance — to show each other we still have values of love, decency, humanity, progress, community in common.

How does this victory taste?

I hope I've showed a good amount of trying to understand those of you who are happy with this election outcome. I was devastated, but I know many people of values were relieved. "Where are they coming from?" I asked myself. I posted the following video with strong words for the left to hear.

This need to realize just how badly we don't see across the aisle is one of the most important take-aways this election, and has a strong message of self-responsibility (which is one of my highest personal values).

If you're happy with the outcome, I'd challenge you to think for a second about the difference between how this election outcome feels to you, versus how it feels to the rest of the country. Who agrees with you, and who doesn't? Why don't they?

For some, the disagreement and sense of loss will be so far removed from your feeling as to be visceral. Emotional and gutwrenching in a way that tests our ability to remember that rational discourse is needed. Many people I've talked to have been unable to concentrate on much at all this week; depressed and utterly shocked that policy values "trumped" (ha) human decency this election.

If you're happy with the outcome, you probably don't see it that way, and that's OK. I ended election night with this thought, which I posted on Facebook: "Tomorrow, I'm going to start by loving more."

This was the only thing I could think to do in face of such an utter gulf between two Americas. Love more, hate less. The next day I posted the bright new cover photo at the top of this article, with the tagline "Always choose love".

What does this mean for me, and how can I help when I encounter those who disagree? I can love you by empathizing, listening, suspending argument and conflict. And I can love you by standing strongly as my real self, showing up 100% as myself and letting you know who I am. This is part of that.

I'm the product of a relatively isolated, white, homogenous part of America, and I've also shaken many of those beliefs off.

I don't think this makes me better than my roots. It only means I try to be better than I was. In every way, I try to make my outcome a product of all the good I've seen in the world.

The broader and more diverse the sources of that good we take in, the better we can each be. I hope all of us can hear that message and put it into action in our lives now, without delay. The gulf smashed between us this election illustrates it's more important than ever before.

About that pesky Electoral College

Thursday, November 10, 2016



"The people elected Hillary Clinton.
The system elected Donald Trump"


"The states and people elected Donald Trump in a system meant to offer voice to both."

The system of government set forth in the Constitution is built to protect states' rights to elect their leader, and was never intended to be a pure democracy. This "system" was chosen by the original people -- the founding fathers. It may need to be revisited now, since we are more divided by urban/rural than states boundaries, but it's working as it was intended, which never had anything to do with putting the "system" above people.

Here's a really extreme example of what they wanted to avoid:

Let's say there are 8 states:

  • Alabama - 2 mil people
  • California - 16 mil
  • Delaware - 2 mil
  • Florida - 2 mil
  • Georgia - 2 mil
  • Hawaii - 2 mil
  • Illinois - 2 mil
  • Kansas - 2 mil

If everyone in California were to want Ronald Trumpster for president, he'd get 16 million votes. If everyone in all the other states voted for Helen Crampton, she'd get 14 million votes.

But the founding fathers thought it didn't seem fair that 7 states would then have an elected federal leader that they weren't happy with. One state was ruling them all.

So instead they tried to design a system balanced between states' interests as a collective and the overall popular voice. I think it's a mistake for us to believe either that it's perfect or totally broken. It's doing the job it was intended.

All the states get at least 3 electoral votes -- 2 for the Senate, and 1 for the House, and then additional House seats depending on size.

Fudging the actual math to suit a simpler example, the electoral votes might be apportioned to have 1 house vote per 2 million people, with a minimum of 1 per state:

  • Alabama - 3 electoral votes
  • California - 3 e.v. + 7 extra House seat e.v. (16 mil / 2 mil = 8 total)
  • Delaware - 3 e.v.
  • Florida - 3 e.v.
  • Georgia - 3 e.v.
  • Hawaii - 3 e.v.
  • Illinois - 3 e.v.
  • Kansas - 3 e.v.

As you can see, in this election, Helen Crampton would win with 21 electoral votes to Ronald Trumpster's 10, and 7 of 8 states are happy instead of only 1/8.

In this extreme example, California's 16 million voices take to the internet and claim the country is not representing the people's voice.

But abolishment of the electoral college would have given voice only to California's people, which, unfortunately for the unhappy 16 million Californians, is exactly what the writers of the constitution hoped to avoid.

Although I wasn't present for the drafting of the constitution, reaching back to my high school U.S. History class (for which I also wasn't really present), I remember this being discussed. The founding fathers were very aware of the risks of diverse geographic challenges in a large and disparate land, and that population growth could end up favoring one particular geographic division over all the others.

I think we sometimes tend to forget that a State is not just a subdivision of the country, but was given special status to many protected rights by the design the founders intended. States are special; this delegation of rights to the states is not extended down to any other locale division (unless a state's constitution wanted it that way). Most of the time we're not noticing its affect on our daily lives, and only occasionally do hot-button legislative issues (like Obamacare) bring this back to our attention, but the balance between Federal and State was always intended to work this way.

In fact, if a large state wanted to distribute its vote more according to land than to popular vote, it could create it's own electoral college to give similar power to each county. In Utah, for example, this would have the effect of severely diminishing the vote of the people of Salt Lake County.

Is this design "fair"? I think fair really is just what works for us. It was certainly intended to be fair for a long time, which is why it was written write into the constitution. 240 years on, a lot has changed, and states' lines are blurred more than ever. Especially with the internet, states operate for the people less than ever as cohesive units compared to other divisions like urban/rural. The needs of the people of Seattle are more like New York City than those of Spokane, WA.

It may be time (and I think it is) to revisit whether the system is working for us anymore, but to describe it as a "system" that is anything other than one to ultimate serve the people is inaccurate.

It's just a system designed to work for a people with very different diversity and geographical challenges than we have today.