Saturday, June 04, 2016

I Take the DNC Voter Survey

I have been without access to a computer, other than my phone, on which I am not going to write blog posts, for about two weeks. Before that I had thought I ought to write something stating my position on Trump's winning the presidential nomination, how it was affecting me, how I could convincingly express my aversion to the whole phenomenon without sounding like every other pantywaist who feels compelled to get it on the record before whatever terrible consequences resulting from a potential Trump victory ensue that They Were Against This From the Beginning...but I didn't have much enthusiasm for this, perhaps because everyone else is on the case already, albeit not terribly effectively as I can see it, but also because I can't really make any sense of it without coming to the conclusion that the country really is coming to ruin, or is about to implode socially. Obviously there is a leadership void for a sizable segment of the population which the pundits have been at great pains to try to identify, and which the Trump candidacy is evidently seen as an attempt to fill, though I don't understand it.

I received an official-looking letter in the mail the other day in which was enclosed a letter from Debbie Wasserman-Schwartz, the head of the Democratic Party National Committee, and a survey. Since I never get such personal attention from the Party, I was intrigued enough to peruse these materials. Wasserman-Schwartz immediately attempted to butter me up by telling me I was "one of a select group of local Democratic leaders"--my eyes were arrested by that phrase and I imagined for a moment that it was true, and that all the world regarded me as such a leader, before going on to complete the rest of the sentence--"chosen to participate in this (survey)". The letter went on to a recitation of this year's usual DNC boilerplate and a reminder of the terrifying policies the Republicans threaten to pursue if they get elected, followed by an appeal for money. Here the Koch brothers and their (alleged) vow to spend $889 million on the election were invoked. "The DNC needs your help NOW to counter the GOP's piles of special-interest money, mudslinging, and dirty tricks." This should give some idea of the overall tone of this missive.

The contents of the survey give a picture of the supposed mindset of the mainstream democratic voter and party operative, which mainly reveals an obsession with keeping the Republican enemy out of power and furthering various pet agendas that interest me little. I will go through the questions here in my desperate 12:30 am fatigue and try to say as nearly as possible what I really think of them.

Section I is concerned with personal information, but Section II, "The Republican Threat" asks five questions, and provides the voter/donor with a choice of answers. I had a hard time coming up with a clear answer to any of the questions on the entire survey, except one:

1. Which elements of the radical Republican agenda are most dangerous to America's future? (please choose up to three)

There were nine options for this question, some of which made me laugh ("Denying the existence of climate change"), some of which don't seem overly dangerous to America's long term future ("Dismantling the Affordable Care Act"), and none of which seem to me likely to be implemented in the degree that the most rabid Republicans would like even if they should get elected. Of the items on the list that I would even consider to be of legitimate importance to the national interest, the blowback to any extreme Republican overreach would be very severe; as I see it, the current left wing fanaticism and scorched earth tactics are an ongoing response to the arrogance and excesses of the first George W. Bush administration, which psychologically trampled on and embittered many of those who identify as left-liberals such that no revenge short of total annihilation of their enemies will suffice. I still cannot pick any of the options (Affordable Care Act, women's reproductive rights, LGBT civil rights, Social Security and Medicare, a right-wing Supreme Court, minimum wage increase, immigration reform [on the pro- side], climate change, and handling international affairs diplomatically) as anything I am truly worried about, though I did hate the Bush administration's foreign policy approach, so I guess I should go with that one. If I really thought they would be able to get away with gutting Security Security and Medicare I might choose that, though I think the possibility of that happening is pretty remote. In general, what I really don't like are their tax policies and total lack of interest in making the country a more civilized and livable place for the bulk of the citizenry, but those were not questions.

2. Which aspect of Donald Trump's and Ted Cruz's candidacies do you find most disturbing? (please choose one)

This has eight options. closely paralleling those in Question one, again, none of which exactly captures what disturbs me about them. I don't think of myself as a particularly ideological voter because I don't have a lot of passion or anger, but I am wary, and generally frightened, of people who appear too much to value money or power as great goods in themselves, and who would extrapolate that influence through the broader society even more than it is. Donald Trump has been a most unfortunate and pernicious influence in this way for over thirty years. I have difficulty perceiving how his notoriety has been beneficial to the psychological and moral health of this country over that time, and this is before he began running for President and won the Republican nomination! While also apparently an extreme narcissist, Cruz struck me as the leading edge of the type of new meritocratic man that has been emerging from the top schools over the past few decades, meticulously capable as least as far as managing his own advancement, possessed of a triumphant intelligence that has been so relentlessly reinforced at every turn so as to preclude any development of either humility or fellow-feeling for other (lesser) people. He is not a reassuring person to entrust power to either. Of course, neither is Hillary Clinton, or her would-be empowered supporters, from my vantage.

3. Which of the following election outcomes would be most catastrophic for our nation? (please choose one)

The choices were, Republicans winning the White House, tightening their stranglehold on Congress, or increasing control of state and local governments. I think Trump getting elected president is probably the worst possibility, because the potential to do damage is so great there, and also because of late who the president is has had such an effect on the overall mood of the populace. In my state we have had a few lapses in recent years where too many Democrats have stayed home during off-election years and in one instance a vindictive right-winger was elected governor and in another a cabal of Tea Party enthusiasts were able to get control of the legislature. In both instances we had to endure a couple of unpleasant years during which, in addition to the slashing of various institutional and other public funding, there was a lot of aggressive taunting of milquetoast liberal types, which impulse often unfortunately afflicts the manlier elements of the far right when they ascend to power, and tends to undermine their broad support for the next election.

4. Which group of GOP backers do you think will have the biggest impact on the 2016 elections? (choose one).

Choices are: "Right-wing billionaires, such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson"; "Ruthless political operatives, such as Karl Rove"; "Extreme far-right organizations, such as the Tea Party Nation and the Club for Growth"; and "Conservative Media Outlets."  None of these dreaded collectives has been able to manipulate the voting to their liking thus far, if we are to believe what we read in the papers regarding their position toward Trump and his riff-raff supporters. I assume the billionaires, whether right wing or otherwise, will have the most influence after the election regardless of who wins.

5. How do you View the Republican refusal to even consider confirming Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court? 

I didn't like any of the options given for answers. I've written before about my confusion with regard to the obsession of political partisans with the selection of Supreme Court Justices, where the object is to determine how reliably the prospective justice will rule with one's preferred side on various issues, with the intellectual acumen to visibly humiliate the enemy's partisans in argument featuring as an especially delectable bonus. Among other things, this undermines the authority of the Court's rulings, since the "losing" side never accepts the "winning" side's arguments and decisions as the result of a serious inquiry into the truth or Constitutionality of a question by a wise and dispassionate expert. But this is what people think the court should be.

By the way, I think in the abstract that there should be a vote on Obama's nominee. Not to do so shows both a lack of confidence in and even a kind of contempt for the Republic. That said, if the same situation had occurred when Bush was president, I am sure that I would have been pleased at a show of resistance to his nominee, whom I doubtless would have thought was awful. However, that illustrates the problem with this partisan system, that the appointment of a judge by the opposite party has become terrifying to people. This is not how any court should operate in this country.

Section III involves a bunch of questions about 2016 Democratic election priorities which I am not going to go into at length. There was one question, the only one on the survey that I saw as having a sensible answer, which was Which of the below Democratic actions to level the playing field for middle-class families do you support? for which I chose 'Ensure access to basic retirement security and affordable education and healthcare", though I do think there are arguments for taxing the wealthy more, not into penury, but because there is no other viable way at present that I can see to prevent the wealth gap from continuing to widen ever more exponentially, due to the nature of capital, and I think this is becoming too much of a problem and is stifling too much of the country.

Hopefully I can get another post up before a month goes by.  

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