Why Single-Payer Health Care in the US?


At last. An article which comes close to explaining what single-payer is and what are its possible advantages.

I’m not going to set out the entire article in my post. You can read it. But I will spell out my preference: hybrid. Facilities provided privately. You pay for private health insurance, if you or your employer can afford it. Otherwise, the federal government, in some form, subsidizes the paying of either your medical bills direct or your health insurance.

Before I get to why that is my preference, a few caveats about the article itself. The British NHS, lauded by the author of the article, Paul Waldman, as the closest thing to a single-payer system in practice, is not in fact working.

Every single health care system in the Wester Hemisphere is beset by the same problem: funding. And that occurs because of the aging populations in the Western Hemisphere. Coupled with a decreasing tax base (which, by the by, is why there are so many advocates in said WH for any kind of immigration).

Now, I know there are those who will say that, especially in the case of the British NHS, the funding problem is the fact that those holding the reins of national power in the UK (the British Conservative Party) are tight-fisted, uncaring neanderthals.

Actually, a recent and respected poll found that some 63% of the people who use the NHS are satisfied with it. Plus, barely seven years ago, there was a substantial majority of those going to the polls who agreed that the British government spending deficit was way out of control. It is still out of control.

I don’t bemoan the hypocrisy of electorates. It’s a given in a democracy. You take the medicine for so long. And then you want the sugar again. I just point it out.

Plus, if there was an overwhelming majority of the British electorate actually in favor of throwing caution to the wind, and flooding the NHS with taxpayer pounds. Without care or consideration for the consequences to their individual tax bills. Then, with respect, the British Labour Party, which was pretty much offering that, would have won the recent UK General Election. As opposed to coming second.

This is one of the primary factors in my mind when considering a solution to funding problems in any health care system. It ain’t just about doing sexy things with the pubic dollar/pound/franc/whatever. It is also about taking into account whether or not those earning and holding the tax money want to hand it over. Clearly, in the UK, a majority decided they did not.

All of the national election results in the past twenty or so years in the US suggest much the same. It’s all very well Paul jumping up and down with glee, stating that single-payer is going to become the norm for national Democratic candidates going forward. An essential litmus test. It matters not a doctor’s rusty stethoscope, let alone a tinker’s cuss, if Democrats fall in love with single-payer, if the voters we need come election time are still not convinced. And there is no evidence that there is anything like a groundswell among the general US electorate for single-payer.

However, it is becoming clear that there is a general horror at the suggestion that 20+ million Americans will lose health care insurance under any of the schemes being proposed by the Republicans. At the end of the day, that will be Obama’s primary legacy. The fact that he swung the pendulum enough that there is now a consensus among the US electorate for some form of government subsidy for some health care funding.

So. We work with that. And also with the fact that many of those swing voters Democrats need to pick up are not overwhelmingly taken with the notion of a rise in taxes. And we come up with a hybrid.

Government has no business being in business. That is my personal view. I accept that. But I say that the provision of almost all services falls within the category of business. And, after some forty-five years of politically knocking on doors, I have yet to be convinced that there is any service that can be provided (‘publicly’ or privately) more efficiently than by properly-monitored private contractors. Moreover, it has been my experience that such provision reduces the burden on the public purse.

I actually made a speech to the British Conservative national conference, in about 1985, in which I said that, in order to make room within national public expenditure for more important priorities, we should abandon the concept, in effect in the UK since the Second World War, that everyone should be entitled to certain ‘public’ services, regardless of their means (pic attached).

I said, and still say, that, pretty much with all public services, if you can afford to pay, you should pay. I was met with rapturous applause. Not least because the gathered dairy farmers and blue rinses were too dumb to work out that I was telling them they would have to sell the second Jaguar.

Like I say, I still take that view. So, as much as I may be excoriated for saying so, we keep private health insurance. And make public finds available only on the basis of a means test.

As for pre-existing conditions, I’m not clever enough to come up with solutions as to how to make that work. I can only offer my general viewpoint. Which is that, in my opinion, every single individual living in the US is entitled to the health care they need to stay alive and be reasonably healthy. Provision should never be governed by means. If you can pay, you do. If you can’t, the government pays the bills. Um. Period.

What that does to insurance premium policy I leave to others more clever than me to work out. Bearing in mind that, if you have an individual who must pay for health care privately, and you make his or her insurance premiums too expensive, you are in breach of my generalized position.

Right. That’s it for me on US health care provision today. I say again. Paul, dance in the streets all you like about single-payer. If it becomes the norm for national Democratic candidates going forward, when the great US electorate are not prepared to foot the bill, you and others are likely consigning the Democrats to many more years in the political dustbin. In my humble opinion …

(Facebook comments here.)

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Democrats 2018/2020: ‘We Work’


Ooh, ooh. An interview with ‘progressive’ Democratic leader Ron Klain on CNN. An interview I can dissect. Some good stuff. Some rubbish.

The interview links to the op-eds written by Democratic activists Ron Klain and Mark Penn earlier this week. And their contributions in the debate about the future of the Democratic Party. Ron offering the progressive viewpoint, and Mark the centrist.

If you’ve been vacationing on the moon since the Presidential election of 2016, you won’t know that I believe there is at least one further possibility, what I call Democratic Populism.

Anyways. To Ron’s interview. Point-by-point. Good start. Good headline. We need to reach Democratic voters through their gut, not just their head.

Oh dear. Continuing denial. The Russians won the election in 2016. Hillary didn’t lose it. Oh well. Put that down to loyalty.

Talk to working people. Yes. Explain the benefits of Democratic policy. Um. Good-ish. I still don’t see listening to working folk as a first step. Hmm.

We seem always to want to jump right in, and sell them the same old policies. Just louder. Sigh.

Look. It is a fact of life (in my opinion) that, in the short term (2018 and 2020), in order to win nationally (at least), Democrats are going to have to win over at least some swing Trump supporters.

That means finding out what it is that we can offer them, that does not cause us completely to lose our soul, and to run out of the room screaming.

I know that scares some Democrats. But we do not address the fact usefully with continuing denial. And by putting our fingers in our ears whenever faced with a working person who wants to say something.

Ok. Gets better. Using the right metrics to attack Trump. In the above third link, I say that your average working person is potentially finding Trump attractive because he’s ‘sticking it to Washington.’

We can’t fight that. Pretty much all national Democratic candidates either work in Washington, or are perceived as being on their way there (cf. ‘yay, a fellow Georgetown Hoya!’).

But we as Democrats can ask those who tentatively voted for Trump in 2016 (‘gee, he runs a successful business; maybe he can run a successful country?’). We can hit them with a few hard performance stats.

In my above third link, I say those metrics should be: did he give you the job he promised you; is your healthcare premium cheaper; and is your cost of living or doing business improved? At last, I’m hearing a Democratic leader talking in the same terms. Well. Sort of. It’s a start.

And then we get to examples of specific policies that I believe are still not going to appeal to the gut of ordinary working Americans.

Ron quite rightly states: “I think if we have done anything wrong, it is in having an agenda that is often too wonky, too complex, and doesn’t connect.”

Absolutely. And then he goes on to present a ‘new’ approach that still smacks of wonky and out-of-touch. ‘Four years of public education after high school should be free and universal, just like high school is today.’

Ron, the sons and daughters of many, many ordinary working Americans just do not want four years of public education after high school. And their parents see no reason why they should be paying taxes to support those who have more money than them.

And Ron? You’d know this if you actually spoke to a few hundred real working folk.

The good news? At least some Democratic leaders know we need to change. The bad news? Selling the same policies louder is not a new approach. Selling wonk, but with a different name, is not going to work, either.

As for a bumper sticker? One of the most famous UK election posters was one used successfully by the British Conservative Party in 1979 (pic attached). It worked because of all the different levels. I think something similar in 2018 and 2020 could work for the Democrats:

‘Democrats: We Work.’

(Facebook comments here.)

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who is more Patriotic – the Democrats or Trump?


It’s the time of the year when Americans think about the flag, and CNN have an op-ed this morning that wonders whether Trump’s narcissistic antics are making the Democrats seem more patriotic.

First off, does it matter? Well, if you aren’t into the minutiae of politics, then no. And don’t bother reading on. But, for those looking to make Democrats more attractive to swing voters than Trump and Republicans in 2018 and 2020, then patriotism has recently been a problem for Democrats.

Those of us who spend any time talking with ordinary working Americans know that many of them often vote against their own seeming best economic interests not least because Democrats have not been perceived as ‘muscular’ enough in their politics.

All too often, this appears to translate into a willingness to hurl American military hardware and software at the rest of the world. And to our eternal chagrin, many Democratic leaders have determined that the best response is to be more aggressive about parlaying American ‘patriotism’ into a readiness to intervene militarily around the world.

Personally, I don’t like violence. I don’t like war. And I don’t like the arrogance that suggests that we in the United States have the right to declare ourselves and our ideas as being more civilized than peoples who often had complex civilizations while our forbears were wandering around the forests of Europe wearing bearskins and blue paint.

But, in strictly political terms, I think this approach has been shortsighted. Right now, there is a populist upsurge among ordinary working folk in the US, where they don’t want to send their sons and daughters into harm’s way. Where they would rather the tax dollars were being used to nation-build at home.

More than this, I take the view that this narrow perception of patriotism is shortsighted and outdated. In 2009, as progressives and liberals were fighting hard to launch rearguard actions against uber-rightwing machinations by newly-elected Republican Governors in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, I wrote a song called Song of Solidarity, in which I attempted to define patriotism in a different light.

I link to the song. But please excuse the awful rendition. This was before voice lessons, fancy-smanchy professional recording studio engineering and pitch correction. But the lyrics paint the appropriate picture.

It is not supportive of our country to go to war. For sure, it is patriotic to offer the fullest support to those, often the most disadvantaged among us, who volunteer to man (and ‘woman’) the ramparts, and keep us safe. And certainly, when they return, especially if they do so in coffins or on a stretcher, we, as fellow countrymen and women, should look to our true patriotism to ensure that all of their needs are fully met. Without question, without the need for intrusive inquiry, and with all of the funds that we as the public can make available.

Patriots are ordinary working people, who sweat and bleed and toil and care. Who keep our country and our companies running, while others try to run them down. Patriots are not those who run away from their corporate responsibilities, or allow their factories and profits to run to lands abroad. They are those who invest in their fellow countrymen and women, and protect their safety net.

True patriots take care of all their responsibilities. To themselves and to their families. Taking home the paycheck at the weekend, rather than spending it down at the bar. As they give their home-based partner a break, and take the kids out to buy groceries for the week.

Genuine patriots think beyond themselves and even their families. They recognize obligations to their community. And to their nation. To those who need a helping hand. To those they cannot see. To those for whom a helping hand. A lift-up from illness. A step-up from poverty. Can only be achieved by contribution to the wider communal offering plate. For real patriots, ‘tax’ is not a dirty word. It is not something to be avoided with expensive lawyers. It is not something we delight in cutting without thought for the consequences. It is the opportunity to build a rigorous, strong and stable nation.

A fearless patriot realizes that the real ‘fight’ is not overseas. It is at home. Against ignorance. Against poverty. Against ill-health. Against bias. If patriotism is about strengthening the nation, then it is about empowering ‘strength’ in all the disparate threads of humanity that combine and intertwine to make the rich and diverse nation that is the melting pot of the United States. And that strength means nothing if it is not supported by compassionate, visionary, unbiased, fair and caring government, in all of its national branches, and down through the states to the counties, municipalities and rural regions.

I would be much more impressed if, this July 4th, I were to hear my Democratic leaders defining their patriotism in these broad, populist and inclusive terms, rather than the stale, narrow and testosterone-soaked language of the truly out-of-touch Republicans and their Presidential headbanger.

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Act like Adults: The Answer to Digital Danger to Democracy


Great article in The World Post today, underlining the many developing dangers to democracy, in the US and around the world, posed by the power inherent in consumer and state digital manipulation of media.

One of the interesting byproducts of the consequential discussion is that about regulation. The allegedly e-savvy former President of Estonia calls for the regulation of social media, much as railroads, water companies and power companies, monopolies in their day, were regulated a century ago.

By the same token, one could look to the likes of the European Union to introduce anti-trust measures, to prevent abuse by monopoly.

A fascinating characteristic of the debate is that it is the idealistic young who today are at the forefront of those demanding freedom on the internet, yelling a curse on all regulation and interference – normally the war-cry of the traditional right. Further evidence of the breakdown of old-fashioned political definitions.

One of my three primary themes at the moment is the danger that ‘consumer’ digital abuse represents to democracy. I wrote about it a short whole ago. Proving once again that this old fuddy-dud ain’t completely behind the 8-ball.

Anyways. Moving right along. I see the threat divided into three stages: (1) ‘Folks’ (be they consumer organizations, government agencies, whatever) gathering data about people, voluntarily or involuntarily; (2) Targeting individuals with information designed to make them do something, on the basis that the information being distributed is honest; and (3) Targeting, but with information that is deliberately fake, usually in a political context.

Frankly, we live in an age in which, when you plug in, you are being monitored and targeted by someone. Perhaps even if you are not plugged in. In an age in which, when you go to take a dump, someone can see what you are doing, in various shades of microwave, infrared and ultra-violet.

We can spend a lot of time considering massively intrusive methods of regulation of the monitors and targeteers. Almost all of them undertaken by governments in which we lost confidence a long time ago. Or are currently losing confidence, as they come under the control of the likes of Donald Trump. Not my preferred choice.

Or. We stop blaming everyone else for what we read, what we believe, what we buy. Grow up. And start taking responsibility for ourselves. By the numbers.

In this day and age. People gather information on people. Don’t like it? Stop filling in those questionnaires. Stop offering information when you decide to buy something on Amazon. Do you think these folks are asking you what color you like because they want to target you with sky blue pillow cases? They’re building a bloody profile, idiot. Which they then sell to someone else. Or which gets hacked by Trump, or China or Putin. Wake up.

Is there anything we can really do about entities like Trump, China and Putin getting our information dishonestly? Well. You mean besides not putting the info out there? Like. Writing an article online saying you’re going to shoot Trump next Wednesday, at the Goober Mall, in Wichita, Colorado. Um. No.

You can vote to give humungous amounts of power to the NSA to try to block the hacking. But frankly, I don’t like the NSA. And I’d rather not. Better to be alert to the fact that folks will be targeting me. And I need to be choosy about what I read and believe.

And that really covers (2). Be frigging choosy. Use your brain. It’s like having a British accent. People think I’m honest. Stop believing something just because it pops up in neon pink on your computer or smartphone.

Next up. Folks complain about online shopping. Now, that one is like WalMart. Whaa. Boo-hoo. That nice little store, with the old lady, who sold gingham dresses to my grandma and mama. Who was going to make my prom dress. And work at it until it fit just right. Who started from scratch all over again. When Poppsie didn’t like her prom dress a year back. That lady is no longer there. Whaa.

You now why she’s no longer there? It’s not because WalMart are big and bad and brutal. It’s because Poppsie’s mother and your neighbor’s dad slipped out in the middle of the night, to go shopping at WalMart, ‘cos their Dr. Peppers was a few cents cheaper. And those midnight flits to WalMart put the old lady, and others like her, out of business.

Grow up. Take responsibility. Because the reason online shopping is putting malls out of business is because you miserable bastards can’t be bothered to get off your ass to go out and support the little guy and gal who go the extra mile to dell you something you really like.

For myself, I always tell people to buy something from a person. That way you have someone you can go back to and say, hey, this didn’t work. Please fix it. Or I’ll break your tail-lights. Or maybe something a little less violent.

But you made your choices. And now the online consumer companies are shutting down the malls. And rendering you susceptible to companies selling you crap that is the wrong size, the wrong color, the wrong everything. And who then send you to an Indian telephone customer service rep when you want to complain.

This is also why you get targeted the whole time. You choose to shop online. You put the physical shops out of business. The online outlets request information. You provide. Like sheep. They target you. But. You can decide what you give and what you get. Up to you.

But. But. What about the folks who target us with stuff that is blatantly dishonest? Oh. You mean, like CNN?

Look. We live in a nation (the US) where the President’s advisers and friends are on a mission (among others) to distort the view of the general population about the news they can trust. And replace that news with ‘alternative facts,’ generally to be found on alternative web-sites like Breitbart, or even worse, InfoWars or the National Enquirer.

Back in the day, we used to call that straightforward psyops. We can’t stop the big boys with the money and the power from doing this. Except by creating a vacuum, where the obviousness of the real fakeness (blimey; that has to be an oxymoron) stands out like a sore thumb.

So. First thing. We beg the mainstream media. To. Please. Stop. Lying.

All through the last Presidential election, and since (cf. the CNN link I just posted), the US mainstream news (especially CNN and the NYTimes) made it clear that they were so shattered by the prospect of a Trump Presidency, that they dropped all pretense of dignified indifference, and merrily mixed op-ed with editorial.

Once the mainstream guys and gals do that. Who can you trust? Everyone is biased. And it’s merely a case of choosing your bias of choice. Which will usually be the media which is more entertaining. And likely has naked breasts somewhere.

In which case, we have no-one to blame but ourselves for buying the offending tripe, or adding up the hits on their web-sites.

So. Write to editors. Demand better of the mainstream media. Absolutely immutable impartiality. Much higher standards of fact-checking. Script without typo’s. Return the mainstream media to being the icon of rectitude, truth and independent fact that once it was.

Now. That is not to say we ignore what has come to be known as ‘alternative news.’ Frankly, with the increasing control of mainstream media by less-than-unbiased corporate interests, many alternative news outlets have become a credible and useful source of otherwise invisible yet truthful information. I mean, I just conducted a radio interview with an online alternative news outlet, #TheOppermanReport. Yes. That was a plug. A real one. As opposed to a fake plug.

But. In this new age of not knowing what to think about what is being targeted at us. Be it from a billboard or one’s computer. Just try relying on common sense, instinct and your own research.

When did we all become so lazy, so gullible and such whiners? Whaa. Elections are bought by corporations. Bollocks. Elections are bought by the idiots who buy the crap they see in television ads. Stop buying it.

Stop buying what is in ads. Stop buying what is in any media outlet. Get online. Do some research. Consider it carefully. Test it against your own common sense. Get on the phone. Ask a few people some pertinent questions. Become your own citizen journalist. But for the love of all things Mark Z., stop whining. Take responsibility.

Rich people will always be greedy. Powerful people will always be abusive. And what you choose to buy or believe will always reside within your own capabilities. A capability that is rendered way more resourceful, ironically, bearing in mind where this note began, with a totally unregulated Internet and social media.

(Facebook comments here.)

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Can Democrats win the House in 2018?


Democrats are unlikely to win the House in 2018 on their own. Even if they can get every single 2016 Clinton voter who backed a Republican House candidate to turn out again in 2018 and cross over.

“You can’t get to a House majority without winning over Trump voters. There are some people who definitely want to believe that they can because they still don’t know how to deal with Trump voters and are intimidated by the idea of appealing to them.”

These aren’t my conclusions. Although I’ve been saying much the same thing since last November’s US Presidential election. They are the conclusions of an in-depth study reported in today’s Washington Post.

The WP interpreted the study in the following manner: To win the House majority in the midterms, Democrats will need to make big gains with suburban voters, defend incumbents in rural districts where President Trump remains popular, topple a handful of Republicans in the Sun Belt and probably win a handful of seats that still aren’t on anyone’s radar.

It’s always possible to argue with anything that drops from my mouth about my preferred path for the immediate future of the Democratic Party. But at least one can’t argue that I’m the only one advocating that path.

[Quotes taken from a Washington Post article. The rest of this note is essentially mine. Um. As you will likely recognize. Facebook comments here.]

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Obama, Schiff, Comey – Trump’s Racketeering with Russians


Rep. Adam Schiff knows better. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday (June 25, 2017) he believed the Obama administration should have taken bolder action in response to intelligence reports about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Schiff knows full well that Obama had to tread softly with the Russians. As did Comey. And Schiff knows why.

The entire Trump-Russia fandango has never been about the Russians hacking the Presidential election. It has been about the still-active, ten-year FBI investigation of Trump’s thirty-years of racketeering with Putin, corrupt Russian officials and the Russian mob.

Racketeering which included the Trump Organization, Trump associates and the Trump family conspiring to launder tens of billions of dollars of dirty Russian money.

Obama, Comey and others could not, would not jeopardize that active ten-year FBI investigation by drawing attention to matters which would inexorably have led back to that investigation.

That is the real story behind Trump-Russia. How everyone held off exposing Trump-Russia collusion, due to the racketeering investigation. How they held off – until it was too late.

But, why did they hold off? Because no-one thought Trump would become President. Even now, officials are reluctant to do anything to undermine the investigation because, well, one day Trump will no longer be President. Which is why Comey in his testimony kept on saying there were matters he could not discuss in public before Congress.

So, why is Schiff coming out now? Because there are a lot of very embarrassed folk saving political skins. And someone, somewhere is hoping that, with enough pressure, someone on the Trump Team might slip up.

Intrigued? Listen to my radio interview on The Opperman Report …

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Opperman Radio Interview: Trump, Russia, Dirty Money – The Real Story


My radio interview for The Opperman Show aired last evening (Friday, June 23). It was based on my article ‘Trump, ‘Maggie’s Hammer,’ Dirty Money – The Connections.’

You can find the podcast either on Spreaker or YouTube. During the interview, I make reference to my three blogs and my book’s web-site. They are as follows (but you knew this already, right?):

(Trump/Rosneft/Dirty Money/Cover-Up): https://newworldtrumpsite.wordpress.com/

(The Future of the Democratic Party):

(General US-UK Politics/Qatar/More Trump):

(My Book – Maggie’s Hammer): www.maggieshammer.com

Now. Interesting thing. Something kept bugging me as I was doing the radio interview. Why didn’t the Rosneft deal feel like the real story behind the Trump-Russia connection? Then, I got it. Because it isn’t. The real, real story is the thirty years of racketeering by the Trump Organization on behalf of corrupt Russian officials and the Russian mob.

But I mentioned both. Surely I’m just splitting hairs? Hmm. Not really. Bear with me. It’s a question of where the focus should lie going forward.

During my interview, I mentioned the recent article in which a couple of senior FBI informants had expressed the concern within the FBI that the various investigations into Russian election hacking during the US election might interfere with the much more important FBI investigation into the thirty years of racketeering collusion between the Trump Organization and corrupt Russian officials and the Russian mob.

Think about it. The Russian election hacking was a long way removed from allegations of money-laundering by the Trump Organization on behalf of Russian criminals. Rosneft was a whole lot closer. The election hacking was PR. Gloss. Rosneft was a continuation of the profit-making between Trump and the Russian mob.

Maybe this is why none of the candidates opposing Trump would mention Rosneft? To do so would have upended an active ten-year FBI criminal investigation? One that everyone assumed would eventually reach actionable fruition, since no-one thought Trump would win? By the time he did, it was all too late.

Maybe this is also why Obama played softly-softly with sanctions arising out of Russian interference in the 2016 election? He knew that any new sanctions might rile the Russian President enough that he would respond by exposing the new crook in the White House.

And so. Here we are. In a right bloody mess. We have a crook in the White House. There has been an FBI investigation for some ten years to that end. It can’t go anywhere at the moment, because the lead racketeer is President.

You can’t impeach the President for that racketeering, because it predated his Presidency. You can’t even impeach him for Rosneft. Since there is nothing illegal about the Rosneft deal, per se. And again, anything suspicious predated Trump’s Presidency.

Meanwhile, the FBI want to make sure their ten-year investigation is not completely compromised. I mean, who knows? Trump will stop being President one day.

Problem is, the man in the White House is actively trying to undermine any and all investigations, FBI, Congressional, old, new, whatever – cf. Hermitage, cf. firing the FBI Director, cf. attempting to replace him with someone intimately associated with Rosneft.

So, if you’re the FBI, you want to do all you can to stop anyone else putting their ten-year investigation into further jeopardy. And that is the real story behind the Trump-Russia fiasco. How do you nobble someone for election hacking and collusion, without trampling all over that ten-year FBI investigation into Trump racketeering?

Now. If there is any part of this note which you do not understand, listen to the interview. If there is any part of this note you find difficult to accept, I don’t blame you. Just keep watching the headlines. You will be surprised. Trust me …

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 6:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Intellectualism and Ignorance in Political Discussion


Yesterday, not for the first time, I was taken to task for offering comfort to the ‘anti-intellectuals.’ I am not against clever people, per se. Or clever solutions. I just think that those of us who are clever have to be realistic about imposing clever anything in a democracy. We have to bring people along with our clever programs. We can’t just impose them.

Arising out of that discussion, someone I deem to be genuine and clever and compassionate wrote to me with an idea into which that person had obviously put a lot of thought.

I believe the idea to be brilliant. But once again, I recognized that brilliance of idea was not enough. What was also required was a way to convince the many disparate threads within the body politic that it was a good idea, along with a realistic plan of implementation.

I wrote back to the person concerned. And having done so, I thought that what I was writing might be interesting within the context of this debate about ‘anti-intellectualism.’ Not because I think I’m some clever, narcissistic, SOB pooh-bah. But because I am grateful to the universe for putting these thoughts into my head. So, here is that response (and if my memory of the two examples I give is shaky, or too Geoff-centric, I apologize!):

“I want to thank you for sending this (the idea) to me. And for taking the very considerable amount of time to think it through. I have a response for you. And I do not want you to think it is facetious. It is written within the context of the Facebook discussion, in which we both participated (about intellectuals in politics).

(One of the participants in the FB discussion) laments the rise of ‘anti-intellectualism’ in current political debate. My response. In line with my theme at the moment. Is that those of us who presume to describe ourselves as ‘intellectuals’ brought this upon ourselves by falling into the trap of thinking we could shortchange or circumvent the democratic process. That simply being clever, and coming up with clever solutions, would of itself sell those clever solutions to the body politic. Even if the body politic didn’t want or even understand the solutions. In my opinion, if nothing else, 2016 was one long, loud scream by non-intellectuals against all those with their white papers.

What I said to (said participant) eventually, was, hey, I’m not against clever people. I’m just saying clever people have to make their clever solutions sellable to the body politic. There is no common ground in the body politic. The best you can hope for is the possibility that you can weave together a coalition of mutual interest. Which often requires as much savvy and work as creating the original solution. Nothing in politics is self-evident or self-explanatory.

So. And I feel somewhat humbled here. Saying this to someone who taught at xxxxx. Let me put on my faux teacher hat, and respond to your term paper like this. What you say is eye-opening and fascinating. It is a great starting point.

Now. Stages two and three.

Stage two. Reduce it to a three point program/explanation.

Stage three. Anyway you choose, divide the Republican Party and the Democratic Party into three groups each. And imagine the language you think they would each use to attack your program, and the language you would use to rebut.

I think you understand why I am suggesting this. But, let me give you two examples from my own experience.

1) I lived for two years, 2003/2004, in Dallas. While there, I became tangentially involved with some organizations working to combat inner-city homelessness.

I was no expert. But I became especially interested in the whole process of productive people very quickly becoming homeless in a state with a marginal safety net.

These were people who wanted to become productive again. But lacked the ‘start-up’ money. And everyday resources. A telephone, to arrange an interview. A place to wash, to prepare for the interview.

The organizations had some language, which they used to approach the very rich folks in Dallas. With little result. I have been in marketing all my life, one way or another. My input was that the problem was not that the ambition was not a good one; it was that the folks selling the idea were using the wrong approach.

First, it was not enough simply to enunciate a good project: we need money to make certain homeless people productive. All rich people see is someone with their hand out, wanting to take their money, or tax ’em.

What was required was language that rich people understood. And a fashioning of the process that made the return immediate to the rich people. I raised the idea that individual rich people should be invited to ‘adopt’ an individual homeless person or family. And, with guidance from an organization ‘professional,’ help that homeless individual or family once again to become productive. But only if that is what the latter wished for themselves.

This made it personal for everyone. And it sold the process to a rich person not as an impersonal grab for their money, but as a individualized vehicle of investment, with return.

I had to move on. I have no idea whether or not my idea caught on. I only know that it was received well by the organizations with which I was speaking, and by one or two well-to-do folks with whom I spoke.

The idea of helping people to become productive was not enough. It required someone to work out how to sell it. And then to expend the time making it work.

2) In 2005, for all sorts of personal reasons, I began working in a leading grocery co-op. I wanted a slow-down in my life. A little less pressure. I thought I would find that in a co-op. Until I realized that this self-described consumer-worker co-op wasn’t actually allowing workers any real say in designing policy.

I won’t bore you with the details. But it took me ten painstaking years of resolute, cautious advocacy within the co-op to help to persuade the Board (it wasn’t a solo effort; others were involved!) to change the rules to make it easier for ordinary workers to have more influence than management in the election of worker representatives on the board. To persuade the board that it would be in the best interests of the co-op to have their workers more invested in the outcome of decision-making. To convince management that this would not threaten them. And then to convince workers that the changes made would allow them to elect real worker representatives. Ten years. In 2015, for the very first time, workers had on the board two people representing them who were actually workers. In that year also, a few of us succeeded in stopping management gutting the Employee Policy Handbook of policies that embedded worker participation. Again. Ten years.

All of this based on one simple premise: if you allow workers to be involved in decision-making, they will be invested in implementing the decisions successfully. But it took ten years to overcome natural human fear and resistance. I had to leave that grocery co-op and my many friends in 2016. Again, for all sorts of personal reasons. I hope that the reforms that were wrought with much emotional investment by a number of us over that ten years have continued. I have no certainty. But some progress was made. And again. It took ten years.

You paper is a wonderful document. But. And please do not take this the wrong way. It is impotent unless it is accompanied with discussion openly addressing human frailty, misunderstanding, fear and resistance. And your suggestions for overcoming the same. Is this fair? I trust this contributes. I hope it does not upset. I am looking to take something forward. Not to stop it in its tracks.

All the best,

Now. What I say next has absolutely nothing to do with the above letter. It flows solely from other thoughts that I have had. I want to make that clear.

I posted the picture with this note that I did because I disagree with it vehemently.

There are certain very strict qualifications for voting in the US. One of them is not that you are clever or well-read. Your vote is personal. You may vote for whatever reason you choose. It is not incumbent upon the voter to vote wisely. It is incumbent upon candidates to persuade. Not on voters to listen. This is why I came up with my own definition of democracy (along with some input from a guy called Churchill):

‘Democracy is a flawed system of governance, that allows misinformed idiots to vote stupidly; but it’s better than the alternatives.’

Where exactly do we end up with our attacks on ‘ignorance’ in voting? Who precisely sets the level of ‘ignorance’? And how do folks see anyone distinguishing between what they charmingly trash as ‘ignorance,’ and people with genuine developmental disabilities?

For me, this is dangerous territory. That reaches far beyond a cozy fireside chat about how well-informed we want our voting base to be.

One more time. It is the job of political parties to persuade. Once they’ve given it their best shot, voters can do whatever they damn well please. And the outcome is the result of bad persuading, not ‘ignorant’ listening or voting. That is the nature of democracy. Stop whining about it. Accept it. Work with it.

Published in: on July 9, 2017 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment