Fear and Hysteria in the “Two Americas”

As a child there are few things worse than watching your parents argue. I didn’t mind much if they argued with someone else, because I was clear on what side I was on, but when they argued with each other I couldn’t stand it.

As a paralegal working in family law I see the results of years and years of arguments and built up resentment. The situation blows up and the parties split. The house, cars, pensions are divvied between the two and they go their separate ways. That is easy to do with two people, but the process doesn’t translate to sovereign nations.

That’s currently how I feel right now, and how I have felt since January 20th – like I’m watching my parent’s argue over who forgot to take out the trash and I just want to get out of there as fast I can because the conversation is clearly disintegrating.

Prior to this presidential race, when people I spoke with divulged their political leanings they would say something like “well I’m socially a democrat, but fiscally conservative” or “I’m somewhere in the middle.”

Unfortunately for America, those sentiments have evaporated. People have floated to the extreme ends of the ideological spectrum and unapologetically dismantle anyone who expresses ideas that are to the right or left of where they stand.

Unlike marriage, when this conversation escalates and disintegrates, we cannot divorce the other side of the country, split our stuff, and go our separate ways. There are not “two America’s” and never have been. There is one America with millions of different people who come from all walks of life and hold different beliefs. We compromise and work together to get by. It seems we have traded that idea in for the divide and conquer rhetoric that has softly but persistently been in our ear.

We are currently in a crisis of hysteria, partially fueled by the media, a partisan institution that rarely reports news objectively. Part of this hysteria is the belief that people who voted differently from us must be fundamentally flawed as human beings. They aren’t just fellow countrymen who have differing political opinions, but instead are racists, sexists, and homophobes – words that have grave meaning, but are thrown around carelessly with no awareness of their actual definition.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for two years, spanning the entire presidential race, Trump’s inauguration, and his first weeks in office. Not once have I driven past a car with a Donald Trump bumper sticker on it. I have seen Hillary and Bernie bumpers stickers in every shape, size, color, and texture in every variety they are made, but not one Trump sticker. I think bumper stickers are tacky so I never thought much about it. But then the reason occurred to me – self-preservation. A city this big is sure to have its fair share of Trump supporters. But the lonely Trump supporter in Los Angeles doesn’t want his car keyed and windows smashed in.

I lean to the left politically, but I understand that person’s plight. I laugh at politically incorrect jokes under my breath, and keep my thoughts about my high taxes to myself for fear of the thought police jumping out of a palm tree to berate me.

The opposite can be said for the liberal outposts in red states and neither is right. The most attractive thing about America is freedom – freedom of speech, ideas, and the freedom to disagree with one another. We have strayed from that in a fit of hysteria.

The person I voted for on Election Day did not win. I am not thrilled with the president or the policies he has put forth, but believe that the people who did vote for him, did so based on reasons they felt were important or logical. That’s just the way it is in a free democratic country. Sometimes your guy wins, sometimes he doesn’t.

We can change our president every four years, our congressmen every two, but the us vs. them mindset is the drop of poison that can spoil the well permanently.

Automation: The Real Job Killer of American Manufacturing.

Part 1 of a 2 part series for the Good Men Project.

I am an optimistic believer in the possibility of an America which can move forward unified, despite the differences we have in race, class, education, the list goes on ad infinitum. But first, I need to try to understand the people who I did not agree with on Election Day. This section of the population I may have little in common with on a core issue that does not directly affect me. A healthy future depends on how well we try to understand one another regardless of our differences.

In this two part series I set out to explore job loss in the manufacturing industry; an industry which once provided good jobs with decent pay to many of the working class men in the rust belt and southern regions of the United States. A great deal of time and effort was devoted to this issue on the campaign trail and the debate became a hot button issue.

Like many other baffled Americans, I was fascinated with the passion and adoration Trump supporters had for him. Many of these supporters were white, working class males from the rust belt and southern states, a large and specific section of the population that feel forgotten by Washington D.C.

While the exit polls continued to roll out it didn’t take long after November 8th to figure out why this specific demographic had supported Trump with intensity and fervor. Trump’s message on the campaign trail and the lines of people who came out in droves to vote for him began to align as the whole picture came into focus.

Donald Trump’s campaign was built on the foundation of statements that were emotionally charging rather than factually accurate. One of his earliest claims that remain part of the bedrock of his platform is that China and Mexico are responsible for the massive hemorrhaging of U.S. manufacturing jobs. He claims that U.S. companies have opted out of the American labor force and have moved their plants overseas to take advantage of cheap labor.

Like much of what Trump says, this statement does not tell the complete story, nor is it beneficial to the millions of working class men once employed in manufacturing. On the contrary it serves as a war drum beat to rally support behind his agenda.

The real job killer of American manufacturing is automation. Robots, not the Chinese or Mexicans, are responsible for the shrinking of manufacturing jobs. These jobs are mostly in male dominated industries and were once a way for people who were not skilled workers or college educated to make a decent living with healthcare and benefits.

In the manufacturing industry, which has been decimated by automation, men hold 73% of factory jobs. In April of 2016 the Congressional Research Service, whose research influences many of the bills that pass through the Legislature, published their report “U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective.”

The report showed that the United State is second to only China in global manufacturing output, yet since 1990 U.S. employment in manufacturing is down 31%. The report also states “The United States saw a disproportionately large drop

between 2000 and 2010, but its decline in manufacturing employment since 1990

is in line with the changes in several European countries and Japan.” Shrinking of employment in manufacturing is a worldwide trend that is not exclusive to America.

The manufacturing industry in America is alive and well, we are producing more goods than ever before. Due to automation it is no longer necessary to employ thousands of factory workers to do the same job that a few robots can do. Not to mention those robots can work 24/7 without taking breaks, getting hurt, or requiring benefits. Technology is being used globally to increase productivity at the price of displacing workers.

As the tide of automation rises, as it has been for decades, more workers are laid off, houses are foreclosed, and the American dream becomes an abstract concept rather than a practical reality. It also leaves large numbers of mostly working class men justifiably angry and in need of a solution.

Per usual, politicians exploit the situation to capture power. They preach to the unemployed, disenfranchised, and the ones who feel left out by the current political system. Their illusion of a solution is to blame immigrants and foreigners; it’s much more emotional and dramatic than blaming the robots. More importantly it garners support, funds campaigns, and motivates millions to vote for them.

I can’t exclusively fault Trump for promoting this message. While the way in which he does it is highly unsettling, his exploitation of a vulnerable group and subsequent claim of a tangible solution is a tactic politicians on both sides of the aisle have been using since ink dried on the Constitution.

While the exploitations and false promises are not new trends in the world of politics, automation is a relatively new trend affecting employment. Next week I will take a look at the social implications and social support programs of those who are displaced by automation as well as what it means for the future of employment.

Where Do We Find Political Solutions in What Appears to be a Barren Post-election Landscape?

Also published on the Good Men Project and can be found here.

We are almost three weeks removed from the election and whether you have come to terms with the results or not, it is necessary we look towards the future and try to find solutions in what appears to be a problematic political landscape.

This past election season was a big shift away from establishment party politics. Bernie Sander’s campaign was a testament to that and obviously Donald Trump was as well, although in the past few years the Republican establishment has been more of an enigma than any set of concrete ideas.

Looking back at patterns of history, this shift shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The proclamation of a Washington “outsider” is a highly successful campaign strategy that has been used quite frequently. This strategy is usually most successful during or directly after periods of stress and uncertainty.

The cold war tensions of the late ‘50s led John F. Kennedy to the white house as he campaigned on the necessity of new blood and the failures of the old guard. Carter’s outsider strategy came on the heels of Watergate, and Reagan’s on the recession and energy crisis of the ‘70s.

President Obama’s path to the white house was much similar to JFK’s, the causes and conditions looking a little different.

When Obama first took office in 2008, I was coming up on the cusp of adulthood. It was like a light came on in the darkness. The financial crisis we were going through had put burdens on my family and nearly everyone around me and I had grown up most of my life with my country tangled up in two wars. I was a year too young to be eligible to vote, but most of my friends were of age, and Obama was overwhelmingly successful with young people.

The last eight years were pretty good from my point of view. It seemed that we had recovered from the recession. The economy was steadily improving. My friends and family were doing much better than they were eight years ago.

But this observation comes from my coastal-centric mind. I grew up in the Northeast, and moved to California towards the end of the Obama administration. Although I traveled through parts of the South and Midwest, it was not for any significant amount of time. At least not enough to break the perception bias I was suffering from.

A large swath of the population struggled mightily the last eight years. If you live on one of the coasts, it may have been harder to see, but many never really recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. History proved again to repeat itself and hindsight being 20/20 it’s easy to now see the flaw of the Hillary Clinton candidacy.

So now we lie in the wake of the election, many still in a state of bewilderment. The Democrats look to the future and plan for the 2018 midterms and 2020 election, wondering which direction they should go.

A smart solution would be to put forth the exciting, charismatic candidates that the Democrats usually put on the national stage. JFK, Obama, and Bill Clinton all had these qualities. They received large support from younger generations because we can relate to them. They aren’t just old white guys far removed from us, high up in their castles.

Mimicry is one of the great adaptors of behavior in nature. Species mimic characteristics of other species to be successful. Democrats need to take a lesson from Mother Nature and rip a page out of the Bernie Sander’s playbook.

Somewhere along the way the elitists hijacked the Democratic Party. They left the little guy behind, and forgot that people vote in states other than California and New York.

The Sanders campaign put the corporations, dark money, and elitists in their sights with the same fervor the people do. In a political era where money buys elections, he refused to take their money! Instead he funded his entire campaign from small, transparent donations. He made it clear he would go after Wall Street and eradicate the parasite that is dark money from politics.

He had widespread support from young people, minorities, and working class folks because he talked about issues that no other candidates were willing to talk about. 99% of us will never be part of any hedge fund or super pac. Guys like us were feeling like our power in the democratic process was only getting smaller, while the minority one percent at the top was gaining power. Sanders excited us and empowered us. That’s what made Democratic candidates great in the past, and it is what we need now.

I don’t say any of this as an “I told you so”, but rather as a path towards a solution based on the lessons of the past.

The good news is Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and their messages aren’t going anywhere. They’ve thrown their support for DNC chair behind Keith Ellison, an exciting young representative from Minnesota who shares many of their same values.

A candidate I have a strong admiration for, and will gain a lot of momentum the next four years is Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Prior to filling Frank Lautenberg’s vacant Senate seat, Booker was mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

The trajectory of the Democratic Party looks good. Bernie Sanders campaign as an outsider and a critic of the establishment was extremely successful. There are young, exciting candidates like Keith Ellison and Cory Booker who will gain significant traction the next four years. I believe there will be successful movements towards grassroots fundraising and organization, which will help to lesson the grip big corporations have on politics.

That is something that’s good for all of us, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.

I’m Optimistic and You Should Be Too.

Emotions can only be observed by being a participant in the process, by looking into the eyes of others, and talking with them about their happiness, sadness, joys and fears. The feelings and experiences I have as a millennial man and those I observe in others around me are the wild card factors that can’t exactly be quantified. They can’t be measured, put on a line graph or pie chart.

What I took away from this past election was that those factors were significantly more important than the numbers. The numbers showed a Clinton victory, some by a significant margin. The Moody Analytics model, which had correctly predicted every presidential race since 1980, had Clinton winning by 126 electoral votes over Donald Trump.

But what the data always fails to show are the faces behind those numbers; the men and women who are more than just a point on a graph. In this time of modern technology, with analytics and algorithms relied upon to predict unpredictable human behavior, we lost sight of the human element that was at play in the grand scheme.

For my fellow millennials, whether the election went your way or not, I encourage you to continue to be optimistic for the future.

The Pew Research Center in April of 2016 showed our generation matching the baby boomers as the largest generation demographic able to vote. According to exit polls 18-29 year olds voted for Clinton 55% to 37%, with a five point Republican gain over the last election.[1]

We are the largest, most diverse, highest educated generation in the history of the country. In the next presidential election we will surpass the baby boomers as the largest generation able to vote. We are also the most technologically savvy generation. Given these demographic advantages and the amount of information we have the ability to access, one could make the argument that we will be better informed and critical of the candidates that are put forth to us, keeping them more accountable and more honest than they have been in the past.

However, as the largest generation, it is our responsibility to begin the healing process that the country so desperately needs right now.

This election was a testament to what we all knew. We are living during a time in which our country is more divided than we have ever been. It brought to the surface all of the wild card factors, and revealed just how deep the divisions really are.

This election drew lines along, race, sex, socioeconomic class, and geography. It is now clearer than ever that we truly live in two, maybe more, Americas. Emotions are high on all fronts and to the degree we can come together and work together, is to the degree we will heal.

I woke up Wednesday morning and saw protests all over the country. Many of them were on high school and college campuses, in large cities from coast to coast.

As a student of history, and as one who holds in the highest regards the processes that make our democracy great, I believe that protest is a healthy and necessary function of a thriving democracy.

But what I saw was much of the angry, hateful, intolerant sentiments we saw on the campaign trail repackaged and delivered. Many times by the same people who were preaching tolerance and unity barely a month ago. My Facebook feed was littered with knockdown, drag out arguments between friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I saw #Notourpresident on social media, television, and on signs held by students in the streets. The “They go low, we go high” rhetoric went out the window before all of the votes were even counted.

While the future looks bright, this looks like the same old infighting we really need to get past.

Although I have no more insight than the next guy on what the Trump administration will do, I have a few suspicions and hopes. The rhetoric and image Trump used to get votes was successful in getting him elected, but won’t suffice in running the country. I think Donald Trump the president will be much different than Donald Trump the candidate, much to the disappointment of his supporters; and if worse comes to worst, the Republicans don’t have the super majority necessary to block a filibuster in the Senate.

I did not vote for Donald Trump (I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton either for the record). Living in California, my state was going blue regardless of who I voted for. But the fact of the matter is he’s the president elect. That’s it, case closed. Contrary to the hash tags, he is our president. When he is sworn in he will be sworn to protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution of the United States. It’s time to move on and begin to heal.

As millennials it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the big picture here. The future is bright not just for us, but also for the country as a whole. The world is changing, which creates fear, but I think our generation is one that embraces change. However, the great responsibilities we have, start now. They start with how we treat one another in these coming months and years. They rest on how well we begin our healing process, and most importantly, how we learn to love each other again.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html?_r=0

Also published  on Good Men Project

What happens to the Trump movement after tomorrow?

Tomorrow millions of people will head to the polls and cast their vote for the next President of the United States. Many polls already suggest Hillary will win, and assuming she does, this strange, bizarre creature of a candidate, Donald Trump, will go quietly back from whence he came, right?

Maybe… But probably not.

For a month or two he’ll be good for a slew of asinine claims of voter fraud. He’s already stated that if he loses it is because the election is rigged, and if your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it’s filled with more fake news stories about dead people voting then you can count.

But eventually all of the craziness will subside, most likely by inauguration day. The elephant standing in the room and the question I find absolutely fascinating is what happens to all of the Trump supporters?

What I took away most from his campaign is that Trump tapped into something no Republican has been able to tap into in recent memory. His inflammatory rhetoric about immigrants, the political establishment, and the Republican base ignited something in his supporters with a passion I’ve never seen before. His political rallies look like a sporting event or a concert.

He was able to bring to the surface the feelings of many middle class, blue collar, mostly white male Americans who are watching the world change in front of their eyes with no power to do anything about it and no signs of it ever going back to the way it was. The factory jobs of the rust belt and elsewhere have left the U.S., maybe never to return. The fossil fuel industry and the millions of jobs it provides are being threatened by newer, cheaper, greener alternatives. For many Americans, Trump is one of the last gasps of air they feel like they have left.

The completely visceral response Trump supporters had towards him will not subside and go quietly into the sunset. Trump was able to turn them against the Republican Party and it’s establishment. First in the primaries, then during the waves of Republican elite’s who spoke against him or wouldn’t support him.

So it will be very interesting to see where the Republican Party goes from here. They cannot ignore or deny the millions of people who rallied behind Trump’s message, who chose that message over 16 other Republican candidates with traditional Republican messages.

The Republican base will almost certainly have to adopt some of the Trump message to win future Senate and House seats, and if that’s the case the Republican Party could take an even deeper turn towards the extreme.

-Mike