Post-election thoughts: My glass is half full…

Glass half full

… of Jameson’s, preferably.

Well I guess I – and others like me – didn’t get everything we wanted for Christmas.  Mike DeWine, Ted Cruz, and Ron DeSantis showed up under the tree like tube socks, ill-fitting underwear, and an itchy turtleneck sweater, but on the other hand Santa brought us [cue announcer Johnny Olsen] a brand new House! 

You kids will have to ask your grandparents who Johnny Olsen was.

Locally, things did not turn out well for Pat Ungaro’s son Eric and State Rep. John Boccieri.  Ungaro ran in a district that rapidly turns from purple to red as you drive south on Market Street, and Boccieri had the unenviable task of campaigning in Columbiana County where Trump won by a ridiculous 42-point margin over Hilary Clinton in 2016.  If Columbiana County could secede from Ohio and link up with West Virginia, they would.

Meanwhile, Youngstown voters approved a pair of charter amendments abolishing term limits for city council members and the president of city council.  Incompetence can be rewarded indefinitely now.  The 2016 Charter Review Commission, which I had the privilege of chairing, took a pass at proposing a rollback of unlimited mayoral terms that came out of the 2012 charter review, mostly because we had a boatload of other fish to fry. But here’s some inside baseball for you:  The entire city charter – the document that provides structure for Youngstown’s home rule governance – needs a complete overhaul, not just band-aids on things like term limits.  But that’s a topic for another day.

So here’s the part of yesterday’s democracy-in-action festival where the good stuff happened: Our fellow Ohioans recognized Sherrod Brown as a powerful force for good; Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania celebrated a return to sanity; Virginia significantly expanded as a progressive state; and a record number of women are going to The Hill.

I’m not giddy, though.  Quite sober in fact (sadly, but that’ll change soon).  Let me throw out this warning: Democrats in the next Congress, get to work!  Work to protect and build healthcare; strengthen the middle class; solidify the Social Security I count on; get real with rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.  Don’t focus exclusively on tax returns and subpoenas, because if you do, you won’t be here in two years to finish the job.  Get work done next year, and if McConnell obstructs – like that’s never happened before – it will become obvious and it’ll get fixed because the Republican Senate seats coming up in 2020 are more vulnerable than the red state Dem seats were this year.  Don’t squander this opportunity to prove your value to our democracy!

Ya know, the day after an election is usually when olive branches are in full bloom.  It’s a short season – shorter than the life of a tulip in April or a lilac in May – but still I had a whacky moment early today when I thought a conciliatory word might come out of the White House.  At this morning’s presser, though, His Orangeness brought me crashing back to reality when in the very first 60 seconds he 1) immediately bragged about GOP senate and gubernatorial victories, and 2) acerbically attacked news media.  I can’t tell you what happened in the very next minute because I turned him off.  What the hell.  Not one kind or civil word? Even Ted Cruz, of all people, was gracious in victory.  From the New York Times:

In his victory speech, Mr. Cruz set aside the aggressive tone he struck during the campaign and thanked his opponent for a hard-fought race.

“I also want to take a moment to congratulate Beto O’Rourke,” Mr. Cruz said. “He poured his heart into that campaign. He worked tirelessly.”

Some in the crowd booed. “Listen, listen,” Mr. Cruz said. “It’s important. He worked tirelessly. He’s a dad, and he took time away from his kids. And I want to also say, millions across this state were inspired by his campaign.”

Those are remarkably nice words coming from someone who regularly chafes people in his own party.

Trump on the other hand sounded like a Super Bowl winning coach who was making a last-minute eek-out victory sound like a blow-out.  “The other team – those guys play dirty. Disgraceful. They hold all the time.  All the time!  Every play! And the broadcast commentators didn’t say one nice or true thing about us all night long!  Fake news!”  Yep, that’s what he sounded like in just the very start of his remarks.  God knows what followed.

I was going to contrast Cruz’s remarks with an example of a bitter and miscreant tweet from the president, but just this moment discovered – in addition to AG Jeff Sessions’ resignation – that a White House communications staff member tried to wrest away a microphone from a member of the news corps for asking a legitimate question.  Geez, the things you miss when you can’t stand listening to an acid-tongued occupant of the Oval Office.

The video I just saw was ugly, appalling, disgusting, and strong evidence of an emotionally weak and intellectually vapid man who’s supposed to be the leader of the free world and a role model for our children.  If you don’t think this represents a clear and present danger to a truly free and democratic society, then I don’t want to know you.

I need to stop here and drain my half-full glass and pour another.  This was not the ending I planned to write, but I just found out our nation’s on fire again – and Trump is once again holding the torch that lit it.

 

Bow + Cherry

Bow-Cherry

The Ohio 33rd Senate District stretches from the northern city limit of Youngstown to the Ohio River and from the bucolic setting of Greater Sebring eastward to the Pennsylvania line.  Joe Schiavoni has served this area magnificently in his role as State Senator – the last four as minority leader – but alas term limits require the ushering in of someone new to fill his seat.

On the Election Day ballot to represent the 33rd for the next four years is John Boccieri and a fellow whose name rhymes with “bully.”  I’m sure you’ve seen his blood-red yard signs.

So let’s cut to the chase. Vote for John Boccieri.

I hope the majority of people who voted already via absentee or early in-person voting at the Board of Elections have already cast their vote for John.  If you’re a traditionalist, though, and plan on going to the polls tomorrow, it’s you I want to talk to for a minute.

If healthcare protections, good wages and jobs, quality education, secure futures, and policies that favor revitalization of our neighborhoods and industrial base are important to you, then pick up the pen or pencil in the voting booth tomorrow and carefully darken the oval next to the name John Boccieri.

Voting for John means you really appreciate all that he has already done (see previous paragraph), that you appreciate his devotion to our country (as a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force he served four rotations supporting troops in Iraq), that you value him as a family man (happily married with five beautiful children), and that you probably admire his skill as a commercial airline pilot.  And that you like his smarts – he’s got a pair of master’s degrees.

If you listen to the campaign of Rhymes-with-Bully, you would think that John was responsible for everything from the Great Recession to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.  They love to paint him as a “career politician” because he’s run for office nine times, apparently forgetting that you need to run after you successfully serve your term – you don’t get appointed.  At 49, he’s not quite old enough to be called that, but on the other hand, if John is a career anything, let’s try military with 24+ years of service to his country.

In addition to castigating John with weak and unfounded accusations, there are at least two more things that annoy me about Boccieri’s opponent.  The family of Rhymes-with-Bully owns a couple grocery stores and we eventually stopped shopping there because you can’t select your own peppers.  Maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but we like to be able to pick up a pepper like you can everywhere else and hold it in our hand and inspect it for its flaws and firmness and texture.  But there?  Pre-packaged.  “You will buy these peppers we have selected for you and you will like them.”  They still do this because of the evidence in this hours-fresh photo:

packaged peppers

It strikes me that this is the perfect metaphor for a Republican.  The GOP has firmly embraced gerrymandering as a powerful means of minority control, where politicians pick their voters rather than voters picking their leaders.  What could be more analogous than Rhymes-with-Bully who picks your peppers for you rather than letting you pick your own?  And really, do we need one more R in the Ohio Senate?  There are already 24 of them out of 33!  Ds might go on the endangered species list.

One last thing. If Rhymes-with-Bully is still your guy, fine.  But his campaign flaunts Youngstown city ordinances with impunity.  They like to put his blood-red yard signs everywhere, but most egregiously on public rights-of-way.  Yeah, every now and again during campaign season someone sticks one where it shouldn’t be and I don’t pay that much attention, but today on a northbound I-680 ramp there were EIGHT and on an off ramp TEN!  “Rhymes with Bully: We don’t need no stinking rules!”

The insanity that has been these midterms is mercifully concluding, and when the final vote is tallied I’m pretty sure the Ohio Senate’s 33rd district will continue to fly smoothly under the strong and steady command of Lt. Col. John Boccieri.

Okay.  Now get out there and vote!

Bias bias everywhere and not a fact to think

VOTE SMART

An interesting Facebook conversation with an old friend got started yesterday morning when he expressed frustration in trying to learn the unvarnished facts in or behind the agendas of Ohio’s gubernatorial candidates.  Was it just him, he asked, or has there been very little unfiltered information on the candidates’ stances making it through the fog of campaign politics? He went on to complain “TV ads are ruining any chance one has at objectively analyzing these candidates.”

If anything, I’m not one to let a question like that stand as rhetorical.  I commented, first, no one should base their voting decisions on ads, and second, access to reliable information is hardly limited.  I strongly suggested that a trove of evidence exists in candidates’ histories and prior actions.  He replied he was aware of that, but explained he was looking for the easiest way to find factual information untainted “by party influences.”  He labeled himself a “slacker” for not finding time to dig for answers (and, laughably, this gentleman is anything but), and asked for a recommendation on a “truly unbiased source” of information on the candidates. That’s easy enough, but one could also infer he was issuing a challenge like “go find Sasquatch” or “get a picture of the Loch Ness monster,” clearly implying that unbiased election info is only a larger-than-life myth.

Well, the easy part is this:  there’s a website run by the League of Women Voters at Vote411.org.  The League asks the same questions of candidates; candidates provide their stances in their own concise, plain words.  The League does absolutely nothing to paint one candidate more favorably than another.  There are no prisms, lenses, or filters. No bias. If you want quick and easy info, there’s the ticket.

Now the harder part.

In college I was what was known as a CliffsNotes Scholar.  I didn’t want to read hundreds of pages of The Odyssey; I just wanted to cut to the chase and make sure I understood the gist of the story so I could pass Dr. Badal’s essay exam.  Years later I grew to discover I cheated myself out of splendid opportunities to expand not just my knowledge but my capacity for thinking by not immersing myself in the work at hand whether it was reading an epic poem by Homer or doing a sociology paper.  I didn’t want to work too hard. I just wanted a clean, expeditious list of facts – just the facts, ma’m – and even then I crammed for exams.  Now that’s a slacker!

I will bet all the money in my pocket against all the money in your pocket that most Americans approach voting decisions in much the same way I studied ancient epic poetry.  But we are really cheating ourselves if all we ask from our candidates is a list of promises sanitized for our protection.

Bias exists everywhere in quantities great and small. Why? Because we apply our own biases to everything we think, say, do, or read. Our experiences, our environment, our relationships past and present – and perhaps most importantly, the relationship to our most inner self – have shaped our perceptions of the world.  Bias doesn’t start anywhere but with ourselves.  Searching for The Great Unbiased Source of Information, it turns out, is harder than finding the Holy Grail.

My advice when it comes to elections is not to wait and cram for it like I did my college finals.  Be a good student. You can become informed without becoming a news junkie, but don’t rely on one source for news, information, and opinions.  Recognize that pundits should not always be confused with journalists and that radio talk shows are guided first by ratings and then the cult of personality and then ideology; facts often get in the way of a slick presentation.  Don’t fall for demagoguery.  Remember that not everything on Facebook is true – Abraham Lincoln said so.  Don’t always be looking for That One Thing to serve as your blind taste test for political argument  – or perhaps more appropriately, your smell test.  Don’t get overwrought by the sheer tonnage of political advertising.  It’s never going away in our lifetimes.  But don’t be afraid to examine what you’re feeling way, way, way deep inside when you actively view a political ad.  Be honest with yourself and decide how it lines up with the bearings on your intellectual and moral compasses and then throw that into the mix.

Study your ass off like I wish I did in college when I was supposed to be reading The Odyssey, because when you come down to it, selecting informed leaders through informed votes is the only safe way to navigate the odyssey we’re on every day.