Moving Forward

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I begin with reflection. Before arguing what to do next, I must first reflect on what has already transpired, no matter how painful and disturbing that may be.

A confession

I have experienced clinical depression before. Real medical depression that descended upon me out of the blue like a matte glass tomb insulating me from the world.

If you have not had this experience allow me to describe what it felt like for me.

The first change was a sense of distance from the world around me. Smells didn’t smell, tastes didn’t taste, funny little things gradually weren’t funny at all. Everything was dull and heavy.

Then there were the physical sensations. An anxious pit in my stomach like that dreaded feeling on the Sunday night after a long vacation as a kid. Only deeper and grittier and more uncomfortable.

There was a loss of coordination and dexterity. Simple tasks made hard.

And sadness. Always sadness. About nothing and for no reason. But real and crippling sadness. My chest felt constricted and heavy all the time. Like that split second feeling right before you burst into tears, only suspended over weeks and months.

My cheeks and mouth were weighed down by gravity into a permanent grimace. My eyes were dull, glassy and lifeless.

And mentally it was only the feeling of hopelessness. Because every perception was filtered through the lens of my illness, there was no apparent way out. No hope. (Even though in reality there was.)

This was years ago now, and there was plenty of hope all around me. Although I was too sick and too insensitive to see it, I had an amazing support structure from my family, particularly my wife.

I sought professional help. I went on a med. And slowly the ice thawed and the old me emerged from the neurological cocoon. Almost as good as new. Perhaps better?

Flashback.

And though this was years ago, I can remember precisely how being depressed felt now, because I felt that way again for the first time on Nov 9th night when it dawned on me that the unthinkable had happened. That Trump had won.

It wasn’t depression but a nasty cocktail of despair, fear, anger and anxiety which formed a damned accurate facsimile of major depression for a day or two.

America had voted to elect a would-be fascist. A narcissist with no shame. An admitted (and corroborated) sexual predator, and a long term con man/snake oil salesman who had sold his gullible voters a phony bill of goods by pushing their dark little buttons of racism, xenophobia, and sexism.

It was not simply an emotional reaction to losing an election, as when Bush beat Gore and Kerry, it was also a realization that the probability of really dark things happening to our country had suddenly become much more likely.

I do not really believe in intrinsic good and evil. I don’t believe that the Germans of Nazi Germany, or the Turks or Rwandans or Serbs or who committed genocide before and after them were special in any way at all, though they were all accomplices to unspeakable and unforgivable acts of evil.

I believe that this horrible tendency for infinite cruelty lies within all of us. None of us are immune.

Sure, we Americans are protected by our relative wealth, our constitution, our rule of law, and our societal norms. These are all blessings.

But people are above all social animals, who are all too easily manipulated by mass movements, and propaganda, and charismatic leaders. And in the end everything is open to interpretation. Even the bill of rights.

And with Trump’s unique appeal, and his complete lack of shame and lack of fidelity to the truth, fascism just became that much more probable right here, right now.

How probable? I don’t honestly know. But I am confident that the best that we can hope for as a nation for the next 4 years is corruption, bluster, and incompetence. Maybe a bit of deficit spending to temporarily boost the economy.

The worst? There are no limits. It is all on the table, with a narcissistic leader such as Trump. A complete loss of personal Liberties? Check. Cruel victimization of minority groups? Check. Needless war?  Check?

What I do know is that we must all start working our hardest to make sure that we do everything in our power to put a check on the possibility of real darkness, and work hard to undo the damage that Trump will likely try to inflict.

But before we get there, what the hell happened?

Autopsy

Here are the facts.

Donald Trump won the election.

Donald Trump will likely end up with 306 electoral votes compared to 232 for Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton received far more popular votes than Donald Trump (she has an unprecidented lead (for an electoral loser) of nearly 2.6 million votes at the time of this writing.

Trump is now our president elect.

How it happened

According to exit polls, in addition to losing the national popular vote by over 2.5 million votes Trump also lost women, every race other than whites, and voters with a college education or higher.

So how did Trump win? He inspired an impressive increase in turnout among his base of non college educated white voters and a there was a small under-performance of Clinton’s  base of diverse urban voters.

Despite an increasingly diverse electorate in the country as a whole, Clinton was less successful than Obama in turning out Latino and African-American voters.

Overall relative turnout was flat to down when compared to 2012 despite a larger population.

The demographics that really pushed Trump to win were college educated white men, and non-college educated white men and women.

But I think it is safe to say that none of that would’ve mattered had core Democratic voters turned out as they did in 2008 and 2012.

There are many reasons why Clinton may have failed to turn out her coalition (poor political persuasion, the negative campaign effect, the Comey intervention, Wikileaks, unbalanced press coverage, etc.) but i believe it is undeniable that if she had simply turned out her coalition, as Obama did twice, she would’ve won. And it wouldn’t have been particularly close.

Why it happened

A dominant story-line in the aftermath of the election is that Trump won because of the economic anxiety, and the anti-elitism of the working class.

I don’t buy it.

Although it is clear that Trump’s chief appeal was that he represented himself as a crowbar to be thrown through the windshield of the establishment, it is worth noting that his appeal was not all that convincing to the working class as a whole.

Why do I say this?

According to exit polls Trump lost those with incomes under $50,000 a year by nine points.

He lost those with incomes under $30,000 a year by 11 points.

He lost nonwhite non-college graduates by 55 points.

There was of course one economically challenged group that he did do very well with.

He won with white non-college educated voters by 39%.

Now why would that be?

It is tough to argue that poor white voters have more “economic insecurity” then poor non-white voters. So why did poor non white voters not want to throw a metaphorical crowbar through the windshield of the establishment?

Could it have something to do with the fact that Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women?

Or that he referred to Mexican immigrants as “criminals and rapists?”

Or that he implied that a Muslim gold star mother did not speak about her son’s death because she was not allowed to as a Muslim woman?

Or that he explicitly said that a Mexican American judge was unable to do his job because of his Mexican heritage?

Or that he employed a self proclaimed “alt right” propagandist as his campaign CEO, and was literally endorsed by the KKK?

Isn’t it fairly clear that Trump’s unique appeal to non-college educated white voters was his implicit racism?

If not, to what is one to attribute this disparity of voter preference among white and  non white working class voters?

NB: There is plenty of research supporting this hypothesis that white racial resentment predicted Trump support too.

As an example this article found that racial resentment was as strong a predictor of Trump support as Republican Party ID. (Not true of Romney/McCain supporters.

(It also cites another study which found that racist google searches were one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.)

Why am I angry?

In short, the explicit racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, and and scapegoating nationalism, of Trump’s campaign is why I am angry at Trump voters.

I certainly do not believe that all Trump voters are explicitly racist, but I do believe that each and every Trump voter, at a minimum, saw that that Trump’s campaign was explicitly racist, misogynist, and Xenophobic. It was a campaign straight out of a fascist’s handbook. And at a minimum every single Trump voter saw that Trump had actively and intentionally insulted every demographic other than white men. And then each and every one of his voters decided that frank racism was not disqualifying for the job of president.

In my view, they were simply wrong.

Why anger is not constructive.

But anger at Trump’s voters will get me nowhere. So I’m trying to get beyond my anger and to focus on my next concrete steps. As much as I childishly want to (and do) vent my anger, it would certainly be more strategic for me to choose to be constructive instead.

I know better than to think that I will get anywhere by convincing Trump voters that they were condoning racism by voting for Trump. People don’t respond well to that sort of thing. That would be counterproductive.

Going forward I must choose not to blame Trump voters for Trump’s election, but to blame myself instead.

I did not do enough to get out the voters who share my values of inclusion and fairness.

If the Democrats had simply done as well as in the previous two elections at turning out sympathetic voters, Trump would’ve lost in a landslide.

More to the point, the country is only getting more diverse, and more urban. Embracing diversity and turning away from racist impulses is not only ethically right, it is strategically correct.

So that must be one place where we focus our energy going forward.

So where do we go from here?

There are two goals that I believe we must have pursue for the next four years.

1. Protect our republic from the real and present danger of fascism, scapegoating, minority victimization, eroded civil liberties, and the loss of cultural norms/rule of law.

And

2. Work to minimize the damage of Trump’s presidency by both working tirelessly against him politically, and making sure that he never wins again.

So what concrete things can do we do next?

1. We can put pressure on our elected representatives to act as a consistent and fierce roadblock to Trump’s agenda.

To start with,

Call your both of our Senators (find their phone number here) and ask them to actively oppose any Supreme Court appointments until Obama’s appointee Merrick Garland is seated on the Supreme Court. Tell them that you support a filibuster if necessary.

Demand that your senators oppose Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. He was not confirmed as a federal Judge by a republican senate because of his history of racism and voter suppression. He would surely not defend minority voting rights or criminal justice reform.

Call them the next day and demand that they oppose Scott Pruitt, a vicious climate change denier, to head the EPA.  This is the ultimate fox guarding the hen house scenario.

Demand that your elected representative look into Trump’s business conflicts of interest, and the potential for corruption caused by his decision to not place his company in a blind trust.

Demand too, that they pursue a thorough investigation into the Russian interference with our election.

Most of all tell your representatives that we will continue to support them as long as they stand in firm opposition to Trump’s unmandated fringe right agenda, and any attempts of  his to abuse power.

Obstruction by any means necessary is what we want from our representatives.

Now is not the time for squishy, apologetic progressivism.

2. We can give our money to good causes.

Now is the time to give as much as we can afford to civil society organizations like the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, and the anti-defamation league. These organizations are the foot soldiers in the battle against government abuse and racial victimization.

Planned parenthood will surely come under attack under this unified Republican government, so if women’s health/reproductive rights are a priority for you, as they are to me, please give time or money to them too.

3. We can get more involved politically. (This is really important.)

If you live in Louisiana, call up your local DNC office and volunteer to get out the vote for current candidate Foster Campbell. Winning that race in the Deep South would send an important message to the Republicans that they have an active opposition and should not overstep.  Even if we don’t win, it will set the stage for future wins on GOP turf.

If you don’t live in Louisiana, you can first give money to Foster Campbell’s campaign, then see if there is a contested House of Representatives race near you in 2018 and volunteer to turnout voters for that.

You can call your state representatives and advocate for a vote by mail system, (as we have in Oregon) which has been shown to increase voter turnout.

You can tell your state reps that you support the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact which would effectively give the presidential race to the popular vote winner.

4. You can support good journalism.

Buy a subscription to a real newspaper like The New York Times and the Washington Post (or both) and your local newspaper. The best guard against corruption is a free press.

5. You can protest.

Although I did not participate in protesting the democratic collection of Donald Trump, peaceful protest is going to be a very valuable tool for us going forward.  The counter balanced to authoritarianism is the peaceful expression of free speech at the drop of a hat. Over the next 4 years it will be absolutely crucial that we take to the streets to shine a light on Trump’s inevitable over steps.  A Muslim Registry?  Take to the streets.  Repeal of healthcare coverage for low-income Americans?  Take to the streets. Trump pulls us out of global climate change agreements?  Take to the streets.

6. You can not give up.

Make no mistake, the next four years will be a test for all of us. They will be draining and dispiriting and depressing.

We must not become lazy or cynical. We must not look away and distract ourselves with escapism. Such laziness plays directly into Trump’s hands, (as did our laziness in not getting out the vote in the first place.)

We must patiently chip away at his legitimacy and in so doing take away his power to hurt our fellow Americans, and our political system as a whole.

The above list is merely a starting point. Please add to it with further ideas on how we can actively resist Trumpism.

I will happily amend the article to include your ideas.

What I am sure of is that we must start working together to build a solution to Trump right now.

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8 Responses to “Moving Forward”

  1. Roger December 13, 2016 at 6:09 am #

    Miles,

    First congrats on a superb website. I’ve enjoyed your articles on finding value in ‘hidden’ places, am contemplating joining the Travel Hacking game myself and possibly even GEMing. My concern about travel hacking is my spouse is a spendthrift and we have toed the line between red and black in terms of our bank balance. As recovering ‘Ramsey-ites’ (although wife never fully bought in to his delay self-gratification philosophy), we stopped using our credit cards since March and I am reluctant to cross back over.

    Regarding the election. I grew up with a different political/religious lens and am a white male with multiple college degrees. I do think about some issues in terms of black and white, but this has been a really frustrating election for me in terms of both candidates. I couldn’t stomach pulling the lever for a narcissistic candidate espousing what I also viewed as blatant racism/sexism/xenophobia (‘the lesser of two evils is still evil’), and ended up going third party. But I don’t believe Trump’s appeal to the darker corners of human nature was why the majority of Trump supporters voted the way they did. As I see it, they overlooked his character flaws, voting against the ‘other’ candidate and voting ‘for’ the Supreme Court (an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, emphasizing states rights over federal, etc.).

    In an isidewith.com questionaire, I was shocked to learn I was 93% aligned with Trump in terms of overall politics, 91% with Gary Johnson, 11% with Jill Stein and only 7% with Hillary Clinton. Yet I still could not support Trump with my vote, nor support his Machiavellian tactics. While I found myself more in agreement with Hillary on some foreign policy points (against “ends justify the means” water-boarding, against an Islamophobic immigration stance, against trade-war inciting tariffs, etc.), neither candidate appeared to be serious in addressing what I believe to be the top threat to our national security.

    In my world paradigm, I don’t see our nation’s #1 threat as ISIS/terrorism or climate change but rather the national debt and deficit spending propagated and dangerously accelerated by the current administration. I consider the erosion of the value of our dollar due to deficit spending, an unrestrained U.S. mint and Fed policy to be enormous threats to the well-being of our kids and grandkids. Fed monetary policy as of 2012 for instance explicitly pegs the buying power of the US dollar 20 years from now to be 33% less than the buying power of today’s dollar; from 1992 to 2011 it actually dropped 40%. What the current generation is handing off to future generations in my book is nothing less than criminal, will contract/diminish the middle class, and can not be fixed without fiscal restraint at the federal level.

    Politicians from both parties including Trump are turning a blind eye to the mammoth in the room and what Alan Greenspan terms must be addressed — the ‘deadly third rail’ of our economy, entitlement reform. Virtually every penny of our $598B defense budget is paid for by deficit spending, which arguably should be the government’s #1 Consitutional priority.

    https://media.nationalpriorities.org/uploads/budget-graphic.png

    While there are fraud and waste savings to be found in the Defense budget, the only way to address long-term solvency of our economy is by trimming this mammoth in the room, entitlement spending.

    Capitalism is what made our country great, and I don’t want our future to be a reflection of floundering European economies such as Greece. But we need to make the necessary adjustments now.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. December 13, 2016 at 8:36 am #

      Roger,

      Thank you for your detailed and insightful comment.

      You strike me as a fairly conventional conservative voter for whom racism and Xenophobia, were disqualifying. Good on you. I can only hope that if faced with a similar choice from the left, I would also choose not to support my party’s candidate.

      In terms of your concern about the deficit, it seems that if that were truly your primary concern, your only choice would have been to vote for Clinton. When scored by nonpartisan judges such as the Congressional budget office, Trumps economic plan was far more deficit expanding (and job-killing) than Clinton’s. Couple this with the empiric fact that since 1980 deficits have universally risen under Republican regimes and fallen under democratic regimes, then I must conclude that the deficit is not, in fact, your primary concern. Rather opposition to progressive taxation probably ranks higher on your list.

      As you must know social Security and Medicare exist quite apart from our federal budget and are self funding programs. As of yet they have not contributed a single dollar to our national debt. The risk is that they will not be self funding in the coming decades because of the baby boom effect. But fixing this is not exactly difficult math. Either you increase taxation, or you cut benefits, or you adopt a combination of the two. Your values likely determine which one you find more palatable, but it is truly not a question of being pro or anti-debt.

  2. Mark January 11, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Miles,

    I’ve enjoyed your writing in the past and respect your concerns about Trump. However, let me offer you another view, not so much to convince but to give some perspective.

    First, I’m a college-educated (master’s actually but it was in an easy field so it almost doesn’t count) white guy. Pretty successful in my field where I own my own very small business. Also, I’m happily married with a couple of kids who seem to be doing well – though the teenage years are coming so we’ll see. Finally, I live in a neighborhood on the East Coast with both liberals and conservatives, i.e. I’m not in conservative bubble in the Midwest.

    In essence, I’m not what people think of when they imagine a Trump voter, or as one of my liberal neighbors said when they found out, “But you’re a normal person.” :)

    So why did this “normal” person vote for Trump?

    1. Stifling PC

    Bit by bit, we are losing the ability to openly debate topics. The list of taboo subjects grows larger by the year. Rather than formulating responses based on logic and facts, various groups simply call opposing groups “racist,” “sexist” or “xenophobic” to shut down their views.

    For instance, I’m deeply in favor of women having the same opportunities as men if for no other reason than I have a sister, a wife and a daughter. However, equal opportunity does not necessarily translate into equal outcomes for a host of reasons.

    Now, I’m willing debate some of those reasons, but many are not. They simply see different outcomes as proof of some form of discrimination. It’s tautology: Different outcomes are proof of discrimination. What your evidence? The different outcomes.

    Unlike too many in society, I’m willing to entertain various explanations. I’m not saying that they are definite proof, just that we should debate them, not shut them down by calling people “sexist.”

    Here are a couple possible explanations for women being less successful in high level jobs, particularly STEM and big business.

    First, men and women – in case people haven’t noticed – are different biologically. It could be the case the women ON AVERAGE are more drawn to the study of living things, such as medicine, teaching, etc., than abstract things, engines, physics, etc. This could lead smart women to be more common in some fields (doctors, teachers, etc.) than others (engineer, CEO, etc.).

    Related to that, perhaps women – again, on average – simply aren’t as competitive as men and aren’t as willing to subjugate their personal lives for material success as much as men. This would lead women to be less common in jobs that demand huge amounts of hours put in the office or for travel, such as big-law and many high-level corporate jobs. (Btw, I personally think that women are smarter on this than men.)

    Finally, differences in the variance of intelligence (yep, I’m just that taboo) could explain some of outcome differences. Tests show that while men and women likely have equal average IQs, our standard deviations may be different. Men appear to have a wider variance. Let’s say that average IQ is 100, but women have a SD of 13 while men have a SD of 15. Let’s also assume that high-level jobs require an IQ of 125. Guess what, men will outnumber women two to three to one at that higher IQ level. (Of course, the same is true on the left side of the curve, so take that guys!)

    Now, am I saying these possible reasons for outcome differences between men and women are the answers? Am I even saying that those proposed reasons are 100% true? No. I’m saying that I should be able to bring them up without being called a sexist pig and people threatening to ruin me.

    The same should be true for a host of other topics. But that’s not the case. (Genetic research likely will answer some of these questions whether we like the answers or not, btw.)

    Hillary would have made PC culture that much more stifling.

    2. Immigration/Civic Nationalism

    I believe that a government should favor its own citizens over the citizens of other countries. In regards to immigration, that means deciding first whether you should let anyone into the country and, second, if you do, the questions should be how does allowing in this immigrant improve the lives of current citizens.

    This is the system that most countries employ. Japan more or less goes with not letting anyone into their country. Are they xenophobic for wanting to maintain the ethnicity of their population? What about Israel? If so, why is xenophobic even considered a bad thing. Are they Israelis a bunch of Nazis for wanting to keep Israel as Jewish as possible?

    Every country has an obligation to have an open debate about its immigration policy and how it impacts its current citizens.

    Trump may not have been eloquent in his discussion of immigration, but he at least brought it up. Hillary would have maintained the current haphazard system.

    How does large-scale immigration from Mexico, Central America and parts of Asia help all Americans? Does it impact some Americans negatively? If so, is the gain of other Americans worth the pain of some Americans? Is there a system for evaluating potential immigrants that would spread the gain out more evenly? Etc.

    And, yes, does allowing in Muslim immigrants benefit current Americans? If so, in what ways and are those general benefits worth any potential dangers? Or as someone once said, “What’s your number? How many Americans have to die in terrorist attacks for you to accept a ban on Muslim immigration?”

    This is the kind of debate we should be having about immigration. Instead, one side simply shouts “racist” or “xenophobe” to shut down the debate.

    3. Foreign Policy

    I’m kind of old school on this. I believe that U.S. should be very international in trade and science but fairly isolationist in military affairs.

    Simply put, Hillary seemed very much an interventionist. Trump, not so much.

    So there you have it. That’s why I voted Trump.

    Again, not trying to convince you, just trying to show that reasonable people can disagree. (Or perhaps you don’t consider my points reasonable. However, given how common my views are in most parts of the world – Israel, Japan, China, heck even Mexico – you have to wonder just who’s being unreasonable.)

    Best,
    Mark

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 15, 2017 at 9:56 am #

      Mark,

      I know that thoughtful people can make Ill advised votes.

      I see your arguments above as flawed and “conventionally” conservative , but worth discussing. Intelligent individuals should disagree on such issues.

      You are defending a traditionally conservative world view that I am not attacking in this article.

      My problem with voting trump is that he is a manifestly bigoted, islamophobic, sexual predator, with autocratic tendencies.

      In my opinion that is disqualifying regardless of the party that the candidate nominally represents.

      I am not arguing that you are racist, but I am arguing that Trump’s manifest fascism, racism, islamophobia, and sexual predation should have been disqualifying even for a thoughtful conservative like you.

  3. Anatole January 15, 2017 at 8:24 am #

    Hi!

    I’m an occasional reader – and an inconsistent student of your travel hacking system. I read many of your articles and posts about the Dual Momentum GEM philosophy, and – along with reading Gary’s book and articles – you helped me understand it better.

    I’m an older Internist, currently in the process of saying my long good byes to the profession. I have a fair amount of experience dealing with depression. It sounds like you had an acute episode of reactive depression – thankfully, very brief. I submit that this is still of concern. The fact that an emotional / philosophical stress was able to trigger the episode suggests – just suggests – that you may be not entirely immune to a recurrence (of course, I’m just using careful language, because no one is ever entirely immune, but you know what I mean). You need to be careful and self aware.

    As far as politics, I see things quite differently. Let me touch on one item – Healthcare. HRC was going to “fix” ObamaCare by reintroducing the concept of “public option” – which would be a government supported health “insurance” organization. In due course, it would “outcompete” the private companies, and morph into a single payer system.

    Single payer GovCare would have some advantages, but also some obvious problems. Healthcare workers with a vested interest in the continuation of the system would become, for the most part, reliable Democratic voters — just like the teaching profession.

    That would probably be enough to give Democrats the so called Permanent Majority – with all political spectrums having to move to the Left. I don’t think that would be a good thing.

    If you haven’t read it, I’d suggest that you take a look at this article by “Publius Decius Mus”. I’m sure you won’t agree with many things, but he offers a rather thoughtful strategy for placing things into a more constructive perspective. Give it a chance – the author takes a bit of time setting up his case.

    http://www.claremont.org/crb/basicpage/the-flight-93-election/

    • Miles Dividend M.D. January 15, 2017 at 9:47 am #

      Thank Anatole! I will check out your article.

      Single payer is where we end up. Trump and his repeal O-care will move us towards that end quicker than Hillary ever could.

      I don’t believe that there is any evidence healthcare workers will be more likely to vote DEM under single payer. Teachers vote dem primarily because they are college educated lower income voters. I.e. Self interest.

      The permanent majority is never going to happen, and if it did demographics would be a likelier cause than single payer.

      Again. I am very progressive, but I understand that thoughtful and smart people are conservative, and for good reasons.

      Trump is different. He is an inarguably bigoted, islamophobic, sexual predator with autocratic tendencies.

      Thoughtful conservatives should reject him more than any.

  4. Dr. Mo October 12, 2017 at 6:23 am #

    Hope all is well with you. Haven’t seen posts from you recently and miss them. But more importantly, hope you are in a good emotional place.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. October 15, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      All is great! Thanks for the compliment, and the concern.

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