There is no party for the modern Millennial

The Washington Post has this story about shifting political attitudes in parties, especially under 30’s. Like I wrote earlier, this sort of stuff happens as the country changes and the parties are slow to adapt. Often the other is the beneficiary, but sometimes, like now, neither party wins all the spoils.

If I had to plot my political attitudes on a graph I’m not sure I could do it. If I did, it’d come out as what we’d currently describe as an “Independent”, and I have a voting record that would back that up. I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarian candidates in a lot of races.

The thing that bothers me about the whole experience is I want to feel comfortable in a party. I’ve bounced between a few party meetups and meetings, and I never understand it. Like I’ve told some close friends, “Belonging to a party today seems like a mental illness.” It’s about the feelings and not about the policy or ideas. We’re short on ideas that extend beyond “The government can do that” and “The market can do that.”

I’m heavily conflicted in a variety of ways. I’m a supporter of property rights (this goes for your body), the enforcement of those rights, and the ability for people to do with their bodies and property as they wish. But then my neighbor doesn’t clean up his lawn and it drives me nuts. Or someone smokes in front of me on the sidewalk and it blows in my face. That pisses me off.

I’m a supporter of people’s ability to further themselves and do at least 90% of the work to improve their lot in life themselves. I don’t think it’s entirely 100% within a person’s control. The government can help, it can get in the way, and does so frequently. Licensing is a good example – I see no reason why hairdressers need a license. That’s protectionism of a favored industry. But I can’t shake the fact that some people are just not wired to be able to help themselves – able-bodied or not – and something has to be done for them.

I have spent years watching Democrats run towards identity politics and be hypocritical of the most bizarre things (“Listen to scientists on global warming! Don’t listen to scientists on GMOs!”). I’ve spent years watching Republicans become the party of anti-conservatism, big-budget-busting wars and spending, and a bizarre religious infatuation that defies human decency and logic. The Libertarians are just jumping up and down trying to get noticed and still spend all their time complaining the system is rigged and how everything would be better if we just did nothing. When I ask for policy ideas, everyone comes up dry on everything. Fair or not, real or not, I’m not interested in any of that and can’t possibly put my name on such an entity.

There is no party for the modern Millennial. Urban or rural, it doesn’t matter, because the parties have distorted themselves in positions they refuse to back down from. They’re in positions of defending things no one cares about, harms others maliciously, or benefits a select special interest. A fear of being wrong, a fear of conserving but still intelligently using natural resources, a fear of bizarre social issues, an inability to do no harm and not push religious and character views, a fear of research and science, a lack of curiosity, it’s all boneheaded.

I can’t call myself a Democrat, a Republican, Socialist, or a Libertarian. I know many more people alongside me that can’t either. This inability to join up fractures the purpose of parties, which is to some extent coalesce around the least-worst candidate and keep moving forward. Republicans are still very good at this, but the country is literally on fire as they do half the time.

At the state level, I can’t shake the fact that we can’t all be in a race to the bottom. We used to accomplish so much and literally move the earth to benefit us in the present and the future. Today we can’t scrounge for change in the couch Governor’s couch cushions without a fierce call for a tax credit or spending it on some short-sighted stuff. What’s the goal? 0 taxes? No reasonable person thinks that’ll work.

There is no Independent Party (there’s one of a similar name, but it’s a bonafide hate group). Ultimately, do you want low voter turnout? Because this is how you get low voter turnout – and Trump.

Stop using the phrase “GOP”

I never use the phrase “GOP” (except now, apparently). I don’t like it because it’s not true.

The “Grand Old Party” is supposed to be the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt. But as I’ve voraciously been consuming the definitive autobiographies and books on these and other Presidents, I can’t draw a line from Lincoln to Republicans today. I could maybe have an easier time with Democrats, but it would take a wild line through and around issues of slavery.

The best theory to explain this that I can come up with is partially due to Grover Norquist, who mused in Leave Us Alone that a lot of voters vote for one party or another because their father did and their grandfather and great-grandfather before that. In other words, a lot of people vote party-line like the way children often assume the religious beliefs of their parents.

This happens everywhere but has been particularly sticky in the south. This still explains Kentucky today. When you wonder how Kentucky votes for a Democratic governor in what should be a reliably red state up and down the board, it’s because people are still voting at least partially on their family’s civil-war era tradition when Democrats were the more like the “Republicans” (by a modern definition).

My theory is the country changes, the electorate changes, but the south is always the laggard by a wide margin. And there are enough of them, plus Texas and Oklahoma, maybe Indiana, that it puts a dent in the course of the country’s leadership.

Most people have a casual understanding of the “flip” in the parties’ beliefs and core voters, mostly around the Civil War and later Nixon’s election. But for years before Nixon, to put it bluntly, many southern voters were somewhat unaware that the Democrats weren’t really the bearer of their character and beliefs anymore. Eventually, they caught up. I suspect we may be another 75 or 100 years away from another flip like that. This is a generations-long process that is altered only by death and slow, steady, change.

So when I hear the phrase “GOP”, I hear the Republicans of today taking credit for things their forefathers did under the same label but with entirely different context and pretenses. That’s offensive to early Republicans. It’s like if the producers of the Jason Bourne films said they were proud of the work they did in early James Bond films. You don’t get to take credit for that. You weren’t even there, so sit down and shut up.

As one example, Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t recognize either party today. He could arguably be considered an independent today, and some may consider him one of his time (George Washington was our only true independent President, as he never declared a party and has been the only unanimous vote-getter in the electoral college). Roosevelt wanted big government projects in Panama and around the US. He wanted to bust up large trusts and monopolies like railroads and banks. He also wanted a big, strong, and world-dominating military. Roosevelt wasn’t keen on racial discrimination either and was the first President to welcome a black man to the White House.

Roosevelt was most proud of his achievements in civil service reform, which stopped the practice of appointing people to lush government jobs without real qualifications. He weakened the parties by stomping on their machinery in races small and large.

Trump has Roosevelt’s portrait hanging in the Oval Office and he says he admires him and Andrew Theodore most. Theordore Roosevelt was a conservative, not a Republican. He conserved nature and limited resources, was a populist and true champion of miners, coal workers, and factory workers. He had no use for big corporations running afoul of laws both real and moral. If he were alive today he’d punch Trump in the face and call him a sissy for not being able to kill a moose with his bare hands.

There’s no comparing the Republicans of today to 1950, 1910, or 1864 or the Democrats of today to 1963 and 1944. Heck, Andrew Jackson was a “Democrat”.

Trump’s Brain in a Vat

There’s a philosophical argument dubbed “The Brain in a Vat”. If I can oversimplify it, the brain in a vat argument asks you to imagine the possibility that your brain is hooked up to a computer (like the Borg!). This computer can simulate all that we encounter in the world, including your body. The question goes: If you can’t be sure that you’re not hooked up to a computer, then you can’t rule out the possibility that all your beliefs are false, can you? In meme terms, “You can’t be a God-fearing Christian with a love of classical music if there is no God and music!”

That would all be very comforting to a lot of people right now. My Trump-supporting Facebook friends have gone dark over the last couple of weeks. Most have turned to non-issues like the removal of confederate monuments as a proxy for their character beliefs. My left-leaning Facebook friends are frothing at the mouth over this impeachment talk like it’s their first orgasm all over again.

It’s bad enough that I almost opened LinkedIn. It’s that bad.

The problem with impeachment is three-fold. First, it’s likely to take a very long time. People conveniently forget government works slow and the gears at the Bureau of Bureaucracy aren’t designed to work fast. The Nixon-era Watergate scandal took two years or more to fully play out. In that time the midterm elections happened and Republicans lost big and continued to do so. In 1974, Republicans lost 49 seats in the House 3 months into Gerald Ford’s term. I’m not sure what it would take for Republicans to move to impeach Trump and remove him from office, but I doubt they’re there yet. Remember, the Constitution only calls two items specifically and one broadly as impeachable offenses: “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors”. The last part is up to Congress to define.

The second impeachment problem is people think impeachment is removal from office. It isn’t. Impeachment is like indictments for mortals – it just means charges have been raised against you. Removal from office is a whole other process. Trump could be impeached and remain in office in the current environment.

The third issue is a Theseus paradox. If you replace all of the components of an object, is it still fundamentally the same object? In other words, if you replace Trump with Pence, is it still the same White House? With exception of a few close aides, it’s hard to imagine Pence replacing the entire cabinet. Jeff Sessions would still probably be sitting there. It’s not hard to argue that the current state of affairs is bad for the country, but it’s also bad for getting things done domestically. In some ways, we have a blissful moment of inaction because Trump is so mired in scandals all the time. Pence is much more adept at handling and deflecting that. He could move legislation.

Mike Pence is not “Indiana nice”

I’ve always heard this claim about the Midwest being “Midwest nice.” More locally, “Hoosier hospitality” and “Indiana nice” might as well be on our license plates. But then a guy like Mike Pence comes along, and he’s just not a very nice man. He seems downright mean.

My grandmother used to say some people “had a lot of meanness in ‘em.” No one was safe from her scorn – Democrat, Republican, young, old, didn’t matter. Her litmus test seemed to be if you caused someone harm, damage, or were otherwise uncouth, you were mean. I feel the same way about Mike Pence. More broadly, it’s starting to feel that way about the entire Republican party.

When Pence was still Governor, I began to realize why a generation of people had begun to shift to the left and continue to stay there: everyone in my generation was taught more than any other to “just be nice to people.” I can’t prove it, but I’d bet 50% of Indiana’s brain drain problem is directly related to the politics of our State House. I’m not even talking about bag bans and Tesla sales. I’m talking about all the social cruft that strikes an entire generation as somehow mean, like a bully.

The Republicans aren’t doing a superb job of framing their agenda as “being nice.” And when someone isn’t “nice,” they’re probably being “mean,” and that’s very off-putting. The Democrats may just be better at hiding their meanness because the government can certainly be a bully to a lot of people the more it expands.

“Justin, this is ridiculous. Just because a bunch of sissy millennials can’t handle some toughness is no reason to coddle them,” you might say. If you did say that I would say you just proved my point by being a dick.

It doesn’t make a generation of people weak to be nice. It just means we don’t see a reason to push large groups of individuals away. Pence’s, and now Trump’s, Muslim ban, the wall, Sessions, the Supreme Court nominees, etc. are all just mean dick moves. Their downsides are worse than the potential purported benefit.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone’s kind of a dick some of the time. Left-leaning folks love shows like The Daily Show and Full Frontal precisely because they’re mean. They poke at people in a way that you’d never do to someone’s face. Bill Maher is mean. Sean Hannity and others on the right are mean.

Pence, and certainly Trump, come across as that kind of person. A sort of faux-niceness that’s him just pushing people in ways they don’t want to be. That is against the grain of what it means to be “Indiana nice” where we stay out of the way, help when people ask, and kindly say hello and smile when interacting with others.

As an aside, I find anyone who blindly supports a specific party, votes straight ticket, doesn’t question everyone and everything, and anyone who lacks some level of empathy to be psychopathic. That can’t be healthy. In what other endeavor do we do that? Do you only drink one beer? Do you only ever always and forever buy one brand of batteries or toilet paper?

I can support a lot of reform efforts that Democrats largely don’t like. I can get behind a lot of issues that Republicans generally don’t like. And I can feel at home with a good chunk of the Libertarian party because they’re increasingly just, “Leave people alone, and be nice.”

Don’t be mean. Leave people alone when they want to be left alone. Be Indiana nice.

Is your social media unbalanced? Here’s some help to fix it.

Several people have commented that their social media feeds are depressing, upsetting, bitter, and in most cases: an echo-chamber.

I wrote about this recently on what you can do about “Your Facebook Bubble“, how the algorithm works (particularly on Facebook), and why it’s important. So today I thought I’d share a list of Twitter and other sources you might consider adding to your feeds.

I took the effort a year or more ago to balance out my streams and sources with opposing and bi-partisan sources. if you’re reading a lot of Slate, or getting all your news from Sam Bee, Sean Hannity, or Jon Oliver, try balancing out with some of these folks. I watch Jon Oliver, too, but that doesn’t help the echo-chamber.

I have tried to avoid large “ad” entities, like political parties’ sources, though I follow each just to read what they’re saying. There’s no Drudge or Breitbart here. There’s no hate-mongering people here. I’m looking for smarts, not entertainment.

I also include several Indiana-specific people, too. If you find yourself lacking in knowledge about what’s happening at the State House, these folks are indispensable.

And if you find yourself saying, “Oh, no, I don’t want to see that”, you’ve missed the point and opportunity. If you feel angry at these things, then it’s probably working.

Is this the end-all list? Of course not. But this has helped me understand more sides of important issues.

I’ve linked to Twitter and sites where possible here. Facebook and other URLs can often be found in the bios of these people. You can follow me directly on Twitter @jlharter.

Nicke Gillespie – Journalist at Reason.com, a libertarian-leaning news source.

Reiham Salam – Writer for Slate and the National Review.

Adam Wren – Writer for Indianapolis Monthly and POLITICO.

Charles Cook – Editor for the National Review, frequent panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher

Grover Norquist –President of Americans for Tax Reform (“the tax pledge”), which has the ear of every elected representative in Washington.

Brian Slodysko – AP Political Reporter for Indiana.

Dan Carden – Statehouse Bureau Chief for the Times of NW Indiana.

SCOTUS Blog – Indispensable source for Supreme Court coverage.

Indiana Law Blog – to add to the former, Marcia Odi has done stellar work over the years covering Indiana’s Judiciary.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz – Veteran Indiana politics reporter with a conservative tilt.

Nikki Kelly – can’t recommend following her enough. Great Indiana government and politics reporter covering the State House. One of the few left.

Aaron Renn – Indiana native now working at the conservative Manhattan Institute. An urbanist covering issues related to city growth and economies.

Doug Masson – Lafayette attorney covering Indiana’s politics for about a decade.

Alex Griswold – Media reporter at Mediaite.

Matt Welch – Co-author of the Declaration of Independents.

HHR – The urban conservative blog.

Matt Taibbi – excellent writer and journalist (left-leaning) for Rolling Stone. Also a regular on Real Time With Bill Maher.

Windsor Mann – Writer and editor of The Quotable Hitchens.

David French – Senior Fellow at the conservative National Review Institute.