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”.

The Justin Harter Voter Guide to 2016

In case you were wondering who I’m voting for this year, I share my ballot choices here and the reasoning behind them. It forces me to think about my own choices by writing them down. I’ll try to do this in as short and succinct way as I can. Obviously, your ballot choices outside of eastern Marion County will differ.

Public Questions

Amending Indiana’s Constitution to grant the right to hunt, fish, and farm

I voted no. I don’t favor meddling with constitutions and we’ve nearly had 3 measures in recent memory. First among them was the property tax caps, second was barely but not quite a measure to define marriage, and now this. Like I wrote on Facebook, this is a solution in search of a problem for average Hoosiers. Hoosiers haven’t been denied the ability to hunt or fish or farm and likely won’t ever be. What this does do, however, is make it easy for this legislation’s sponsors to run with constitutional authority to build large industrial farming operations. It’s unlikely to impact me in Indianapolis, but if I lived elsewhere and some large CAFO popped up and cratered my property values, I’d be pissed. I’m voting for homeowners, home rule, and local control on this one.

The Marion County Transit Plan – a .25 increase in the income tax

I voted yes. I’m not for or against taxes on principle. I want my taxes to go to things I can at least see and use. In the funding funnel of expensive federal taxes, cheaper state taxes, and even cheaper local taxes, I wish this were inverted. There’s so much confusion about this question in particular and there’s a lot to digest with this.

For one, IndyGo’s banking on this in order to fund the operation of the Red Line rapid transit system. The construction is paid for and likely a done deal. But working within the confines of Washington’s ridiculous funding games, IndyGo has to build the system and worry about funding it later. If this fails, who knows where the money comes from in 2018. But more importantly, I see transportation funding a general win for everyone. If you don’t take the bus, fine. You get to enjoy fewer cars on the road. Neat! If you do, you can get places quicker. Our current system is a tax on people either way. Currently we tax time. We tax people’s time to drive, sit in rush hour traffic, and get to work. I’ll never vote against a measure that helps people get to work – rich or poor.

Elected Offices

President

I’ve written about this before, but I felt pretty okay with my vote for Gary Johnson. Hillary will make for a solid President. Whether she’ll be great, who knows. But in my worldview, the federal government is becoming larger than it can reasonably good at. I’m in favor of local taxation and local control. And, as a matter of health for the country, having more than “two” political parties is a good thing. My two biggest issues with Hillary: I don’t like the idea of the White House passing through families. My first memory of the presidency is of Bill Clinton. Then George W. Bush. I voted against Clinton and for Obama for this reason in 2008 and I still feel the same way.

US Representative, Indiana’s 7th District

Andre Carson vs. perennial runner-up Cat Ping and Libertarian Drew Thompson. I voted for Drew Thompson. I’ve met Drew and he struck me as well-informed, like-minded, and thoughtful. He actually introduced himself to me at an artist’s open house and we chatted for a good 20 minutes. Andre Carson will win because of his family’s name and while I don’t have a problem with him, I believe all elected office holders should have term limits. Carson is past his.

US Senate

It’s Bayh v. Young v. Brenton. This is hard. Really hard. It’s likely a two-way race between Evan Bayh and Todd Young. I voted for Evan Bayh. Which was really hard to do. But I’m not convinced Todd Young knows a dumpster fire when he sees one. He’s moved closer to Trump despite…everything. And I’m unconvinced he’s secular enough or an advocate for personal liberty for gays and lesbians. Therefore, this was my true “lesser of two evils” vote. Bayh violates my term limit rule, but I know what I’m getting with him and if I squint he’s at least been out of the Senate for a couple terms. I expect this race to be very close and thus, I voted for Bayh to ensure a vote against Young where it would presumably count the most.

Governor of Indiana

Anything tied to Mike Pence is to be shunned. Eric Holcomb is too close to Pence. He’s too religious and unlikely to move the ball forward in a progressive Republican way (like Mitch Daniels). Therefore, I’m picking John Gregg.

Ind. Supt. Of Public Instruction

Seeing as how Mike Pence dismantled much of Glenda Ritz’ authority to do anything, it’s hard to say what kind of person she really is. But I’m generally in favor of more school choices, more charters, and more competition. Therefore, I voted for Jennifer McCormick.

Ind. State Senator, Dist. 32

Aaron Freeman strikes me as a loathsome, super-conservative, religious, Pencey toad. I voted for Sara Wiley as a vote against Freeman that would presumably count a little more. Freeman is currently an Indianapolis City Councilor. The kind of dummy who asks questions he knows the answers to just to be spiteful and dickish. He sneaked in on slating for this Senate seat by one last-second vote. The seat is being vacated by 412-term Senator Pat Miller.

State Rep., Dist. 89

A vote for Cindy Kirchoffer is a vote you can feel good about. I’ve met Cindy on a few occasions and have helped knock on some doors for her. If you like sanity in your representatives, you should vote for Cindy. Here’s a fiscally smart woman who bucks her Republican party, presumably despite her own faith, in matters of women’s rights, abortion access, marriage rights, local control, and local planning.

Attorney General

Honestly, this race was so low-key I barely knew it was happening. Attorney General is important because they’re the ones that decides what to waste taxpayer money on “defending”. Judge Arredondo is running from Lake County against Curtis Hill. I don’t know much about either and encourage you to do your own research. But I do know of Judge Arredondo from years ago and found him to be a good fit for Lake County. I voted for Hill.

Judicial Retention

Speaking of judges, two Court of Appeals Judges are up for retention. I voted in favor of retention for Judges Riley and Kirsch.

Why do Republicans worry about immigrants so much?

I’ve been doing some homework lately on political history and beliefs. Things like, “Why do Republicans worry about immigrants so much?” As in, why are Republicans more concerned with immigrants learning to speak English and “act American” than most Democrats?

To the best of my ability from scouring books and threads and editorials and other sources, I’ve formed a reason that makes some sense: immigrants may dilute understanding of the country’s founding and endanger the nation. This is viewed as immigrants not being patriotic enough, loyal enough, or dedicated enough to a unified America.

This notion seems to come from early days of the republic and came to a head around the time of mass Irish immigration. The belief being, “The country is very new, we here are all of the belief we’re better off without a King. What happens if too many people come here and don’t hold that belief?”

It’s not unreasonable that a fledgling American democratic experiment even as late as the 1860’s might sincerely concern itself with the notion of “dilution”. “We all literally came here to get away from that form of government. We’d appreciate it if you didn’t try to change that.” This is how America’s melting pot theory actually came along as a compromise: you can maintain your customs (we might even come to really like some of them), but this is how our government works. So you can have your cultural-pluralism, but assimilate on a few things, too.

Today this has mutated into more xenophobic arguments. There’s no amount of immigration from, say, Syria, that’s ever going to overtake our democracy with Sharia law. And concerns over draining social services is likely a red herring due to a glut in the market that gets filled. Of course there’s a startling rise in foreign applicants for public benefits once you open it up to them.

If you feed yourself a heavy diet of news on mass immigration, that problem seems much larger to you. However, I’m not convinced the people most vocal about prohibiting immigration are also the same people who understand the historical context. One can also argue that given this crux of the issue, that the American experiment is fragile, it would seem almost insecure to think we’re still insecure today after generations of case law, rulings, policies, and establishment.

I have more faith in the republic today. I have more faith that it will continue to withstand challenges to its principles of democratic rule, for example, than early pioneers and civil-war era citizens likely did.

Trump supporters have a point

Yesterday Doug Masson and Aaron Renn had a spirited discussion about Trump supporters on Twitter. Broadly about whether supporters know what they’re doing and if Trump is reasonably the person most likely to make their lives better.

This hearkens back to my post earlier this week about progressivism vs. conservatism and how Republicans have failed to share a vision that actually makes people sit up and listen. Trump is closest to articulating it, even if he mostly says nothing concrete. He’s at least reciting and admitting problems, where others aren’t. The bar was set very low and he set it slightly higher by at least talking about some things.

What are those things?

  • Loss of manufacturing jobs
  • Quick and steady diversification of the population
  • Relatively heavy tax burdens with no clear benefit from expenditures

I’ll leave it at those three because this is the Internet and you have other things to read. My point here is Republicans have largely failed to articulate meaningful solutions to these problems. And people who scoff at Trump supporters as expendable pawns must recognize that’s not very supportive or nice, either.

There hasn’t been much articulated well enough for people with limited time to understand. So it doesn’t get talked about. Things are reduced to petty issues and problems that no one really cares about.

I say this from experience, because while Aaron has talked to his dad in New Albany about why he supports Trump, my dad also no doubt supports Trump a few miles up the road in Salem. Why would someone do that? Because Trump at least re-states the problem that impacted him greatly: “The jobs are all in Mexico and China”, “The neighborhood isn’t as nice anymore”, “There’s too much drug violence”, etc.

To a guy like my Dad and many Trump supporters, things distil very neatly:

  • “My job went to China. Therefore, if we just make it so companies can’t offshore so easily, my job will come back and things will be fine again.”
  • “Drugs are everywhere. We know it’s from Mexico. If we could just shut the door on that, things will be fine again. Plus, they took jobs, too, so why do we even need to care about them.”
  • “My insurance was fine at my last job. If we could just bring that back, things will be fine again.”

“Make America Great Again” isn’t about race or gays or whatever for most people (I said most, not all. We’re being too simplistic when we paint with that big a brush). It recalls that time 20 years ago when rural communities had factories that paid well because profits were high and things were great for themselves. People are selfish beings, let’s not gloss over that. But also American. Guys like my dad genuinely just want the opportunity to work, provide, live securely and just be left alone.

The truth is we have all kinds of jobs available. Just not in those rural spots anymore because rural places don’t offer much anymore. They lack things new American manufacturing can only find in cities: big airports, highways, broadband, bigger talent pools, etc.

All this is to say Republicans aren’t acknowledging those problems. If you’re somebody who left high school and started making $20/hr with the promise that things were going to be great forever, and suddenly it’s not because companies have to make common sense decisions about their own well-being, you’d be mad, too.

I know someone is reading this and saying, “Yeah, well, it’s systemic.” Sure, there are things that are a problem. And Republicans have largely ignored that, too.

  • People like my dad didn’t develop a desire for education. Because they didn’t need to for 50 years.
  • These same kinds of people don’t have much access to educational opportunities (libraries, adult learning, etc.) even if they wanted to.
  • The work they’re offered to “retrain for” is often so wildly out of line with what they know and makes government programs look out of touch. My dad loaded trucks for 35 years. Now you want him to go back to school, do a bunch of fractions and basic algebra at the age of 58 and be, what, a nurse practitioner?

No, Trump supporters aren’t stupid. Ignorant of some things, yes, but they’re not stupid. They feel like you might feel if, in 20 years, the Internet just vanished in a span of 5 years.

To be clear, I don’t think Trump has much of a clear vision for what, exactly, he’d do to help people. I don’t think anyone does, and that in and of itself is the Republican vision: “In a land of personal freedom and liberty, you have the right to do as you please. In many cases, that’s going to involve a lot of work.” And by “lot of work”, that’s learning all about fractions and algebra and technology and the Internet and a bunch of other stuff you never had to deal with before.

Can we all admit how terrifying that must feel? Can we all agree that is like saying to you, dear reader, “Sorry about your job and that you have no money anymore. I guess you can become a brain surgeon now.” Yes, that sounds ridiculous to some degree, but you get the point, right?

At this point they just want to know what to do and they want someone who will just tell other people (like Mexico) to screw off. “What’d you ever do for me? Nothing. So screw off.” Obviously Mexico does provide value to us through all sorts of imports and exports, but again, put yourself in their shoes for a minute.

What could Republicans articulate that might help? I’m not entirely sure there’s much, largely because a large swath of those people are between a rock and a hard place physically and emotionally. You can’t take someone who’s barely literate and make get them into spreadsheets in a year. Or two. Or maybe ten. They don’t have that much time.

Democrats have a very clear, “We’ll just pay for everything now” response to this. Which is pretty darn clear about what that means: healthcare, college for your kids, retirement, we’ve got that covered. Republicans ought to be strengthening the things that can make people empower themselves (more on that in another post). Because to guys like my Dad, “I don’t want you to just give me these things. I want to be able to provide for myself like I always used to.” It’s demoralizing, for better or worse.

Additionally so when you’re told to pay for these things your taxes have to go up. To a group of people who live in places without access to broadband Internet, or little to no library service, or weak cellular coverage, or a tiny hospital or 1 or 2 doctors, and what money you do makes goes to the Federal Government for things you’re never going to see a benefit from. That’s rough. So we don’t get to be confused why they’re angry. It’s obvious, and you would be, too.

My dad doesn’t need free college. Even if he wanted to go he can’t because what’s he going to do? Drive 2 hours to IU Bloomington every day? Drive 90 minutes to Ivy Tech to enroll in one of a few programs? At that point he doesn’t need an education, he needs gas and a new truck. Are we just going to pay for that, too? My dad just wants the government to “bring some factories in” (his actual words). Which it can’t do. So he’s always going to be upset about that. Like if, in 20 years, you and I were voting for the guy who would “turn the Internet back on”.

The best we can do to insure against this in the future is making sure people recognize the new deal: “Things will change. You will have to adapt. So learn to be adaptive and don’t stagnate. People, like businesses, will fail hard and slow if you stagnate.”