Politics

If I Had to Vote Today

So far, I’ve been genuinely undecided regarding the Democratic Party primary. I like both candidates for different reasons. As a Californian whose primary occurs in June, I still have time to stay undecided and watch how their campaigns unfold. But if I had to vote today, I would vote Hillary Clinton.

Both candidates are fantastic Democrats and neither candidate is perfect. In the end, Hillary has the best chance to enact progressive change for the United States. Her best asset is under-appreciated by Bernie supporters, which is her detailed understanding of the issues and policies that currently exist and that she wants to reform. This has been best demonstrated in the Democratic debates (which unfortunately have been underplayed and badly scheduled by Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz). Her grasp of the intricacies and nuances of the issues are the strongest. This matters because as president, she would be most prepared to work within the political system to enact change. The argument that she made in 2008 that she would be most prepared to lead from Day One of her administration is still her best argument for president.

The primary criticism of Hillary and one that seems most often launched from Bernie is her ties to the economic establishment, especially her ties to Wall Street. While Bernie’s populist plan is to break up the big banks, Hillary’s written plan to reform the financial industry was reportedly 10 times lengthier than Bernie’s plan. Again, Hillary’s strongest asset is her depth of understanding of the issues facing Americans. Bernie’s message may resonate more, but it is only because they make for feel-good slogans and sound bites (“too big to fail, too big to exist”). This is why his debate performances tend to be repetitive about Wall Street. However, Hillary’s ties to large financial firms through her speaking fees and accepted donations from the industry should not be ignored by voters nor by her campaign. She sidesteps the criticism by fairly noting that Obama has had similar ties, but hasn’t faced the same amount of scrutiny nor intensity of criticism. Nevertheless, the economic atmosphere that the middle-class is experiencing today is different than 8 years ago or even 4 years ago. While the economy has improved in many ways, the middle-class has yet to feel that recovery. It would be in Hillary’s best interest to take a page from Bill’s book and further connect to voters about this economic frustration.

Bernie is an attractive candidate for today’s economic atmosphere, but there are a lot of questions about his efficacy as a president. His strength among Democrats and liberals lie in his economic message that connects to many people, including me. On paper, he’s been a devout progressive. He’s been rated 100% by Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Human Rights Campaign for his congressional record, two organizations that endorsed Hillary. He promises to instate a single-payer health care system and most importantly for him, start a populist revolution that would take away power from the so-called political and economic establishment and bring it back to the people. While his message is attractive to the most liberal of the Democratic Party, there is still a real question about how he would achieve his goals once he’s president. He has yet to make a convincing argument about he would work to make his radical policies go through Congress (no one asked how he would do it in the last debate). For all the political capital that Obama had after his 2008 and 2012 election victories, he still publicly admitted this year that the rancorous, partisan political landscape of Washington D.C. and to a larger extent, the United States has not improved. Despite this, he still made meaningful change with the same incremental approach in which Hillary would most likely adopt.

When it comes to electability, Bernie has touted his strong numbers in general election polling. However, FiveThirtyEight has noted that general election polling this early has a weak relationship to the final outcome simply because we can’t fully predict what will happen in the final months leading up to Election Day. Bernie has yet to bear the full brunt of Republican attacks and criticism, while Hillary has held up to decades of GOP hate. As a far-left liberal, it would be a delight to see Bernie beat the GOP in a national race, but the fundamentals of his campaigning in Iowa indicates he has not generated as much support as Obama did in 2008 when Obama had a historic ground game there to beat Hillary.

Both Hillary and Bernie are worthy liberals (ISideWith.com had me at over 90% agreement for both candidates). It’s really cringeworthy for me to see their campaigns score cheap, political points through smears and disingenuous attacks. It would be ideal if both candidates stick to their strengths and not attack each other’s liberal worthiness. For Hillary, she’s still the frontrunner in the long-term because of her strong knowledge in policy and her political resiliency. It’s not in her best interests to attack the value of a single-payer health care system. Fortunate for her, she has pivoted and justly criticize the feasibility of such a radical reform when we’re still fighting to keep Obamacare alive. Furthermore, it seems especially unnerving when one of her political operatives co-opt a racial movement and claim “black lives don’t matter” to Bernie despite his record of working for civil rights groups in the ’60s. For Bernie, he bewildered many by calling Planned Parenthood part of the establishment after their political advocacy group endorsed Hillary. It seemed like a moment of unraveling for Bernie, who probably felt he was stabbed in the back by an organization that rated him 100% for supporting women’s health and reproductive rights.

In the end, Bernie may espouse popular liberal ideals, but he has yet to convincingly prove himself more with policy plans and a leadership strategy as rich in detail and scope as Hillary’s, especially in foreign matters where one has to effectively lead among leaders. While Hillary has made strategic missteps in her long political career, she’s at her best when she espouses her deep knowledge of policy and has withstood decades of GOP rancor. Her experience and understanding of foreign policy is thorough and she indeed would be the best to maintain and strengthen Obama’s achievements, which has been and will continually be attacked by conservatives. It’s time to make history once more, finally.

 

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What Millennials Are and Are Not

I remember the first time I heard the term “Millennial Generation.” It was a 60 Minutes report called The Millennials are Coming. When I watched it, I became annoyed at the condescending tone that comes from a privileged perspective. “Oh no, the Millennials not like the previous generation!” Yeah, that’s called progress. Let’s clear up some stereotypes about the Millennial Generation:

  • Stereotype #1: Millennials are lazy and entitled. This is a favorite complaint by every older generation. Well, it’s hard to get a job when the economy went to hell in 2008. It’s also hard to call a generation that has more bachelor’s degrees by percentage than any other generation lazy. We’ve worked hard and done what society has asked: Finish high school and get a college degree. Yes, we do demand more in job satisfaction and because of that, we’re picky with our occupations. Previous generations have relied on unions to get job security, reasonable working conditions, and benefits. Unions are weaker today, but educated millennials still value union-like demands. Millennials are less likely stay in a job that offers little in benefits and security not because they’re spoiled entitled brats, but they demand more in respect and workers’ rights. They just do it without unions.
  • Stereotype #2: Millennials only care about happiness and having fun. Just because we value these feelings doesn’t mean we only care about these things. We’re a generation that’s challenging the traditional notion that being miserable and tired is the only road to success (i.e., Protestant work ethic). Critics see this as a rejection of hard work. We’re not rejecting hard work, but simply changing work to make it meaningful and healthy. Why does the typical notion of work require sitting solitary at a desk or repetitively completing the same task for 8 hours (unless you love this stuff, then more power to you)? We’re the generation that loves Office Space, where the protagonist eventually chose a blue collar job that made him happier and Milton, the hard worker, enacts burning revenge. Science and research even supports the Millennial value of happiness. Harvard researcher Shawn Achor believes that happiness promotes more productivity. This is inverse of the traditional ethic of productivity leads to happiness, but Achor’s conclusion makes a lot of sense and it’s something that we Millennials have heard from–yes–the older generation: love your work and it won’t feel like work. Lastly, whereas critics may perceive happiness as temporary and juvenile, Millennials equate happiness with having meaningful relationships, helping others, and having gratitude. You know, good moral stuff.
  • Stereotype #3: Millennials don’t care about activism and politics. While this is a common complaint against the younger generation in general, this stereotype persists because Millennials are more disengaged in party politics. 50% of Millennials consider themselves politically independent compared to 32-39% of older generations, according to the Pew Research Center. We’re a diverse generation who understand diverse views. We’re perhaps the most tolerant generation as well. We don’t care if you use pot. Even 61% of young Republicans agree that same-sex marriage should be legal. Millennials are not attracted to the discord and hyperpartisan culture in American politics and their lack of party loyalty is a product of that. This might change the future political culture for good.
  • Stereotype #4: This generation is soft, overly sensitive, and too “PC.” I’m sorry to offend you with our tolerance and understanding.
  • Stereotype #5: They’re the “Me” Generation. For a nation that prides on individualism, society is pretty harsh on a generation that values…individualism. This complaint really should be applied to everybody that’s alive today. Social media and technological innovations have given the individual more power. The World is Flat. We can self-publish our work (hey, that’s what blogs are for!). We can distribute our own short films. A single Tweet or YouTube video can make an unknown into a celebrity. We can watch TV shows on our own schedule. These aren’t faults to be placed on a generation. It’s simply progress in an epoch of time.

The conclusion is that the Millennial Generation, as with every generation, is a product of their time. We live in a post-9/11, Great Recession, social media era. So we’re not like the Greatest Generation. Perhaps if World War III breaks out in the near future and my generation defeat Hitler Jr., we might overtake that title of greatest generation. Otherwise, we’ll continue to make life more meaningful, tolerant, just, and happier. That’s so “me.”

Three Ways the GOP and Conservatism Can Win Again

I’m going to put my liberalism aside and give three serious suggestions how the Republicans can renew the spirit of conservatism and bring life back into their party without conceding their conservative principles:

  1. Direct your low tax message to working-class minorities: Reverse the perception that the GOP is the party of the rich. Putting horse-owning millionaire Romney up as your presidential candidate didn’t help that perception. Minorities don’t trust that the GOP is looking out for them. It’s hard to blame them when people keep hearing from Obama that the GOP “only” wants tax cuts for the rich. The GOP wants tax cuts for all. So why not say that more? Direct anti-tax message to working-class minorities more and emphasize payroll taxes and income taxes. That’s where workers see it most clearly. If the GOP were to say ,”Keep more of your paycheck!”, that makes sense to everyday people. Not “Let’s cut the capital gains tax!” WTF is capital gains? And I emphasize minorities because they’re the demographic that the GOP needs the biggest gains to achieve more electoral victories in 2014 and 2016.
  2. Open doors for women, not lock them: Even though a principle of conservatism is to keep the status-quo, it doesn’t help the party when the House GOP voted overwhelmingly against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Women who are in the middle of the political spectrum are not going to find that appealing. Reverse the anti-women perception by being more pragmatically helpful and open doors for women (in other words, just don’t block things, like abortion and contraceptives). The GOP can still appeal to women by valuing the work of women, especially those who work-at-home. Examples: Support homeschool initiatives, ease regulations on home day-cares, give tax credits for young mothers who want to finish college, college scholarships for conservative female students. Oh yeah, all those crazy rape comments by your older white GOP politicians don’t help either. So, at the state level, how about harsher punishments for rapists and more funding for police to solve rape cases? Last time I checked, the GOP prided on being pro-law and order.
  3. Promote a “smarter” and “more efficient” government, not “smaller”: What’s the difference? Smaller implies people are going to get less from their government and people don’t want to lose what they’re already getting. Smaller isn’t an appealing term. However, everybody loves efficiency! And everybody hates bureaucracy! The GOP can indeed make “small” government more marketable to independents and liberals by promising reductions in levels of government bureaucracy. When people buy into that, that will then give the party the political capital to reduce the amount of workers in the federal and state government, thus decreasing government spending. Also, how about supporting more technology to make interacting with the government more palatable, like the DMV, which is universally hated? Win! 

 

 

‘Tis the Season of Giving

In this time of the year, many of us are compelled to donate to charity. Nobody wants to be a greedy Scrooge. While many Americans think it’s right to give to the needy, many think it’s wrong for the government to give to the needy. What’s the difference?

Bah Humbug! to giving

Bah Humbug! to giving

Antony Davies’ article, The Economics and Morality of Caring for the Poor, provides a compelling argument why charity works for individuals, but not for governments. Davies, an economics professor, provides a libertarian interpretation of Jesus’ teachings about feeding and caring for the poor:

When Jesus calls on the rich to feed the poor, it’s because both of them are hungry. Jesus’ “poor” are poor because they lack food. Jesus’ “rich” are poor because they lack love.

 

When we rely on the government to “feed” the poor, we dehumanize the poor by regarding them principally as needs to be met. …

 

When we rely on the government to “feed” the poor, we dehumanize the rich by regarding them principally as revenue sources.

Again, Davies’ argument is compelling. However, I would argue that while government can dehumanize, we should be questioning why this dehumanization exists. Dehumanization does not exist solely because of a system, like a government. Governments are products of human society. While Davies’ argument that government dehumanizes the impoverished may be valid, he appears to assume that government, in and of itself, is a dehumanizing system. I propose that it is not government that dehumanizes the impoverished. It is us–society–that dehumanizes.

Davies, like many political conservatives, speak of government as if it was an uncontrollable machine. Many of us understand this concern. The bureaucracy of government is overwhelmingly complex. We abhor the dehumanizing treatment of bureaucracies. The common complaints of the DMV and public education are simplified examples of complex government operations. Many of us Americans have lost a sense of efficacy in our self-government. That is, we believe these systems and institutions are out of humanly control. We believe the myth that it is not us that can dehumanize, but only systems, bureaucracies, and governments can.

This leads us to reflect about the role of government in our lives and this is the major ideological divide between today’s liberals and conservatives. According to Davies, government taxation is analogous to dehumanization (I’ve also heard the tactless analogy to slavery, as well). Thanks to the overemphasis on the tax revolts when we learn about the American Revolution, many Americans think we’re suppose to a low-tax haven (TEA Party, anybody?). The way I see it, the Revolution wasn’t just about taxes. It was about self-government and allowing American colonists to decide for themselves on the issues, such as taxation and trade regulation (a few of the Founding Fathers were illegal smugglers, like Samuel Adams. How about that for the “rule of law?”). Eventually, America’s Founding Fathers passed taxes like any other government, especially to pay off war debts to Europe (yes, even the Founding Fathers incurred government debt!). Our first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, was scrapped by the Founding Fathers partly because it was extremely difficult for the federal government to levy taxes.

But this also leads us to ask if the Founding Fathers ever predicted that we would have welfare and wealth redistribution policies. It doesn’t matter what they specifically wanted in terms of future policy. Simply said, they allowed for us to decide for ourselves. That’s the point of self-government! A majority of Americans love Medicare and Social Security, the largest welfare and most expensive programs in our federal budget. To dissolve these programs would be political suicide for our elected leaders. Democracy has allowed for these policies. Most don’t consider Medicare and Social Security as dehumanizing. In fact, dissolving (and failing to save) these socialist programs would probably be more dehumanizing by ending health care and income support for millions of elderly, disabled, and impoverished Americans.

In the end, what would Davies and radical economic conservatives propose in place of Medicare and Social Security? Trillions in voluntary charitable donations to the poor, elderly, and disabled? What free-market system would find it worth while (profitable) to care for the poor, elderly, and disabled who have little stable income?

We Accept the Reality of the World with Which We are Presented

Christof-the-truman-show-25357354-1920-1080

Christof, the creator of Truman’s artificial world

This was one of the lines in the film The Truman Show that I’ve always remembered. Christof spoke this line to explain why an ignorant Truman Burbank never questions his artificial reality (The Matrix had the same premise as well). It’s difficult for many of us to question our own realities. It’s especially difficult for Americans to think that we can live in a world with less guns.

It’s been engrained in our heads that guns are patriotic and owning a gun makes a person more American. We think it’s a vital part of the American culture. Granted, I really don’t blame Americans for thinking guns are part of the American culture. It’s one of the few items that the Constitution explicitly says we can have. Not even education, marriage, or privacy is explicitly written into the Constitution. But the Founding Fathers went out of there way to say something about bearing arms.

While I’ll save the majority of the historical and legal arguments against the expansion of gun rights in the U.S. for later, I think many of us Americans can’t contemplate a country with less guns. A society with less guns is a society that is less American, many of us think. We believe it’s a natural right because somebody told us so–somebody that lived over 200 years ago said it’s a natural right. And many of us don’t question that.

We’ve accepted the reality of the world with which we are presented…by a few lawyers that lived over 200 years ago. We’ve simply taken a law written by fallible humans and apotheosized it. We’ve taken the 2nd amendment and made it God’s infallible law because we think it’s a natural right. Do you know who said it was a natural right? Do you know what natural rights are?

I’m not simply being contrarian and say the Founding Fathers were completely wrong. They got many laws right, but that doesn’t make them perfect. They knew that. They knew they could be wrong eventually. Heck, they got the first constitution of the United States wrong. Remember the Articles of Confederation? It was so bad, they trashed it. They wrote a whole new constitution that included an amendment process. The Founding Fathers essentially said to future generations, “This is a good start. Make sure you make it better.” This is what the Founding Fathers meant by a forming a more perfect Union in the preamble of the Constitution.

Thanks to the amendment process, we’ve changed the Constitution to keep it up with the times. We amended the Constitution to end slavery, to expand citizenship to all races, and to enfranchise women. For much of our history, Americans accepted and wholly endorsed slavery, racial discrimination, and gender inequality. The Americans that lived during this time accepted the reality that was presented to them. Change and progress happened when people chose to question the reality and suggest that it’s possible to live a society where people of color and women could be socially and legally accepted.

I dare you to question your reality. Altering your reality can feel uncertain. It’s not easy. It takes courage and sacrifice. Will you choose to make progress in our society for a perfect Union or stick to the status quo? Can you accept a reality where owning guns isn’t a natural right, but an earned privileged?