Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We Live Here Now

The Oxford Dictionaries recently chose the term “post-truth” as their international word of the year. It’s certainly appropriate, after all of the events of the last 2 years.

Post-truth is where we live now. I was driving north last weekend, and heard a North Carolina voter discussing the election with a person from NPR. She pointed out that President Obama had deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president, and he responded by saying “That may or may not be true.” In post-truth America you can decide what the facts are, based on whether or not you like them.

Given that the NH GOP has control of every branch of the NH government, we will all be dwelling in the land of post-truth for the next two years, and trying to undo the damage they will do for at least the next decade.

In a state where young people don’t stay because they can’t get good jobs or afford housing, where we have the 11th worst infrastructure, and the highest utility costs in the northeast, you might think that those might be priorities for the new legislature. You would be wrong.

There are 4 gun bills. NH has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation – but that is not enough to satisfy the MOAR GUNZ crowd. Perhaps when babies are given guns in the hospital along with a car seat they’ll finally be able to lighten up.

There are bills to limit abortion – something our new governor is in favor of.  (Given the endless parade of Sununus we are subjected to, do we call this one Sununew?) His pretend concern for women is touching. Abortion has been legal for over 40 years. He claims to be worried that abortion clinics must be surgical centers or some such nonsense. Meanwhile, he’s expressed zero concern for the homeless women and children who are about to experience winter. He’s expressed no concern for the increasing rate of child poverty in our state. It’s worth remembering – and I will be here to remind you – that Chris Sununu was a Trump supporter. He supported a man who said vile things about women, and boasted gleefully about sexually assaulting them. His concern for women doesn’t exist.

There are at least 4 bills aimed at making it even harder for people to vote. There were stories all over the news after the election of NH Republicans complaining about voter fraud, including one from the latest Sununu. We’ve been hearing the stories about busloads of people coming from Massachusetts to vote in NH. The Republican Party took the Governor’s office, has control of the NH House, the NH Senate, and the Executive Council. If there’s so much fraud – how did that happen? Worst buses ever!

Sununew wants to put the kibosh on same day voting. One reason we have same day voting is because it exempts us from having to comply with motor voter laws. Someone will explain that to him. Other bills include the usual tortured attempts to redefine words like “domicile” and “residence.” There’s the annual constitutional amendment aimed at making sure only white, male, Republicans can vote.

He’s snagged Charlie Arlinghaus to be his budget advisor. Arlinghaus is the head of the Josiah Bartlett Center, which is allegedly a non-partisan think tank. If perpetuating the same, failed GOP economic policies of the last 30 years is non-partisan, I guess they’re right. The Bartlett Center is funded by the Koch brothers, and is also a member of ALEC, the conservative group of state legislators who are handed model legislation and then bring it home and present it as their idea. Apparently Sununu didn’t dare to ask Greg Moore of Americans for Prosperity. Everyone knows they’re funded by the Kochs. The Bartlett Center also feeds from the Koch trough, but the NH media politely never mentions it. 

State Representative Dick Marple of Hooksett, filed an LSR that calls for the voluntary registration of motor vehicles. Rep. Marple was arrested at the polls on Election Day, on a bench warrant for driving with an expired license. He won re-election anyhow. Perhaps his next bill will call for making driver’s licenses voluntary. And maybe some doughty Republican will file a bill preventing public servants from being arrested while they’re in office. Whatever comes next, you can be certain that it won’t have anything to do with ethics reform.

The new majority will do its damnedest to pass right to work legislation. In NH no bad idea ever dies, they just return every two years, ad infinitum. One wonders, though – suppose they pass free guns for all, voting limited to middle aged white male Republicans, no more abortion, right to work – and big business tax cuts – and nothing changes? Not one of these things will do anything to solve NH’s economic problems.

There’s an ugly race brewing for Speaker of the NH House. The libertea crowd has never forgiven Rep. Shawn Jasper for beating out former Speaker Bill O’Brien with the help of the House Democrats. Somewhere, O’Brien is ensconced in a padded room, kicking and howling because he didn’t run for reelection.)   The other candidates are Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford, Rep. Carol McGuire of Epsom (and the Free State Project), and Rep. Frank Sapareto of Derry.

McGuire and Sanborn are good libertea locksteppers. They both have 100% scores from the Americans for Kochsperity, the House Republican Alliance, and A’s from the NH Liberty Alliance. Sapareto is less of a lockstepper. He only got an 82% from AFP in 2013, and 89% in 2014. He got a 90% from the HRA, and a B from the NHLA. That would seem to indicate that he could think for himself at least part of the time, which means he’ll never be speaker. His conviction for 3 domestic assaults in 2013 won’t be a problem – not in today’s NH GOP.  

This would be a lot more amusing if we weren’t going into the future with leaders who are stuck in the past. Sununu wants to run our state like a business. Remember the last governor who had that dream? He lasted one term. Running a state is not like running a business, no matter how often you invoke kitchen tables. A business owner invests in his business. Republicans do not invest in our state. They’re the reason there are 350 red listed bridges. The bill for decades of neglect is going to be a whopper when it comes due. They will, however, find a way to blame it on the Democrats.

Post-truth. We live here now.

This was published as an op-ed in the November 25 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Empire in Decline

This isn’t what I set out to write. It isn’t what I originally wrote.
But - the world as we know it has just changed a great deal, and I feel a duty to write about that. 

This election is about anger. The anger is real. I believe it is misplaced, but that really doesn’t matter now. The angry people have spoken, and the rest of the nation and the rest of the world will be living with the consequences for a long time to come.

Some social media snapshots from friends around the world:

From the UK: “World leaders are in shock. Apparently, Marine LePen is the only politician outside the US who has congratulated Trump, which is unprecedented.”

From Australia: “Come on, it's pretty funny that the USA has elected a clown, an actual one with makeup and wig, to govern. If you don't laugh you will go mad.”

From the UK: “Welcome to the Brexit Club, America.”

From Panama: “On several levels, it's the end of an era for the USA. Geopolitics and economics are generally forces for continuity, but in case you haven't noticed, the United States is not the power it was. Other countries' leaders and people who shift money to and fro around the world surely notice.”

From Australia:
“So it's looking like Donald Trump will be the president of the USA. What does that say about a political system that endorses a candidate like this lunatic? It is ok to be a bully? It's perfectly fine to be a misogynist? To be racist? To be a billionaire and not pay any tax? It's no problem at all to be a liar? It's ok to deceive people with conspiracy theories and manipulate opinions with empty statements that cannot be substantiated? To my American friends who I know did not vote for Trump. I'm so very sorry.”

Sorry, world. The US has just officially become a rogue nation.

The recriminations have begun. The Clinton supporters are blaming the third party voters. The third party voters are (in some cases) blaming the DNC for misreading the political climate. The Democratic Party has moved so far to the right since 2000, that they’re no longer the friend of the working stiff, in a year when it was terribly important to be that friend.

Republicans are not friends of the working class, either – they just have better PR. People with stagnant incomes hear “tax cuts” and they think that will mean more money for them. They do not understand that those cuts will be for the wealthy. People heard Trump talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back to this country. That was a cruel message to people who badly need good paying jobs. Manufacturing is never coming back. Trump’s own products are manufactured overseas. We’re a nation and a world on the verge of big economic changes, and we’ve chosen an ill-informed carnival barker to lead us into the future.

As a nation, we’ve never gotten past racism. We tried a few times, but it’s not over. As a nation, we have never confronted our misogyny. We just elected a guy who has said awful things about women, and admitted to assaulting them. A man who says we need to build a wall to keep out Mexicans. He mocked a reporter with disabilities. He was cheered on by angry people who applauded him for “telling it like it is.”

That’s what we do here. When the economy is lousy for us, when we are fearful for our future, we blame THOSE PEOPLE. Whoever they are. The politics of hate, anger, and fear have won the day. What do we tell our girl children about what just happened here?

The media deserves a great deal of blame for this – but not the kind that we began to see at the end of Trump’s campaign. Men showing up at Trump events with t-shirts suggesting that lynching reporters was a good idea isn’t funny. Somewhere along the way the second amendment has become the only one that matters to a large segment of the population.

Nowhere is that truer than NH, where the politics of guns and pledges have won the day. NH has just chosen another Sununu to govern our state. Jumping on the Trump train worked for him. We can now look forward to 2 years of businessman Chris Sununu telling us why it’s a mistake to invest in our own state. He’ll be aided and abetted by the great visionaries of our legislature, whose idea of the future is firmly planted in 1952. 

Guns aren’t going to fix our roads and bridges – and neither is our new state government. Instead, the demonizing of the poor is likely to be ramped up, along with MOAR GUNZ, less access to health care, business tax cuts, MOAR GUNZ, right to work, eliminating bodily autonomy for women, and plenty of other stupid that has yet to reveal itself.

As I write this, the US Senate race between Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan is still undecided. Congresswoman Ann Kuster kept her seat, despite a last minute surge of support for challenger Jim Lawrence. Carol Shea-Porter was reelected in the first district, despite the best efforts of the independent candidate. He might have swayed the election to Guinta, had it not been for the rats. That was just a bridge too far (and too bizarre) for many people. New Hampshire did manage to fend off some of the damage that was done in the rest of the country.

There are some bright spots in the darkness. In Las Cruces, NM, a young woman I met at a conference in 2012 was just elected to her state legislature. Angelica Rubio describes her campaign as being “built on a foundation of community and inclusion, speaking to values that unite us all.”

We need more of this.

Published as an op-ed in the November 11 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.