Saturday, November 25, 2017

Politicians and Diapers: A Change Would Do Us Some Good!


There is an old expression (some would call it a "truism") which says that "politicians are like diapers. They should be changed often, and for the same reason". I have to say that I've often found myself agreeing, and if polling results are to be believed, I am apparently not alone. According to Gallup, the current approval rating for Congress is hovering right at 13% right now. Yelp, you read that right. Just 13%. That means 87% of Americans surveyed disapprove of the job Congress is doing (or perhaps more accurately, isn't doing).
What I find most interesting is that in most countries, anytime the government's approval rating drops below 45%, they are looking out their windows for the lynch mobs coming down the street, but not here...apparently. I suppose the only exception to that would be in a authoritarian state like China, the old Soviet Union, or one of those Latin American or African military dictatorships we helped install and propped up (not that we were the sole culprits. The USSR and China did their fair share too).

With an approval rating somewhere between that of Attila the Hun's and Louis XVI's, I wondered when was the last time Congress enjoyed an approval rating above 40%. It turns out that was back during the first week in February 2005, and that was at 45% with 55% of the people still disapproving their job. That means we would have to go back 12 years to have an approval rating that would have a despot resting easy (and likely still with one eye open). How is it possible that the American People have remained so...docile...while in other countries their "leaders" would be hanging like so much wet laundry? Perhaps it's the job the President was doing that was keeping the unwashed masses at bay.

Well, if we are looking strictly at Donald Trump, you might get the idea that folks are still looking around for some tar and non-allergenic feathers. It seems that "The Donald" has been polling around 39% (January 20th 2017 to present). For roughly the same period in his presidency, Barack Obama was polling at 51%. George W Bush's rating was at 87% (November 2001) while his father's, George H.W. Bush, was 70% (November 1989). Jimmy Carter's approval rating going into presidency was 56% while Ronald Reagan's was 53%, and ole "Tricky Dick" Nixon's was an amazing 67%. Eisenhower's was 63% while John Kennedy's approval rating heading into his first and only term was 79% (the average approval rating for US Presidents going back to 1938 and FDR is 53%).

So, what does this tell us? I suspect Trump's low approval rating could be the result of two possibilities. The first is that people genuinely don't like the way he is handling foreign and domestic affairs. After all, there has been numerous White House staff shakeups, several Congressional investigations over Russian involvement in the presidential race, leaks, sexual misconduct, and all those "tit-for-tat" Tweets (seriously, someone needed to take Trump's cell phone away from him). On the other hand, the corporate media, which acts like the propaganda mouthpiece for the ruling Oligarchy, has had a score to settle with "The Donald" ever since he won the election. Never is there not a hit piece either directly on him, about him, or someone on his staff or had dealings with him at some point. It's a daily set piece, be it print media, social media, radio, or television.

The media has already been repeatedly shown to overtly biased (it's long been seen as covertly biased), but now they really don't even bother to try and hide it. Crimes or even questionable behavior committed by the other side rarely get much air or print time, and when it turns out that a "hit" piece actually reflects badly on their side, it's either spun in some way or quietly swept under the carpet. Just as often too, the "news" as we'll euphemistically call it, is presented in a way to misrepresent the facts or used to redirect the public's attention away from the real issues and toward something else.

It seems too that it's being used to divide Americans into as many opposing camps that it can. Of course, the more we are divided across these artificial divisions and at each other's throats, the easier it is to control us; the less likely we are paying attention to what they are really doing. Don't you think that would be what the ruling Oligarchy would want? Now, while I don't know about you, but I would call this the type of news that Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels would be proud of.

The next thing I began to ponder was what the public though of the Judicial System. After all, America is suppose to be a "Nation of Laws", although recent events have shown we've become a de facto two tier legal system; one for the rich and powerful (ie the Oligarchy) and one for the rest of us (the "Homer Simpson America"). We've witnessed powerful politicians who were guilty by any standard of illegal gunrunning, bribery, treason, even possible murder simply walk away amid a flippant "what does it matter?" remark. If that had been anyone of us, we'd never see the light of day again.

Interestingly enough, the approval rating of the Supreme Court was higher than either Congress or the President. As of mid-November 2017, the nation's highest court had an approval rating of 49% which matches its July 8 - 12, 2015 rating while in between, its rating was around 45% with one outrider the week of July 13, 2016, which was 42%. The last time it broke the 50% mark was in September 2005 with 51%. All of these numbers are, by most standards, pretty decent. However, considering that we are talking about the ultimate barometer of our legal system, you would expect a greater level of trust.

Indeed, among minorities the approval rating of our legal system in general hover in the bottom 1/3. According to a slightly older Rasmussen Report from 2014, 49% of the people survey said that the legal system was generally fair to everyone. An interesting marker from the poll shows that a plurality of whites (51%) believe the legal system is fair to racial minorities, racial minorities not just disagree, but significantly disagree. 80% of the blacks interviewed said the legal system was unfair to racial minorities. The report, though slightly dated, goes on to state that while approval for the Supreme Court was trending well overall, there were indications of a downward trend, which was borne out by the more recent Gallup Poll results mentioned earlier.

Given all this, I wondered if there had been major change in America's social and political winds which has gone unreported by the corporate media. The best way to determine this I concluded was to examine political registration and self-identifiers such as "conservative", "liberal" or "moderate". From an email I had recently received, registration of new Republicans and "Others" was on the upswing, while new Democrats were still growing, it was at half the rate of GOPers. So then, what's the real story?

Of what might be a critical clue was the results of a Pew Report from May of 2017 which showed that just 55.7% of those eligible to vote nationally actually did so. While that might seem pretty good, when compared to other industrial nations, it's beyond terrible. It's embarrassing. We're ninth from the bottom between the former Soviet satellite nation of Estonia and Luxembourg on a list of 35 nations. When delving into various articles, polls, and surveys, the picture of America's electorate got much bleaker. Each reported that that America's social and political divide, which was already wide, was becoming much deeper and wider.

Many historians believe that we've exceeded the point where America was in the years just prior to the Civil War, and the divide was across a broad range of issues, from immigration (legal and illegal), social safety net, taxes, government corruption and incompetence, monetary expenditures on the military and infrastructure, crime and punishment, racial issues, the environment, and more. Even within the two corporate parties, there are widening cracks as each side is beginning to subdivide according to their own set of key core values. Opinions of the two parties by the other side isn't all that rosy either. 38% of Democrats deeply dislike Republicans, with 27% of those believing that Republicans represent a danger to the nation. 43% of Republicans really dislike Democrats while 36% believe that Democrats were a threat to the nation.

Voter registration of Independents and those who lean Independent remains the nation's largest voting bloc (39%) and growing at a higher rather than either the Democrats (32%) or Republicans (23%). According to the Pew report, when they examined how the Independents leaned on an array of social issues, 48% leaned Democrat while 39% leaned Republican. As an aside, Independents have tended to be primarily moderates who've been purged from both of the two main corporate controlled parties as each has shifted further to the extreme of their respective portion of the political spectrum. Along racial lines, whites tend toward the GOP while minorities tend toward the Democrats. In terms of gender, most women lean Democrat (56%) while men are more closely aligned, 44% to 43%, Democrat over Republican. Among unmarried adults of either sex, the Democrats hold a majority.

So, let's bring all these percentages together in a simple comprehensive summary. While America has elected for the first time since 2005 a Republican President and majority GOP House and Senate, this may in effect represent a Republican high water mark (the Democrats last controlled Congress and the Presidency under Obama in 2009). The election of Donald Trump also appears to be more of a collective middle finger to the corporate media and ruling Oligarchy which was overtly trying to place the likes of Hillary Clinton in the White House. America was showing that it would not be dictated to, at least not with the prospect of someone like Hillary Clinton sitting in the Oval Office. Ever since, the media, on behalf of its corporate masters, has been trying to reprimand the American People; largely without success.

The American Public was also not having any of the pre-vetted status quo cardboard candidate the GOP was trying offering up either. Nevertheless, had the Democrats put up anyone but Hillary, the outcome would likely have been different. In looking at the trends and current political situation, both corporate run political parties are in serious trouble. The public has had quite enough of both. Their numbers will likely continue to drop, and despite the media's intentional ignoring of the Independent majority (as well as of the growing third parties), will likely fracture into dysfunctional factions. What America now lacks may soon crystallize into a viable third party which will (finally) consign the Republican and Democrat parties to the "dustbin of history".

However, of a more immediate concern is that America is deeply divided country. Whether that's over real issues or manufactured by the corporate media on behalf of the ruling Oligarchy is a matter of conjecture. But one thing is for certain, such a divide only benefits the ruling elite and not the American People. As for trends, if we look at the broad picture based on demographics such as the percentages of voter turnout, registration, generation, racial growth and gender, among others, we can clearly see a Leftward tilt to the nation, at least on social issues. What does that mean? Frankly, I'm not sure. I'm sure some will have an emotional meltdown while screaming "socialism! socialism!", others will be shouting "equality! equality!" just as loud.

In a worse case scenario, it could mean a divided nation, perhaps along ideological lines as easily as along ethnic, racial, or even religious lines not unlike our historical role model, Rome. I would not rule out another civil war or even revolution. Our nation's foundations are fractured enough that a social or political tremor might be all that's lacking. In a best case scenario, it could mean a new beginning for Humanity as we become perhaps the first truly diverse and equitable nation in history. However that would mean a lot of growing up on all sides with special attention placed on tolerance, and I'm not too confident we are able to do that yet. But then, there's another possibility to consider (and I write this only slightly "tongue-in-cheek"). There is the possibility of some event, such as an alien appearance in our skies, a disease, or natural event which forces us to grow up as a People, and perhaps as a species, damn quick or perish. Let's hope not.


Gallup News: Congress and the Public


Gallup News: Presidential Approval Ratings---Donald Trump


Gallup News: The Supreme Court



Rasmussen Reports: 42% Say US Justice System Unfair to Most Americans



Pew Research Report: Political Party Affiliation



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