Presumptuousness, pompousness, entitlement, and condescension are among the worst of human qualities. They can be ascribed to an individual like Donald Trump or to a collective of people like American news media. I hate television news because they’ve grown accustomed to viewers taking them at their word. We need to remember that what we refer to as “the media” are still simply people in positions of power or if not power than influence. It’s a different kind of power than the kind which our current president wields but is just as dangerous when corrupted.
By Dylan R.N. Crabb
Do we really need a televised “State of the Union” address?
At the beginning of every year, Americans choose whether or not tune into the “State of the Union” address delivered by the current president, whom is treated like royalty with grandstanding applause at his every vague word. The past five presidents can sum up one S.O.T.U. in one sentence: the state of the union is shit. Of course, a politician has to keep up a facade for the American public so no one becomes too alarmed.
President Donald Trump’s latest S.O.T.U. address last night was particularly useless because it’s President Trump – an excessively selfish, misogynistic, corporatist, baffoon who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Does this guy really understand the current state of our democratic-republic?
IMAGE SOURCE: Fox News, <https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/liz-peek-state-of-the-union-speech-showcases-talent-of-trump-on-the-stump>, 2019.
The S.O.T.U. is a partisan sporting event for American politicians. Regardless of who is the President, the two parties with the most political market share use the event to throw miniscule rhetorical punches at each other, distracting the public with their charade of modern tribalism. All the while, their corporate puppet masters make back room deals to fuck over the average American with neo-liberal economics and an imperialist agenda. That’s what American politics has become: charades and back room deals.
President Trump campaigned on pseudo-populist rhetoric which was successful against an obvious corporatist who had been in politics her entire life and who’d flip-flopped on issues more times than anyone could count. Though, once in Office, Trump proved himself even more of a phony. He doesn’t care about working Americans given his cabinet picks (a former oil lobbyist for the position of Interior Secretary?), he only cares about his own ego.
I’m also a selfish person but I have no plans to run for a public office, I would hate that kind of job.
A look into history.
While the nation’s first two presidents felt it necessary to deliver a speech to the national Congress, President Thomas Jefferson disagreed with that assumption. President Jefferson believed a physical speech to Congress was not necessary and a public event idolizing the presidency seemed to monarchial, antithectical to the nation’s democratic ideal. Instead of a physical speech, President Jefferson simply wrote a letter to the Congress in which he laid out budget reports for his agenda (no grandstanding public appeals) and that tradition was followed until President Woodrow Wilson revived public addresses in 1913.
I think two inventions transformed political theatre in the negative during the 20th century: the radio and the television. Ultimately, the radio and the television (more so with television) placed more emphasis on public appearances and optics rather than the specifics of policies. Americans began turning to what a candidates looked like and what he appeared to do rather than what a candidate actually was, Presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan are examples of this public obsession with appearances. Both Kennedy and Reagan were praised for their on-camera talents while their less favorable actions regarding policy stayed out of the spotlight.
How can Americans return to a policy-focused culture shying away from appearances and optics?
By Dylan R.N. Crabb
Should we expect another gov’t shutdown in February?
The funding lapse in the United States government has been temporarily resolved ending the 35-day shutdown. President Donald Trump has explained publicly that this deal would give back-pay to furloughed federal employees but he is also NOT giving up his fight for his border wall.
How long will this temporary reprieve last? 3 weeks. The national Congress will need to spar over funding again come February 15.
The U.S./Mexico border wall was a big campaign promise for President Trump back in 2016 and he has repeated the applause line at several rallies since his 2016 victory. Considering the president’s stand-offish nature that we’ve seen in media appearances, I expect him to stick to that campaign promise to protect his own pride. Although, it’s ironic that this gov’t shutdown is over border security because border security-law enforcement agents including T.S.A. agents and air traffic controllers are among the federal employees that were working without pay.
“While most government shutdowns are of relatively short duration, they all result in the disruption to government services and increased costs to the government – and thus taxpayers – due to lost labor. According to the financial rating agency Standard & Poor’s, the 16-day shutdown from October 1, to October 17, 2013, had ‘taken $24 billion out of the economy,’ and ‘shaved at least 0.6 percent off annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth’ (Tom Murse, <https://www.thoughtco.com/government-shutdown-history-3368274>, 2019).”
Should we start expecting a gov’t shutdown under every new president?
President Trump’s gov’t shutdown was about border security and a proposed border wall that some conservatives are claiming will be an effective tactic against illegal immigration. The question of a border wall’s actual effectiveness is another discussion.
Back in 2013, there was a gov’t shutdown perpetuated by the Republican Party (who then controlled the U.S. House of Representatives) in which Republicans demanded a repeal of President Barack Obama’s arguably signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (controversely nick-named “Obamacare.”)
Back in 1995, there was a gov’t shudown over apparently grim economic forecasts. Then House Republicans expressed concerned about the Clinton Administration’s budget effects on the national deficit.
Are gov’t shutdowns becoming more and more common as partisan tensions continue to heat up? As we move forward, is each subsequent Congress going to have its own battle over the national budget? That doesn’t sound like it will go well with lower class American workers who are being squeezed every year with low wages and a lack of consistent healthcare coverage.
The solution is more home-rule.
I think a solution to extreme polarization in the national government is for citizens to reconnect with each other at the lower government levels. Federal elected officials are at historic low approval ratings which means the American public largely does not trust its national leaders. However; voter turn-out is also plummeting in local elections. This is bad news across the board. Regardless of our outlook on our federal leaders, Americans need to remain involved in our home communities. If we’re unhappy with our federal leaders then we should be able to turn to our respective states and localities to pick up the slack. That is exactly what was originally intended with our democratic-republican, federalist system of government – multiple governments acting as checks on each other’s power.
By Dylan R.N. Crabb
The Democratic Party is moving further to the political Left, embracing more collectivist modes of ideology and doubling down on their identitarian activism. Today’s typical “Progressive” is now a caricature of my generation (Generation Y, the millennial generation) and it’s embarrassing; from screaming at Republican senators in the nation’s capital, to banging on the door of the Supreme Court of the United States after the confirmation of a new conservative-leaning Justice, to forcefully shutting down academic events hosting conservative speakers, it is apparent that Leftists (not liberals) are becoming more radicalized in this strange post-truth era.
How did we get here?
I think it started with internet connections and the World Wide Web which dramatically increased access to information for the general public. Greater access combined with more diversity is a double-edged sword in media because, with more choices of programs, confirmation bias becomes more prevalent; individuals will naturally gravitate toward programs that confirm what they already believe. This is why it is so important to make an effort to seek out points of view alternate to your own. The American public is currently experiencing the negative, balkanizing effects of confirmation bias.
What’s the solution?
I think the solution to our wide-spread confirmation bias ironically involves the very tools that encouraged this virus of the mind, although it also requires a change in mindset in each individual. We need to consider different sources, the motivations behind particular narratives, and power bases behind specific media companies. The ideological leanings of a journalist or commentator affects their news coverage as does the primary financing of an organization. In short, we need to be more skeptical.
Skepticism requires curiosity and acting on curiosity requires initiative. Journalist Tim Pool points out one the most stark differences between the political Left and Right today: the Left generally has no qualms with alienating individuals whom disagree with their mainstream narratives while the Right is constantly seeking out disagreements for the sake of discourse – the Left pushes people away with their dislike for nuance while the Right is actively recruiting people. This new inclusiveness on the Right will likely lead to a new conservative movement among younger Americans. We’re already seeing rising conservative media outlets catapulting young and energetic talking heads to national fame – figures like Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren, Roaming Millennial, and Dave Rubin are immensely popular with young people partly because they don’t condescend young people about how “oppressed” they are by forces beyond one’s control. A general narrative on the Right is one of an individualistic spirit of exploration and invention endemic in American history.
Liberalism was once the champion of individualism and personal liberty but liberalism has been corrupted by its own hubris. Leftists coming to dominate the fields of entertainment became obsessed with the appearance of diversity while ignoring diversity’s most important facet: the intellect. Now, the intellectually lazy neo-liberals are being beaten in the marketplace of ideas by their Right-wing counterparts who still see value in showcasing diverse opinions regardless of appearances and communicating across ideologies. If the Left wants to have a fighting chance in this new media landscape of individualism and curiosity, I think they need to rediscover liberalism and the intellectual traditions of Western civilization – from Hammurabi’s Code, to the oratory of Pericles, to the revelations of the Enlightenment, to the rational populism of Presidents Roosevelt.