The Wrong Fight

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I’m going to write about something I swore I’d never wrote about – President Donald J. Trump. I’ll try my best to make it apolitical, but I can’t promise anything. I intend to make observations about the popularity dynamic surrounding the President and to propose what we should be concentrating on instead. Now let’s get to the matter at hand.

For better or worse, Trump is invincible. We love to hate him, and perpetuate his fame. And none of it matters, because he's exactly where he wants to be regardless. Let's explore this a little:

We love to hate him. All major news outlets, podcasters, radio stations, left-leaning groups and TV shows all talk about Trump so much you would think they’re promoting him. It’s worse than that actually. They’re promoting themselves through him. It seems like damn near every episode of SNL last season started off with a skit of him and evening shows like Late Show, The Tonight Show, the Daily show never miss a nightly opportunity. Hell, this very article you’re reading is about the man. It’s as if we’re all saying "read our articles, so WE can be the ones to tell you how awful he is". 

We pride ourselves on telling each other we’d do better than someone else. For whatever evolutionary reason made us this miserable way, we need it. Just listen to your co-workers spatter on about Sunday’s football game on Monday morning; or the McGregor vs Mayweather fight. We love being the Monday morning quarterback. This is what makes the President constantly popular, and infamous at the same time. It doesn’t matter which one – all press is good press.  The more unpopular he gets, the more famous he gets. The more we all talk about him, the more he is on our minds. It's the popularity loop from hell. And it makes him invincible. 

Whether or not you accept what I wrote above doesn’t matter. He’s already won. Donald Trump has already gotten his hands on everything he needs.  He controls 15 cabinet-level department heads and all decisions they can make without congress’s approval. Even if he doesn’t get a second term, even if he gets impeached…he is still, right now, making decisions in support of his agenda. These decisions only make him richer. Both in the money sense, and in the favors he’s owed by people who will likely remain powerful no matter who’s in the office.

“So are you saying I should just throw my hands up and quit?”

Well my answer, in a way, is yes. If you want him to go away, or at least diminish, then stop reacting to him. Stop letting him whip up so much outrage. Because in the end, you’re fighting the wrong fight. Instead, think about the root of what allows both the executive and legislative branches to wield so much power and limit your own and focus on solving that. It will get us more traction then bitching about Trump:

First, campaign finance rules still allow for legalized bribery. This is true no matter how you slice it. All elected officials, including and especially, the President are beholden to the dollars that got them into office. Remember when President Obama chose an ambassador to Argentina that never travelled to Argentina in his life and didn’t speak Spanish? Or President Trump’s pick for Education secretary with no knowledge of education policy? Both were trying to reward donors. And there are a lot of donors they have to reward since the amount of money being spent on elections is only going up.

The Presidential election is now a billion dollar industry – yes, it’s an industry and yes, it’s a billion dollar one. And the Presidential race is just the tip of the ice-berg. A quick google search reveals the following figures:

House members, on average, each raised $1,689,580, an average of $2,315 every day during the 2012 cycle.

Senators, on average, each raised $10,476,451, an average of $14,351 every day during the 2012 cycle.
— https://maplight.org/story/whats-the-cost-of-a-seat-in-congress/

 

Albeit this data is from 5 years ago, it’s still relevant. In fact, the figures are undoubtedly greater now.

The candidates are in a constant war to out-raise and out-spend each other. In doing so they pledge their support to whoever has the most money. To be fair, it isn’t always the ultra-wealthy. Groups like AARP, NAACP, and others wield considerable political clout as they represent millions of people who each donate a small amount. But either way there’s only so much money the individual voter has to donate, whether to special interest groups or directly to candidates. Even if they do, they're donating to candidates who's parties in many cases have essentially drawn their own district lines.

Congressional District maps still promote party entrenchment. The process of drawing them is still controlled by the party in power and still allows for gerrymandering. Check out this picture. It’s of Michigan’s 14th congressional district. Seriously. What the actual Fuck?

These types of bullshit shenanigans are what keep politicians in power. They allow them to select voters and not the other way around. As long as this continues to happen, our country will continue to become more and more polarized. Our representatives just don’t have the motivation to listen to those with opposite views.

Imagine if we could somehow apportion each district with one set of criteria. For example, in squares with the size of the square inversely proportional to population in it, the exceptions being coastal areas. Something like THIS would potentially create more districts where more candidates are elected with closer margins. They would have no choice but to listen to both sides, maybe even act as mediators between the two, to unify them and keep their seats. What a fucking concept??? Still, that would depend on voters actually voting.

This brings me to my next point. Voter turn-out blows.  All figures I've read about put voter turnouts in the 50-60% range. It's worse for congressional and lower offices:

38.5% of the population voted in congressional elections in 2014.
— https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/demo/p20-577.pdf

 

That, ladies and gentlemen is fucking low. That's sad, and it should concern you.

When I was 17, I was due to get my citizenship. My parents took the test and got theirs, and I was supposed to get mine. Unfortunately, it didn't come. No one knew why. Someone suggested asking my Congressional representative for help. I still remember walking into my US representatives office. Unsure of myself I described my problem to the lady in the front. She handed me a form. It said something like "which agency would you like us to assist you with?"...afterwards came a long list of federal agencies - the VA, INS, IRS and all the others. What I realized then was that the US representatives are the people that represent you not only in congress but also to the 15 departments that report directly to the president. And they have pull. Within a short time, maybe a month, of asking for help, the INS found my paperwork and my citizenship was granted. 

The more down you go, the more the decisions of the representatives affect you. Yet the less people care about these elections. I lived in my current town for 4 years and I'm ashamed to admit I still don't know who the mayor is, and what people make up my local representatives. Is it a town board? Where do they meet? I have no idea. I'm not alone. Many of my friends and colleagues don't know either. These politicians make decisions that affect our every-day life - property taxes, school openings, closures and curricula, police funding and policing policies just to name a few. These are also usually the people who use their local experience to move on up in the government ladder and run for higher office. In short, this is where it matters most.

These are the issues that should be at the forefront of both our local and national agendas.

  • Campaign finance
  • Gerrymandering
  • Voter Turnout

 Imagine nationwide protests against campaign finance and gerrymandering, forcing congress to take action or face angry mobs back home.  Imagine grass-roots efforts to increase voting in all elections above at least 75%. Imagine it. Because until these 3 areas change, it doesn’t matter who’s in office. There’s not much you’ll be able to do. While we bicker of how much golf the Pres plays and kill each other over which statues to tear down, the President, and all of congress, will remain invincible.