In the last week of 2015 I recapitulated the central ideas that fuel the blog. These included the following:
- That the state of political discourse in the United States is currently very low, and that the populace in general has a very low opinion of major institutions, and especially Congress.
- That in today’s age it’s silly to treat the Bible literally, and that doing so is just as silly as treating literally the mythology of the Greek and Roman empires.
- That the dilemma for “progressive” Christians is how to deal with the soteriology that Christ alleged died for our sins, and can you actually be a Christian if you don’t believe this fundamental doctrine.
- That the “New Age” and “Self-Help” movements are just as prone to pseudo-science as the Abrahamic religions.
- That to use the Bible as the basis for political and policy decisions in the 21st century is incomprehensible, especially when the message of the Bible has been distorted beyond recognition.
- That when it comes to what makes us politically conservative or politically progressive, there are cognitive biases, different values, differences when it comes to openness to experience or inflexibility of thinking, that lead us into on or the other direction.
- That last place aversion and a focus on hot button social issues leads a lot of people to vote against their own interests, especially in the poorer and more conservative parts of the country.
- That the “war” that we should be fighting is not on drugs or terrorism, but on misinformation and propaganda.
In addition, in the weeks leading up to the end of 2015, I posted articles that made several other points more specific to the current political season. These included the following:
- That Fox News and right wing talk radio have been feeding rhetorical “red meat” to their viewers and listeners for several decades, resulting in a significant portion of the conservative populace which is just enraged.
- That by feeding garbage into the political system, conservatives are now also getting garbage out of the political system, with the conservative public’s infatuation with Donald Trump being exhibit #1.
- That a number of conservative politicians, especially of the “Tea Party” variety, have been “drinking their own Kool Aid” and have consequently bought into their own rhetorical garbage (in a kind of feedback loop).
- Since more and more political outsiders (read: “amateurs”) have been elected to the conservative aisles in Congress, this led the Tea Party conservatives to bring down their own Republican speaker, and barely allowed them to agree on a new one.
So, looking forward to 2016, where we will finally have actual voting in Presidential caucuses and primaries, starting at the beginning of February (and culminating with Super Tuesday at the beginning of March), I find the following political phenomena to be very interesting, especially in apposition to each other. To wit:
Black Lives Matter
This is the year that black people have – for the first time since the days of civil rights and of the Black Panthers and the upheaval of the late 1960s – found their voice through the “Black Lives Matter” movement. It isn’t just about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Jonathan Ferrell, Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose and Freddie Gray. It’s Ta-Nehisi Coates authoring the New York Times bestseller, “Between the World and Me” and white people actually reading it in droves. There is, belatedly, a real discussion on race and on the African-American experience that is starting to take shape – haltingly and uncomfortably, no doubt – but it is starting to take shape. I don’t believe that discussion is going to stop in 2016.
Donald Trump’s Campaign
On the other side of the ledger, political commentators have been stymied by the continued and unremitting popularity of Donald Trump, who has clearly channeled something that no other politician has channeled: the unfettered rage of conservative whites, mostly undereducated and mostly men, who are clearly tired of being told what and how to think. These are the people who really do believe:
- That the life of some disrespectful teenage nigga listening to his rap music under his hoodie really doesn’t matter that much, and that he probably got what he deserved;
- That Mexicans really are stealing their jobs and, when left unsupervised, raping their women;
- That Muslims, if not actual terrorists, really do sympathize with and support the actual terrorists;
- That gay marriage and transgendered people like Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner really are disgusting (but the Kardashian girls are a-okay).
Garbage in, garbage out.
Donald Trump is their tuning fork, saying out loud what they’ve apparently been saying in private. The only good news for the rest of us is that they don’t make up a majority of the American population, and they never will.
Bernie Sanders’ Campaign
On the progressive side there’s also a candidate who has been channeling our anger. That candidate is Bernie Sanders, and he has been channeling my anger and outrage as well as that of many of my friends. I’ll be voting for him in the Massachusetts primary on March 1st not only for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to vote for a socialist Jew for President (and have it be a serious vote), but because Bernie does speak for me.
Then, when Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in November, I’ll vote for her, because she is the most accomplished and experienced non-incumbent that has ever run for President, and she’ll be so much more reasonable than whatever clown the Republicans do finally end up choosing as their nominee. And, because it really is time for a woman President. (Actually, that time is way overdue.) And, like many of you, I’ll have some doubts about her character while voting for her, hoping that she proves us wrong, and turns out to be a much more principled leader than the evidence has demonstrated so far.
 The Bible, lest we forget, says nothing at all about abortion and only has one passage about homosexuality, while Jesus Christ continually preaches about the need to help the poor.
 The perfect role for President Obama in his post-presidential incarnation would be for him to lead us in that needed dialogue. After all, it was after then-candidate Obama’s speech after the “Reverend Wright” controversy that Jon Stewart concluded that he talked to us “as if we were adults.” And boy is that still needed today.