Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Playing the Percentages



  

I’m having a math problem and it has to do with history, but before I start crunching numbers I’d like to define a couple of my terms… 

…Democrats and Republicans. What’s in a name? Well, if nothing else, both of these names have been around long enough to become clichés bordering on meaninglessness. But there are some interesting threads of our collective past you can tease out of them if you’re a masochist, like I am.

For instance, Woodrow Wilson was a Democrat. In those days that meant you had to appease Southern racists if you wanted to get elected president on that ticket, which Wilson did. By most intelligent accounts that I’ve read, he was a decent enough person, set the table for progressive policies that FDR would later serve his New Deal on, and cried when inserted the U.S. into World War I. “My message today was a message of death to our young men,” he supposedly said after delivering his “War Message” to Congress. “How strange it seems to applaud that.”

Pretty good for a president, and I do wish more presidents had felt that way before and since. That acknowledged, though, Wilson was the guy in charge when America invaded Mexico, instituted the Espionage, Sedition and (anti-immigrant) Immigrant Act, the Ludlow Massacre…

…and the first iteration of the “America First” slogan. At birth, that message was an anti-interventionist one and rallied more than a few early “progressives” to its banner. But Wilson was a southerner, his parents were slaveholders, and his views about African-American citizens were paternalistic—at best, which means, of course, that he was a bigot, like just about every other southern, white male in those days. The slogan “America First”, first deployed by a decent enough fellow (and a Democrat!) has also carried that unsavory tint of nativism and nationalism along with it from its beginnings. No surprises there.

As for the term “Republican”, maybe we can agree that it has morphed into such a caricature of its former self that it is now almost useless to use the word for anything other than research polls, which brings me to my math problem.

According to Pew Research surveys conducted in 2017, only 26% of registered voters admit to being “Republicans”. Even after partisan leanings of self-declared Independents are considered, that number only rises to 42%. This is Simple Math, and while I understand that we have evolved as a species to being able to pick and choose our facts now, the simple numbers are an indictment of our current system that enables such a demonstrable minority of the population to lord over the rest of us. 

O.K., now comes the hard part: multiplication and division. According to a recent news story on NPR’s “All Things Considered”, “President” trump has lost 8% of his support amongst “Republicans” over his naughty Wall and Shut-down thing. I don’t recall the reporter citing which Simple Math number he was pulling from, but he was lightning-quick to note that this was “not a problem” for trump, since he used to have 90% approval from that minority demographic, he still retains 82%. This means that, notwithstanding his racism, xenophobia and fundamental cruelty (read: fascist policies) he's still in the horse race, right? 

Well, the reporter didn’t cite how he defined the word “Republican”, either by the 26% “registered” number or the 42% “leaning” one, but either way trump’s level of support has dropped from an already-dismal minority of registered voters to an even-more dismal 31%. I’m trying not to trip over too many words here, lest I have to define them, too, so I’ll just show you my scratch-sheet (so-to-speak) below: 
26% X 90% = 26%
26% X 82% = 23%
42%X 90% = 38%
42% X 82% = 34%
Split the Diff = 31% (being generous with the .5%)

So here’s the math problem I’m having, and it has to do with our history and our nominally “liberal” media outlets (let alone Foxnewslandia) not understanding it. You see, Wilson lived in a time when such 19thCentury views on nativism and nationalism (and race in general) were shared by a majority in this country, and so his presidency, with all its deep faults, was at least a nominally-democratic one. But trump has never had that, and never will have the democratic (or “republican” if you’re one of those insufferable libertarian word-mincers) majority to justify his 21stCentury version of nativism and nationalism, and all you gotta do is crunch a few, readily-available numbers to see that this current fissure in our democracy should be the preferred “fact” that nominally “liberal” media outlets should base their stories on, that we are in “fact” being run by an oligarchy backed by a small, xenophobic base kept fat and vicious with regular feedings of red-meat distractions.

So here’s my math problem: If you take a fascist leader that a solid majority of citizens hate and multiply it with lousy fluff stories in the media like the one I heard on NPR the other day (not to mention Foxnewslandia) that emphasize horse races and barely mention real issues, doesn’t that equal Propaganda?

In other words, if today’s sad excuse for “news” is indeed all about the horserace that this crisis in Democracy is constantly being framed within, then why aren’t we at least getting the betting numbers along with the horse race? Wouldn't that only be fair? It is our money, after all, that we're laying down on this slim-chance political spectacle. How much, for instance, is having a dysfunctional, fascist leader and party with little public support dominating our decision-making processes worth to every citizen making more than $100,000/year, which would include most talking heads in the national media?

Note to all the good reporters out there: This is just a suggestion and your answer in percentages of profits would be good enough. We can do the math.

Note to myself: Maybe the most appalling thing about this whole business is that, in this most-crucial time when corporate media is well-deserving of pointed criticism, we are being waylaid by fake and dangerous criticisms coming from a dictator-wannabe whom that same corporate media either appears to be afraid of or is actually making boatloads of money off of.




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